HELLO AMERICA!—I want to thank all of you so far who took the time out to get the “third printing” of my book “Hollywood Through the Back Door.” Even my brief stay at Cedars Hospital a few days ago, several of the nurses insisted I sign their books. It was quite gratifying to have so much support from my Los Angeles family and Canyon News supporters. However, I must thank those from places like Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco who have let me know they are enjoying the book. Believe me, it means so much to know that so many people are enjoying my message of belief and survival.
When hearing about the death of one of my friends, Diahann Carroll who was featured with me in the 1954 musical film “Carmen Jones” that starred Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey, it brought back memories of the trying, challenging days of working under the whip of director Otto Preminger. I remember how Dianne during film breaks would find in the dressing room of the other cast complaining about Preminger’s harsh directorial style. Pearl Bailey was often amused and respond with, “Honey, it’s only a movie, ignore Preminger. As long as your name is on the check be happy; because when this gig over with, you’re gonna be there trying to make it happen again!”
In my book, I noted that observing certain means of survival or dealing with tough or emotional situations was vitally important in the entertainment industry. After all, when there is a set or stage full of different personalities, egos, career objectives, there is bound to be a feeling of living or existing on the edge when forced to be surround by actors, directors, cameras and the technicians who make the magic happen.
I realize now that I was a rebel in every way! During my first meeting with Preminger, I insisted that he sign me for the role of “T-Bone” a comic character well recognized in the original Broadway production and he thought I was a bit pushes and insisted that I leave his office. My response was (unbelievably), “Mr. Preminger, you’d be a fool if you don’t sign me for this role, because I will do the better job of T-Bone than any other 18-year-old in this business!”
On this, he pulled out a script, turned to a page, pushed it over to me and quietly ordered in his intimidating German accent, “Read these lines for me, Mr. St. John!”
Well, when I finished reading the lines, he gave me a quick, somewhat of an amazing look a said, “Well, I must say, it was very impressive!” I, of course, responded with, “So, when do I sign a contract with you for the part?!” It was obvious he never expected a response like this and quickly, “Mr. St. John, we will contact you when or IF we decide to continue this relationship.”
He extended his hand and quietly said, “Thank you and goodbye!” I took this as though a deal had been made. I didn’t realize this was simply the beginning of the campaign to actually sign for.