TO BE A STAR


Shirley Temple

In my grandmother’s eyes, I was destined to be a star. Fortunately no one else’s eyes were aimed in the same direction.

Hollywood, in the decade of the 1930’s during the height of the Great Depression, made cheerful, happy musicals; such as those featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, and most important to my grandmother—Shirley Temple. It seemed almost like there was a new Shirley Temple film a month, and we saw them all. If you lived within a radius of 50 miles near Hollywood, especially in the early days, you were aware of the movies wherever you looked. They were cheap, and every kid went to the Saturday matinee for a dime.

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baby parade When I unexpectantly won the Long Beach Baby Parade in my silver lame body suit and cleverly concocted wire top hat, the three women in my family; my mother, grandmother and aunt, decided that I had unforeseen talent. And so I went to dancing class along with all the other untalented five year olds, where we practiced our step, shuffle steps and our five year old struts in our shiny new black patent leather tap shoes, under the watchful eyes of devoted mothers and grandmothers.

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My father was a Navy man, and we lived with my grandmother when he was at sea. Occasionally when he came briefly into port in San Diego my mother joined him and I stayed behind. During those periods, I was sent to stay with my Grandmother’s sister Aunt Georgia.

Aunt Georgia was a serious no-nonsense Yankee, so when I took up residence, my Shirley Temple curls were cut in a Dutch Boy style, and the patent leather shoes were replaced with practical Buster Browns. But on Sunday afternoons we went to the movies to see Shirley Temple.

first day of school kayti lou

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I had a love and a mild talent for singing, and when I was thirteen Grandma again zeroed in on the idea of stardom. I had an audition with a voice coach in Hollywood who worked with Deanna Durbin, who was then making light-hearted films such as “Three Smart Girls” and “Every Sunday” with Judy Garland. She was a Canadian lyric soprano and though I was a mezzo soprano, her coach agreed to take me. There was one small drawback; his fee was out of our price range at that time, and so we opted for a local voice teacher.

I studied for five or six years until I got married when we all had to admit that I was not going to be a star.

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Many years later my husband and I attended a high school class reunion of mine and across the room I recognized my old singing teacher. Still tall and thin, but now wearing a tip-tilted toupee, with rouged cheeks and lips, he seemed strangely pathetic. Rushing over to him I introduced myself by my maiden name. He seemed not to recognize my name, though we had worked together for several years and he had given me choice roles in a couple of operettas. He peered at me a few minutes then said as he turned away “Your voice must not have impressed me very much.”

I was embarrassed, thinking back to the hardship it must have caused my family to raise the money to pay him for my lessons. I glared at him and though both my mother and grandmother had been gone for some time, I said “My mother is not going to want to hear that!” He countered with “Well, you’ve got a sense of humor.”

Sorry grandma—I never got to be a star.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

12 thoughts on “TO BE A STAR”

  1. Oh this is so cute. Well written and funny as usual. Actully I think you were/are much better off for not becoming a star. I am quie sure that what you have done with your life has been productive and has more meaning than if you had “become a star.”

    Regards,
    ~yvonne

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  2. One of the family “treasures” that my mother had was one of those cobalt blue glass Shirley Temple milk pitchers. She loved it, but I gave it to my aunt after Mom died. They were very, very poor, and that pitcher was one of the few bits of “pretty” they had in the house, so I thought it better for my aunt to have it.

    I never was much of a Shirley Temple fan, perhaps because Mom wanted me to be like that little girl. I was dreadfully cute when young, and had those curls. By fifth grade, I was truly a plain jane – or worse! It was so bad I’ve managed to cut up every fifth grade picture I could find. Things improved later, but the curls never came back!

    Here’s something you may find of interest. Ansel Adams, nature photographer extraordinaire, spent some time in the Los Angeles area there and took quite a lot of photos there. Here’s a great set of his urban photographs. There might be some places that you recognize!

    My favorite is the double exposure at the bowling alley. There’s something wonderful about seeing an Ansel Adams double exposure.

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    1. I remember the blue glass. They are expensive when you find them in antique shop! I was more prone to climbing trees and being a Tom-Boy until I realized there were boys on the other side of the fence. Loved the Ansel Adams. I actually lived in Lon g Beach, but somehow I remember the Ocean Park Pier from somewhere.

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