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Chicks I Have Chucked (And Other Women In My Life)—Sal Mineo

The thing about me is, I respect women. I respect them and I admire them—maybe a little too much, even. I know it sounds kind of naive, but I think some women are pretty close to perfect—they have everything, beauty and cleverness and heart and intelligence—you know, the whole bit. The only thing is, I haven’t met one yet. For which I’m pretty grateful. The day I meet one, I’ll fall. The day I really fall, I’m a cooked goose. I don’t do things halfway, and when I flip it’ll be forever. Only I don’t think I’m ready for that yet; if I got married now, I couldn’t do all the things I have planned, I wouldn’t be able to spend enough time with my wife. Being from a big family, I’d like to have a lot of kids of my own. But now I’m too full of that go-go-go to really settle down. I’m the type of guy that can’t stay in one place too long; I’ve got to keep moving.

Like I say, fortunately I haven’t met the right gal yet.

But I have met a lot of others. Most of them had at least some of those things I talked about a minute ago. A couple of them came so close to having them all—within about an inch, say—that I had to run for my life. And then there were some that were so far off—man, I remember one who turned out to have nothing, nothing at all. . . .

Well, I shouldn’t say that. She had beauty. That’s what made me ask her out in the first place; if there’s one thing I go ape for, it’s a good-looking girl. I won’t give you her name—it wouldn’t mean anything to you because she isn’t an actress or anything—and besides, I’d rather forget it. I’d rather forget the whole business if I could—it’s the one time I really lost my temper in front of a girl, and ’m ashamed of it. When Mineo blows up, boy, he blows—and he feels lousy afterwards.

Anyway, I took this good-looking gal out one night in New York. We went to a nightclub with a bunch of friends of mine from the Bronx. Now, I ought to say something about these guys to start off. They’re a tough looking gang. In some ways, maybe they are tough. But they’re the sweetest guys in the world at heart, they’re my oldest friends, I grew up with them, I’ve got a lot in common with them and we’d do anything—I mean anything—for each other. We love each other, whether it sounds corny or not. And we protect each other, if you know what I mean. For instance, I kiddingly call them The Gang, or The Mob—and they usually call me Champ. But that’s only among ourselves. When we have dates, especially new ones, we sort of lay off on wise cracks.

Which this gal didn’t.

She put me down

The minute we sat down with the guys and their dates, she started in. You know, making cracks. Like, “Where’d you find your friends, Sal—on the waterfront?” At first I figured she was kidding. So did the guys. They can take a joke, they don’t melt. So we just let it pass.

Only she didn’t stop. She went on and on and I looked around the table and saw that the guys’ dates were starting to get embarrassed. And it’s lousy for a guy to be taken down in front of his girl. Well, mentally I made every possible excuse for this girl. In the first place she was a real stunner (she knew it, too) and I’ll go pretty far for a girl who really knocks me out. In the second place, she was the kind who goes big for photographers and autographs and stuff, so I thought maybe she was disappointed at being out with a crowd where she wouldn’t get all the attention. Anyway, I ran through all the excuses I could think of and then finally I said, “Look, I hope you’re kidding with this stuff.”

“Sure I am,” she said.

“All right,” I told her. “The joke’s getting thin. Quit it and let’s enjoy ourselves.”

Well, she was exceptionally nice to me but for some reason she still had it in for my friends. Another ten minutes and I was beginning to burn. Her curiosity was too much.

And then she came out with: “Does Sal always pick up the check for you boys?”

That did it. I swung around in my chair and said, “I suppose you’re still kidding?”


Are you?”

“All right,” she said. “I’m not!”

My head went—BOOM!

I shoved back my chair and I said to the guy next to me, “Would you mind moving out?”

Then I got up. I swear, steam must have been coming out of my ears. I waved to a waiter and I told him to get the young lady’s wrap.

“What’re you doing?” she said, turning slightly purple.

“Honey,” I told her, “you’re going home!”

One of the other guys put her in a cab. I didn’t trust myself to be alone with her. I sat and glowered at the table till the guy came back and wiped his hands and said, “Well, now that that wet blanket’s gone, let’s have a ball.”

And we did.

But, like I said, I get embarrassed thinking about it. Nobody else in my family would kick a girl out of a nightclub, no matter what she said, and it isn’t something I’m proud of. Mostly, I keep my temper under control—a lot of people think I haven’t got one. But it’s simply because I’m scared to let it go. Who wants to lie awake all night hating himself?

Well, on to nicer subjects.

Sandy had class

For instance—and here’s a girl whose name I don’t mind telling you—Sandra Dee. That is a doll. The funny thing is, I would probably never have had a date with her if it hadn’t been for an argument I had with another girl—only this time a nice, normal, under-control type fight. It took place in a coffee house the afternoon we were supposed to go to The Big Country premiére together, and not only did I not lose my temper, but I even paid for her coffee right while we were breaking our date for that night. Don’t ask me what the fight was about—I don’t remember. Actually, I hardly knew the girl. She was a very well-known star; we had met once before and I’d asked her out, but nothing seemed to click. You know how that can be—you have enough to talk about, you’re both interested, everything should be fine and yet that little spark is missing, the evening’s a drag. But I had asked her out again, figuring maybe it was my fault. Lots of girls I’m really interested in tell me I don’t seem like I am—I’m too casual, too impersonal on a date. So I figured I’d give it another try and I asked her to The Big Country and to have a cup of coffee with me that afternoon.

Only things went from bad to worse, and we called it off. So I decided I wouldn’t go, and I called this friend of mine at Universal to ask him if he wanted the tickets. Well, we talked for a while and I asked after some of the people I knew on the lot, including Sandy, whom I’d met there once or twice.

“Who’s she going with tonight?” I asked, just out of curiosity.

“Well, you know, Sal,” my friend said, “it’s a funny thing. Sandy’s about the most popular kid in Hollywood,” (which I can tell you is true—guys chase that little doll all over the place!) “but she isn’t going tonight—nobody asked her.”

“Excuse me,” I said. “I just took back the offer of my tickets.”

So I phoned Sandy.

A real doll

“Well, I tell you—she was so sweet. I don’t know any other word for it. She was so surprised I called, and pleased—and she didn’t mind if I knew it. “How about seeing The Big Country with me tonight?” I said—and she got all up in the air with excitement—I could practically see her over the phone jumping up and down. She’d never been to a premiére before, it turned out. I spent half the afternoon wondering what’s the matter with Hollywood fellows, that a kid like that didn’t have. a date for a premiére, and then something came up in the other half that by rights should have made me break my date. (That’s something I do pretty often, actually. If I start seeing a girl, I explain to her that it can happen. I’ll be sorry, but I can’t always prevent it, no matter how much I want to.) But this time I wouldn’t have canceled out for anything. I got through with my business as fast as I could and made a mad dash to Sandy’s. I had ordered flowers for her, but I was too late to stop and pick them up, and I was awfully late getting there at all—but when she opened that door, I nearly flipped.

I mean, there stood a little angel. The prettiest, sweetest kid you ever saw. And just dying with excitment. We drove to the preem and she saw the mobs outside and she grabbed my arm. “What do I do?” she kept saying. “I’ll tell you,” I said. “The first thing is, get out of the car. The second thing is, smile.” Well, the autograph hunters practically pulled her apart, but she came through it still grinning. After the premiére we skipped the party and went to LaScala for a quiet dinner. Only with Sandy around, things aren’t quiet. We had a ball, loads of laughs—and in spite of being so bubbly, she’s the kind of date you never have to worry about. She’d never do a rude thing or embarrass you. She has what I call—class.

I enjoy dating girls my age or younger, like Sandy or Gigi Perreau, who is also a sweet girl. The girls I date are mature for their age, and anyway the difference in age is not a problem. A girl of sixteen is sometimes just as mature as a girl of twenty-four.

I will admit though, when people mention Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren I get that certain gleam in my eyes!

Fortunately, I’ve never been really hurt by a girl, and as far as I know I’ve never hurt one either. I hope not. I have lots of faults and I know it. Like leaving town on the spur of the moment and not getting back for six to nine months. So try to let a girl understand this before we get serious. I think it’s better for two people to really understand each other. That way no one gets hurt. I’ve learned a great deal from my sister. I know how easy it is for a girl to get hurt and this is why I never, as long as I live, want to be responsible for giving a girl a raw deal.

Independent and older

Maybe that’s why I prefer girls who can take care of themselves a little. The independent type who doesn’t let anyone push them around. I went out with one girl—in fact, I still do—who was so involved with telling me how much she didn’t care about who I was that we talked about almost nothing else. She was an airline-ticket-taker when I met her, and naturally, the first thing she did, was pretend she didn’t know me from Adam. But this kid did know—I could see her staring at me from halfway across the room. But while she was figuring out my plane schedule she made a big deal out of what was my name and how did I spell it and so on. She didn’t fool me one bit, but I went along with the gag. So I told her, and I also told her I usually had coffee in such-and-such a place around such-and-such a time, maybe I’d see her around—?

Well, half an hour later,there she was. So we started going out. We had a lot of fun, but I had to go on a trip to New York, and she dated a fellow, got serious and got married. Unfortunately, for some reason the marriage didn’t work out and she got a divorce. I see her once in a while, and the funny thing is she’s changed a lot, this girl. She’s matured, she’s gentler, I think she understands herself more—fact is, she’s an altogether lovely person. I guess the thing is—she’s become a woman. Maybe it was trouble that did it for her, I don’t know. But I do know that seeing that happen—a girl just blossoming out and finding herself—is about the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen.

And, brother, it can happen in the craziest way. Which brings me to the wild case of one of the most important women in my life. She’s a few years older than I am, about twenty-four, she’s a beauty, she’s a doll—and I never even had a date with her. My big brother Victor got there first.

I first heard about her on the long-distance phone from Hollywood.

When I’m out there, I phone home a lot. First I usually talk to Mom, then I’ll talk to Pop and to Mike if he’s not on the Coast with me. Finally I’ll ask for Vic.

Only all of a sudden, Vic was never around when I phoned. Where was he?

At Ann’s.

Who’s Ann?

“Oh,” my Mom would say, “a lovely girl. Comes from a big Italian family in a little Bronx house—just like us. A lovely girl.”

She digs my brother

Then one night her voice gets low and excited. “Sal—I think Vic’s going steady with, her!”

Wonderful! I call home a few nights later and Mom’s voice is even shakier. “Sal—now he’s going steadily steady!”

So now a wedding is in the picture, and naturally I’m dying to meet this girl. So I come home specially—also because this was all during the slow period in my career when I decided I was through playing juvenile delinquents, no matter how long I went without work to convince people of it. So for a while I wasn’t doing much except turning down Gang-War-Meets-Rumble kind of pictures and wishing someone would offer me something else.

Well, I came home, and of course the first thing I wanted to do was meet Ann. Vic was just as eager as I was, but with reservations. “She’s never met a movie star, Sal,” he told me. “You know—she’s a little shy.”

Of me? This was ridiculous. I’m not the movie star type, there’s nothing about me that should scare her! “It’s just the idea of it that gets her,” I told Vic. “Once we get to know each other she’ll forget all about it.”

So comes the big day. Vic goes to get Ann, who, he tells me, is frankly scared stiff. I hang around the house waiting, in my usual at-home-in-the-Bronx outfit—a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. While I’m waiting, the phone rings. I answer it. It’s some guy from the Coast calling me with a great part for me—I’m a teen gang leader on the East Side, see, and this young cop comes along—well, you know that bit, and so do I, and I wasn’t having any. My end of the conversation goes something like this:


“No, thanks.

“Sure, I’d like to make—and here I mentioned a figure in the thousands—but I’m not interested. . . .

“Sorry, not for that much either. . . .

Further and further apart

“Nope, a percentage doesn’t do it, either. Look, I’m an actor, not an animated switch-blade and I don’t care how much you offer me, I’m not playing any more j-d’s.

I slam down the phone and turn around—and naturally, there stands Ann. And every time that kid walked into the house after that I was turning down scripts by the dozen which meant lots of money, or on the phone with some big wheel, or all dressed up for an appointment or a test—just one thing after another. And instead of getting closer to each other, like we both wanted, we’re getting further and further apart.

Well, one night I had tickets for a premiere—a Deborah Kerr picture. It was a big-to-do—formal and all. So I invited Mike and his date and Vic and Ann and we hired a Cadillac with a chauffeur—the whole bit. An hour before the show we drove over to pick up Ann. And I tell you, that girl was a dream. Beautiful! She had on a long gown, her hair was done—my mother had been over at her house that afternoon helping her fix up. Her whole family was crowded around the windows to see their girl drive off and Ann was just about collapsing with excitement—her first ride in a Cadillac, first premiere—everything. I couldn’t help wondering a little, you know—like how was she going to take it if they interviewed her and all.

Well, we got to the theater and sure enough, there was the announcer with his little mike, shoving it at Ann.

‘Ts this your first premiére?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“And what do you think of Sal?”

“Oh,” she said, “I think he’s—just grand.”

Then we got away inside.

By the time the picture was over, a real big crowd had gathered and as soon as we set foot outside, I got mobbed. Which is fine by me, of course, but a shy little girl is likely to get hurt. So Mike and Vic started clearing a path to the car for the girls. They had just gotten Ann in and were starting back for Mike’s date when I heard a shout.

“Look! There’s Deborah Kerr!”

And the next instant the whole mob was making for the curb—and Ann!

Yup, Ann. There she sat all alone in that huge car with her hair (did I mention she’s a blonde?) piled on top of her head and her gown filling up the whole back seat—and it wasn’t any wonder you could take her for a star. Well, I nearly flipped. I saw that mob heading her way and all I could think of was that poor frightened kid going all to pieces when they shoved their autograph books in her face. I put my head down and started for the car, Mineo to the rescue! Beat my way through the crush—and then I stopped dead, with my mouth hanging open.

I ask you, what is it that does that to a gal? Is it being all dressed up and knowing she really looks beautiful? Is it a sense of adventure, or just kicks or—or what? I guess I’ll never know.

All I know is that my shy little sister-in-law, that sweet kid who couldn’t look at me without shaking all over, was sitting in the back of the car with this calm, dignified smile—and she was signing autograph books, one after another: Sincerely yours, Deborah Kerr.

Well, that’s the story of some of the chicks I have chucked. As you see, there’re more I haven’t chucked. I’ll tell you. That’s because I really think girls are marvelous. They may seem crazy sometimes, but they surprise you.

They surprise you about themselves, they surprise you about yourself, they know things about you just by instinct that took you years to learn—or that you never knew. They teach you things about yourself—and then they like you anyway. Well, some of them. And as far as ’m concerned, it’s mutual!


Sal is now appearing in Walt Disney’s TONKA.



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