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Authors: Sally Kellerman

Read My Lips

BOOK: Read My Lips
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Read My Lips

Read My Lips

                              
Stories of a Hollywood Life

        
SALLY KELLERMAN

Copyright © 2013 by Sally Kellerman

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Publisher. For information address Weinstein Books, 250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

Editorial production by
Marra
thon Production Services.
www.marrathon.net

Book Design by Lisa Diercks.

Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN: 978-1-6028-6201-2

Published by Weinstein Books

A member of the Perseus Books Group

www.weinsteinbooks.com

Weinstein Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, call (800) 810–4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]
.

First edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my fascinating, uber-mensch of a husband and my precious children, who lovingly dragged me kicking and screaming into adulthood. I love you all madly.

Contents

Preface

Prologue
:
Just a Small Town Girl

CHAPTER
1
:
The Day I Ruined My Life

CHAPTER
2
:
Make Believe

CHAPTER
3
:
Check, Please

CHAPTER
4
:
Loss and Longing

CHAPTER
5
:
Pushing the Limits

CHAPTER
6
:
Hit the Deck

CHAPTER
7
:
Never the Same Again

CHAPTER
8
:
The Wheel of Fortune

CHAPTER
9
:
Flirting with Politics

CHAPTER
10
:
Advice Given and Ignored

CHAPTER
11
:
Reaching Down, Reaching Out

CHAPTER
12
:
Chasing Garbo

CHAPTER
13
:
Love and Therapy

CHAPTER
14
:
God Laughs While We Make Plans

CHAPTER
15
:
Two, No Three, Little Surprises

CHAPTER
16
:
Lost and Found

CHAPTER
17
:
The Next Chapter

Acknowledgments

Index

Preface

T
O MY READERS . . .

This is my memoir. In my case, that means anything I can remember.

It is a collection of experiences that made me laugh or cry—stories of people I’ve loved, of lessons I’ve learned and have yet to learn. There is some X-rated language and the odd X-rated visual description.

My mom—a darling, five-foot-two Arkansan, New Orleans, piano-playing, warm, a-tad-judgmental, spiritual, generous, thoughtful, kind mom—wanted a lady. My dad—a funny, handsome, sentimental, good man who said what was on his mind, was a tad controlling, and worried about how I’d turn out—wanted a lady too.

Instead they got an actress, a singer, an entertainer.

“Please don’t be like Carole Lombard,” my mom said to me when I was little. She once overheard Lombard say “shit” in Bullock’s Department Store. “And please don’t be like Aunt Moatsie. She wore slippers to the market . . .”

I wasn’t enough like Carole Lombard when I tested for her life story, but I did wear slippers to the market.

PROLOGUE
Just a Small Town Girl

I
T WAS
H
ALLOWEEN.
I
CAME ONSTAGE WITH MY BACK TO THE
audience, dressed in black from head to toe. I had some of my favorite guys backing me that night: Lyman Medeiros on bass, my wonderful musical director Ed Martel on keyboards, and Dick Weller on drums. The band was playing spooky music from
Phantom of the Opera,
and the lighting was eerie green. The room, I’m so happy to say, was packed.

These days Vitello’s is my club of choice when I’m in town, somewhere to develop my show, try out new material, and keep on singing. Over the years I’ve worked many different clubs in LA, my hometown, where I’ve had all my successes and made all my mistakes.

Vitello’s is a little Italian spot on Tujunga Avenue in Studio City, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant serving the kind of food that I could eat every night—and do. Spaghetti marinara, thin-crust pizza, delicious salads—you get the idea—served on white tablecloths, with lit candles, by waiters so good you don’t know they’re there. The club has about a hundred seats, and guests can eat a little dinner, sip a little wine, and enjoy music from all kinds of top-notch performers, like the great arranger-songwriter Johnny Mandel who wrote “The Shadow of Your Smile.”

Since it was Halloween, I opened with an eerie version of “I Put a Spell on You,” then moved on to songs like “Spooky” and “Love Potion Number Nine.” At one point in the show, I went into the audience, as I always do (I love to see all the faces and sing to them up close), greeting every table. That night I passed out candy wrapped as eyeballs. “I’ve got a crush on you . . .” I’d croon. “Would you care for an eyeball?” I talked a little, joked with the band, and sang a lot. It was an especially silly night, but for me, singing is freedom. I was in heaven. Before I knew it, it was time to take a bow, hug some friends, and pack up to go home.

Don Heckman, a well-known music journalist who now heads up the
International Review of Music,
came to see me perform. He loved the show and reviewed it the next day. “Even when she’s not doing a mini-Halloween celebration,” he wrote, “Sally’s performances are all utterly mesmerizing, overflowing with humor, atmosphere, and musicality. . . . At her best, and in a crowded female vocal field, she is one of the rare true originals.”

It feels good to get such encouragement from a critic I respect, especially for doing something I love as much as performing live.

Yes, I was one of those kids who wanted to perform from the very first moment I could stand on two legs, find my lungs, and hold a makeshift prop. Sure, I’m better known to audiences as an actress than as a singer. However, for me, there’s never been a separation between singing and acting. Singing is acting; it’s telling a story through music. Acting may have been my chief role for a long while, but singing has always been its understudy; now it’s taking the lead. Over my more than fifty years as a performer, I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, screwed up a lot up and gotten some things right. And I’ve done it all here, where I call home: Los Angeles.

I love Los Angeles. It may be a huge metropolis but it is still my little town, the one I’ve known all my life, for better or worse, through richer and poorer, through blue skies and smog. I have always lived within a twenty-file-mile radius of where I was born and raised, so I feel like a real small town girl in many ways.
Today, LA is sprawling and still growing. There’s so much traffic that I can take a nap between signals.

Down the hill to the south from my home in the Hollywood Hills is the entertainment capital of the world. I’ve watched West Hollywood grow from a little burg to an incorporated city. I’ve seen wide open spaces get gobbled up, from the Hollywood Hills and the Valley to Studio City and Santa Monica, with builders scrambling to make their creations safer from inevitable earthquakes.

But to me Hollywood is still the place where Santa Monica Boulevard had one shoe repair joint, Coombs Hardware store, and a five and dime. It’s where I stood in front of Schwab’s Pharmacy on Sunset Boulevard—the main drag of much of my life—talking to my friends about acting or boys. It’s where I got malts on Hollywood Boulevard; and at night, left the door to my apartment unlocked. Open. Free.

We have grown and changed a lot over the years, my town and me. If Hollywood is about anything, it’s about reinvention and survival. Hollywood has taught me plenty about both, whether I wanted to learn those lessons or not.

I have always known I would never live anywhere else, no matter what my life held in store. After all: Every great Hollywood story needs a strong third act. I’m working on mine.

CHAPTER 1
The Day I Ruined My Life

T
O ME
H
OLLYWOOD WAS NEVER ABOUT GLAMOUR OR FAME.
I
T
was about the work, going to class, doing plays. But that didn’t mean I was immune to its charms. I’ve always loved movie stars—Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Greta Garbo, Vivian Leigh, and my darling Jennifer Jones—as well as musical stars like Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and, of course, Doris Day.

Then one day, when I was around fifteen years old, I saw Marlon Brando in
Viva Zapata
! Marlon was changing the face of acting then—and with it, my life. There he was on the screen, gazing casually out the window, wearing white Mexican drawstring pajamas, with Jean Peters spread out behind him in bed. The minute I saw him in those pants—no shirt—standing at the window with that steamy sexuality oozing from his every pore, everything changed. I changed. There was a new reality, and it was his raw vulnerable emotion and sex. From then on out I saw every one of Brando’s pictures five, six, even seven times.
The Wild One, On the Waterfront, The Men, Guys and Dolls, Sayonara
—I never missed a one.

And then one night lightning struck: I actually met Marlon in the flesh at Cosmo Alley. Just south of Hollywood Boulevard, it
was a club behind the Ivar Theater that was a quick stroll from some great fixtures of 1950s Hollywood that are still going strong today: the Pantages and Musso and Frank’s. You could hear folk and blues at the Cosmo, and it was one of my favorite places to hear jazz. It was dark, nothing fancy to it. Just throw on some jeans and go hear some music and forget your troubles. I even subbed there as a waitress a few times.

BOOK: Read My Lips
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