Connie Stevens’ Wedding
Imagine them coming slowly down the aisle, Connie’s bridesmaids in their pink and red dresses, their great bouquets of red and pink roses, stephanotis, baby’s breath and ivy. . . . Imagine the bride, beautiful little Connie in her long, beaded, ivory gown, with its fingertip veil, the crown of stephanotis, no hair showing, just the clean, scrubbed, girlish face, eyes sparkling, moving slowly for once in her busy life . . . on her father’s arm down the center aisle, light spilling in the high windows of St. Francis de Sales Church, touching the hundreds of friends who have come to watch the nuptial high mass uniting her forever with handsome—“He may not be the best-looking guy in the world but he seems so to me”—James Stacy. All eyes are on Connie.
What is she thinking, Connie, the lovely, radiant bride?
Isn’t this a miracle! I never in the world thought I’d ever find someone just right for me. Never in my wildest dreams.
For six and a half years she was in love with Gary Clarke, and once that romance was over, she just thought marriage wasn’t for her. She turned to her career with renewed energy. She thought she’d just be a big movie star and never marry. Have a million romances. Have fun. Play the field. Live it up.
Today I feel like the most fortunate girl on earth. I’m happy, really happy. This is what I’ve wanted all my life. Someone to love completely, someone to love me. That’s what life is all about, that’s what counts.
He is standing, waiting before the altar, a dark, curly-haired fellow with a sensitive face and twinkling blue eyes. Jim Stacy, the man with whom she’s going to share her life.
What does he have that Gary Clarke didn’t have? What is there about him different from any other boy she’s ever known ? He’s strong. He doesn’t have to throw his weight around, he just clearly is going to be head of their house. He’s as independent as Connie, and because she loves him, she’s willing to be guided now for the very first time in her life. More than willing.
One person recently said to me about love—it’s not heaven or hell, it’s a little bit of both and more of the middle of the road. With Gary, I was either up on a mountain peak or ready to die. This is a far more mature kind of love. I feel as if I’d grown up. I’ve found I don’t mind being criticized or told what to do—when it’s Jim who does it. I’d never stand for that before. But I trust his judgment. He makes it quite clear he’ll be head of the house. And I like it—I really was surprised, I must admit. We’re very much alike in temperament. We sometimes have exactly the same thoughts. Yesterday it was so hot I said, “Let’s fry an egg on the sidewalk”; and he said, “Of course,” as if he’d been just about to say the same thing. That’s a silly thing—but you see what I mean, we’re in tune. He’s full of life and that’s wonderful, glorious, really, to be able to depend on someone else to keep the show going. His sense of humor is much keener than mine. He’s more full of hell, and so far as independence goes, we’re exactly alike. We can get like two bulls, pawing the ground. But I’m slowly diminishing my independence. It’s lovely to have someone else take responsibility.
Above all, I’m free with him, free to be myself and he understands that self. He treats me like a woman . . . (I always felt that Gary treated her like a china doll) . . . if I don’t understand something and squawk about it, I get an answer. He doesn’t just walk out of the room and leave me to fuss. It may not be the answer I want to hear, but it’s an answer. He never leaves me in midair, never leaves me without communicating.
This was what Gary Clarke didn’t have. Gary is talented, Gary is bright. But he’s known a great deal of personal confusion—and why wouldn’t he? A boy who had the responsibilities of an early marriage, children, and a career that wouldn’t budge for a long time. He’d faced a lot of living Connie couldn’t possibly understand. He so disliked argument that he sidestepped issues instead of meeting them. The slightest altercation between him and Connie, and he immediately associated it with the problems of his former marriage.
Jim Stacy’s not afraid of anything, including Connie. Born of a Syrian father and an Irish mother, he inherited a wonderful mixture of imagination, dreaminess and spunk. For example, he turned down some pretty good football offers to hitchhike across the country and ship off on a freighter for Europe where he worked his way through fourteen countries. And he tried his hand at advertising copy writing (still wants to write a top-flight novel) before he decided that writing was a pretty lonely business, and anyone as gregarious as he had better try acting. And he’s fought his way along, always vitally aware of himself and of the world. He’s stacked up hundreds of TV credits and a hit in “Summer Magic.” Now he’s definitely on his way.
Gary always hesitated taking on the responsibilities of marriage. He wanted Connie, but the minute the publicity pressure started in connection with their wedding, the minute problems began cropping up, they were no longer able to communicate. He became moody and withdrawn. Connie felt lost. She couldn’t reach him.
This is Jim
Pressure doesn’t bother Jim. As a matter of fact, he wants responsibility. He’s been a free-wheeling agent all his life and he’s developed the muscles for it. When he and Connie are out together and fans become too insistent, he has a way of taking the pressure off her. She signs the autographs graciously, but when the pressure gets too heavy, he just says, thank you, but no more. They talk over every single business decision she has to make—the first time she’s ever been able to do this. Now she’s discovered that someone who has your interests at heart brings into the discussion a lot of facets you hadn’t even thought about—although you may think you’re pretty smart. Jim is thorough. If he says he’s going to do something, he does it. Now. Not four days later like I do. He looks into every detail. I depend on him.
And there he stands, smiling, serene. The girls have taken their places at the altar, Jim’s brother, Louie Elias, is shaking slightly, aware of the ring he’s holding. Connie exchanges glances with Carole Certo Stevens, herself a bride of just three months, and Connie’s closest friend. So strange . . . if it hadn’t been for Carole, Connie’d never have met Jim Stacy. . . .
It was when she and Carole were down in Palm Springs for the filming of “Palm Springs Weekend.” Connie was still feeling droopy after the break-up with Gary. Every night there’d be groups of fellows and girls going out to dance or drive. There were pool parties. Connie insisted Carole go with the crowd and Jim Stacy was part of the crowd. He started dropping by the house. After they came back to Los Angeles, he continued dropping by the house, to chat with Carole, Connie thought, although it wasn’t a romance. Jim knew all about Carole and her Darryl Stevens.
Then one night, this “Gaslight Club Party” came along. Connie -was dying to go and she’d decided she’d just tag along with some married friends of hers if necessary. As a matter of fact, she was dressing when Jim drove up to return a book he’d borrowed. She saw him from the window, grabbed up a robe, and it didn’t take her three seconds to bounce down the steps and catch him in the driveway. Did he have a date for the Gaslight Club Party? No? Would he take her? He certainly would.
For five weeks after that, they really had a time . . . went down to Tijuana for the jai a-lai games, went water skiing, swam, talked, went to Carole and Darryl’s wedding . . . never dreaming, not even dreaming . . . And then four days before Connie left for Europe (originally Carole was to have gone with her), Jim phoned. He was going with her! Walt Disney had suggested he go over to London to do some publicity for “Summer Magic” and he promptly canceled out of a Tennessee Williams play he had planned to do.
When did love begin?
It was the most fascinating time I’ve ever had. I’ve always dreamed of roaming Europe wild and free, not as an actress or a star or with studio help, but just me, like any American girl tourist swinging from place to place, making friends with all kinds of people, singing and laughing and learning about life. . . . Well, Jim and l made it.
And when did love begin?
. . . In London seeing Shakespeare with Jim, for the first time? . . . At Wimbledon, sitting in the center court taking pictures of everything? . . . When we went to see Sophie Tucker and “Talk of the Town” and scrambled all over the floor trying to snag one of the “Sophie Tucker Little Lover Pills” she threw to the audience? . . . In Rome, flying up and down the hills and through the traffic on our Vespa? . . . At the Pope’s coronation? . . . Or the day we visited the catacombs?
Where did love begin? The fact is, love may have begun, but Connie was too busy having fun to analyze it. Gary wasn’t easy to get over, she’d been telling herself, kidding herself, forcing it to be over—but was it? She’d say it was, only to find it was still there in that loyal heart of hers. And it was so important for her to assert her independence. In Rome she actually made Jim phone her for a date—he wasn’t just to take their romance for granted. Then the last week in Europe, when Jim wanted to attend the bull fights in Barcelona, she insisted on spending a week with friends at Blackpool. But they had had a great time together, real fun. Wherever they went, they turned everybody on. Whatever they did was great!
And where did love begin? When did she know? In Kansas City, after she came home, when she was doing something she’d always dreamed of—starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” packing in the crowds and receiving tremendous audience ovations every night. And I felt lost, really I did. I got a great charge out of the performance itself, but once it was over . . . I missed Jim. Terribly. We ran up three hundred dollars’ worth of phone bills between the two of us. Isn’t that ridiculous? I did a lot of thinking in Kansas City. And the old romance was over and out of my system, forever, I knew that for sure.
Jim makes an offer
And then she came back and there was this offer from Australia for a night-club appearance, and wonder of wonders, the studio said she could go and then the night she and Jim were talking about the Australian trip, they’d been to dinner and they’d been together all day and now it was about two in the morning and Jim was getting ready to go home. They were talking about Australia and laughing about the phone bills and Connie said, “Do you think I should take it?” and Jim said, “Well, you could always stay here and marry me.”
They’d started giggling, they called Carole and Darryl who were now newlyweds. They’d howled, “Oh no, you didn’t get us out of bed to tell us that !” And Connie and Jim said, “Don’t tell a soul,” and then proceeded to tell everyone they knew.
Imagine Connie on her father’s arm, knowing that he is happy, her adoring dad who never before thought her ready for marriage. “You get married,” her father’d said, “you don’t start housekeeping with secondhand furniture.” And she’d always said, “Oh, Daddy, you’re so Italian.” But Teddy Stevens is Italian, he believes in one marriage, he knows what this girl of his needs—strength—and he is now taking her down the aisle to James Stacy, who has the ability to face life, the ability to understand a woman’s need, and meet it.
It’s kind of an instinct I have about this man who’s waiting to take me in his arms. I don’t think he’s handsomer than anybody in the world, although he is to me. I don’t think he’s the most even-tempered—we fought our way through Europe and came out like gangbusters. But he’s outstanding and he’s for me. It’s kind of an instinct. I look at him and think of living my life with him—something I’ve never done before. I’ve always wanted a family, five children, six children, fifteen. I could love them all. I look at him and think of being the mother of his children. My husband, James Stacy!
—BY JANE ARDMORE
You can see Jim in “Summer Magic,” Disney, and Connie is appearing in “Palm Springs Weekend,” for Warner Bros.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1963