Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fame Makes for Strange Companions

In 1973, other than attending The Julie Andrews Hour, I lived a fairly normal life.  Yet, fame attracts a multitude of different characters, and, as I was soon to learn, not all of them are trustworthy.
After the taping of the 20th Episode with Thog, Sandy Duncan and Sergio Franchi, I went back to West Covina to spend the weekend with my family. While I was there, I realized suddenly I didn’t feel all that much at home anymore. My mother was busy with her relatively new husband and two small children. Meanwhile, I had finally experienced a new side of show business on my own. At one time, it would have been something my mother and I shared, but now she had a new life. I felt out of place and unwanted. Looking back, I think my mother was just busy, but young people often make quick judgments, and those judgments are not always accurate.  
That Sunday, when I returned to Hollywood, I felt so lonely, I cried myself to sleep. I was also missing my grandmother, Vuvu, who had died the previous December. My Nana, who had taken care of me when my mother was on tour, had just died three months earlier. That night, I wrote in my diary,
“How can people exist and be so much a part of our lives and then be gone?”
School continued, but I wasn’t doing well there either. In fact, everyone in my pantomime class had gotten a “D.” I don't think any of us understood the importance of mportance, but in any case, I was clearly restless. I wrote in my diary: 
“I feel stifled creatively at school and I’m afraid it will kill something within me. But I am done with that. Today, Mrs. Parichan told us not to be discouraged by bad grades.”
On Monday, moving along with the new plan for my life, I went to the college employment office school and applied for two jobs. I also started correspondence with Julie fan pen pal, a young boy my same age, who lived in Michigan. But I was nervous about sharing things with him and I told him my name was “Kate.”
 Being shy, I didn’t talk a lot to people, unless I knew them well. Lynn, my roommate, was one I had gotten to know well, and I shared just about everything that went on at The Julie Andrews Hour with her. I don’t think she cared that much about it, though she found my stories entertaining and a break from the long, hard hours she put into her studies. For my part, I needed someone to talk to and I was grateful she was willing to listen.
The only other person I know for sure was aware of my visits to The Julie Andrews Hour was Ann, the singer who had introduced me to my singing teacher. Even so, word got round that I was spending my Friday nights watching Julie Andrews work. So it was that one day, while eating breakfast in the residence’s dining room, I met a young girl named “Gita,” who told me she also had a connection to Julie Andrews.
Like many other girls in my residence, Gita had come to this country to attend school. To support herself, she had a part-time job and, as she informed me, working on this job she met an English lady named Joanna, who had gone to school with Julie.
‘Now,’ said Gita, ‘Joanna is living in Julie’s house.’
She also informed me know that the house with twenty-three rooms. Joanna, she said, had three children, ages 9, 11 and 13. Sometimes, these children sometimes came to stay with her.
Meanwhile, I was so surprised by this young girl’s information and the fact I was speaking to someone who knew something about the other side of Julie’s life, that I didn’t question her details. Gita seemed very sure of herself as she told me that Julie gave Joanna all of her old clothes. According to Gita, Joanna and Julie had begun their careers at the same time. Now, she said, Julie was taking Joanna to work with her, and she had even gotten her some work as a dancer on the show.
When I finally asked her how she knew Joanna, Gita told me that Joanna sold candy at her job. She also told me that Joanna had gotten Julie to autograph a picture for her. With great generousity, she offered to try to get an autographed picture for me too.
After our first meeting, every now and then I would run into Gita again, mostly in the dining room where we got two meals a day: breakfast and dinner.  The next time I met her, she told me that Joanna was now helping to take care of the mail Julie got at her house. She said that Julie got approximately 1,000 letters every few days, adding that some of them were bad or unpleasant, like people saying they wanted to marry her or would kill themselves, etc. 
One day, Joanna told Gita, she had tried to make Julie read some of the fan letters she received, and Julie had gotten mad. I’m not sure whether they had a fight over this or something else, but according to Gita, one day Julie and Joanna had a big fight, and Joanna had walked out.
Meanwhile, on this particular day, Gita was looking after Joanna’s children. Then, the phone rang. When Gita answered it, she heard a lovely English voice on the other end asking, “May I speak to Joanna?”
“May I ask who this is?” Guita said.
“Julie Andrews,” came the reply.
“Hello this is Guita.”
“Hello, how are you,” said Julie.
“She knows me,” Gita told me, adding, “When Julie leaves for England, Joanna is going with her.”
It was more than ten days before I saw Guita again, February 26th to be exact. She told me that Julie had been at the beach all week, so Joanna hadn’t been able to get an autograph for me. 
During the next few days, all the things this girl had told me were stirring around in my head. Were they true? Was there really a Joanna? Or was Guita making things up? Finally, I decided to do what I must; I called Claire Priest and told her about the girl. I asked her if Joanna was real. 
Mrs. Priest told me she didn’t know anything about a Joanna, “but that doesn’t mean anything,” she added. “There are lots of things I don’t know.”
But then, when, I told her Gita had said that Joanna told her Julie was at the beach all this week, she said,
“That’s wrong. I know where Julie was every moment this week. Monday and Tuesday, she spent all day rehearsing with Harve Presnell.  And today, she had her hair done.”
Suddenly, knowing this, made me feel much closer to Julie. I had been feeling so distant, as if the past was only a dream. Mrs. Priest had never talked to me as much before either. When I asked her what date Julie would be leaving California to go and make the movie, she said, “early spring.” Then I asked who chose her music for the show and she said, “Julie chooses her own music. They have meetings and I guess Julie has a say in what they are doing.”
I also asked if she had read the letter I sent to Julie at the studio (which I will write of in the next blog), and she told me, “No. Joan or Judy take care of that.” When I said “goodbye,” she told me she would check into Joanna.
It was more than a week before I spoke to Claire Priest again. When I phoned her on March 8th she confirmed that she had checked, and there was no one living with Julie named Joanna! So, Guita had made the whole thing up!
I didn’t see Guita again, until nearly the end of March. When she saw, me she told me that Joanna had quit her job and was going to leave for England with Julie. “She’s not coming back to the U.S.” she said. 
Of course, I didn’t believe a thing she said. I had learned a lesson in trusting others.

2 comments:

  1. It is a sad thing when you have to learn to NOT trust others. As children, we trust everyone. Very often, when in a situation it is hard to see something right in front of us.
    Right now, I wish I could read the entire book you will write on Julie one day. There are many lessons you have to offer, Michelle, :)

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    1. Thanks, but actually I think it was a good lesson. As we go on with life we may face more and more challenges and people who have even worse motives than trying to show off and appear important. After this I never told people who I knew until I knew them very well and had a reason. Even now, reading some things this girl said I wonder about her. So much could be believable!

      Thank you for your encouragement. Yes, I do have a lot of things I would like to share, especially young performers who might learn from my mistakes, and young people in general.

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