Still perky at 82, the star of my all-time favorite movie, “Singin’ In The Rain”, will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Screen Actors Guild ceremony on Sunday, January 25. Along with all of her other loyal, mostly elderly, fans, I’ll be happily at my TV cheering the event.
There were two occasions when I almost made connections with Debbie, and although they were utter failures, I still fondly recall them. Back on active duty in the Navy for the Korean War, and after seeing her in the 1952 musical, I taped her photo inside my locker door. I wrote her a fan letter about how she was admired by all the guys on our aircraft carrier, and asked for photos for Navy pilots to keep in their cockpits while on missions. She never responded.
Nearly 40 years later, after I had retired, while in Las Vegas in 1991, I visited her newly-purchased Debbie Reynolds Hotel. I enjoyed the large display there of movie memorabilia, including costumes worn by Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and other stars of the mid-20th Century. They gave me an idea.
After a long career in advertising, I believed I had a great suggestion for shows in her hotel’s theater. At the time and still happening today, Las Vegas stages were full of fake Elvis Presleys. I wrote a detailed letter suggesting Debbie expand the idea and, along with the classic costume collection, offer performances by imitators of long-ago entertainers.
Some I named included Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, The Andrews Sisters, The Mills Brothers, Sophie Tucker, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. My premise was that a significant number of Las Vegas visitors are retirees who’d appreciate the nostalgia and familiar music of the past.
I never received a response, and anyhow, the Debbie Reynolds Hotel went bankrupt after just six years. So, looking back, I must confess two fails out of two is not a very good record. However, if I were to send Debbie an Email congratulating her on the Screen Actors Guild Award, would she sit right down and write …. well, I can dream, can’t I?