Nick Adams Has A Lot To Learn About Girls
My dad is Nick Adams and I was born on February 23. I may be only two months old, but if my dad thinks I’m wearing that baseball uniform he bought—
It was nine months to the day, so I took Carol to the doctor’s. I guess I was naive. I just figured this was the day and that she’d go into the hospital and the baby would be born in the afternoon exactly on schedule. The doctor explained that the baby didn’t have to arrive like a scheduled flight but could come that day or any day during the next week. So I took her home.
That night Carol woke me.
“Stop talking in your sleep,” she said.
“How far did I get?” I asked.
I should explain that some nights, when I’m particularly tired, I talk in my sleep and I always go over the shooting script for that day and so I asked Carol, “How far did I get?”
“You were saying, ‘I’m Johnny Yuma but I won’t use my gun unless you force me.’ ”
I told her, “Don’t worry then. The scene is almost over,” and I went back to sleep. An hour later she woke me again.
“Call the doctor,” she said.
“That’s not in the script.”
“I mean it’s time for the baby to come.”
I sat up on the side of the bed and turned on the light and looked at the clock. I said, “Honey, you can’t wake up a doctor this time of the night. You’ll have to wait until morning.”
“Maybe the baby won’t wait.”
I got the doctor on the phone and he spoke to Carol. He told her to time the muscular contractions and when they were coming regularly, about ten or twelve minutes apart, to phone him and then go to the hospital. So we got out a pad of paper and a stopwatch, cigarettes, chipped ice, bologna, bananas, peanut butter, but, when our glass roof lit up with dawn, the muscular contractions were still irregular.
I had to be at the studio, as usual, and so Carol dressed and got her bag. We paused as we crossed the moat that surrounds our house. I felt like King Arthur with Rowena. Carol waved to the fish and turned to me and said, “Don’t forget to feed the sharks.” I drove her to the hospital and then went on. I won’t say I was nervous because that would be the understatement of the year. I don’t remember what went on at the set, that morning, except that I got finished by 12:30 and rushed back to the hospital. Carol was then in the labor room and the muscular contractions were strong. I stood there holding her hand and watching her wince. And that’s when it got me and I forgot about everything, even the baby, and prayed, “Dear God, bring my wife back alive.” And then Carol squeezed my hand and said, “Hold me tight, Nick, this is the worst pain I’ve had yet.” And I’ll never forget that one, because her face got all screwed up and my stomach got tied into a big knot and just then two young nurses stepped up and asked for autographs.
It was a tense situation and I was scared. Real scared. This was no studio but an actual hospital. The doctor had come in wearing his white gown, and now it was the way Carol was looking at me, her eyes filled with worry over me. She said, “Please don’t cry, Nick. It’s going to be all right.”
And I thought, Now it’s going to happen. Those doors at the far end of the room will swing open and this slab of a table with tiny wheels will be rolled into there. The doctor put a comforting hand on Carol’s shoulder and said, “Please relax, Mrs. Adams. Your husband will pull through. You know,” he went on, adding that old bromide we men hear so often, “you know we haven’t lost a father yet.”
“That’s right, honey,” I told Carol, “after all, you’re the one who’s having the baby. Not me.”
The doctor signaled the attendants to wheel Carol into the delivery room, then he turned to me and said, “Mr. Adams, we could put you in an oxygen tent, but I think if you just go downstairs to the reception room and smoke a cigarette or two and read a magazine, everything will turn out fine.”
And that’s the way it was in the labor room. I really did cry and Carol looked up and said, “Please don’t worry so or I’ll be worrying about you.” The next day, she told me she had drawn comfort from my sudden tears. She said, “I was glad you cried. I knew, when I went into the delivery room, that you really loved me. That you really cared.” Then she grinned and said, “But I guess everyone else was puzzled for a while. I don’t think the doctor was sure whether it was you or me who was to have the baby.”
Well, when I got to crying, the doctor kicked me out and I went down to the waiting room. Carol’s mother was there and I said, “Pretty soon now, and I’ll be seeing my little boy.”
She said, “Now, Nick, you may as well begin to be realistic. No one knows whether it’s going to be a boy or girl.”
I said, “It’s definite now. They’ve delivered five babies here, today, and they’ve all been girls. It’s the law of averages. The next one has to be a boy.”
She insisted I rest. I guess I looked pretty raunchy with no rest in two days and I lay down. I didn’t know exactly who was having that baby or feeling the pains.
But that’s how it was since the very beginning. I mean, that morning sickness you hear so much of. It was awful. Carol had several books on pregnancy and she went to one and looked up morning sickness.
“Now describe how you feel, Nick?”
I told her. “I just feel lousy sick with nausea and my head hurts.”
“How else?” she asked.
“I get it only in the morning.”
“You’ve got morning sickness all right,” she said finally, “but the book says here I’m the one who is supposed to have it.”
But she looked great and I asked, “Are you sure?”
My stomach began to turn, again, and for a moment I held my peace and then I said, “Now, Carol, honey, please look at me. Maybe it’ll make you sick just looking at me being sick and then I can forget being sick because I’ll be too busy worrying about you.”
She said, “I’m sorry, Nick, but I’m already worrying about you.”
The hunger pains were something else again. All my adult life I’ve heard that jazz about pregnant women waking up in the middle of the night and demanding ice cream or pickles and liverwurst. Well, I was curious to see if it were true, and then, just about the third month, it began to happen. We’d go into the kitchen, about 2 a.m., and it was ridiculous. I mean like fried bologna with melted cheese plus a fried egg covered with ketchup and mayonnaise between two slices of bread. Or peanut butter spread topped with sliced bananas, bacon, lettuce and mustard. And I couldn’t comprehend Carol. I’d look at her and ask, “Are you sure you won’t have something to eat, too?” And she would reply, “No, I just don’t feel hungry at all.”
And so it went, with me gaining the extra weight. Those first few months were tough. I won’t kid about that. You see, Carol and I had married within three weeks from the day we first met. In those three weeks we had discussed a family and wisely decided that we should give ourselves a year or more to know each other before we had children. So what happens? We get married on Mother’s Day and a month after we are married, Carol is pregnant.
We were adjusting to each other, to the demands of marriage and to the emotional stress of pregnancy. Carol was extra sensitive and sometimes would just break down and cry for no good reason. I loved her and tried to reassure her, but we still had stupid beefs. Like a thing about my not hanging up my clothes. And then, sometimes, I was just too tired to reason at all. I remember once, I just plunked down in a chair and snapped on the television. As it happened, The Three Stooges were on.
“Nick,” she cried, “what kind of a moron are you?”
“An intelligent moron.”
“No you’re not,” she said. “Your children should be watching the Stooges. Not you. You’re a dumb moron.”
I didn’t give in. I said, “This is one of the best shows on television. It’s very educational.”
Then she grinned and we laughed. As I said, a natural sense of humor helps. That and love. I mean, it’s better to kiss and make up before you begin another hassle. That’s how I feel. And I know I’m right.
Cravings and all
We both tried hard. On work days, I’d get up at five a.m. and I would get up quietly to let Carol sleep, but, when I got out of the shower, she was in the kitchen making coffee. And I tried to cater to her and occasionally she did have hunger whims—although they were quite bland compared to mine. Around midnight, she would sometimes get hungry for melted mozzarella cheese, but only the way it was served at La Scala. So, off we would scoot in the car. And often, in the middle of the night, she would ask for chipped ice, so I would go into the kitchen, smash a few cubes and bring her back a plateful of ice. Now did you ever try to get back to sleep while someone next to you is grinding ice in her teeth? And while you probably know how miserable it is to get to sleep when there are cracker crumbs on a sheet, do you know how it feels to be dozing off and then feel a chunk of ice nestle up to the small of your back?
As I noted, we had given up the idea of planned parenthood so we weren’t surprised when we had the doctor’s confirmation. I mean, it wasn’t like the movies when the husband gets home and finds flowers on the table and a coy, mysterious smile on his wife. So, when we had the doctor’s word, I called my parents back in Jersey and right away they began to give me advice. Said mother, “Take care of Carol. She’s not going to be feeling good.” Dad said, “Nicky, you must start saving your money.” And then we broke the news to Carol’s parents—my mother-in-law and father-in-law.
I get along fine with Carol’s folks because they are great people. We’re always at their home on Sunday nights to watch “The Rebel” and the fact that we can’t get Channel 7 where we live, has nothing to do with it. I remember the first time I met Carol’s father, which was twenty-four hours after I had met Carol at a party. That night, he told me Irish jokes and played some Irish records for me and I said to him, “Well, you know I’m Ukranian. I wonder what kind of children Carol and I will have?” I guess he thought that was pretty fresh but he didn’t throw anything at me. Carol was sitting on my lap. So, at dinner, two months later, I said, “Well, we’re going to find out.” He said, “Find out what?” I said, “Pretty soon we’re going to find out what a child looks like who is half Ukranian and half Irish.”
Oh, they were thrilled about becoming grandparents. Where we differed, was on the name. They gave in easily on the girl’s name. We had decided on that one evening, when we had been with June Allyson and her husband Dick Powell. June had said, “If it’s a girl, why don’t you call her Allyson?” It struck us right and that was settled, except that we weren’t going to have a girl. I mean, we had decided right on our honeymoon that our first child would be a boy.
“So what will you call a boy?” Carol’s mother asked.
I said, “He will be Adams.”
“Won’t work,” Carol’s father said. “Give him some common, run of the mill name. Call him Nick Junior.”
I said, “I like Reb Christian.”
Carol’s mother said, “You can’t do that to a little boy.”
My back got a little stiff. “Who says I can’t call him Reb? Why, if it weren’t for ‘The Rebel’ I wouldn’t have the security to marry and have a family.”
But, with a name like Reb, he can only be an actor or ballplayer.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” I asked. “Look at Chuck Connors. He’s both a ball-player and actor and doing very well.”
Home sweet home
In the sixth month of Carol’s pregnancy, everything changed. I mean, from then on, we had just the greatest relationship. I had such a tremendous responsibility for her. I wanted her to really feel that I was with her all the way. And when Christmas came, I thought that if ever I was going to buy her anything nice, this was the time to buy it. I gave her a beautiful, expensive gold watch and she was absolutely thrilled, and then I startled her with a silver mink jacket. And, in our sixth month, we moved from our apartment up to Outpost and into one of the most far-out pads you’ve ever seen. It was Birdland. I mean, if you can imagine a house that combines the zany characteristics of Groucho and Jerry Lewis, this is it. To get to the house, you cross a bridge over a moat and then you’re smack up against a huge iron Chinese gate. The house itself is circular. It has to be. I mean you couldn’t have a square moat because there are live fish in the moat, and it wouldn’t be fair to make them turn corners.
And there is a glass roof on the house which is just great if you’re a bird watcher, but if you don’t want to get blind from the glare, you have to wear sunglasses at breakfast. And the shower looks ordinary, with glass panels that slide back and forth, but you kind of step down into a basin and while the shower is coming down at you a hidden inlet below begins to fill this sunken area. It’s the only shower I’ve ever seen where you have to wear both a shower cap and hip-length boots. But it’s different anyway.
Because the house is round, everything is built out of the wall. We slept in the bedroom only two nights. The beds coming out of the wall looked like tombstones, so we cleared the playroom and bought an old-fashioned double-bed. And nearly everything is mechanized. You lean against the wall and a hidden panel opens on a closet. Or you press a button and the dishwasher pops up and shakes your hand. We never could quite make friends with the refrigerator.
Perhaps the refrigerator got annoyed because I would come out in the middle of the night to wake it up to get ice for Carol. Anyway, there is this automatic ice-cube maker in the box that keeps making cubes and dumping them unless it’s turned off. I remember the morning I was shaving and Carol went to the kitchen to make juice and coffee. I heard a scream and then a crash as if the glass roof had caved in. I ran to the kitchen and there was Carol with the refrigerator door open and some three or four hundred ice floes around her and she looked up at me and said, “Anyone for skiing?”
The last months were murder for Carol. She was very uncomfortable. We tried a movie, once, but she just couldn’t sit long. Weekends, we passed up invitations to parties and picnics. When I wasn’t working, we were together. We sat together in front of the television set even if one of us didn’t care for the show, and I never once, in all that time, tuned in The Three Stooges.
And then it happened
And, then, it was nine months to the day, and I was sleeping in the waiting room, waiting to become a father. I don’t know how long I slept before I heard this voice coming at me, “Mr. Adams, you have a lovely baby daughter. Congratulations.”
I wasn’t disappointed. Not for one split second. When I got off the elevator, a nurse was holding the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. I had heard all those stories about how babies look like wrinkled prunes, but not Allyson. She was beautiful, with wavy blond hair, fine features and smooth skin. I followed the nurse to the glass-paneled room where they keep babies, and then they let me see Carol.
“Honey,” I told her, “she’s the most wonderful baby and now I’ve got two beautiful girls to love.”
Then I let her go to sleep and, when I came back in the evening, all the relatives were there. None of mine, because mine live in the East and that was when I got a little mad. Carol’s mother said something like, “You know, all of the babies in our family are beautiful.” And then a friend of Carol’s came in and said, “Carol, the baby looks just like you.” And then I heard that the baby had Uncle Jack’s nose, Cousin Suzie’s eyes and Grandma Moses’ chin. Finally, I reared up and said, “What about me? Don’t you people know about the birds and bees? It takes more than just a woman to make a baby.”
It was awful being alone in the house. How often I’d said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful just to get one night’s sleep uninterrupted,” and there I was alone. Carol and the baby were fine. Nothing to worry about, but I couldn’t sleep. And then I would get to thinking that they might make a mistake at the hospital. They might get my beautiful baby mixed up with another and I would bring the wrong baby home.
A week later, Carol came home. Carol’s recovery had been normal but the doctor was very careful. He said that she would have to stay in bed for another week and insisted that she come home in an ambulance. I got to the hospital before noon and, for the first time, they let me hold the baby. It was funny. I’d never held a baby before. Not even in an acting part, but it felt so natural. I wasn’t afraid and I was so proud. I bought her a baseball uniform but she just cried when she saw it. And then I carried Allyson to the ambulance and they wheeled Carol in and the three of us were closed in with an attendant who was dressed all in white.
I remember the attendant told me he was a “Rebel” fan and how much he had enjoyed Sunday’s show and I said, “Look, I think I smell gasoline fumes here. That’s not good for a baby.” And he said, “Tell me about the episode that’s coming up next week,” and I said, “Now, look, that driver should take it easy on the bumps.” And then we were back at that kookie house and there were Carol’s mother and sister and my two secretaries and a nurse and the two attendants and it was like a small mob scene—but we were home. And that was it.
The baby is wonderful. She sleeps right through the night and everything is just about back to normal. I’ve gotten so I can make formula and empty the diaper bin. Carol, who weighed eighty-nine when I met her, looks as if she hadn’t gained an ounce. Those middle-of-the-night-hunger-pains are gone now and Carol has lost all desire for melted mozzarella. Now we’re talking about moving into a different neighborhood, where Allyson will have nice safe streets to play in, and we’re even beginning to talk about our next baby. I’d like to have at least two more, but I hope it’ll be easier the next time. I mean, I just can’t stand thinking that I may have to go through that morning sickness again.
—by NICK ADAMS as told to MARTIN COHEN
NICK STARS IN “THE REBEL,” SUN., ABC-TV, 9 P.M. EST. HE ALSO RECORDS FOR MERCURY.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1960