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    Happy Birthday Tommy Sands

    Tommy Sands unwrapped the large, flat package, and stood for a moment, dumbstruck and blushing. He didn’t know what to say.

    “Aw, Judi, you shouldn’t have!” he finally blurted.

    “Happy twenty-first birthday, Tommy,” Judi Meredith laughed.

    He bent quickly and kissed her. “How’d you know? You’re wonderful. And it’s wonderful. How’d you know I needed a script-holder? And red leather—how’d you guess that was my favorite color? And my name on it—in gold, yet!”



    “A little bird on the ‘Mardi Gras’ set over at 20th told me,” she grinned.

    Suddenly he reached out and pulled her close. “Oh, Judi,” he said. “Judi . . . can you believe it? I’m really twenty-one!”

    She nodded. “This is the day—August 27th. How’s it feel?”

    “It feels like I’m getting old!” he laughed. Then his face clouded. “It feels . . . Judi, do you realize how good it is to know you?—you’re the only girl now I can really tell how it feels. Really talk to.”

    “Then tell me, Tommy,” she said softly. “That is, if you want to.”

    “I do,” he said. “It’s been a big year. Here I am, twenty-one, and I’m so mixed-up. Not mixed-up really, I guess, but everything’s changed so much in the last year-and-a-half.”



    “For me, too,” she said. “I know. Remember that first time we met?”

    “Would I forget? It was that time we posed for some pictures together—way back when. I thought you were a nice girl—nice-looking, too. And by the time we finished, I thought you were terrific!”

    “You didn’t show it. But I liked you, too,” she said. “You were kind of humble. It was right after you’d made that big hit in ‘The Singin’ Idol’ on TV, and I—well, I didn’t expect it.”

    He shook his head reproachfully. “If I had known—Hey! How come I didn’t ask you for a date then, anyway?”

    “Because you met Molly Bee!”

    Tommy laughed. “Oho! That’s why you kind of faded out of the picture. Molly’s a pal of yours, isn’t she?”



     

    “She certainly is—I see her at church every Sunday. And I wouldn’t have dreamed of butting in.”

    “Gosh, that’s funny,” Tommy chuckled. “Because after Molly and I broke off, I would have liked to ask you for a date. But then you were going with that fellow who worked with me on the road, and I didn’t want to butt in!”

    Judi looked up at him and smiled. “Guess we have to thank Studio One for finally getting us together again.”

    He drew her down beside him on a couch and took her hands in his. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to tell you,” he said. “How wonderful it was, working with you on that show. You know, that was the first time I ever worked with somebody that I had known real well. I’ve always liked to work with people I don’t know, because that way you can be anonymous and not feel as self-conscious. I’ll admit I was skeptical about working with you. But it worked out real great. I felt you understood me—I could talk to you.



    “You know,” he went on quietly, “I kind of lost myself with you at times. For a little while, it was easy to love you and easy to think about you in terms of the show . . . very easy. Yet it was just as easy to turn it off again and be ourselves, afterward. And that’s something really rare. For me it is, anyway.”

    She looked down at her hands, still held in his, and when she looked at him again, her eyes were like two deep, dark pools, fathomless with feeling.

    “I felt the same way, Tommy,” she confessed shyly. “At first, I thought how much older you seemed than you really were—you had so much understanding, and sympathy, and—I think the right word for it is compassion. I thought it must be because you had so many hard knocks—I knew you’d had a rough life. Then, when we began working, we weren’t just tossing lines back and forth. We actually did the scene.



    “What I liked most was that you were so honest about it. You really meant what you did, you believed in it.”

    A frown furrowed Tommy’s brow. “Judi, do you really think that?” he asked anxiously. “I do try so hard. But here I am, twenty-one, and I’m—well—confused. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

    “How do you mean, Tommy?”

    “Well, what bothers me is that I keep changing. It seems like I’ve been changing back and forth every two months. I change my taste in clothes, and my taste in girls, and what I like to do for a pastime, hobbies—just everything. I never seem to like the same thing too long.”

    “Is that bad?” she asked gently.



    “That’s it. I don’t know. For instance, last year I felt I wanted to get married and needed somebody desperately. The year before that, I didn’t. The year before that, I did! Right now, I don’t feel I need anybody enough to get married. Frankly, I’m beginning to worry about myself because I don’t think I will ever get married.”

    “Why?” she asked.

    “You see, it’s like this,” he explained seriously. “When you get to a point where you don’t need anybody, it isn’t a question that you are getting good, or set in your ways—it’s that you don’t need any one but you need everybody. Do you know what I mean?”

    “Ye-es,” she said slowly. “I think so. I feel the same way, lots of times. I guess it’s part of growing up. You discover that needing people is a lot more complicated than a childish, romantic crush.



    “Take us, for instance. We both want the same thing very much—to make good in acting. Right now, that’s the most important thing in our lives. Marriage? Sure, I’d like to get married. You know what I dream about? Having five kids—all boys! But I know it’s not for me now. I’m like you—I love acting. And I have to prove to myself I can be good at it—”

    “Wait a minute!” he interrupted, chucking her under the chin. “You are good. Golly, you’ve got so much work—all those TV shows, and those three pictures you made for Universal—‘Summer Love’ was real good. Look how much you improved in ‘Money, Women and Dreams’ and ‘Wild Heritage’—you’re really going places!”

    She gave him a quick hug. “Thanks, you’re real kind. But you see—that’s why marriage scares me. I know that’s a big job, too. And to do both well—I think it’s too much to tackle. At least, right now.



    “But, Tommy, the important thing is that we know this about ourselves. And because of that, we car come to each other, and talk out our problems, and it’s not a boy-girl type of thing. I can’t explain it too well, but what I mean is that we can talk without being nervous or trying to impress. I don’t have to say to myself, ‘Be careful what you say, because he won’t ask you out any more if you say what you think’ because I know you aren’t that way.”

    Tommy leaned back against the couch, with a happy sigh of relief. “Whew!” he breathed. “That’s exactly what I mean! “Remember, when we were working on that Studio One show, when I told you how worried I was, because lots of girls I went out with seemed to be interested only in getting married. . . ?



    “. . . What I meant to tell you then was how great it was to know someone like you, who likes to dance and read and be serious and have a good time and never presses a guy. You can’t press a thing like romance. But I didn’t tell you.”

    “Yes,” she giggled, “and I told you, ‘Tommy Sands, there’s one thing you have to learn. When we come on the set, we forget outside life. You’re not Tommy Sands, Boy, you’re Tommy Sands, Actor—” she broke off in a gale of laughter. “Oh, wasn’t I the tough one!”

    Tommy laughed, too. “But you gave me some more good advice. You said, ‘Just tell the girl that you don’t want to get married. That hurts a lot less than trying to be nice and letting her find out the hard way.’ ”



    Judi put her hand on his arm. “I guess that’s the big thing, no matter what age you are. Being honest about your own feelings. Sure, we’re young, and maybe for that reason our feelings aren’t so clear yet. But if we’re honest about them, the future will take care of itself, and we don’t have to worry. Don’t you think so?”

    He took her hand in both of his, tightly. “Right!” he said. Then, jumping up and pulling her to her feet, “C’mon, we’ve got to celebrate my birthday. How ’bout a peach soda at Will Wright’s?”

    “Fine!” she said. »Today you are a man!” And off they walked together—still holding hands.

    ALEX JOYCE

    TOMMY’S IN 20TH’S “MARDI GRAS”

     

    It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1958

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