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AUGUST 2019

Howdy! At WB Bill Orr gave me a new name. My birth certificate reads Marshall Hutchason. Too long, thought Mr. Orr. Within the year, WB hired Efrem Zimbalist Jr. He even got to keep the Jr. I had the honor of working with him on a “Sugarfoot” episode, “The Wizard,” or as our fine Polish director, Josef Leytes, called it, “The Vizard.” Efrem played sort of a Svengali who held trilbyish Norma Crane under his evil spell. I freed her. Sorry, Efrem—BANG! And that’s just for stealing the show! One day, he brought Jean Simmons onto our set. They were working on “Home Before Dark.” She immediately approached Penny and gave him a pat (below). What, no oats? That’s not why she came a’visiting. She looked all over our set, squinting into the dark recesses. No dice. She beat a hasty retreat. Hmmmm. Methinks she was looking for our guest star, Charlie Bronson. He was out to lunch.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Jean Simmons with Will Hutchin's horse Penny on the set of "Sugarfoot".

Recently, I saw a nifty documentary on the Brothers Warner, Albert, Harry, Sam, Jack. Efrem gave his take on his long, successful stay at the studio. He loved it all. He praised it to the skies. He likened it to Camelot. He was right, you know—I only wish I had realized it when I worked there. Hi Ho and so it goes.

If I could be anyone who ever lived, it’s a toss-up between William Shakespeare and Duke Ellington. Since Ellington lived 20 years longer than Shakespeare, make mine Duke. Herb Jeffries (right) said that since his mom was white and his given name of Umberto
Herb Jeffries. Alegandro Valentino, he was a mosaic of colors. He chose to pass for black. He thought his life would be more interesting that way. He was glad he did. He got to sing for Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Babs and I first met Herb on Catalina Island. We were there to help celebrate the 100th birthdays of Oliver Hardy and Hal Roach. One bloke brought over Stan Laurel’s former wheels. Two other blokes portrayed Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy. Lois Laurel, Stan’s daughter, was there. As a child she feared Mr. Hardy. She asked her dad, “Can’t you beat him up, once in a while?” So, Mr. Laurel fixed it so that in their next movie Stan went berserk and whupped Ollie, who jumped high and fled. This was a real nice clambake, and we all had a real good time. Back on the mainland, we kept in touch. One night, in a Glendale restaurant, another couple joined Herb and his wife and Babs and me as we celebrated Babs’ birthday. No, not her 100th. Another time, we were in the audience at the Vine Street Bar and Grill. Herb was the headliner. He was well into his 70s by then and his rendition of “Flamingo” still echoes in our hearts. We have an iron lawn sculpture at the side of our house. It’s a pink flamingo. We call it Herb. Whatta guy. He once was hitched to la prima striptease Tempest Storm, but that was many moons ago. At a Golden Boots one year I asked Herb the secret to his eternal youth. Did he keep an aging portrait in his attic? He reeled off a list of vitamins, food supplements, concoctions. Rats! I had no pen nor pad. Later, at another Boots, I was prepared. I asked him to repeat his secret. He touched  my  shoulder, looked straight into my eyes, “Forget all that stuff. It’s God.” He was 100, or so…Flamingo, like a flame in the sky, Flying over the island, to my lover nearby.”

 

                                        —Adios