HELLO AMERICA!—During the late 1950s, TV and film star Chris Robinson (“General Hospital” and “Twelve O’Clock High) and I met while under contract to Lucille Ball’s Desilu Studio Theatre on Gower. It was a glorious time, the actors of real substance and meaning crowded the lot, especially when we were in production. I remember being totally flabbergasted spotting the likes of Orson Wells, Bill Wellman, Bob Wagner, Angie Dickenson or a Kate Hepburn and John Housman sitting watching us trying to bring our assigned character into believable film reality.
Chris and I usually after a rehearsing session would head for the marches and protests all over the country. Martin Luther King had captured the imagination of millions of people hungering to be recognized for who they were and what they might genuinely offer as creative human beings. For me it was because I was from an area outside of Philadelphia had the opportunity to break into radio as well as television. It was a “master class” when I was accepted as a weekly regular on the Paul Whiteman TV Teen Club Show (NBC-WFIL) and later signed on the Stan Lee Broza CBS-WCAU show.
As a result, because of my early teens, I felt quite comfortable working with the pros in every facet of the industry. If I felt like talking with John Housman, I would simply go where he was sitting, especially in the commissary and start up a conversation. His eyes would widen as if amused and wave me to join him. When relating to Chris what I did, his reaction usually was “YOU DID WHAT?!”I want to remind you that during that time, Black people could not rent an apartment in Hollywood. The only places opened to people of color were motels and I definitely could not afford that.
Because of my script department schedule at CBS radio, it was necessary that I live closer to the studio. However, once exploding my frustrations out on my buddy Chris, he as usual saved the day. He insisted that I move in with him. He had a studio apartment in the Hollywood Hills over a garage and insisted that I move in with him and not to worry about anything else. It turned to be a life-long relationship closer than any family member I ever had. If there were questions why I was residing with him, he simply said, “He’s my friend and I want him there, simple as that!”
Of course, there were moments when he and I locked heads especially we shared his very King size bed, I would wake up in the morning, turn over and find some starlet between us. This is something I never experienced in Philadelphia, believe me! And we voiced our very dramatic opinion about this and I do mean dramatic, after all we were both actors determined to command center stage. As usual, it worked out fine; after all we were very protective of each other as we still are to this very day. For example, when Chris heard that I was having health problems, he phoned and said he was driving from his Arizona ranch to be with me.
He wanted to find out for himself how I was feeling. Even though I attempted to convince him that I was going to be fine, he wouldn’t accept that. “We’re driving to Los Angeles and see for ourselves,” he insisted. The following week he and Jacquie, his wife, pulled up in front of my house and took over. I must admit that seeing my ol’ friend gave me even more reason to get well, it made me remember and understand with greater depth that having a brother of another mom isn’t too bad after all! To admit it, seeing my brother of another mom was one of the happiest days of my life.