Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

I Married A Ten-Year-Old—Paula Prentiss & Dick Benjamin

I was the fellow who was never going to get married. I had a lot of living to do yet. So who wanted to be tied down? Who wanted responsibilities? At Northwestern, Paula and I knew couples who married in their senior year, and we thought they were crazy. Especially this one case—the girl was a marvelous actress and we felt she simply had no right to get married, have children and deprive the theater of her talent! We were pretty intolerant in those days!

So now I’m married and loving it—and not to just one woman, but two! It’s great, it’s real, it’s a full life. We meet everything head-on together, solve our problems together. We reinforce each other and we’re gradually growing up. Me and my two wives: Tall Paula Prentiss (who gets confused about everything except the basic values), and little Paula Ragusa (who can and sometimes does act like a ten year old).

And I’m glad. I was worried, believe me, that Hollywood would change Paula. But nothing has changed, not one thing. I’ve changed. I’m not as idealistic. I’m not going off in the woods to start the perfect theater. I’ve become more realistic, and because I have, Paula has—but she hasn’t become as smooth as most pros. She still gets rattled and confused. The other night she had to phone someone to find out what time we were expected at a dinner party. She chatted pleasantly with our prospective hostess, then a moment after she hung up, she started crying!

“I forgot what time she said!” Paula sobbed. “I don’t know why, don’t ask me why, I just forgot.”

“Well, just call her up again,” I suggested, “and this time write it down.”

“I’m not going to talk to that woman ever again in my life,” she cried. But very shortly after, grown-up Paula picked up the phone and politely inquired, “Can you tell me again, please, what time we’re expected?”

I love both of her

She’s a lovely wife, both of her. No needle, no nag, and she keeps house like you’d never believe. Of course, she also picked out a house you would never believe. We’d been in Europe for our honeymoon, we’d gone back to New York, then come out here to California. We drove around Beverly Hills, Westwood and Brentwood house-hunting, our little compact car stuffed to the gills with wedding presents: pictures, clothing, china, books and bric-a-brac. We couldn’t even see out the car’s back window, and on the freeways my bride would stick her head out the open door to tell me what was coming. To top it all off, we couldn’t find a furnished apartment without a lease, and we couldn’t take a lease in case I had to go back to New York on a minute’s notice.

Finally, Paula dragged me inside her dream house—a crazy Tenth-Century number done in some weird dream by a shipbuilder from Denmark. She kept telling me how authentic it was, all redwood, not a nail in the place. But she wasn’t selling me—we’d driven past once and it was strictly out of a fairy tale. But I went to look at it just to please the child. It was wilder than I’d dreamed, reminiscent of the old pubs we’d seen in England. We had a big scene, and then we took it—on a temporary basis.

“Only don’t unpack,” I said.

You should have seen her face. “Oh, I have to, Dick,” she said. “I have to unpack, I can’t feel temporary.”

The second day, while I was out, she unpacked. And I must confess that when I walked in, it looked as if we’d lived there a long, long time. It was ours! There were plants around everywhere and little artificial birds and flowers—she loves flowers but she won’t throw them out. I just got her some new ones to take the place of some little ratty violets she was carefully preserving!

Paula the homebody

The woman Paula has a quality I’d never expected. She’s a housekeeper. I could eat off paper, but we eat off the most beautiful china. Her mother gave her that and silver, lovely silver that’s polished so it shimmers. She cooks and cooks well—Denver omelets when we have guests for Sunday brunch, and imaginative desserts like blueberry pie and pistachio ice cream. And she cleans! It takes her all day, but she seems to like it! If she’s upset she works it out by cleaning and then everything is spic and span.

Days when she isn’t shooting, she’s up at 6 a.m. doing housework on tiptoe while I sleep. After a while she can’t stand the quiet and wakes me up. Today, she woke me up because she was scheduled for an interview at one and she was worrying about it. Big Paula does a great interview, she’s great on quiz shows and TV, hut little Paula worries. She wants to run away, she’s scared the “uglies” are going to get her. Sometimes she has nightmares about the “uglies.”

You want to know what else is different about being married to a movie star? Well, movie stardom is really beyond both of our comprehensions—and so is the money that goes with it. In fact, we still save pennies. Paula’s very high right now on savings stamps. She shops at stores where she can get them, brings them home and pastes them in little books. So far she’s translated those books into a bathroom scale, a toaster and assorted pillows.

You won’t believe it, but Paula has a dress, a very attractive dark beige dress with high neck and long sleeves. I think it’s just great. Well, she had that dress in tenth grade, she had it in college and now about every three months she drags it out and wears it to some fancy party.

“Are you ashamed?” she’ll ask me. But the fact is, the dress looks great on Paula and I always think it’s new.

Here’s another example. When Paula needed some new evening slippers recently, she went looking all over and ended up at the five-and-ten where she bought a pair of plastic shoes for one dollar and nineteen cents. Of course they fell apart the second time she wore them, but she still wears them around the house. And she lugs all our laundry down to the laundromat. She even makes a special trip just to wash jeans and tennis shoes when we’ve been to the beach. I think she likes to use those new detergent tablets. We saw the ad on television and she couldn’t wait to get to the laundromat.

Maybe if the checks came made out to Paula Ragusa they’d mean more, but they come made out to Paula Prentiss, a strictly made-up name. You know, half the time I think Paula believes it’s made-up money. And I certainly thought her making it would bother me. After all. the American plan is for the man of the family to make the money and support his wife. It worried me. We discussed it. Paula just simply said that it couldn’tmake any difference, and it doesn’t. She doesn’t think of this money as hers. It’s sort of a gift for doing something she enjoys—and something she does so well. As a matter of fact, we worked together not too long ago at UCLA in “Measure for Measure,” and we each received the Equity minimum—$87.50. That has reality. That size check we can both understand. But when we stay at a hotel in New York and check over the bill the studio is paying, we go into a state of shock. Now I’m not knocking on-the-house luxury—it’s great—but sometimes it can trap you. On our last trip back from New York, we stopped in Chicago—Evanston really—to see some of the kids from school. It was a purely personal trip, hut studio representatives met us at the airport and took us out to the Orrington, a hotel just around the corner from where we’d both lived when we were on campus. It was all very pleasant. One of the publicity men somehow took over all the hotel arrangements—but he also asked Paula if she’d do some publicity work the next morning. For once I didn’t read her reaction fast enough.

The minute he was out of the room, she cried, “I just want to see people. I don’t want the studio paying our hotel bill. If we let them take care of everything, we’ll find we can’t do anything on our own, personally. without being someone’s property. We have to do things ourselves, Dick!”

And of course she’s absolutely right. We phoned the Coast at once, made our position clear, and from here on out we’ll he more careful. No one can run your life for you. and this is the one danger that I can see in Paula’s success. The studio is so careful of their stars, so considerate, so parental, so helpful—but some decisions have to be your own. As she says, “I want my own life.” That’s something my girl understood from the first. She gets confused about everything but basic values.

Child vs woman

Paula’s naive—and it’s charming. When she met Charles Boyer on the set of “The Four Horsemen” she knew only that he was a man of devastating charm. Just who he was, she had no idea. Well, she was that way when I first knew her and she’ll always be that way. Her approach is so guileless it’s enchanting. She’s not always profound, hut she is always spontaneous—that’s the child in her.

The woman is the one I saw on stage in “Measure for Measure,” pleading for the duke to save her husband’s life. All of us were on stage for the third act and we’d heard this rehearsed so many times, we’d come to the point where we thought we’d lose our minds hearing it once more. Then, suddenly, there was this dark-eyed vibrant being so emotional, sobbing so genuinely, that all of us began to react—not just the I audience, but all of us on stage. It might I have been my own life she was pleading for. Total reality. That’s what I call a i golden moment.

I’ve shared several golden moments in the theater with Paula and they are a counterpoint to the golden moments we share as husband and wife. This winter, for example, when we’d pile in the car to dash to UCLA for “Measure for Measure.” It was cold, we’d keep the car windows closed, I’d tuck a throw rug over Paula’s knees (she’s always cold) and there we’d be together zooming over the San Diego freeway to the campus, but we had the exhilarating sense of taking off in a space capsule. It’s as if there were no such thing as two human beings at moments like this. We’re in each other’s minds. Paula has told me many times that with me she is most herself, and with her I am most me.

Of course we fight!

But this doesn’t mean we don’t fight. When we have guests in for breakfast on Sundays, unless Paula wakens me, I sleep until noon and then she goes like a whirlybird trying to cook and straighten the bedroom at the same time. I can’t see that. I say, close the bedroom door. She says, “No, it will make the place look smaller.” I say, “What does it matter?”

One day when she was taking off like a jet to wash her tennis shoes at the laundromat, I reminded her that she had a ten o’clock appointment at the studio and she’d better not try the laundromat or she’d he late. I was very definite about it and she stayed at home—but she sulked and wouldn’t make breakfast. Half an hour later I found her in the kitchen in the jam jar with jam all over the knife and leaking along her arm as she wolfed a bread and jelly sandwich. She had to laugh.

But one of the worst fights we’ve had was over the income tax forms. We’d gone to the tax man, hut he needed all sorts of information, facts and figures. So we returned home and were beating our brains out trying to get all the material together. I asked Paula a question, she answered me, but I was struggling with a column of figures and asked her again.

“What did you say?”

“You heard me,” Paula said.

“I didn’t hear you, dear.”

“You did too!” she shrieked.

“Don’t you yell,” I yelled.

And with this, one of my wives started screaming. I mean screaming. I suggested she consider the neighbors . . . I suggested she remember how difficult, not to say impossible, it is to find a furnished apartment without a lease . . . finally I told her she was behaving like a ten year old.

That stopped her.

But she’s not always a ten year old. she’s also an exciting, warm and talented woman, and I love being married to her—both of her.

as told to JANE ARDMORE

Paula Prentiss and Dick Benjamin will soon be seen in “Follow the Boys,” M-G-M.



1 Comment
  • zoritoler imol
    1 Ağustos 2023

    Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care

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