Friday, March 15, 2013

1973 - The Sound of Music Reunion Benefit

At last, March 14th had arrived. Tonight The Sound of Music would return to the movie screen, but more importantly, Vivian and I were excited because we were finally going to see Julie in-person again.
The week between the taping of the last show and benefit had been busy with calls going back and forth between Vivian and I. We both hoped Patty and Kelly would somehow miss the information on this showing and wouldn’t be there. They had already caused enough trouble. Meanwhile, it was agreed that Vivian’s mother would pick me up and drive Vivian and I to the theater. Vivian said she was going to wear a long dress. I also had a fancy dress my mother had bought me for my high school father-daughter dance. It had been full length, but we’d cut it down so that I could wear it more often. It was my favorite dress.

Standing in the garden of International House

Two nights before The Sound of Music benefit, I had gone to see Liza Minnelli at the Los Angeles Music Center. She was performing for a benefit and it was her 27th birthday. Although I hoped to meet Liza this night, it wasn’t a good time for that. I did get to see her handsome fiancé, Desi Arnaz Jr, sitting front row center. At the end of the show, a huge cake was wheeled onto the stage and Liza got so excited when she saw it, she ran and jumped right into the arms of her music director, Jack French. The performance raised my spirits a great deal.
 On March 14th, I went to my job early and left early so that I could get ready for the evening. Already, it was warm in California and there was no need for a jacket or even a sweater. Before we left, I went out into the International House garden and had my picture taken.
Vivian and I were one of earliest people to arrive. We had no idea what to expect, but the red carpet was all laid out and as people arrived, they spoke about how excited they were that they were going to be seeing Julie. After a while, the band arrived and set up on the side of the entrance. Although we wanted to stay outside to watch the entertainment and see Julie arrive, the theater personnel made an announcement that everyone with tickets had to go inside to their seats right away. Our seats were upstairs, and we didn’t want to miss anything, so we went up and hung out on the stairs, waiting to see what was going to happen.
Julie Andrews arriving to The Sound of Music benefit
that April 14th, 1973 in Beverly Hills
A friend of mine apparently was given a copy of this photo
by a woman who was friends with Blake Edwards' parents.
I have no idea who owns the copyright.
All of a sudden, we heard someone say, “I see her!”  Hearing that, we came back part-way down the stairs, which were to the side of the entrance doors. It was then that we saw Kelly and Patty. We had to work really hard to avoid them, but we did. Then, we saw Julie come into the lobby. She was surrounded by a crowd.
 I had brought my camera that night, so, of course, I took it out. The thing was, I couldn’t see very well without my glasses, especially not in the dimly lit lobby. Meanwhile, I wanted to look good, so I didn’t put my glasses on, which became a real handicap.
While I was standing, looking out into the crowd, I suddenly felt Vivian tugging at my sleeve.
“Michelle, Michelle,” she said, “she’s right there,”
When I looked to where she was pointing it was true. Julie was passing just below us. As she entered the lobby, she was surrounded by a crowd of people. They were not pushing, but standing very close around her. At that moment, I snapped my first picture, and as the flash went off, Julie looked up at me. I wondered if she recognized me. Then, she passed us and went into the manager’s office. A moment later we heard someone say,
“She talked to me!”
At that moment, I saw Patty and Kelly looking up at Vivian. I turned the other way, and looked over the railing with my back to them, so they wouldn’t see my face.
Turning to me, Vivian said, “Let’s wait ‘til Julie comes out again.”
We were aware that they were keeping Julie in the manager’s office, so she wouldn’t get mobbed by all the fans. We knew the children from the film were there also, though, of course, they were about 9 years older than they’d been in the film, but the place was so packed, I never saw any of them.
After a while, most of the people who had been standing in the lobby had gone to their seats, so Vivian and I came down and walked by the door of the manager’s office. As we passed, I heard Julie’s laugh. Now, not wanting to appear too pushy, we went back and waited on the stairs for her to come out.

Two of my poor photos - Julie coming out of the manager's office,
and Julie going into the theater. Unfortunately, my scanner
is broken or they would be a little clearer.
 Earlier, when I tried to take a photo one of my flash bulbs had stuck, and the next one had not gone off at all. (In the 1970s, many people had little instamatic cameras that required flash bulbs when you took a photo inside. Mine took square cubes with a flash bulb on each of the four sides. The cube turned automatically when you took a picture and when it was done, you had to take that cube off and put another on. There was never guarantee, though, that every flash would work. ) Now, as I waited for Julie to come out, I was very anxious about the flashbulbs. It mattered a lot to me that I take a photo of her.
 A short while later, Julie came out and walked by like a queen. Although I could not see well in the dim light, I took several pictures, and I was the only person taking pictures.
“Why don’t you come down here and take your picture,” said one of the men standing nearby.
Already, it had seemed to me that Julie was moving rather slowly. I don’t know if that was because she recognized Vivian and I or was just taking her time. After the man said that, it seemed as if Julie stopped for a moment before the door, waiting to see if I would come down. Yet, as I said before, because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I couldn’t see the expression on her face and I was afraid to be that bold, afraid she might be displeased. Then, seeing that I wasn’t coming down, Julie turned and went into the theater.
Once she was gone, I felt so sad and upset that I had not moved to speak to her or take her picture. As always, I was too slow and indecisive. I don’t know what Vivian was doing at the time.
Now that Julie had gone to her seat, Vivian and I went up the stairs to ours, where were at the front of the balcony. Julie and the children were sitting under the balcony, as we later learned, the next to last row, so we couldn’t see them. Interestingly, as we were going up stairs, I bumped into Elizabeth, the English actress. I was quite surprised to see her.
Once we sat down, they had some singers up onstage and then three men came out and played some long horns like the Austrian horns the puppets have in “The Lonely Goatherd.”
Meanwhile, Vivian and I were speculating on whether or not Julie would stay for the entire movie.  We thought that at any moment someone would come onstage and introduce Julie and the children. That was how they had done things at the premiere of “Young Winston” the only premiere I’d been to before that.  But after a short time, the lights went out and the film began. We both were very surprised and disappointed that Julie and the children had not been brought up on stage. What was the point of having them there if everyone didn’t get to see them?
 We were also disappointed that they had changed the original seating plans. We had been told that Julie and the children would sit in the balcony, where they had put us. Instead, they were sitting in the second to last row downstairs. This was probably because it was easier for them, especially Julie, to get in and out and avoid the crowd.
Then, as the movie started, at site of the first cliff, someone ---it sounded like Julie---said something in a voice we could hear and then, (very definitely Julie) laughed!
As each name appeared on the screen, the entire audience applauded. They also applauded after each musical number. It was so amazing and exciting to have Julie and the children there in the audience, enjoying the film with us. (By now the youngest girl was about 14 or 15.)
Each time one of the “children” saw themselves on the screen, there was a laugh. The biggest laugh came during the dinner table scene, when they all began to cry after Maria says how nice it was for them to welcome her so warmly. It was funny to hear all these voices downstairs laughing so hard and to know it was them!
Watching the move this time seemed completely different to me. I wrote in my diary at the time,
“I guess that’s because I know Julie now.”
I was also more aware of the different scenes, rather than seeing the film as one flowing piece of work.
When intermission came, Vivian and I went downstairs and looked around. When we saw the light under the manager’s office door, we said,
“Julie is still here with us.” We both felt very relieved about that.
A lot of people were standing near the door, hoping to see her, while others came in and out.
By the time intermission was over, I had decided I was not going to try to take any more pictures of Julie. I didn’t want to be annoying, flashing in her eyes. I’d taken enough. Now, although most of the people in the lobby had returned to their seats, a few waited near the door to see her. Just as I was telling Vivian I wished I had the courage to talk to Julie, she came out the manager’s office and walked right by me, not three feet away! It was then that I realized she was wearing the same dress she had worn on The Julie Andrews Hour when Maria von Trapp was a guest on the show. This time, however, Julie walked by very quickly.  It seemed strange to me to see her go back and forth from that little office, as a hidden presence; we knew she was there, but couldn’t see her. We were so used to seeing her walking around the studio and sitting in her chair, but we were glad to be around her again, even for this little time.

My photo on top and
Vivian's below. Again, not
clear as my scanner died, but
it gives you an idea of the
large poster on the theatre
walland a little what we
looked like.
 As Vivian and I went back upstairs to our seats, I felt determined to go downstairs before the end of the movie and talk to Julie. I needed to talk to her. I’d spent nearly 100 hours with her and never spoken a word.  But when I told Vivian about my idea, she was sharply against it and somehow changed my mind, telling me it wasn’t a good idea, it wasn’t the right time. Sadly, by the time we came downstairs at the end of the movie (just as they were climbing the Alps), Julie was gone.
While we were downstairs, we met a girl who told us that she had spoken to Duane Chase (the youngest boy). He had told her that Julie would get squashed if they didn’t keep her away from people.
Then, with the movie was over, Vivian and I went outside and took each other’s pictures in front of the big movie poster.
While we were waiting for Vivian’s mother to arrive and take us home, we spoke briefly to Kelly and Patty. We also spoke to Elizabeth who told us that during the film she’d stood in the back so that she could watch Julie’s reactions as she watched various scenes in The Sound of Music. Vivian was appalled, and so was I.
Leaving the show, I didn’t feel too sad about not speaking to Julie, but the next day it really hit me. When would I ever see her again? Still, I couldn’t wait to get the photos I’d taken. There is something about having your own photo, but, of course, they didn’t come out too good.
(c) Michelle Russell

Coming soon: The 22nd Episode of The Julie Andrews Hour with Guests Carol Lawrence and Steve Lawrence.

All photos here for Entertainment Purposes only!

Please see the previous blog for information on how to join our campaign to see The Julie Andrews Hour released on DVD and music on CD.

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NOTE: Unfortunately, due to the fact my internet connection is not working well I was unable to upload some of the photos I planned to show here or to post this blog exactly on the date these events occurred as planned.

Best wishes!

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