“We He Finds Out My Secret Will He Still Want To Marry Me?”
Connie Stevens bounced into the booth for lunch, leaning over to kiss Gary Clark before she sat down. There was nothing bouncy about the kiss. It was tender and careful. And Gary’s smile reflected satisfaction but not even a hint of surprise.
“We have to read the columns every day,” Connie giggled, “to see whether our romance is off or on. It’s certainly not off, although we’re not announcing a formal engagement. You see, we’re trying not to tie each other down, but it’s awfully hard to give up a person who’s been important to you for three years.” She and Gary held hands as she talked. When she paused, it was to look at him for a silent moment.
Connie sighed. “We have to give this some time,” she explained. “There are so many problems in the way of a happy marriage. We have to be sure—and we have the added problem of how our careers will work out.
“You know, when you’re in love, you want the other person to think you’re perfect. At first, I only wanted Gary to see me in my best light. But then, one day, I thought: ‘But I can’t hide everything forever. If he loves me, he’ll be willing to help me. . . . If not, well, it’s best to know before the wedding is all set.’
“You see, I got a special feeling about marriage when I was just a little girl in St. Barbara’s parish. I sang in the choir and saw so many weddings. Since then, I’ve always said, ‘I have to be sure mine will work.’ ”
A wedding day, in St. Barbara’s parish, was always one of crackling excitement. Funerals, fights, elections and confirmations were all exciting events in Connie’s Brooklyn neighborhood, but none could compare with a wedding.
One day, Connie, who was going to sing in the choir for a wedding ceremony that night, was busy rearranging the drape of the dresser scarf she’d pinned to her hair. She pirouetted in front of the mirror. True, the scarf wasn’t as filmy as a veil nor as long and full as one should be, but it did have lace on the edge.
She turned her back to the mirror and studied the effect over her shoulder.
“Good gracious, child,” her grandmother exclaimed, coming through the door with a sack full of groceries. “What are you doing with that scarf on your head? I only ironed it this morning.”
“I know,” Connie said. “I was just borrowing it. I won’t muss it.”
She arranged the lace edging on her forehead and grinned impishly.
“Someday, do you think I’ll be a pretty bride?” she asked, almost in a whisper.
Her grandmother’s face softened with pride.
“So that’s it,” she said. “You’re thinking about the wedding tonight. All brides are pretty.”
Yes, oh, yes. . . . Connie was thinking about the wedding. She’d thought about it all day. In St. Barbara’s parish, a girl’s wedding day was the most important day she’d ever know. It was the day to which she’d been born.
The bride’s entire family became frantic with preparations weeks before the marriage. Papa rented the Masonic hall for the party after the ceremony, and uncles, aunts, cousins and friends put beer on ice and helped make sandwiches and cakes.
This was the kind of wedding celebration Connie wanted someday for herself—a great occasion shared by friends and family.
Even the children on the block, who didn’t know the bridal couple at all, looked forward to each neighborhood wedding. After the ceremony, maybe they could sneak into the Masonic hall for refreshments.
“Grandma,” Connie said, “have you heard what the bride will wear tonight? I hope it’s a long dress with a long veil. It doesn’t matter so much if the bridesmaids’ dresses are short length, but the bride—well—if she wears a short dress she doesn’t seem quite so married to me.”
Connie’s grandmother had finished putting the groceries on the shelves and was tying on her apron.
“It won’t matter so much what she wears,” she said, “as how she can cook. Come here, and I’ll teach you to make lasagne. Any man will be glad to marry you, if you make lasagne like I do.”
Connie laughed and walked over to her grandmother.
In the choir loft of the church, that night, Connie felt the usual pressure in her chest, the hint of tears behind her eyes, as the organ sounded the wedding march.
The attendants came down the aisle. Each bridesmaid was dressed in pale rose velvet and wore a picture hat. The maid of honor wore pale green.
Colors whispered of spring, romance, a rose garden, a new rainbow.
Connie swallowed hard, soaking up the beauty, remembering details for a wedding of her own.
Then came the bride. Her gown was velvet, too. White velvet.
“Eve never seen anything more beautiful,” Connie whispered when it was over. “They’ll have to be happy after a wedding like that. They’ll have to be, or too many people would be let-down . . . all the people in the church.”
Connie, sitting beside Gary in the luncheon booth, said, “I’ve wanted a formal wedding all my life. A formal wedding has a psychological effect. After you’ve taken part in a beautiful sacrament in front of all your friends, you can’t make a fool of yourself by not being happy.”
Connie, despite her impish manner, is deeply sentimental.
“I’m old-fashioned,” she says. “I want to marry in a gown with a high neckline and a long skirt. I want a full veil with a little crown of petals on my head.”
With her hands, she shaped a coronet.
“That pink and green wedding was the prettiest I ever saw—though it does sound horrid—pink and green—ugh—but I’d like my bridesmaids to wear shades of lavender and blue.
“Wouldn’t that be pretty?”
Gary’s eyes twinkled at the question which went, unanswered. There seemed to be another unanswered question in his eyes, too. When, Connie, when?
If Connie sensed the question, she seemed not to want to answer it right then, for she was smiling mischievously and had begun to talk about her “secrets.”
“My husband,” she was saying, “will have to be a very tolerant man.
“For instance, I hate housework, generally, and I have three dogs. Anybody who marries me will have to support three dogs! How much, Gary, do you suppose the dogs eat?” she asked him.
“Everything they can get,” Gary said laughing. “And what the dogs don’t get, the girls will!”
Connie whooped with laughter.
“Those girls!” she exclaimed. She was talking about her little nieces whom she adores. She even invited them to go with her when she was making a picture layout, recently, somewhat to the consternation of the photographer.
“Before I spent time around them,” Connie said, “I told everybody I wanted ten children. Not now! They’ll kill me. It’s hard to understand how two little, angel-faced children can completely exhaust an adult—emotionally, physically and mentally—as quickly as those two can. Certainly I want children, but I’ve changed my mind about wanting ten!
“My children,” Connie continued, “will be reared in the Catholic faith. There can’t be any compromise. I’m Catholic, and my children will be, but, as far as my husband is concerned, I’d be happy for him to go to any church he wishes— or none.
“I don’t think spoiled children are happy children, so I expect to be firm with mine.
“Although I don’t want ten—goodness, that would be a crowd—I do like big families. Anybody I marry has to understand how I feel about that and will have to get along with all my relatives.”
Meeting the folks
Here Gary interrupted.
“Gosh, I’ll never forget the first time I met her family. The first time Connie took me home to dinner.”
Connie and Gary had been working, together, on a picture. Both were young and lively and handsome. Both sang. So it had been almost inevitable they had become good friends.
Connie, always outgoing, always quick to make friends, had started the wheels turning by inviting Gary to dinner.
‘I’m starved,” she had said, one evening, as she slipped on her coat to prepare to leave the set. “If it weren’t so fattening, I’d like a peanut butter sandwich right now.”
“I don’t want a peanut butter sandwich,” Gary said, “but I could sure use a chocolate sundae. How about it? Why don’t I drive you home and we’ll stop off somewhere for a sundae or something?”
Connie, stuffing her lipstick back into her purse, and gathering up odds and ends she’d left on the edge of the set, shook her head.
“I have an idea,” she said. “Why don’t you come home with me and have dinner with the family. I want you to meet my father, uncles, everybody. They’re great.”
“Are you sure they won’t mind?” Gary said a little hesitantly. “I mean, will there be enough to eat?”
“Oh, sure,” she said. “No chocolate sundaes, but plenty to eat. We always have enough for company. Come on.”
Then, without allowing time for argument, she grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the door. . . .
“I went out and had dinner with her family all right,” Gary remembers, “while Connie went out with a date!”
“You see,” Connie explains, “as we sat down to the table, the phone rang. It was a boy reminding me we had a date that night. I’d completely forgotten. And I could hardly tell him that.”
Connie laughed and said, “It always seems so strange when I think of that evening because now I’m madly jealous of Gary. I’m always worrying his friends to find out who he’s been out with. You see, both of us still date other people.”
“I guess I’m just as bad,” Gary admitted. “Although I was always warned to be wary of a jealous woman!”
“Something else a husband will have to tolerate,” continued Connie, “is my terrible habit of lateness.”
“And you know what her answer always is?” interrupted Gary. “She says, ‘It’s not that I’m not punctual—it’s just that I’m never ready on time.’ ”
“And he’ll have to know that I’m scared—frantically scared—of mice,” she said, ignoring Gary’s remark.
“While I hate to clean house,” Connie continued, “I like my home to look neat One of the big troubles, I think, in marriages, is the failure of people to enjoy their homes.
“When a couple invites guests for dinner, what happens? They reserve a table at a restaurant, and they all eat out.
“When I marry, I’ll want to invite friends home and cook for them myself. My lasagne is pretty good—just like Grandmother taught me to make—and it will be fun, cleaning and polishing until the house shines all over with a company’s-coming look.
“When you cook and clean for people, they know their friendship means something special to you.
“About the only things I can cook are lasagne and steak. Mayonnaise gives me a trauma. I can’t stand gobs of mayonnaise on things, but Gary loves it. He’s always forgetting and smearing it all over my sandwiches.” Then she laughed and added, “But I can overlook that, though.”
Suddenly, she looked more serious and said, “When I marry, I won’t budget. Does that sound crazy? Even though we might be almost broke, I couldn’t stand to cut out all the extras—the luxuries. That would take the fun out of marriage. I’d rather surprise my husband and treat myself with an occasional luxury even if I had to do without a near-necessity.
“But Gary can’t say he hasn’t been fully warned about this,” she grinned. “He’s come to the supermarket with me, and watched me buy water-chestnuts or mushrooms, instead of the flour we came for in the first place. When Gary comes over for dinner, I’ll fix big desserts, even when money’s scarce, and I’ll buy butter instead of margarine, though margarine might be more sensible.
“Marriage shouldn’t be sensible all the time. It should be fun,” she remarked, sounding far older than her years.
“But marriage has to be more than fun. I do not believe in divorce, and this isn’t altogether a matter of my religion. I just don’t believe marriage is a thing you can turn on and off like a lamp switch. once you are married, you’re not the same any more. Let me tell you a story to explain:
“My best friend was getting married. We’d always shared everything—talked about boys, about petting, ditched school together—we’d done everything together.
“I was to be her maid of honor. Naturally, I wondered how marriage would affect our friendship, but she was taking everything so calmly that I thought, ‘This is nothing. Everything will be just as it’s always been.’
“But, all of a sudden, as I watched her go down the aisle to her bridegroom, I knew nothing would ever be the same again. In a sense, she’d walked away from me.
“She wasn’t a little girl. She was a woman, and, though I was still her friend, I wasn’t important anymore. I think, right then, I understood better than I’d ever understood before just how tremendous marriage is.
“You can’t erase it.”
The big temptation
Connie was quiet for a moment. She leaned over and held Gary’s hand, again.
‘‘Making a marriage work in Hollywood, must be very difficult,” she said quietly. “The women here are the most attractive in the world, I think. They make a career of being so. And a man who plays love scenes with a beautiful woman, who eats lunch with her, who is with her more than he’s with his wife, is facing big temptation. I don’t know how I’d feel knowing my husband was kissing some gorgeous woman every day.
“In Hollywood, when you marry, I believe you should be aware of the extra hazards.
“Oh, I might not be easy to live with,” Connie confessed. And Gary smiled. “I never go to bed before midnight—never. And I’m stubborn. I just have to have my own way about certain things.
“Holidays are big things with me. I like to celebrate them with my family—the whole gang. We never have fewer than fourteen or fifteen for dinner on holidays. Fortunately, I’ve never been out with a boy who didn’t like my relatives.
“I believe a man should handle the family finances, but, when each partner works, a wife should keep one account just for herself to do with as she pleases.
“I’d want to keep working after I marry. I know that would mean I’d be away from home a lot—travel some. So the man I marry will have to understand this.
“Gary and I have done so many things together,” Connie said. “We like to go for long walks or spend hours at the beach, just talking. I guess, little by little, I’ve told him almost everything about my past. He’s so easy to talk to,” she said, giving his hand a grateful squeeze, “and he’s so understanding.”
Then she leaned forward and, looking seriously at Gary, said, “But there’s one secret you don’t know about me . . . yet.”
Hiding behind her hand, she leaned over and whispered in his ear.
Gary looked startled. “You do what!” he exclaimed.
This time, Connie spoke out loud. “I knew it would get back to you, even if I didn’t want to tell you,” she said. “Remember last weekend, when I told you I went to San Francisco with those married friends of mine? Well, on Sunday morning, the girl came into my room while I was still in bed. She gave me such a strange look.
“ ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
“ ‘No . . . nothing,’ she answered, after a moment. ‘It’s just that you look . . . well, I never saw anybody look the way you do the first thing in the morning.’
“I wasn’t sure just what she meant, so I didn’t say anything. But. at breakfast, she kept talking about it. She gave her husband a blow by blow description of what I’d looked like. Frankly, it was a little embarrassing. And then she said, ‘I can’t wait till we get back to Hollywood so I can tell Gary about it.’ And no matter how much I begged, she insisted she had to tell you. So I figured it would be better if you heard it from me first.”
“Well,” Gary said, impatiently, “what is it?”
“It’s my eyes. You see, Gary,” she said, almost whispering, “I sleep with my eyes on.”
Gary still looked puzzled.
“I mean my eye makeup,” she explained. “I always wear it, even at home when I might not have any lipstick on or my nose might be shiny, I’m never without my eyes. Even when I sleep I wear it.”
Gary thought about it a moment. Finally, he said, “Well, I’m glad you told me about it.” He paused and then added, “I don’t think it should make any real difference between us. . . .
“As a matter of fact,” he said, “there’s something else I’ve been wanting to ask you about.”
“Well . . . what I’ve been wondering is . . . I hope you don’t mind my asking . . . but do you kiss with your eyes open or closed?”
“You don’t know?” Connie asked, blushing.
“Nope,” Gary laughed. “You see, I close mine!”
SEE CONNIE STEVENS IN “HAWAIIAN EYE,” ON ABC-TV, WED. 9:00-10:00 P.M. EDT. AND HEAR HER SING ON WARNERS’ LABEL. BE SURE AND WATCH FOR HER IN “PARRISH” FOR WARNER BROS.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JULY 1960