John’s Other Wife
One morning, not long after they were married, John Ashley and Debbie Walley were chatting about their life before they met. “You know something,” he said, “you’re the only redheaded girl l’ve ever cared for. I always preferred to be with a blonde.” The moment the words were out, John was sorry he had said them. “Well . . . er . . .” he stumbled on, “what I mean, Darling, is that, you know, gentlemen are supposed to prefer blondes … but they marry brunettes . . . er, well, except me, I married a beautiful redhead, I married you . . . Darling.” Debbie gave her husband a weak little smile but said nothing. Seconds later, she leaned over, gave him a wifely kiss on the cheek, and said she had to go finish washing the breakfast dishes. As she left the room, John made a mental note: if he wanted to preserve peace and quiet in the Ashley household, he must never, never bring up the subject of blondes again!
One evening, about a week later, John came home, walked into the kitchen and almost fell flat on his face. There, standing in front of the stove, furiously whipping up a batch of mashed, potatoes, was t he most gorgeous blonde he’d ever seen. When she turned around and gave him a wicked wink. John realized it was Debbie—in a blond wig. She began fluttering her long, long obviously false eyelashes. John decided to get into the spirit of the gag and flirt back. But his heart wasn’t in it.
“Honey,” he said, “you sure are different as a blonde. But, honest, I like you better the way you were. My fondness for blondes was just a manifestation of my younger, more immature years. Now that I’ve married you, I don’t even look at blondes any more, believe me!”
What John said was true—to a point. He doesn’t look at blondes anymore—with eagle-eyed Debbie at his side a glance is all he’ll risk. Many times he’ll spy a dazzling blonde—so he’ll quickly turn his eyes the other way—only to find himself looking straight at another shapely blonde. (It’s very difficult to avoid blondes in Hollywood!) When Debbie spies John spying a blonde, she now has a special treatment for him. That night, at dinner, she’ll wear the blond wig. Sometimes, when John’s ; been good, Debbie will merely set the table for three. At the third place in a chair occupied by her blond wig perched atop its plastic wig block.
This blonde routine is just one of the many goings-on in the Ashley-Walley household that have John convinced he’s guilty of bigamy. He has a wife—Debbie! Then he has another wife—Oh, she’s Debbie, too, but she’s the Debbie he thought he married.
One morning, a few months ago, Debbie looked especially radiant. John was just about to comment on it when she said, “I guess I ought to go to the doctor tomorrow.”
“Do you feel sick?” John asked.
“Oh, no!” she smiled. “Wonderful!”
The next day he drove her to Beverly Hills to see Dr. Edwin Butler. He gave Debbie a few tests then said, “Well, Mr. Ashley, your wife may be pregnant. Call me Monday—I’ll have the results.”
John nearly went into a stupor. Debbie remained calm. After all, she and John had decided before they were married to have at least two children—soon.
Somehow, John survived the weekend. On Monday morning. Debbie said. “Dear. I mustn’t be late to the studio, so you call Dr. Butler later and find out what’s what.”
John called Dr. Butler and was told, “Mr. Ashley, you’re going to be a father.” When he stopped shaking, John called Debbie. When he told her the news, she didn’t say anything—but he could tell she was crying.
“Are you angry, Darling?” he asked.
“Of course not,” she answered. “I’m only crying because I’m so happy!”
This business of figuring out Debbie is nothing new to John. It started on their honeymoon.
John remembers that when he saw his bride-to-be in her first movie, “Gidget Goes Hawaiian,” he thought, “Gee, she’s great on water-skis. She’s as crazy about the beach as I am. When we’re married, we’ll spend our honeymoon in Hawaii.” He closed his eyes and dreamed (in Technicolor. of course) of their honeymoon. They would laze on the beach, scoop up the sparkling white sand, romp in the blue Hawaiian surf, etc., etc., etc. And Debbie would knock everyone’s eyes out with her bikini.
When they actually got to Hawaii on their honeymoon, John trotted out to the beach; Debbie lagged behind.
“Honey,” he protested, “don’t you want to have fun like you did in the movie? Don’t you like the sun?”
Debbie wasn’t the least bit enthusiastic. “No,” she said. sweetly. “I hate it. Redheads have sensitive skin.”
“Oh,” said John, trying to hide his disappointment. Then he noticed his wife wasn’t wearing one of her bikinis. Instead, she had on a modest one-piece swimsuit.
“Hey, where’s your bikini?” he asked. “You look great in it. Remember how you always used to cause a riot back on the Hollywood beaches!”
She blushed as a bride should and said “I’m not going to wear bikinis anymore. I don’t have to—I’ve got you!”
That’s when John learned his first married-man lesson: A girl used one method to catch a man; another to hold him. That’s also when John began to realize that every girl has a dual personality—she’s one girl when you court her; another when you marry her.
Debbie showed this duel nature with her clothes.
When John was courting her, he liked to go around in sweater, jeans and beat-up shoes. She did the same thing. He was pleased to note that she liked a very casual type of wardrobe, and made a mental note that she ought to make a very frugal wife.
Well, when he took his first look at her trousseau, his eyes almost popped. Everything in it had a French label. Her clothes were as high fashion as the cover of next month’s Vogue.
“So, when we got back from our honeymoon,” John confessed, “I had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for myself, so we wouldn’t look like the Lady and the Tramp.”
It’s been duly recorded by ancient sages that women do change their minds. It’s their prerogative, they say. John realizes this now—but just a bit too late. He groans when he remembers how he tried to outguess his wife in the business of cars.
“When we first met, she was driving a Karmen Ghia. I had a Porsche.
“She said, ‘I’m so glad you like sporty little cars; I think they’re so terribly chic!’ But after we were married, she didn’t seem so enthusiastic about sports cars any more. Whenever we passed a Cadillac, her eyes became positively covetous!
“I noticed this, but didn’t say anything. I figured this time I would really understand her. So I watched her for quite some time, and decided I would get her a Caddy. So I traded in my Porsche and bought a big black convertible—against the wishes of my business manager, I might add.
“When I gave her the new car, she let out a shriek of joy and threw her arms around me, and told me how wonderful I was, and how did I know she was crazy about it. And so forth.
“Well, for some time, she kept making excuses about not driving the big car. Finally I got her behind the driver’s wheel. (I had to put three pillows under her, so she could peer over the dashboard. She’s only five-foot-two, you know.)
“She drove it one block, then turned the wheel back to me. ‘I’m terrified at the idea of driving such a big car through traffic!’
“So, on her birthday, August 12th, I traded in that big, beautiful, black convertible and got her a little Alfa Romeo. That’s the car she’s driving now.
“When I ask. ‘But I thought you were crazy about big cars!’ she says, ‘Oh that!’ I’m still trying to figure what ‘that’ means.”
Slowly but surely, John realizes Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “Women are meant to be loved; not to be understood.”
“Even when it comes to dogs,” John adds.
“When we were dating, Debbie was keeping her mother’s toy poodle in her apartment. But after we married, Debbie returned the poodle to her mother, saying, ‘When John and I have our own dog some day, it will be a large dog! John just loves large dogs!’
“I remembered that, and when I went to Texas on location for ‘Hud Bannon,’ I found a beautiful big standard-size poodle. I bought it at once, and sent it to Debbie.
“When I finally returned home two weeks later. I was alarmed when my wife didn’t come to the door to greet me. I hurried into the apartment, and found her hiding in the bedroom.
“ ‘John,’ she confessed. her teeth rattling from fright, ‘that dog frightens me to death! He’s so big! He knocks me down every time he jumps on me.’
“Well, I didn’t have the heart to give the dog away, and we still have him. But he’s my dog. I take care of him. I’ve trained him to never go near Debbie. She’s out of bounds for him. Now Debbie insists she loves him—from a distance.”
John discovered, too, that you can’t make assumptions about any woman—most of all Debbie.
“On our second date, Debbie and I were walking by a florist’s shop, hand in hand, when Debbie stopped. She pointed to a window display and squealed. “Oh, John! Just look at those gorgeous red roses! Is there anything in the world more perfect?’
“The very next morning. I had the florist deliver two dozen red roses to her.
“She thanked me so profusely, I figured I’d send her roses on every occasion. It’s a nice feeling for a fellow to know what makes his girl happy!
“After we married, I continued this lovely custom. and placed a standing order at the florist for two dozen roses to be delivered every Saturday. We were married on a Saturday. and I wanted the roses to be a sort of weekly anniversary reminder.
“The roses arrived every Saturday for months. and then last month. I noticed she kept moving the roses to a table at the far end of the living room. I asked why.
“She blushed and confessed. ‘I’m allergic to roses.’
“ ‘But, Darling,’ I said, ‘you wept tears of joy every time you opened a new box of roses!’ She looked so sad. I guessed the truth—they were the tears of allergy.”
Of course, Debbie could have told him the truth about her allergy when he sent the first box of roses—and saved all that money and tears. But, then, that would have been logical, and you know what they say about women and logic.
“When we were courting,” John said, “Debbie told me she was wild about movies because they were so relaxing! I agreed, so we didn’t go to parties like the other young Hollywood couples—we sneaked off to the movies. We were the most obscure romance in Hollywood.
“When we got married. we still went to the movies, but I discovered something. Debbie doesn’t go for relaxation, she goes to study film techniques. Going to the movies with her now is like going to school. We even sit up half the night discussing the movie or re-enacting certain scenes. Before we married, I thought of Debbie as a doll—with red hair, green eyes, curves and skin you love to touch. Now I also see her as brainy, ambitious, serious, intense and talented.”
Yes, that’s life with Debbie. Debbie the mysterious, the mercurial, the unpredictable. Debbie the child bride, the pixie wife, the wise redhead, the instant blonde!
Oh, yes, Debbie has already informed John that next April she will deliver to him a bouncing baby boy. She and John have diligently sorted out hundreds of possible boy names—and have narrowed the field down to seven. But this is one time she won’t lake John by surprise. This time he’s playing it safe. This time he won’t be the loser. You see. he knows Debbie now. Ali on his own he’s gotten up a list of girl names—just in case!
Debbie is in Disney’s “Summer Magic.” See John in “Hud Bannon” for Paramount.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1963