Star or No Star

akimboWhat I didn’t know was that Howard Hughes had arranged a Photo Shoot just so he could be a secret observer. He had seen some photos of me taken by Wally Seawell and Mario Casilli… whose studio on the Sunset Strip adjoined Hughes’ secret office/apartment.. He said he wanted a better look. The attached picture by Mario Casilli is what he saw.
He came out of “seclusion” and with his “assistants” spoke with me (and my mother) for hours! He told me that he wanted to make me a Star! I’d heard that before so I wasn’t too impressed. But he offered me a personal (not studio) contract which I did sign. He later told Life Magazine that he was grooming a young actress who reminded him of Kate Hepburn and Jane Russell. Wow!
He was nothing like he was portrayed in “The Aviator” other than he knew what he wanted. At the time that I met him, he would fly out of Santa Monica Airport every morning. He claimed that he could be alone to “think”. He was usually dressed in mismatched, sometimes wrinkled clothes, no socks and sneakers without laces. He never carried a wallet or money (someone else did). I thought he was handsome! He wore a hearing aide that he could simply pull out of his ear when he didn’t want to hear what someone was saying. I liked him. He was always a perfect gentleman and there was always an adult present when we were together.
He arranged for a private tutor, a personal drama coach, and his own photographer…and there was the Studio…his Studio, RKO. He would send limos to take me every place…6 days a week. I had to refuse other jobs…for which I was paid, plus a salary. The most interesting arrangement was that I be available day or evening if he wanted to see me, have me read a script or do a screen test or a photo shoot…for him. Sometimes he just wanted me to come to his office to talk. I was a teenager but he said I was a good listener! He talked about the business, flying, plans for me… but mostly about Jane Russell! I felt that he seemed to be a lonely man.
He would sit with me, knee to knee so he could hear my soft voice. He would surprise me when he sometimes asked my opinion. He never showed any sign of the Playboy Rep that I knew he had. He was even somewhat protective. All of his “drivers” were required to be Mormon. He thought he could trust them. He thought that I was too young to have a boyfriend and was totally against that idea. He apparently liked being in total control. I was not liking that idea. I could not even go to the beach because I might get sunburned! Star or no Star…I was very unhappy.
My agent, Henry Willson, was not pleased that I could not work outside of RKO Pictures. So when Hughes decided to sell RKO, it was an opportunity to get out of my contract. Which we did. I appreciated all  the opportunities and experiences that Howard Hughes gave me, but I really liked being free.
He eventually left Hollywood for Las Vegas and the rest is history…very sad.
I…on the other hand, have had a wonderfully adventurous life…not being a star. No regrets…not even a little.

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