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The Original Rat Pack

February 13, 2009 by in category Archives tagged as

By Bobbie Cimo

According to Wikipedia, the Rat Pack was a group of popular entertainers most active between the Mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Its most famous line-up featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, who appeared together on stage and in films in the early-l960s, including the movie Ocean’s Eleven.

My definition: they were the coolest guys ever.

And how lucky for me, even if it was after their Rat Pack heyday, to have met all but one of them. If you’re wondering, it was Peter Lawford I missed meeting. However, I did get to be in the presence of his brother-in-law, Ted Kennedy.

Joey Bishop, the actual comedian of the group, was always a sweetheart. A down to earth type of guy who, whenever you approached him would automatically reach out to shake your hand. And then would proceed to talk to you as if you were a long lost friend.

Sammy Davis, Jr. I saw several times, but the most memorable was when he came to CBS to do the Carol Burnett Show. He was so touched by the warm welcome he received from everyone in the building, so to show his gratitude he put on a one man show for all the employees to see at five o’clock. To this day, I can’t hear “The Candy Man” on the radio without picturing Sammy singing and dancing to the tune, only a few feet in front of me on Stage 33.

Then there was the man himself, so fondly known as “The Chairman of the Board”, Mr. Sinatra. I must have seen him at least four or five times. I’m also happy to say, that he was always nice to me on all the occasions. Whenever he was in Vegas, people would just watch him. He was always surrounded by guards whose main job was to keep the public a safe distance away from him–otherwise he was sure to get mobbed. It was pretty funny to watch Frank move from one part of the to the other and see a group of people in a huddle follow him. Once he sat in an open restaurant inside Caesars Palace with a bunch of friends and his wife Barbara, eating and drinking and conversing. All the while, people just standing, watching his every move. And if you’re wondering, yes, I was front and center among the crowd.

Luckily I had my Polaroid camera with me, so I seized the opportunity by snapping a picture of him. When Frank realized it, he motioned for me to hand the picture over. Because you don’t say no to the Chairman of the Board, I did. He must have liked what he saw because he signed it and returned it to me. He then blew several kisses in the air at me. And to paraphrase Sally Field…“Frank liked me…he really, really liked me”. Considering my age at the time and being a brunette, I figured I must have reminded him of his daughter. Needless to say, I was the envy of all his fans that night.

Another time I was in Vegas and my mother spotted him and handed me the camera and went racing over to “Old Blue Eyes”. The security guard next to Mr. S. was about to push my mother away when Frank held up his hand to stop him. “It’s okay”, he said. When I saw this, I tossed the camera over to the guard and ran to stand next to Frank myself. With my mother on one side of him and me on the other, Frank looked over to me and asked, “And just who are you?” “Her daughter”, I boasted. “Oh, okay”, he said, as he wrapped an arm around me, posing in the middle between me and my mother. To this day, that picture is proudly displayed in my living room for all to see.

And then there was Dean Martin, the most elusive of them all. Unlike the rest of the Rat Packers, he seldom ever made any appearances around town. It almost seemed impossible to spot him anywhere in Hollywood. But then one day Ann Margaret was doing her special at TV City. I liked her, and more than curious to see her, I wanted to see her husband, Roger Smith (star of TV’s 77 Sunset Strip) who I’d had a crush on since before I was a teenager. Unfortunately, it turned out that since he was such a pest to have around, they had him banned from the set. Rumor had it that Ann was a doll to work with, but Roger kept interfering with what he thought the show needed and more important, what his wife needed. It ended up causing a lot of delays and the simplest solution was to ban Roger from coming on the set altogether.

I took a seat, front row, just as Ann Margaret was about to do her song. All dressed up in a black cocktail dress, she was perched on the bench seat of a buckboard. The wagon behind her was filled with hay and above her suspended in the air was a collection of elaborate crystal chandeliers. The whole set was one big contradiction. But since the TV special was called “From Hollywood with Love”, the whole premise was to show that Hollywood is nothing but an illusion. Well, maybe not everything is an illusion. Certainly, not the tall dark handsome man dressed in a tuxedo, seated next to Ann. He was real. And nothing could have blown me away more. It was Dean Martin.

To say I went into shock would be an understatement. According to the man who had accompanied Dean to the studio that day, when he looked over at me, all color had drained from my face and I had gone completely white. He said he thought I was going to pass out. After I explained my love of Dino and all my unsuccessful attempts of trying to see him, the man nonchalantly asked, “What would you do if he kissed you?” Breathlessly, I replied, “Oh die…just die”. That’s when this sweet, anonymous stranger must have realized he was in the company of a deeply disturbed young woman. But if he did, he never let on. All he did was smile and told me to stay where I was. I figured he was either going to get me a drink of water, or bring over security. But instead, he brought Dean Martin.

This kind, wonderful stranger, without being asked, took it upon himself to bring my Dino over to me. Whoever he was, agent, friend or producer, I have no idea, but he had enough influence over Dean Martin to persuade him to come meet me. I vaguely remember the introduction. All I know for sure was of my own babbling and telling Dean how much he meant to me and my entire family. I’m certain that the king of cool was afraid he’d be held responsible if I dropped dead from all the excitement.

Now with just the two of us alone, Dean managed to coax me up from my seat and guide me over to an isolated part of the studio. And then in the manner you would use to try to sober someone up, he walked me around in circles, his arm entwined with mine. As we walked, he continually whispered words of assurance in my ear. “You’re going to be all right. Now take a deep breath…that’s right…you’re going to be all right.” And then he did the unthinkable, he put his arm around me to support me and then told me he wasn’t going to leave me until he knew that I was going to be all right. My heart stopped, as I looked away from him and focused my attention on his arm around my shoulder. Yes, I was going to die…happily die. Not only was he handsome, charming and nice…but he was caring. How sexy was that? And it only made me love him more, as I reminded myself this was not a dream and it was really happening.

When the color in my face apparently had returned and my breathing was back to normal, he asked me one final time if I was all right. I simply nodded and uttered, “Oh, yeah”. After he left, I didn’t walk–I ran–no, more like scampered back to my office and to the nearest phone. Because I had to share my excitement with someone, I called my mother at work. She was as thrilled for me as I was for myself. However, she ended our conversation with these words, “You do know that should have been me with him”. Yes, in the closest of families, there can always be a little bit of rivalry. Which proves the point, “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime”, and in this case it was Dean Martin.

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All In The Family

January 13, 2009 by in category Archives tagged as

By Bobbie Cimo

Besides CBS once being known as the Tiffany Network, it also had the reputation as being the most friendliest studio in town to work for. People who work in the entertainment field and especially in Production can bounce from one lot to another, depending on where they land employment for the next upcoming season. So it’s not uncommon to have someone return to the same studio at different times of their career. But the one thing I’ve heard repeatedly when someone returned to CBS was how happy they were to be back, because it was like coming home to family. Which might explain why we’ve had some people working from the corporate side for twenty, thirty, or even forty years…and up until a few weeks ago, one person for over sixty-four years and only left because of down sizing.

At one time the department I worked in, Stage Operations, shared it’s offices with the Production Supervisors Department. For those of you not familiar with the term Production Supervisors, they were considered the go-betweens, between studio and Production. In another words, they were the person who represented CBS, but also made sure that all the show’s requirements were met while keeping track of the budget. If an error was made during taping and it was a technical problem caused by CBS, the show would receive a rebate. But if the problem was caused by production, then the show would be charged. Simply put, the PS acted as a referee. But like in all families, there’s always the occasional disagreement.

In most cases the relationship was amiable. But once in a while a PS would have to be reminded who they worked for, especially when they seemed to favor the Production

Company more than the people who were giving them a paycheck. And maybe sometimes that was true, especially when a PS would resign from CBS because they had been wooed away by Production and landed themselves as the newest Executive Producer of the show.

A Production Supervisor once wandered into my boss’s office to give him heads up on a stage crew requirement needed for an up-coming remote. It was for the controversial sitcom, “All In The Family”. When he asked her for the date, she said she couldn’t supply one, as they were having problems finding a suitable site.

If any of you are familiar with the show, you’ll remember the lovable bigot, Archie Bunker played by Carroll O’Connor. He was married to the sweet, lovable Edith, who he constantly told to stifle herself. Their grown-up daughter Gloria was played by Sally Struthers, who Archie affectionately referred to as “little girl”. When she marries “Meat Head” and becomes pregnant, her boss fires her. Gloria retaliates by forming a protest rally in front of the department store where she was fired from.

The problem with finding a site was to make sure it wasn’t regional recognizable. Because the Bunkers lived in New York, we had to make sure it wasn’t a department store located only on the West Coast. Plus CBS was not about to give away free ad space during a primetime show.

Hearing the problems with Production, I piped in with a possible solution. Yes, just like with any family, there’s always someone sticking their nose into someone else’s business. Loretta, the PS, thanked me for my input, but assured me they had checked out all the major department stores, like MayCo, Robinsons, Neiman Marcus, Orbach’s, The Broadway, Joseph, and I Magnums to name a few (some of you are probably too young to know any of these stores). I acknowledged her selection by saying, “ Yes, but have you checked out The Broadway on Wilshire Boulevard?” She looked at me incredulously, “Are you sure?” “Trust me, Loretta, I’m a shopper,” I answered. “There’s no name on the front doors.” In which she responded with, “Bobbie, if you’re right, I’m putting you in the show.”

If you ever get an opportunity to see an episode of “All In The Family” and you see Gloria protesting in front of a big department store, look closely at the woman carrying an “Unfair to Unwed Mothers” sign, shaking her fist in the air–and you’ll probably recognize me.

It’s one thing to work as an extra in front of a camera when you’re not use to it, but it’s another when you’re doing it in front of people you know, especially cute young cameramen that you’ve had a crush on…whose egging you on to put more of yourself into the scene of an unwed mother.

The first time I saw my piece, I locked myself in my boss’s office and watched the New York feed alone (the New York feed is three hours earlier than the West Coast feed). Then I watched it later in the day with my anxious co-workers…only I had my hands over my eyes. The third time I watched it was that night with family. That was the last time I saw it, (many, many years ago).

I would occasionally see Carroll O’Connor in the hallways at work and sometimes I would even share a ride in an elevator with him. Outside of saying hello and a few words, he very rarely ever spoke to me. I don’t think he even knew I had worked on his show, as he wasn’t in the scene that day.

Carroll also was co-owner of a well known restaurant in Beverly Hills called the Gingerbread Man around the height of his “All In The Family” career. Because I heard they had excellent food and it was a fun place, I went to dinner with my sister there. For some reason I got lucky that night and was placed at a prime spot, across from a roped off table which I assumed was reserved for either VIP’s or for Carroll himself, who probably just lent his name to the restaurant, but most likely never showed up. I was proven wrong when Carroll came over to our table, shook hands with me and my sister and asked if I was being treated all right. He chatted for awhile and left, never stopping to talk to anyone else. After he left, my sister said to me, “I didn’t know you knew Carroll O’Connor personally.” To which I responded, “Neither, did I.”

To this day I don’t know if he came over just to be nice, or because he recognized me from work…and in which case, it would prove my point that it is “All In The Family.”

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Bond…James Bond.

December 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

It’s easy to tell that I’m a James Bond freak. Not only does my E-mail address have 007 in it and my mouse pad has Sean Connery’s picture on it, but my screen saver at work flashes different Bond imagery across it. But I’m not just a James Bond fan, I’m a Sean Connery, James Bond fan. You know the type who thinks there’s only one Bond.

At my Artist Way Class a few weeks back, we were asked to write down five of our favorite movies and give a line or two on what each movie was about or why we liked it. On my list was “From Russia With Love”, but when it came to telling why I picked it, I had to be honest with my classmates. I only went to see him (Sean Connery) and it took me five times to figure out what the plot was about. I have since seen it many more times, and I still don’t care about the plot.

I like Roger Moore, but not as James Bond. In my eyes, he’ll always be Simon Templar, TV’s version of “The Saint”. Just as Pierce Brosnan will always be Remington Steele to me.

In between, there were a few other Bonds. One being George Lazenby, who played in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” I would loved to have seen Sean Connery do the part, as it was the only movie where Bond falls in love and gets married. But instead it went to Lazenby, who had thought that by making a Bond flick, it would lead him to more lucrative movie deals. So he quit after only one Bond movie. The parts never came his way and rumor had it he gambled away all the earnings he made from his 007 flick, even before the movie was released.

Also playing the fictional character was Timothy Dalton, who I basically remembered from playing in a bad mini-series, called “Scarlett”, which was suppose to be the sequel to “Gone With The Wind”. However, he did play a more serious Bond than others, but because I associated him with the mini-series, I could never think of him as 007.

Just for the record, I do find Daniel Craig to be the second best Bond there is. He might not be a Sean Connery, but he does a terrific job of it. By the way, his favorite Bond is Connery, too.

I have seen Roger Moore a few times in person, and once I even got to see Sean Connery, himself. I was backstage and he was standing alone, a few feet away from me. But I found myself unable to approach him. I just remember his arched eyebrows and how they framed those magnificent eyes of his. And I’m not ashamed to say, when his eyes met mine, inwardly, I melted.

It took me a long time to realize why I didn’t take the opportunity to go up to him and tell him how much I had enjoyed his work. The truth of the matter is I think I was afraid that he might not measure up to my expectation, not only as James Bond, but as Sean Connery. And perhaps some things are best left unknown.

Less than a decade ago, I was a smoker. I have since given up the habit; but at the time, I could have easily stepped out of my office onto the rooftop of CBS for a cigarette. Unfortunately, it was a bad way to meet a lot of interesting people.

One wintry evening, while at work, I found myself in need of a smoke, so I stepped out into the darkness. Since it was raining, I had no choice but to huddle against the outside glass wall of my office so I could stand beneath the narrow awning that was protecting me from the rain. Suddenly, what seemed to be from out of nowhere, appeared a tall, dark stranger dressed all in black, wearing a turtle neck sweater. As he took a puff of his cigarette, he struck up a conversation with me. I could see from the spray of light coming from my office, behind us, that his eyes were blue. His chiseled features, along with his cleft chin, gave him a rugged appearance. And when he spoke, it was with a charming British accent, so no matter what he had to say, it sounded wonderful. It was Timothy Dalton.

We talked about our mutual bad smoking habit– the pride he had in his son– and the weather differences between London and California. Over a second cigarette, we laughed and talked some more, until he was told that he was needed on stage, whereas I went back into my office, pleasantly surprised to learn what a nice man he was. He might not know it, but that night he earned himself a new fan. And as I sat back at my desk, something dawned on me. It might not have been Sean Connery, but I had been outside, into the night and out in the rain, smoking a cigarette with Bond…James Bond. How cool was that?

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Fred, Ginger & Me

November 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Bobbie Cimo

As I left my office to go to lunch the other day, it dawned on me all the things that I’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 don’t watch it, I can easily be hit by a brand new car or SUV that’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, it’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, it’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 I’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 that’s facing me. It’s the same sign I’ve seen a thousand times in movie magazines while growing up…only now it’s real and in person. And after a quick lunch, I’m down for my forty minute powernap before heading back to work.

Those are some of the things that I’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 “This is Your Life,” 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 didn’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 AFI’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, he’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 don’t think there was a person working the show who didn’t have this sudden urge to do a little Fred or Ginger themselves…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, “Ginger”.

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October 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

Elvis Presley might have been known as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Michael Jackson as the Prince of Pop and James Brown as the Godfather of Soul. But way back when, in the good ole movie cowboy days, (so long ago, that I was a brunette), there was a tall, rugged actor, by the name of John Wayne, who had a title of his own. It was the “Duke”.

His real name was Marion Robert Morrison, but when his parents decided to name his younger brother Robert they changed his to Marion Michael. But it was the local fireman who saw him walking to school every day with his huge Airedale Terrier dog, Duke, that gave him the nickname of “Little Duke”. Because he preferred Duke to Marion, (and who wouldn’t) the name stuck for the rest of his life. As far as his stage name, John Wayne, that was decided by a director and a studio head, when he wasn’t even present.

I’m going to digress a little here and tell you about a cartoon that I had once cut out and taped to the inside of our kitchen cabinet when I was younger. It was of two Indian chiefs positioned on top of a mountain ridge, sitting on their horses, looking down at their warriors fighting cowboys and the Cavalry. One chief turns to the other and the caption reads, “If John Wayne is down there, I’m not going.” And I think that’s how we all felt, growing up on the Duke‘s movies. Off camera and on he seemed indestructible. According to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, he epitomized rugged masculinity and was considered an enduring American icon. It also states he was famous for his distinctive voice, walk and physical presence. All which I can attest to, since I got to meet him.

In the early days of television, when there were a lot of variety shows on the air, we (the employees of CBS) would spend our lunch hours, brown bagging it, while watching rehearsals in the studios. I think back then the celebrities were much more sociable and approachable than they are today. So it wasn’t uncommon to have the weekly guest star, rather then hide themselves away in their dressing room, to sit in the bleachers with us common folk and watch others rehearse–even though they weren’t needed on the set. It was kind of professional courtesy to watch one another’s work.

Which brings me back to how I met the Duke. I had wandered down to the Red Skelton set just to see what was going on. The crew was always friendly there, and it was safe, as long as I didn’t enter during “The Dirty Hour”. This is a well known inside Hollywood fact, that as much of a beloved clown Red was, he did have a side to him, that could make a sailor blush when he would put on his private shows for his cast and crew members.

I was very young when I started with CBS and nobody ever bothered to warn me about “Dirty Hour”. Unfortunately, I accidentally found out about it on my own. I should have caught on when I saw I was the only woman in the audience. And if Red was bad on his own, having Martha Raye as his guest, only made him even more incorrigible. Once he and Martha were up on stage, I found myself trapped in my chair. I was too embarrassed to get up, so I just sunk down low and kept praying the floor would swallow me up…it didn’t. The cast and crew loved them both, and I vowed never to return during The Dirty Hour and I never did. I can’t say all the guest stars participated in this show for the crew, but Martha sure did. Actually, she was worse than Red.

It was during normal rehearsal when I wandered down to the Red Skelton set and sat behind a tall, elderly, bald man, who was quietly reading, going through a script. It wasn’t until he got up and headed towards the back of the studio for some coffee, did I realize it was The Duke, without his hairpiece. And like a puppy, I got up and followed him. He was very unpretentious, as he stood alone, in the back of the studio, drinking his coffee.

Because I was new to California– fresh out of high school, and a dork, I carried my autograph book everywhere I went.

Standing next to him, the 6’4” star towered over me. And even though without a hairpiece, he resembled a bald eagle, his face was still ruggedly handsome and there was a twinkle in his eyes. When I asked him if he would sign my book, he couldn’t have been nicer when he answered, “Well, sure.” When he asked me my name, I told him, Barbara, (my formal name). Wanting to make sure he heard me correctly, he bellowed my name back to me,
B-A-R-B-A-R-A. And for a brief moment, I thought God was speaking to me.

Because he was so nice, I didn’t hesitate the next day to bring my camera to work. This time the Duke was all dressed in his cowboy garb, complete with hat and hairpiece. He truly looked like the John Wayne that I knew from the movies. And when I asked him if I could take a picture with him, he quickly obliged…except I made the mistake of standing on his bad side. And without any warning, he said to me, “Not that side, this side,” and with one swift movement, the man had picked me up with one arm and swept me over to his good side. The picture was snapped and the light bulb went off. The American icon of the silver screen, using the back of hand, wiped his eyes with his knuckles and then grumbled, “Damn light bulb, can blind ya” I guess, I should have responded with, “Whoa, take ’er easy there pilgrim”…but I didn’t.

We said our friendly goodbyes and I wish I could say like a true hero he rode off into the sunset, but he didn’t–instead, like a true professional, he walked onto the set.

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