Meet The New “Gidget”—Cindy Carol
The city: glorious Rome. The time: early one Monday morning. Our rendezvous spot: the lobby of the swank and stuffy Hotel Nazionale, where we waited to meet Cindy Carol—the third and newest “Gidget.” Up until this very moment we knew just a little about Cindy. What we did know (through the courtesy of a press release) was that she was eighteen-years-old, brown-haired and brown-eyed. She was born in Los Angeles, California, and her favorite foods were steak and potatoes, her favorite sport water skiing. The release also said she’d appeared on many TV shows (under her real name Carol Sydes)—and that she was chosen for the coveted role in “Gidget Goes To Rome” while appearing on “The Loretta Young Show.” At the end of the release were some facts that were quite upsetting. Cindy, it seemed, had arrived in Rome only the night before and today, Monday, she would be spending the better part of the day on the set doing what is known in the movie trade as a “color test.” With such a full day behind her—and ahead of her—Cindy would undoubtedly be nervous and tired during our interview.
Then, an elevator door opened and a girl—brown-haired, brown-eyed, dressed in pink Capris and a bright yellow blouse—came bouncing into the lobby of the Nazionale.
She looked around for a moment, took a deep breath, walked over and, in a voice straight out of a sparkle machine, said, “Hi, I’m Cindy! Isn’t this just the greatest day in the whole world? By gol-ly, me in Rome. Can you believe it? It just cracks me up!
Her excitement so filled the lobby of the Nazionale that even the formidable-looking doorman—who’s seen so many celebrities he’s immune to them—began to grin.
And we knew, before a foot of film had been shot, that Cindy Carol—like her “Giget” predecessors Sandra Dee and Deborah Walley—had it made!
The interview began moments later in the long, black car that took us from the Nazionale to the studio outside Rome.
And let it be noted here that this turned out to be a far from conventional interview—because we didn’t ask the first questions. It was asked by the somewhat-English-speaking chauffeur (another easy Cindy conquest).
“You are from the California, signorina?” he asked, as he raced his car through the helter-skelter antipasto of automobiles known as Rome traffic.
“Yep.” Cindy answered, “—born and raised there.”
“You got the mamma and the poppa there?” asked the chauffeur.
Cindy nodded. “Mamma, poppa and two brothers and a sister.”
Then, suddenly: “Heyyyyyyy!” she called out.
“Yes, signorina?” asked the chauffeur.
“Is that the Colisseum we’re passing?”
“You have right.” said the chauffeur.
Whereupon Cindy leaned out of the car window, waved joyously and shouted: “Hello, Colisseum . . .!”
And whereupon the chauffeur began to double up in joyous laughter . . . as our car began to swerve . . . and then, fortunately, to unswerve and get back on the street again.
“Signorina—she has the boy friend?” the chauffeur asked next.
“Oh sure,” said Cindy. “He’s tall and has muscles this big and he’s just the greatest. I met him at a parade. The March of Dimes — know what that is? Well, anyway, we were riding on a float together and we hit it off just fine. I’m not going to tell you his name—because there’s a writer here with us—and because my mom. she’s the greatest, but she won’t like it if she sees our names in print. And neither will my boy friend. As he says, ‘It’s funny out here in Hollywood, but two people get their names linked publicly and three weeks later they bust up!’ ”
The chauffeur nodded. “He has smartness—your friend.”
“He’s the most.” said Cindy. “Heyyyyyyy! What’s that big white thing over there?”
“That? Ah,” said the chauffeur, “there you have the monument to Vittorio Emmanuele—of pure white marble—the Weding Cake, as we Italians call it.”
“Hi, ‘Wedding Cake,’ ” Cindy shouted, waving, leaning out the window again: “Oooooh, you’re so pretty I could eat you right up!”
Naturally, the chauffeur doubled up again. And the car swerved again. And we sat praying that we’d eventually make it to the studio somehow.
Fifteen minutes later, we made it!
Cindy reported first to the makeup department.
“Come with me,” she said, taking our hand and smiling warmly at us. “You can ask me some questions up there!”
He interviewed my interview!
But the makeup man—a young, Valentino type—began to bubble over, rapturously, when he heard that Cindy had worked with Loretta Young. And it was he who asked the questions.
“Ah, Loretta, Loretta, I work with her a long time ago . . . she is so wonderful. So kind!”
“She’s marvelous,” said Cindy. “Do you know the first time I met her—to try out for her show—she sat talking to me about traffic tickets. Of course, I guess you could say she was interviewing me, sizing me up. But she used such a relaxing tech- nique. Not like some other producers who lean back and say, ‘So vot haff you done, young lady?’— and scare the wits out of you!”
The makeup man sighed. “She must have been very pleased when you won this role in ‘Gidget,’ mia bella?”
“She couldn’t have been more pleased,” said Cindy. “The studio had to clear it with her for me to make the test in the first place. That was just before Christmas last year. And after the test, Miss Young said to me that she’d heard from somebody at Columbia that it looked real good for me. Then, on New Year’s Eve, she had a party at her home, and all of us kids were invited. And when I walked in, she came running up to me. And she said to me, ‘The studio just phoned and asked for your full release. You got it! You got it!’ And then she hugged me. And gosh, we were both excited. Say . . . what’s mia bella mean?”
The makeup man looked into her eyes. “It means . . . my beauty.”
And with that she closed her eyes and began to giggle—while her face, despite the newly-applied makeup, turned a bright and lovely pink!
The color test was about to begin on the sound-stage. Cindy sat on a high a huge camera ready to be photographed for lighting and texture.
The man conducting the test was the producer, Jerry Bresler. Bresler, tall and amiable man walked over and said, “Cindy isn’t the typical kind of beauty, is she? But she is exactly what Gidget is supposed to he—a girl every girl loves to have as a friend, a girl every boy loves to be with.”
He then explained how the picture was originally intended for Deborah Walley, who became pregnant soon after her marriage to John Ashley and who—because of a history of miscarriages in her family—couldn’t travel to Rome.
“So,” said Bresler, “we conducted a contest. Yes, it’s true—there were 10.000 applicants, from all over the world. Finally I tested twenty of the girls. None was right. And then someone told me about this girl on the Loretta Young show, right in my own back yard, as it were.
He did, too
“Well,” Bresler said. “I’d better get on with this test.” He walked to within yards of where Cindy was sitting on that high stool. With a motion of his hand, the crew became suddenly quiet, the huge overhead lights were turned on, the camera was flicked on—and the test got underway. . . .
“Now, Cindy,” Bresler began, “as I talk to you, turn a little; right profile, left profile—you know. And we’ll chat. Tell me, how was the plane trip over?”
“The most,” Cindy said. “They threw all kinds of food at us soon as we got on. Two hours later they tried to give us breakfast. And two hours after that, they came out with champagne!”
“Drink yours, Cindy?”
“I took a sip. Then I gave the rest to two men sitting across the aisle from me.”
And then he asked, suddenly: “How does Loretta Young walk into a room?”
“What do you think of your co-star in the picture you’re about to make?”
“Jimmy Darren?” Cindy said. “Oh, I think he’s darling. He looks and acts darling. I can’t wait to meet him.”
“His wife will be with him,” Bresler said, straight-faced.
Without a blink, Cindy retorted, “And I can’t wait to meet her!” (Everyone laughed.)
“Were you a tomboy as a kid?”
“I sure was,” Cindy answered. “I always used to follow my older brother, Anthony, around. I didn’t play with dolls. My sister, Debbie—she’s six-and-a-half now—she’s just the opposite of what I was. Ultra feminine. In fact, her dolls have more clothes than I do.”
“Your mother’s here in Rome, isn’t she?” Bresler asked.
“Yes. She came over with me. She’s going to stay a few weeks. She’d miss the family too much if she stayed any longer.”
“What’s she like?”
“She’d do anything for any of us kids. I just love her.”
“And your father?”
“Daddy’s a schoolteacher. And he couldn’t be less interested in show business. In fact, we never talk about it at home. Not that we’re not allowed to. It’s just that daddy would rather talk about our education and the camping trips we all make together, and things like that. His main concern, I guess you’d say, is our character. And our education. Like the time he stopped me from lisping. I lisped terribly till I was eight. But with patience—sheer patience—he got me out of this. Just like he got me out of talking too fast. I’d go on and on sometimes, like a speedboat. And Daddy would just ignore me and say, ‘I can tell you’re talking, Cindy, because I can see your mouth moving—it would be interesting to know what you’ve been saying.’ And I’d say, ‘Okay, Daddy, I’ll have to take it a little slower. And, eventually, it all worked.”
“And you got into the business through Anthony, I understand?”
“Sort of,” Cindy said. “He was trying out for a TV show a few years ago. I kind of plodded along on the interview. And when the producer of the show, Jim Moser, saw me, he thought I’d come along to try out for a small part. Which I got, on the spot.”
“You went to school, meanwhile?
“Oh sure—North Hollywood High.”
“Did you enjoy yourself there?”
Boys! Boys! Boys!
“Much,” Cindy said. “But only because I never let on that I was acting on the side. It’s a public school, you know. And some kids on the shows, well, they’re really treated like outcasts. So I never told anybody about me. When I had to take off time to work I’d say I was out on a dentist’s appointment, or something like that. And meanwhile I’d pray my friends would never spot me on TV.”
“Have you lots of friends?” he asked.
“Oodles of them,” she answered. “I’m one of those people—the first kids I met are still my friends.”
“Girl friends mostly?”
“Boy friends mostly,” Cindy said. “And hey, I don’t mean lovey-dovey stuff. I mean, well, aside from a few very close girl friends I just seem to find boys more interesting. Boys, in fact, are the backbone of the three crowds I belong to.”
“Yep. One is the beatnik crowd. We do the wildest things. You know: wear jeans and you listen to weird music. The second one I call the collegians, since most of those kids go to college. We go out on funsy-type things. I’m usually a replacement—you know—when one of the boys has had a fight with his steady. The third crowd? Well, I guess you’d call it the kids-in-the-business group. Beverly Washburn, Shelley Fabares, Sharon Baird, Dirk and Dack Rambo who are great (and whose real names are Orman and Norman, believe it or not)—and who are among the few actors I know who don’t expect you to hold their hands while they cry their hearts out.”
There was a short pause.
Then, suddenly, Bresler said, “They serve the best spaghetti at the commissary here—want to try some?”
“Gee, I don’t know, Mr. Bresler,” she answered. “The man from Photoplay is counting on his interview.”
“So we’ll ask him to lunch, too. And about those questions—maybe I’ve done enough asking. . . .”
And, a few minutes later, the three of us were on our way to the commissary, where the spaghetti wasdelightful.
Just like the young girl with whom we shared it. . . .
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1963