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The Trouble With Being Secretly Married—Lorrie Collins

Being secretly married may seem exciting and romantic—but for me, it brought more troubles than I ever dreamed of. When I made my impulsive decision to elope, I never thought about the consequences.

The first few days I walked around in a pink glow, trying to keep the stars in my eyes from showing. I had a delicious secret, shared only with my husband, Stewart Carnall. I continued to live at home, just as though nothing had happened, but I couldn’t tell my parents. It was because of them that I had to keep my marriage a secret. (More on this later.) I couldn’t even tell my dearest friends, girls or boys. And that’s where the most awful trouble began. I had to hurt one of the nicest boys I know, hurt him badly and not even explain. . . .

That boy was Frankie Avalon. I had met him the summer I was sixteen, when I was going steady with Ricky Nelson. I liked Frankie right away, admired him—nothing more of course, because I thought I was in love with Rick. But the romance blew up, because Ricky didn’t belong to me and never could. The breakup left me terribly hurt.

Perhaps I’m a possessive type of girl. Anyway, I wanted to be first in some man’s life—someone who belonged to me, someone I belonged to. And then Stewart Carnall came along. My kid brother Larry, and I were appearing as The Collins Kids in Las Vegas, and that’s where I met Stew. He’s tall, blond and handsome, and nine years older than I am. We started seeing each other in Vegas, and I felt so comfortable with him—much more comfortable than I’d ever felt with Ricky. Ricky was a boy, completely wrapped up in his own work and his own problems. Stew was a man. I liked the way he wouldn’t let me stay out late because he knew it wouldn’t be good for me; I liked the way he held my arm protectively. One day, in Vegas, he took me to Boulder Dam and we had a glorious time. He said, “A girl like you shouldn’t be in the setting of Las Vegas. You belong in the open air here, not in the casinos.”

The day after Stew left Las Vegas, I drove home with my family. That evening Stew came to our house to see me. My folks were around while he was there. They had no idea we had fallen in love; they’d have hit the ceiling at the idea. My mother had married when she was fifteen. Even though it was a happy marriage, she felt that a girl misses something by tying herself down too young. Since I had started on a career, she wanted me to make something of myself before I thought of marriage and all its responsibilities.

Then one evening Stew asked me to marry him. I couldn’t give him an answer. That night I sounded my mother out on the idea of my getting married—without actually telling her about my proposal. “Of course I want to see you marry some day,” she said. “But not for three or four years.”

My parents didn’t even want me to go steady again, for they knew how broken up I’d been after my romance with Ricky ended. So in order to see Stew at all, I had to pretend he was just a friend—not someone I cared seriously about.

We lived a lie

Even before Stew and I ran off on our secret elopement, we started to live a lie. My parents had no idea we were in love. We put on an act for them.

Since Stew was in show business, managing Johnny Cash, they thought he just liked to pal around with singers like Larry and me. When Larry and I did a show in Fresno, Stew visited me backstage. My parents were around, too. I drove home with my parents and my brother. Stew drove home himself. I didn’t have the courage to say I wanted to go with Stew.

We couldn’t stall much longer. One night Stew said, “Let’s just go to Las Vegas and get married.”

“I’d love to,” I hesitated, “but my parents would never consent . . . But I do love you, Stew . . . What shall I do?”

We decided not to wait, but to elope as quickly as possible and not tell anyone about it. I really believed that was the only possible solution. Maybe it was.

One Sunday afternoon Stew came over. We said we were going to Santa Anita to look at some horses Stew was interested in buying. My parents let me go, but I had to be home by midnight.

Instead of looking at horses we drove to the Burbank airport and took a plane for Vegas for a quick ceremony. I lied and said I was eighteen. Our cab driver was our witness. Then we chartered a plane for home. I slipped inside the door exactly five minutes before midnight.

Stew came into the house with me. My parents asked us about the horses, and we both had to lie.

I said good-bye to Stew in front of my parents, but I couldn’t even kiss my brand new husband good night. . . .

Then Stew left on tour with Johnny Cash, and of course I couldn’t go with him.

Before he left, he took me in his arms and told me, “Darling, I don’t want to put you on a spot because we’re secretly married. I know you love me, so if you have to date other boys because of your career, I’ll understand. It will be all right. I love you and I trust you.”

I couldn’t pretend

But in spite of what he had said, when boys called me, I turned them down. I just couldn’t go out with anyone else. And my mother just couldn’t understand it.

“Why do you stay home and mope so?” my mother worried. “Why don’t you go out and have some fun . . .?”

Then one Sunday Frankie Avalon came to Hollywood. He phoned me and said, “I’m in town for a few days. I heard you’re not going with Ricky any longer. I’d love to see you. . . .”

My mother was in the room—my brother Larry too. What could I say?

Larry’s a big fan of Frankie’s. He wanted me to ask him to our house; he wanted to see his idol. He pestered me to go. “Go on, Lorrie, he’s a swell guy.” My mother said, “Lorrie, why don’t you go out with him? You haven’t gone out at all lately. And Frankie seems like such a nice boy.”

I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t say, He’s much too nice for me to lie to him like this. I don’t want to lead him on. That’s what I thought—but it I wasn’t ready to confess the lie to my own family.

So I said, “Fine, Frankie. Pick me up.” He did, about an hour later. . . .

Frankie laughed shyly when he saw my funny basset hound Harry and heard my solemn explanation, “I want to take Harry along as a chaperone. . . .”

We took my little car and had a wonderful day. I think that if circumstances had been different we would have seen more of each other during his visit. Frankie’s lots of fun to be with—and yet so shy. Where Ricky is sure of himself, Frankie is quiet and sweet.

I almost broke down

Still, Frankie felt comfortable with me, I believe. He told me about his family; he even told me I reminded him of his sister Teresa, who has dark hair like mine and is also on the quiet side. When he told me how proud he was that he was going to give her a big wedding soon, I almost broke down and told him about my own wedding. But I couldn’t.

We walked through Holmby Park, hand in hand. All the girls there recognized him and openly envied me for being ‘his girl’ that day.

I didn’t even protest when a photographer took pictures of us on our date.

When he left me, he said, “When can I see you again? Tonight? Tomorrow?”

I didn’t know what to say. I hoped he wasn’t getting too interested in me. I almost told him the truth. But when you start to live a lie, it’s so hard to backtrack. So I just stammered and said, “Maybe.”

He called me. I never returned his call. He got me on the phone a second time and asked, “Why can’t I see you? I thought we got along so well. Don’t you like me?” I didn’t know what to say.

So I just said, “I’m sorry. I’m busy . . .”

My mother couldn’t understand what had gotten into me. My brother thought I was terrible to treat a nice guy like Frankie that way. I felt terrible too, and ran into my room and cried.

Eventually the strain was over. The newspapers found out about Stew and me and headlined:


I was terribly sorry my family had to find out that way instead of from me. But they are very loving and understanding and have forgiven me. And I must admit I was relieved that the lie was over. The only thing I regret now is that I may have hurt Frankie. I’m afraid he must have thought, reading those headlines, Why did she lie to me? How could she lead me on and let me think she liked me, when all the time she was another man’s wife . . . ?

The trouble with being secretly married is—marriage just isn’t a private affair. Too many people are involved—not just the bride and groom, as I had thought. Too many people can be hurt. I’m glad the secret is out at last.


Frankie can soon be seen in GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND for Warners.