DEVASTATING LESSON IN HOLLYWOOD SURVIVAL
HELLO AMERICA! During the 1950s when returning from Taiwan, I received a call from Steve Mills, Program Director at ABC network in Los Angeles. It was requested that I meet with him concerning becoming the entertainment news reporter for the station. This was, of course, the dream-phone call I had hoped for a long time.
The session with Mills went well. He informed me that another columnist, RONA BARRETT, was also being considered for this spot. We each had to produce five film interviews with stars and the selection would be based on the results of the tests. I quickly arranged for BETTE DAVIS, RICHARD ZANUCK, JR, DAVID WEISBART (Valley of the Dolls Producer), PATTI PAGE (Singer) DAVID ALEXANDER (F-Troop Dir.) and AGNES MOOREHIEAD, all very good friends of mine.
“It was during the interview with Alexander that I sensed something strange. One of Warner’s PR women was suddenly present to oversee everything. At one point I heard her remark: “Are they really serious about hiring a Black to do this kind of thing? They can’t be serious!” Later I was told she was a close friend of Rona.
This suspicion intensified when Ron Waters (Award winning Makeup Artist), Chris Robinson (General Hospital star) and I attended a film preview at the Writers Guild. After being seated, I found that I had neglected to pick up a credit sheet on the film in the lobby. As I walked towards the front, I spotted this “Dorothy” and Rona snuggled together in the last row of the theater. I pretended not to see them. Never the less, it quickly opened my eyes as to what might have been going on.
A few weeks later, all our tests were in the can. Ultimately, Steve Mills called to tell me that the station had decided to go with Rona. He added that my tests hadn’t worked out. He was apologetic and hoped there might be another opportunity for me in the future. He then hung up.
Later that day, still numbed by the Mills decision, I received another call from a sympathetic secretary at ABC hinting that all of my tests had been tampered with. The images were blurred and out of sync, so much so, it was impossible to identify anyone on the film at all. She further hinted that Jack Smith had made sure that Rona got the job. “Some dirty tricks were obviously played,” she said, “So please don’t think it was you. Steve would have gone along with another set of tests for you, but Jack told him not to. And unfortunately, Steve trusts him.” The secretary suggested that I call the film library and request that my tests be delivered to my place, so that I could see for myself what had happened.
There were no distinguishable images and the sound was defective. My tests were one big blur. “I’m sorry to tell you pal,“ Chris said, “but you’ve been had.” Ron looked just as shocked as I was, and whispered, “Sabotage, that’s the only word for it.”
Even though it was a devastating experience, it, however, forced me to open my eyes to the kind of world I was struggling to be a part of; It was survival of the fittest, a valuable realization to accept or really believe what people might do in order to succeed or achieve their dreams as well. Obviously, I had still had much to learn about survival.