Originally posted: November 27, 2011 by CHRISTOPHER RIORDAN
The date I am writing about is: February 29, 1956.
I had arrived in Hollywood, by train, on the day before (28th.) In late November of '55, I had just turned 18 years old. I was 'running away from home.'
I hadn't worked consistently in my youth, but I had nearly 15 years of stage work behind me, and a couple of local TV appearances. And, I had been 'seen' by a couple of important people in Hollywood. SOLLY BIANO, at Warner Bros. and LESLIE PETERSON, at M-G-M. That's a photo of the Administration Building at MGM to the left.
When the thought first occurred to me to escape the madness I was living in at the time, I figured my best bet was, New York. But upon discovering that I only had $3.63 left in my Savings Account, I had to go to Plan B.
Naturally, my early earnings had to have an adult name on my account; and now that person had chosen to withdraw nearly everything for their own self.
I sold my little '42 Chevy, and got a big $40.00 for that. And right away, $12.00 went for the train ticket. (One-way, of course.) I arrived fairly early in the morning on that 29th. The sun was hardly up. I got a cab, and headed for Hollywood proper. I had no idea where I was going. As I rested my head on my hands at the back of the front seats....I caught my first glimpse of The Hollywood Sign. About then, the cab driver asked, "Where to, kid?" As I said, I had no idea. But I explained my plight to the man; and unlike today, the driver was kind and sympathetic. "Guess I'll try the Y," I said; and so he drove to the YMCA, which, as it turns out, was right in the heart of Hollywood.
Now, if you can believe this, the driver got out of the cab, and told me to stay put. He went inside, and I guess he inquired for me. When he came back out, he explained that they were full up, and that there was a long waiting list. Before I could even show a display of disappointment, the guy said, "Look, I'm going to take you around the corner. There's a hotel there. It's not much, but I don't think you want to spend a lot of money." He was SO right, on both counts.
This time, he picked up my bag, and escorted me into the lobby of The Warwick Hotel. Corner of Sunset and Wilcox. (The building still stands; though it is all boarded up. We drove by there, last Friday, my birthday.)
I registered, and paid the first week's rent.... $12.50. Looking back, I don't think the cabbie took the full amount due him. He told me he thought I'd be safer 'here, anyway.' I had no idea what he meant. We shook hands, said good-bye, he wished me luck as he left with a kind smile on his face; and I went up to Room 317....overlooking Wilcox Ave. and the Mercedes Benz Showroom across the street. I said to myself, "One day, I'll have one of those."
It took me about three minutes to hang up the few clothes I had brought, distribute my toiletries, and plug in the radio that I brought with me. Always, I've had to have MUSIC.
Naturally, I explored Hollywood Blvd. and got familiar with my surrounds. I have to say, just walking on Hollywood Blvd. made me feel as though I'd already 'made it.' And somehow, I wasn't scared.
When I got back to the Hotel, after buying a box of Van de Kamp's sugar cookies, I met my neighbor, across the hall. I wish I could remember his name now; but I do know he was a former boxer. And, a little punch-drunk, but very kind. He asked me all about myself, and I told him that I was going to look up MR. BIANO, or MR. PETERSON, the next day. "Well," he said, "I got a call at Metro in the morning. If you want, you can catch the bus with me, and then you'll know how to get there. M-G-M's in Culver City, you know." Of course, I had no idea how far away that was.
I must say, the bus ride was MOST entertaining. Extras, in all kinds of costumes, were riding out to the studio for their day at work; and they ALL seemed to know each other.
When we got to the studio, I said good-bye to my neighbor and thanked him. "See 'ya at home, kid. Good luck," he yelled, as he lined up with a huge group of people.
I, on the other hand, climbed these very steps that you see here in this picture. I found the office of LESLIE PETERSON, and told the receptionist that, "I was here." She smiled a little, and asked if I had an appointment. "No," I replied, "But he told me to look him up if I ever got to Hollywood. And, I'm here."
Very politely, she called MR. PETERSON'S secretary, and relayed what I had said to her. As she put the phone down, she asked me to have a seat. And while I waited, I noticed an Oscar on her desk. "May I see that?," I asked. She picked it up and handed it to me. It was the Oscar for Best Picture of '31 for "Grand Hotel." And, it was loose at the base. When I sat it back down, I said to her, "You ought to fix this poor thing." She sort of laughed at me; as though she had many of them sitting around like that.
Then, all of a sudden, a door opened and a lady said to me, "MR. PETERSON can see you now."
Without a nerve jangling, I got up, followed the woman, and saw MR. PETERSON smiling away at me. Now, of course, I realize why he was so amused.