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Sandra Dee: “Read, At Your Own, Risk!”

She sits hugging her knees, for a minute, and then she changes, digs her feet deeper into the sand and laughs. Her poodle looks up, startled. She seems younger than she is. She looks thirteen. It’s because she doesn’t usually wear makeup when she’s loafing, but she always wears nail polish—‘Pink’s my favorite.”

Her face looks sad one moment, and the next, she’s running around the beach after her dog. Suddenly she stops and says, “Do people really believe all those things that are written about me? Sure I shout and lose my temper sometimes but doesn’t everyone?”

She’s seventeen and she wants people to like her. She’s shy and thoughtful and pretty much like any other seventeen-year-old. “But I’m scared of growing up,” she confides seriously. “Really scared. That’s one thing I don’t want to do. I’m satisfied with being seventeen. And one of the things I dread most is being twenty-five. Why? I really don’t know except, after that, you’re nearly thirty. And thirty seems too old.”

She looks up and then goes off into a daydream. “I’m always daydreaming,” she says, “especially when I’m listening to show tunes. They’re my favorite music. I curl up in a big chair at home, take my shoes off, tuck my feet under me, close my eyes and often imagine marvelous things while the records whirl. Like what I’ll be doing ten years from now and what it will be like to really fall in love.”

Suddenly she looks up, cocks her head to one side and says, “I hope you don’t mind listening to all this, but I’ve got no one else to tell these things to. I do have one girlfriend, but she’s in New York and Mother simply refuses to let me make another call to her this month.

“Of course,” she continues, “I fall in love now all the time, but I like to dream about other times . . . times when I’ll be more grown up and the person I’ll be in love with will ask me to marry him. Do other girls do this?

“In my dreams,” she confides, “I’m dancing with this man (who looks a lot like Cary Grant with overtones of Sir Laurence Olivier) and he knows just how to make everyday routine of marriage a prolonged, glamorous courtship.

“We have a thirty-room mansion and also four beautifully-behaved children. I always dream about four children and a house with thirty rooms and dozens of servants,” she says.

A dream orchestra on the patio is playing music from “My Fair Lady,” and her dream husband sweeps her into his arms. “He’s careful not to crush my champagne chiffon gown,” she says, “or the spray of orchids he just gave me.

“My dream dress is champagne,” she explains, “because champagne is my favorite color. I like it because it goes so well with my hair. And the first time I ever went to a real grown-up dance, I was wearing champagne silk and had the time of my life.

“Talking of clothes,” she goes on, “I love bulky things . . . bulky sweaters, bulky skirts and bulky belts. And shoes, shoes and more shoes although,” she admits, as she begins trailing her toes through the sand, “I love to run barefoot even more.

“I love jewelry too. In fact I love it so much that I don’t even have to buy it to enjoy it. I just go into a jewelry shop and look at things, pretending they are mine, and it’s so much fun. I like rings especially.”

Rings have had a special meaning for her since she was a little girl, she explains, telling how she got her first one, which really wasn’t meant for her at all. She was sitting with her parents at dinner, one night, when her father drew a small box from his pocket and handed it to her mother. Sandra’s eyes opened wide. She loved surprise packages. She jumped up and down on her seat and cried, “Let me open it. Please, let me,” she begged, reaching for the box.

“No,” said her father. “It’s for your mother.”

She watched while her mother opened the package and gasped when she saw, nestled in the midst of cotton and tissue, the most exquisite ring of diamonds and topaz.

“Oh,” she sighed. “It’s beautiful. the most beautiful ring I ever saw.”

She watched closely as her mother tried it on, struggling to push it down her finger. A few moments later, her mother turned to her father and said, “I’m sorry, darling. But it’s just too small. Yet it’s so lovely it seems a shame not to keep it.”

“I’ll have it,” shouted Sandra.

Her father grinned. He winked at her mother and then picked up the ring and tossed it across at Sandy. “But you mustn’t wear it until you’re very much older,” he warned. “Promise me.”

“Of course, of course,” she agreed, delighted at her new treasure. So, for many months, she kept it carefully wrapped in jeweler’s cloth in the bottom drawer of her dressing table, taking it out only to clean and polish it (which actually was once a day).

“When I go on a date today,” she says, “I sometimes wear that ring . . . if it’s a special occasion. On casual dates though, I just wear simple clothes and not much jewelry. It’s more comfortable that way. But have you seen some of those ‘mannish’ styles some girls wear? I hate them,” she says, and then giggles and she looks down at the pants and shirt she is wearing.

“But my secret love,” she continues, “is black. I got my first black cocktail dress last year and it’s wonderful. Does every one get so excited over their first black dress?

“And I’m beginning to experiment with hats too,” she adds, tilting her nose in the air and putting on a scornful, suave expression. “One that I like is a pink Easter bonnet with poppies on it. I feel so sophisticated in a hat.”

But the next minute the little girl in her comes out again when she pouts and says, “I do still have terrible crushes on people . . . like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. I haven’t even met some of the people I’m crazy about and I’m not sure if I really want to meet them. Because now I think they’re so perfect and they couldn’t possibly live up to expectation . could they? And something I hate is to be disappointed.”

She laughs as a sudden gust of wind blows strands of her hair wild, puts her hands up to her head to straighten it, then lays her hands on her cheeks and says, “I haven’t any makeup on at all. None at all. I hate to wear the stuff on weekends, and I guess that’s a terrible admission for someone who’s been brought up to know how important it is. I used to think it was tremendous fun to watch the older models—when I was modeling—and copy them. And now I don’t any more. Isn’t that odd?

“But I love all the new makeup fads,” she admits. “I fall for every one of them. When I can’t sleep at night, I often go into the bathroom very early in the morning and experiment with all sorts of eye makeup and new lipstick colors. I must have gone through the entire range of fads from white lipstick and no rouge to V-bird shaped eyebrows. Once or twice my mother caught me in the bathroom and couldn’t understand what in the world I was doing awake at that time. She was pretty mad and told me to go back to bed immediately.”

Next moment she laughs again as her poodle jumps into her plaid beach bag. “See my dog,” she says. “I cried over a dog once . . . cried and cried and cried so much that my parents were frantic with worry.

“I was about six and I wanted a toy pomeranian more than anything in the world,” she recalls. “Daddy said I couldn’t have one because our family dog, a black cocker, had already been banished to the garage because it kept on getting dog hair all over the furniture. And a pom, he said, would have to live in the house and then it would make a mess.”

That year she’d wanted one so badly, she explains, that one night, while her mother was undressing her for bed, she found that Sandra had broken out in a funny pink rash. They were going to call the doctor, but Sandra sulked and said, “No. It will go away if you just buy me a dog.”

They called a doctor anyway, and he said that it was a nervous rash. So, a few days later, her father took her aside just before bedtime and said, “There’ll be a surprise for you at Christmas.”

Little Sandra’s eyes lit up. That meant a dog for sure, she thought, and ran happily to her room.

But Christmas Eve came . . . and there was no dog under the tree. And she always got her presents on Christmas Eve. She waited up until her father got home, but he arrived empty-handed. Seeing him open the door, with nothing more than just a handful of colored lights and Christmas wrappings, she turned away and ran sobbing to her room.

Her mother came running after her. “What’s the matter, darling?” she said, Sandra lying face down on the bed.

“I thought . . .” she whimpered, “I thought . . . you were getting me . . . a dog.”

And Sandra cried and cried and cried.

Her mother patted her soothingly on the head and then went back to the living room. From her bed, Sandra could hear her parents talking in subdued voices.

Then her mother returned. “Please stop crying,” she pleaded. “Please . . .” And Sandra saw that her face was quite white.

Just a few minutes later, she heard yelping noises and a tiny little puppy come trotting into the room, followed closely by Sandra’s father.

“Oh,” she cried. “My dog, my dog, my dog!” And she climbed down from the bed and ran to cuddle it.

“I found out later,” Sandy explains, “that Daddy had actually brought the dog home with him that night . . . but had come home, once before, earlier, with the dog, while I was still out at a friend’s house. Then he went out and came back again. They’d wanted to surprise me with it in the morning. They hadn’t realized I’d get so upset.”

As she finishes speaking, she runs her hands along the sand, looks thoughtful for a moment and then adds, “I loved my stepfather. A few years ago, when he fell ill, I used to spend hours cooking him his favorite dishes. That’s when I really learned to cook.

“I often made him salads, and because he was very particular about his foods, I was always extremely careful with the dressing: it had to be tasty. One of my specialties today is a very elaborate dish of lobster, cooked with rice, mushrooms and onions. I made up the recipe myself.” In fact, she says, she often experiments in the kitchen. Occasionally she cuts recipes out of women’s magazines—just like a housewife. She says her mother doesn’t object. She enjoys watching her cook.

Suddenly she stops talking, rests her chin on her hands and says, “Do you know, I often get bored? All of a sudden, nothing seems interesting. Not any of the many many things I usually love to do in my spare time . . . like reading. I read best-sellers mostly. And listen to records. I guess I never cared too much for sports, although sometimes I go horseback riding and bicycling. I’m not too fond of bowling either. But if I’m out with a crowd and they suggest bowling, I go along and pretend to have a good time.”

Occasionally for a pastime, she says, she plays cards, but not too often. She doesn’t like bridge, but enjoys canasta. She also likes to drive when she has a chance and is considered a good driver. “Once,” she admits, “I got a warning for driving too fast and since then I’ve slowed down. I guess there’s no sense in taking chances.” Sometimes, even though she looks like thirteen and is actually seventeen, she sounds like twenty-five.

She looks very serious and says, “I have problems. Real problems, although people never believe this. Do you know I don’t really have a girlfriend? I’ve been at professional school or the studio school for several years, and I haven’t had the chance to mix the way other girls do. I long for someone to confide in, to spend the night with and talk for hours and hours . . . to discuss boys with and dates and clothes. I have one girlfriend—the one I told you about—but she’s in New York. And long-distance calls are so expensive.

“I have worries too. I worry about my weight and my mother thinks it’s foolish. I worry about boys, too, and making a fool of myself on dates, like the time a boy took me to a high school dance.

As soon as we got there,” she recalls, “he wanted to jitterbug. I can’t jitterbug but I felt awkward about telling him so. So I let him lead me onto the floor and then, of course, he found out immediately. My feet just seemed to be going in all directions but the right one. He was very kind and offered to teach me. I didn’t know what to say because I was sure everyone in the room was staring. Finally I suggested we wait for something slower. I felt like such a fool, because all the other girls of my age, all the girls in the room, in fact, were dancing around the floor as though they’d been born to it.

“Later that year Rick Nelson tried to teach me, but he didn’t succeed either.”

Most of the boys she dates, she says, are young stars like Rick or Sal Mineo.

She also worries about talking too much. “I’d hate to be labeled a bore,” she says and confides, “I often say things, too, that are tactless. But I don’t mean to—and I am trying to change.”

She worries about losing her temper and she knows she’s untidy. “I’m terrible about not picking up my clothes,” she says. “When I’m home you can trail me by the things I’ve dropped.” Then she adds, coquettishly, “But I never, never go out without brushing my hair neatly and making sure my nail polish isn’t chipped.”

Then she tosses her head, stands up and says, “But I’m talking too much again. And all about me. It’s strictly personal.” And she picks up her beach bag (which still has her poodle inside) and runs off down the sand toward home.





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