“Wait. Wait … who is John Gavin?” Jeanine and I looked at Kathie and then looked at each other.
“What do you mean who is John Gavin?” I asked. “How can you have not heard of him? He’s one of the handsomest actors of all time. He was every woman ‘s dream man.”
“He was in a bunch of movies,” Jeanine added. “Psycho and Spartacus, Imitation of Life, Back Street… You don’t emember him? ” Kathie shook her head. Granted, she is a bit — well, maybe more than a bit — younger than I am, but how could she not know my teenage heartthrob, John Gavin?
“Here, let me pull up a picture,” Jeanine added as she reached for her phone.
This all occurred a few nights ago when Kathie and Jeanine dropped by. We had started out talking about dogs and their people and it brought back a memory …
“Here!” Jeanine said, holding out her phone.
“Wow,” Kathie said looking at the pictures. “How could I miss him?” How indeed?
Jeanine took back her phone and started scrolling through. “Hey, wait! This is from his obituary.”
“What?” I made a lunge for the phone. “What obituary? He’s dead? When??”
Jeanine continued to scroll: “Recently. This year. A couple of months ago.”
“He was 86,” Jeanine continued.
“Well, okay, I guess. 86. Really?”
You know those actors you always loved — Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood – and you somehow believed they would always stay young and virile — and then you see a picture of them in their 70s and, YUCK! I wish I’d never seen that! We all reach a point past which we should never have our picture taken. I don’t want to think of Clint Eastwood as an old man. I want him to always look like Dirty Harry. And Robert Redford always look like the Sundance Kid. Please, guys, don’t impose those horrible visions of yourself shirtless, with flabby muscles and sagging jowls. Thank heaven John Gavin spared us that. When I looked him up on-line the next day, I never found a bad picture. He still looked good even when he was older. I’ll always be able to remember him as the tall, dark and handsome man I knew. But I digress …
“So you met John Gavin?” Jeanine asked.
“I did,” I told her. “It was after I worked for Phyllis and was then working for her manager, Roy Gerber. Roy managed all kinds of stars — George Gobel was one of my favorites — a really nice guy. Lots of stars, definitely. Candice Bergen often dropped by the office and Alan Alda and Jack Jones was always in and out — another great guy — but John Gavin … I had such a crush on him when I was a teenager.”
“You and every girl in the whole country,” Jeanine added.
“I’m sure. I knew that if I ever actually met him, I would die. Absolutely die! And then years later, I did. Not die, I mean, but meet him. Oh, my word! Right there in our office. In the flesh. I was so tongue-tied I couldn’t even say ‘hello.’ I was 30 years old. I’d worked in the American Embassies in London and South Africa, I had dinner with Senators and Congressmen. I’d been to Buckingham Palace for tea. I was a grown-up, for pity’s sake. I wasn’t a star-struck teenager.” I paused for breath. “Yeah, not a teenager, but a star-struck 30 year old. And I thought I might die on the spot.”
“What was he like?” Jeanine asked.
“Wonderful! Just as good looking as he was in the movies. He had that killer smile.” I sighed. “And the best part is, he was so nice! Oh, and get this — we wrote to each other.”
“Yes! Well, not letters. Fun little notes. And not very often, maybe four or five times. I don’t even remember how it started; I probably put a note in with some papers I was sending him to sign and he wrote back. I remember when he’d done a commercial in a hot-air balloon. I asked him about that and he said it was …. tedious, I think is the word he used.”
“… and he had a dog?” Kathie prompted, bringing us back to how we got off on this rabbit trail — John Gavin and his dog.
“Oh, the dog! One time he came into the office with this little tiny dog. It was so incongruous that I simply burst out laughing. This big, tall man striding across the room and the little tiny ball of fluff scrambling to keep up. He had the grace to laugh, too. ‘It’s my wife’s dog,’ he said, scooping it up. ‘Would you like to pet him? He won’t bite.’ ‘Thanks, but no,’ I told him. I never trusted little dogs.”
“But the first time you met him,” Jeanine prompted, “what did you say?”
“Nothing. I told you. I was tongue-tied. When he first walked into the office and I saw who it was, I was stunned. I grabbed the phone and pretended to be taking a message. I kept my head down so he wouldn’t see me blushing like crazy. He asked if Roy was in and, thank heaven, Roy heard him and said, ‘in here, John.’ I never had to say a word.”
“Not even hello? goodbye?” Kathie asked
“I think by the time he left, I did manage to say ‘bye,’ in a fairly normal voice.”
“But he was nice,” Jeanine said.
“Oh yes. He wasn’t at all impressed with himself. In fact, he’d never wanted to be an actor. He always wanted to be a diplomat and, of course, he did end up as Ambassador to Mexico after he left acting. He had a self-deprecating sense of humor. I remember something about when he was being confirmed by the Senate for the Ambassadorship and someone mentioned his acting career. He said, ‘I’m no actor and I have the movies to prove it.’ Another time someone referred to Psycho and Spartacus as classics and he said ‘If I’d known they were going to be classics, I would’ve paid more attention.'”
“Wow,” Jeanine said. “John Gavin. What a guy.”
And now he’s gone. I hope he was a believer in Jesus Christ and our paths will cross in heaven. I’d love to sit down and really talk. There was so much about him to like.
And maybe when I get to heaven I can do it without blushing.