Meeting famous people is often a surreal experience for both parties. In 1956 when Elvis Presley arrived in Hollywood he and his entourage stayed at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. One day he got into the elevator. “What floor?” asked the operator. “Tenth please.” The operator looked at him with disdain. “You can’t go up to the tenth floor. Elvis is staying there. No one is allowed there.” A bemused Presley said,” I know. I’m Elvis.” The hotel employee stared at him for a long moment then said,” Well I don’t care who you are, you can’t go to the tenth floor.” The amiable singer agreed to go to the eleventh floor and walked down the stairs to the tenth.
Some entertainment organizations are so vast that employees don’t always recognize the people at the top. Walt Disney who often was harsh with those who worked for him, had no patience for anyone at Disneyland who was rude to the customers or as he put it, the guests. One time when an unfriendly security guard prevented he and his wife Lillian from getting on a ride, Walt fired him reasoning the man would be unpleasant with others. But if someone was doing their job they had nothing to fear from the boss. Once, when Walt was on hand for a demonstration of a new ride a young girl working there chided him for lighting up a cigarette, it wasn’t allowed. Disney, who eventually died of lung cancer, asked, “Whose idea was that?” “Walt Disney’s.” Walt stubbed out the cigarette. “That’s good enough for me.”
Sometimes the famous have a difficult time not being the center of attention. Once at a party at Louis B. Mayer’s house, the mogul was expressing his admiration for a female,” The red hair, the legs, I have never seen such beauty. She walks so regally like a queen”. Greer Garson the new queen of the MGM lot was standing nearby. She walked up to Mayer’s circle and said,” Why thank you Mr. Mayer.” It turned out LB was talking about his new horse.
It’s hard sometimes for stars to remember that not everyone cares about who they are or what they are doing. One time Laurel and Hardy were filming a strange scene in Venice Beach that required the boys to run down a narrow alleyway with their wives chasing them. The women would shoot at them causing innocent men to run out of their nearby apartment buildings in their undergarments and run away, with Stan and Ollie doing double takes. Before shooting the scene Laurel gathered the extras around,” Listen fellas, it’s costing us a fortune to rent out these apartments so I want to get it right the first time. Now when you hear the shots and run out into the alley, don’t linger. We only want you in the scene for about ten seconds.” After the director shouted “ACTION!” the boys ran down the alley, their wives fired their guns, the men in their undergarments ran out and disappeared quickly following Stan’s instructions to the letter. All except one guy who was about thirty seconds late, ran the wrong way, and bumped into Laurel, ruining his close-up.”You bloody fool. You ruined the shot!” shouted Laurel. “I’m not in the movie,” replied the runner.”
Sometimes legends don’t recognize each other. After twenty years in Hollywood Alfred Hitchcock finally became super rich after producing the low budget Psycho (1960). His agent Lew Wasserman convinced him to trade the movie rights for shares of stock in Universal, making the director the third biggest owner of the studio. From then on Hitchcock loved picking up the Wall Street Journal to see if he was wealthier. While directing his last film Family Plot (1975) Hitchcock would arrive at Universal early, sit in his chair and joyfully read about Jaws (1975) which was adding millions to his stock’s value. One day his morning routine was upset by an uninvited young man hovering around the movie set. Hitchcock, who seemed to have eyes in the back of his head called a crew member to have the intruder removed. It turned out to be Jaws Director Steven Spielberg who wanted to meet his idol.
Just because you’re recognized once doesn’t mean you will continue to be. After losing his driving privileges because of drunkenness Sean Penn was forced to ride the city bus. One day another passenger came up to him. “Hey you look like Sean Penn. But I know he wouldn’t be riding a bus.” Penn replied,” How do you know? Do you know Sean Penn?” “Yeah I worked on a film he starred in.” “Oh yeah? Well, what do you think of him?”. “Oh God, he was a total $%#%!”
Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks Fascinating Walt Disney and Tales Of Hollywood. The Saint Louis Post Dispatch says,” these two elaborate productions are exceptionally entertaining.” Hear realaudio samples of these great, unique gifts at http://www.hollywoodstories.com.