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Piper Laurie—Photoplay—And Rick

Piper Laurie read the note through for the fourth time and discovered that her hands were still shaking.

She simply couldn’t believe it. And yet—there it was. A small neat note in the small neat handwriting that she had adored for nine years, way back to when she was only twelve and in the seventh grade at school.

She certainly never needed to read the note again. She had memorized it, at first glance. But her eyes couldn’t keep away from it. There was the romantic miracle. Her heart thudding, she read it over again.

“Dear Piper,” the note started . . .

“A few days ago, a friend called my attention to an article in the PHOTOPLAY magazine which mentioned a ‘Rick.’ I hope I am not being too presumptuous but I can’t help but feel that the ‘Rick’ you spoke of is me.

“Naturally I am flattered that you even remember me, for I assure you, I have not forgotten you, nor could I fail to recognize you, as the article indicated.

“However, being neighbors doesn’t always afford people the opportunity of knowing one another as they might wish. Therefore, in lieu of my unsuccessful attempt to secure your telephone number, I took the liberty of writing this note, hoping that you will contact me.

“As ever, Rick Eller.”

Piper’s emotions swung backward in a great arc and she wasn’t a glowing young movie star anymore, a girl with glorious red hair and gardenia-white skin, and beautiful custom-made clothes. She wasn’t “Piper Laurie” out in a big, smash hit like “Golden Blade.” She wasn’t a young celebrity who had been to Tokyo and Mexico and the front lines in Korea.

No. At sight of his writing, at sight of Rick’s name, she was dumpy little Rosetta Jacobs again—a plump little girl with freckles on her nose and braces on her teeth. She was back in that dusty old school library again, stealing love-sick glances at the handsome profile and the coal-black hair and the magnificent shoulders that constituted Rick Eller, the most popular boy in his class.

Rick Eller. He didn’t even know that once, in high school, she had double-dated with him. But she had. She had been his buddy’s date, and his date had been a blonde girl who sat on his lap, and she, Piper, had been madly jealous.

But now, all because of one interview, which she had given PHOTOPLAY and this writer, Rick was seeking her out; and the girlish dream, hidden way back in the most secret corner of her ardent young heart, glowed once more.

I heard Piper’s news about the letter when I was, literally, taking a shower bath. The phone shrilled. I jumped out and made a grab for it, and there was Piper, talking so fast I couldn’t have understood her, even if the water hadn’t been running.

“What? What, Piper?” I kept shouting, and then finally I distinguished the words: “And I’ve got a date with Rick tonight and did you ever hear of anything so heavenly and I’ll call you tomorrow and tell you what happened and good-bye.”

There I was, with a silent phone in my hands, as unlikely-looking a Cupid’s messenger as could be. I also had quite a guilty conscience.

Because, you see, Piper’s story about Rick had all come about when PHOTOPLAY had sent me to ask her which of her romances, if any, was the real one. Her Name was most often coupled then with Leonard Goldstein, the producer, but she also dated Dick Anderson, and in New York, Charles Simonelli, the U-I executive, and any one of a number of other fellows around Hollywood like Carlos Thompson, for instance. Was she, I asked her, in love?

That’s when she told me about Rick. That’s when she said he lived down the street from her, but didn’t even know it—what with her change of name and personality. That’s when she said that for all the movie heroes she had met, and all the glib talkers and all the smooth dancers, this was the boy she would most of all like to see again.

I wrote it as Piper told it to me—and PHOTOPLAY published it. But the cynical part of it is that I didn’t believe a word of it. And let me make it clear that I have always known that Piper is one of the most honest kids that ever hit this town. She’s honest and she’s intelligent and she’s forthright and she’s incredibly kind. She’s as modern as a ballpoint pen, and yet she is that old-fashioned thing—a lady.

Just the same I thought she’d made Rick up. Made him up, you understand, innocently, the way kids make up dragons on dark stairways, or knights in armor from some sunbeam dancing in a midsummer afternoon. Highly imaginative, wildly romantic people like Piper do that all the time.

But after her call, my own pulse began to quicken and I planned to confess and apologize to her next day. Only our phone calls missed each other that next day, and the next day after and the day after that. Piper was out on tour with “Mississippi Gambler,” out on tour for nearly two and a half months.

But excited little messages from her kept reaching me. First, “Rick called me long-distance today.” On her birthday, her twenty-first birthday, “Rick wired me roses today.” And then, finally, “I’m home, and my first date is with Rick.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch,” I said to. her firmly.

“Oh, yes,” breathed Piper, “I want to tell you all about it.”

She was still too excited to eat, that next day. She ordered only a cup of coffee, and it grew cold as she talked, her dark eyes radiant, her mouth all smiles, her voice soft as a tropical zephyr.

And this is what she said, as she showed me Rick’s original note, all wrinkled with being carried over miles and spotted with coffee, where she had read it over a hundred breakfasts:

“I was never so excited in my life as when I got this note,” Piper said. “I was in such a state that I just couldn’t even telephone Rick for two whole days. When I did, his little sister answered, and I nearly died. I could hear her calling ‘Rick, Rick, Piper Laurie is on the telephone for you.’

“Then I heard his voice. He said, ‘Who is this really?’ And I could tell he was excited too.

“I said, ‘This is Piper.’ He was being cagey. He said, ‘I don’t believe it.’

“Rick, I’ve got your note right here. Then I asked, ‘Shall I read it to you?’ I started to, but he interrupted me, and he apologized. He laughed, sort of nervous, and he said, ‘It just seemed too good to believe,’ and he asked me when he could see me. I said Friday, two days away. I didn’t want to seem too eager. I asked him to come over to my house and have dinner with me and my folks.

“Mother and I planned one of those man-proof dinners—you know, roast beef and pie. And I started to get dressed in the middle of the afternoon. I wanted to be right on time, downstairs and looking all relaxed and casual, but simply nothing would go right. I couldn’t do a thing with my hair. I tried on and took off three dresses and they all looked tacky. I must have put on ten different pairs of earrings. I got my lipstick on crooked and just as I was rubbing it off, to put it on again, the doorbell rang, echoing sharply through the house. He was right on the dot.

“Downstairs, I could hear my mother and father taking over. There was wrestling on the TV that evening and I could hear them going into the living room with Rick, to watch. I absolutely hurled on my make-up then, but will you believe it, I was so excited I couldn’t open my bedroom door. My hands just whirled around the doorknob. Finally, after a lot of pulling and tugging, I did get it open. But by that time, I knew I was all flushed, and I was so thankful that it was pretty dark in the living room on account of the TV, so Rick couldn’t see me too clearly.

“But I certainly saw him. I saw that he was about six feet tall—just as I remembered—and so cute-looking, with his black hair and dark eyes. He jumped up and held out a box of candy. ‘Hi,’ he said, ‘this is for you.’ ”

Piper giggled. “Imagine,” she said. “A box of candy. I practically haven’t had a single piece of candy since I’ve been in movies—but I wasn’t thinking of that, then. I was just thinking what utter heaven it was to be looking right at Rick, right into his eyes, really seeing him.

“Because, you see, I had never really had a direct look at him before. There in school, over absolute years, I had looked at him every single chance I got. But they were sneaked looks, you know, under my lashes, and when I was pretending to look at other things.

“Well, we had dinner. And then later, Mother and Father seemed to have something else to do. They left us alone and Rick and I talked for five straight hours.”

I interrupted her. “What did you talk about?”

“Our memories,” said Piper. “All the kids we’d known in school and what we had done, and they had done. I reminded Rick of the time we had double-dated, and it was just horror. Because he barely recalled it at all, while I remembered everything. I told him what a big night it had been for me, even though I was wishing I was his date, and not his pal’s. I recalled how the boys had taken us to Mike. Lyman’s for dinner, and then to see ‘The Blackouts’ and later, we’d driven up the Strip to a drive-in. But nice as it all was, I hated the evening, because of that blonde with Rick.

“It must have been one o’clock in the morning before we quit talking,” Piper said, “and when Rick left, we’d made a date at my house again for three days later. We talked five more hours that time, and two evenings later, we went to the movies. I can’t say that I saw much of the picture.

“The trouble was that I was back in my school mood again. I kept sneaking looks at Rick’s profile and I’d find myself thinking, ‘This is the way we used to be.’ That wasn’t quite true, but when we were kids and went to the movies, the girls would go in one group and the boys in the other. We’d pretend to ignore each other—but I used to sit there, not watching the screen, because I had to keep my eyes on Rick.”

And then, almost at once it seemed, Piper was off for Korea—her second trip to this fighting front. But we talked again when she got back.

“On my return-home date with Rick,” she said, “I became aware that our conversation was still about ‘the old days.’ We were back again in the memory department. We were still discussing the past.” She paused, with thoughts of the future obviously flickering through her mind.

“It’s such a tough thing for a young man today,” she said, finally. “Rick has been an English major at UCLA. He is thinking of possibly taking up law, but he he hasn’t decided finally yet. How can he, with year at college still to go and the draft ahead of him? He has also been investigating the oil business up in northern California, with a friend of his.

“It’s a cinch for me to face my future: All I need to do is work continually to make myself a better actress, and hope that I get constantly better roles. There is no threat that the Army will side-swipe me and take three years out of my life. But with a boy like Rick. . . .” She spread out her pretty expressive hands. “You tell me,” she said. “You just tell me.”

I didn’t, of course. I don’t know the answer any more than Piper does.

But I can say for myself and for PHOTOPLAY that it was fun playing fairy godmother—fun to tie a dreamy past into a delightful present. And the future? It takes more than a fairy godmother to be able to do anything about that.





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