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Eye on Hollywood: The Other Zelda

March 13, 2008 by in category Blogs tagged as , with 5 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > Eye on Hollywood: The Other Zelda

by Bobbie Cimo

I know being writers, probably the first person you think of when you hear the name Zelda, is the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. But actually there is another well known Zelda–or at least there is to us who work at CBS. Last year, while giving our 2007 Co-Presidents, Sue Phillips and Sandy Chvostal, a personal after-hours tour, I introduced them to her.

Meeting Zelda at first, you might think as though she’s led the same kind of life as the other famous Zelda– disheveled, and as thin as a rail. As a matter of fact, the bottom part of her body is a rail. Okay, it’s really a pole. You see, Zelda is a mannequin that gets rolled from stage to stage to check the color balance for our cameras–not so much now with the new technology. But back when color was new to TV, CBS use to hire models just to stand in front of the cameras to see how well different colors came across on the monitors. And whenever they couldn’t get a model for the job, they’d have to end up calling upon one of the secretaries and asking them to come to the stage to do the job for them.

When hiring a model or taking someone away from their job ended up being too costly, someone got the bright idea of getting mannequin, putting a black sweater on her and pinning swatches of material to her chest . . . and that’s how Zelda was invented. Below is a picture of the lovely lady, whose been a CBS icon, as far back as I can remember. Photographic credit goes to Sue Phillips and her wonderful camera.


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Bobbie Cimo is the OCC/RWA Programs Director who has brought us such notable speakers as Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, Jackie Collins and Robert Crais.

Meeting A Real Movie Star

by Bobbie Cimo

In the early years of my career, I was one of the few fortunately ones–if not one of the only ones–who got the perk of getting out of the office to work remotes. Sometimes that could mean being at the Pasadena Auditorium for two weeks at a time while we built the stage for the Emmy’s. Or being inside the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s ballroom covering the first dozen or so AFI’s (America Film Institute’s Life Achievement Awards), honoring such heavy-weight legends as John Huston, Frank Capra, Orson Wells, or Fred Astaire . . . just to name a few. Keep in mind this was a time when laptop computers hadn’t even been invented yet. Which meant if I wanted to have my cake and eat it, I had to cover my regular job first before working as an assistant on the fun stuff outside of the building. I use the term “assistant” loosely here, as it sometimes meant anything from crunching numbers to seeing how far over budget we were, to making sure Bette Davis got her parking ticket validated, to arranging for Gregory Hines’ shoes to be shined before air time, or even playing watchdog over Shirley MacLaine’s purse for her.

But always, on the day of the big event–whatever it was–I got to play dress-up and be part of the gala. But like any good party you go to, you’re bound to see the same faces year after year– Wait, this is Hollywood. Scratch that last remark about the same faces . . . not with the help of good plastic surgeon, you won‘t. But what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to remember who I saw and just when and at what event.

Except for the time I met Cary Grant at the AFI honoring Alfred Hitchcock.

I was standing on a two step-up tier of the main ballroom, when Cary Grant passed me. He was impeccability dressed in an expensive tuxedo, gorgeously tan and looking every bit of the movie star that he was. As for myself, I was dressed in a white, off one-shoulder Grecian gown. I thought I looked like Venus. Looking back at it now, I’m sure I didn’t.

When Cary spoke to me, I suddenly went deaf–that happens a lot when I go into shock. When he cupped his hand over mine, I remember thinking, his hands are softer than mine . . . they probably weren’t, but his touch seemed like velvet. He acted and looked just like he did on the screen. Absolutely perfect.

All too soon our conversation was over and he left. And I remained frozen, clutching onto to the staircase railing. Hector, our cameramen, obviously recognizing a woman in distress, asked me how I was doing. I told him the truth–I couldn’t move. My knees had locked. Hector found it amusing . . .I didn’t.

Exercising with the Stars

by Bobbie Cimo

Well, I know you’ve all heard of the hit ABC TV show, Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). Here’s a bit of trivia . . . did you know that DWTS is actually shot on the CBS lot? If you listen carefully to the ABC Entertainment News, you’ll hear them refer to the location of their show, as being done in the Fairfax District. Big surprise, it’s really done at CBS. No need to be giving free publicity to another network–that would be like Macy’s telling you to shop at Gimbels Well, they did in Miracle on 34th Street . . . but that was fictional and look what happened to Gimbels at the end –free publicity and all, they ended up going out of business.

When DWTS is in Production it makes it difficult for us CBS employees to find a good parking space. Production people take up all the best spaces. So I usually end up parking far from my office, but close to the DWTS studios. Which mean it’s not unusual for me to see either a Derek, Maks or Cheryl (the regular dancers) or an Ian, Billy Ray, Cameron, or Heather Mills, (the celebrity dancers) practicing their turns or stretches on the sidewalks between the studio and their trailers. Or to see some of the dancers in a huddle, puffing away on their cigarettes. Yes, those young professional dancers who seem to be the embodiment of living a perfectly healthy life style, have some serious habits they’d probably like to break. And if you’re going to ask me to name names, forget it. To borrow a line from some B-rated gangster flick of the Forties, “I’m no dirty rotten stool pigeon.” Besides, with all that smoke, I never have gotten a clear view to tell who was actually holding the cigarette or who was just stand there to keep the others company. But it did make me wonder if these young, healthy-looking dancers had made a 2008 New Year’s resolution to do better on their life style choices.

I, for one, every year, promise myself this will be the year that I will lose weight, eat healthier and of course, exercise. Eating healthy and losing weight go hand and hand. If I can manage to do one, the other will surely follow. It’s the exercise one that I’m not so sure I’ll ever be able to master.

If anyone had to ask me, I’d be the first to tell you I’ve never been a mover or a shaker. Some days I barely feel like I can walk, let alone exercise. Oh, like the rest of you, I’ve held membership to health clubs, joined walking groups . . . have had a treadmill (even rented one), had a real bike, a stationary bike, a step-climber, stretch bands, a jump robe, ThighMaster, mini-trampoline, exercise videos, and a partridge in a pear tree.. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful with all of them.

Then there was the time I exercised with the stars.

Years ago, when Carol Burnett had her weekly show at CBS, she decided it would be nice to share her exercise regiment with all the rest of us ladies. I hesitated to go at first because wasn’t thrilled at the thought of giving up my lunch hour (where I’d rather be in the commissary to do some serious star gazing). I also wasn’t eager to change into leotards and a pair of tights, get sweaty, then rush to the showers before hurrying back to my regular office work. But when I went to my first class and she told us how her hip measurements went from size 43 to 35 inches (please Carol forgive me if I have this wrong), I knew I had to be there. Keep in mind all I had to do was lose a miserable ten pounds at the time, and I would have been perfect . . . if only that was the case, now.

Carol is really a lovely person, but like most comedians that I have had the pleasure of knowing, they’re different than you think they might be. We get so used to seeing them on TV, and having them in our living rooms, we start believing we know exactly how they’ll act in person. When you see them in person, it’s almost a natural reaction for you to want to throw your arms around them and say “How the heck are you?”– thinking that they’ll respond with the same easy-going manner as the characters they’ve portrayed on TV. But in truth, most comedians are very serious-minded and even a bit on the quiet side.

This is not to say Carol didn’t display some sense of humor. She did. But just on a different level than we were used to seeing on TV. An example of this is the music she chose for us to exercise by. When we would lie on our backs, legs in the air, doing the famous scissors exercise, the song she chose, which never failed to get a giggle from us, was “I Want To Be Loved” preformed by Dean Martin’s singers, The Golddiggers. I still have the album. If you’re not familiar with the song, I can only tell you their rendition is very sensual and has a lot of deep sighs and sexy “Ah’s” in between the lyrics. “I want to be (long deep sigh here) loved. I want to be thrilled (Ahh) by your caress.” A lovely song to hear, while on your back with your legs apart.

Carol did fabulous with the teaching and was very dedicated to us. But one day I had to go to her to tell her of my neck problems. She was very quick to offer me the name and phone number of her yoga teacher. An 86-year-old woman who could do more bends than a pretzel. Carol said she had helped her and was certain she could help me. So rather than risk any future neck problems, off to the yoga lady I went.

The only thing I was good at in yoga was saying my “Oms.” You know that electrifying nasal sound you make at the start and finish of the classes? No, I never ran into any stars at yoga. I did miss out on seeing Lana Turner (the original star of The Postman Always Rings Twice) being interviewed by Mike Douglas. I had to leave work early to make it to my yoga class on time. A decision I regret to this day. Yoga did very little for me or my neck, except for those occasional times when I became so relaxed that I fell asleep and was caught snoring in class. I couldn’t even master the Lotus position successfully. Bottom line — I was a failure at yoga.

A few years later, I began regular classes at the Ron Fletcher Pilate Studios. Ron was a dancer who learned the art of Pilates from German-born Joseph Pilates. Some of Ron’s customers were considered the rich and famous of Beverly Hills. Except me –the poor and unknown–who required special attention because I was so uncoordinated. Within a few months, nothing surprised me more than when I was able to stand on my shoulders! Eventually I was even able to hang upside down by my feet. Somehow this regiment ended up realigning my whole body and besides putting me in the best physical condition of my life, it gave me the best shape of my life. As for the stars, there were many but the one that comes to mind and who I saw on a regular basis was Katherine Ross (star of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and wife of actor Sam Elliott). I did enjoy the classes, however my neck didn’t, so I had to quit.

That was the end of my experiences of exercising with the stars. Or so I thought until recently. A few months ago, while sitting outside of my beauty salon, I looked down and noticed I was wearing two different shoes. Same style, different colors. The lady I was talking to, thought I was being cool and was starting a new trend. Me, I was devastated by my own stupidity. Luckily, I had a spare pair of shoes in my car.

They say all things happen for a reason. Maybe so. Otherwise I would have never gone to my car at that particular time. Normally, I would have left later. And if I had, I would have missed the sound of the disco music, the sight of people — in all sizes and shapes — as they vigorously bounced around to the beat. I would also missed hearing the words of encouragement coming from a world-famous exercise guru. The place was “Slimmons.” The instructor was Richard Simmons.

So now, twice a week you’ll find me sweating to the Oldies with Richard as my instructor. Unless someone like Ricki Lake comes in with Access Hollywood, and a camera crew. They did and I walked out. I don’t need to be seen, by the world, on TV, doing my aerobics.

I can’t claim to have always been a fan of Richard Simmons. Never thought much about him one way or the other. Until you ask me now. He’s probably the only person who can claim that he got me moving.

I also learned what a kind and giving person he is. Whenever he sees me, he gives me a warm welcome and kisses me on each side of the face, to make me feel like I belong. And he always tells me I’m doing a good job even when I know I’m not. He’s being kind because he knows I’m really trying. And he wants to encourage me.

Just to give you an image of what I look like taking his classes, picture Lucy Ricardo trying to pass herself off as one of Ricky’s chorus girls but not knowing the routine. They go running to the left, I run to the right. They turn one way, I turn the other. When I finally catch up to where they are, they’re on to something else. And this is after two months of me practicing. But the one thing I am doing is moving.

I may never be as thin as I used to be, or as elegant as some of the dancers I have seen on Dancing with the Stars, but the one thing Richard has promised all of us is if we move, we won’t end up like those people we see in grocery stores driving those carts around rather than walking. He said he can promise us that most of them probably never used their muscles when they were younger. I have a tendency to believe him. And as long as I keep that in mind, I’ll continue to be exercising with the stars.

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Bobbie Cimo is the OCC/RWA Programs Director who has brought us such notable speakers as Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, Jackie Collins and Robert Crais.

6 Comments

  • Anonymous
    on January 17, 2008

    One of the first jobs I ever had was working as receptionist at a Richard Simmons Anatomy Asylum in Marietta, Georgia. It was an aerobics studio near my home.

    Thanks for sharing a great story!

  • Anonymous
    on January 16, 2008

    What a fun story, Bobbie!

  • Anonymous
    on January 13, 2008

    Bobbie–I totally agree about Richard Simmons. I never understood what people saw in him. Then one day, he was at the studios where I work, and I wandered onto the stage where he was rehearsing (I was with someone who needed to give a note to someone else). Richard took one look at me and said, “you look like you need a hug” (which I totally did) and then he came over and gave me one! It was so sweet. I am his eternal fan now.

  • Anonymous
    on January 13, 2008

    Your stories are such a hoot! And I think you are so lucky to get to exercise with Richard. At least I can live vicariously through your escapades. GG

  • Anonymous
    on January 13, 2008

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Anonymous
    on January 13, 2008

    Oh my gosh. Bobbie what a NEAT STORY! Thank you for sharing it with us!

Comments are closed.

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