BITS and PIECES # 8

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October 31, 2012 by palamow

BITS and PIECES # 8

Hello again from Luquillo,

The presidential election is only a few days away – if you are a ‘regular’ at this ‘blog-space’, you may recall that I have vowed to avoid all political rhetoric in my writings – I continue to honor that stipulation – however, I urge you all to vote on next Tuesday, whatever your political conviction or party loyalty – I believe, and I’m sure you will agree, that voting is one of the most precious rights that our country’s constitution guarantees us…

Enough said…

Today’s post is yet another narrative plucked from my shady past – this one involves a bit of larceny – I sense that the time is ripe to finally ‘come clean’ about my former life as an arch criminal…

Read on and discover the sordid details:

THE SUNSET TOWERS HEIST

I had just turned fifteen – my parents were entertaining real estate developer Donald Alvord and his wife Evelyn at our Beverly Hills home – they were new friends from Florida who had come to California on vacation – Dad had met them a few months before while making the film “Crosswinds” with John Payne and Rhonda Fleming in Weeki-Watchee Florida, near the Alvord’s home in Clearwater Beach.

When dad enquired which Hollywood luminaries that the Alvord’s would like him to invite to a pool-side gathering he was organizing for them, Mr. Alvord quickly replied “We’d certainly like to see Rory Calhoun again – he worked for me driving trucks before he was picked-up by the movies.”  Dad’s call with the invitation was quickly accepted by Mr. Calhoun – he said he was ‘Excited by the chance to see his old boss again.’

Mr. Calhoun was born in California – his father died when he was still an infant – his mother remarried and she and her new husband raised him until his teen years. At age thirteen, he stole a revolver, a crime that sent him to California’s Preston reformatory.  He escaped soon after and robbed several jewelry stores, stole a car and drove it across state lines – a federal offense. When he was recaptured, he was sentenced to three years in the penitentiary at Springfield, Missouri.  After finishing his sentence, he was transferred to California’s San Quentin prison to serve time for the gun and jewelry theft charges, remaining there until he was paroled, a few days before his twenty-first birthday.  After his release he wandered aimlessly around the country, working odd-jobs, one of which was driving a truck for Mr. Alvord. The truck was used to transport illegally imported shipments of rum from Cuba to east coast cities (a ‘sideline’ business of Mr. Alvord)…

By the time that dad invited him to reconnect with the Alvords, he was an established movie actor, having been discovered, and subsequently helped along by established film actor Alan Ladd and his talent agent wife Sue Carol.

I knew none of this as I trimmed our front lawn with our pre-war push-mower on that sunny Saturday morning in June that Mr. Calhoun pulled to the curb in front of our home. Dressed entirely in black from head to western boots, he was driving a tiny ‘fire engine red’ MG-TD British sports car. As he unfolded his lanky frame from the driver’s seat, he stuck out his hand and said “I’m Rory Calhoun, is this Alan’s house?”  I replied “Yes sir, I’m his son – he’s working on a script in his study – come on, I’ll take you to him.”  I opened the front door and ushered him down the hall and through the living room to dad’s study – it was early in the morning – the Alvord’s party wasn’t scheduled to begin until later that afternoon.  After they chatted for a while, he excused himself, telling my father he would return later, after he ran a few errands.

I had resumed my lawn trimming chores – as he left the house and was about to climb back into his sports car, he turned to me and said “Hey kid, would you like to take a ride in my MG?  “I sure would Mr. Calhoun” I quickly replied, “Just let me tell my folks”.  A few minutes later, as I climbed into the passenger seat, he said “You can call me Rory – what should I call you?”  When I replied that my family called me ‘Butch’ he replied “OK, Butch it is – let’s hit the road” and we roared off.  Rory made a few stops along Santa Monica Boulevard and then we turned north to the Sunset Strip, stopping at Hamburger Hamlet – a sandwich and coke for me, coffee for him – then we were off to our final destination, the Sunset Towers Hotel, where Rory wanted to stop off to deliver a birthday gift to a friend, who turned out to be actress Marilyn Monroe – they had recently appeared together in ‘A Ticket to Tomahawk’ with Dan Dailey and Anne Baxter, and were slated to begin working on ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall.   I wandered through the apartment complex lobby, checking-out the fascinating appointments while I waited for him to return – when he stepped off the elevator we headed for the entrance, Rory noticed a small plaster replica of the Venus de Milo in an alcove along the entrance foyer – looking around slyly, he picked up the tiny statuette and, grinning like a pirate, handed it to me and murmured “This statue would look great in my apartment – stick it inside your jacket, and we’ll make a run for it!  Apparently his former felonious instincts had not been completely vanquished upon attaining his new-found fame…

I’d like to report here that I flatly refused to take part in this thievery on moral grounds (my parents had taught me better, and any further felonious tendencies on my part had been quickly expunged by frequent knuckle rappings of the strict Sisters at Beverly Hills Catholic School), but of course, I didn’t – I stuffed the proffered statue into the top of my flannel shirt, zipped-up my leather jacket, and tried to look like I wasn’t Clyde Barrow – all the while relishing my first experience as a major criminal…

Actually, that’s not quite true – I hac perpetrated a prior larceny at age six – I secretly pocketed a toy car that I fancied while roaming the aisles of the Woolworth store on Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills while my mother shopped at the Safeway market next door – she discovered my theft on the way home as I casually played with my stolen vehicle on the floor of our car (somehow, she was always able to keep a mental index of all my toys), she swiftly reported the sordid details to my father, who promptly ordered me back into the car,  drove me back to Woolworth’s, and marched me to the manager’s office where I tearfully admitted to my egregious  crime and returned the plundered item – when we reached the street, this awful humiliation was followed by a stern lecture from my father in which he quietly let me know how disappointed he was in my behavior – the worst sort of punishment I could have received…

But this was different – my partner in crime was Rory Calhoun – I had admired him in western movies – so I had few misgivings as we jumped into the MG, laughing hilariously as we made our ‘getaway’. When we arrived back home, Rory pledged me to silence, and I readily agreed – the last thing I wanted was another quiet but stern lecture from my father…

To this day, I still look guiltily over my shoulder whenever I remember my one and only ‘grand theft statue’ complicity, but if Jeff Klein, the present owner of the Sunset Towers reads this, I’m sure he will grant that my long-ago collaboration in the matter has far exceeded the statute of limitations – and besides, I never knew what Mr. Calhoun did with our ‘purloined Venus’…

© 2012-Alan Mowbray Jr.

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