Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Crazy Trip to Beverly Hills

This tale is not one of the proudest moments of my life, but it continues the story. It is without doubt the wildest thing I did in my teen years which consisted of helping my mother and babysitting my little brother.
                      
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      By September 1973, we knew that Julie Andrews had finished filming "The Tamarind Seed" with Omar Sharriff and settled back in England. In addition, she had scheduled a grand concert at the Albert Hall in London and all the fans I knew were very excited about it. Many of them were planning to travel to London to attend the event.

Ruth and Vannie in Florida, whom I'd met at ABC studio the previous year, were also in contact with me, and through their letters, I knew that Patty and Kelly were already in London. They hadn't gotten over our being put out of the studio and were intent on following Julie around.

Meanwhile, my young friend Vivian missed Julie a lot. Determined not to be left behind, that September
Vivian called me to let me know that she was going to fly to London. She'd done a lot of babysitting and had the money. Focused on my acting and singing, I was not interested in tagging along after Julie, but nevertheless, Vivian and I agreed to meet before she left. Before she left Vivian wanted to take one last trip to see Julie's Beverly Hills home. She also had a story regarding that home to tell me.

Julie Andrews and Blake Edward's home at the time of
The Julie Andrews Hour - approximately 1972-73
It seems that some time  before I met Vivian at the studio, (she was about 15 at the time) she'd had her 18 year-old brother drive her to Julie's house so she could see it. The pair had parked the car down the block from the cul-de-sac street and walked down to look at it. On returning to the car, they realized that they'd locked themselves out. Meanwhile, Julie had come out of the house, gotten into her car and was driving away. Blake was also in the front, just getting into his car as they arrived back in front of the house. Vivian's brother approached Blake and told him that they were locked out and asked if he had a wire hanger they could use to open the car door with.

Blake said he was leaving, but suggested they go through the garage to the back of the house. They could knock on the door and tell the butler to give them a hanger. When they got to the back of the house, Vivian told me, they saw the garden and, as Vivian described it, there were so many beautiful flowers back there, it looked like there was going to be a wedding. Vivian told me she just had to see that garden again!

So, it was agreed that autumn that we'd go to Beverly Hills. I often when there on the weekends when I didn't go back to West Covina. I liked to walk around the lovely neighborhoods; it rather reminded me of Pasadena where I grew up.

On the day Vivian finally met me in Hollywood, we took the bus to Beverly Hills, since neither of us drove. Vivian had a good memory and, as I recall, it wasn't a long walk once we got there. The only thing that made me confident about going to Julie's house was that fact I was certain she had moved and was far, far away!

On arriving at Julie's address, the first thing we realized was that there was no easy way to see her back yard. However, it didn't take long to realize that the house was right up against the Beverly Hills Country Club. As a result, we decided to take the long walk around and cut through the green where members were playing golf. There we were, Vivian in dungarees and me in my bright red granny dress, which was the nicest thing I had for causal wear. We must have stuck out like two sore thumbs, but we just started walking.

After getting almost all the way across the course, we came to a big green hill. Our minds thought alike and immediately, I began twirling around, singing, "The hills are alive!" as Vivian chimed in, "With the Sound of Music."

Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little golf cart pull up with the word, "Security" written on it. "Hello ladies," said the driver.

Vivian and I didn't even dare look at one another.

"Would you like to get in?" the driver asked.

We did without a word.

"No one is allowed to walk across the green that's not playing golf," the security fellow told us.

"What are you doing out here today," he asked.

"Enjoying the weather," I said dumbly.

For all he knows, I couldn't help thinking, we might be some movie star's kids.

By now, we were back where we started. He dropped us off and it was clear we shouldn't try that again, so we trudged back down a path, leading us past a house which looked like something out of Dracula. Then, we went back to Julie's street.

I would have been happy to give up and go home, but Vivian was determined. Standing at the entrance of the street, there a huge chain link gate with barbed wire on top, separating the street - and us - from the Country Club. Vivian declared, "I'm not leaving here until I see that garden."

Try as I would to dissuade her, I could not. We argued, but it was no use. "I'm going over," she told me and before I knew what was happening, Vivian had climbed the fence and was maneuvering herself over the barbed wire. Once she was over, she jumped the 8 or so feet to the ground!

"Come on, it's easy," she told me.

As I looked about 1973. I'm wearing the red granny
dress here, though you can't see it.
As I saw it, I had little choice. I couldn't stay standing there, waiting for her. The police came by periodically and would ask what I was doing. I could go home, but that didn't feel right either. Vivian was younger than me -- a minor, and I felt somewhat responsible for her. After all, I 'd agreed to come here with her. So, reluctantly, I said, "alright" to her urging and climbed the fence in my long red dress. Once over, we ran as fast as we could across the stretch of weedy green and into a group of trees. My heart beating fast, I was sure that at any minute the security guy in the golf cart would be back.

Vivian was eager to run down along the wall about five lots to Julie's home, however she was wearing khaki colored jeans and neutral colors. I, however, was dressed head to toe in bright red. Although there were a few bushes in the line of trees, I as sure I'd be a sitting duck in my red dress. I crouched behind a bush.

"Come on," said Vivian, but I refused to move.
"You go on," I told her, "I'll wait right here."

She was annoyed but went ahead telling me I was going to miss something special. Meanwhile, I sat there for what seemed forever, my heart pounding at the sound of each falling leaf, each crunch in the landscape. It seemed that Vivian was gone a long time. Meanwhile, it was getting dark. If we didn't get out of Beverly Hills by dark we were likely to be picked up.

Finally, Vivian arrived. Now, the trick was getting out of the Beverly Hills Country Club without anyone seeing us. Vivian was full of excitement at seeing Julie's garden again. I can't remember if she said it had changed, but nevertheless, she had seen it and accomplished her goal. We ran back to the gate, falling in gopher holes and picking ourselves up like some crazy slapstick comedy. I think Blake Edwards would have appreciated it.

Vivian vaulted over the fence, but I, in my long granny dress, had a more difficult time. And I was sure that any moment security would arrive on one side, or a police car on the other and take us away. Meanwhile,I caught my dress and tore two holes in it. I was quite upset.

Julie signing autographs in London
around 1973
Vivian accompanied me back to my dorm room, where I changed my clothes while she laughed at my distress. I could only think of what my grandmother, who was quite proper and knew a few stars, would have said to me. My mother would have been none too pleased either. She already thought I was too crazy about Julie.
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Vivian went to England in the next month and attended Julie Andrew's grand concert at the Albert Hall. It
was months before I heard from her. She was thrilled and told me she had also spoken to Jenny Edwards while she was there.

My other friends from the studio, Ruth and Vannie, had traveled to England as well. Much later, they told me they had seen "the fan club president," Marsha, as well as "Patty" and "Kelly." Apparently, they were still angry about being put out of the studio and blamed Julie. "Marsha" had confronted Julie with this - not at all pleasant thing. I felt sorry for Julie and truly glad that I was thousands of miles away from those girls. From now on, I would concentrate on my career. My goal - New York.

(c) Michelle Russell