Is Love For Laurie?
Hollywood talks of the four major romances in Piper Laurie’s life wondering which one of them holds the key to her blithe young heart.
Piper, herself, mentions a fifth one. Not that she calls it a romance any more than she does the other four. But this much is true: this fifth name is the only one that brings stars to her voice and a gleam to her eyes. And the absolutely crazy part of it is, that this boy has never once given her a tumble, since junior high days, when she first spotted him and swooned over him, right up until now, when he lives a few doors down the Street from her—and isn’t even aware of it.
The four men Hollywood talks about are Leonard Goldstein, the producer; Dick Anderson, the actor; David Schine, the heir to a hotel fortune, and Charles Simonelli, a New York movie executive. And a lot of people are also remembering that Vic Damone had quite a crush on Piper, before Uncle Sam got him. Since Vic is about to be out of uniform, he may re-activate this claim shortly.
The one Piper talks about with the most excitement is the boy named Rick.
But she was reluctant to discuss the subject at all. when I hunted her down one fine fail afternoon on the set of “Mississippi Gambler.” She was having a day off from work, and she came in, her flashy hair tied down under a scarf, her eyes wide and shining. She had been out with Dick Anderson in his new English racing car and “it had absolutely sent” her, as she phrases it. Dick was hovering in the background, his eyes watching her with a sort of hungry worship. We both asked him to get lost for an hour or so, as I couldn’t see how Piper could otherwise comfortably deal with the gossip item in a leading column that very morning—that she was about to marry Leonard Goldstein.
The first thing you notice, on meeting Piper, aside from her physical beauty, is her thoughtful honesty and sincerity. She had never discussed Leonard Goldstein for publication before—but when I hit her with the question, she answered it frankly.
“I never think of Leonard as a date,” she said. “I think of him as a friend. Whenever we go out to a nightclub together, Hollywood begins ‘coupling’ us, but actually the best times we have are when be comes over to my house, and we sit around with my folks and discuss things.”
Piper flashed her mischievous grin. “Leonard is as old as my father,” she said, “but when my dad answers the door, Leonard always greets him with, ‘Hello, son.’ You see, I’ll be twenty-one on my birthday, this January, but Leonard is forty-eight.
“The first time I ever met him was my first day on the Universal-International lot. That was almost three years ago, and I had just graduated senior high. I was absolutely petrified at meeting him and when they introduced us, he scowled.
“I didn’t know then that whenever he is shy, Leonard does scowl. Ali it did to me that day was make me more frightened.
“They put me into a studio dramatic group, to study acting. I was tickled to discover Tony Curtis there. I’d known Tony before, you see, and when he asked me for a date, I was delighted to accept.”
Piper paused, using the excuse of untying the bandanna around her hair, to give herself more time to think. As that mass of red-gold tumbled around her shoulders, she looked incredibly exciting, her face so vivacious above the neckline of the extremely tailored suit she was wearing.
“People talk all the time about there not being enough fellows to go around in Hollywood,” Piper said, “and maybe it’s so, if you just stay in the movie crowd. But I honestly do think it makes a difference if you grew up here, as I did. I mean when Los Angeles is just your home town, as it has been mine since I was seven, you meet boys on a more casual basis.
“I took Tony over to meet my folks, just as I always have with every other boy, and we did go about together for a little while. We never dreamed that our first starring picture would be together.
“My first picture, of course, was ‘Louisa’ and the studio sent me to Chicago to make a personal appearance with it. I was absolutely wildly excited, being in a big city like that, and putting up at a luxury hotel and all the rest of it. I made personal appearances on sixteen TV and radio shows in five days, besides personal appearances at the theatre, so I was completely beat when I came in to the hotel lobby one night and saw Vic Damone standing there.
“I started to speak to him—and then I realized I didn’t actually know him. I had just met him very casually. So I ran up to my room, but the phone was ringing, and it was Vic, asking me to come down and have a drink with him. I told him I didn’t drink. I told him it was my first free evening, when I could actually get a good night’s sleep. He persisted, so finally, with my studio chaperone, I went down to the cocktail bar for twenty minutes and had a ginger ale. But I did make a date to see Vic’s show the next evening.
“That really was a thrill. You see, I’d never been away from home before, or in a real night club like the Chez Paree—and the following evening, when Vic took me for a real fling around Chicago, I just nearly collapsed trying to absorb all the full glamour treatment. And I nearly flipped, being escorted by a celebrity!
“The moment I got home, I got an order to report immediately to Mr. Goldstein’s office. I was absolutely terrified, and when I walked in, and Leonard smiled at me, and then told me he was going to co-star me with Tony in ‘The Prince Who Was a Thief,’ I was absolutely struck dumb.
“To put me at my ease, I guess, Leonard began talking. He asked me what I really wanted to do, how much I studied, if I had ever seen any of the great performers. He said that one of the greatest, Sophie Tucker, was playing in town right then. He suggested that we go see her.
“That was our first date, nearly two and a half years ago. It was wonderful being out with a man as respected as Leonard. Even with my very meager importance, I was learning that too many fellows have too many reasons for wanting to be seen out with a girl who has a movie career. It isn’t only the ‘wolf pack.’ That exists everywhere—and it’s the same I suspect, everywhere—and any girl with enough sense to wash her face, knows how to handle that problem.
“But there is a special Hollywood problem. Some apparently nice guy calls you for a date. You go out with him, and find that you have drifted, somehow, to where photographers are, and that somehow, next day, the fact that you were out with him has got itself into print. Then you know, if he’s an ambitious young actor or writer or something like that, that you’ve been used. You can’t help resenting it.
“With Leonard, from the very first, I could discuss all my problems. I remember, just after that first picture of Tony’s and mine was finished, asking him if it paid to be honest in movies—honest as an actress, I mean. Just as in any other business, out here you see a lot of people cheating around the edges, cultivating ‘the right people,’ pretending to be something they are not, and all the rest of it.
“Sometimes at my house, with my folks, sometimes at his house, with his two sisters, Leonard would point out to me the simplicity of somebody like Helen Hayes, or the long-time career of someone like Claudette Colbert, who climbed entirely on merit and nothing else.
“Then, when there was some night-club act he wanted to see for the studio, or some great stage performer, he’d take me along, and point out why this star was a star. Or if he was reading some special book for possible production, he’d sometimes have me read it, too, and he’d tell me why, in his opinion, it was good or bad.
“This is the way it has always been with me and Leonard, and this is the way it still is. He?s a constant education to me, and I owe him very much. But I do not call it romance, no matter what columnists say.”
Dick Anderson came strolling back at this moment. From his great height he looked down on us. “Are you two through yakking yet?”
Piper’s eyes sparkled at him. “Go away,” she said, “we are about to take you apart.”
“That should take all of five minutes,” Dick said. ‘I’ll see you then.”
Piper smiled as he moved away. “Dick’s such a nice, intelligent boy,” she said. “We have fun together on very simple dates—just dinner and a movie, generally, or maybe just an evening at my house, playing records or talking endlessly about acting. My mother says when Dick and I get together we never stop talking.”
“Where lovers are more often silent,” I said.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Like things were, maybe, with Charlie Simonelli?” I asked.
“Oh, please,” said Piper, “I don’t want to talk about that.”
Some insiders in Hollywood insist that this was the brief flirtation that really hit Piper’s heart. Perhaps. For the record, Charles Simonelli is an executive in Universal-International’s New York office. He and Piper did date frequently, and were serious enough to part over religious differences—which certainly suggests their feeling for one another was far from trivial.
With young David Schine, heir to the fabulous Schine hotel chain, the religious difference does not exist—but something that would be of considerable importance to Piper does figure: Schine has no particular interest in show business and Hollywood. She has every interest in it.
By way of innocently proving, without even knowing it, that her career is based on intelligence, as well as on beauty and talent, Piper said, “I have a friend who married outside this profession. She didn’t want to give up her career and her husband didn’t demand it. But recently, when she got a very fine part and was naturally very excited about it, he was just mildly interested. He was nice about it, indulgent over her excitement, but that’s all.
“I wouldn’t be able to stand that, I know. But I would never get into such a marriage in the first place, because if my husband weren’t fascinated by what I was doing, and I excited about everything that concerned him, I’d know we didn’t have enough in common to make it a lasting thing. My parents have had a wonderful marriage. So has my older sister. That’s the kind I want—and because I do, I won’t be doing anything impulsive. I’m very grateful that I do have dates. But you’ll never see any ‘eloping’ headlines about me.”
“Suppose you suddenly fail in love at first sight?” I said.
“Oh, I did once. It’s terrible. Never again,” said Piper.
That’s where this character Rick came in. “I was in several of his classes in junior high,” Piper said, “and I nearly swooned whenever I saw him. But he never once looked my way. And isn’t it weird that now he lives right on the same street that I do—and he still never looks my way.
“He doesn’t even recognize me—but I couldn’t fail to recognize him. He looks just as tall, dark and handsome to me as he did six years ago.”
“Tali, dark, handsome, blind and dumb,” I said, “or he would have to recognize you.”
“No,” said Piper. “I was a terrible looking kid in school. I had long red pigtails. I had freckles all over my face and I was overweight. I had another name, too.”
“Just suppose he does recognize you some day?”
“Oh, don’t,” said Piper. “I get weak at the very thought.”
We saw Dick Anderson circling back our way and we backoned to him to join us.
But this is a special note to a guy named Rick: Why don’t you start ringing doorbells in your neighborhood until you hit the right one? In my opinion, you’re missing a great opportunity.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1953