Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

If This Isn’t Love!—Bob Wagner & Terry Moore

The sun was shining in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and the cast and crew of “Twelve Mile Reef” were at work. In front of the cameras Bob Wagner, portraying a youthful sponge diver, went through the scene in which he brought Terry Moore home to his family and announced, “This is the girl I’ve married.”

Bob had no sooner finished the speech than a small voice was heard from the sidelines. “Gee!” said the enthusiastic young girl. “Are you and Terry really married?” Bob assured the girl that he and Terry were not man and wife. Although no one realized it at the time, this was the first of a series of statements on the subject. For despite the perfect Florida weather a storm broke that afternoon when newspaper headlines throughout the country read: TERRY MOORE AND BOB WAGNER TO WED.

The storm was man-made; they’re still looking for the man who made it. The story originated in Chicago, where one of the wire services picked up a news release. It concerned the fact that Terry’s divorce from Glenn Davis would become final the following day. The story also stated quite truthfully that Terry was on location in Florida for “Twelve Mile Reef” and that she and leading man Bob Wagner, who had dated her in Hollywood, were continuing to be seen together in Tarpon Springs, Florida. And then the story wandered into the unlimited realm of imagination: Terry and Bob were expected to marry within a week.

Now this was big news to everyone, including the couple most concerned. The tale wasn’t entirely unbelievable to those who have learned to expect the unexpected from Hollywood personalities. In print the story appeared impressive and official. In addition a great many matchmakers reasoned that Terry and Bob would make an ideal pair. And of course everyone was well aware that. one of Florida’s most popular properties is a moon that encourages matrimony.

Said a close friend of Bob and his family: “I’ve known R. J. since he was a kid. I know how serious he is about his career. And I’m sure he has always been sincere when he said he didn’t intend to marry until he was about thirty years old.”

But another intimate was less skeptical: .“You never know what to expect from him. Sometimes he’s laughing, clowning, looking as if he never had a serious thought in his life. And then again he is intense, absorbed. He is certainly unpredictable.”

That Monday night there was no rest for the weary in Tarpon Springs. There were calls from Hollywood friends and from newspaper people. Denials were being issued from Tarpon Springs as late as 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. “No, there are absolutely no wedding plans,” was the answer to all queries. “Terry’s divorce is final today. She and Bob have dated and they’re seeing a lot of each other. They are issuing no statements.”

Also issuing no statements were the girls in Hollywood whom Bob had been dating: Debbie Reynolds, Susan Zanuck, Debra Paget, Lori Nelson. There was silence, too, from Terry’s large group of admirers: Nicky Hilton, Laurence Harvey, Greg Bautzer, golf pro Al Besselink. Only ex-husband Glenn Davis took any significant action..He quietly married Texan Ellen Slack.

But the nation’s reporters were still wondering. “Okay,” said one. “So there are no wedding plans yet. But something must be happening. And if this isn’t love. . . .”

Terry and Bob had been away from Hollywood approximately ten days. From Tarpon Springs they would go with the company to romantic Key West, and from there to equally romantic Nassau. “Well, maybe it isn’t love just yet,” the lady admitted gleefully. “But the way I see it, anything can happen!”

The press agent wrapped the telephone in a bath towel, stuffed cotton into his ears and fell into bed to have a nightmare in which somebody choked to death on a slice of wedding cake.

The midnight oil still burned in Bob Wagner’s room. His family was in Hawaii and the report hadn’t reached them. But he’d just finished telling his sister in Los Angeles that she needn’t believe what she’d seen in the papers. He sat thumbing through a handful of telegrams in a stunned sort of way. The well-wishers who hadn’t called Tarpon Springs had called Western Union. “Congratulations!” read the thoughtful messages. “Sure you’ll both be very happy!” Finally, he filed the wires on the floor and turned out the light.

The lights in Terry’s room went on with the ring of the telephone and off again with the click of the receiver. “After eleven o’clock I’ll just have to talk in my sleep,” she’d resolved eyeing the phone. Since the afternoon editions, the majority of Terry’s conversations had been confined to long distance. She and her mother, who was with her on location, had talked to her father earlier in the evening. He, too, had been reading the papers.

How the matrimonial rumor began is a mystery that could stand solving. It might have started with a happy-go-lucky bit of dialogue by R. J. Wagner. “Let’s get married,” he has a habit of saying with a straight face. And because his eyes are laughing, nobody falls into his arms with the misguided intention of staying there forever. For instance, take a particular stormy Sunday. At the crack of dawn, Terry and her mother climbed into a car and headed toward Silver Springs to visit friends. Bob joined Gilbert Roland and J. Carrol Naish for an appearance at the tennis club in St. Petersburg. Then the wind and rain brought the crowd back to Tarpon Springs and to Louis Pappas’ waterfront cafe for dinner.

Terry and her mother were the first to return. They had a leisurely meal and on their way to the door stopped by the athletes’ table to compare notes on their day. Bob took a long look at the vision in the form-fitting strapless dress. “Terry, girl, you’re a walking dream,” he said. “Let’s get married.”

Translated it means Bob’s no fool. He appreciates a walking dream when he sees one. Everyone at the table laughed heartily, finished comparing notes and the three tennis players ordered steaks. A few minutes later, another feminine member of the location company came over to say hello. “You’re a real doll,” Bob told her. “Let’s get married.”

Everyone laughed some more and asked the waitress not to forget the steak sauce. When Bob left the restaurant, he was still single. He wasn’t even an engaged bachelor. However, any number of strangers who dine out have excellent hearing and their interpretation of Bob’s phrase could have come decked with orange blossoms.

But for all his lively banter, matrimony is a matter which Bob takes seriously. As a matter of fact, a short time before the Moore-Wagner story broke he was thinking out loud for a magazine writer. “I’m not ready to get married,” he said.

When asked for explanations, he elaborated. “First of all, there are financial reasons. Say a guy and a girl fall in love. He doesn’t have a quarter. They get married and struggle along. If they’re in love, maybe it’s great. But I don’t think I’m the sort who would settle for that. I want a nice house . . . a couple of cars . . . money in the bank to send the kids to school . . . And I don’t have that kind of money yet.”

Asked for more explanations, he readily gave them. “I’m selfish,” he grinned. “But selfishness is no good when it comes to marriage. Marriage is a job and you have to work to keep it going. It’s a fifty-fifty proposition. It’s give and take. And right now I’m not willing to give that much.

“My career’s a full-time job. And I’m not just thinking about the present. I’m thinking about five years from now. I’ve been lucky so far. But I can’t be the most popular newcomer next year. I’ve got to go on to another spot, because somebody’s going to grab this one. I want to move into the big boxoffice ten or twenty. After that, the trick’s staying there. You have to have good pictures to sustain success and give good performances to get the pictures.

“It’s tough for a girl to marry into this business,” he finished. “Takes a lot of understanding.”

This was something he learned at the beginning of his career. Before his movie break came along, he was dating a girl named Sue. They’d gone together for several years. Then Bob went into pictures and into a new kind of world. He wanted to be a success and one of the initial requirements, he found, was the ability to report to the set clear-eyed and wide awake. Sue wanted to be with her own crowd. Bob kept drifting away and finding it hard to come back to the group.

He’d try to explain why he was leaving a party that showed great promise of going on indefinitely. He couldn’t afford to walk through a scene with his eyes closed the following morning. When the scene played the theatres, there’d be no message flashed on the screen asking the audience to bear with R. J. Wagner because he’d been out late the night before—being a regular guy. “You can regular guy yourself right out of the business,” was R. J.’s attitude.

This is still R. J.’s attitude. And it’s well understood by the girls he’s dated since he signed with Twentieth. The list—a lengthy one—includes such lovelies as Babs Darrow, Melinda Markey, Susan Zanuck, and Debbie Reynolds. And now, Terry Moore.

When Bob and Terry learned that they were assigned to “Twelve Mile Reef,” they decided to get acquainted, and teamed up for the Academy Award festivities. Terry was a loser in the Oscar sweepstakes, but in Bob’s book she was one of the best sports ever nominated.

“You’ve lots of time ahead,” he told her.

“And work,” she said. “Hard work.”

“You’re a girl after my own heart,” he said. “Let’s get married.” So they went to a party.

“About time those two got together,” said their pals.

These were the friends who sent a few hundred words worth of congratulations to Tarpon Springs. “I don’t see anything so improbable about their getting married,” said one chum. “R. J. and Terry have a lot in common. They’re both in the picture business. They love it. And they’re serious about their work.

“Awright, so they can’t spend twenty-four hours a day on a set. Bob’s the kind of fellow who likes to drop by a girl’s house on the spur of the moment and say ‘Come on, let’s drive out to the beach.’

“Terry’s the kind of girl who’ll grab a bathing suit and say, ‘Okay, let’s go.’

“The kid’s a great one for sports . . . goes in for tennis, golf, skiing, hunting—to mention a few. Terry plays a fine game of golf. She’s competition for anybody on a tennis court. And when she puts on skis she doesn’t just stand there. The girl can even fly a plane!

“Terry steers clear of the bright-light circuit, for the most part. She likes good music and conversation. Bob hardly goes near a night club anymore, unless the floor show’s something special.

“They’ve had the same kind of normal life. Happy family backgrounds. Neither’s been near a studio school. They spent their teens being pretty typical teenagers. Naturally, some of their best friends are picture people. But they’re not at a loss with folks outside the industry.

“They’re both twenty-three. They’re both eligible. And as for me,” the friend concluded, “I was one of the first to wire every best wish I could think of.”

While Hollywood accepted the denials of matrimony which were being issued from Florida, Hollywood waited to see what would happen. A location site is often pictured as the next best thing to a desert island. However, the small town of Tarpon Springs is crowded with friendly citizens who handed the movie company the keys to their city. With the other members of the cast, Terry and Bob appeared at the local theatre to help the cancer drive. They went to club meetings, sorority teas, local parties.

One night they drove into Ybor City to have dinner at the famed Columbia restaurant. They met a young married couple named Betty and Glenn Rogers, who joined them for after-dinner coffee. Betty and Glenn wanted to know all about Hollywood. But before the evening ended, Terry and Bob were asking the questions. They wanted to know about Betty and Glenn.

As they were ready to leave, Bob glanced at the doorway. Apparently an entire Junior Prom had dropped in for a late snack. However, no one was eating. They were standing en masse at the door. Bob and Terry said hello and everyone grabbed menus. And suddenly there was an autograph session.

Afterwards they proceeded to Tampa where they were scheduled to make an appearance at a dance held in the Armory. The emcee introduced Terry and Terry introduced Bob. “I’d like you to meet one of Hollywood’s finest young actors,” she said. “And he also sings and dances.”

“Thanks, friend,” said Bob, who (except for his scenes in “Titanic”) usually confines his singing to the shower and his dancing to well-packed dance floors.

Bob then talked about the location in Tarpon Springs. “You’ll have to come over and see us,” he said. “Be my guests.”

Once back in the car, he glanced at Terry and sighed. “Alone at last.”

“Hmmm,” said Terry. “But we won’t be alone on Monday. R. J., do you realize you invited five thousand people?”

“You can sing and danee for them,” he said happily.

Bob and Terry were seen dancing together the following week . . . at a Tarpon Springs high-school dance. Whirling their way on the crowded floor, they looked as if they thought they were alone.

Then, like the lady reporter said, there was Key West, Nassau and the moon. And after that, back to California. And no one’s been heard to sneeze at the California moon. Not even an ardent Florida fan.




No Comments
Leave a Comment