Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wayne Clark's Memories of Hello, Dolly!

Wayne Clark and company at the White House
Wayne Clark played Louie,  the head waiter in the first national company of Hello, Dolly! for two and a half years. He started in the company with Carol Channing. When Carol left the company to film Thoroughly Modern Millie in 1966, Eve Arden stepped into the shoes of Dolly Levi. Filming was May 1966 - September 1966 and it was released on March 21, 1967.Interestingly enough, Carol was Eve Arden's understudy in Let's Face It in 1941!Wayne also worked in the Dorothy Lamour company. (That was a different company. It was a bus and truck company).


Very interesting story about how Wayne ended up in Dolly. They were looking for a tenor. He was living in a big house in San Francisco at the time, the Spreckels Mansion. A friend of Wayne's owned it and he was selling it.

Wayne and his partner at the time were looking for an apartment at that time budgeted at a hundred and twenty five a month. Wayne went to this guy named Dean Turner and told him what they were looking for. Those days you could get an apartment at that rate. Dean told Wayne that he was selling the Spreckels Mansion and until it was sold, he could stay there at that price! 
He would also have to pay the electricity and that from time to time real estate people would be coming by to see the property. 
Dean did not want the house to be shown unless Wayne would give permission. 
He wanted Wayne there as it was being shown. 
 So here was this forty-two room mansion with a pipe organ in the living room and antiques all over the place! 


There was a guy also living there named Jud Stoddard who was a dancer.
 He was doing Lew Christensen's Filling Station in San Francisco. Jud had a friend named Terry DeMari who came to the house to buy antiques. Terry told Wayne that there were looking for a tenor for Dolly, one of the guys was leaving the company. 
 Jud told Terry that Wayne was in the Gilbert and Sullivan company there in San Francisco, The Lamplighters. Wayne told him that he knew two guys who were wonderful tenors. They also happened to be lovers. Sad if one got the part and the other didn't! Wayne spoke to them both and they said they would love to go and audition. Their auditions were set up for the next afternoon at The Curran Theater in San Francisco. Wayne went to the theater to make the introductions. They NEVER showed up! Wayne was so embarrassed and then he heard a voice from the dark of the theater. "Do you know how to read music?" He said yes and the disembodied voice told him to go up on the stage. He walked up on the stage and they handed him the score to Dolly. He knew the title song because it was sung on the radio every day.
 After he finished, he started to leave the stage. The next thing he knew, the assistant stage manager started measuring him! The next thing he knew, he was being offered a part in the show back in New York. 
He left San Francisco, went to New York, and right into rehearsals.


He says he was "too young and stupid" to be terrified. He wasn't even scared about auditioning because he wasn't there to audition. 
It was the perfect way to audition.
Wayne and Co celebrating the 1,000 performance of Dolly

He auditioned for the Broadway company but Gower wanted Wayne to go on the road with the company. He had never been on the road before.
This was Wayne's first big show.
They traveled by train.
Sometimes they even had an entire plane to themselves. He said the company would be traveling with their cats and dogs...which had full rein on the planes. He remembers one time taking off for yet another destination and a cat hanging by its paws in the seat in front of him and a collie running up and down the aisles.
I asked Wayne to give me his thoughts on Carol Channing. He said she was the most "exact" person in the cast. She was like a machine. Every line and movement was always exact. She would walk up to someone, for example, "and touch this button, this button, this button, and say line" and it was ALWAYS that exact...night after night, year after year. HOWEVER, everyone would have to know her lines when she was standing next to them. Sometimes, she would suddenly go "blank". 
So if you were standing next to her, you had to know what she was supposed to say. Once in a while, when she would go blank, she would go "Ahhh....., Ahhh....., Ahhh....." Sometimes they would throw her a line and she would say in that distinctive voice, "Oh, you knew!", then she would turn to the audience and say, "Oh, he knew!" The audiences LOVED IT!

Wayne told me that Eve Arden was very warm, very giving.She was very voluptuous, in a sense. She was very warm to everyone in the cast from the very beginning. 
Eve Arden and Co/ Courtesy: Terry DeMari
She hugged everyone. Her husband was also wonderful to the cast. They had their kids with them. They were little to teenagers. Barbara Shannon, who played Ernestina Money, broke her leg and had to be out of the show about a month or longer. Eve and her husband would go to Barbara's apartment EVERY NIGHT! It was a Chicago house with outside stairs leading up to Barbara's apartment. They would walk up every night, get her down the stairs, and take her to dinner every night before the show. That's the way they were. They sent birthday presents. She was only in the show a sort period of time, approximately three months...the duration of the time Carol was filming Thoroughly Modern Millie. 
 
Their stage manager and a beautiful lady member of their cast were about to get married. They were in Chicago and they had a garden apartment. The wedding was to be held in the very large garden which had brick walkways and little hedges and flower beds. First of all to save money the couple rented unwashed glasses, that was before we had those wonderful plastic glasses and so the glasses had to be washed. There was Eve washing the glasses and the rest of the cast were drying them. Then the wedding ceremony started and Eve was the matron of honor and her husband Brooks West was the best man. Finally the time came for the ring and Eve was supposed to present it but suddenly she couldn't find it. They all started looking for the ring among the bricks and hedges in the garden and no luck. At some point Eve took off her wedding ring and gave it to the priest so the wedding could go on. She said " I haven't had it off for over 40 years" Eventually the ring was discovered in her apron pocket that she had used to wash the glasses. 
But that was a sign of the real woman and mother that she was.


Carol Channingseen backstage holding her “Hello Dolly!” cast recording, with Jim Marshall alongside Channing’s husband and manager at the time, Charles Lowe.
When Carol returned to the company, accompanied by then husband, Charles Lowe, they walked into the theatre in the amazing outfit Wayne had ever seen. It was a sailor outfit. It had a voluptuous sailor hat and a wonderful coat, white bell-bottom pants, red boots. The pants were split in the front to reveal the boots. AND Charles had a matching outfit. They were spectacular looking. (This goes back to my interview with Sondra Lee in which Sondra referred to Carol's sense of style.)

Carol used to throw incredible parties for the Dolly company. One night, when the show first opened in Detroit (prior to Wayne's involvement), there was a critic there that gave "Dolly" a terrible review. The review was so bad that David Merrick decided he was going to close the show. This was with the original company in it's out of town prior to Broadway run. Gower bought thirty percent of the show to keep it open. Merrick later said that one of his regrets was allowing that amount of the show to go. 

When the company, that now included Wayne, returned to Detroit, the critic said he wanted to apologize for his previous review.
To show his regret, he was able to arrange a private screening of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, six months before it was released, for the Dolly company. It was shown in a movie theatre rented for the night.


Carol and Charles served popcorn and refreshments to the cast. 
Wayne told me that as a company, they were told never to speak to Carol unless she initiated the conversation.  
They very rarely saw her except on stage. 
She would stay in her dressing room until just before getting on the back of the wagon to make her entrance. 
She would do her voice warm up, "Jim clangy clangy clangy clang clang" 
All the time that he worked on the show, Wayne never got to know her. He was afraid to speak with her. They did speak once at a dinner party she gave. She said, "Hello, Waynneee" and he almost fell out of his chair because she spoke to him. The day he left the show, he had programs, and he went to her, and as he got off the bus, he remembers her waving goodbye to him. She seemed at that moment to really care that he was leaving the company. 
Many years later, he is at Sardi's one Friday night. Carol and Charles Lowe came in. Carol came over to Wayne's table to talk with him. He said she must have stood there talking to him. 
When she walked away,  the whole room was trying to figure out who HE was! She absolutely remembered him. 
He tells another story that when Rex Robbins (as Cornelius) was leaving the show) and Peter Walker was coming in to replace him. Wayne arranged a big party for him at a local restaurant, The Embers up on the hill in Pittsburgh. Carol bought a case of champagne for Wayne to take to the restaurant. Carol wasn't planning on being there. At that time, she was still eating her legendary diet (which did not consist of regular people food!). Wayne arranged for all of the foods that are served at The Harmonia Gardens to be served that night. Chestnut and Oyster Stuffing, a chocolate train, everything. 
Wayne figured out how much it was all going to cost. He collected money from everyone, they had this fabulous dinner. That night, the old Sears building down in Pittsburgh caught on fire. Wayne said they sat there like Nero watching Rome burn. They didn't want Rex to be involved with any aspect of paying. The bill arrives and they charge Wayne a corking fee. Twenty dollars a bottle! Suddenly, he is sixty dollars off of his calculated dinner price! Thirty-five people around the table and they are all whispering so Rex doesn't know. He got just enough to pay the bill. He was so angry, no tip was included! He didn't know at that time. He says he was "naive". The restaurant also thought that Channing would show up that night so they made a big deal about the evening.

Wayne also loved working with Dorothy Lamour. He said she was so sweet and had the best singing voice of the three. I have yet to hear one bad think about Miss Lamour. 
Rehearsals for the Lamour company took place at the St. James Theater. They loaded up right in front of the theater and went to begin their tour in Indiana.
Dorothy's husband, Bill, owned a string of hotels. When they were going into the hotels, he told the cast what their rate was. He told them it would be five dollars a night. They stayed in a hotel one night. When it was time for them to check out, the guy behind the desk told them, " No. It's twenty five dollars." Wayne was the Equity deputy and spoke up for the cast arguing with the guy behind the counter that Bill had told them all it was five dollars. Since principals were better paid, they went ahead and paid the twenty-five dollars. When Bill found out about that, he called the entire cast on stage and said, "I want to tell you something. Those of you who can afford to pay, twenty-five dollars, good! It was supposed to be five dollars! Listen to ME! Not some clerk behind the counter!!" 

In one of the towns they were playing, a critic "got the hots" for Wayne. In his review, he wrote a lot about Wayne! Wayne admits he was "just" Louie. He came on with a broom and did some dancing and did not need as much attention brought to him as this critic was giving. Dorothy and Bill saw the review before Bill did. They bought a whole stack of papers. They put the papers in the middle of their hotel room and called Wayne in. Bill called Wayne and said, "You need to get up to our room. Mama is really upset." Wayne is thinking, "My God! What have I done?" He ran to their room. They were laughing their heads off! They asked him, "Who is this person? And how did you get such a review?" They then told him to get those papers out of their room laughing the whole time. That's the way they treated everyone. 

 Dorothy traveled by Cadillac on our tour both of her sons were in Vietnam and so President Johnson had a special radio phone installed in her car so that every day, when possible she and her husband Bill Howard could stay in touch with the kids.

Read the chapter on Stephan deGhelder to read about a certain chorus girl in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Gower
Wayne says that Gower was absolutely wonderful. Wayne was intimidated, at first. He was a kid from California with his first big show. Gower used to do this thing during rehearsals when he was upset or wanted something, a clicking with his tongue. It would go over the orchestra and everything and would stop everything. Otherwise, he was always very quite. But you knew if you heard that clicking, to stop. Wayne knew that Gower had the power to throw you out of the show in a second if he wanted to. But he was also very kind. Wayne revealed to me that Gower was "pigeon toed". He showed Wayne a step one time and when he finished, he said, " Well, you don't have to do this part of it" indicating the way his feet were positioned. But when he showed Wayne a step, he would ask him if that was comfortable for him, did it work for him? He had a thing called the "Dolly look". He handpicked everyone with traits that exhibited the "Dolly look", a certain look he wanted for the show. When people were cast or hired on the road, Gower had a photograph sent to him so that he would know them when he eventually would see the various companies. He knew everyone by name before he even got there. 
 
When they were out on the road with Carol, the story circulated that when Gower was putting Ginger in the show that things didn't go well between them and at one point, so the story goes, Ginger said to Gower "I was a star when you were still in diapers."
One thing Gower hated was that Ginger insisted on pulling up her skirt and doing a high kick coming down the stairs. Gower disabused her from doing that, but when he left, she put it back in. At one show she took a kick at the top of the stairs and lost her footing and slid all the way down and landed on her back on the floor. The waiters standing next to her were so startled that she had to roll over and start to get up before anyone leaned over to help her.
One night at Marge and Gower's midtown apartment, they were having dinner with Marge's brother and his wife. Just at the end of dinner it was discovered that neither of them had seen "Dolly". So off they went to see the last half of the show starring Gower's love. Ginger ! ! !  They were seated in the orchestra and finally the time for Miss Rodgers to appear at the top of the stairs. As she started her high kicks,  Gower stood up and shouted " I'll be damned, I'll be God damned" and then he marched up the aisle and left the theater

Wayne's favorite moment of doing Dolly was going to The White House. It was the most amazing thing to happen to this company, especially Jerry Herman. 
The most amazing thing, Wayne, is that you are part of this legendary show! Thanks for sharing these stories with me! I am proud to share them with the world!

Wayne, thank you so much for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world.
Your devoted fan,
 
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

                                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..Gregory Charles!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!




  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!



  
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world! I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED!



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