MOVIE NIGHT STARRING GARRY “THE LEGEND” ARMSTRONG – Marilyn Armstrong

Personally, I thought Garry should write this himself. It was his show. He was the star with the cool Hollywood stories. But he doesn’t like to write about his “events” (I don’t know why not because he does it often enough). But this time, he wanted me to write it so here I am. Writing.

Let us begin with Garry’s great story about how Katherine Hepburn invited him over to her place for tea (and it really WAS tea — and cookies) at her big house in Hartford, Connecticut. What makes it particularly special is that it wasn’t a “work gig.” It was a personal, private invitation. Wow.

Old-fashioned popcorn maker! Sadly, I can’t eat popcorn. But they also had pizza!

Garry was doing his first work as “talent” at Channel 18, an underfunded early cable station. First TV jobs are like that. You take what you can get and hope someone thinks you are special enough to move to a bigger station and suddenly, stardust falls and you gleam — for thirty or forty years. Then you get old and they ditch you for someone that looks like a cookie-cutter reporter from who knows where, but they all look and sound the same.

He was coming from ABC network where he had done enough glittering to know he didn’t want to be a producer. He wanted to be talent.  On the air. When he got the call from Hartford which, in the 1960s, wasn’t exactly a glamorous venue, he took it. He’d be in front of the camera.

As it turned out he was in front of it, behind it, writing for it, starring in it, working news … and best of all, he did a movie show. It wasn’t as if Channel 18 (an RKO station) could afford “real” stars, so Garry had cardboard cutouts of famous Hollywood characters. They sat (quietly) around his set (they were, after all, cardboard) and he talked to them. Some people thought they talked back, but there’s no accounting for taste.

The Legend! himself

This was back in the days of film that had to be “souped” before rolling it on camera and Garry, not much of a technical star, was lucky if he remembered to load film before shooting, take off the lens cap … and you know, focus. I have, I admit, had many similar unfortunately experiences with lens caps — even to this very day when suddenly, I look through my lens. It’s dark and I scream “OH NO! MY CAMERA IS BROKEN! WHAT DO I DO NOW?” … after which I realize I forgot to remove the lens cap.

I digress. This story involved a phone call that Garry thought had to be the other guys at the station yanking his chain when the guy on the speaker announced: “Garry, there’s a call for you from Katherine Hepburn.”

My movie companion

“Yeah, sure,” he said. But Garry took the call. It was Katherine Hepburn. Who liked watching local television stations. She liked Garry. She thought he had some talent and might go places in The Business. She invited him for afternoon tea at her local mansion (always a New Englander, birth till death). With voice squeaking and knees trembling, Garry agreed.

He straightened his tie, patted down his then luxuriant hair, and went to tea. With Katherine Hepburn who did most of the talking. This was just as well. Garry was a bit tongue-tied that day.

Jim LaClaire, our faithful cameraman

The long and short of it was she told him he had one sterling feature that could take him far. Garry is a very good listener. Not to me (I’m his wife, after all), but to other people. He doesn’t work from a prepared script. He listens and responds to what they say or imply.

She also had a few recommendations on improving his wardrobe. As he had always thought he was a rather sharp dresser, after that, he got much sharper. I believe “clothes horse” would be a good description.

Watching

So, this was one of the longer stories Garry told. Once Garry gets rolling on his favorite movie stories, he can be hard to slow down. It took me and several other strong women to get him to “Say Good Night, Gracie.” Folks needed lifts home and it was more than an hour past closing time.

Showtime!

Everyone enjoyed Rustler’s Rhapsody and if you can find it on Amazon (it comes and goes, but it’s usually just a few dollars for the DVD). I keep a small collection of them and give them to friends.

I’m not sure “Rustler’s Rhapsody” ever made it to the big movie theaters. I think it may have gone straight to DVD.

Getting the conversation going. Turned out to be no problem at all.

To fully enjoy it (and this was the right crowd for that!), you need to have had some relationship with the “B” westerns that came with the main feature at local movie houses. Garry and I did not live very far apart and went to the same movies and shops and libraries but of course, not the same schools. Until college when all bets were off.

There was a lot of laughter. I had to tell everyone that that incredibly handsome guy playing the good but really bad guy was actually Patrick Wayne who wasn’t a great actor, but he was incredibly, strikingly, awesomely handsome. If he had been a better actor — or maybe cared more about acting — he could have knocked the audience dead. And he was a really big guy. Not fat … but very tall, broad in the shoulders, and yes, he is still alive.

Patrick John Morrison (born July 15, 1939), was better known by his stage name Patrick Wayne. American actor, the second son of movie star John Wayne and his first wife, Josephine Alicia Saenz. He made over 40 films, including eleven with his father.

There was a lot of chatter after the movie, too and it was fun. Even though I’ve heard all of these stories before, I love them anyway and every once in a while, I show up as a companion to the Legend.

The audience!

We all promised to do more of this stuff. I had fun too, though by the end of the night, my back was trying to go back to the car without me. It has been a trying couple of months. I’m definitely better than I was, but this stuff takes its own sweet time to retreat.

Meanwhile, Garry did the entire performance with an abscessed tooth. THAT is impressive.

Fron Channel 18, the RKO station in Hartford, Garry got invited to Boston’s Channel 7 — also an RKO station. And the rest, as we like to say, is history.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

18 thoughts on “MOVIE NIGHT STARRING GARRY “THE LEGEND” ARMSTRONG – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I always loved Katharine Hepburn. Garry was so lucky to be invited to tea with her!

    And I’m happy to note you have photos of actual people at that movie night – not just cardboard cutouts to keep Garry company. I can’t eat popcorn, either, but I still would have loved to have been there.

    BTW – I remember how excited I was that my big Nikon had a lens cap (just like a real photographer!) – until I realized what a pain it was.

    Like

    1. I’ve been buying hangers so you can just let them dangle while you shoot pictures. They don’t cost much and they are all over Amazon. And it’s nice to stop LOSING them. I can’t count the number of replacement lens caps I’ve bought!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Garry is a very quiet guy — unless you get him going in which case, it’s pretty hard to get him to shut up. I like his stories, even the 100th time around. Favorite old stories become like the stories in children’s books, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right, HE should have written that story but it seems YOU are the facts-of-life-reporter….
    For most of your earlier side remarks I was vigourously nodding along (loading film in camera ((my father put in the SAME roll twice at my 1st wedding AND then he didn’t completely close the little door to the film compartment….)), leaving the cap on and screaming murder and broken camera, as well as Hero Husband’s sense of good and sharp dresser…. Garry was such a ‘delicate’ (good) looking young man ‘then’ – now he’s just a good looking mature guy! And those stories – amazing.

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