Show-biz progeny tell good stories | Mann Overboard

Bill Mann
Posted 3/9/22

Hollywood Offspring Tales: I recently watched Jane Fonda reminiscing about her famous actor father.

It struck me that, of the scores of celeb interviews I’ve done over the years of my …

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Show-biz progeny tell good stories | Mann Overboard

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Hollywood Offspring Tales: I recently watched Jane Fonda reminiscing about her famous actor father.

It struck me that, of the scores of celeb interviews I’ve done over the years of my peripatetic newspaper career, some of the better ones  were with the children of stars. Two that spring to mind: 

— Author Arthur Marx was the second of Groucho’s three children by his first wife. 

One day at lunch, I asked Marx, once a nationally ranked tennis player, about the provenance of what may well be his father’s best-known quote, to wit, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.” 

“That came from my dad’s golfing days when we were members of Hillcrest Country Club in L.A.,” recalled Marx.

“My father got addicted to golf. We played three or four times a week. He loved the game.

“Then, one day, Dad suddenly got fed up with the game, and wrote the club to resign his membership.

“The board wrote back, saying their bylaws required a written explanation of why a member was resigning.

“So Dad wrote back, ‘I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.’ And that was that.” 

— BTW, Hillcrest is a traditionally Jewish club. Earlier, Groucho had been turned down for membership at a Gentile, restricted country club, and he came up with another great line: “My mother isn’t Jewish. Can I play nine holes?”

— Another lunch was with Michael Wayne, eldest son of the legendary John Wayne. Michael, an actor and producer, was plugging a package of some of the Duke’s movies coming to a Bay Area TV station.

I soon found out that Wayne was a survivor — of a deadly cancer cluster, unlike his famous Dad. This story still causes me to shake my head in disbelief: 

“The Conqueror” was filmed in 1952 in and around St. George, Utah, about 130 miles from the Yucca Flat, Nevada test site, where many above-ground nuclear tests were conducted. Two bombs, both three times the size of the Hiroshima blast, blew radiation downwind toward that movie set. 

Over 100 above-ground nuclear blasts were detonated there around 1952, when the film was being shot.

“We used to sit and watch mushroom clouds in the distance at lunch,” Wayne recalled. “We had no idea of the danger.” 

The movie itself was, well, a (box-office) bomb. The Duke had never been more miscast — he played a 13th-century Mongol warlord. 

After “The Conqueror” shoot, 91 of the 220 cast and crew members  came down with cancer.

Co-star Rita Hayward died of skin and breast cancer. Director Dick Powell died of lymphatic cancer at age 53. And Wayne’s star father eventually succumbed, too, fighting off repeated bouts of cancer before finally passing in 1979. 

“But Dad suspected back then there might be bad consequences,” Michael Wayne recalled. He showed me a family photo of John Wayne and his three sons … gathered around a Geiger counter.

Michael Wayne died at age 68 — of heart failure. Not, surprisingly, of cancer. 

— Not playing chicken: PT resident and former film director Steve DeJarnatt posts on Facebook that he almost killed … Colonel Sanders!

“I was going to a national track meet in the late ‘60s and was helping the pole vaulter carry his pole, when Col. Sanders came around the corner and the pole grazed his head. He had to sit down with heart palpitations.” The Colonel — dare we say — almost kicked the bucket. 

— Gotcha Rain Shadow Right Here: I don’t want to throw any shade on Sequim, which had its Sunshine Festival last week, but its perennial rain shadow title for lowest rainfall total on the Peninsula is in serious jeopardy. As of last week, PT had 2.74 inches total of wet stuff this year, while Sequim was far behind — or ahead — with 10.78 inches. So, you could say, PT is all wet. 

— Middle Age Riot, on Twitter: “For the Republican Party, any new low is just a temporary state until they reach the next new low.”

(PT humorist Bill Mann looks forward to hearing from one and all at Newsmann9@gmail.com.) 

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