It Should Only Happen To You Dah-Leeng!—Debbie Reynolds
Do you think of me luxuriating in bubble baths . . . well, you’re right! I do have a bubble bath every night—a long, luxurious, relaxing bath piled high with bubbles. It lasts a hot ten minutes. My life is fabulous because it’s two lives. It’s exciting without losing normalcy. I’ve been working in show business since I was sixteen, and that meant gradually being able to buy almost everything material I could want—first a new bathing suit, then a new dress, shoes, a coat, and as my earning power increased, a mink coat and a diamond ring, a bracelet, a car, a home. I dreamed of children, I had them and a lovely home. I like to work around my own house, I love bathing my own children. I’d have plenty to keep me busy full-time if I never went near a studio. We live on a street filled with children, a little more luxurious, but just as neighborly as the street I grew up on. It’s true the sight-seeing buses do go by and stop to tell the tourists where we live, but we built an ivy-trimmed wall so the children wouldn’t notice, and they slide down their slide and swing on their swings with the other kids. We had almost everything. But there was one empty spot in the picture.
Life is fabulous now because the picture is complete. I have the personal happiness I’ve always wanted. It’s been fabulous ever since Harry came into our lives and the children and I fell in love with him. In this hectic life of mine there was at last a deeply quiet, private place. I don’t mind sharing my happiness. I want to share it. But in each person’s life there must be a personal and private place.
Our wedding was everything I’d dreamed. Everything you want yours to be. Quiet, personal and beautiful. That isn’t easy in this business. I realized as never before what good friends the press can be. They were very gracious, and I thank them with all my heart. We greeted them outside Harry’s sister’s house, posed, answered questions. But inside, in the heart of our wedding, there were no flash bulbs popping. There was just my old friend, Virgil Apger, who took my first stills at Metro when I was sixteen. Poor Virgil had broken his toe that morning and had to hobble around, but he doesn’t need a toe to take good pictures.
I even had the honeymoon I dreamed of, Jamaica . . . the first foreign spot I’d ever been and fallen in love with back in 1952 when I was seventeen and on the first tour of my life. Suddenly, the world was much bigger than Burbank.
Now Jamaica was as heavenly as I’d remembered. Only I’d forgotten there are no screens on the cottage windows of the Tower Isle Hotel. And the fact is, I don’t swat bugs as fast as I used to. The minute the sun went down every mosquito, every insect that could fly, came to pay us a visit. Eventually we gave up and moved to the Half Moon, which is only ten minutes from the airport, and perfect for the children’s arrival. Neither Harry nor I could stay away. from the children for a month, so he planned it for my mother and father to bring Carrie, and the nurse to bring Toddy, after two weeks. We all settled down for a fabulous time.
Fabulous, luxurious and lazy
Mother and Dad went sight-seeing and fishing, and we’d meet them usually for dinner. But for us the days were lazy and luxurious. I didn’t have to get up at five! The children let us sleep until eight! I had the luxury of being with my family all day in the sun. And let me say right here that if I ever retire from the business, it will be for the luxury of being with my children all day, instead of getting home from work at 7:30 and cramming a whole day into an hour. This is very disturbing to me. I love working. I love glamour and fun. But make no mistake about it, my greatest happiness, my real joy of living is within my family. Harry feels the same way.
I have to laugh when I hear him described as a playboy. He’s one of the most easygoing stay-at-homes I’ve ever known, just like me. Our joy is to have a home to come to, to have dinner with the children, take them up to bed, play, read to them and tuck them in. Toddy likes his stories told, Carrie likes her stories read. So we do both. I bathe the children, we put them to bed and hear their prayers, this is the most wonderful time of the day. I can’t tell you what Harry has meant to the children. In Carrie’s prayers, he comes right after Mommie and Daddy. “God bless Mommie and Daddy and Harry and Grandma and Grandpa,” etc. But Toddy just says, “God, please bless Harry and everyone else I love!”
When we do go out, to dinner or a Thalian meeting or a party, we go later, after they’re asleep. Certainly we go to night clubs—when a friend is opening or someone of whom we’re fans is performing. In New York, on our way home from our honeymoon, we went out all the time. We dressed every night and I wore my mink coat (it’s four years old and I won’t get another till it falls off my back) and my pretty jewelry. How fabulous can you get?
But at home, fabulous means at ease. I do my own manicure and pedicures, my fingernails are never long enough to put polish on. I’ve been in beauty parlors three times in my whole life and it was always so busy, it drove me wild. It’s easier for me to wash my own hair, roll it up on curlers; if I have ten minutes and can sit under the drier, that’s great, I don’t have to run around with a wet head. Most of the time I run around with the wet head.
Nothing like a massage!
I love perfume, but use very little. I love cologne in summer after we come out of the pool. A massage I have every other day or oftener if I can. This relaxes tension and keeps my skin from drying in this dry climate where we stay in the sun so much . . . we go to Palm Springs almost every weekend. And this is fabulous, to have a home in the city and a home in the desert.
I’ve had a place of my own in Palm Springs for four years, but I’ve sold it now, and we’ve added two bedrooms for the children and a dressing room for me on Harry’s Palm Springs house. We dress simply, and I don’t bother about makeup. Makeup is part of working, very few actresses do it in their private lives. You want your skin to breathe, and makeup is hard on it. Unless I’m working, I never use powder or foundation base. Just eyebrow pencil and lipstick.
I will say I’ve improved in my lounging clothes—instead of levis, I wear silk Italian pants with shirts to match. But I’m still barefoot . . . except when we have guests, then I wear Italian shoes with wildly curving heels that look as if they came from outer space. They’re comfortable and I get around fast. And I have some elaborate at-home clothes for entertaining—a new pants and overskirt ensemble, pink peau de soie with overskirt of heavy white lace with rosebuds appliqued all over it.
We have everything now except the new house we want to build or buy. We do have the land, it’s being cleared—a beautiful two-acre lot in Beverly Hills. But if we should find something already built . . . I was out looking at a place today. (I walk through looking at everything with Harry’s eyes.) We’re interested in country English architecture or in modern—if it is good, heavy, magnificent modern. It would be great to find a house and avoid the complexities of building; but it doesn’t really matter too much because my husband can handle any amount of complexities.
Calm man in a crisis
He phoned me just a moment ago in the middle of a hectic conference at the office. I could hear the voices excitedly quoting figures and shipments, and Harry’s voice calm as a judge, calling to find out how everything is at home, because the children have a virus. This man has such calm. The roof could fall in, cannons could be booming and he’d just sit back and muse, “Hmm . . . a little trouble . . . we’ll work it out.” He’s such a pro. He’s been trained to his business since he was seven. His dad used to pick him up after school, take him to the factory, and he’d work there at small chores until they went home to dinner. Harry did his homework at night, later he took summer school courses. He got out of high school at fourteen and law school at twenty-one. He’s a graduate lawyer, and his knowledge of law is invaluable, not only to him but to me. Who do you think reads my contracts?
He’s taught me a little about law. He’s taught me to play cards. He’s influenced my life in a million ways. I used to do a fair amount of cooking, now I’m interviewing for a full-time cook because Harry loves good cooking and so do I, and we want uncluttered time together. We love all the small things that go to make up a life—a picnic lunch or a night at the theater, dinner at Pavillon or a hamburger at a drive-in on our way to a movie, buying a new painting or hearing a child’s prayers. Little presents . . . on Valentine’s Day he came home with a gift for each of us. A bride doll for Carrie, who’s been hearing a lot about bride and groom lately at our house. That’s how we knew she had a virus. Carrie, who usually raises the roof if you give her a jelly bean, just took the doll quietly in her arms and laid down on the couch with the afghan!
“She must be sick,” Harry said. “Have you taken her temperature?”
“Oh, she’s all right, she’s just tired,” I said.
But Harry said take her temperature, so I took it and it was 103. We called the doctor. We were up with her most of that night. But we were together, and the fever was slowly going down. And being all together in the nursery—a family—was wonderful.
It’s more than fabulous. It’s what I’d call a dream life.
—DEBBIE REYNOLDS TOLD TO JANE ARDMORE
See Debbie in Paramount’s “Pleasure of His Company.” Watch for her in “Pepe” for Columbia and “Champagne Complex” for 20th Century-Fox. She sings on Dot.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1961