by Bobbie Cimo
As I left my office to go to lunch the other day, it dawned on me all the things that Iâ€™ve taken for granted while working at CBS. Most people walking down a busy corridor will bump into another employee or an occasional mail cart. As for myself, if I donâ€™t watch it, I can easily be hit by a brand new car or SUV thatâ€™s being pushed down the hall to The Price is Right by a stage hand not paying attention. Or perhaps when venturing up to Accounts Payable, itâ€™s the norm for me to see a fully furnished room being pulled down the hall, attached to a tugger (mini tractor). And if by chance someone dies on the soaps, itâ€™s not unusual to see a casket or headstone stored in the Prop Room that I walk through every morning to get my coffee. Nor, to say hi, to a guy Iâ€™ve never seen before, as he heads towards the commissary, wearing only his pajamas and slippers.
Most of the time this is all very amusing, except for the time (before cell phones) when I stepped inside a public phone booth to make a personal call, only to find out I was standing inside a prop. Not amused.
Some people get their fresh air by going to a park on their lunch hour, whereas I just go up to the roof top and then about fifty feet from the helicopter pad, flop myself down into my favorite lounge chair. I usually eat my lunch while enjoying the view of the Hollywood sign thatâ€™s facing me. Itâ€™s the same sign Iâ€™ve seen a thousand times in movie magazines while growing upâ€¦only now itâ€™s real and in person. And after a quick lunch, Iâ€™m down for my forty minute powernap before heading back to work.
Those are some of the things that Iâ€™ve taken for granted while working at CBS, but stepping outside of my office and finding the famed Ginger Rogers seated in a wheelchair, well, that was a surprise. At the time, my office was right down the hall from Stage 46, where they were taping the British version of â€œThis is Your Life,â€ honoring Ann Miller, and Ginger was one of the guests. Not only was she in a wheelchair and overweight, but she wore tons of make-up and her hair was dry and over bleached. It saddened me to see this legendary star, who at this time was in her early eighties, in this condition. Knowing she had no husband or children, I did wonder who was in charge of taking care of her.
I only recently found out she was of the Christian Science faith and didnâ€™t believe in going to doctors or in traditional medicines. I also learned that she had an unusual amount of peach fuzz on her face and was very sensitive about it, but refused to have it removed. And that was the reason for the heavy make-up.
Because of all the flutter around her preparing her to go on stage, I never got a chance to talk to her. If I had, I would have told her how much I enjoyed all of her body of works. And I probably would have shared with her the fact that as teenager, my mother was so impressed with her, she took the name of Ginger, herself. A name she went by her entire adult life.
Working on the AFIâ€™s, honoring Fred Astaire, was one of my favorite assignments. Besides keeping track of show cost I was the go- to- girl for almost everything else. If dancer Gregory Hines wanted his red shoes polished before doing his routine, heâ€™d hand them over to me. If Jimmy Stewart needed his parking ticket validated, I was the person to see. And the best of them all–when Bette Davis lost the belt to her rain coat, she came to me.
Like all of the AFI shows, there were plenty of film clips to be viewed during rehearsal. And as much as I have enjoyed all of them from various recipients, nothing was more fabulous than those from the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I donâ€™t think there was a person working the show who didnâ€™t have this sudden urge to do a little Fred or Ginger themselvesâ€¦some even gliding across the floor, making their way to the restroom.
At the time, Fred, like Ginger, was in his early eighties. He was thin and frail looking, and there were times when he would unexpectedly doze off at the table. But when they called his name, nobody showed more pep or vigor than he did when he sprang to his feet and ran up the stairs to accept his award.
Working with him was a joy. He was a true professional who asked for no special treatment and who was very sweet to everyone around him. At the end of our time together, I asked him for an autograph–not for myself, but for my mother, â€œGingerâ€.
I get such a thrill to read your blogs, Bobbie. What a star-studded life you have lived! Keep writing about it!!!
Glad you enjoyed the story. I consider myself lucky to have seen all the Hollywood biggies, in the day. Can’t wait to talk to you on Sunday, so we can play catch up.
Oh, Bobbie: You bring back the aura of the old days like no one else can. I knew YOUR Ginger took her name from THE Ginger, but I never heard of this meeting. You’re a treasure trove of all the oldies. Enjoyed it immensely. Talk at ya Sunday.
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