What they’re saying about Dianne Lennon?
The telephone rang and Dianne was sure it must be for her. Dick had always been one for calling many times a day, and now with the wedding approaching. . . . But Mrs. Lennon was the one who got to the phone first and answered. And it wasn’t Dick. It was a woman’s voice. Though Dianne couldn’t make out the words, she saw her mother’s face, frowning a little as if she were concentrating on a difficult question. She heard her mother answer:
“Why, certainly, there’s going to be a wedding.” That question! There must have been fifty calls lately with that question. Why would anybody ask such a question? Who could be spreading rumors that she and Dick weren’t going to be married? Why would anybody want to do such a thing?
She felt odd as she walked to a corner of the living room where Kathy was sitting deep in her own thoughts, a magazine closed on her lap. Dianne didn’t disturb Kathy—when a big family lives in a little house, you learn not to get into each other’s hair. She just sank down on to a low seat and sat with her chin resting on her hand, brooding over the unfairness of people who must be such miserable human beings, themselves, that they couldn’t take pleasure in the happiness of others. All they could do was contribute to spoiling it! But what a mean rumor to spread when everything was ready for the wedding.
She took her hand away from her face and looked down at her engagement ring, twisting it on her finger without being aware that she was doing it. Because she was thinking—and remembering—back to the day when she and Dick had bought it.
They’d been going together for some time. Dating, not at night clubs and fancy spots but simple fun things. Miniature golf, or a church social and dance, a drive-in movie with a Coke and hot dog after. Or an evening of classical jazz—they both enjoyed New Orleans jazz, especially. Sometimes all they did was baby-sit for some married friends so they could step out of an evening. Whatever it was, she liked to let Dick take the initiative. And now that they knew of their love, he had made a major decision. She was to have her engagement ring.
They went to pick it out without first telling the family—they wanted to spring their big news as a surprise. Together they chose a beautiful solitaire and decided that the Fourth of July celebration was the perfect time to show it.
So, on the night of the Fourth, Dick took her to dinner first at the Sea Lion Inn. While they were alone, he slipped the ring on her finger. They drove down to Ocean Park where the whole community had turned out for the fireworks. Thousands of cars were parked by the beach to watch the fireworks, and they went looking for her family. They found the car finally, crammed with Lennons little and big—and all simply entranced by the Roman Candles shooting to the skies with deafening explosions.
Dick and Dianne came up to the folks and Dick shouted over the racket, “We have something to show you all. Deed and I are engaged.” Just in case they couldn’t hear him, he held up her hand for them to see. And then the fireworks were nothing compared to the excitement of DeDe’s engagement ring.
Now they had the wedding ring to go with it. A band with three baguette diamonds.
Everything was ready
Her wedding dress was ready, too. But until the moment when she walked down the aisle to Dick on her father’s arm, she wouldn’t allow him to see the flowing gown of white silk organza, long to the floor, and the little chapel veil she’d wear. This was to be his surprise.
The wedding was going to be held in St. Mark’s Church, right next door to home. Everyone was saying oh, they’ll never get all those Lennons and all those Gasses and all those friends of DeDe’s and Dick’s crammed in. Nevertheless, it was going to take place in the family church, where else?
Peggy was going to make a lovely maid of honor. For bridesmaids, she was having her childhood friend, Claudine Capp, and Kathy, and Dick’s sister Patsy. Janet was to be a junior bridesmaid along with her best girlfriend Joannie Esser. And there would be two tiny flower girls, one from each side of the families—Mimi Lennon and Debbie Gass.
Suddenly, she got up from the low seat where she’d been daydreaming, and went to her room to find the little swatch of material from the attendants’ dresses. She’d saved it for a color sample. Yes, it was lovely. She was glad they had settled for aqua.
There were packages all around the room—more wedding gifts.
One of their earliest gifts was touching because it was from a fan. An elderly lady had embroidered pillowcases for them. They were charming, and Dianne cherished them as she did all the gifts that came—from fans and friends and family. Those close to them knew that she and Dick loved Early American, and some lovely old pieces had been received. Dick had spent one whole happy weekend sanding down and refinishing two tables a friend gave them. They went well with the Colonial rocker from another friend, and with their silver and dishes. But there was one terrifically 1960 present that any bride would be delighted to get—a washing machine from Joannie Esser’s mother. “Why,” her own mother kidded her, “I never had a washing machine until my second child was born.”
The house that was ready and waiting for them used to belong to Dick’s parents, it was the house he’d been raised in. When Dick’s family moved to a bigger place, he thought about it and bought it for their own future home. While he was in the Army it had been rented out, but now they would move into it themselves. Some newlyweds might want a brand-new house that nobody had used before, but they loved this one for the very fact that it had seen so much of living. It was full of memories for Dick. And now they would make their own memories, and some day their children would add theirs. “A dozen babies,” they had both said, only half-joking. They were in tune to big families—eleven children in hers, and eight in his. She knew all about taking care of children, from babies on up. And she had no worry. Dick was wonderful with them. He was the idol of all the little Lennons, and when he sometimes helped her babysit, even the boys obeyed him as readily as they obeyed Daddy. That was because he knew when to be firm and when to be fun.
Dick was always fun
And he was great fun to be in love with. One of her fondest memories took her back to the days before they were engaged, when they were going steady.
Dick was working for the telephone company as a wire splicer. Wherever he landed on repairs he’d plug in his testing phone to a main line and call her—sometimes a half a dozen times in one day. He’d phone from deep down under manholes or high up on telephone poles.
One evening he had her out for a ride and stopped way out on Route 101. “I want to introduce you to some of my friends,” he said, and helped her out of the car. For a moment she was puzzled because there wasn’t a soul in sight, or a place where people could be. But he led her to an open manhole with a guard rail around it and a ladder leading down. He shouted, “Hi!” At his call, faces popped up. “Fellows,” he said, “I want you to meet my girl, Dianne Lennon.”
They stopped at manhole after manhole that night. Earlier in the day, there had been a furious electric storm and cables were down all over the area. So Dick, who happened to have the evening free, took her around to meet his friends. He was proud of her—not because she was one of the singing Lennon Sisters, but because she was his girl.
She looked at the clock and saw that it would soon be time for her, Peg, Kathy and Janet to help Mother with supper. The main course was Mom’s department, but for the rest, the potato peeling, vegetable washing, table setting and such chores, the girls teamed up.
It took a system to feed a family this size, but there was always room at the table for an extra friend or two or three. Especially Dick. It was hard to remember a time when Dick hadn’t been around their house. Actually it was only a few years, though she’d known him most of her life. As a little girl she used to shoot marbles with his kid brother, Mike. She and Dick had been friends before they became steadies, they went steady for some time before getting formally engaged, and now all these growing relationships, they felt, made a firm foundation for husband and wife.
All this she once expressed in a few sentences when a friend of Peggy’s claimed that Dianne and Dick weren’t a very romantic couple because they talked about such practical things—how they’d furnish and decorate the house, how many children they wanted, and such. Peg argued indignantly that DeDe and Dick were very much in love. Later, when Dianne heard about the discussion she had thought about it seriously and felt Peg’s friend didn’t understand. Because when you’re in love for keeps, you’re building on a firm foundation. This marriage is going to be the one and only, it has to be right and forever and what could possibly be more romantic?
The foundation of their love had held well for them more than two years ago when they were already talking marriage and Dick suddenly decided he ought to get his Army service over with first. He had put it up to her over the phone.
“How would you feel about it, Deed, if I didn’t wait to be drafted?” he asked. “If I went into the service now.”
She wanted to cry out, “I’d feel awful!” But she didn’t. She controlled her voice and said, “I guess I’d feel pretty surprised.”
He explained the advantages of going in on your own instead of waiting to be called. It meant you could choose your own branch of service. But the most important advantage was not having this thing hanging over their heads.
“I know it means hardly seeing each other for two years,” he said, “but isn’t it better to go through it now instead of when we’re married?”
“Of course it’s better,” she said finally. “I understand.”
But when they hung up her hands were trembling, and there were tears in her eyes. A week later, he had signed up. In the Paratroopers, of course—he was at home in high places. Inside of two weeks he received official notice to report, and that was when she could actually believe, for the first time, that all this was real.
But she waited for him, marking off the days on her calendar, one by one. She waited because she loved him and he was doing what he considered right for both of them. Every time he could, he came home on leave, but the leaves were all too short and the times between too long.
No more waiting
Now she would never have to wait again. They would never have to be apart again. In a very short time they would be married and she would never leave him to go on tours as one of the four Lennon Sisters. Oh, she would sing with her sisters, but not when it meant leaving home and Dick. Those times the Lennons would be a trio—Peggy, Kathy and Janet. When she traveled and saw new places she would see them with Dick. Then, when she stood before some marvel of Nature, she wouldn’t have to wish that he could be enjoying it, too. On one tour she had stood before Niagara Falls at night, watching the enormous colored ribbons of illuminated water cascading so magnificently that the sight filled her with awe for her beautiful country and this beautiful world. But her first thought was of Dick. “If only he could be here to see this with me.”
“Mrs. Dick Gass”
She heard her mother call “Dianne” and knew that she had fallen to daydreaming, again. She really must go to the kitchen’ tie on her apron and give a hand. Very soon she would be doing these housewifely tasks in her own kitchen for her own husband. Being one of the four Lennons on such a popular show as Lawrence Welk’s was a great thrill and a privilege. But being Mrs. Dick Gass was what she wanted more than anything else in the world. And that she would be soon—very soon.
Rumors or no rumors—a lifetime of happiness together was something that no idle talk could take away from them. The wedding would most certainly take place—on October 16.
—BY RUTH BRITTEN
THE LENNON SISTERS CAN BE SEEN ON THE LAWRENCE WELK DODGE DANCING PARTY” SATURDAYS, OVER ABC-TV, FROM 9-10 P.M., EDT.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1960