“Nobody Can Stop Us Now”—Gary Clarke & Connie Stevens
She didn’t smile, the small, pert blond with the bulky knit sweater as she stood tapping her fingers on the desk almost with impatience. Once or twice sift looked up at the man with her. Tall, dark And good-looking in a quiet, masculine way, he seemed in control of the situation. If the man behind the desk was aware the couple was edgy, he didn’t show he noticed. He was probably used to it. Most young couples acted that way. The young man leaned over to sign his name, then, smiling as if to reassure the girl, handed her the pen and showed her where to sign. The scratching of the old-fashioned pen-point seemed very loud. They handed the papers across the desk and waited in silence while they were examined. The young man whispered something and the other man nodded. Then the couple walked slowly toward the door. Just as they were leaving, a woman entered. She looked at them, but didn’t seem to recognize them. They watched her walk past them, sure that they hadn’t been discovered. They spent the rest of the afternoon at Catalina. Later, in New York, we were informed: Gary Clarke and Connie Stevens are get ting married! But there was a strange coincidence.
That same afternoon we received a letter postmarked Virginia, from a woman who also claimed Connie Stevens was getting married. She gave an unexpected reason. Connie’s already married, she said, to a man who lived in a nearby city, but this husband that she’d been hiding all these years has finally agreed to give her a divorce. The woman went on to give his name and the facts about Connie and him. Did the two reports add up? Was Connie getting married because, now, she was free? We wired reporter Dean Gautschy to go out on the story. Here is the scoop he wired back to us:
Packages cluttered Connie Stevens’ dressing room on Stage One at Warners. As I waited, I wondered what they were for. Then Connie walked in to keep our appointment. Without warning, she said, “You know I won’t talk about my romance?”
Frankly, I didn’t know. “Look,” I said, “all I want is to clear up a few things.” She fidgeted with the wrappings. I’d never seen her so jittery. “You’re right,” she said after a moment. I knew her long engagement was a strain and that she’d also been working hard. As if she read my mind, she said, “I’m tired. But I want to clear up those rumors, too.”
The first one I wanted her to comment on was a wild one. Was she married? And not to Gary Clarke, either? I told her about the woman’s letter. She seemed stunned. “That’s the wildest thing I ever heard,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief. I took Connie at her word.
“Well then, is Gary Clarke married?”
“I don’t know how that one got started,” she insisted. “Gary is not married. He was, but got a divorce. In fact, his wife is remarried and expecting a child.”
“When will you and Gary marry?”
“I don’t know,” she said. She was concentrating on unknotting some string.
“Is it up in the air because of your religion?” I asked. The rumor was that, as a Catholic, Connie had apprehensions about marrying a divorced man.
“That, too, is ridiculous,” she announced. “I will marry for love and nothing else could enter into it. Nothing can stop us now.”
With this answered, Connie seemed more at ease.
“There’s something else I’d like to clear up,” she said. “People keep saying I’m a kook. Do you think I am?”
I didn’t. So that took care of that.
She showed me her ring—a black pearl surrounded by eight diamonds.
“Gary designed it himself,” she said proudly. “I love it.”
At first, she wouldn’t admit it was an engagement ring. “It’s a friendship ring,” she insisted. But she was blushing.
“Are you getting married in April?” I asked. She blushed even deeper.
She wouldn’t admit it would be April. Still she didn’t deny it either. And there are strong indications the wedding’s arranged for that month.
Her father, Teddy Stevens, already has indicated that he approves. And the big thing they were waiting for—Gary’s career—is no longer a problem.
Also, Connie has given away her intentions in unguarded moments. Recently, a columnist printed that Connie Francis and Gary Clarke would be married in April. Obviously, he confused the names. I joked with Connie about this one day, and instead of laughing, she looked dumbfounded, as much as to say, “How’d they ever find out it was to be in April?” I had to tell her a second time before she realized I meant the mistake in names and wasn’t referring to the month. Then she relaxed, as if she thought her secret was still safe.
Unless she changes her mind because the cat is out of the bag and everyone will be expecting them to marry in April, Connie and Gary will probably sneak off to Las Vegas that month or else have a secret church ceremony right in town. They both have vacations coming in April and Connie’s been talking about Honolulu. I’m betting on that vacation to be a honeymoon.
—BY DEAN GAUTSCHY
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1961