HELLO AMERICA!—It seems that we are receiving so many positive reactions to my various experiences in Europe, especially London and Venice. The memories of a few of those times are quite special and unforgettable. For example, English actor John Collin was shooting a film with Julie Andrews in the FOX film “Star.” As a result, we became rather close during the filming; he insisted that I visit him upon hearing I had plans for a London trip.
John explained that it would be quite a career boost to meet even more high-powered industry actors and musicians living in his historical London. Then of course, it would open the door for my connecting with the general European press there. Well, it didn’t take much to convince me that he was right on target. Discussing travel plans with my attorney, John Ardizonne, he was so excited about the idea that he decided he and his family, Terry and son Ricky, would enjoy it, as well. His being Italian, with strong family ties in Italy, it made the trip even more seductive.
The flight was a bit bumpy, lot of noise, babies crying, actor Eric Braeden (Victor Newman on “The Young and the Restless”) were in constant movement on the plane. We arrived at Heathrow Airport quite early in the morning, and settled into London’s Bristol Hotel. Before I could put all of my gear away, the phone sounded. It was John Collin, informing me that he had arranged an evening with Richard Burton, Lawrence Harvey and a few other mutual insane friends at the Queen’s Head Pub in Shepperton.
Richard was in true form with his singing of Welsh songs, relating scandalous stories of his past, as he downed pitchers of Guinness Beer. The surprise of the evening was the appearance of Dimitri Tiomkin. I had met him years before in Hollywood. His Academy Award nomination brought him back for his music score of the film “Tchaikovsky.” He had with him his mistress-secretary, Miss Pratt who easily been the stand-in for the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” She was determined never to leave his side when friends visited the 80 year-old composer, and listened to everything that Dimitri said. When I inquired of her, the old gentleman frowned and released the loudest emission of gas that I had ever heard, causing belly laughs from everyone in the room.
London was alive, energizing and the private clubs were packed with late night disco aficionados; people from across the globe strolled arm and arm on Kings Road, embracing each moment that reached back to the tales of Elizabeth, Henry VIII, Churchill and the Bliz during the 40s. So much history at each step as I watched the quiet movement of the Themes. Before leaving Venice, Larry convinced us to take one last ride in a gondola.
Earlier, we had met Jo, a very old and very rich woman from Los Angeles, traveling with a companion she referred to as “Big Bertha.” Well, she must have weighed over 200 pounds. Observing her with Jo who was very slight woman, it was quite a sight. However, they seemed quite compatible. Jo had the mouth of a truck driver, reminiscent of Tug Boat Annie. I enjoyed her honesty, it was refreshing. When she asked to ride in my gondola, I thought it would be fun. Then, Big Bertha insisted on being a part of the party. I suddenly had reservations.
“I think you should have a boat all to yourself,” shouted Jo. “You’re too damn fat!”
Naturally, Bertha didn’t take heed of Jo’s warning, and put all of her poundage on one foot and jumped into the gondola; her foot went straight through the darn thing. It began to sink!
“Oh, s**t!, I shouted. “The b***h is sinking the boat!”
The gondolier, attempted to stop the water from filling the boat, but it was futile. In the background, I thought I heard Larry laughing. “I don’t believe this,” he shouted. “It’s INCREDIBLE!” Then, as if an alarm had been sounded, crowds of people began to form on a nearby bridge; they were actually laughing and applauding as if watching a performance of some kind. The paparazzi, as if one cue appeared out of nowhere, snapping photos of this entire humiliating scene.
“I can’t swim,” I cried out, as water began to fill up around my legs. Jo, who didn’t seem to be as upset as I was, at the pending doom, yelled, “DON’T WORRY, HONEY, JUST HOLD ON TO THESE OLD BREASTS OF MINE, AND YOU’LL’’ BE JUST FINE!” As we slowly began to sink into the Venice canal, I did exactly as Jo directed, and the crowd continued to roar with laughter and applause.