Richard Chamberlain Is he Hollywood's most puzzling star?
One morning, back in 1954, the sedate Pomona College in Claremont, California, suffered a shock. It was a big day for the College - the day of their annual Arts Festival. And the school dignitaries, not to mention important guests, all gathered on the huge lawn in the college grounds. Suddenly, one of the senior boys, chatting to a college V.I.P., looked toward the school building and gasped. Soon the whole party assembled on the lawn were looking in the same direction - at the school flag high on the main building. For, suddenly, it wasn't high. It was being lowered and in its place, fluttering gently in the cool breeze, appeared an article of clothing that brought a gasp from the astonished onlookers.
Clearly, the boy who committed the crime was doomed to be bouncing right out of the school in disgrace. Yet nobody was - because to this day the crime has never been solved, as the culprit got away before angry officials arrived at the scene. That's not surprising,
but maybe it's time to tell: the ringleader was the least likely suspect in school. He was a model student and a perfect gentleman who was generally considered as menacing as
a glass of milk. Today you know him as TV's Dr. Kildare. He was known then as
George Richard Chamberlain.
When the college scandal broke, George Richard Chamberlain was only another Pomona student. But today the 27-year-old TV charmer still wears the same mild mask of gentlemanly innocence that threw college authorities way off his trail. But lurking right beneath that mask is also the same iron nerve, disciplined determination, deadly sophistication and puckish flair that allowed him to pull off the bold prank. And lurking even beneath that lies a hidden panic - the fear that he'll reveal too much of himself ... the fear that people won't like him if they know what he's really like. This contradictory combination makes him Hollywood's most puzzling character yet, a most formidable, hard-to-reach star. Two years ago, when M.G.M. picked Dick to play Dr. Kildare, a friend of his, Jack Nicholson, cracked, "It was inevitable. Who else could possibly look as antiseptic as Dick?" The remark is still good today; then it was perfect. At that point, the pleasant young nobody M.G.M. tabbed for its big TV bid seemed about as exciting as a role of gauze. He was certainly handsome enough. Then, as now, his fine-lined aristocratic face suggested a young Florentine noble - straight out of the Renaissance. Dick had an inviting fresh, scrubbed and showered look, which later moved his comedienne friend, Carol Burnett, to call him, "squeaky clean." Yet, with all this, Richard Chamberlain seemed hardly the type to set off romantic rockets around the world. He was so self-effacing in person that you had to look twice to notice him.
"Dick was all eyes and a mouth wide then," recalls his pal and publicist, Chuck Painter.
"He was the kind of guy who comes into a room and fades right into the wall. Now that Kildare is a hit he is coming out in all sorts of ways. But for many months he was quiet like a mouse." Dick was so quiet that when he was sent to Arizona for a bit part in
A Thunder of Drums, it was three days before the director knew who he was! On that
same location, Painter persuaded a reporter to interview Dick. He soon wished he hadn't. The reporter kidded Dick's stiff reserve unmercifully, printing his cautious reactions word for word like, "I didn't expect that question" and "I really don't know what to say."
Dick has that first sorry interview framed today in his dressing-room as a horrible reminder of how not to behave.
Even after Dr. Kildare began, its star was so unprepossessing that for weeks Dick couldn't get past studio gate cops in his car without calling the publicity department for help. He had no decent dressing-room because he couldn't bring himself to speak up for one.
Then Dr. Kildare leaped to TV's top ten, never to drop out. And things have changed considerably since that day for Richard Chamberlain. Last autumn, at a big parade, Dick addressed a crowd of 400,000 eager fans. In Pittsburgh, 450,000 swarmed the streets for a look at him. In New York he tripped a near riot when a kid spotted him and shouted his name. In that same city Joan Crawford - a star Dick had gaped at as a kid himself - entertained him at her home. "Because my girls are crazy about you - and so am I,"
she said. Coming back to Hollywood, Dick's guest star was Gloria Swanson, queen
of that town before Dick was born. Raved Gloria: "My most fascinating experience since Sunset Boulevard."
Right now, Dr. Kildare is ahead of Ben Casey in popularity ratings. Both Dick's recordings sold well and he is skimping lunch hours to cut new albums. Meanwhile, at M.G.M. trucks dump more fan mail (13,000 letters a week) than ever swamped Robert Taylor or Clark Gable in their heydays. It's from smitten females, mainly, of all ages. For instance, Dinah Shore's teenage daughter, Melissa, who invaded Dick's dressing-room at his last TV spectacular, pretending to fix her hair. Or the middle-aged lady who snatched a chair he sat in - and gave the cops £3 to keep it.
Surveying all this, Dick wags his handsome head incredulously. "I love every minute of it, sure," he admits. "What guy in this business wouldn't? Still," he sighs, "it's sort of unbelievable - isn't it?" That it is - but Richard Chamberlain is even more so.
What Dick means, of course, is that barely two years ago he was just another obscure Hollywood hopeful, lost in the shuffle and spiritually down after fourteen boring G.I. months of exile in Korea. He was slugging away at lesson after lesson - drama, voice and ballet - but not sure he was getting anywhere and periodically telling his coach, Jeff Corey, "I'm going to quit trying to act."
Living in a gloomy apartment house perched over a smog-bound freeway and inhabited by decrepit old folks, he spent most nights hoping the phone would ring, which it almost never did. He was keeping body and soul together by chauffeuring a polio-stricken lady around.
Then suddenly, two Septembers ago, Dick was blasted off to the stars in what his voice teacher and friend, Carolyn Trojanowski, rightly calls, "the most overwhelming thing that can happen to a young man" - instant glory as the star of a hit TV series. That experience can indeed be devastating. But after two years of a pressured 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily grind, Dick Chamberlain carries on apparently as smooth, fresh and cool as a mentholated cigarette ad. On TV he seems as pure as Sir Galahad, off TV as above reproach as a queen. And Dick is not much help in cracking that illusion - and part illusion it is.
"Hey!" cried a frustrated reporter, "can't somebody get this guy to say something stronger than that he's against sin and loves his mother?" "It's just my phony front," Dick himself grins. "I'm gradually growing out of it. But that's not necessarily so.
The truth is that all sides of Dick Chamberlain's many faceted personality are as valid as government bonds. He is what he appears to be and what he doesn't. And that is his hidden panic. "I know Dick seems too good to be true," says one of his closest friends, Martin Green. "But it is true. He's kind, clean, considerate and polite - as a gentleman, the greatest. Don't forget, though, he's an actor. Dick recognises that, plays the game to the hilt and has a great time. He is not dewy-eyed, but realistic."
Another pal, Bob Towne, an articulate young writer who, like Green, chummed up with Dick all through college, put it a little differently: "If Dick were religious- which he's not – he would be a humanist. "He has great compassion. He couldn't hurt anyone if he tried. He's self-contained and his basic quality, I'd say, is toughness. Inside, he's the British officer type who could calmly dress for dinner in the jungle while the natives outside were howling. He would be great to have around in a crisis."
Carolyn Trojanowski backs Bob Towne up: "Dick is a perfect example of a 'cool head,'" she says. "He can look at himself and a problem objectively, analyze it and calmly set out to correct it at once. I've never seen him blow up. He never will."
Whatever his sub-surface secret - courage, control, cool head or superb act - on stage 11 at M.G.M. Dick Chamberlain is a white-coated paragon, the beau ideal of any TV producer. Compared to the turbulent tension of Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare's set is a rest home, thanks mainly to Dick. He's never late, never sick, never sore and always knows his lines.
"Working with Dick," his veteran colleague, Raymond Massey, says, "is pure pleasure. He's young but mature - a professional. Like a good golfer, he doesn't press. "Female guest stars, from Suzanne Pleshette to Gloria Swanson trip over themselves beaming back Dick's suave, courtly manners.
After Dick recorded his first song, "Three Stars Will Shine Tonight," the sound man, used to electronically piecing and patching other TV stars pretending to sing, yipped, "Glory -
we're in the free!" At that same first "take" Dave Rose's whole orchestra stood up and clapped. Dick had worked the number out to perfection before he arrived. That's the way he does everything.
But when Dick rolls away from the studio in his grey Fiat convertible, he turns back the clock - and with him it's almost as if all this had never happened. He steps far out of the after-hours Hollywood scene, in which he has no place at all. Instead of operating like
a top young bachelor star who has it made, Dick acts as if he were nobody still
struggling to score.
After a quick meal, Dick goes home to a remote pad that would thrill Pete the Hermit. Perched in the hills back of the Hollywood Bowl, it's seventy-five yards from a winding mountain street and so masked by tangled growth of all kinds that you'd never find it without a helicopter. Up a plank ramp there's just one big wood-paneled room, a tiny kitchen, bath and a sun deck. A piano sits against one wall and a small desk, cluttered with bills and assorted mail, by another. A tape-recorder, TV and stereo sit here and there and, of course, there's a bed. Also, behind a convenient closet door there is always a pile of shirts and shorts which Dick takes to a laundry now and then but, if stuck, washes himself. Not long ago, Martin Green looked up from a book he was reading to see Dick bustling out with a soggy armful which he proceeded to string on a line. "And now," announced Chamberlain with mock gravity, "the famous Hollywood star will hang up his washing!"
Dick rented this hideout shortly before M.G.M. signed him and, despite all that's come his way since, has never seen fit to leave. He paid £25 a month at first, because he took on the gardening. Too busy for that now, he pays the full £33. He's making a hundred times now what he did then, which was close to nothing. He stays not because he's a miser but because the splendid isolation suits him. When Dick is home he's almost always by himself.
"I never entertain," he admits. "I doubt if twenty people have been in my place since I've had it." Visitors are so rare that if one raps on the door there's invariably a "wait a minute" and a scurrying sound inside as Dick hastily tidies up the place. Such privileged callers are not new-found friends of the Hollywood glamour set. Dick has none. Social gates are wide open to him by now, but he doesn't even look. "You approach Dick Chamberlain so far," complained a frustrated hostess recently, "and then he goes behind a wall."
His lone publicity date record was with Rossana Schiaffino way back at the premiere of West Side Story - and, with due respect to Rossana, that was because Dick wanted to see the picture, didn't have a date and couldn't go alone. But when photographers tried to bunch him with "the Hollywood young set," he politely refused.
"I'm not anti-social," explains Dick. "But I am busy." That's very true talk. Dick Chamberlain couldn't be much busier without being twins. Despite a 5:30 alarm, Dick moonlights two nights of his five-day, all-day week on Dr. Kildare with lessons - dancing at Renova and Renoff's and voice training with Carolyn Trojanowski. "Dick is as hardworking and conscientious a pupil as I have," states Carolyn Trojanowski. "He never lets a day pass without thoroughly warming up his voice. It's a good light bass," she classified, "but it lacks power. Dick will never sing opera but he can develop a very good stage-musical voice. That's what he's determined to do, and he will - wait and see."
To develop the power, Dick methodically jogs along mountain paths near his place, at dawn or dusk, works out with weights, and makes canyons ring practicing scales. Diet is never off his mind; when he heard Joan Sutherland sing out robustly at a recent performance of the San Francisco opera, he cried, "My God - what do you suppose that woman eats?"
He faithfully supplements his own meals with high-protein snacks prescribed by Miss Trojanowski. One, that was especially recommended, was raw liver whipped up in a blender. Dick tossed in red wine to kill the nauseating taste, still gagged, but kept downing it. Then one day he read that raw liver was loaded with uric acid and led straight to galloping gout. Only then did Dick happily switch to strawberry yoghurt.
Martin Green nods at this. "Dick would," he said. "He has to have a reason and a method for everything. Do you know how he stopped smoking? It was beautifully planned. He was on straight cigarettes, so he switched to filters. After a few days he added filtered holders to the filters. Next he dropped down to de-nicotinized sticks, something like smoking warm air. After that, quitting was easy."
Green, a hard working serious painter, is typical of the few friends who feel free to rap on Dick's door. Another is Clara Ray, Dick's steady girl-friend. Clara is a pretty, brown-eyed, button-nosed girl. Unlike Dick she's an extrovert - and as full of beans as a holidaymaker.
"Dick shy - stuffy?" exclaims Clara in wide-eyed wonder at the thought. "Why he's anything but! It just takes time to know him." It took Clara a whole year. She first spied Dick two years ago at Carolyn Trojanowski's studio. "We were rehearsing for a Christmas show," Clara recalls, "the first time everybody was there at the same time. Dick was in the bass section - way in back, and he never moved out. But when we ran through 'More I Cannot Wish You,' it was so lovely. He was more than good looking - he had a quality that made you remember him."
Now Dick and Clara make a steady team, three or four evenings a week. But usually their fun's synchronized with some career project. Because what means most to Dick Chamberlain - his work - is seldom far from his thoughts.
Not long ago Clara played a small part in a Dr. Kildare. Actually, she was so good that cast and crew plugged to have her join the show as a regular. But when Clara saw the rushes with Dick she hid her face in her hands. "I had no idea I did all those awful things!"
she wailed. "You really did, didn't you," he replied, rather ungallantly. "You have to
be shown, don't you?"
Dick Chamberlain's stern dedication to self improvement and his cool, correct manner of tackling it are his trademark with all who know him.
All this work and no play, of course, could conceivably make Dick a dull boy. To more than a few that's just what he seems to be. However, Dick can - and usually does - break out
a far more colourful side when he's within his tight little circle of old friends. Among those
in fact, he's known as a party clown and show off who, as one says, "will climb up a wall if he has to, to entertain." Dick has even wriggled through limbo exhibitions and twist frenzies at Carolyn Trojanowski's get-togethers. Usually, though his fun stunts are sophisticated, creative and, in effect, performances, "Noel Cowardish," is the way
Bob Towne describes them.
If there's a piano handy, Dick will sit down and start rippling the keys with Debussy or Ravel, correctly and with feeling. But before anyone knows it, he's off in wild improvisations which are pure Chamberlain - and killing burlesque. Not long ago at a party things like this went on till dawn, helped along by champagne in paper cups.
"Dick did a fake strip-tease - with all the props - that was paralysing," Green recalls.
"Dick has a devastating wit," confirms Carolyn Trojanowski. "No one he knows well is safe, especially himself. It's always creative and you never know when he'll let it fly."
But even Dick's closest friends recognise a line behind which Dick occasionally steps to become someone nobody really knows, possibly including himself. Carolyn Trojanowski, who knew him before he went to Korea, says, "Sometimes I have no idea what Dick is thinking. I might think I do, but I can't be sure." Clara Ray, thoughtfully fingering the diamond pendant Dick gave her, admits, "The longer I know Dick the more I realise I don't know him." And Martin Green, who has painted two portraits of his pal, muses, "When Dick sits for a painting his personality seems to turn inward. He's not easy."
The other night a friend dropped by Dick's hideout on his way home from the beach. "Dick offered me a brandy and we had one, then a few more," he reports. "He began to open up. I don't remember all that he said but I got the impression that deep down Dick feels a bit unfulfilled and lonely. He mentioned what few close friends he really had and how hard it was for him to make new ones."
If that's true, the feeling is nothing new with Richard Chamberlain. Most of his life he has been in some spotlight or other - but essentially alone in a crowd. All that time he's had everything anyone could wish to make him confident, easy and open - good looks, health, talent, brains - plus the ability to go after what he wanted and get it. Whether it was exams, girls, sports, art or acting Dick could wind up a winner. He had security too, a good home and well-off parents. The worst sickness he ever had was measles, his only accident a broken toe.
"To this day," says one old friend, "Dick hasn't had a really hard knock. He's never needed one." Yet, somehow a sign, "Private - No Trespassing," has hung on him almost from the day he was born right in Beverly Hills, at 6:30 p.m., March 31, 1934. "Only five and a half hours away from being an April Fool," Dick points out. "I've always thought the margin
was too slim."
He's kidding, of course. Neither brains, nor much of anything else was lacking in George Richard Chamberlain's heritage. It was solid and solidly American, including a touch of Indian blood on his father's side, which you can spot in Dick's high cheekbones and, perhaps in his stoic reserve. The rest, as Dick breaks it down, is "two-thirds English and one-fourth German," and he owes the sturdy yet sensitive traits of those races, too.
His dad, Charles Chamberlain, came from Indiana, went through Indiana University, played football and injured a leg so badly that a Hoosier doctor told him it would never heal. So, Charles went to California "to die" in the sun. Instead he got well, found a job
in a service station.
One day a girl with the marathon name of Elsa Winifred Von Fischer Benson drove in for some petrol. Elsa was from San Francisco, she was blonde, pretty and musical. Her own mother had been on the stage and Elsa had sung briefly herself. However, any ideas she may have had of a career vanished when she fell in love with the husky, handsome garage attendant. As soon as Charles Chamberlain found a better job as salesman for City Refrigerator Company, they were married. By the time Dick came along his brother, William, was almost seven. After Dick, Elsa had another son, but he died at birth. That left Dick not an only child but still a lonely one. Because, more than an age gap separated little "Dickie" Chamberlain from his brother.
"I was never very close to Bill," Dick says. "He was all the things I wasn't - outgoing, sporty, handsome, romantically confident with girls, and, of course, way out ahead of me."
Throughout Dick's boyhood, though, Bill's glamorous trail cast a backward shadow in which Dick felt blotted out. Dick appraises himself then as, "a shy, serious, lugubrious kid, painfully thin, with a long sad face."
Back of it, however, lay an adventurous spirit which, even as a tot, made Dickie both a personage and a problem on South Elm Drive. The Chamberlains lived on that pleasant, middle-income Beverly Hills street from the time Dick was two until he left for college. Dick's home was one of the nicest - a comfortable seven room Spanish type stucco with a Mexican tiled patio in the back and out front two huge trees shading the lawn. But for some time his haven was a prison for Dick and he contrived to spring himself at every opportunity. Elsa Chamberlain, going about her housework, would spot Dick contentedly playing with his toys or pet turtle one minute. The next she peeked he was gone.
Usually, she found him wistfully hugging the fence surrounding the playground of
the school down the road.
But sometimes he ventured further and then the police would have to be called to round him up. Excitement was rare on respectable South Elm Drive; the only real rumble was once when a reputed "gangster" got himself shot in a nearby apartment. So, neighbours threw open their windows, leaned out hopefully then slammed them shut as bluecoats led Dick dismally home.
"Just that Chamberlain kid running away again," they muttered.
Dick went to the Beverly Vista School when he was six. By then Billy was on to greater glory at Beverly Hills High, but his golden aura still lingered. Dick didn't dare hope to match it; he just wanted friendships and fun. His mother took him the first day and they watched a new little girl stage a crying scene when her mother left.
"Now," said Mrs. Chamberlain, "isn't that silly?"
Dick thought so, too. He was proud that he didn't cry. But why should he when he was finally where he'd longed to be? In a few days he wasn't so sure about that. It came as
a rude shock, Dick remembers, that school was not just one long, happy romp on a playground. He was also supposed to learn things- laborious and rather uninteresting
things at that. This wasn't what it was cracked up to be. Again he found himself a
celebrity, in reverse.
"For a while I refused to let them teach me anything," he recalls. "I earned a unique honour - the most uncooperative kid in school." No threats, or appeals to his parents did any good. Worst of all was learning to read. He didn't really get with that until he encountered a patient, understanding teacher named Florence Montgomery. She took time after class to break down his rebellious block, and for that Dick is still grateful.
"She was a wonderful woman," he says, "and I really don't know what would have happened to me without her."
Yet, even today Dick Chamberlain has trouble with oral reading. It handicapped him when he was trying out for his first Hollywood jobs. Learning lines is no problem but give him a script to read- and he messes it up.
Back then, Dick Chamberlain messed up about every conforming situation he ran into. He finally got through Beverly Vista with a passable C-average, but he hated school, organised sports, teams and regimented games. He was the fastest kid in school; he'd run a race with anyone - and usually won. But when he couldn't he would quit.
"One time," Dick recalls, "I ran the 100 yards in a YMCA track race against kids from all over town. I took it for granted that I'd win - I always had. But suddenly several guys were out ahead of me and pulling away. So I stopped running. Everyone was sore. They said, 'It's a race, and you finish a race, win or lose!' That didn't make sense to me. I like to think that quitting that race was the last honest thing I ever did!"
Fights over a girl
Sundays Dick had his arm twisted and trotted dutifully off to the Beverly Vista Community church. He even stood in the choir briefly as an alto with a bunch of lady sopranos. "I hated it," he admits honestly. "But I had to go. I've always hated anything where I don't have freedom of choice."
Given that, Dick was as normal as the next boy. On his street, which "throbbed with kids," he free-wheeled happily around with junior citizens. A few of the boys, and Dick was one, worshipped the same girl, and beat up each other regularly. With the gang he heaved dirt clods at passing cars until one target turned out to be a police car, and that was disaster. Periodically, a circle of kids gathered under Dick's trees to watch Dick and another boy, with whom he had "a personality conflict," slug it out. Dick nursed his wounds with a
toad which he kept in his room. "An ugly, exotic beast," he remembers, "that seemed beautiful to me."
Another precious possession was a disreputable alley cat named "Tommy." "I think I loved Tommy as I've never loved anything since," muses Dick.
Dick was closest to his mother, with him all day at home, and who Dick resembled in both temperament and looks. His busy dad was off early mornings, home late at nights and Bill, well, to him Dick was mostly a bothersome brat. Introspective Dick may not have considered his home the warmest in the world. Actually, family life at the Chamberlain's went along about as it does everywhere - with successions of joys and small tragedies. Both boys had what they needed, in love and material blessings. They weren't rich but there was always money enough.
There was nothing unique about Dick Chamberlain's dream to become an actor. It was common, at one age or another, to almost every boy and girl in Beverly Hills. The town itself was one big such dream come true. Films had made it and kept it flourishing. The studios were Beverly's pulse and the glamorous stars its heartbeat. They lived up across Santa Monica Boulevard in mansions and you could see Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Crawford or a hundred other glamorous goddesses bustling in and out of the smart shops. At any corner Clark Gable might pull up in that curious new sports car of his called a Jaguar. All around were people "in pictures."
Dick's paper round had names on it anyone might know. A friend's father was an assistant director. Dick's own family had a close friend who made "quickies." And right across the street in an apartment house lived a queenly beauty who was actually a star. Dick pestered her for autographs, week in and out. "I had to get new ones all the time because Billy would hang up the ones I had and riddle them with darts," he explains. When the star moved out of the neighbourhood Dick sneaked into her vacant apartment. The walls
were covered with mirrors. "I think she must have had a Narcissistic complex,"
he observes now dryly.
If Dick Chamberlain's desire to become a star burned deeper than most it was also more carefully hidden. Hypersensitive, he didn't want to get laughed at, either by the kids or at home. Today Dick is different. He likes to laugh and be laughed at - and even considers himself something of a comedian.
Dick Chamberlain always liked the girls and girls liked him. He wooed them one at a time - as he does today - and he had his first "date" at six. He can't remember her name but after her came Arden, the baby doll. Next Arlene, a brown-haired girl who liked to play games, took over; then it was June, who was a tease; and finally Anne, more on the sweet side but a bittersweet memory to Dick. "I bought her a heart-shaped box of candy for Valentine's Day," he remembers. "But when I got up nerve enough to ring her door bell there was another boy already there - with a bigger box. He stayed. I crept home in humiliation and dismay. All that money wasted!" Whether he sat with a girl or just by himself Dick Chamberlain never counted the money he spent at the films wasted.
The kid shows were bargains. He could stare all day long as western after western reeled off. He went in for cliff-hanging serials and horror epics. "There was one where a maniac went around blowing up buildings and murdering people en masse," recalls Dick. "That was for me." If the film got dull the kids took over. Squirt guns were unlimbered and the air was filled with popcorn boxes, tinfoil balls and paper gliders. Dick knew that if he were up there on screen such bored protests would never break loose, and he promised himself that in some comfortably remote future that's exactly what would come about. Flushed with this anticipated triumph he entered a Halloween costume contest. His mother spent a week fashioning a pirate's costume and, when his turn came, Dick trotted proudly out on stage. There was a weak ripple of applause. He stood in the wings waiting hopefully as winners were announced. Dick got nothing. He dragged home, stunned and unbelieving.
"But, looking back," says Dick, "maybe that was the challenge." If so, it lay unanswered for a good long time. Soon after, Dick went on to Beverly Hills High and his world became crowded with other matters. He was fourteen but already six-feet-one, "a deadpanned, skinny stringbean," as Dick describes himself unglamorously, "with long, greasy blond hair." As usual he figured himself a total loss in the wake of his big brother. As usual, Bill was long gone - to college - leaving his glorious record behind for Dick to buck. Bill had starred in football, basketball and athletics, was a social sensation with boys and especially girls. He was voted "Handsomest Man In School" at graduation.
Dick had no such great expectations. "I wanted to go to college," he says simply. "I knew college was important. I knew I'd have to pass exams to make it. So I worked." Dick got a solid "B" average all four years. But success breeds success. Once he got in the main groove, it was surprising how easily others opened up. By graduation Richard Chamberlain's record was nothing to sniff at, even stacked up against his brother Bill's.
He sprinted four years on the school track team - 100 and 220 yards - and while he didn't always win at the interscholastic meets he usually placed. He also headed the Drama Club. Still, as one classmate remembers, "You couldn't say Dick Chamberlain was terrifically popular at Beverly High. Respected is more like it. He was the kind you just naturally elected to offices and things. He had a sort of quiet authority."
He showed up at the dances after basketball games in the big school gym, or at the country clubs scattered around where proms and class balls were held. But he was never the life of any big party. Bill Chamberlain's wife, Pat, remembers that Dick, late in his teens, could come into a gathering at their house and be so quiet that you'd never notice he was there.
Dick was different around his own close set of pals - Dick Hall. Don Tinsley, Billy Ruggles, Vernon Lohr and Travis Reed and their steadies. Naturally, Dick had one, too. Donna was the kind of girl he always chose - pretty, peppy but femininely sweet. Usually somebody could promote a family car; and if there wasn't a dance or a film all wanted to see, they could always drive up into the hills, park and as Dick grins, "neck in the back seat."
But the most fun was roaring off to California's handy mountains, desert or beach on weekends for picnics and sport. Dick liked the beach best because he's found a way to casually stroll off the public strand into the private Del Mar Club and blandly assume the privileges of a member. All it took was a cool head and a bit of acting.
Among the scores of forget-me-nots which classmates scribbled on Dick's last copy of the Beverly High's year book, "The Watchtower," is one which reads: "To a wonderful guy, and a terrific artist." So painting, Dick Chamberlain decided, was his major talent and it would be art he’d go after for his life's work.
After graduation, he enrolled at Pomona College, in Claremont, to study art. Claremont is only thirty-five miles from Beverly Hills, but except for the mountain backdrop and sunshine it could be in another land.
All of the students soon knew Chamberlain. From the start and in various ways, he was a marked man. "Dick's only problem was holding the girls off," remembers his friend Bob Towne. "More girls were after him than he knew what to do with. You couldn't blame them. He was as good, maybe even better-looking then than he is now. I had early morning classes with Dick and I never saw him with a hair out of place, a whisker or, for that matter, a smudge on his face."
In one way or another the spotlight focused on Dick all his four years at Pomona. If he wasn't winning a trophy at an art exhibition, he was starring in a theatrical production.
He loved art and was good. His paintings won prizes and he even sold some to
"Dick has real talent, still has," says Martin Green, who should know. "He could have been a fine painter, especially in ordered abstractions and geometrical subject matter. He was especially good in greys, blacks and whites."
As school slipped by, something was happening to Dick, and he knew it. "I was thinking less and less about painting and more and more about acting." he says. "I think the turning point for Dick was when he did Shaw's 'Arms And The Man,'" believes Bob Towne. "He did a brilliant job." Virginia Allen, head of Pomona's Drama Department, thought the same thing.
"I'm considering trying to be an actor instead of a painter," Dick told her. "Should I?" She thought a minute. "Yes," she said. "I think you should."
It was too late by then to change his college course, but from then on Dick Chamberlain knew what he was after. He told Bob Towne flatly, "I'm going to act. It's not such a lonesome life. Besides, I think that I can give more and get more."
"I was amazed, really," says Bob. "Dick was handsome, sure, talented - yes. But where was the conceit and the ego? I still don't know."
At any rate, Dick had only one thought in mind - getting somewhere in Hollywood. For the first time in his life, nothing, not even a girl, sidetracked that idea. Dick says he broke up with Joan, his steady of two years, about that time when she got too serious.
Only four months after Dick drove home from Pomona, the Army nabbed him. That was a blow Dick hadn't counted on. It was the beginning of two years which, in Dick Chamberlain's book, add up to one long, frustrated waste.
Private Chamberlain left for a place called Camp Hovey, thirty miles in from Seoul. "If there was anything around there worth seeing or doing, I never discovered it," says Dick. "The most uplifting activity was drinking beer." Even less exciting than the scenery was Dick's job - company clerk. "I had to do all the paper work," says Dick. "It took me eight months before I was really on top of that job." They rewarded him with a corporal's stripes and finally a staff sergeant's. "Until Dr. Kildare," he says, "I had never worked so hard in my life." Dick spent his final service weeks at Fort MacArthur, right out of Los Angeles. Then he was free at long last, but loaded with problems.
"Briefly, they were, no money, no place to live, no experience and no contacts," sums up Dick. His first attempts to get all four were pretty discouraging. For three months he lived at home, but Dick soon discovered that Tom Wolfe was right: You can't go home again. His family was sympathetic with his ambition, but nobody exactly cheered. How could they? He was just one of a thousand others with the same long odds against him.
"I didn't want to take money from my folks, but I did," says Dick. "I had to have lessons and I had to eat." He also had to pay £20 a month for a Hollywood flat. The years 1958-1959 are not rose-tinted in Dick's Memory. Dick expresses it neatly: "There's nothing so depressing as being on the outside of show business, trying to get in." And that's it. Of course, it's also the oldest story in Hollywood. For the brash, the brassy, the thick-skinned, it can be an exciting game. But the sensitive suffer. Dick had never flailed helplessly at thin air before. Always some good things had come his way, whether he really enjoyed them or not. Now nothing, and nobody seemed to care. "I almost went out of my mind," Dick admits. "Still, I was lucky," Dick believes today. "All that time I had very wise people keeping tab on me and cracking down."
Two were Carolyn Trojanowski and Jeff Corey. Low or not, Dick never stopped taking lessons. And they weren't always encouraging. Jeff Corey is a drama expert who has helped such stars as Tony Perkins, Gardner McKay, Diane Varsi and Tony Quinn.
"The thing I liked about Dick," he says, "was his sensitivity and charm. He had a lot of
For a long time few around Hollywood saw more than a handsome, mannerly, young man who'd like a job acting. Only the ones who got to know him became boosters. Everybody liked him; nobody gave him a job. He was always, "Not quite right." Dick, however, takes some of the blame. "I think it was largely my own fault," says Dick today. "I froze up on interviews. When they asked me to read I read badly. I couldn't sell myself. They could see I was no professional - not yet, anyway."
"No, Dick wasn't," agrees Al Tresconi, M.G.M.’s casting chief. "But if you have it in the eyes - you have it." Tresconi had nothing cooking then to put Dick in, but he made a mental note: good bet for a long-term M.G.M. contract.
That's exactly what Dick finally got, of course, but not until his wide eyes had opened considerably wider by the hotfoots of show business. His very first "break" in a TV film turned into exactly one line which he delivered with three other people, yelling "Goodbye" to a wedding party.
There was a film, too - The Secret Of The Purple Reef, and again Dick's hopes rocketed
up only to descend with a thud when they scissored his part to nothing.
"I got by", he sums up, "with an occasional loan from home, my chauffeur job and the
odd small acting part."
Was he discouraged? "It was scary at times, sure," Dick allows calmly. "That's why I never stopped those lessons. I realised I wouldn't get steady work until I learned a lot. When I had - well, the break came along."
The break Dick means was when powerful M.C.A. took him on as a client. A friend of his family's, Jack Bailey, raced him in there. As agents, M.C.A. thought big and acted the same way. All through 1960, as M.G.M. waded carefully into television, Dick knocked steadily at M.G.M.’s door. He went there first to make a Western. Next, Dick tried out for a tentative half-hour version of Dr. Kildare. Nobody wanted it at first so that effort was dropped. He showed up again for another TV film. He wasn't the type. Then Dr. Kildare came up again - a big hour show now with the works behind it. M.C.A. shot Dick right out again. This time M.G.M. invited him to stay. That was December, 1960.
Of course, it wasn't that simple. It never is. For a time both Dr. Kildare and Dick Chamberlain were on trial. Launching a major TV series is something like a blast off at Canaveral. If it goes into orbit, everybody's a hero; if it fizzles, they come up fools. Dick knew that thirty-five other actors with far bigger "names" than his had tested for Jim Kildare. He also knew that one big reason he got it was because he came cheaper than most. The money wasn't too important, but the opportunity was. Once again, Dick was where he seemed always to land - in the spotlight and yet all alone.
In this respect things changed hardly at all for Dick when Director Boris Sagal saw rushes of the first Kildare show, hustled up to the front office and told anxious M.G.M. executives, "Stop worrying!" Ulcers healed magically all over the lot.
From the start Dick's poker mask has made it all look ridiculously easy. It never was. "The first year," says a director who guided him often," Dick got by mainly on his nerve and his good looks." Raymond Massey adds benevolently. "Dick has grown an awful lot in this job."
But there has been growing pains, too. Most are connected with Dick's period of adjustment to life as a public figure. Psychologically, he wasn't cut out for that. Secure on the set, Dick is comfortable, as he always has been in a tight little group who know him, work with him, have learned to like and understand him.
The other day, Bill Sargent, an actor friend of Dick's with a small part, found himself without a light in his dressing-room. Dick noticed Bill struggling to dress in the dark, politely asked an electrician for a fixture, then installed it himself, rather than make even a minor fuss.
Yet, barely a year ago, after Dick was interviewed on TV before a live audience of women, he stepped off the stage, clutched his stomach, and mumbled to Chuck Painter, "I think
I'm going to be sick!"
Last summer in New York he cautiously timed his arrivals at Broadway shows so that he could walk up to his seat in the dark, and leave before the lights went up.
"Dick's improved. Now he's more self-confident in a crowd," believes Painter, who is usually at his side. But he complains: "I never seem to be ready."
Dick was ready enough to score a vocal hit in his live TV debut, singing "Manhattan" with Shirley Jones - as smooth as if he's been doing that sort of thing all his life. But only his voice coach, Dick, and a few people close to him know how he worked and worried every day until the show went on air.
One bunch was his Kildare crew, who sent him a gag wire to break the tension right before his number: "MY DADDY IS LETTING ME STAY UP LATE TONIGHT TO HEAR YOU SING, CAROLINE KENNEDY." Someone else, even closer, knew about the lonely fights Dick stages with himself to come through cool, calm and perfect in a challenge like that.
"I knew Dick would be up to it. He's up to anything," says Clara Ray. "But my heart ached to be there backing him up." Instead, Clara was in Houston on a singing engagement. All she could do was send another wire: "GIVE'EM BOTH BARRELS, SWEETIE."
That's precisely what Dick Chamberlain has been doing, of course, ever since he started stalking an acting career in his solitary way. The method's hard to beat; nothing
succeeds like success.
Today, Dick explains himself like this: "Right now it's important to me to satisfy myself as an actor, a singer and an all-round performer. I still take these lessons because I realised long ago that I'd never get what I wanted unless I did. After you go around for months without getting a job you tell yourself, 'Wait a minute, something's wrong!' What was wrong with me was that I wasn't worth anything to anyone, so nobody wanted me. I've been extremely lucky. My break at M.G.M. came after a long fallow period. I'm grateful. But I wasn't sure I wanted to do a TV series when I started. I know now I don't want to do one forever, even if that were possible. The question with me is: After Dr. Kildare, then what? "I think I'll end up on the stage," Dick continues. "I've found I love it and I think my future's there more than TV or even films. So I'm preparing, that's all. Sure, I like fun and people as well as the next guy. It's a constant frustration with me not to be able to join in more. Only right now I simply don't have the time."
What free time Dick has he spends mostly with Clara Ray.
Clara Ray's own career often takes her out of Hollywood singing. But when she's home, "Clara and Dickie," as they call each other, make a duo. Sometimes Clara cooks Dick a steak at her tiny Hollywood apartment while he works up an appetite on her piano; other nights the same scene shifts to Dick's hideaway. When they're feeling grand they dress up and dine at Windsor House or Trader Vic's for Dick's favourite Polynesian food. On rare workless weekends, they usually head for the beach. Thursday nights, or course,
TV is a must.
To Clara, Dick is "a marvelous person, so dependable and sweet, and we couldn't have more fun together." But when you mention marriage, she gazes demurely off into space "Why," she says innocently, "we've never had that on our minds at all!"
Dick's more explicit: "Marriage? Lord, no - not now," he protests. "I want to be married someday, of course. I think that's probably the greatest adventure of all - and the most ticklish. Too many people toss it away. I might if I married now. I'm just not ready yet. Say, when I'm about thirty-two."
If Dick Chamberlain does wait until he's thirty-two to make a home and found his own family, with Clara Ray or anyone else, he runs the risk of missing out on a hunk of important living, which even the most glorious career might not make up for.
By then, unless they run out of patients, Dr. Kildare might still be hogging the TV screen,
or Dick Chamberlain might be the toast of Broadway. Either way, chances are he'll be rich. Already Dick makes four times the £500 a week, plus his loot from recordings. He is also starring in a couple of films. What he makes now Dick socks carefully away into a savings account. He took on a business manager the other day, though he has no financial plans. "We'll see," he says cagily. "Frankly, I love money and I intend to save it and keep it."
"Dick is always talking about buying a new car or a house," says Clara Ray. "I don't think he'll do either soon. He's cautious and intelligent about his money."
"The house is one thing," Dick admits, "I want very much. I'd like to find a lot high in the hills with a wonderful view, and build a place to suit my own needs. Then," he grins,
"I'd really be on top of the world."
But it could be, too, by that time he'd add up to a crusty old bachelor still looking for
the real Dick Chamberlain to step forward. For Dick faces the trap most super-serious actors face: all art and no reality can come up artificiality. And so far Dick's street is distressingly one-way.
"More than anyone I know," says a close friend, "Dick needs the anchor of a wife, the stability of a home, a family."
If Dr. Kildare could prescribe for Dick Chamberlain, a wife might be just what he'd order. Not only to banish the essential loneliness Dick has known all his life, but to dispel his fears and crack the bland, boyish mask he wears for the world. It still hides the fascinating man underneath, still makes Dick Chamberlain seem to most people what he is not. For it is
the mask - and the mask alone - that keeps people from knowing how much more than
a boy he is.
Only the other day, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, Dick wandered into a shop, went through the magazine rack and came up with a "Dr. Kildare" comic book. He went over to the counter to pay.
The cashier looked at the comic book and then up and down at Dick. "That'll be ten cents," she stated. He gave her the money and waited silently while she dropped it into the till. "Thank you," she said " -- little boy."
A Nurse’s Report on How Dick Chamberlain Operates . . .
Please somebody, hand me the tranquilizers. I’m soaring. At twenty-three, I suppose I should treat my day with Dr. Kildare with poise and nonchalance, but I admit it was a real thrill, every minute of it. When Dick Chamberlain and MGM, by courtesy of TV Radio Mirror, invited me to see how Dick operates, it didn’t take me long to say “Yes” – no longer than it would to stick a thermometer under a patient’s tongue.
It isn’t just that I love the show. Most nurses, doctors and hospital attendants do, I’m sure. And as for me, unless I’m on duty Thursdays at 8:30 p.m., no date can drag me from my TV set. At U.C.L.A. Medical Center, where I work in Metabolic Research, we
often discuss both Dr. Kildare and his rival, Dr. Ben Casey. I won’t try to make comparisons; I’m no critic, and both appeal on entirely different ways to people
in the medical profession.
Let me say, before I go any further, that I’d already had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Gillespie – I mean Raymond Massey – a very brief meeting during the Christmas holidays when we both happened to be vacationing in Phoenix, Arizona. I’d always admired
Mr. Massey as an actor, and I think he has that special delicate and subtle expertness of a
brain surgeon. I’ve often thought that his interpretations of people and their motives,
and what makes them tick, took quite a little brain surgery on his part. Anyway,
you don’t have to exchange more than a couple of sentences to know that he is a
person to respect and remember . . .
Meeting Dick Chamberlain was something else again. For one thing, he’s young (my own age) and not so awesome as Mr. Massey. Naturally I viewed him as I would any young handsome intern assigned to the Center. Oh-oh! I can hear the girls who read this, saying, “Sex rears its fascinating head.” Well, for the benefit of my friends and coworkers, I did find him attractive and winning. And I admit, I gave him and everything on the set the big eye . . . That sound stage stopped me in my tracks. It had a certain familiar feel about it, and at first I couldn’t tell why. Naturally I expected to see a hospital setting,
and most hospitals look alike. But this was the sort of familiarity that makes you wonder, “Have I ever been here before?” Finally, Dick said, “You look puzzled . . .
I shook my head, then took a guess. “Your hospital . . . was it modeled after some particular place?”
A mischievous grin came over Dick’s face. “Can’t you guess?”
I took a more careful look. “It’s U.C.L.A. Medical Center, isn’t it?” Talk about authenticity! It was real as a hypo in the arm . . .
Oh yes, about acting. Never again will I consider acting or any aspect of making a film or TV show easy. All you have to do is watch Dick do a scene and you realize this is no cinch. He was going at it so hard, and the scene was so complex, I began to be afraid I wouldn’t get a chance to ask half the questions in my mind. Finally, there was a lunch break and we went down to the commissary. But even then, we were under pressure, because they were taking pictures of us.
I found it pretty flustering, but Dick, like a good trouper, kept smiling and never lost his air of friendliness throughout the proceedings. “Who’ll split a steak and a bowl of spaghetti with me?” he asked. Believe me, I didn’t wait to be nudged! “I will,” I volunteered. We then held a short consultation – doctor and nurse style – and came up with the marvelous discovery that we both liked steak done the same way, closer to rare than medium.
“Who’s Ben Casey?”
Before I get ahead of my story, I’d like to give a sample of Dick’s courtesy. Just after we met, the photographer asked us to pose for a few shots. Dick immediately asked me whether I was ready or wished to touch up my make-up. I told him I would like to give my face a once-over. Darned if he didn’t escort me to the long dressing table where the girls get prettied up before going before the cameras.
He watched me for a second, an amused grin on his face. “Do you fuss over your lipstick that way at the hospital?” he teased. With all the dignity I could command, I said, “No, not usually.” He saw I was standing on my professional grounds, and he said quickly, “I was kidding, Carol . . . but really, why shouldn’t a nurse fix up and look her best? It’s good for a patient’s morale.”
Obviously, Dick is a great kidder and extremely easy-going. I thought I’d give him a taste of his own medicine, so I teased right back. “You’re more my type than Ben Casey,
” I said. He gave me a completely blank dead-pan look and asked innocently,
“Who’s Ben Casey?”
Now that doctor shows have become so popular, I’ve been asked many times how
“Dr. Kildare” stacks up. Does he act like a real intern? Look like one? Are the hospital procedures accurate and convincing to people in the profession? People say, “Carol,
do you catch any embarrassing blunders?”
The answer to the first three is a resounding yes. The answer to the last question is yes-and-no. I am very comfortable, almost as though I were part of the action, when I watch Dr. Kildare go about his duties. And I am not embarrassed by blunders, although there are small things that vary from usual routine. I can see that these are necessary for dramatic emphasis.
I’d also like to qualify my “yes” on Dick’s resemblance to the interns I have met. Wouldn’t it be just heavenly for nurses if all our interns looked like Dick Chamberlain? The sad fact is, they don’t. Many interns are attractive and charming, by the usual standards. But, of course, a Dick Chamberlain gets where he is by being something more than the usual run of males. Dick’s good looks are part of his success.
Moreover, in the show, he is represented as being the cream of the intern crop, and he is treated with special consideration by the venerable Dr. Gillespie. So it would be carping
at a minor point to insist that he is too handsome to look like an intern. I myself don’t
find him so.
While on the subject of fault-finding, I must confess I didn’t go for the first episode, because it showed him going to lunch at a café across from the hospital wearing a stethoscope around his neck. That was a glaring oversight, but there aren’t many such in the episodes I’ve watched.
What most people seem to find hardest to swallow with regard to “Dr. Kildare,” is the way an intern gets himself so involved with so many personal problems of hospital patients. Well, my experience is that this is not as incredible as it may seem.
At U.C.L.A., for instance, interns get plenty of chance to study patients because the practicing doctor is usually at the hospital only for brief checkups, and the resident doesn’t have enough time to handle each case on a personal basis. He is busy most of the time with emergencies and seriously ill patients.
I’m glad the show doesn’t patronize its viewers. I’ve heard medical terms like “EKG” and “PBC” used without adding an explanation. In other words, the terms are used as they would be in a hospital, forgetting the audience, and this adds to the enjoyment of the audience, I feel. I also like the “Dr. Kildare” show because he is warm and sympathetic – as a doctor should be – and he makes mistakes, as a human being is bound to.
I’ve been asked whether nurses actually have coffee with doctors and whether they are on a first-name basis. This is true to life and merely part of the friendships that develop when people work together.
In case anyone’s interested in my credentials, I’m a native of California and I trained for nursing at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in New York City, after my father was transferred to the East about ten years ago. None of it was as glamorous – or as bad – as TV and the movies sometimes make it seem. There are plenty of dirty jobs and a lot of hard discipline, but the other side of the coin is always before you.
Love in the corridors
Nursing offers an insight into life. You get to meet all kinds of people at moments of crisis in their lives. You see how they act under stress. They may be wealthy, polished, profane, humorous, patient or nasty . . . it’s up to you to help ease their pain and give them comfort and hope. I will admit the spoiled and nasty ones sometimes make you wish you were
not only a nurse but a judo artist as well! Still, no matter what your inner feelings are,
you must try to do your duty, and that is a source of great satisfaction even on the toughest case.
Finally, I understand there is an impression that a lot of boy-girl stuff goes on in the sterile corridors of a hospital. That, my friends, is nonsense. There just isn’t time for smooching, and corridors are public places with people coming and going all the time. The men in medicine are not overly romantic, I have found, mainly because they carry such responsibilities on their shoulders the moment they walk into a hospital. They’re not looking for matrimonial prospects there.
Most would prefer to date girls with no association with pills, drugs, anesthetics or scalpels. They seem to prefer girls who wouldn’t know a biopsy bottle from a pint of Arpege. Nurses usually feel the same way. They want to get away from talking shop. And knowing the hours a doctor must give to his profession, most nurses think three times before considering marriage with an M.D.
Dick Chamberlain – Above the crowd but still alone
Dick Chamberlain has built a wall around his private world. Those who know him best are beginning to ask is he LUCKY OR LONELY?
Few people really know or understand Dick Chamberlain. On the surface his engaging blond charm invites friendship, but the look in his deep blue eyes spells ‘No Trespassing – Private Property!’
At 28, young Dr. Kildare has yet to meet the girl who’ll leap over his wall of resistance. Clara Ray, Dick’s long-time friend and frequent date is tabbed as today’s leading contender for his affections, but the tall actor is vague about a serious relationship. “I want
a wife and family . . . SOMEDAY,” he admits, with the inference that SOMEDAY is
a long time from now.
New at this business of being a star, Chamberlain is politely evasive to reporters who attempt to pry into his private life. Dick has already been criticized in print because he refuses to reveal his most intimate thoughts for public viewing. Chances are Dick would be tight-lipped about personal affairs whether or not television hadn’t skyrocketed him to stardom so suddenly.
Those who knew the make-believe doctor as a child claim he was sensitive, quiet, and often dreamy. During the long hours in grammar school, Dickie Chamberlain was more apt to be watching a butterfly gaily gliding outside the classroom window, rather than listening to the teacher. He was constantly drawing pictures of everything. They were good pictures and an art talent continued to develop within Dick. Eventually, he became an art major at Pomona College in California. On his canvases, the serious young student poured out most of his inner feelings. Those who have been fortunate enough to view Dick’s work claim to respect it and understand more about the painter as an individual.
During childhood, there was a constant attempt on Dick’s part to be kind to others. On one occasion a little girl in his second grade class was made the object of a cruel joke. Tearfully, she ran out of the classroom and straight home, hoping never to return to school. The following morning when she timidly took her seat across the aisle from Dick, the little girl’s eyes fell on a picture laying on top of her desk. It was a happy picture drawn with a purpose in mind. She noticed Dick grinning at her and realized that he had made the drawing in order to cheer her up. Blond, smiling Dickie Chamberlain was a kind child and his classmates loved him.
Today, Dick sadly states, “My painting days seem to be over . . . at least for the present. I haven’t painted since several months before we began Kildare. The last painting I did was an abstract landscape from the sundeck of my apartment.” The hard-working TV star
lives alone in a garage apartment high in the Hollywood Hills. His quarters consist of one huge room with a sundeck, a tiny kitchen, and a tiny bathroom. All the furniture belongs
to Dick’s landlord except the dining room table which the Chamberlain carpentry skill
There is little time for friends or social functions with the responsibility of a weekly 60-minute television show and a recording career under way. “After work each night,” the smooth-voiced Chamberlain explains, “I try to work in a singing lesson or a dancing lesson. I’ve taken singing for a long time, but now dancing really has me enthused.
I’m studying ballet . . . it’s the basis of all dancing. I figure if I can acquire a good skill here, I’ll be ready to apply it to all forms of dancing.”
Still to be proved as a singing star, his ambition is to appear on the stage in New York. “I’ve always wanted to do a musical and maybe someday . . . if I work hard I’ll get that chance. Right now, I’ll concentrate on acting. I want to be a fine actor.”
Viewers of “Dr. Kildare” are quite aware of the young actor’s dramatic talents. With each show, Dick seems to improve and add more depth to the character of Kildare. Raymond Massey, his co-star, is enthusiastic about Dick as a performer and has watched with glowing pride the ever-improving Chamberlain technique before the cameras.
Kildare fans may not be aware of the fact that Dick’s TV uniform is not white. The interns on the show wear blue uniforms because blue photographs better than white for the black and white television. On Dick, the pale blue of the uniform plays up the color in his eyes and shows off the whiteness of that dimpled smile.
Coming from a Beverly Hills, California, family, Dick began his acting career soon after graduating from college. Upon completion of a two year Army hitch in Korea, he clenched his fists and made the final do-or-die stand in the tough jungles of Movieland. After several small roles on TV, his earnest appeal was spotted by an agent and he was given a chance at the Kildare part. The rest is sizzling history with a new chapter written each Thursday night on NBC.
Regretfully claiming he doesn’t know many teenagers, Dick Chamberlain avoids talking about the group that makes up his fan popularity nucleus. He does, however, make his statement about girls in general. “By the time they get the big hairdos on and the wide eyes all painted up and the “no lipstick’ look around the mouth, they all look alike. I think the girl who concentrates on her own natural attributes is way ahead of the game.
She looks like herself and no one else. She’s not a copy.”
Most of the girls Dick dates are in show business in one way or another. “They,” according to him, “are mostly extroverts because the type of girl in the entertainment world is usually extroverted. I’d say I’m a combination of introvert and extrovert, but if I had
to choose what type of girl to escort, I believe I’d lean toward an extrovert.”
Currently in demand for all Hollywood social events, M-G-M’s newest star passes up most affairs because of “no time!”
Seriously speaking, Chamberlain regrets that, “There’s not enough time . . . even for my friends. I’ve neglected doing so many things since the show began . . . and because of this I don’t know too many of the young people around Hollywood. If there is a young Hollywood social set, I’m certainly not a member of it . . . but not of my own choosing.
It’s just that . . . there’s no time.”
Alone at night in his apartment, Dick studies his script, listens to hi-fi music, occasionally walks out on the sundeck to view the vast Hollywood lights beneath him. His only
visitors in the past few weeks were a family of raccoons that moved in under the floor
of his living room.
During days off there are the mountain blue jays and small squirrels to keep him company. Once in a while for exercise, the lean ex-college track star runs up and down his mountainside, but there never seems to be time for group activities. “I don’t know why,” he explains, “but I have never really cared for any team sports.”
Since the night of September 28, 1961, when Dick Chamberlain debutet as NBC- TV’S Dr. Kildare, he has been one of Hollywood’s great stellar sensations. Clean-cut, modest, quiet, level-headed, unobstrusive, Dick is today the biggest young star of them all, and he – and quite a few other people – have wondered “Why?”
Why, indeed? There are plenty of other young men who are just as good-looking, who have his lithe, 173-pound, neatly muscular body, his almond-shaped eyes, his clear American speech pattern with its touch of Californian, his dulcet voice tones, his warmth and youthful charm. In fact you can pick them off every orange tree our Los Angeles way, not to say in Chicago, New York’s Greenwich Village, Boston and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Which brings us back to the question: why? Why Richard Chamberlain out of some twenty million other young and likely Americans? Why Dick for all this honor, and power, and glory, and wealth, and fame?
“Frankly, I can’t see what that kid has to save my life,” one old studio pro has said. “His looks are okay, sure, but they are rather conveyor-beltish, meaning those kind of looks are run off like Fords, they are so common. He has no distinction, no individuality, no hypnotic quality, no authority. What is it, then?”
What is it? Listen to one of Dick’s teen-age fans: “First of all, he is so, well, so sexy. Sure he is quiet, and while he is muscular, he still looks like a puff of wind will blow him away. But there is a feeling you get about him, physically and emotionally, but God help you when he does get there!”
This young lady closed her summation with “Get what I mean?” We got what she meant, but another girl, in her late twenties, has analyzed his appeal somewhat more fully,
and more concisely:
“He makes women want to mother him. And he’s not a showoff or a braggadocio; he doesn’t appear to be in love with himself, so men like him too. The women feel he would be gentle, pliable, affectionate, even-tempered. The men fell he would be a good Joe to go fishing or bowling with. Likeability, of a universal kind. That’s his secret. Charles Farrell and Richard Barthelmess had that quality in the 1920s; Jimmy Steward had it in the 1930s and 1940s. Dick is the inheritor of that tradition.”
Dick has, upon request, defined for journalists the secret of Kildare’s (and his own) appeal: “With a doctor,” he says, “a woman envisions security, both emotionally and materially. But there’s is another reason. Kildare looks pure, He is waiting to be taught sin. To women, this is encouraging”.
Dick feels that the Kildare character (in September 1963 he switched from intern to resident physician, his performances reflect more gravity and dignity now) is a bit stuffy. “He is high-minded, trustworthy, loyal, kind, warmhearted, friendly, sincere and chaste,” he says, “and perhaps too noble for his or the public’s good. If I had my way with him, I w’d mold him into something slightly more human.”
Dick, however, has not tried to change the character that has taken him to fame. “He obeys the director, the producer, the makeup man, everyone who has the right to tell him what to do”, says an associate. “He has a horror of playing, or appearing to play, Peck’s Bad Boy. Everything is precise, punctual, disciplined with him. In a way, this attitude of his reflects insecurity, a fear of disapproval. Whatever its subconscious origin, it makes him an easy guy to be around.”
Tales abound of Dick’s easy ways on and off set, his almost constant amiability, his continually unruffled manner. “When he gets mad, he doesn’t show it to anyone; he just goes to his dressing room and bangs on the wall and throws a few things. Then he comes out feeling fine,” says one of his co-workers.
Is Dick this quiet, shallow, uncomplicated pretty-boy, who does his work and conducts his schedule like the dependable marionette of every martinet producer’s dreams?
Is this all there is to him?
Hardly. For beneath the boyish manner, the standard good looks, the affable ways, the pleasant smile and well-modulated voice, there lurks a tormented idealist and perfectionist who is still trying to find the real Dick Chamberlain. His torment is the quiet type; no exhibitionist he. Nor does he enjoy washing his dirty psychic linen in public. True, he has talked about his early life, and some of his quotes have proven significant, all the more so because they were uttered by a person who is not given to spilling his guts.
He was born in Los Angeles on March 31, 1934, the youngest of two sons of a small manufacturer of supermarket fixtures. His brother Bill, who was his childhood idol, and who because of the seven years’ difference in their ages, was an always somewhat distant idol, is now married and the dad of three. His parents are still living, and take great pride in Dick “though they are still a little dumbfounded that their chick has become a national name” says a family friend. “There was nothing in his early life to indicate that he would be.” Of English, German-American Indian and old-line Yankee stock, he says of his childhood, “It was so placid and uneventful that I scarcely give it a thought. My father was not rich, but he was comfortable enough to provide well for us. I went to nice schools, played with other nice kids my age, had enough spending money, no worries…”
But life for Dick in the pre-teen years seems nonetheless to have followed the lonely,
self-absorbed, spiritually rather isolated pattern of the “only child”, which for all practical purposes he was, what with Bill being so much older. “He wasn’t spoiled; nor was
he neglected,” says an old family friend. “He always had a sweet disposition, but
I always thought him essentially a more thoughtful child than the average, always
with an air of aloneness…”
This sense of aloneness seems to have become accentuated in his teen years, when he was forced for some time to wear braces on his teeth. “Dick wore those braces for years, and was more sensitive and self-conscious about them than you would ever get him to admit,” says an old friend. Dick’s essential modesty about his looks may be rooted in that period, when, staring into the mirror, he wondered about the braces’ effect on his appearance. Some friends feel that, mentally, he may still be wearing the braces, hence is non-susceptible to the flattery and adulation that has turned many young Hollywood actors
Be this as it may, Dick went on to Pomona College, still a loner, still thoughtful and meditative, still intensely sensitive and self-conscious. He majored in art, but acting in college plays soon became his main interest. “I was a simply terrible actor, though,” he says now, with typical self-deprecatory emphasis. “I never really got any parts. I just kept trying and kept being awful. I was only tolerated by the group.” Of those college years he says today, “I was extremely shy. I was a veritable hermit. I sat in my little room and I painted pictures. I was in some sort of a cocoon…”
He feels he was, and is, “a late maturer. Everything came late for me. Everything comes so good, though, when it comes, that I guess I can thank the law of self-compensation, that, they say, governs every human being’s life…”
Nonetheless, despite his disappointments in acting, he was happier in it than anything else. Painting he considered too lonely, too isolated an art form. He needed people, he knew it; and because he was uncertain of his own role in life, he decided that playing other people, finding vicarious release in the lives of imaginary characters was for him the surest way of communicating, fully and freely, with his fellow-man.
“The stage,” he said later, “seemed like a place where you could escape from the cocoon. There I could be free…free to express my emotions…free to move…free to shout. It seemed like a way to have fun without getting involved in real life.”
Graduated from Pomona College in 1956 with his B.A. degree in Art, Dick, at 21, found himself immediately drafted into the Army. There he served “the most miserable two years of my life” in Korea. A company clerk, he led the drab, dull life of the draftee in that bleak, faraway land, where, he admits today , he meditated often on the blood spilled by other young Americans just a few years before in the same area where he was stationed.
“My thoughts in Korea were usually sad and thoughtful. I read a great deal. I took refuge in dreams and romantic imaginings. The dullness and dreariness of my surroundings only seemed to heighten the color and interest and charm of my dreams…Sometimes the beautiful unrealities I lived inwardly seemed more real than reality itself…”
Discharged honorably as sergeant in 1958 (“How I made sergeant I don’t understand to this day,”) Dick drifted about California for a time, visiting his folks, living on his army discharge pay and unemployment compensation. He tried painting, but the loneliness of it oppressed him as it always had.
His parents had a friend, Lilly Messenger, who was an agent for actors. She suggested to Dick that he resume his acting ambitions. “You are goodlooking” she said, “and you are getting better looking all the time (Dick was then 23). Looks,” she continued sagely, “always help, and acting talent can be developed, with patience, perseverance, and
above all desire”.
Dick remembered these words for a long time. They sustained him through the bleak three years when all he could cadge were bits and walk-ons. Lilly would take him to read larger roles for producers, and he recalls, “I was incredibly bad. I was frightened and shy and the words I read didn’t have any meaning…”
Nonetheless he was gaining in acting poise and seasoning in spite of himself, and managed to land several small roles in Gunsmoke segments. This led to several feature parts, then a dozen roles in television dramas. In one of them, anAlfred Hitchcock Presents, he played Raymond Massey’s son.
He then tried out for an MGM series The Paradise Kid, won out over many contestants, some of whom were much better actors, because the powers-that-beat MGM saw “something deeply likeable, a warmth and charm, that we felt could be brought out full-force.” Although the pilot of Paradise Kid failed to sell, MGM put him under contract.
Executive producer Norman Felton, who was casting the next year for the TV version of the popular movie series of yesteryear, Young Dr. Kildare, tested Dick along with other young hopefuls. “He read badly,” Felton recalls, “but we saw a latent spiritual strength and personal magnetism. We tested 40 other actors, but there was no one really right for the role, and so we took him as the best bet.”
And so, on September 28, 1961, as before noted, show business history was made.
Dick’s acting on the first season’s shows was lamentable, as he and everyone else concede. But he worked constantly to improve. By the second season, 1962, he was on his way to a facile command of his craft. “He’s no threat to Richard Burton,”
Associates said of him as of that time (and even now) “but he knows his business and is thoroughly competent.” Raymond Massey who had approved of him originally for the role says, “Dick is a good technical actor, and a good listener. He is also a clean-cut, likeable, gentlemanly youngster, and a vast improvement, image-wise, over the Beatniks and the Brando-imitators, whose shufflings and mumblings I can’t stand.”
But it was his own individual charm and personality that really made Dick a star. He has improved immeasurably as an actor, his personality at nearly 29, has now flowered to its fullest. The little boy who, as Dick once recalled, felt “subhuman,” is no more. The ugly duckling has become a swan, and a modest, unassuming, unaffected swat, at that!
Dick still lives quietly alone in a little house. He follows a strict regimen that begins with eggs and coffee at six a.m., followed by a hasty “refresher” look at his script and an early set-call. He is at it all day, alternating camera work with interviews, makeup, more script study. A short nap in his dressing room, more acting, then home to read and eat and read again, and after a few phone calls, bed.
A dull regimen? For some people it might be, but Dick seems to thrive on it. Every so often he goes out on the town. He prefers the frugal life, though, saves his money (he now makes close to $100,000 per year), and has few clothes.
Which brings us to his much-discussed, much-debated, much-speculated-about romantic life. He dated singer Clara Ray for several years. “It’s just a dear friendship, founded on common interests and mutual respect”, he told all comers, but nowadays they see each other less often, though presumably, the friendship remains. “I am not ready to marry” he has said often. “I have great respect for the married state, and want to bring my very best, my mature best, to it, and I don’t feel that time has arrived yet.”
Meanwhile he has dated Jane Fonda (this was never regarded by insiders as a serious romance) and Ann-Margret (who, some folk feel, he takes somewhat more seriously.)
Essentially, though, his life continues the isolated, thoughtful pattern of his childhood and adolescence. He goes to see his brother Bill often, loves to play with Bill’s kids (“I hope my own will be, and look, just like them some day”), is a devoted son to his parents.
When the studio sent him on personal appearance tours, he was bewildered by the mob scenes that took place, the thousands of adoring fans who pulled and tugged at him.
Dick is still amazed at the way he affects people. He doesn’t feel he deserves it, but he likes it, because, as he once said, “I didn’t have much popularity in my early life, and this kind of attention is heartwarming.”
All kinds of popularity awards have come his way. About a year ago he appeared on TV with some distinguished veterans of the screen, to receive a fan poll award. “He gawked at the famous senior citizens of Hollywood like an awed fan,” said an onlooker, “and when he meets them today he still does.” Nervous and almost inarticulate in his earlier TV personal appearances, he is now more poised and sure of himself.
At first nauseated by the sight of blood and suffering (as he was when doing hospital background research prior to his first season) he can now make with the scalpels and forceps as it he’d been a real-like doctor for years.
He treats his fans mail with great good humor, tries to answer the more sincere, well-thought-out letters, but admits, “those thousands of letters have me feeling swamped.”
All the famous stars who have appeared with him as guests on “Kildare” testify that he has an even, kindly, warm and friendly disposition. “He treats older stars like Gloria Swanson with reverence,” an associate said. “He used to hear his parents talk of her in her hey-day. Whenever famous star guests with him, he asks them questions about the great days like any earnest film student, not to say, fan.” “He is really a film buff,” says a friend. “He loves to see old movies. He doesn’t look at much regular TV, but the oldies keep him nailed to the set, especially if they star people who have guested with him.“
He keeps in trim with regular gym workouts, still paints whenever he gets the chance. Riding, swimming, tennis and long jaunts through rather isolated hills near his house help keep him in top shape. He has always eaten sparingly.
He has long had an ambition to sing professionally, and has been studying with a teacher. He hopes one day to sing in musical comedy. When his fans learned he could sing, thousands of letters came in demanding that he cut a record, which he did. Then he tried an album, Richard Chamberlain Sings, which became a best-seller.
He still recalls, jokingly, the time he had to escape, with police help, by boat from thousands of screaming Baltimore fans during one of his personal appearance tours. “It was fun, but I was scary, too,” he laughs.
Loyal to old friends, he still sees fellows who went to college with him. Those of his old classmates who have been interviewed all agree that while Dick could be fun and a real prankster on occasion, he was essentially a solitary and thoughtful person in his school days. This of course bears out his own reminiscences of that period.
What does the future hold for Dick? “He should remain a top star for years; he’s certainly no flash-in the-pan,” says an MGM executive. “He started slow, and that kind are usually around for the long-haul. He is level-headed, clean in his habits, steady, sincere, hardworking. He has cultivated, from childhood, serious, reflective thoughts and attitudes, and these have helped keep him in balance now that fame has hit him.”
Dick himself says he will be happy with a wife, some kids and a little house, plus enough money in the bank to live decently. “This could all end overnight,” he said recently. “I have known of a lot of so-called ‘stars’ who didn’t last five years. If it happens to me, and the glitter and glamour disappear tomorrow, I’ll be ready…”
Ready for what? “The world is a beautiful place, and there is so much to learn in a short lifetime. If I miss out on continued stardom, I shall find fresh fields to explore, and, if possible, conquer.” Note the word conquer. It is not a word he would have used two short years ago. It seems he is thinking along more positive lines these days. If he is, as he claims, “a late maturer,” his maturity, especially in his thirties, should be a rich, full one.
Early in his career, Dick played small roles in several movies. Recently he starred in a movie of his own, MGM’s Twilight of Honor, in which, as a young lawyer, a legal equivalent of Dr. Kildare, he successfully defended a man in a murder trial. Claude Rains did guide-and-mentor duty, in a role roughly approximating Raymond Massey’s in the Kildare series. The picture proved that Dick can be as big in movies as he is in TV, and in spades!
As Raymond Massey has said, Dick represents the return to the clean, wholesome, affirmative values that seem to be superseding the animalistic, nihilistic, fatalistic, beatnik code of so many young actors of the last ten years. He represents hope, idealism, constructive service, and as an idealoform he stands for the best aspirations of American youth. This is what older people see in him, and that is why his fan mail is 40 percent oldsters along with 60 percent teenagers.
Dick says modestly of the idealoform he has, in spite of himself, created: “I only wish I were the good and substantial person in real life that these people seem to think I am on television. Playing a dedicated young doctor can try the soul. I don’t mean to sound lofty, but when I compare the decency of Kildare with some of my own shortcomings, I work harder on myself away from the set!”
Then his sense of humor reasserts itself and he says: “I still think the good young doctor does tend to get a little stuffy, though! If I had my way I’d help him unbend, maybe even chase a nurse down a corridor!”
Wouldn’t this be inconsistent, he was asked, as in real life, Dick is the quiet type romantically, and is certainly not known for chasing young ladies down corridors. “Maybe it’s one of my suppressed wishes,” he grinned impishly. “Sometimes I don’t know if I am really virtuous or just inhibited!”
Clara Ray has said of Dick, “his strongest trait is his essential compassion. That’s why he’s so believable as Kildare. There are some girls whose fancy is taken by wild, exciting men. But for long range, most women like a man who has sensitivity and understanding. Dick has these qualities. He is the sort to whom you can take your troubles”.
Perhaps in those long-ago days, when he had braces on his teeth, and felt isolated from other youngsters and looked at himself in a mirror, feeling all the time “subhuman”, as he put it, Dick Chamberlain decided that the kindness, understanding and compassion that he himself sought from others because he was “different”, was something he had to give himself, before he could get it in return.
Certainly in a harsh and bitter world, filled with fear of the hydrogen bomb,
full of newspaper reports of violence and cruelty and sadism and crime and assorted unhappinesses, the saga of Dick Chamberlain, gentle and unobstrusive, who has restored romance and sexuality to the dignity and essential class they used to have, is a
Certainly he is an ideal model for kids trying to find their way, and to older people, he is the symbol of the essential good in the young, their idealism, their desire to belong and be of maximum service, if only the proper outlet is found for their energies. Whatever his inner torments and self-doubts, whatever his own lonelinesses and self-admitted imperfections may consist of, Dick Chamberlain, careerwise, it seems, finds himself
on the side of the angels.
His Hometown Folks Tell All!
Even the things Dick hoped they’d forget! Dick Chamberlain Exposed!
They remember you, Dick Chamberlain. They remember you well – your neighbors in Beverly Hills, your playmates, your childhood sweethearts, your Boy Scout pals, your teachers, your college chums. They remember your stunts, your escapades, your choirboy days, your traffic tickets, your neighborly deed for the gambler who was shot, your performance in a high school movie that you might prefer to forget. In short, they have forgotten nothing. They remember and are telling all the never-before-revealed details of the life of one George Richard Chamberlain. And now, having been privileged to hear things about you which we had never even guessed, we are telling them, too. Don’t blush. It’s time the whole truth was told!
Our revelations begin in your old neighborhood in Beverly Hills . . .
“I’m a rose bush,” young Dick Chamberlain, age 3, explained, “and I’m growing . . .”
At that tender age, Dick had never heard of The Method, but he already had his own, as the neighbors on Elm Drive well recall. Dick’s specialty then was a little dance in which he kept flapping his arms about and “growing.” He first performed this original routine for the Cooper family, who lived three doors down from the Chamberlains.
“Dickie was hilarious, doing this rose bush dance,” Mrs. Marian Cooper recalls. “He’d start from down on the floor and his arms would go out and he’d keep growing up and up. He wouldn’t let us look, he made us cover our eyes while he danced. But we’d peek between our fingers and we’d really break up.
“I had four daughters, and Dickie would drop in at our house every day and perform for us. We had a player piano that was a big thing in his life, too, then. He really adored playing that. Not long ago he sent me a picture and wrote a note saying how much he had enjoyed our player piano. But the girls and I especially enjoyed watching Dickie perform.
“He would always arrive completely equipped with umbrella and rubbers – no matter what the weather. I don’t remember why. Because he was a Chamberlain, I guess,”
Mrs. Cooper laughed, “or he just loved to carry them. He’d put his umbrella down,
remove his rubbers, and put on his acts and dances for us.” One of Mrs. Cooper’s daughters, Ruth Hamilton, now of La Habra, California, recalls:
“Dick loved to dance, he felt inspired, and I guess we had the ideal stage he liked. We had a dining room with draw curtains that was great for putting on his show.”
None of the neighbors who were Dick Chamberlain’s first audience are surprised today that he grew into the handsome television star, Dr. Kildare.
“Dickie was as pretty a child as you ever laid eyes on,” recalls Mrs. Jane Koumrian who lived two doors from the Chamberlains, “and he always looked like somebody had just scoured him with Dutch cleanser. He was that clean. We all just loved that little guy.”
Jane Koumrian, attractive and auburn-haired, is one of the two alumnae of the 300 block on Elm Drive who still live there. She lives next door to the modern apartment which now stands where the Chamberlains’ house use to be. She’s known Dick since he was 6, and she well recalls that young Dick Chamberlain had the “same manner” at her gate-side that he has “at the bedside in the television series today.”
“Dick always had the nice ‘Doctor Kildare’ manner,” Mrs. Koumrian says. “He had this same manner when he was helping teach my grandson, Charles Humble, to talk. Dickie was 10 then, and Charles was 2. He would come over to the gate at our drive and call to “Choddy’ to come outside. Then I’d hear him say over and over “Now say Cham-ber-lin,’ which was an ambitious project to begin with.
“Dick doesn’t know this, but that little boy is now in his second year of medical school in Kearney, Nebraska, and he’s quite a fan of Dick’s. One evening not long ago a funny thing happened. Chuck brought some medical students home with him, and they were all watching Dr. Kildare on television. My daughter, Norma, brought out Chuck’s baby book and started reading it to them.”
“It says here that Dick Chamberlain taught ‘Choddy’ to talk,” she said. Her son had never heard this. “My mother is a Beverly Hills girl and she gets carried away.” Charles laughed to his friends. “It was probably a relative by the name of Chamberlain.”
Charles’ mother replied, to their surprise, “I’ve got news for you – that was Dr. Kildare.”
If Dick had the same medic manner then as now on TV, he was making just about as many house calls, too.
“He always just seemed to like people,” says Mrs. Dowell Carpenter, a former neighbor of the Chamberlains, and a close friend. “He just loved to ring doorbells and say Hello. He would toddle up the walk, ring our bell, sit down in my son’s little rocker and rock away and visit with us.
He was a very self-sufficient little fellow,” she goes on. “He’d always find his own way home. Until one day when he toddled too far. I got a call from some friends who lived over on the next street. They described him and asked if there was a little boy like that in our neighborhood.
“He tells us he lives ‘way over next to the school yard,’ they said. And there was a school on Elm Street. “He just walked up and rang our bell,’ they added. I told them, “That must be Dick Chamberlain,’ and they took him home safely without incident.”
Dick’s mother, Elsa Chamberlain, believed in being neighborly, but once when her son ventured too far and for too long – she took a more disciplinary view.
“Dick didn’t get paddled often,” his mother says. “But I remember one night when
he didn’t show up for dinner. He finally called from some house where he was visiting
and he told us a fib. He said they’d invited him to stay and eat with them. He got
paddled for that one.”
Dick’s adventurous spirit at this age sometimes worried the neighbors, too, recalls Ethel Slater, who still lives in the block. Her husband, Walter, owns a roofing company in Beverly Hills and young Dick was impressed that Mr. Slater had a job requiring him to climb up on roofs and inspect them.
“One day I found Dick standing in our yard eyeing our roof,” Ethel Slater says now. “Gee, Mrs. Slater, that must be dangerous for Mr. Slater to get up on a ladder and go up on that roof,” he said.
“It’s very dangerous, Dickie,” she told him solemnly. “You have to know how to climb a ladder – and stay on one – and if you try it you’ll fall.”
She kept close watch whenever he was around. “I was always afraid Dick might try it,” she says. “He was always kind of dramatic anyway . . .”
Dramatic and forceful as well . . . for such a well-mannered, well-scrubbed young man – if the situation demanded . . .
As Dick grew a little older his talent for acting was well exercised in the neighborhood productions he staged with Kurt Newmann. Kurt’s father was the director of The Fly
and many other films. The Newmanns lived in a duplex across the street, and Kurt, who
is today production manager of Rawhide, was impressed with Dick’s performances then.
“Dick was always interested in acting,” Kurt recalls. “As kids we used to put on our own little shows either in his backyard or mine, with another neighborhood boy,
Skeeter Macomber, and my younger sister usually taking part.”
Much has been written about Dick Chamberlain’s shyness.
Those who have long known him, point out, however, that Dick’s shyness has been backed by an iron will to win.
“Dick was a very quiet type of youngster,” recalls Charles Brown; his former track coach at Beverly Hills High. “He never said much out on the track field. But he had tremendous drive. He did his talking on the track. He was a four-letter man, and team captain the last year. He went out to win every meet and he had the willingness to work towards that every day during the week.”
Much has been printed about how disciplined he was emotionally. But Kurt always knew Dick could project emotion.
“He could get mad. I know. I still have the scar,” he laughs. “One day Dick came over dressed up in some kind of costume and he was play-acting and I called him a sissy. He hit me with a stamp – the kind schools and libraries use to imprint seals on a piece of paper. It was the closest thing he could lay hands on. Dick just picked it up and clunked me over the head with it. It was most effective. I never called him a sissy again . . . and I’m
still wearing the scar.”
Even then Dick was a fellow for action – when provoked or inspired. Like the holiday when, together with Dick Hall, his close friend from kindergarten through high school, he upset the traditional quiet of Elm Drive with a bang.
His pal’s mother, Helen Hall, a family friend and the two Dicks’ den mother when they were Cub Scouts, remembers “one mischief-making project they teamed up on. That is, they started out together – but they didn’t end up together,” Mrs. Hall recalls.
It was the Fourth of July and the two boys were exploding some giant firecrackers out in the street. Dick Hall says, “And in the streets of Beverly Hills it’s practically a misdemeanor to drop a handkerchief – much less a noise. They were real block-busters, too. The cops came after us and we both ran . . . the wrong way. Dick ended up at my house and I ran to his. But they never caught us, anyway.”
Not long after this, the serenity of their street, shaded even from sunlight by the thick green elm trees that formed a protective umbrella over it, was thoroughly shook up by the attempted assassination of gambler Tony Carnero. He was the Chamberlains’ next-door neighbor. Dick and Kurt Newmann were among those who rushed to the scene.
The late internationally-famous gambler had acquaintances among the underworld. He lived with his mother in a brown Spanish bungalow.
“Tony Carnero was a very good neighbor, customarily speaking,” Kurt recalls. “Every time there was a Boy Scout project or some special drive, he always seemed to go a little overboard to be a good neighbor.” On Halloween the table in Tony Carnero’s hall would always be stacked high with treats for the kids in that area. “All the kids knew him, and now and then we’d run errands for him. He was a very quiet neighbor until the night of the shooting. Then it was all very noisy,” Kurt went on.
“That night two men came up to Tony’s door around dinner time. They made like they had a package to deliver. They had a shoe box and inside the shoe box they had a pistol. Tony seldom ever answered his own door, but on that occasion he did. They shot him right.
“Dick and I had a ringside seat. It happened right in the doorway. All the kids heard the shot – and we rushed over there. Tony survived that one and died later of a heart attack in Las Vegas. But as I remember, it was Dick who later took Tony’s suit to the cleaners – the suit with the bullet hole in it. The rest of us were very impressed.”
For 20 of his 26 years Dick Chamberlain lived next door to drama and to fame. Beverly Hills is his home town. He grew up within the arc of the colored klieg lights that split the skies for big movie premieres. He sang on Christmas Eve in the choir of the Beverly Vista Presbyterian Church. He went to Beverly Vista Grammar School one block away, and participated in a play called The Reluctant Dragon, in which Kurt Newmann played the knight. He attended Cub Scout meetings at a neighbor’s home. He worked after school and summers at Ralph’s market, a few blocks away on Wilshire Blvd., and he lived
next door to many famous people – a fact that no doubt helped foster the dream of
finding fame himself.
“Vincent Price used to live across the street at 333 Elm,” Ethel Slater recalls.
“Kurt Newmann’s father, the famous director, lived in that upper duplex over there.
Actor James Gleason lived next door to me on the south.”
The rambling stucco home where Jane Koumrian lives once belonged to Laurel and Hardy. “Actor Kent Taylor was a good friend of Dick’s dad – and he used to be going in and out of their home all the time,” Mrs. Koumrian recalls. “This was a famous block.”
So Dick Chamberlain grew up surrounded by the glamour and the drama he was destined – to the expectation of some and the shock of others – to share.
There were conflicting opinions about Dick Chamberlain and his talents. Both as to the degree and the category.
One of the first calls Dick made when he got the Dr. Kildare series was to
Virginia Princehouse Allen, head of drama at Pomona College. She had encouraged
him to pursue a career in drama, and isn’t at all surprised by what’s happened.
“I’m always loath to encourage anyone,” Mrs. Allen told us. “But I knew Dick had not only the ability, but the stability of temperament to take the discouragements and difficulties. Also, he had ability in so many different ways. He could do dramatic roles and comedy and he could dance and sing. “When Dick finished school, he’d said he would call me when something really big came his way – and I expected to hear from him . . .”
Dick’s college roommate, Tom Bader, on the other hand, was frankly surprised by Dick’s success in television. “I didn’t think Dick was that good an actor down at school,” Tom said. “In my opinion, the best performance he gave was in a show where you didn’t really see him. He did a shadow dance in a musical. They had him dancing behind the screen with a light behind him. He was very graceful and it was very effective.
“The first I knew that Dick was really going in for an acting career was after we got out of college. I ran into him down on the beach at Santa Monica one day. Dick said then that
he was studying, and he had hopes of getting a part on some show. I think it was Wagon Train. I went East and when I got back he was set to star in Dr. Kildare.
In college, Dick’s primary interest had been in art.”
Chamberlain’s old friend Dick Hall says, “If Dick had anything like this in mind in high school, I never knew it. He was in school plays and he may have wanted to be an actor, but I don’t remember him ever saying anything about it. Of course, he didn’t talk about himself much. He was a shy guy. Still is.”
The old neighborhood on Elm Drive rather thought Dick might become a concert pianist.
“My, how he did practice!” recalls Jane Koumrian. “Whenever I’d hear a piano in our block I knew Dick must be home from school. Sometimes, through the big picture window in their front room, you’d see him practicing. I’ll never forget how straight he sat at the piano. He was so erect.”
The Chamberlains’ long-time friend, Mrs. Dowell Carpenter, remembers many evenings she spent in their home “when Dick would play serious classical pieces . . . and beautifully.”
College friends, however, remember a less classical arrangement Dick performed at an associated women’s students’ Christmas dance, singing and playing his own accompaniment. “Dick made up his own lyrics to Let’s Fall In Love,” Joe Henry, now assistant alumni director at Pomona College, recalls. “The lyrics were considered a little daring.” When Dick came to the part where “The birds do it – the bees do it . . .” he added that even the president of the college did it. He was billed as “that modern Victor Borge, Dick Chamberlain, and his interpretations on the piano.” And he was a success.
But Dick Chamberlain in no way considered himself any threat to Victor Borge.
Stanley Cornyn, who’s with Warner Brothers Records, and who directed Dick in the college musical, Run For Cover, when they were in college, was really surprised when Dick recently went into the recording field. “I remember we couldn’t even give Dick a singing part in the revue. He said, “I don’t have a voice – I can’t even carry a tune.”
Both Joe and Stanley felt Dick’s future was in art. As had Dick’s art teacher at Beverly Hills High School, who had encouraged him to major in art. “Dick could have had an important career in art,” Mrs. Lucille Robert is quick to say now. “He could have succeeded in any field of designing – interior or architectural design, or advertising.”
In fact, one artistic endeavor in college brought Dick a commission. “I think I was the first – and perhaps the last – who commissioned a work of art from Dick,” Stanley Cornyn says now. “He did a mobile for me and I paid him $25. Dick created quite an impressive abstract metal design on long thin wires, using coat-hanger type wire.”
In classrooms of the ivy-bearded old grey-stone buildings framed by tall venerable eucalyptus at Claremont, more students thought Dick was gifted as an artist than as an actor at that time.
Stanley Cornyn, of Run For Cover, was impressed with Dick’s versatility. “He played Hamlet in a five-minute comedy Reader’s Digest version of Hamlet that we did, and he also did a Rudolph Valentino-type dance. With his facial bone structure and his hair slicked down, and in costume, Dick looked amazingly like Valentino. He performed a tango and he was our answer to a housewife’s dream.
“This was Dick Chamberlain’s first appearance in Hollywood. The revue had been a smash in Pomona, and we had bright-eyed college-type hopes for it.”
They brought it to the Ivar Theatre, where it ran a few weeks. Nancy Davison, who played Ophelia, remembers, “Dick was very good in the sketch. I recall one of the Los Angeles reviewers wrote, ‘Dick Chamberlain scored with his fine vocal delivery and presence.’”
Nobody with the show, though, “really dreamed Dick was big star potential,” as
Stanley Cornyn says. “It was the same with Will Hutchins, who was in the same revue. You get so close to people when you’re working together that you may misjudge
Nor was Dick’s first motion picture any indication that he would be discovered – as his friend Bill Ruggles, laughingly recalls.
“Dick’s first moving picture was a fight scene he and I did for the 16-millimeter Norman Newsreel at Beverly High,” said Bill. “Every year they’d shot several reels to record all the big events of that school year for posterity. This particular year they filmed the fight scene from the senior class play, Turn Back The Clock in which Dick and I did the leads.
The play was of the Roaring 20s era and Dick and I did our fight all decked out in
collegiate garb of that day. Neither of us had ever done anything like this. We didn’t
know how to fight in front of a camera or fake angles or anything. When we were 8 years old, we’d had fights that looked a lot better. This one was hilarious. We looked like a couple of hammy clowns.”
Jill Stark of Claremont, who played the lead in The Young Elizabeth, in which Dick played Cecil, the Lord Chamberlain, recalls her impression that “Dick planned to go into dramatic work. He was a real pro. He was happy with every part given him, and he really worked. He was easy-going and very pleasant – but you could tell Dick was ambitious and really wanted to go on.”
When he was asked recently, “With whom would you like to be stranded on a desert island?” Dick Chamberlain chose Carol Burnett. Television’s marvelous medicine man and the fabulous “Kook” met early in 1962 and became fairly good friends with each other.
One of the most hilarious Burnett-Chamberlain escapades took place in New York’s Bronx Zoo. Carol and Dick went there “disguised” in blue jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers. The disguise worked perfectly until a little boy at the monkey cage yelled, “Hey, Mom, isn’t that Dr. Kildare?” The stunned mother looked and then shrilled in amazement, “And that’s Carol Burnett!”
The chase was on. To Carol and Dick, it seemed as though the entire zoo, people and animals alike, were descending upon them. Dick grabbed Carol’s hand and started running. He dragged her through several doors until he found one that shut. Positive they had found safety, Dick sighed with relief. When Carol looked about her, she started running on her own. “Dick, we’re in the men’s room!” Carol screeched.
The Burnett-Chamberlain friendship was, and is, a strange one when you consider the basic differences in their personalities. Carol’s warm, out-going nature is in direct contrast to Dick’s shy and somewhat introverted manner. Although some gossip columnists hinted at a romance, it was never that. It was merely a friendship between two people who enjoyed one another’s company. Marriage was never a consideration.
When asked to describe Dick Chamberlain, Carol said, “He’s squeaky clean.” When pressed further, she stated, “He’s a wonderful boy.” When pressed for specifics and asked whether she felt Dick “knew” himself, Carol replied, “I think Dick knows himself as well as anyone could who suddenly finds himself on top. In a year maybe more, maybe less, Dick will pass a mirror and see somebody staring at him. That somebody will look familiar, but he won’t be quite able to place him. So he’ll walk up to this somebody and say, ‘Hi! I’m Dick Chamberlain. Who are you?’”
Who is Dick Chamberlain? He is a man adored by a multitude of women – young and old alike. He is a man living his life in the constant glare of popping flashbulbs, the constant prying of reporters. He is a man who is under the constant surveillance of columnists and fans – asked the most personal of questions by both. He is a man who is owned and operated by MGM, the studio that finances “Dr. Kildare,” the show in which he stars. Dick Chamberlain is a man whose life is, in many ways, not his to call his own. And he is a man who states, “I am bored to death with talking about myself. I guess that’s a sign of growing up. I’d much rather be doing the interviewing than be interviewed.”
A luncheon with Dick at the MGM commissary provided an interesting sidelight into his personality. Although the MGM lunchroom is accustomed to stars, every head in the room turned to admire Dick when he entered. It was somewhat astonishing to see a famous actress who’s been a star for more years than Dick has been alive actually gush into her grapefruit when Dick greeted her.
The stares from stars and star-gazers were all taken without much notice by Dick. At 27, he combines the enthusiasm of youth with a suavity of a professional receiving 12,000 fan letters each week. He is seemingly oblivious to the sensation he creates and to his own remarkable good-looks.
Unbelievable as it may seem to you, television does nothing to enhance “the doctor’s” handsomeness. Coloring, such as Dick’s – white blond hair, blue eyes and lightly tanned skin – cannot be captured on a black-and-white screen. He is beyond any doubt or fakery one of the most modest persons who has fame, fortune and handsomeness as daily companions. And yet, he seems completely unimpressed with himself.
Dick Chamberlain is not a good interview. As he stated, he is bored with talking about himself. But Dick’s reluctance to talk about himself goes deeper. He is determined to have privacy in his life. He admits, “I tell people as much about myself as I want them to know. Sometimes, I even tell people things about me that aren’t true, but which I know they want to hear.” When I asked how was one to write a factual article about Dick Chamberlain if Dick Chamberlain continued to be elusive and evasive, he smiled and replied, “I don’t mean to sound like a rat, but that’s your problem, not mine.”
In the past, Dick has stated for publication that, “Any actor who cannot adjust to Hollywood’s lack of privacy shouldn’t be in the business or yearn for stardom. An actor makes his bed and has to lie in it. It’s a vital part of success.” But despite his having said this, Dick will not tell an interviewer anything that he deems personal or an invasion of his privacy. He excuses himself saying, “I’ve been misquoted and quoted about things on which I have never spoken.” This is true. Take every magazine that has written about Dick and you will find a different Dick Chamberlain in each article. Quite often, the writer has to put words he wished Dick had uttered in Dick’s mouth.
There is still another reason why Dick steers clear from talking about the “inner” Chamberlain. He has trouble expressing the “inner” man. He is not particularly articulate. He is, in fact, completely unlike the character he plays on television. Whereas Kildare
is a strait-laced, feet-on-the-ground, I-know-where-I’m-going type of person, Dick is not. The only area of his life that he talks of with assurance and certainty is his professional existence and aspirations. Other than that, Dick Chamberlain seems to be in search
Although he states, “I kind of enjoy the Hollywood night life,” Dick is not a party boy. What he really enjoys is not the parties themselves, but the acceptance he has gained among the Hollywood “untouchables.” He has broken into the “class barriers” that exist there. He is now invited to the best parties given by “the best” people. He is reaping the spoils of a battle won – a battle for stardom.
Basically, Dick is a loner. He lives, by himself, in a shack high in the hills of Hollywood. Although it has been publicized that Dick spends much of his free-time painting, he says now, “I haven’t painted in a while. I’ve lost the urge – the spark. I don’t know why.” Evenings, Dick either walks or runs along Mulholland Drive, depending on the amount of exercise he feels he needs. He has been seen walking along solitary beaches. “I have exactly two-and-a-half close friends,” states Dick. One is singer, Clara Ray. The other one-and-one-half? That’s a secret.”
Much about Dick Chamberlain is a “secret” even to those who have known him ever since work began on the Kildare series. None of his co-workers could give me the slightest inkling as to the real Dick Chamberlain. All agreed that he’s “a heckofa nice guy.”
Dick is a “heckofa nice guy.” You have to like him. Without guile, warm despite a certain aloofness, and funny, Dick makes you like him even though you may find his vagueness frustrating and annoying. His humor borders on the “kooky.” When asked about this “nice guy” image that has been perpetuated about him, Dick laughed, “I’ll have to change that. I’m seriously thinking of beating up a few old ladies and men.” Another likeable Chamberlain-quality is his dedication to his work. Despite the immediate security and the immediate adoration he enjoys with Kildare, Dick is preparing for the future. Three nights a week he studies singing and dancing. On Saturdays, he works with a local theater group. How he manages all of this is unfathomable to most people. Dick’s day on Kildare begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. There is only an hour break for lunch.
Financially, Dick is not worried about the future. He is under contract to MGM for another five years. This means, should the Kildare series end tomorrow, Dick would continue to collect his weekly salary until his contract expires. MGM plans to star their “idol-of-millions” in a full-length motion picture before 1963 is completed. It has already been announced that Dick is about to begin work on a film with Bob Hope.
Dick is not enchanted with his MGM contract. It is iron-clad and double-padlocked. “I’m unable to do anything other than what the studio permits,” sighs Dick. In other words, should he want to appear with Perry Como on Perry’s show, and should Perry wish to
have Dick as a guest, this could not be possible without MGM’s permission. However, should MGM decide to place Dick on “The Zelda Zorch Show” in Podunk, Alaska,
Dick would have to appear.
Much of Dick’s unhappiness with his current contract is wrapped up in his dislike, almost hatred, of anything that chains him or makes him feel that he is “owned exclusively.” He constantly talks of “being free.” He quit smoking only because he realized that he was a slave to it. “I told myself it was the enemy, and I was able to lick it on the first try.”
This desire to “be free” may be one of the reasons why Dick has no more than “two-and-a-half” close friends. Close confidences cannot be exchanged with someone if you want to be free. The confidante has a hold on the confider. Dick, despite an outward warmth, does really not inspire closeness. Wittingly, or otherwise, he keeps people at a distance.
Since distance precludes closeness and closeness is a step toward marriage, I asked Dick if these were the reasons he had not as yet entered the wedded state. He replied, “I haven’t taken the step as yet because at this stage of my career, marriage would be a miserable bargain for my wife. I would never be home, what with the studio by day and classes at night. Give me a couple of years, and then I’ll be fair game to be led to the altar.” Dick didn’t think that his bachelorhood had anything to do with his desire to be free. “I don’t think being married means you give up any freedom.”
One could just about predict how Dick reacted to the army. “I hated it. I’ve always rebelled against imposed authority. Yet, it’s crazy. I did well in the service. I was discharged with the rank of Sergeant. Similarly, I didn’t much care for high school for the same reasons as I disliked the army. Yet, I graduated with a better than B-average. I liked college. There, they asked me to think for myself.”
But has Dick won his battle for freedom or lost it as he won stardom? At our last meeting in New York at NBC, he looked haggard. The network had placed him on a three-day merry-go-round of television, radio and magazine interviews. His time was anything but his own. He said something to me that frantic afternoon between taping “Monitor” and the “Tonight Show,” that showed what a fine person lay under the cool Chamberlain exterior.
“I’m glad to see you,” Dick started. “I’ve been wanting to apologize for the shambles I made of our first meeting. I was off that day. I don’t know why. I was just not myself. I couldn’t concentrate.”
With his routine, is it any wonder? The merry-go-rounds would not stop spinning. A personal appearance at a New York department store nearly resulted in a riot. Another personal appearance, two days later, in Baltimore, did cause a riot. It seemed as though more Baltimorians turned out to see Dick than they did for an entire season’s play by the Baltimore Orioles!
They gave Dr. Kildare a Ben Casey shirt
Birthday surprise for Dick Chamberlain
The other day, a visitor to Richard Chamberlain’s dressing room at MGM Studios was startled to find a rather ancient-looking bedpan decorating the top of Young Dr. Kildare’s dressing table.
“What on earth is that thing doing in here?” the visitor asked.
“Well,” Dick explained, his blue eyes twinkling, “that’s one of the gifts I received for my birthday not long ago.
“And if you look closely you may find there’s a trace of cake icing around the rim.”
The usually quiet TV medic was obviously having a good time explaining what he calls
“the story of the bedpan.”
“It all started this way,” Dick recalled. “The morning of my 28th birthday, I woke up as usual, in a hurry to get to the studio on time. Since we have a rather crazy bunch of people on the staff of Dr. Kildare, I must admit that I was sure they’d remember my birthday in some funny way.
“But then I decided that since it was an especially busy day of filming, they probably wouldn’t do more than say ‘Happy Birthday.’ "
“How wrong I was.
“We were doing a very important scene set in the children’s ward of Blair Hospital,” he continued, “and it was a rather sensitive scene that had to be just perfect.
“The first take went just fine, I thought, but our director, Robert Gist, asked for
another try . . .”
Dr. Kildare bent over the bed of a little girl patient, then a nurse quietly tiptoed in.
The handsome doctor turned to give the nurse a direction. “Only,” Dick tells you,
“it wasn’t a nurse.”
The “nurse” turned out to be propman Walt Veady, dressed in a starched white nurse’s uniform that seemed perilously close to popping open. “Nurse Veady” was bearing a birthday cake, complete with lighted candles, in that familiar bedpan. “I took one look,” Dick says, “and I broke up completely.
“You can’t imagine,” he said, “what a fool I looked like, concentrating so earnestly on this scene and then wham!”
But Dick was to find that his cast and crew were not going to let his birthday celebration conclude so quickly.
Co-star Raymond Massey ceremoniously presented his young friend with a festively-wrapped package containing a white sweat shirt with a picture of Chamberlain’s television rival, Vincent “Ben Casey” Edwards.
A flustered Dick was completely overwhelmed by this token. “It was all just great,”
Dick posed for photographs holding up the “Ben Casey” shirt, but as he later confessed, “Gee, I’m glad it was too small.
“I’m afraid I just wouldn’t have the nerve to wear it.
“After all, what would Dr. Kildare think?”
What did he do with it?
“That,” he says emphatically, “is my secret.”
Raymond Massey, however, has the last word on that: “I happen to know,” he smiles, “that Dick put the shirt in his dresser drawer. I have the feeling that he enjoyed the gag more than any of us knew – even if he says the shirt is too small!”
The point is that Kildare has nothing but high praise for his rival, Dr. Casey.
“I’ve met Vince twice,” he said, “but both times we didn’t have a chance to do more than say hello.
“I had hoped to see him at the recent Emmy Awards,” Dick added, “but somehow
our paths didn’t cross.”
The image at the left is about as familiar to Americans as the Statue of Liberty, the craggy façade of Mt. Rushmore, or that wholesome skin-head, “Mr. Clean.” And they stand for about the same thing. If “Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy” were translated into flesh and blood, this would be it.
Six-feet-one, weighing 175, bright, innocent blue eyes, wavy blond hair, chiseled features, a glowing picture of health, Dick looks as though he’d just emerged from one of
Dr. Kildare’s sterilizers. He’s effervescent as “Speedy Alka-Seltzer,” as down-to-earth
as “Smoky The Bear,” and jolly as the “Green Giant” – and it’s driving Dick Chamberlain absolutely nuts! “Look at my face!” Dick laments. “It is a nice face. I’m not displeased with it. But it’s the face of a male ingénue. Almost any actor who becomes a romantic hero has a bit of a paradox about him. Take Clark Gable – the hearty sportsman, the dashing rake. And yet there was something about him that was mysterious, aloof, unknown. Or Marlon Brando. There’s a lot of violence about Brando. Yet there’s also the tenderness. Contradictory elements have been brought together in one being.
I’ve thought a lot about what makes a strong leading man. It’s this imbalance that’s so compelling. Raymond Massey and I were fooling around on the set. We made false noses for ourselves. Well, I looked in the mirror with my false nose on . . . it was so wonderful to have a strong, prominent, powerful feature . . . I do so hope my face will acquire character as it grows older. I guess it will, if I do.” Every young hopeful in Hollywood wants to look like Dick Chamberlain. And Dick Chamberlain wants to look like Boris Karloff!
But . . . isn’t there such a condition as too much of a good thing? Can Dick be blamed for rebelling against his boy-next-door image? Add to all this the very special emotional reaction the public has toward doctors. “It’s a special kind of reverence,” says Dick.
“A reverence not usually extended to actors. Sometimes I feel like an imposter!”
Millions of viewers believe in this paragon. Dick wishes he could.
The young man who claims he’s dedicated to discovering “what’s real and what’s phony in the world” enjoys being popular. “ I love it. I was such a hermit as a kid, it’s wonderful! But it’s much different from what I expected. I thought I would suddenly become dashing, noble, devil-may-care. It seems like it would be great fun to be conceited. But so far, I haven’t found any reason to be.” Dick seems as astonished as anyone that his instant success hasn’t changed him. “I’ve never met Frank Sinatra,” he admits, sounding somewhat disappointed. “I don’t have any famous friends. I wish I did.” While filming Twilight of Honor, his recent MGM feature film, he was asked to bring down four summer suits from his own wardrobe to wear in the picture. Wardrobe for a female star is supplied by the studio. But a male actor is expected to wear his own clothes, in a modern-dress film. “It was pretty embarrassing,” says Dick. “I don’t own any suits, summer or winter. I have a tuxedo, three pairs of slacks and a couple of sports jackets – and that’s it.”
His TV wardrobe is pretty limited to that familiar “white coat.” And whenever he can, he prefers to relax in blue jeans, sweaters and sneakers. So MGM had several Ivy League-type suits tailored to Dick’s size. “I’d never worn things like that before,” he said. “I had trouble getting comfortable. They cost the studio about $400, I guess. But when the picture was finished, they got them right back. I wouldn’t take them home with me if they
gave them to me.”
Another thing that dismayed Dick Chamberlain, above all else, was the amount of makeup they had to pile on him to make him look older. He plays a crusading small-town lawyer in his mid-thirties. Dick is 27. (Just before Kildare stardom he was turned down for the role of the groom on the now-defunct Father of The Bride series because he “looked too young.”) And he’s more than a little shook up by the fact that his teenage fans call him “Mr. Chamberlain,” while his adult fans call him “that lovely boy.”
“Some people grow up fast,” says Dick. “I didn’t. Why, I don’t know. I just stayed in semi-hibernation for a long, long time. I was extremely shy. In college I was a hermit. I sat in my little room and I painted pictures. I was in some sort of cocoon . . .” What brought Dick out of that cocoon? Acting was “a chance to be free . . . to express your emotions . . . to move . . . to shout.” And singing?
“An actor can get by with lots of little crutches. You can’t in singing. You’re much more exposed.” Then came the stint in Korea with the Army, but still, he didn’t feel he had entirely emerged. “I’d like to get married,” he declares. “I think one should have babies and so on. But before you enter into such a contract, you should be precisely aware of who you are. You should understand yourself and others . . . you should be grown up . . .”
The girl he thinks most about marrying is Clara Ray, a petite brunette who’s been his steady for three years. They met in singing class. “I’m always being asked what traits I like in a girl. I like the same traits most men like. I’m no rare tropical plant that has to feed on something different when it comes to girls!” But, says Dick, “a sense of humor and a certain humility makes a girl more loving and capable of being loved.”
He readily admits that he loves Clara Ray. And that they’ve discussed marriage. But neither one is quite ready to be committed for a lifetime. Clara speaks for both of them when she says, “We’ve discussed what we want out of marriage. We both want the same thing. Maybe we’ve found it in each other. But we keep saying we’re not sure, not ready. Maybe we’re kidding ourselves. But if we are, we’re having too much fun to want to change it.” Then Clara uttered one of the most beautiful and understanding statements a famous man’s “best girl” could ever make. “We hold onto each other with an open hand.” Clara realizes she must, for the time being, share Dick with 20 million fans, with his TV and film and record bosses – with anyone, in fact, who asked for a few minutes of his time.
Clara sheds some more light on that cocoon Dick occupied in his early years. “It’s been the hardest thing in the world for him to kick away from his childhood. His brother Bill, six years older, was a football hero. Dick dreamed of acting, but would not tell anyone for fear they’d laugh. In High School his friends told him he had no talent for acting, that he couldn’t put himself over. He believed them. But somehow he just knew he had a talent for something. He just had to find out for what. He started painting (he graduated with a degree in fine arts, and would have become an art teacher), but that was lonely. He went out for track, but that was lonely too.
The Chamberlains were a close family. But he was ‘little Dick,’ and he grew up conforming – outwardly – to everything they asked: be nice; be conservative; avoid conflict. He didn’t believe any of it. But he didn’t know what to believe. When he hit Pomona College, he ran into intellectual curiosity and some creative people. But he was still searching.” Dick takes it from there – “In college,” he says, “I met too many bright people who were pretty phony. I was affected by this intellectual fakery too. It took me two years to get over it.”
Success hasn’t spoiled Dick Chamberlain. Neither has that “All-American Boy” look that’s contributed so much to his fantastic fame – despite the occasional feeling that he’d like to wear a paper bag over his “ingénue face.”
That’s what Dick Chamberlain’s best friend calls him. That and a lot of other things. Tell us more, Martin Green!
“Chambo,” Dick Chamberlain’s college pals called him. One of these is a young man, now in his mid-twenties, named Martin Green. A few short years ago, he was, along with Dick, an art major at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He is today a successful artist working out of a bungalow-studio in Costa Mesa, a bustling community near the Los Angeles Bay area. It was there that we cornered Martin one recent day and persuaded him to tell the readers of MOTION PICTURE the “inside Dick Chamberlain” anecdotes that only he and a very few others know, and have never before talked about for publication.
“Dick’s enthusiasm is one of his most interesting qualities,” Martin Green began. “He’s full of life and of the unexpected. Not long ago, for instance, Dick dropped by here unannounced, swinging a pair of roller skates over his shoulder. Somebody had given him the skates as a gag. But the longer Dick eyed them, the stronger the itch to do something he hadn’t done since he was a kid. It happens that there are no sidewalks at all in the Hollywood hills near his house. Then came the inspired thought – there are sidewalks galore in Costa Mesa! And here he was!”
Surely the sight of America’s most famous young medic on roller skates caused a mob scene? Not at all, Martin Green assured us. Traffic flowed on along Santa Ana Street.
“Fans never gang him when he comes down on a visit,” Martin said. He added, “Actually Dick can be extremely unrecognizable if he wants to be. When he comes here (often with Clara Ray) he usually wears Levi’s and dark glasses; nobody recognizes him. Once when we were in a drugstore I egged Dick into buying a Dr. Kildare comic book. I was curious to see how observant people are, to see if anybody would spot the original Kildare. Nobody did. The lady at the cash register took his coin, gave him a full-face smile, said, ‘Thank you, son,’ and never even guessed the truth.”
Dick, or “Chambo,” as Martin Green alternately calls him, has been a frequent Sunday visitor to Costa Mesa – more so in the past than now, as we’ll explain in a minute.
As artist and friend, Martin Green knows Dick Chamberlain as well as any friend knows him. He knows the subjective his accomplished brush puts on canvas. He knows the shadow and the light.
Martin knows “Chambo” as a quiet man whose values go deep – a fighter against injustice whatever its form. He knows him as a true, loyal friend. Above all, Martin Green knows Dick as a vital human being eager to communicate with all other human beings.
“This is why Dick became an actor rather than an artist,” he says. “Dick was an art major at Pomona, but I wasn’t surprised when he made acting his life’s work. Dick’s always said an artist’s life is too lonely for him. He likes people. He likes to work with people. And you can’t do this as an artist, unless you do nothing but paint portraits.”
He and Dick became friends during Martin’s sophomore year in school. Dick was a
senior that year. They were two of a close quartet that included as other adventurous spirits, David Ossman, who’s in the program department at FM station KPFK in North Hollywood today, and David Edwards, who teaches English literature at El Cerritos
College in Norwalk, California.
All were members of The Drama Production Group, a clan commonly referred to on
campus as “Those D.P.’s.”
During one summer vacation the four shared an impulsive safari to San Francisco, which they still talk about.
“That trip was good for a great many private jokes,” Martin Green says. “It ‘just happened’ – on one of those ‘Let’s do something’ days. You know, you just take off and go somewhere – and things happen.”
“Dick and David Ossman and Dave Edwards came down to see me,” Martin recalls. “We just drove around, not quite knowing what to do. We kept saying, ‘Why don’t we go somewhere?’ And somebody suggested San Francisco. So, we went over to Dick’s house in Beverly Hills and sort of ‘borrowed’ Dick’s mother’s car. He left her a note, but she wasn’t very happy about it. I don’t think she’s ever quite forgiven us,” Martin laughs. “It was a black Lincoln with hydraulically operated windows that worked by a pressure pump . . . when they worked.”
Friend David Ossman picks up the story at this point, saying, “It was late at night when we started out. We had some trouble getting the gas money together, as I recall. Dick was at the wheel. We arrived in Berkeley about six the next morning. It was just getting daylight. We’d had no sleep, were broke, and didn’t know where to go. Dave Edwards had a girl friend at the University of California, so we knocked on her door and asked, ‘Can we sleep on your floor for a while?’ After a nap, we went somewhere and had breakfast. We went up to the Coit Tower and up hill and down sight-seeing. Later on we went somewhere to catch Cal Tjader’s jazz group, then to The Black Hawk night club to catch drummer Shelley Mann. Dick loved good jazz – we all did.
“We started back home, deciding to go down the picturesque scenic Coastal route that hugs the ocean between San Francisco and L.A. Picturesque? The fog closed in on us a few miles above San Simeon, where Hearst’s castle is. And that was the last time we saw land! Or water, for that matter. And it got so bloody cold we were freezing to death.
“The hydraulic mechanism on the windows of the Lincoln got all fouled up and none of us could work them. We’d have them all closed and it would get a little stuffy and somebody would yell, ‘Open a window!’ And they would ALL fall down. Then with the wet fog pouring in, we couldn’t get them UP! We were freezing to death all the way home. Ever since, we’ve had a private joke about windows going up and down and into the roof and the like.”
It seems to Martin Green that the matter of those hydraulic windows that went AWOL was about the only situation Dick Chamberlain has not controlled.
“Basically, Dick’s very able,” says Martin. “Always has been. Dick knows himself pretty well. He’s very intelligent. Very sharp. Very understanding. Everything’s in balance. And he’s always in control. This is not to say he’s in control in the rigid sense of the word. He’s quite free. Quite open. Nothing really bugs him too much. I’ve never seen him explosively upset over anything. What’s ‘upset’ for Dick wouldn’t be upset for other people. He just gets quietly concerned.
“Like last Thanksgiving Day when Dick stopped by to see us, he seemed disturbed about something. I recognized the symptoms. I didn’t know, though, what had him in a stew. I felt it had to do principally with a movie which a producer wanted him to do. I know Dick didn’t like the script. On this day Dick just said he had decided not to do the picture. He said it very simply. But to anyone who knows him, Dick was quite concerned. Still he entered right into the spirit of the holiday with us.
“My mother and I were taping a Thanksgiving letter for my stepfather, who was then stationed in Okinawa. Dick knows Gil and he helped us with the letter, talking to Gil on tape and just sort of filling him in on what was happening at home. He described the events of the day, set the scene, told him how the living room looked . . . things like that.
“My mother remarked that my uncle was having a family get-together at his home in Costa Mesa, and how much they’d like to meet Dick. ‘Well, why don’t we drop over?’ he said. ‘I think that would be fun.’ We went over and stayed awhile, and they were all quite thrilled. Dick was very friendly and unassuming, as usual.”
It’s characteristic of Dick, as his close friends know, not to bother others with any personal problem of his. During the most miserable period of his life – his lonely stretch in Korea – Dick Chamberlain temporarily broke all contact with them.
“Dick is the kind of person who has to withdraw and take care of his problems, without spreading them around,” close friend David Ossman once told me. “He hated it in Korea, and for two years he simply withdrew from all contact with old friends and life as
he’d known it.”
For all his inward rebellion – and, on occasion, outward – Dick fought this through alone... and wound up being promoted to sergeant in his outfit.
Outward acts of rebellion? Yes, friends say, Dick is capable of them, too, when the occasion justifies them.
Dick Chamberlain, they say, took a grave chance once at Pomona College. His friends first recognized, on that occasion, Dick’s strength in a fight, for all his quiet manner and easygoing temperament.
Together with Martin Green and David Ossman, Dick risked expulsion from college to protest an injustice he felt school authorities were doing another friend, Jack Fisher, a leader of the Drama Production Group.
“What we did was illegal and done under great secrecy,” Martin says.
“Jack Fisher was the dynamic leader in the drama group,” recalls another former member of Those D.P.’s. “He had definite ideas about what the drama department at Pomona College should be, and the authorities had opposing definite ideas. When they conflicted, there was war.”
There was a major dispute between Fisher and the director of a play. Hot words were exchanged, and Fisher was actually forbidden his Phi Bet Kappa. He was also restricted from appearing in the next play, Death of A Salesman, which was to have been a starring vehicle for him and from doing any drama productions at all.
Dick, Martin Green and David Ossman were jointly outraged.
David has said, “We first thought about painting one of the buildings red in protest. Then we settled on another plan. The whole idea was initially an impulse. Normally, Dick was a very quiet person, not given to making large gestures – this was the first really big gesture I had seen. But he was all for this from the beginning. He had the guts to plan it, coordinate it, and carry it through like a real Secret Service kind of operation.
“First we got a huge banner. In his room, under the utmost secrecy, Dick painted on this banner a strongly felt cartoon of protest. Its central figure was that of the college symbol, a little sage hen wearing a Pomona College beanie. On its face was a particularly agonized expression. In the hen’s side was planted a spear on which Dick painted the head of a lion, which was a pun on Lyon, the name of the college president. Dick lettered an appropriate, rather strongly-worded slogan across the entire length of the banner.
“We decided to put up the banner on top of the Carnegie Library Building,” David Ossman goes on. “About three o’clock one morning, Dick and I crawled up on the tile roof with the banner. Martin was stashed on a fire escape of a building across the street, keeping watch for us. The night watchman almost caught us. About four in the morning Dick and I finished hanging the banner. It was just getting light when we got the ladder down, jumped in the car and made our getaway.”
For days Dick Chamberlain’s stricken sage hen hung on high, looking down accusingly on school authorities. It was the talk of the school. “This was the time of the first big Pomona College Arts Festival,” David Ossman recalls, “and there was a big crowd on the campus that weekend. School authorities tried like made to get this thing down from the top of the building. Nobody could figure out how it had been put there, or how to get it down. And nobody ever suspected who did it.”
His pals are quick to say Dick Chamberlain took the greatest gamble of the three.
“Dick was a senior, ready to graduate. He had a lot more to lose than we did,
if he’d been found out.”
For all his seeming passiveness, Dick Chamberlain is characteristically a rebel and crusader for values in which he believes, Martin Green says.
“There are many ways of rebelling. I think even the way Dick lives today is a rebellion. He lives an extremely unglamorous life,” Martin says.
Martin has observed first hand Dick’s contemporary way of life. For a number of weeks he was Dick’s guest in his simply furnished three-room house in the Hollywood hills.
Dick’s style of living is far from commensurate with his present fame. He drives a Sting Ray Corvette and still lives in the same $100-a-month apartment where he’s lived for the past three years.
Dick’s an exponent of the simple life, to the extent of not allowing stardom to distort the important values, but he would live somewhat less simply than he does now if finances permitted, Martin is convinced.
“Dick doesn’t make the big money that people might think,” Martin says. “And he has a great many lessons, like his singing and dancing, which he personally pays for. He spends his money for what he wants the most. With Dick it’s a matter of values. Self-improvement is all-important to him. On the other hand, his apartment is furnished simply, almost starkly. The only expensive items there are some paintings.”
Staying a while with his old friend, says Martin, was like living with an invisible man.
“Dick’s so busy you seldom see him. He lives very much by schedule. He has to. He gets up early and cooks breakfast and goes to the studio. He gets home late. Then he does bar-bell exercises before taking a sprint through the countryside. He has to keep in shape. Then he comes back, works on his singing, and studies his lines for the next day.”
When Dick has any time to call his own, he goes to an occasional concert or
visits art galleries.
There’s little opportunity for Dick Chamberlain to go out unrecognized in Hollywood today. And there’s little time to go out, period. Old friends like Martin Green are proud of Dick’s fame. But, for the “Chambo” they’ve known, there seems too little time for living.
This is Martin Green’s observation of the situation: “Ron Hubbard said, ‘Fame is a rock to which you are bound,’ and this certainly is true of Dick today. In a sense I’m sorry to see it. I would like to see Dick be, well, more free.”
Being television’s famous young Doctor Kildare seems too all-confining for the free spirit Martin has known. The college rebel who clung to the wet eaves of a rooftop to hang a banner of protest. The fun-type Dick, the clever satirist, the artist who has so many abilities ready to develop into greatness.
As Martin Green knows him, Dick Chamberlain’s goal is to perfect all his abilities.
Dick’s an extremely able friend, too. But, as Martin says, there are times when, through no fault of Dick’s, none of his friends hear from him. There may be a brief note – in heavy black ink and signed “Cham” or “Chambo” – or an occasional phone call. That will be all until one day a Corvette will draw up in front of the house of a longtime friend and a familiar figure in blue jeans will jump out.
“Dick’s whole life now is devoted to his work,” Martin notes with regret.
Today his fame is such that being a doctor is a 24-hour job for Dick Chamberlain. No matter where he goes, it’s all but impossible to escape being Doctor Kildare.
Just how true this is was made evident to Martin Green in an incident that happened not long ago. Martin had driven up to Hollywood, and he and Dick were having dinner at Frascatti’s Restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. In the background music played. In the foreground was the clink of cheer and the hum of conversation.
“We were talking about this and that when a woman in the dining room fainted suddenly,” Martin recalls. “It was nothing serious and she had soon recovered.”
Eyes all around them focused instantly, and significantly, on Dick Chamberlain –
young Doctor Kildare.
“They carried the woman out past our table, and Dick said, ‘Gee – I can’t help feeling
I should do something.’”
Martin reassured him, “You are doing something – for everyone who knows you
and who sees you.”
I love New York better than any place in the world. I first saw it when I was 25
and the suspense had been terrible. Two of my best friends from college had
moved there and their letters to me while I was stuck in the Army were full
of what they were doing, the shows, the girls, the food, the books.
I had huge fantasy about the place. And when I finally got there,
I arrived at Idlewild airport and took a bus through Queens.
The sky was a hazy yellow - maybe smog - I don't know, And then,
through this golden haze, over the roof tops of the brick buildings
I saw the outline of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler
Building, and I felt a wave of happiness.
Steak, rare only.
Birds, not the kind you keep in the house, but the wild ones outdoors.
I love to watch them soar through the air - that wonderful freedom.
If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I would choose to be
either an eagle or a lion. I guess a psychiatrist would have
something to say about that.
Time alone, but not much of it.
The beach. Yet I can't say I love the sea. You can be awed by the sea,
or impressed by it, but I can't understand anyone liking it. It's too
infinite, like the sky, to love.
Participating in sports. I've never learned to like spectators sports.
I don't know why.
Rock 'n' roll music. I am just learning to like it, and find it really
has a soul. It's kind of lost, aggressive, and frantically intense.
I think it's why the young people like it so much - they can get lost in it.
Not height or being closed in, or anything like that.
I don't think I have any phobias. But many years after I saw Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, when I was a kid, I was terrified of the dark.
Best in the shower. Mainly in bathrooms. At music lessons, at recording
sessions. That's about it. Not at parties. I would love to, but can't get up
the nerve. Come to think about it, I am not asked very often.
Which is just as well.
Frequently, the things I should do but don't want to do. I seem to
have a built-in resistor. I leave phone calls unmade, letters unwritten,
and I've left people waiting for me in restaurants for hours.
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's terrible.
High school days, almost entirely. I remember none of what I learned
which wasn't much anyway as I recall, none of the teachers, experiences,
parties, few of the high school friends.
Digital phone numbers.
Short coats on men.
Any kind of clothing that tends to dominate the person.
Unconventional clothes, you might say.
Alarm clocks and telephones - their insistence.
Any ringing sound that's meant to alert a person.
Lots of human failings, but it's difficult to talk about these, because
if you look at yourself hard enough, you'll find you have these same
Liars, but there again, I tell lies occasionally myself.
People who take out their own difficulties on bystanders - that bully
kind of thing. It happens a lot in my business - directors are
notorious for this.
Plastic furniture coverings that are supposed to look like the real thing.
I don't like imitations, anything cheap. I guess I have expensive tastes.
Those clear plastic covers for lamps and chairs and automobiles -
The problem of censoring what I say for publication. It's not something
I enjoy doing. There are a lot of things a person has no right
When I'm performing well.
When I'm with a person - even in a group - and there is that
wonderful warm feeling of being sympatico with others.
A neat movie The cobra woman, with Maria Montez. She was
my boyhood heroine. I can still hear her say "Geev me da cobra joo wel!"
Christmas. I remember Christmas for ever. The days preceding it
when the suspense was unbearable. We always made a big thing
of it at home, and decorated our tree maybe two weeks before
Christmas. That growing pile of packages under the tree, and
smelling them and shaking them and guessing what was in them.
Being spanked for lying.There was a scrap drive at school,
and all the donations were piled in the playground. Somewhere
near the top was a gleaming metal figure, a sports trophy someone
hadn't wanted. It struck my fancy and I couldn't stand it - I took it
home. My father asked me where I got it and I said "in an alley
a few houses down, under a pile of leaves," "Are you sure?" he said.
And I finally admitted the truth and got a whaling.
All the plays I was in at college. Some happily, some sadly
and with great embarrassment. A couple of them, zany things that
were half comedy, half music were given at dances, and they were
the most fun I've ever had.
Oddly enough, I've somehow got used to embarrassing things
like the gushing fan, like those people who deliberately TRY to
embarrass you. This sort of thing should embarrass me,
but it doesn't any longer.
When I can't remember names, especially of people I know well.
I think the reason it happens is that I have a small fear that I'll forget,
and then I do. And I always forget people's names if I see them
appear suddenly in a place or situation where I wouldn't expect
to find them in a million years. Like seeing your mailman at
the library or your dentist on the beach. I remember 15 minutes
afterward, but then it's too late.
Almost always for a drunk - especially if it's a good person.
By parties to which mostly performers are invited. And the time
arrives when everyone is not-so-subtly trying to upstage every one.
About changes of weather, especially in spring and fall.
The fragance of flowering trees in the spring and then, after summer,
that first cool breeze that rattles the windows. The first indication
of autumn is slightly sad but it's not a dying to me, it's just
I lose my temper
I don't really blow my top - it's one of my faults that I don't.
I'm trying to learn how and doing it slowly.
I get angry if anyone makes me feel persecuted or misused.
Until I figure out the reason for it.
When I feel I'm doing a good job in acting and not getting support
from others who are ignoring their responsibilities.
In traffic if I'm in top operating form and get held up by someone
who isn't. But if I feel poking along - then I'm just as infuriating
to the guy in back of me.
I used to have a terrible habit of throwing things. The last time
it happened - about four years ago - was, I hope, the literal
last time. I was trying to put two ground beef patties on a wire
gadget in the broiler, and they kept coming apart. I finally crushed
the whole mess in both hands and threw it across the kitchen.
I felt pretty foolish, with all that grease dripping from the walls
About saying things such as "Gee, things are going great."
I always follow up such optimism by knocking wood.
I don't think of myself as superstitious. But a cat crossed in front
of my car yesterday and I felt a little twinge - and I admit
I wouldn't want to break a mirror.
And the knocking on wood. That's something special -
I always do it.
For the opportunity to get consistent experience of the kind the show offers.
And for all the working experience of the last couple of years.
The hardest thing for an actor to come by is training.
Unlike a painter, he can't just decide to create on the spur of the
moment and then do it - he must have other people to act
with him. And I've been lucky to have constant and worthwhile
For a great many personal associations - the people behind
the scenes who work on the show, and the other performers.
For a kind of public acceptance that I never expected.
About all kinds of routine chores. Picking up the laundry,
watering the back yard, getting the car lubricated, I manage to get
these things done, but it hurts.
Occasionally I'm lazy about working on a script, and I regret it later.
Sometimes, about keeping up certain personal relationships.
I don't tend the social field too well.
Well, generally. On either side but never on back or stomach.
Preferably eight hours, but I seldom get more than seven
or six and a half. Ideally, I would like to go to bed late and
get up late. But my work does not allow that kind of luxury.
Most of all, waisting an enormous amount of time -
mainly by floating through both grammar and high school.
I didn't learn a thing in all those years.
Not having chosen a direction earlier. That wasted time, too.
Most of the phone calls I haven't returned, and those people
I've kept waiting.
I should regret having beaten up a kid on the block years ago,
but I don't.
Having handled some personal and business affairs rather badly.
But then one has to learn somehow. I suppose.
Very much, not having started dancing and singing lessons earlier.
It would make things a lot easier now.
Not having a distinctive face. But you have to make do with
what you've been given.
In the last couple of years, in most every area I can think of.
First and most favorably, in the area of my craft - the acting,
singing and dancing, all its aspects. Which isn't much, because
I didn't start with much.
In business, I've learned how to relate with people, to deal
with them in a business way, to see eye to eye on problems.
In particular, it took me a while to learn to work in this way
with older people.