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Patricia Hardy: “He Was A Star . . . I Was A Star . . . Will You Marry Me?”

Will I ever get used to being called “Mrs. Richard Egan”? How could I?—when I remember the first time I saw Richard. I was a New York City schoolgirl, on a Saturday night date with a neighborhood boy. We went, as usual, to a movie—to see a picture called “Wicked Woman.” When a closeup suddenly flashed on the screen of Richard Egan, I nudged the boy. “Who is that?” I asked.

“The posters outside say Richard Egan,” he answered.

After that, I never missed an Egan movie. I wasn’t really like all the fans who get crushes on stars, I told myself. After all, I planned to go in for acting, too. I simply admired Richard Egan as an actor. I enjoyed watching his gestures, mannerisms. But I found myself approving other things about Richard besides his acting: his charm, his marvelous physique, his engaging grin. On a date, I’d make mental comparisons between the boy and Richard Egan; I’d try to imagine what Richard would do and say under similar circumstances.

I was a fan, all right. Now, of course, Richard is much more than a shadow to me, more than a good actor. Most of the time, I see him as a very real person. But every so often some incident will recall the days when I was the fan and he was the remote star.

One evening early this year, Richard and I were having dinner in a restaurant when I noticed at the table next to ours a woman who kept staring at him. I’m sure he never realized this, but I was certainly aware of her! Finally, she and the rest of her party left the table, and about fifteen minutes later Richard got a phone call. Some instinct told me that the woman who had been staring at him was on the phone. He was talking seriously. The curiosity was just too much for me, so I started for the ladies’ room, past the phone. As I went by him, I heard him saying, “I don’t have a pencil.” The headwaiter handed him one.

At that, my Irish temper really flared up. “There’s no need to write her number down,” I told Richard. “You’ll just have to tear it up!”

While I retouched my makeup in the ladies’ room, it occurred to me that Richard was just being polite to whoever was calling. When he said he didn’t have a pencil, he was probably just trying to get out of even taking her number. The headwaiter naturally didn’t understand and was only trying to be of service. I felt I’d had no right to say what I did. How, I wondered, was Richard going to take it? I found out as soon as I got back to the table. He was laughing. And for a long time he’d tease me by repeating, “No need to take it down—you’ll just have to tear it up!”

Naw I can admit that I must have been a little bit jealous of the stranger, because I could so easily imagine myself in her place. I can remember seeing Richard in the movies, realizing that he didn’t even know I existed, yet feeling that I knew him very well and that some day, somehow, we would meet.

Later, as a model, my own career began to move along nicely, with a lot of good, interesting jobs, until finally UniversalInternational signed me for “Girls in the Night,” which was filmed partly in New York and partly in Hollywood. When I came to the coast with a U-I contract, I stayed with my friend May Wynn. One night we were attending a party at Ciro’s, and I heard a man laughing, from a nearby table. My back was to him, yet I was sure it could be only one man in the world. As we were getting up to leave, I turned my head and took a quick look. It was Richard. All the way home, for some reason, I found myself smiling inwardly.

A short time later, May, and I were invited to a studio party, a big affair loaded with celebrities and ear-shattering babble. When we arrived, I quickly looked around the room—hoping. And he was there. I must have been staring (like that lady in the restaurant, so much later) for, when he turned suddenly and our eyes met, I felt myself blushing. To this day, Richard swears I was flirting with him. He could tell, even at a distance, he says, that I had a lot of Irish gumption—I was smiling at him as if we were old friends. That shows an embarrassing amount of understanding on his part. Actually, that’s just how I did feel: that he was an old friend, and a very dear one. It seemed to me then that only some mysterious, malicious plot was keeping us from meeting.

The second time I saw him (in person, that is) was at Ciro’s again. I was dining with a date and we were seated at a table right next to Richard and his date. Truthfully, I haven’t the slightest idea what we had for dinner or what we talked about, because a strange hunch and a plan were growing in my mind. At some moment, the girl with Richard would go off to powder her nose, and at the very same moment, I hoped, my date would leave the table, too.

And it happened. I felt the blood pounding in my ears, but then, without a second’s hesitation, I turned to Richard with a bright smile and said, like any fan, “Aren’t you Richard Egan?”

I heard my inane question echoing; I heard him answering gravely, “Yes, I am.”

I’d planned to make intelligent, admiring comments on his acting, but when I opened my mouth all that came out was: “I—I’m Patricia Hardy, a friend of Beverly Michaels, the girl who worked with you in ‘Wicked Woman’.”

Richard’s blue eyes twinkled pleasantly—and then our dates returned. We still hadn’t really met. The next day I called Beverly and said, “I wish you’d introduce me to Richard Egan.”

“Yes,” Beverly laughed. “I know.”

“What do you mean? How could you know?”

“Simple. Richard just phoned me, too. I made a date to meet him for lunch. He wants to talk about you. He wants to meet you!”

Need I add I was delighted. But I think I felt even greater pleasure at learning something important about Richard. Hollywood is an informal town; the average fellow in that situation would have found my phone number in some way and casually called me up. But for Richard, only a formal introduction would do. He knew someone I knew, so he took her to lunch and there arranged to take both of us to dinner the following week.

Our date was at eight o’clock, but I began getting ready at five, in a great state of tension. I had seen Richard Egan in person—across a room, at the next table—and I had spoken to him. But up to this point I still had been only a fan, star-gazing. Now we were going to meet as two people. In the last half hour, I frantically modeled everything in my wardrobe before my disapproving mirror. I’d just gone back to the first outfit I’d tried on, a tweed suit, when the doorbell rang. The moment Beverly performed that long-awaited introduction, all my tension vanished. I was at ease and wonderfully happy.

After dinner (don’t ask me about the menu!) at a small restaurant, Richard dropped Beverly off at her house and then took me for a drive. And the floodgates opened. Spontaneously, we began talking as if we had indeed known each other for years. We talked about theater, movies, acting, California living, tennis.

I knew then that my feelings as a fan had been a pretty illusion. The next day I wrote to my mother, back East: “He’s really not like an actor at all. He’s more like a person!” The longer I’m with him, the more I learn about not only Richard’s qualities, but all the little details that make up a human being.

I used to make mental notes about his tastes in food. Mostly a steak-potatoes-and-salad man, he enjoys seafood, too; we’d often eat at Jack’s at the Beach, in Santa Monica. Every so often, he’d decide to go for Italian cooking. One evening, we were out with a group, and someone mentioned a favorite dish. “Oh, I make that very well,” I said.

“Can you really cook?” Richard asked.

“Yes,” I said airily. “Doesn’t everybody?”

His irrepressible sense of humor took over, and he started teasing me until I had to come through with a dinner invitation. I finally asked Richard, Beverly, her brother and her fiancé, Russell Rouse.

I began worrying about the space. My roommate and I had just a small apartment, with no dining room. The round table, with captain’s chairs, was set at one end of the living room. Richard and Russell and Beverly’s brother are all big men, Would they have enough room? From my mere five feet three, I saw them for the moment as giants—there wouldn’t be room enough! So I drew up a small straight chair for myself.

The food did turn out well. While Richard has no real interest in the preparations (he just gets pleasantly in my way in the kitchen), he’s a zestful eater—every mouthful is a compliment to the cook. When he finished that evening, he said, “That was wonderful! Where did a little Irish gal learn to make Italian food?”

For all my fears, the table hadn’t seemed crowded. But in front of the fireplace, just behind the chair where Beverly’s brother sat, there was a big copper bucket. As he got up from the table and stepped back, he planted a foot right in the bucket and fell against the wall. I thought I’d die! The apartment walls seemed to be shrinking in on me. We spent part of the evening pounding the dents out of the bucket.

The rest of the time, we talked and listened to music. Richard likes some classics, but mostly semi-classics and popular records: show tunes, soft romantic ballads, background music from movies, songs by Johnny Mathis or Dean Martin or Bing Crosby. As for the conversation, that was mostly shop talk. I was already interested in theater and movies, but I’ve learned a lot from Richard. For instance, I’d never really tried to understand Shakespeare before. When I first heard him read those beautiful lines, I realized why people love them. Richard gets a great kick out of reading Shakespeare with his brother, Father Willis, too.

Well, once I’d proved my point, during our courtship I didn’t cook too many more meals for Richard. More often, we’d eat with his family. His mother, who is a wonderful cook, usually took care of the food, though I’d often help make the salad. And we’d exchange recipes, or just talk while Richard and his quiet, quick-witted, unmistakably Irish dad watched the boxing matches on TV. You can’t get a word out of either of them while the fights are on! That doesn’t bother me, because my own father is a fight fan, too.

Richard has been interested in boxing since he was a ten-year-old, listening to the big bouts on the radio. In the Army, he taught judo. And he’s crazy about Rocky Marciano—even named his cat Rocky. Football is another enthusiasm of his. When the Washington Redskins were here, he invited them to dinner at his home. (Joe Scudera, one of the Redskins, is one of Rich’s closest friends.) I helped his mom serve, and I must say those boys have appetites! We thought we’d never get through.

When I first met Richard, I tried to share his enthusiasm for tennis. Actually, I didn’t know anything about it. One weekend when he was out of town, I went to Palm Springs and took a couple of tennis lessons. I had an innocent notion that I could then surprise Richard with my expertness. But I found out! Finally, I realized I’d never catch up with Richard, who is really good. So I’ve become just a deeply interested spectator. He belongs to a tennis club, but never goes there because for him it isn’t a social activity. He says some of the best players are on the public courts, and he spends a lot of his spare time at Beverly Hills Public Courts.

Naturally, he has made friends this way—in particular, an airlines pilot. Richard loves to hear him talk about flying, because he admires people who are doing what they most want to do. But gossip is one type of conversation that leaves Richard cold. Recently, we were with a girl who also plays tennis at Beverly Hills. She mentioned a juicy bit of news that was circulating on the courts—and he didn’t know a thing about it. “That’s just like you!” she laughed. “You never see all the intrigues going on around you.”

Richard is honest and he respects—in fact, insists on—that quality in the people whose friendship he values. If I cook something he doesn’t like, he’ll tell me—but pleasantly. He is extremely thoughtful. He does his own shopping for presents, always remembers my birthday, and doesn’t confine gift-giving to special occasions. The last time he went on tour, he brought me a tiny gold cross I wear around my neck. I had his brother, Father Willis, bless it, and I never take it off.

As I mentioned, Richard is generally pretty conservative. When he wanted to buy a car this year, I told him I adored convertibles. After thinking it over, he finally did buy a new Cadillac convertible, black with a white top. But he’d grown so attached to his 1950 Cadillac sedan that he couldn’t turn it in. So that’s the car I often drive.

His taste in clothes is conservative; he’s shirt-tie-and-suit man. Recently, when he went shopping for a suit, I urged him to take a dark blue fabric with a tiny silver stripe. With some misgivings, he ordered it. Now he’s delighted with it. Somehow it makes me very pleased.

His house (I must learn to say our house) is “contemporary,” Richard says, “not the sort of modern where you walk on glass floors.” It’s decorated in subdued colors: black, white and charcoal gray in the living room; beige in the wood-paneled den, with deep armchairs done in soft Australian leather, salmon and light blue-green. Books, TV and hi-fi are in the den. There’s a huge fireplace, and one wall s all glass, with a view of the patio and the pool. The pool measures forty-eight by eighteen feet, and it is not kidney-shaped; it’s just oblong. “I want to swim in it,” Richard says firmly, “not to look at it.”

Richard is a serious person; I knew that long before I met him, because I could see the thinking and sincerity that went into his screen performances. But his sense of humor was a surprise. His “no need to take it down” line isn’t the only ribbing I’ve had. (All affectionate, of course.) At first, his nickname for me was “Petonkle”—I don’t know why. But I do know why he now often calls me “Bunkys.” That dates from a time when a bunch of us were playing with an old tongue-twister, trying to say very fast “rubber baby-buggy bumpers.” I couldn’t come out with anything but “bunkies.” Just the other day, I got a letter from Father Willis that started, “Dear Bunkys.” That broke me up!

I have my own family to thank for another gag. The first time Richard hit New York on tour after we began going together, he visited my parents. When he told me they’d dragged out the family album for him, I had a fit. I called my mother and wailed, “How could you do this to me?”

“I think Richard enjoyed it,” she said.

Well, I guess he did—he certainly hasn’t let me forget it. One of the pictures showed me as a little girl in my favorite ice-cream parlor, Plumps. It never occurred to me that this was a funny name until Richard got hold of it. Now, whenever I say something silly, he’ll come back with “Where did you hear that—in Plumps?” Or “Is that something you learned at Plumps?”

I suppose the gag department is like tennis: I’ll never catch up with Richard in either one. And the same thing, I believe, is true of acting. I’ve loved my work, and I have a healthy respect for my own talent. But Richard, with a college degree in drama, has both taught drama and put theories into practice, with a wealth of experience in many techniques of acting. After I saw a rough cut of his latest picture, U-I’s “Voice in the Mirror,” I bought a little gold loving cup on which I had inscribed “To the World’s Greatest Actor.” I gave it to Richard—and it was no gag. I meant it wholeheartedly. So we’ve agreed that one career—Richard’s—will be plenty for our family.

Our courtship didn’t just happen to go on for two years; we both believe in long courtships. And it wasn’t all easy and idyllic. Once, while Richard was away on a personal-appearance tour, practically everybody I knew sent me a clipping of a well-known column. The columnist quoted Richard as saying: “Pat Hardy and I will never marry.”

Long before the mail rained clippings on me, I had read that column, and the words had given me a quick shock. But I realized how inaccurate publicity of this sort can be, and, as soon as I’d thought it over, it didn’t bother me. Richard’s reaction was exactly the same. We simply refuse to take such things seriously.

Sharing the same strong religious faith, we both believe that marriage is forever. At the moment when Richard asked me to marry him, there was no image in my mind of a darkened movie theater, a spellbound schoolgirl, a dynamic shadow remote on the screen. A real person was speaking to me—a human being I had come to know very well and to respect— the man I love.

But every so often some odd incident will call up the image again. Then I ask myself in everlasting wonder, “Can this really have happened to me?”





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