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Marianne Confesses Why I Walked Out On Ricky Nelson!

Ricky and I sat in his car that balmy summer night. It was a night meant for romance. But it was instead the most heartbreaking night of all my seventeen years. I found myself saying things I never dreamed I would say.

“Ricky,” I began, and I was surprised to find my voice suddenly grown shaky. “Ricky, honey, I’m afraid we’ll never be able to see each other again—not like this, not like a boy and girl friend. We can’t go steady any longer. This is no good for me. It isn’t any good for you, either, in the long run. I realize now, from what’s happened in the last few days, that I can’t stand this any longer. We must stop seeing each other.”

I couldn’t believe it. But there—I had said it. I had done it.

I was walking out on Ricky Nelson.

I was walking out on the boy millions of girls adored. Walking out on the boy I had gone steady with for almost six months—the boy who meant more to me than anybody else I’d ever known.

To teenagers all over the country who’ve envied the girls Ricky has dated, this may seem incredible. But let me tell you my story, and I think you’ll understand why I acted as I did.

My decision to leave Ricky happened only a few months ago, and I’m just beginning to get over the heartache of that moment.

Before that, it had been sheer heaven to be Ricky Nelson’s girlfriend.

When I first came to Hollywood from Chicago—a little over a year ago—I had expected to do some TV and movie roles. That was part of my prize for being a beauty contest winner, “Miss Illinois.” I never thought the trip would bring me a romance with a tall, handsome boy who had amazingly clear blue eyes, a lovable crooked smile and the kind of easy-going charm that made him the idol of millions of other girls my age.

How we met

I had done a reading for Ozzie Nelson, and he told me he’d give me a part in one of the Nelson shows. On this particular day, however, I was playing Ronnie Burns’ girl friend on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Showwhen the prop man came up to me and said, “There’s a young fellow watching you. He wants to meet you.”

He pointed at a tall, lean fellow wearing trim levis and a red shirt, standing in the corner. My heart leaped. It was Ricky Nelson. Like so many other girls, I’d had a crush on him from having seen him on TV.

He ambled over to me and smiled in that shy way of his. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Ricky Nelson. Dad tells me you’re going to be on our show.”

He looked at me somewhat appraisingly and then said, “Wow! Dad does have good taste.”

We laughed, and that broke the ice.

“If you need anyone to cue you on your lines, I’ll help you.”

Naturally, I decided then and there that I’d need help.

We made a date for that evening, and when I walked into the Studio Club, where I lived, I was floating on Cloud Nine. I told the girls who I was dating that night and when Ricky called for me, they were all sitting around in the lobby waiting to see him.

I was flattered as I sailed off with him. How could I possibly realize what this open adoration of the boy I was dating would do to my romance?

It was an exciting evening for me, even though all we did was go to see an Elvis Presley movie, and later have hamburgers and Cokes at a drive-in. Just being with him was excitement enough. Sitting close to him, listening to the car radio pouring out popular rock ’n’ roll tunes was enough. Suddenly, the disc jockey announced that he would play Ricky’s new record, A Teenager’s Romance.

The record had started out as a smash, and I thought Ricky would be puffing with pride. But I was surprised to see him slump in his seat while a look of anxiety clouded his handsome face as his recording began. When it was over I said, “Ricky, I love the way you sang that. It’ll be a great hit.”

He looked at me doubtfully. Honestly, you’d never have thought he was a big rave the way he said, “Do you really like it? I thought there were parts where I didn’t come off quite right.”

And this was the boy I thought might be too conceited to be with!

He kissed me tenderly when he brought me back to the Club, and we made a date for the next night. But this time I didn’t tell the other girls!

We got along beautifully, and soon our dates became an almost every night thing.

I felt that I was falling for him, and it always made me feel good when I could see signs that he liked me, too. He knew I was an Elvis Presley fan, and one night, when Elvis was in Hollywood, he took me to a party Elvis was giving. Later, when we left the party, Ricky asked, “What did you think of him?”

“He’s nice—but he can’t compare with you.”

Rick’s face lit up. “Gosh, do you mean that? I’m glad.”

Boy, are you lucky!”

Some dates, like Elvis’ party, were glamorous, but mostly we dated like any other teenagers. Ricky really likes the same things all teenagers like.

One night he called and said, “Wear your oldest clothes tonight. I’m going to take you for a ride on my motorcycle.”

He pulled up in his flashy motorcycle. Even dressed in levis and floppy old sweat shirt, he looked terrific. I sat behind him, holding him tight, and we whizzed off. Ricky’s crazy about his motorcycle, and many nights our dates consisted of shooting along the highway—usually to the beach—laughing and singing at the top of our lungs.

Even though it was becoming harder and harder for him to be seen in public without being mobbed, he still insisted upon racing along in his motorcycle, me hanging on for dear life behind him. As we sped along, girls in cars would notice him and stick their heads out, screaming wildly. Once, a girl in a car, seeing me clinging to Ricky, called out to me, “Boy, are you lucky!”

I felt that I was, too, for Ricky is the most tender boyfriend a girl can have. You girls who adore Ricky from a distance have no idea how wonderful he is as a boyfriend for real. He used to make me feel that I was the only girl in the world. He has that way about him. The way he’d look at me with his intense blue eyes, the way he’d hold my hand, the way he’d smile slowly but intimately and say, “You’re out of this world”—just to be with him sent thrills through me.

He shows his thoughtfulness not so much by what he says but by what he does.

I had to go home to Chicago for a few weeks to see my parents. Ricky was going to leave shortly after I did for a couple of weeks’ personal appearances at the State Fairs in the Midwest.

The night before I was to leave, I was with Ricky and feeling pretty blue. Ricky noticed this.

“What’s the matter, Marianne?” he asked. I told him I felt down in the dumps because we wouldn’t be seeing each other for several weeks. “And I just dread that long plane trip home all by myself,” I blurted out.

The next morning at six, as I was getting ready to call a cab to take me to the airport, who did I see outside the Studio Club, in his smart blue convertible, but Ricky! I flew to him.

“Ricky! How wonderful!”

Again that warm, shy smile that I adore lit up his face.

“Hop in, Marianne,” he said. “I’ve got to make Chicago, too, for my tour. It just meant a little juggling, but I can make the same plane to Chicago as you.”

The plane trip, instead of being lonely, was like taking a trip to heaven.

Ricky meets my folks

My mother and father were to meet me at the airport, and I thought it would be a quiet homecoming. But when Ricky and I got off the plane, I discovered other people there, too. Word had gotten out that Ricky was on the plane, and a mob of about four hundred girls were screaming for him. Also, newspaper photographers and reporters. It was thrilling, all right, to be with the boy all the other girls adored. Little did I realize, as we pushed our way through the crowd, that this was the first indication that I’d have to share my boy friend with the world. I was too happy to know or care.

Ricky had to take off that night, but he told me he’d stop off again in Chicago, on his way back to Hollywood, and we’d be able to get together then.

I was elated the day he was due to come through Chicago again. He managed to have eight hours in Chicago. “And,” he told me on the long-distance phone, “I’m going to spend them all with you.”

Mixed with my joy was a rather uneasy feeling. Ricky would be seeing me in my home for the first time, and would really have a chance to know my parents as they are. My father is a mailman, and my mother a wonderful, homey type of woman. Ricky’s parents, the famed Ozzie and Harriet, are glamorous, wealthy show people.

How would they get along? I needn’t have worried. From the moment he stepped into our house he was very friendly, like any young guy coming to take out a girl. My parents took him to their hearts. My father even said, later, “Marianne, that’s a fine young man.”

Although I didn’t let anyone know Ricky was coming over, it seemed that everyone in the neighborhood was hanging around my house that night, knocking on the door and asking to be let in to see Ricky. It was a wonderful feeling to know that the fellow I was dating was so popular, but I secretly wished that I could have him to myself instead of sharing him with everyone around.

We sneaked off to a little restaurant and managed to be alone for dinner. I had promised his manager I’d get him back to the plane by 8:00 p.m.

We hated to leave each other, and when we got to the airport Ricky had only minutes in which to make his plane. He started off, then wheeled around and ran back to me.

“Here,” he said, putting a small object in my hand. “This is for you.” Then he hurried off. It was only after the plane was only a faraway speck that I looked at the gift he had handed me. It was the ring Ricky had always worn—a heavy gold ring with his initials on it. I turned the ring over and looked inside. There was an inscription: To Marianne, love Rick.

The ring swam on me, but I wanted to wear it just as Ricky had intended that I should. That evening, I put gobs and gobs of tape around it until the ring fit my finger.

Registered Nurse

When I returned to California a week later, my joy at the prospect of seeing Ricky turned to disappointment when I discovered that Ricky wasn’t there to meet me as he had promised. His pal, Joe Byrnes, came up to me instead. “Ricky got tied up at a rehearsal. He asked me

to fill in for him.”

Again—the hint of the heartaches and disappointments that were to come with dating a boy who was fast becoming an idol.

But I forgot my disappointment when I saw Ricky later that evening. We had dinner at the Nelson home, and everything seemed as it was before.

I wore Ricky’s ring proudly. Ricky was sentimental when he was with me. But we’d both hide our feelings by kidding when we were with friends. Once, a friend asked, “Say, what’s that R.N. on the ring stand for?”

“Oh,” said Ricky, looking solemn, “that’s for Registered Nurse.”

We had lots of laughs when Ricky would call me his Registered Nurse, but we also had many long talks that were getting more and more serious. One evening we talked about what we wanted out of life and love and marriage.

Ricky looked thoughtful and said, “I’d like to get married, but not for another five or six years. I’ve got my career to think of now. I couldn’t possibly think of marriage, while my career is building. I owe too much to my fans. . . .”

He went on to tell me the kind of girl he’d like to marry—a girl like his mother, understanding as well as beautiful, a woman who loved sports, as Mrs. Nelson did, and had many interests as well as raising children and running a home.

He was a little wistful as he added, “And I’d want to be sure the girl would like me for myself, not because I’m Ricky Nelson.”

He knew that I liked him for himself, and not because he was Ricky Nelson, the favorite of teenagers all over the country.

In fact it was because he was fast becoming such a national favorite and belonged to a multitude of girls that finally led me to my heartbreaking decision to leave him.

By this time, I had moved out of the Studio Club and was living in the girls’ dorm at the University of Southern California where I had enrolled in several courses. When the other girls there learned that I was dating Ricky they hung around me asking all about him.

It was flattering, sure, but more and more, the open adoration of the other girls began to make me tense and uneasy.

Once, when Ricky was making a stage appearance in a downtown theater, I was standing in the wings watching him. Suddenly, a teenage girl appeared. She had somehow sneaked backstage and was watching him with worshipful eyes. “Oh, I think he’s wonderful—simply wonderful,” she sighed.

Then looking at me she said, “You must be his girl. How I’d love to change places with you.”

She spotted the bulky, gold ring with the initials.

“Ooooh,” she said, “that’s Ricky’s ring. May I touch it—please?”

I let her touch it, and as she passed her finger over his ring there was a look of sheer ecstasy on her face.

Flattering? Yes. But a friendship ring from a boy to a girl should be something private, and here was this girl getting the same thrill over it as I did. . . .

More and more girls

I had mixed emotions, too, when I was with him at the State Fair in Long Beach. I rode with Ricky to Long Beach. But as soon aS we arrived at the auditorium I lost him. A crowd of screaming girls fell on him, and I was pushed aside. Later, a beautiful girl in a white bouffant formal, who was Queen of the Fair, was escorted to Ricky and she presented him with roses. Ricky flashed his warm smile at her and said, “Gosh, you look pretty.”

Was I beginning to feel jealous?!

As Ricky became more and more involved with his fast-zooming career, I began to feel more and more left out.

One Sunday, we spent the day at Laguna Beach where his family has a house. We lolled on the beach all afternoon, but Ricky barely spoke. I was miserable.

On the drive home he was silent.

“What’s the matter, Ricky?” I asked. “Are you mad at me?”

He looked surprised. “Of course not. What made you think that?”

“You hardly spoke to me all day. Were you thinking of someone else?”

“I was thinking—but not of someone else. I’ve been thinking of the lines I have to learn for tomorrow’s show, and of the personal appearances I have to prepare for and so many things that are beginning to pop. I used to work only with my family. Now I’m on my own. I wonder if I’m good enough.”

I began to feel the stabs of doubt, too—doubt that my continuing to see Ricky would end in happiness for me.

It all came to a head when I returned after visiting my folks in Chicago for the Christmas holidays. While I’d been away, all I thought of was Ricky. But one morning, while I was at my parents’ house, I read the movie column in the newspaper and I was stunned. It said that Ricky had been taking out one of the girls on the Nelson show, Lorrie Collins. That was all, but it was enough to send me to my room in tears.

I couldn’t wait till I got back to Hollywood and Ricky. He was at the airport waiting for me. I started to run to him, but before we reached each other, a crowd of girls swarmed around him and he was busy signing autographs. . . .

We were alone at last in his car. We sat close, but there was something different now. Ricky was quiet; I was upset. All I could think of was the other girl. I never realized I would be so hurt if anyone else came into the picture.

Ricky must have guessed how I felt.

He said, “Is anything bothering you?”

“I read that you were going with another girl—Lorrie Collins. Are you dating her?” Then, before he could answer, I blurted out, “Are you in love with her?”

Ricky was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “I’m not in love with any girl now. I can’t afford to fall in love.”

Then he went on to tell me that his advisers had told him he shouldn’t tie himself up with any one girl, that it might damage his popularity if he went steady or got married. He wouldn’t let himself fall in love. He just couldn’t.

What he said made sense, but I still felt hurt and bewildered. I may have been a seventeen-year-old—but when it comes to love, even a teenage girl can have the emotions of a woman.

As we said good-night Ricky said, “Why can’t we still see each other? All this—about Lorrie and any other girl I see or take out—shouldn’t make any difference. We can’t get serious about each other anyway.”

We made a date for the next night, and I ran inside the house.

Overnight, I had a chance to think. I could barely sleep. The joy I had known when I first began to go with Ricky had now turned to torment. I looked back and recalled how I’d felt when the Long Beach Queen had presented Ricky with the roses . . . the tinge of jealousy inside me when I saw him look at her admiringly . . . how I began to feel when I saw crowds of girls clamoring around him . . . particularly, how I’d felt when I read that he was dating Lorrie Collins and the thought that he would be dating other girls, too. And yet, why should I care? Ricky wasn’t ready to go with one girl or to think of marriage. He’d told me that himself.

It was late at night as these thoughts tumbled around me. In the darkness I seemed to think more clearly. Suddenly, all my jumbled thoughts clarified into one: if I couldn’t be the only girl in his life I couldn’t be in his life at all. I loved Ricky too much to want to share him—either with the world or with another girl. My mind was made up.

We went for a long drive the next night. Ricky’s handsome profile was etched in the moonlight. I sat beside him and felt myself trembling.

“I can’t see you any more, Rick,” I said.

“Why not? That’s foolish.”

“It isn’t, Ricky. I have to think of myself now. I haven’t felt the same since I learned you were seeing Lorrie. It isn’t your fault. It isn’t anyone’s fault. But I just can’t go on this way any longer. I guess love is a different thing to a girl than it is to a boy. I can’t take this any more. I hardly slept a wink last night. I don’t want to have any more sleepless nights, wondering who you’re seeing or what other girls you’re dating. That’s the way I am about you, I guess. ing to have to be the end.”

I wanted to give him back his ring. But Ricky wouldn’t take it.

We talked some more, and that night we said good-night—for the last time. . . .

The other day I saw Ricky. He was driving along Hollywood Boulevard, and so was I. We found ourselves in lanes next to each other. He had on the same red shirt he wore the first day I’d met him—I felt a little funny. He waved and started to say something. Suddenly, the light turned green and we had to drive on. Traffic.

I’m beginning to go out with other boys now. Although I don’t compare them with Ricky all the time, the way I used at the beginning, I still think of Ricky a lot. Sometimes, when I think of him, the old pang returns, and I wonder if I did the right thing by walking out of his life.

I hope it was the right thing—it was the only thing I could do. . . .


Ricky can soon be seen in RIO BRAVO for Warners.