Growing Up in The Old Hollywood

November 15, 2010

I’ve received a lot of comments about the section of Bringing Back The Old Hollywood that describes what it was like to grow up—or try to—in The Old Hollywood. So, today, here’s a very brief excerpt from the book where I begin to describe what that was like:

When my mother married my stepfather in December 1951, we moved from our home on Sunset Boulevard in Bel Air into a huge house on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, just north of Sunset and just west of the Beverly Hills Hotel. My stepfather had bought the home from its previous inhabitants, Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw. Being north of Sunset was a big status symbol at that time. If you lived in the north, it meant that your family had real money.

As obnoxious as that was, neighborhood teams for touch football games would often be chosen based on norths and souths. Of course, that perspective failed to recognize that basically every one who lived in Beverly Hills was much better off financially than ninety-nine per cent of the country. This was West L.A., however, and, in that Hollywood state of mind, perception is and always has been more important than reality. That state of mind also completely distorted my youth. I thought every one grew up with maids, butlers, and first class travel anywhere in the world.

My stepson Carter still takes great delight in calling me Butler Boy.

Our section of Bedford Drive, with only ten houses, was quite an interesting Hollywood block on which to live.

Famed director Jean Negulesco (Three Coins in a Fountain, How to Marry a Millionaire) and his wife Dusty lived right next door to us and hosted weekly croquet games in their backyard.

Comic Ed Gardner, star of both the radio and television versions of Duffy’s Tavern (“where the elite meet to eat”) lived two houses north.

The extraordinary composer John Green, who was then the Music Director at MGM (West Side Story, Bye-Bye Birdie), lived with his wife Bonnie across the street, as did producer Joe Cohn, who was one of the founding members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Joe had a houseman with the wonderfully improbable name of Zany, who made cookies or brownies almost daily for the kids on the block.

And the street was, of course, lined with palm trees.

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