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    Wish You Had A Date?—Robert Wagner

    Of all the noble American institutions including the Fourth of July, hot dogs, fried chicken and football, I rate dating as just about the finest. And I’m probably as qualified as the next lad to discuss it, though I confess I didn’t pay much attention to girls until I was an old kindergarten alumnus of six. Even then I knew that the best thing about a guy . . . is a doll. And I believe that “gentlemen prefer blondes” isn’t the whole truth. As far as I’m concerned, I prefer them all. And have—ever since I was in the first grade in Detroit and met a certain Miss Dodo Booth.

    She was terribly beautiful with curly hair the color of caramels and we went flying around on my tricycle and were quite an item. In fact it was a very big “thing” between Dodo and me. Naturally we were engaged to be married.

    When I was nine, we left Detroit and I was considerably downcast because I had to leave behind several romantic attachments—particularly a little brunette next door. But when Mother explained they had girls in Hollywood I brightened amazingly. And then I was in the dumps again when I was sent to military academy. Reason? No girls.



    Well, I’m nothing if not accommodating and so here are my own personal dating beefs:

    LITTLE MISS DO-NOTHING. Even if a girl is blessed with Betty Grable’s legs, Piper Laurie’s mouth, Debbie Reynolds’ natural effervescent charms and Elizabeth Taylor’s fabulous blue eyes—if she doesn’t know anything about tennis, swimming, golf, water skiing, modern jazz, the rhumba, movies, books and cares less—she’s not for me. Sure, the face and chassis are the first things to attract a man (with me it’s eyes), but the beautiful dreamer who relies wholly on artificial wiles—the coy glance, the pensive pout, the fluttering lashes for her dating appeal—is strictly from nowhere!

    I like to ask a date to go bowling or rid- ing or swimming, and I admire a girl who is game to try any sport. When Terry Moore and I were in Tarpon Springs, Florida, making “Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef” I asked her if she knew how to shoot pool. She didn’t but was ready to try. Only trouble was she shot a better game than I do—in three lessons! Terry is competition for any man in the matter of sports and she can even fly a plane.






    ALL DRESSED UP—AND NO PLACE TO GO. The girl who makes men wait and wait and wait while she winds up the spit curls makes me—and any other dating male—as furious as a bull full of banderillas. Unpunctuality is bad manners. What it really means is “no one matters but me” and pretty soon no one is around to matter. Terry Moore in this respect is only great. She’s always ready when I arrive, suitably dressed for the occasion, and once in the car she never asks me if her hair is all right, if her lipstick is on straight, if I admire her dress. Like most gents I hate all this. I figure a girl should do the best she can with what attributes nature and the drugstore provide and then not third-degree me about it.

    And girls like Terry, Debbie, Lori Nelson and Susan Zanuck show excellent taste in clothes, it seems to me. For a beach picnic they’d never show up in a white silk suit, big hat or spike heels. They know that levis or shorts, sweater or sports blouse and flat shoes are just right. For my money, blue jeans and slacks are not for the girl who is on the rather wide side.



    Frankly, I am not as impressed by the dernier cri (Listen to R. J.) of style as many of my dates imagine. Too much jewelry can be annoying. Personally (and I hope all my dates are listening) I think all girls should always wear white. Now, don’t throw all your royal purple costumes away; this is only a personal idiosyncrasy.

    Maybe the man in your life believes white belongs only in a hospital ward. But I think it is so dazzling, so clean, so pretty. I’m daffy for gals in white sports clothes, white summer suits, white evening gowns, white everything. And I don’t mind lots of evening accessories that glitter. But hold the rhinestones any other time.






    STOP, LOOK AND GLISTEN. Many girls overdo when it comes to clothes, but I’d say it’s impossible to overdo cleanliness. The best-looking girl at the party is always the one with the well-scrubbed face and the gleaming hair which shows the effect of those hundred strokes every day. Elaborate hairdos don’t thrill me at all, because I love to drive with the top down. If my date will just tie a big handkerchief over her curls to foil the breeze, that’s dandy. But the girl who worries over her sleek hairdo is the opposite of dandy.

    Like most men, I dislike heavy pancaky make-up, gooey lipstick, purple fingernails, and that too-powdered look some girls achieve—the face that looks like nothing so much as a plaster death mask. I’m all for the casual looking girl. Once, when I was skiing, I caught sight of a girl all dressed in woolly white, making a mad dash down a ski slope, her cute, pert face slightly flushed, hair tousled, a fire-engine red scarf casually tied around her throat and she was the prettiest girl I ever saw. In fact she sent me into a complete state of shock. I was getting visions of arranging a meeting. And then I noticed the man waiting for her at the foot of the slope. Too bad. We might have been a “thing.” If you ever run into this girl—minus boyfriend, of course—let me know, will you?



    Grooming can be overdone. If there’s one thing that makes me flip it’s the character with bored pseudo-elegance—you know, like the chi-chi type of fashion model with white, white face and a gash of red, red mouth, the one always draped against an Egyptian pyramid. She’s the type who goes in for a long cigarette holder, is the epitome of how-tiresome-can-life-get, who holds her coffee cup as if she’s afraid of it and who nibbles at food with neither warmth nor gusto—and who approaches life the same way. Such a doll buries all her natural appeal and spontaneity in a mess of artificiality.

    I like a natural girl full of honest enthusiasms, one who can have herself a ball at the Palladium enjoying a good dance band and is still having fun at closing time. Of course, this doesn’t mean a victim of perpetual motion who goes around laughing like a zombie.






    THE TOO-EAGER BEAVER. She’s the type that forgets that men invented courting. Too early in the game she decides the Boy in Her Evening is the Man in Her Life. Men still shy away from the direct approach. Like f’r instance, Daisy meets Horace at a party, decides he’s for her after three minutes of chitchat, phones him the next day to invite him to a twosome dinner in her apartment. Such meat-cleaver tactics get a girl nowhere. A friend of mine told me that on the third date he was having dinner with a girl. When the waiter asked her how she liked her rice, she turned to her escort and said, “Thrown at me!”

    Maybe it was funny but it gave him the overwhelming idea that she was already hearing the strains of “Lohengrin.” A calculating gleam in a woman’s eye is recognized as easily as a bird dog scents a covey of quail. When such a girl decides, “This is it,” she forgets to veil that look in her eyes and is already inhaling the imaginary fragrance of orange blossoms. What’s more embarrassing is the too-eager mother who sizes up a man and then starts to snag herself a son-in-law. Smart girls are never too aggressive in chasing after a man.



    On the other hand, the girl who’d like a date but won’t say yes because the man phones at six for a seven o’clock dinner date is committing one of the deadliest dating sins. I, for one, can’t make plans too far in advance (my work schedule won’t let me), and I like to drop by a girl’s house sometimes and say “Let’s go to the beach.” I’m delighted if she’ll grab a bathing suit, and afterwards is agreeable to some Hawaiian-Chinese food at the Beachcombers or a thick rare steak at the House of Murphy or a collection of enchiladas, tamales and tacos at the Casa Cienega.

    But if she expects every date to be a real big evening at Ciro’s or Romanoff’s or the Mocambo, she’ll have to find herself another boy. After all, I’m operating on $35 a week (that’s what I’m allowed by my business manager who happens to be my dad). In some plush spots that will hardly cover a steak dinner, drinks, tax and tips. But about once a month I like a big evening if there is someone my date and I want to see—Billy Daniels, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee or Bill Eckstine at a night club.






    GOOD HUMOR ISN’T JUST AN ICE CREAM. One of the first things I look for in a girl is a well-developed sense of humor. I like to kid, affectionately, to play practical jokes and in return I enjoy being ribbed myself. And an expert in this department is Charlotte Austin, who can catch any gag, no matter how high-flying, and toss it right back at you.

    That’s one reason I like to be with show people—their wonderful sense of humor. When I was first starting in pictures I went around with a girl who was attending a finishing school. I couldn’t keep up with her crowd’s activities and report clear-eyed and wide-awake on the set so early in the morning. It was a shame when I had to leave a party that showed great promise. And I was afraid to discuss my work for fear they’d think, “All R. J. does is yak about himself.”

    But with a crowd interested in acting it’s fun to chase around to movies—domestic and foreign—and then get into hot arguments over who was “with it” and who was lousy in the film and why. In a daze we stroll to the nearest coffee pot and tear the picture limb from limb. That’s why I’ve enjoyed dating such girls as Gloria Lloyd, who’s Harold’s daughter, Carol Lee Ladd, who’s Alan’s daughter, Melinda Markey, who’s Joan Bennett’s, and Michele Farmer who calls Gloria Swanson “Mom.” It figures that a girl who isn’t interested in films would find these gabfests boring.






    HOLD THAT LINE. Some boys think the only road to popularity when boy meets girl is a well developed “line.” Lots of girls think so too. But I disagree. And I’m embarrassed by the girl who just must be the life of the party and gets louder and louder as the evening wears on. One night when I was with such a girl—a shoe kicker-offer—I was reminded of myself at my fourth birthday party. I got more and more excited until I began to spin like a top and found I couldn’t stop. When my mother grabbed me I burst into tears.

    The wild girl at the party is just displaying a sad lack of judgment. And a pet dislike of mine on double dates is the girl who huddles with her girlfriend and yak-yaks girl talk by the hour. Also, the girl who spends the evening babbling about what a heartbreaker she is, forgets that intelligent listening is a fine trait in anyone. The loud talker, the flirt, the domineering gal are all types men would like to see “get lost.”



    DATING MANNERS. There are a bunch of dating sins which go way beyond good taste and one of the worst is that displayed by the lass who purposefully lays her open compact on the table and proceeds to do an all-over job from foreheard to neck-bone. A bit of brotherly advice to girls is: Never, never use a comb in public. A few disarranged curls are a hundred times better than the unpleasant reaction men get to a female running a comb through her hair.

    Once on a date a girl discovered a chipped nail and put down her fork and nonchalantly began peeling the enamel! Then she took out one of those little boards and began filing the nail. I cringed. She was the same girl who asked me to carry her evening bag. Every half hour she wanted something out of it. A dinner jacket isn’t tailored to hide a bulky evening bag, and I felt as though I were packing a gat!



    Other dating poison includes being a poor dancer; complaining about the evening’s arrangements; expecting expensive entertainment; wearing conspicuous clothing; rating “zero” for effort in grooming; “cat-chatting” maliciously about other girls’ clothes, figures, personality, morals; handing out flattery in wholesale quantities; going on endlessly about other dates; letting a man know too soon where he stands with her and forgetting that an air of mystery is very appealing to any man.

    Finally, I hope you won’t take what I’ve said too seriously. Just remember that that salty song from the “South Pacific” score—“There’s nothing like a dame”—is tops with me!

    THE END

     

    It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE OCTOBER 1953



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