More Celebrities I Have Known

Well.... have known or at least been in the same room with....

Probably the most intense celebrity encounter I ever had was with Mary Miles Minter, a star of silent movies, whose career had ended in scandal way back in the twenties when director William Desmond Taylor was murdered. He was fifty and dating Mabel Normand, but 22-year-old Mary's monogrammed pink nightie and a love letter on her monogrammed pink stationery were found in Taylor's bungalow. Apparently he had also been seeing Mary's mother. Was it the sweet-faced ingenue who killed the famous director, or her jealous mom? Nothing was ever proven, but MMM's career was in the toilet. You can read all about the sordid case in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. The movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was loosely based on Minter's remaining years, with a few details changed to protect the guilty.

(In the same room with Robert Redford, many years ago…when this was written:)
I went to a seminar put on by LA Course Network at the Market Street studio. Dudley Moore rents an office in the building. The Natural occupies several offices for post-production work. Randy Newman has moved a grand piano into Tony Bill's apartment, to work on the score. The program was in the screening room. Around 9:00 three men walked past the door on their way out for the day. One of them was Robert Redford and he said, "Hi folks."

In the same room with…… Liv Ullman, Jerry Brown, at a studio screening.

Somewhere back in the late 1970s or early ‘80s I briefly met Ron Rifkin, who played the district attorney in LA Confidential, as well as about a million other movie and TV roles. People I knew who’d met him before said he was real nice, and they were right.

Gary Shusett, founder of Sherwood Oaks Experimental College is one of the people I feel blessed to have met. Though not a celebrity in sense of having a famous name, he’s been influential and inspirational to hundreds, probably thousands, of people in the film industry. This brilliant innovator is one of my top-level heroes. In April of 1982, Gary visited me in Venice and asked a question I love being asked – “What are your ten favorite movies?” At the time, two of them were Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. Gary said that when director Peter Weir spoke at Sherwood Oaks, they went out afterward to the Magic Castle. He also talked about some of his brother Ron Shusett’s experiences as producer of Alien.

(Not actually met, but felt eminently satisfied by just seeing….)
October 1980 - Wednesday evening we took a ride down to Papa Bach's book store where Tom Robbins was autographing copies of Still Life With Woodpecker. They had him seated at a card table in the alley alongside the store. A band on a flatbed truck played country music. Scads of people waited outside a roped area. I stood back a way and watched for a few minutes. He wore slacks, sneakers, and an expensive-looking light purple sweater, and has medium length graying hair and a nice smile. I had a look at the man and felt the trip worthwhile.

Emerson Symonds was a member of the American College of Sexologists (really, these are serious professionals) and a pioneer in the training and deployment of sex surrogates as an adjunct to talk therapy and other modalities. We had a lengthy, lively correspondence, and met at least once. He was a true original.

RELATED: Celebrities I Have Known Part 1