Can You Resist His Eyes?—Fabian Forte
DIRECTIONS FOR THE EXPERIMENT
1- Hold up this page six inches from your face.
2- Gaze deep into his eyes for one full minute.
3- Close the magazine; now shut your own eyes, too.
4- How do you feel? What’s happen ing to you now?
5- Re-open your eyes.
6- Check your reactions by turning to the next page.
I was just about to put the folder of Doris Day photos back in the steel drawer just a routine part of my job as secretary to the editor of Photoplay—when I realized there was somebody standing on the other side of the filing cabinets. I got up on tip-toes and peeked over the top—and there he was. Fabian! At first, all I really saw were two eyes looking back at me. There were more than eyes, of course—the bridge of a nose, eyebrows, forehead and hair (lots of hair, dark wavy hair) but all this I only, “became aware of later. For the minute or two that I was looking into those eyes (all right, I must be honest: I think it was a minute or two; it could have been a lifetime) there was nothing else. It was as though I were floating. No, I couldn’t be floating, I must be in a motorboat. There was a definite beating somewhere in the region of my chest.
Then there were the butterflies in my stomach. And then there were those eyes, those fantastic, deep blue-green eyes. . . . They were the ginchiest! But, above the high singing in my ears, I heard a voice. Those eyes had a voice. I mean, whoever those eyes belonged to had a voice.
“I’m Fabian,” the voice said.
Of course, it’s Fabian, that’s why—this—this whatever it is, I thought. But I said, “I’m speechless.”
And he laughed. “No, I really mean it,” he said.
“So do I.” Maybe, I thought, if I can look away, I’ll be all right. With all the will left in me, I forced myself to concentrate on something else besides his eyes. My gaze settled on his chin and I noticed that my pulse let up somewhat. I cleared my throat.
“Oh, of course!” I told him. “It must have slipped my mind.” Slipped my mind, I laughed to myself. All week long we had talked of nothing else. We is me and Flossie. I have a steady boyfriend, myself, but I’d promised Flossie, who works in the filing department and who just graduated from high school, that I’d definitely arrange for her to meet Fabian.
“But you weren’t scheduled until eleven-fifteen,” I said to Fabian. I looked at my watch. “It’s only—” and after I’d said it I wished I could have stopped the words in mid-air.
“Ten,” he said. “Yes, I know I’m early. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“No, of course I don’t,” I managed to say. “Uh, sit down.”
I knew everyone was tied up in a meet- ing so I said, “I’ll show you around, interview you.” But as we walked back to my desk, I knew better than to look at him.
“That’s nice,” he said.
I started looking around on my desk. “I used to have a steno book,” I muttered, still searching.
He picked it up. “Is this it?” It was right there in front of me.
Sneaking a look at him, I saw that he was smiling, “Go easy on me at first, will you?” he asked. “All this is new to me—being interviewed, things like that. I’m just a little scared.”
I looked him straight in the eye for a moment. “You’re scared!” I said, and thought, I’m petrified. Then I had to look away. Those eyes. They talked. I couldn’t look at them long enough to know what they were saying, but my conscience said, They’re not good for you. Taking a deep breath, I told my conscience, Go away—now!
“Well,” I said, “do you want to look around the place first, or be interviewed?” By not looking at him, I found I could be quite brisk, quite efficient. Only, why was I twisting and twisting a lock of my hair? I couldn’t seem to stop.
“Why don’t you show me around first?” he suggested.
“Fine,” I said, still not looking at him, “but I’d better get someone to mind my phone. Wait just a minute.” I picked up the telephone. “Give me Flossie,” I said to the switchboard operator.
“Filing,” said a cool voice.
“Flossie,” I said, “it’s me.”
“Tobi,” she said, “is it—did he . . .?”
“Only an hour ahead of schedule.”
“Yes, I mean. Would you please mind my telephone while I show him around?”
She groaned. “Darn it!”
“Listen,” I whispered, “he’ll have to pass right by you. On the way to Evelyn’s office, he’ll have to walk right in front of you.” I lowered my voice still more, so Fabian couldn’t hear. But I whispered so softly that even Flossie missed it, and I had to repeat myself. “Make a list of the questions you want to ask. Otherwise,” I warned, “you won’t be able to ask him any.”
There was a pause. Then: “Oh.” I could hear her gulp. “Well, all right. I—Did I tell you what I finally wore?”
“Not now, Flossie,” I said. “Please, not now!”
After putting the phone back on the hook, I stood up. Only, I couldn’t feel my legs under me. “Shall we go?” I asked, but no sound came out. I cleared my throat and repeated my question; this time my voice boomed.
“Sure,” he said easily, “let’s start the tour. Say, you haven’t told me your name.”
Keeping my eyes down, I told him my name. “Tobi,” I said, “Tobi Simon.”
He reached out and shook my hand. “Whew!” he said, grinning. “Things are sure busy around here. Girls have been walking back and forth—and up and down—ever since I got here.”
I could feel my face turn beet red.“It isn’t usually this bad,” I told him. “I think there’s a virus going around. Or something.” Or something like Fabian, I thought, and started to lead him out of my office into the rest of Macfadden’s offices. Right outside the door, we bumped into three girls. Two I recognized, but I don’t know where the other one came—I’d never seen her before in my life!
“Have you met Fabian?” I asked.
Three smiles broke out simultaneously. “Fabian?” they chorused. “Why, no, I don’t think we’ve had the—” And then, when they met his eyes, all three were frozen. Their hands stopped in mid-air. Their smiles looked painted on. Their eyes had the funniest, glassiest look in them. And none of them said another word.
As we went on through the hall, Fabian observed, “Boy, that must be some virus!”
“Oh, it is,” I agreed, “it certainly is.”
Another crowd of girls was waiting by the water cooler. But this group was better prepared. Shyly, they held out little bits of paper for Fabian to autograph. We will never get this tour over with, I thought, if this keeps up.
We continued walking down the hall to find Claire Safran, our managing editor, but then, as we passed through the reception area, where the walls are hung with big framed portraits of movie stars, he stopped and looked at each one.
“Guess I’m a real movie fan,” he admitted, turning to me.
“Honest?” I squeaked.
“Sure, I’ve been buying movie magazines for years,” he told me, “and I know all about the stars.”
“Did you ever get to meet any of them?” I asked, finding my voice again.
“Uh-uh,” he said, shaking his head. “But maybe this summer, when I’m in Hollywood . . . Boy,” he said, his eyes all lit up, “that’s going to be the greatest. Imagine . . . Hollywood! I’m going to make my first picture—‘The Hound Dog Man,’ for Twentieth—and I only hope I don’t goof.”
“You won’t,” I said quickly. I looked around me then. “Well, that’s it, I guess. You’ve seen it all.” And Fabian and I started to walk back toward Evelyn’s office.
“Gosh,” I said, “I almost forgot. I’m supposed to be interviewing you.”
“Sure.” he said, “shoot.”
But I couldn’t think of a single question. We walked on a little bit more and then, as we passed the little office where we have a phonograph and all the new records we’re going to review, I said, “Let’s go in here.”
There were two chairs, facing each other, and I took the one facing the door. After opening my steno book, I gripped my pencil real hard, and then I looked up at him. Those eyes again. I gulped. Suddenly, I realized what I’d done. I was all alone with Fabian!
I couldn’t think of a thing to say. In that moment Fabian must have read my mind. (I only hoped he couldn’t do it all the time.) Because he opened up his wallet and took out a photo. A girl? My heart stopped. What would I tell Flossie? It’d break her heart if she knew he had a girl. But I felt good again when I actually saw the picture. It was a snapshot of Fabian and his family—his father, and mother, and two brothers, and himself.
“That’s Mom,” he said, pointing proudly to a small, pretty woman, “and that’s Dad—he’s on the Philadelphia police force. His name is Dominick Forte and hers is Josephine. That’s Tommy, my kid brother . . . ten years old, although he’d slug me if he heard me say ‘kid brother.’ ”
For a moment Fabian’s smile faded as he pointed to the other boy in the photo. “And that’s Robert. He’s thirteen. Recently he had a serious operation on his spine. But he’s getting better. Soon he’ll be playing football with me again.”
He smiled again. “And that big lug at the end . . . that’s me.”
“Is there anything you specially like?” I asked, and then, blushing, I added quickly the first thing I could think of. “In food, I mean?”
“My favorite food is meat ball soup.”
“Meat ball soup,” he repeated. “It’s something only my mother can make. She takes these tiny meat balls and puts them in a special broth—she won’t tell me how she makes that, it’s her secret—but the results . . . the results . . . the very end.
“Say,” he said, pointing to an album cover sticking out from among a pile of other records, “isn’t that Frankie Avalon’s new one?”
“Mmm,” I answered, pulling it out of the pile, “I heard it the other day. It’s great.”
“It’s the most,” Fabian agreed, “and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I only wish I could see more of Frankie. But we’re both so busy. We hardly ever get a chance to get together any more.
“Last time I had a chance to talk to him we were both selling newspapers. Did you know Frankie and I have the same manager? Bob Marcucci. He’s a great guy, but—” He smiled.
“I didn’t always think that. It seemed as though every time I sat down on my front steps, up would pop this man, insisting I could sing. It went on so long, even Mom was convinced I ought to try to sing anyway.” Then he laughed. “So the last time that I called into the house, ‘Mom—that crazy man’s here again,’ she said, ‘All right, go with the crazy man.’ And I did—and, well, here I am!
“Well, anyway, Bob owns a place in Philadelphia, The Chancellor Room, and his place sponsors a charity to help handicapped children—sends them to camp, things like that. The charity’s tied up with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s ‘Newsboys Day’—June seventeenth—so on that day Frankie Avalon and I stood out on the corner of Thirteenth and Market streets in Philly, selling papers to help the handicapped kids.”
At that moment I saw Flossie in the doorway. “Come on out,” she motioned. I shook my head, indicating “Not now” to her, and finally, she disappeared.
“You know what?” Fabian was saying. “Some people spent more on one paper that day than they’d spend on newspapers in a month. I didn’t have such a tough schedule that day, but Frankie—his was murder! But there he was, right beside me, doing his bit for the kids. And with all the crowds, teenagers and grownups as well, and the photographers, and the rush and noise, we managed to have a longer conversation than we’ve had in months. About the neighborhood we’ve grown up in together, about the gang we knew, about South Philadelphia High School. Things like that.”
Again, I saw Flossie’s head poking in the door, and again I shook my head at her, and she left.
“Well,” Fabian continued, “I told Frankie how sad I was to be leaving Philly in the fall, how I almost broke up the last day of school when I realized I’d probably never see my classmates again. But Frankie brought me down to earth. He pointed out that Haddonfield, New Jersey—that’s where we’re moving to—is only seven miles from Philly, and that even if I was crazy about my new home and school, I’d never forget the old gang and could always drop back and visit.”
“Yes,” I said, “of course. Uh—” I looked down at the blank pages of my steno book. “Do you and Frankie talk about girls?” I asked, thinking of Flossie.
“Sure,” he said. “Frankie and I always talk about girls. And we agree completely: we both like quiet girls. Natural girls. Neither of us can stand girls who wear tight slacks, toreador pants or shorts.”
I made a mental note to tell Flossie not to buy those toreador pants we’d seen in the store on the way home last week.
While Fabian had been talking, I’d been rifling through the stacks of records. Finally, I found the one I’d been looking for. “Look,” I said, holding up his new album, “Hold That Tiger.”
“Let’s play it,” I suggested.
First he blushed and sort of shook his head “no.” But then, when the record was spinning around, he began to sing along softly to the music. For a moment it was as if I weren’t there, as if Fabian were all alone with the music. And as the album was spinning to its end and the music got a little tricky, then Fabian did something especially exciting with his voice. The real Fabian, the in-person Fabian, slowly swung his arm upward and then across his body, with his thumb and index finger pressed together and the other three fingers folded into his hand. His eyes, those hypnotic blue-green eyes, seemed to double in size, and his whole face lit up as if someone had thrown a spotlight on it. It was his famous “death ray” look and gesture. And I thought I was going to faint.
When the song was over, Fabian dropped his arm, flushed, and apologized. “I’m a ham,” he said, “I’m sorry . . . but music always does something to me.”
“Me, too,” I breathed.
Then I put on his single record, “Turn Me Loose,” and Fabian stood up and smiled at me. Before I could protest, I was in his arms and we were dancing. Fabian was dancing with me. Heaven.
But then Flossie brought me out of the clouds. She was standing in the doorway, her eyes blinking, her face an un-becoming green—it contrasted nicely with the new white pleated skirt she was wearing. Her hands were on her hips and her foot was tapping—not in time to the music. I tried to signal with my face that this wasn’t my fault, that I couldn’t help myself. But either she didn’t catch the signal, or she simply didn’t believe me.
“It seems a shame to end this,” she said, her eyes boring into Fabian’s back, “but it’s eleven-thirty and—”
Fabian snapped off the phonograph switch and turned to face her. He was smiling and his eyes were all lit up. I think he liked what he saw. But Flossie! The piece of paper with all the questions on it she meant to ask him fluttered to the floor. Her face changed from green to white, and her eyes looked glazed, hypnotized almost. Then, slowly, she crumpled up and fell in a heap on the floor.
“My goodness,” Fabian gasped as he bent over her, chafing her wrists, “get me some water for this girl. That sure is some virus going around here.”
As he said this, he looked up at me, and then, suddenly, I could feel the floor giving out from under me. The last thing I saw were his eyes. The last thing I heard was him saying, “I mean, this is one awful virus!”
WHILE WAITING FOR FABIAN’S MOVIE DEBUT IN TWENTIETH’S ADAPTATION OF “THE HOUND DOG MAN,” LISTEN TO “HOLD THAT TIGER!”—HIS LATEST HIT ALBUM FOR CHANCELLOR RECORDS.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1959