An Exclusive Interview With Sherry Nelson
These are the poignant words Sherry Nelson felt she simply had to say, as she revealed her unhappy secret to Nancy Anderson, in this exclusive Photoplay interview.
“When nobody knew who Vince was, we were happy. I wanted to marry him.
“But now I don’t think that I do.”
As simply as that, Sherry Nelson, the girl who has been called Vincent Edwards’ “secret wife,” made her incredible declaration.
Her words were incredible, because tons of fan mail prove how many girls—of all ages—would be thrilled to trade places with Sherry. Surely no girl in full possession of her reason could renounce one of the world’s most desirable bachelors! Surely no girl could refuse to marry a man she’s loved for years!
“Now when I’m with Vince,” she said. “sometimes I’m afraid. I don’t think I could stand to be the wife of a star.”
Sherry and Vince have gone steady for three and a half years. She accompanied him on his recent trip to Europe, and he created a job for her in his office when the “Ben Casey” producers and ABC refused to put her on the show payroll.
The “usually reliable sources” reported that surly Dr. Casey became even more surly than usual—furious, in fact—when his bosses didn’t find a job for his girl. That contributed to the already recurring rumors that Vince and Sherry are married.
The “secret wedding” stories have continued to circulate, despite Vince’s repeated denials. But Sherry’s frank confession—that she doesn’t even want to marry him—should put the rumors to rest.
Sherry still dates Vince constantly. She still thinks that he’s wonderful, and so do her parents. But to share his life?
“It would be terrible,” she said. “I’m not sure that I could face it. If a woman is going to marry a painter, she knows that he’ll come home with paint on his clothes. Unless she’s prepared to accept that, she’d better not marry him.
“I’ve seen what Vince’s wife will have to face, and Em afraid it’s more than I could bear.”
For Sherry. a dream has turned into a nightmare. Contentment has turned to panic, and she has seen the man she has adored contract a virus that will surely infect his marriage. The virus is stardom.
“When I first knew Vince,” she said, “almost nobody else knew him,” (Dr. Casey might deny that) “and we had wonderful times together doing things that normal people do—window shopping, going out for ice cream cones, going together to pick out something as simple as a sink strainer or a waste basket for his apartment.
“He even liked for me to go with him and help choose his clothes, but we can’t do things like that any more. Of course, as far as his clothes are concerned, he has a tailor now anyway.
“But, if we dared to go into a department store or an ice cream parlor. we’d be mobbed.
“Vince likes it, but it scares me. I know that’s what a star must expect, and for Vince’s sake Em glad that’s how things are—that he has almost no private life, that people go wild when they see him—but I can’t take it. I just can’t. For me it would be agonizing to share that sort of life.”
If Sherry’s confession comes as a shock to the fans, it may come as even a greater shock to Dr. Casey who appears to have no idea that his seemingly healthy romance is sick.
His comments and conduct imply that he has totally failed to diagnose Sherry’s feelings.
For instance, not many months ago, he said, “She (Sherry) would like to get married—which is natural for a woman. Maybe we will marry eventually. I think about marriage, and I want to marry someday.”
But thinking was as far as the hand- some TV doctor has gotten.
“Lately,” Sherry said, “Vince has been too busy to marry, and before that he was trying to establish himself as an actor.
“Now he’s established. He’s a star. But have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to be his wife?
“His wife will never know real peace. She’ll be robbed of the small, happy moments that wives take for granted. To give you an example, if we married. Vince could never help me take our children to Disneyland.
“That’s a small thing—maybe—but think what it would mean.
“Imagine how a woman would feel if the father of her children couldn’t go with her when she took them to their first circus or on a picnic in the park, because if he did, the day would be ruined.
“The family would be surrounded by strangers.
“If I were an actress, Em sure I’d feel differently. Girls in movies and television seem to want the attention from reporters and photographers—the requests for autographs. It’s part of their job. However. Em not an actress, and I don’t want it.”
All that Sherry really wants is Vince, but if she can’t have him without the trappings of stardom. she seemingly doesn’t want him either.
Her reference to a family outing at Disneyland was a touching revelation. It’s a clue to the plans she and Vince must have made as they window shopped. licked ice cream cones and applied their enchanting small discoveries to their future.
Seeing a mother dab a sticky trickle of chocolate ice cream from the chin of a somber, dark-eyed, dark-haired little boy in a booth of a soda shop, Sherry surely must have felt an ache in her chest that made her instinctively squeeze Vince’s hand.
When the child’s father turned from the cash register, pocketing his change, and lifted the youngster from the upholstered bench, Vince must have been touched with envy when he saw the looks that the two exchanged—the boy’s look filled with admiration and trust, the man’s with love and pride.
At such a time, an unspoken question hung between Vince and Sherry: How long will it be before we know the joy that we’ve just seen?
If, as they searched a big department store for a sink strainer or a waste basket, they passed a mannequin wearing a translucent, lace-rich negligee. Vince must have thought—and maybe he said—“That should be part of a trousseau.”
And Sherry must have openly resolved to come to Vince in just such a feminine wisp of temptation on their wedding night.
If, while window shopping. they saw a chair or a sofa or a table that both of them liked, they surely tried to guess how much it cost and how soon Vince could afford it for their apartment.
But. if in the same window they saw a crib, they may have been too deeply stirred for speech.
“If I were to marry Vince now,” Sherry said, renouncing those marriage dreams. “I would be afraid to have children. Really. Some crazy person might try to steal them.
“it must be horrible for a mother to see her children’s pictures on magazines and in newspapers and realize that every nut in the world knows who they are and what they look like and that their father is important.
“If a stranger asked my son or daughter, ‘You’re Vince Edwards’ child, aren’t you?’ I’d try to believe that a fan was simply curious. but I couldn’t be sure that curiosity, alone, prompted the question.”
Sherry used almost exactly the same words that Dinah Shore used several years ago in explaining her reluctance to let a magazine take pictures of her family at home.
“When my children play near the edge of the yard,” Dinah said, “strangers sometimes stop and call to them. They ask, ‘Isn’t Dinah Shore your mother?’
“I know—I keep reminding myself— that the strangers are probably my friends (although we’ve never met each other) and that they are being friendly to the children.
“But I can never be sure.”
A short while ago Nick Adams posted guards around his easily accessible house to keep an eye on his youngsters after be received some strange, middle-of-the-night phone calls.
Ann Sothern not only hired a combination chauffeur-bodyguard to accompany her daughter Tish to and from school, she created a teenager’s paradise at home so that Tish would rather bring friends there than ask permission to go out.
For the pleasure of the teenage gang, Ann converted the study into a game room with hi-fi, television and an adjacent terrace for dancing. Ping-pong tables, tennis courts and a swimming pool lay just beyond French doors, and, on the far side of the pool. Ann set up a private ice-cream parlor, complete with a soda fountain.
Sherry has said wistfully, “I suppose that the idea of marrying a star sounds attractive to most girls. But I’ve had a chance to find out to a degree what it would mean.
“For example, when we came back from Rome, I’d been up for sixteen hours, I’d been traveling for about nine. I was tired and a mess. My clothes were wrinkled and my hair needed to be fixed. and all I wanted to do was get off the plane and go rest and clean up.
“I certainly didn’t want to have my picture taken. But the minute we stepped off the plane, we were encircled by photographers.
“I know I have no right to complain. Honestly, I’m not complaining, because for Vince’s sake I’m so glad the photographers were there. If they hadn’t been there. then we would have had a problem.
“But I just don’t believe I want my life encircled by cameras.
“Our lives—Vince’s and mine—began to change about last November, about a month after his show went on the air. At about that time people began to stop us on the streets and follow us until we gave up going to the places that we had gone before all this happened to us.
“However, I had never really seen a crowd of fans turn into a mob until the night of the Academy Awards presentations. Unless you’ve seen something like that, you can’t imagine it.”
Sherry was so frightened the night of the Awards presentations that Vince had to pull her from the automobile to go into the auditorium.
To the girl cringing against the car seat, the boiling ocean of people that surrounded her was a threatening, roaring sea. It swept and swelled against the sides of the automobile, washing away police officers and ropes that tried to hold it back and allow a clear walkway into the auditorium.
Each rushing wave was crested with shouting, open mouths and snatching hands—or so it seemed to Sherry.
She closed her eyes, but she couldn’t close her ears to the cry of the crowd when it saw Vince Edwards.
“I can’t get out,” she said.
Vince was holding her firmly by the wrist, pulling. His face was a mask of pleasant gallantry. As far as his fans could see, he was simply assisting his date from the car, but in his eyes and in his grasp was determination.
Determination to get Sherry into the auditorium without a scene and a total lack of understanding of her fear.
He’d waited a long time for this frenzied acclaim. For him the hysterical screams of his worshippers were sweetest music.
“Please,” Sherry said. “I’m afraid.”
The ravenous, howling ocean outside the car seemed ready to smother her, rip her apart, batter her to death.
“I had to be pulled from the car,” Sherry said, remembering her fright. “And that crowd was more or less controlled.”
In giving the reasons why she’s afraid to marry Vince Edwards, Sherry failed to mention one characteristic of stardom which seems to have affected Dr. Ben Casey and which his wife might find objectionable.
Sherry spoke only of her fear of fans in numbers, not the fans who individually pant after Vince. But a single admirer could do more damage to a marriage than a mob. And television’s glowering doctor is not immune to feminine wiles. Girls who have business of one kind or another on the set cluster around him.
Typically, one afternoon a blonde who was appearing in the episode kept offering Edwards a sip of soda pop from the bottle from which she was drinking.
He declined (you could hardly expect a doctor—even a television M.D.—to accept such an unsanitary advance), but he didn’t decline to ask the blonde where she was from, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
According to gossip, he’s asked a few of the girls for their home addresses and phone numbers.
“For a fellow who is going steady,” a co-worker marveled, “he certainly knows a lot of girls.”
A star’s wife knows that her husband is constantly exposed to beautiful women. He’s constantly exposed, too, to women who want him.
“Don’t tell me,” wise little Connie Stevens said once, “that an actor doesn’t get a kick out of playing opposite a pretty girl. Sure he does. He’s human, you know.”
And Sherry knows Vince is human.
She didn’t mention his exposure to beautiful girls, but her awareness of it may be too painful to discuss.
“Vince hasn’t asked me not to date other people,” Sherry said, “but I don’t, because I’m out with him all the time.
“Where will it end? How long will I keep dating him if we aren’t going to get married? I just don’t know. I think he’s a wonderful person, and l’m glad he’s become so successful.
“But as for the two of us—I don’t know. I wanted to marry him before, but now I’m afraid.”
Vince Edwards stars in “Ben Casey,” Mondays 10 to 11 P.M.. EST, ABC-TV. His next film is Columbia’s “The Victors.’
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1963