Title: Hollywood Stories
Author: Stephen Schochet
Synopsis: At high noon on a cold November day in 1974, sixty-seven-year-old John Wayne faced off with the staff of the Harvard Lampoon on the famous campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The students had issued their challenge by calling the beloved American icon a fraud. Wayne, who had his new movie McQ to promote, responded by saying he would be happy to show his film in the pseudo-intellectual swamps of Harvard Square. After the screening, without writers, the former USC footballer delivered a classic performance. When one smart young man asked where he got his phony toupee, Wayne insisted the hair was real. It wasn t his, but it was real. The appreciative underclassmen loved him and after the Q and A session, they all sat down to dinner. Later Wayne, who was suffering greatly from both gout and the after effects of lung cancer (sadly the Duke only had five years to live), said that day at Harvard was the best time he ever had.
Just when you thought you've heard everything about Hollywood comes a totally original new book. Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies! by Stephen Schochet contains a timeless treasure trove of colorful vignettes featuring an amazing all-star cast of icons including John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, Shirley Temple, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and many others both past and contemporary.
A special blend of biography, history and lore Hollywood Stories is full of humorous tales often with unexpected endings. What makes the book unique is that the reader can go to any page and find a completely engaging and illuminating yarn. Sometimes people won't realize that they are reading about The Three Stooges or Popeye the Sailor until they come to the end of the story.
A professional tour guide in Hollywood, Stephen Schochet has researched and told thousands of entertaining anecdotes for over twenty years. He is also the author and narrator of two audiobooks Tales of Hollywood and Fascinating Walt Disney. Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen, "The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard." From Amazon.
The Universal Maniac
In 1999, an Australian gentleman told me about an interesting experience he and his
family had at Universal Studios. They were on the backlot tour passing one of the theme
park’s main attractions, the Bates Motel used in the 1960 horror classic Psycho, about a
murderous young man named Norman Bates who loved his mother a little too much. As
the guide gave out information about how director Alfred Hitchcock shot the picture, a tall
man, dressed in drag and carrying a large knife, emerged from behind the old set and
charged toward the tram. The narrator seemed to know nothing about the Norman Bates
look-alike and clammed up completely. The make-believe killer wore such a convincing
maniacal expression that some of the paying customers were frightened and screamed
when he raised his weapon. Then the “fiend” pulled off his wig and he turned out to be
comic Jim Carrey; the thirty-seven-year-old star was clowning around during a work break.
After his laughing “victims” calmed down, Jim was happy to pose for pictures and sign
The Wildest Guest
Longtime staff at the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles had many candidates for
the most outrageously behaved celebrity guest. There were the hammy Barrymore brothers
who always tried to outdo one another; after the drunken John earned many stares for
bringing his pet monkey in the hotel’s famed Moroccan-style club, the Coconut Grove,
Lionel arrived there with seven chimps. Chaos erupted when the well-dressed guests chased
the animals as they swung through the paper Mache trees. Then there was famed movie
theater owner Sid Grauman who told Charlie Chaplin that he found a dead body in his
hotel bed. The tramp fled in terror when Sid pulled back the blankets, not realizing he was
looking at a wax dummy covered in ketchup. But it was hard to top the antics of actress
Tallulah Bankhead who once called for room service, answered the door in the buff and
told the bell boy no tip; she had nothing on her.
Marlene’s Wartime Regret
Marlene Dietrich found her true calling entertaining the Allied troops in 1943. The
forty-two-year-old actress, who never enjoyed making movies, got a crash course in how to
talk to audiences. Nothing could be tougher or more fulfilling than performing in front of
young men who might die in battle the next day. The Berlin-born American citizen
overcame suspicions that she was actually an Axis spy, and was proud of spurning Hitler’s
request to return to Germany. After World War II ended, she enjoyed being a lusty cabaret
singer for many years and tried never to take herself too seriously. Marlene, whose long list
of romances ranged from John Wayne to General Patton, once mentioned to her husband
that she should have married Hitler back in the thirties, and then there would have been no
war. She laughed when he agreed and stated that the Fuhrer would have killed himself
We Don’t Want a Hit
Executives at United Artists Studio were unimpressed viewing the initial footage of Sean
Connery playing James Bond in the 1962 spy thriller Dr. No. The thirty-two-year-old
Scottish actor, whose receding hairline was carefully hidden by a toupee, seemed to change
his accent in almost every scene. Sure, the former Mr. Universe runner-up was a formidable
presence, but did Connery have the sophistication to play the suave super spy 007, a role
originally meant for Cary Grant? The studio kept the completed film on the shelf for many
months before releasing it in England where it was a smash. Well, it had to be a fluke;
Bond was English, after all. Six months later, they released it in the USA where it did great
again. Dr. No led to a hugely successful James Bond franchise and made Sean Connery an
international star. It failed only in Japan, where movie-theater owners translated Dr. No to
read, “We don’t want a doctor!”
The Battle of the Munchkins
The actors who played the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz were hard working and
much maligned. In the 1960s, the often-inebriated Judy Garland became a favorite TV talk
show guest and would trash her former co-stars from the 1939 classic. She would make up
tales about them being drunk, swinging from chandeliers, getting into knife fights, making
lewd propositions to her, and being rounded up for their scenes in butterfly nets. In real
life, the New York- based Leo Singer Midgets had won the lucrative Oz contracts in a hardfought
battle with another group of little vaudevillians managed by dwarf actor Major
Doyle. There was much animosity between the two rival bands of performers. The cigarchomping
Doyle was in his apartment on Fifth Avenue, still fuming over the job losses,
when a phone call instructed him to look out the window. Three busloads of tiny
entertainers mooned him and then it was on to California.
Walt Disney’s Daughters
Walt Disney’s two daughters, Sharon and Diane, grew up sheltered from the limelight.
The children had no images of Mickey Mouse around their home. Their father didn’t go to
many parties, preferring to stay in after a long day of work. Sometimes he would playfully
chase the youngsters upstairs, cackling like the evil peddler woman in Snow White. When
they behaved badly, Walt would admonish them with a raised eyebrow; his stern demeanor
inspired the character of the wise old owl, in the 1942 animated feature Bambi. As toddlers,
the brainy Diane and beautiful Sharon stayed blissfully unaware that their parents worried
about them being kidnapped and allowed no pictures of the sisters to be publicly circulated.
Once in 1939, a curious classmate questioned six-year-old Diane about her family. She went
home and said, “Daddy, you never told me you were that Walt Disney,” and asked him for
Who Won the Race?
Writer/director Billy Wilder liked to mess with producer Samuel Goldwyn’s head. The
Austrian-born Wilder, who had fled Europe when Hitler rose to power, respected how the
former glove salesman from Poland had good taste in stories, even though Sam hardly ever
read anything. One time Wilder pitched the mogul a screen idea about Nijinsky, the famous
Russian ballet dancer. Goldwyn was dubious, Wilder persisted; the story had great
cinematic possibilities. As a young man, Nijinsky danced for the Bolshoi and received
international acclaim. Then he met the great love of his life, was rejected, ended up in an
insane asylum and thought he was a horse. Goldwyn stared daggers at him. Sam didn’t just
fall off the turnip truck. The public would never pay to see
something so negative.
“Don’t worry, Sam, it has a happy ending.”
Goldwyn asked what could possibly be happy about a man who believes he’s
“He wins the Kentucky Derby!”
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