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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Most Memorable Wedding I've Ever Attended



Recently, a friend sent me the information about the Bob Hope’s home in Palm Springs that’s now for sale. It brought back memories of attending the wedding of Bob Hope’s daughter Linda to a man who was a customer of my husband Tony at the bank in Augusta, Nathaniel Lande.
Nathaniel Lande’s father was a prominent doctor in Augusta, Dr. Greenblatt. (Nathaniel used his mother’s name.) Nathaniel was a writer who lived in New York. He needed advice with financial matters and so his father recommended Tony.  He and Tony had a great business friendship.
NOTE: Nathaniel has gone on to become very well-known in literary circles, as you can see here.
When Nathaniel and Linda Hope became engaged to be married in 1969, we were invited to the wedding in Los Angeles.
We couldn’t even believe that we would go because we were a young couple with young children [Dee was 7, Bruce was 10] and we had no extra money. Neither one of us had ever been to California. When we told my parents about it, they insisted that we go, and said they would come to Augusta and keep the children. My parents had lived in California during the early years of their marriage, and wanted us to see that part of the country.
We wanted to go, but there were obstacles. We had to borrow money from the bank for the trip. We had to decide if it was worth it. However, we knew we’d never get an invitation like that again, so we finally accepted.
We went out on Thursday and stayed through, I think, the following Monday, and came home on Tuesday.

The entire trip was novel to me, at that time, and I remember a lot about it, even though it was more than 40 years ago.
As we walked out to get on the airplane, we looked up and there were there other people from Augusta, all dressed up, getting on the plane but sitting in first class. Tony grabbed my arm and said “Don’t go speak to them! I don’t want them to know we’re on here!” I said “Why not?” and he said “Because we’re sitting in the back of the plane and they’re sitting in the front!”
So we dodged those people. They got off the plane first in Atlanta. We held back, at Tony’s insistence, and then crept into the back tail of the big plane going to California. These people were friends of the Greenblatts, Nathaniel’s family. We didn’t really know them.
We got to California and stayed at the Beverly Hilton. The rest of them stayed at the Beverly Wilshire [we learned later]. The groom’s family stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel – where all the celebrities stay.
On Friday, we just went sightseeing and bummed around town.
Friday night, we were invited to a cocktail party at the Beverly Hilton. When we got there, we found out that the people at the cocktail party were all out of town guests – no family, no members of the wedding party. Bob Hope and his wife were not there, nor the groom’s parents. What we found out was that because we were out of town guests, they had a little cocktail party, and then we were turned loose. [Out of town guests are usually entertained at the rehearsal party. We were not. We just got the little cocktail party.]
The food was nothing elaborate – cheese straws, peanuts, drinks.
One of the guests at the little cocktail party slipped out and down the hall and found out there was a big banquet room down the hall with a huge party – a seated dinner with entertainment and fancy food – THAT was the true rehearsal dinner. Not any of the Augusta people had been invited to that, except the family.
It didn’t bother me at all, the snubbing, but it made the other Augusta people FURIOUS. We just laughed it off.
We had no great expectations about being chummy with Bob Hope or any other celebrity.

After the little cocktail party, the other Augusta people said “Come go with us, and we’ll go out to dinner.” So we went out to the concierge desk and asked for a restaurant recommendation. He suggested a restaurant called La Scala, and he made reservations, and called a limo.
So some of the Augusta folks - Dr. and Mrs. K and another woman named Ms. Nichols -went with us and we all went to La Scala for dinner. It was FABULOUS.
The place was overrun with movie stars. I had to keep going to the bathroom because Tony wouldn’t let me go around and just stare at people. I was also trying not to drink too much because I wanted to remember everything clearly.
We were gawking at people, but the folks we were with were, too. One of us had to stay at the table to keep the waiters from giving our table away. It turned out to be a great evening, great fun.
All the other Augusta folks knew who Tony was, and they were looking at him as being the leader. Of course, they were all customers of his. He had natural leadership qualities and tended to “take over” in situations.
The next day was the wedding, Saturday.
We arranged for a limo to drive us around LA for a bit before the wedding. He picked us up at 3:00 in the afternoon, and he showed us around town.
At 6:00 we arrived at St. Charles Catholic Church. When we got close, crowds were lining the sidewalks to see the stars arrive.
I was sitting next to the window. As we rolled down the street very slowly, I would look out and give the royal wave, like I was the Queen of England. All of us in the car were laughing. Tony kept saying “Don’t let them see your face! They’ll know we aren’t famous!”
When we got to the church, people who had arrived in yellow cabs had to get out and walk a block or so to the church. Limos were ushered right to the door. That was the smartest move we made, hiring the limo. We were treated like royalty.
When we got to the steps of the church, at the top was Rabbi Goldberg, from Augusta, and members of the Secret Service. No person was allowed inside the door without showing their invitation, and the Augusta crowd being identified by Rabbi Goldberg. Of course, he knew all of us. Everyone in Augusta adored him. He was very popular. He waved us in. [The Secret Service was there for the Vice President, Spiro Agnew, and his wife.]
The church was not very big. The Augusta contingent took up a pew.
We got there 30 minutes early to get a good seat but the church was almost full.
The groom was Jewish and of course Bob Hope’s family are all Catholic. So the wedding was performed by a priest and Rabbi Goldberg. I couldn’t really see well enough to follow the ceremony.
People – particularly celebrities - were standing on the seats looking at everyone coming in. We would never have STOOD on a pew, in any church. We’d see folks like Doris Day standing up on the pew, saying “Look who’s here!” It was, to us, bizarre.
Then the whispers started. “Big Crosby’s not here. He’s not coming!” He came in at the last minute, wearing golf clothes. Everyone else was dressed formally.
After the ceremony, somebody said “Your limo is here.” They knew who we were.
We got back in the limo and went to the Hope’s house for the reception.
The house was a fairly modest home, considering who lived there. It wasn’t the mansion you might’ve expected. There was no big reception line. Bob and Delores were standing in the living room and as you walked in, you said hello and chatted a moment. They were very nice, but we didn’t get into a big conversation.
One of the women I was with said “Let’s go in the dining room!” The presents were displayed all over the dining room, with the names on cards, just like a regular wedding.
We were then ushered through to the back of the house, out into the back yard, which had a huge swimming pool under a tent as big as a circus tent. The pool was covered with a wooden dance floor, and at one end there was a stage with an orchestra and a microphone.
There were food tables all the way around the tent. In the center of the tent were tables and chairs. The food was just standard dinner food. I remember a lot of shrimp. That was all I ate.
When we got to the door and saw the layout, Tony said “Do not have but ONE drink. After that, just drink Gingerale. You want to remember everything.” (I think he was talking more to himself there than me, because I wasn’t much of a drinker..)
He walked around to the left and I walked to the right. We met in the middle at the back. We never got a table and sat down. We stood the whole time.
We drifted around and looked at everyone.
I was about 35. I had on a beautiful white suit dress of white lace over turquoise taffeta. I had seen it at Goldberg’s and loved it and bought it, and had no place to wear it. So I felt like I looked pretty good.
At some point in there I was standing by myself. Someone tugged my elbow and said “Hello there.” It was Phyllis Diller. I said “I’m Elva Thompson. I’m from Augusta Georgia.”



She said, “Just keep talking. Tell me what you do.” She was just amused, listening to me talk. She didn’t care what I said. She wasn’t rude about it though, she was very sweet.
She put her arm around me and said “I’ve got people you have to meet.” I don’t know how many people she introduced me to. She said “Just talk.” She would look at them and say “You’ve got to hear her talk.”
Everyone was very nice.
So I spent a lot of time talking. Of course, the minute I knew what was going on, my accent got a lot thicker. I wasn’t doing it deliberately. It was just nerves.
Tony came and got me and said “I gotta show you something funny.” So we walked over and saw Anthony Quinn sitting at a little table with his head down on the table. I think he had been dirnking…
At one point, we saw Mr. and Mrs. Agnew standing by themselves. We went over and stood for a while chatting with them. We liked them a lot. They were very nice, very down to earth. We just chatted about generalities, kids, things like that.
Then Danny Thomas got onstage and got hold of the microphone and said “I can’t find my wife. Tell my wife we’ve got to go home.” Everyone was laughing.
It got to the point where it was just like being in a dream. I can’t even remember all the folks.

I wandered around but couldn’t find a bathroom. I finally found somebody that looked like a bridesmaid and asked her. She directed me to a guesthouse outside. There was a row of garages and each one had a room above it that was a guestroom. So I used that bathroom.
It wasn’t too late, not past 9 or 10, when we left. The other Augusta folks got us and we went to the door and our limo was right there. When we got into the limo, we said “If you want to stop we’ll get you some dinner.” He said “Oh no, the Hopes had a nice buffet dinner for the drivers.”
 
We went out to dinner one night, maybe Sunday night, and we saw the actress Ann Sothern. It was a very nice seafood restaurant. After we placed our orders I kind of looked around. We were seated at a banquette. The one next to us was empty, then I saw Ann Sothern, with three other people, at the second table over.
I hissed at Tony, “Don’t look now. Don’t say anything. I’m going to tell you something but just keep looking at me.” I leaned in.
“Sitting right over there is Ann Sothern.”
Tony was annoyed.
“It is NOT. Ann Sothern’s dead.” He looked over there. “That’s not her. She’s DEAD.” He was loud.
"No! She's sitting right over there!"
"Elva, she's DEAD!" he said, even louder.
I just put my head in my hands. I was so embarrassed. I have a hangup about celebrities – I don’t believe in bothering them. People bothered my dad all the time when I was a kid because he was a famous baseball player and it used to upset me.
I finally looked over there and Ann and her party were dying laughing. They were looking at ME. I mouthed “I am so sorry.” Then they laughed and said “Don’t worry about it.” They were so nice.




[Above, Ann Sothern]
The rest of the time we were in California, we saw the sights. Sunday, we spent the day at Disneyland. We kept saying it wasn’t much fun because the kids weren’t with us.

Monday, we went sightseeing again.
Either Monday or Tuesday, we toured one of the studios. We saw the sets for some TV shows, like the Gilligan’s Island set. We saw Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, Sunset Boulevard.


The day we took the studio tour, there was a little train with a guide. It went all over this huge property. The guide was David Hartman, when he was a very young man. He later hosted Good Morning America. There were not but 6 or 8 of us on the tour. Tony chatted with him a lot. He sat and told great stories. Very personable. Very attractive. We liked him a lot.
He liked to hear us talk, too.
Every time I met people they would ask question after question. I finally realized, they didn’t care what I said, they just wanted to hear my accent. I could’ve told them anything.
 
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’ve never forgotten it. 
 Dee calls this my "glam shot"

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where Have All the Good Ones Gone?



The haunting, sad, lovely, and, yes, silly-fun lyrics of songs popular in the 1940’s and ‘50’s have not come close to being duplicated. Really, when did you last hear words to compare to, “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy”?  I mean, come on, now that is poetry!
Deep thought and tender feelings surely inspired, “I’m Getting Tears In My Ears From Lying On My Back, Crying Over You.”  Teary ears are most uncomfortable and I don’t cry purdy anyhow. I sound kind of like a horse neighing, no pretty, dainty weeping for me! Nope, no tiny lace square, get me a bath towel… I was taught to project my voice to the back row, in the balcony, of La Scala!
I don’t know of any more obvious symptom of age differences than music and movies – and, of course, morals. At the moment, I’d be hard put to name more than about five movies I’ve liked in the last seventeen years. Growing up, I went to a movie any chance I got, and after I married as well. My husband enjoyed movies so we went fairly often. Military, war movies, and westerns were favorites and there were lots of good musicals, mostly taken from Broadway musicals. I’m thinking of Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Anna and The King  etc. But there were lots of lesser ones as well with Jane Powell, Jose Iturbi, and I loved The Great Caruso. Oh, and don’t forget South Pacific. At one time, I think I knew the lyrics to every song in those shows.
When I sang with the UGA Men’s Glee Club, the female soloists came on stage with the guys singing, There’s Nothing Like A Dame. That was lots of fun. I always wore long dresses with very full skirts over petticoats and hoops. Trust me, there’s a trick to walking in hoops but especially sitting and getting in and out of cars. If one is not careful, the hoops will tilt and show one’s [hopefully] lacy undies.
I suppose, these days, girls have to learn to sit gracefully in those little tight, short skirts. They may be a good argument for wearing jeans. I can remember my mother saying that very few women have attractive knees.
I am really telling my age these days with all that is going on in the world. I never, ever dreamed that folks would question having to say the pledge to the flag or sing the national anthem.
I keep telling myself that there is nothing I can do, by myself, at close to eighty, to even change things in my area, much less on a national , or even state level.
In my lifetime, we always had two major political parties plus various smaller ones from time to time. While I mostly disagree with the other party, I accept that others have as much right to their opinions as I do. No, maybe it is the seeming lack of any grain of common sense and, dang it, plain old fashion morals that is disturbing. How do you teach young people not to lie when the president lies every time he opens his mouth?
We do have some fine young people [under 75] trying to work out solutions to our nation’s problems. Many are in Washington. But, you know, if they have been there longer than two or three terms they should go home --- and stay. They should get the same Social Security benefits as the rest of us and absolutely no retirement -- nor all the other perks they have awarded themselves.
We are supposed to have a system of checks and balances. It is not working!

Years ago, we watched movies about how the west was won, world wars and how we fought to preserve our freedom and way of life. I wonder if any young person knows the story of Sgt. York, or so many others.
I don’t remember the exact reason he told me but I can hear my dad’s voice saying that  we take care of our own. Any time an American needs help, in any part of the world, we go to his aid and get him out of whatever the situation demands. When did that change and WHY ?

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

Do you know the rest of the song? I’ve sung it many times and had to battle the lump in my throat so I could continue to sing.
It was first written in 1918 but not published until 1938. The composer was Irving Berlin.
There have been other fine songs written since then, proclaiming our love of country but I wonder if our young people are hearing them.

God bless America……