Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

Love Has Charms—Lita and Rory Calhoun

The bracelets are of solid gold and the links are strong. The charms upon them are also gold and the designs are intricate. However, there are only two people in the entire world who would be able to quote you their true value. One is Lita Calhoun. The other is Rory Calhoun. “You see,” Lita explains, “they’re much more than decoration pieces. Each charm has a special meaning.”

“They tell the story of our marriage,” Rory adds.

Lita smiles as he says it—the smile of a woman in love. “These charms represent our happy times and our sad times,” she goes on. “Some of the incidents have little meaning to anyone but Rory and me. But they’re the little remembrances that help make a marriage a lifelong romance, that constantly renew the feeling of closeness between a husband and wife.

“We’re sentimental, Rory and I. We’ve never taken our marital vows lightly. We’ve never forgotten them. When the first few weeks of our marriage passed, we didn’t consider the honeymoon over, that we were settling down to taking one another for granted.

“After six years, I still receive the same consideration from Rory and he from me. Till this day he hurries to open doors for me. Even at home, he seats me at the table before he sits down and on mornings when my eyes have trouble opening, he’ll say very softly, ‘Go ahead and sleep. I’ll get my own breakfast.’

“Little things, perhaps, but far from insignificant. In every way I know he’s saying, ‘You come first!’

“And I feel the same way about Rory,” says Lita.

And the all-important charms? Sometimes the Calhouns sit by the fire in the evening and Lita finds herself fingering the golden memories on her wrist. “Remember this one?” she’ll ask.

“I’ll say I do,” he grins. “The first . . .”

The first charm brings a laugh, for strangely enough the Calhouns’ charmed life began with the tiny, dark-haired Isabelita Castro impatiently glaring at a clock. Her Spanish temper was aroused and headed ‘for the ceiling with a great big whoosh. “Well!” she said.

“Well, what?” inquired her mother.

“Well, if that’s the kind of a man he is—the sort who makes a date and doesn’t bother to call when he’s late . . .”

“Why see him again?” suggested her brother, who is a great one for keeping a straight face when jesting. “There are lots of other men on this earth.”

“Not like Rory. . . .” She stopped—the defense had slipped out through her annoyance—and she began to smile, with the rest of her family, who knew exactly what she thought of the tall ex-forest ranger.

When the doorbell rang, all but Lita discreetly disappeared into the kitchen, claiming a sudden longing for many cups of coffee. Rory had arrived, with apologies. “I’m sorry,” he said. “We worked late. Then I had a stop to make. . . .”

“You might have phoned,” Lita pointed out.

“But you might have asked me where I was and what I was doing,” Rory told her.

“But in that case you might have asked me where I was and what I was doing,” Rory told her. “And that would have spoiled everything.”

“Everything like what?”

“Like the surprise,” he said, reaching into his pocket and producing a small package.

He handed it to Lita and she opened it. Inside the box lay a circular charm with a heart in the center. She saw that it had been inscribed and she read the words aloud. “May we love as long as we live and live as long as we love.”

“They’re beautiful. The gift,” said Lita. “And the thought. Both of them.”

The Calhouns refrain from flaunting their sentiment. But it’s there. And it’s real. “You know,” says Lita, “I can look at one of the charms and suddenly the memories come back. Sometimes I get lost in them for a while. Then Rory will come in from work and I find myself welcoming him as if I hadn’t seen him for weeks!”

She laughs. “Take this funny little charm. See? It’s Leo, the Lion, with his paw on his forehead. That stands for my first sip of champagne and the fact that I’m a Leo girl. Rory brought it to me the day after a birthday party. Crazy? Not to us.”

The humor lies in the fact that neither Rory nor Lita drink, except for an occasional bit of champagne. And when Lita took her first taste of the bubbling beverage, her husband teased her. “That one swallow will give you a terrible hangover,” he warned. But Leo’s the one with the hangover—it’s permanent and in gold.

The sentiment lies in the fact that when Lita first met Rory, he was sitting ringside at Mocambo, with an untouched magnum of champagne by his side. “I had my own orchestra at the time,” Lita remembers. “And we were playing there.

“I’d seen Rory before. He’d danced by the bandstand many times, with many dates, and I’d smiled and said hello, just as I smiled at all of the dancers. Then one evening he came in alone.”

Rory was Diamond Jim Calhoun that night. He’d just picked up his salary check and decided, for a change, he’d splurge a little. He’d had a magnificent feast at the exclusive Bel Air Hotel—in a large booth by himself. “This booth is usually reserved for Greta Garbo,” the waiter had said.

“Suits me just fine,” Rory had replied. He’d thought that he, too, wanted to be alone in all this splendor, until he’d found a picture of the lovely Isabelita Castro coming back into his mind. Then he headed for the Mocambo.

He’d ordered champagne with a flourish. Perhaps she’d be impressed? She was. “I’d seen people with magnums at their tables before,” she smiles. “But most of them had been gulping down the stuff. Rory was hardly touching his.”

When she came off-stage, he stood up and introduced himself. “I’m Rory Calhoun,” he said, “but call me Smokey.”

“I’m Isabelita Castro,” she said, “but call me Isabelita.”

“Won’t you sit down for a minute? Have a glass of champagne with me?”

She didn’t drink and she never sat with guests and she had to freshen her makeup before going back on-stage. “How about just talking for a while?” he asked.

“Maybe, after the next set of numbers,” she replied. And when she came off-stage again, she saw that he was waiting.

. . . Lita’s first birthday after their marriage, there was the party with champagne. Then came Leo with the aching head. And there’s still another Leo, for still another birthday. “That was the time I thought he’d forgotten,” says Lita.

“We were at the ranch in Ojai when we decided to have a small celebration. Well, Rory came in, loaded down with packages. Large ones. He’d brought me some lovely things. But I couldn’t help the feeling I had . . . that he’d forgotten the most important item. After all, I told myself, you can’t expect your husband always to remember. You’re an idiot to be disappointed, you mustn’t let him know.”

She glanced up and saw that Rory was looking at her, and she saw a smile spread over his face. “There’s something else,” he said. “In my pocket.” And there was Leo, sitting in the middle of the world, with stars all around him.

Six years . . . There’s the medal of St. Joseph Copertino, which reads, “Fly with Me in Safety.” There’s “Our Lady of Guadalupe—Protect Us.” Because one or the other was always flying somewhere—even from the very first.

The evening they met, Rory asked if he might drive Lita home. “My brother comes for me every night,” she told him. Then she added, “But I might call, and if he hasn’t left the house. . .”

He hadn’t. And Rory took Lita home, the long way, via four drive-ins. “Let’s have a hamburger,” he suggested. They did.

“How about some coffee?” he said next, because he didn’t want the evening to end. And they stopped at another place.

“We forgot dessert,” was the thought that followed, a few blocks later.

“By all means, let’s have dessert,” said Lita.

When they left the third eatery, they were laughing. “Another cup of coffee?” asked Rory.

“Love one,” said Lita. “But won’t it keep you awake tonight?”

Then he told her. He was catching a plane at dawn. He was supposed to be in San Francisco for a personal appearance.

Finally, they reached Lita’s house to find her family somewhat frantic and offering a relieved welcome. Rory and Lita and the Castros stayed up and talked the rest of the night and they drove him to the airport. “I wish I had a medal for you,” were Lita’s last words, “to keep you safe.”

After their wedding, it was Lita’s turn to fly to San Francisco for a personal appearance. Rory couldn’t get away to accompany her and when he put her aboard the plane, he pressed another box into her hand. “Safe flight,” he said. It was the St. Joseph Copertino medal. “Fly with Me in Safety.”

Later, he visited her in San Francisco and when he left, she found “Our Lady” on her dressing table.

“Six years,” says Lita. “It seems more like six days. Problems? There could have been. For instance, for a while I’d intended to give up show business completely. Everyone said that a career and a happy marriage would never go together. I’d been on the stage since I was two years old in Spain, but I decided to try to forget it all.

“Then one day I received a call that seemed irresistible. At first I refused. I was asked to reconsider. While I was talking, I glanced around and saw Rory in the doorway. Then I heard the back door close and the car drive away. When I hung up, there was no sign of Rory.”

Later, much later, he returned with the medal of St. Genesius, the guiding Saint of careers. “As long as you have the business in your blood you might as well show it,” he grinned. “Now go call the man and tell him you’ll take the job.”

“It’s really all right?”

“It’s really all right.”

Lita has made night-club appearances and done television stints ever since. But she has accepted no engagements that might interfere with the Calhoun marriage by keeping her away from Rory. Except once.

Their bookings got crossed. Rory was scheduled to go to Argentina to film “Way of a Gaucho.” Lita had committed herself for a night-club appearance with dancer Billy Daniels in Las Vegas and then in Hollywood. Rory spent three weeks with her in Vegas before his departure for South America, leaving with her an “Our Guardian Angel” medal.

He was gone for three months and Lita threw herself into her work. Then came closing night at Ciro’s in Hollywood—the second and final show.

Golden Souvenirs


She noticed the way Billy kept peering through the curtains before their number began. “Billy, people are going to see you,” she told him, thinking how unprofessional his behavior for a real professional like Daniels.

Billy looked anyway. Even while they were dancing on-stage, he seemed to be searching for someone in the audience. Lita followed his gaze. And then she saw. Rory was at a ringside table. He’d come straight from the plane, beard, sportshirt and all. Lita let out a scream, stopped the show and ran over to her husband. “Speaking of unprofessional behavior,” Daniels grinned later, when they were seated at the table.

“You knew,” Lita accused him.

“Got a wire earlier in the evening,” he said. “Fine plot we had going!”

“Heard you were broke, honey,” interrupted Rory. “So I rushed right back.”

“Broke?” True, she hadn’t become Miss Fort Knox, new costumes and arrangements costing what they had.

“Yep, poor kid, you worked so hard and made such a little bit of money. . .”

“I what? Now see here . . .”

“You see here,” said Rory. And there was a fifty-dollar gold piece charm in his hand. “Now at least you can eat for a few days,” her husband finished.

Lita laughs about it now. “Rory’s a great kidder. He kids himself, too. Take this charm, for instance. It’s Rory, holding onto a microphone for dear life. Funny, isn’t it? But there’s something serious about it to both of us. It indicates his growing assurance in the theatre world.”

Rory had been on personal appearances before—but always with groups sent out by his studio. He’d never tried it alone. “But I’d like to,” he said one day. “I’d like to meet the people who come to see my pictures and to thank them in some way.”

To Rory, it was a big step. Being in a movie is one thing. Standing upon a stage, face to face with an audience is another. “We’ll work up an act,” said Lita. “Now let’s see. You should sing and dance . . .”



She taught him several difficult Spanish songs and she taught him to rhumba. “I have a problem,” he’d say. “My feet keep getting in the way.”

“Forget your feet,” she’d advise.

They broke in the act in Philadelphia. Rory sang and told jokes and danced and Lita joined him for several numbers. “Those folks in the audience were so receptive,” says Lita today. “They gave Rory the confidence he needed. And now I think he could tackle anything!”

The charms are for laughter, the good times, the memories of the poodle Lita had wanted so badly, the one for which Rory had searched. “But before he found the right poodle, a friend of ours brought me Susie as a gift,” says Lita.

So Rory had Susie’s likeness cast in gold. “Here she is,” he told Lita. And there was still another poodle. “And this is to remind you I haven’t given up my particular search!”

. . . The first bullfight. He’d watched her eyes light up and her excited cries of “Ole!” And he’d had the event recaptured by their jeweler.

The charms are for tears. . . . For such a long time, they’d wanted a baby. They’d hoped and prayed and planned and waited. And finally, when it seemed their wish would be granted, they wrapped their lives around their expected child.

In her fourth month of pregnancy, Lita became ill and lost the baby. As Rory sat beside her hospital bed, she tried to keep back the tears. “I’m sorry, darling,” she told him.

“But you’re all right,” he said. “And there can be others, someday. . .”

When he had to leave her, she buried her head in the pillow, and when her hand reached up, it brushed against something small and hard. It was a charm. She held it fast. It was “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.” And Lita knew that somehow their world would be right again.

Later, when she was well, she went on a shopping expedition. She arrived home with an armload of bundles. “I saw something today,” she told Rory. “Another charm. It was a baby, holding a pearl. I thought of our baby.”

Then she forgot the incident until Rory reminded her. Today the charm is on her bracelet.

The Calhouns have never been more aware of the importance of their charmed life than the evening they attended a surprise anniversary party given by the wife of an acquaintance. As it turned out, the event was very much of a surprise. Especially to their hostess’s husband. He had completely forgotten the anniversary.

Rory and Lita found themselves sympathetically glancing toward their hostess. However, to their amazement, they saw no trace of disappointment or anger in her face. “I really couldn’t care less,” she laughed. “You see, we have a modern marriage. We don’t go in for a lot of sentiment.”

“I wonder if she honestly means that,” said Lita quietly.

Rory reached over and took her hand ind held it. “I’ll take the old-fashioned kind every time,” he whispered. “And if I ever forget, toss the nearest lamp at me.”

“I’ll toss every lamp in the house,” Lita assured him, knowing she could afford to make the statement without the slightest risk to the furniture.

For that day she had received another charm—The Tree of Life. “It stands for health, for long life, long association, for unity and love,” she says. “Forever.”




No Comments
Leave a Comment