Friday, January 27, 2006

Yet More Memories of Fayard

I only encountered Mary Astor in passing at the MPCH in Woodland Hills, CA when I went there to visit Fayard Nicholas in the late 80s and early 90s. She was very very reclusive and Fayard and I just caught her out on the sidewalk one afternoon. A quick hello.

I also met Viola Dana, who was a big silent star but made only a handful of talkies before retiring. One time I thought I spotted actress Mae Clarke, she of Jimmy Cagney grapefruit-in-face fame. I turned to someone and said, "Isn't that Mae Clarke?" And the party growled fiercely, "Yeah, and they oughta put her in a cage." I learned that although Clarke had just arrived, she was a real take charge type and already trying to run the place.

The bungalows at the Country Home all had the names of the occupants on the door on brass plates. I would just walk around and swoon over the placques. Especially when I espied the nameplate for Charles Barton, Universal-International (doesn't Universal presume International ?) helmer of a whole slew of Abbott & Costello and Ma & Pa Kettle epics. Was it true what they said about Marjorie Main's world class porn collection (her husband was a sexologist)? I was tempted to knock on his door and ask Barton (and other stuff, too), but ultimately common sense, not to mention good taste, prevailed. If the place hadn't been so far away I would have definitely offered my services as a volunteer.

Fayard had absolute total sense memory of EVERYTHING that had ever happened to him. He recalled to me that although he and Harold had only been hired for a few days for the MGM Garland-Kelly "The Pirate," that because of Garland's tardiness, etc. they were kept on salary for well over a month. He also told me that and...oh god he told me so much!!!

Ironically, his brother Harold could recall absolutely nothing and relied upon Fayard to recount details of their dual fabulous career to him. Fayard told me about the time he and Harold went to the Las Vegas airport to pick up the latter's former wife, Dorothy Dandridge, who was visiting them in LV. This was perhaps 15 years before he told me the story. Fayard said, "When she came toward us, I noticed that she was wearing a pair of toreador pants that had a slight tear repaired with a safety pin. I remember saying to myself at the time, "Oh dear, that's not Dorothy's style at all. Something must be seriously wrong." And he was right!

Asked by his parents to name his brother when he was born, Fayard had dubbed him Harold after Harold Lloyd. Fayard was in his early seventies when I happened to mention to him one day that I was aware that "Fayard" was the French word for beech tree. "It is????" he replied with amazement. "I always just thought my parents made it up," he said, throwing his head back, laughing loud and hard his famous laugh (Fayard laughed as well as he danced). I thought it remarkable that no one had ever bothered to inform him of that in all his more than seven decades of life.

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