By Jill Jackson
HOLLYWOOD … Neighbors I have known through the years who were and are connected to showbiz are quite numerous. Growing up in New Orleans, I lived near the glamorous Dottie Lamour, so I got to say “hello” quite often. Then when I made my annual visits to Hollywood, staying at the famed Garden of Allah, my “villa” was next to Thelma Ritter and her brood of kids. Jonathan Winters, who loved a little nip, also lived there and many times cavorted tipsy in the swimming pool. Ralph Meeker could be seen paying visits to friends and enjoying sun bathing while doing so.
To hark back to New Orleans, how could I not lead off with Tennessee Williams? He and his grandfather Dakin had a suite in the hotel where I lived and were often “drop-ins” for a drink. Tenn loved the color aquamarine blue. I had a lovely strapless evening dress in that color, and wherever we went, he asked me to wear it, and of course, you know I did.
I had an interview show in New Orleans, and one of my favorite guests was district attorney Harry Connick Sr. Whenever he came, he brought his little 6-year-old, Harry Connick Jr. We would go into the broadcast studio (this was radio) to do the interview and send little Harry into the adjoining studio, where there was a piano. This little tyke sat down and played that piano, and played that piano and played that piano. … Today he is still playing that piano, singing songs and composing tunes. He is one of our top entertainers.
When I left New Orleans for Hollywood, I stayed at the Chateau Marmont, that great old hotel on the Sunset Strip. There I met Hermione Baddeley, and we became fast friends. Of course you remember her as Mrs. Naugatuck in the “Maude” series.
Moving from there to the La Ronda, a 1920s courtyard apartment building in what is now West Hollywood, I was surrounded by celebs such as English actress Hermione Gingold, the great screen writer Frances Marion (“The Champ,” “The Big House,” etc.), actor Harry Ellerbe, director Robert Ellis Miller and his wife, producer and actress Pola. Bette Davis arrived there after I moved to the building where I am now. Burl Ives lived here, as has actress Lake Bell. And now, my friends, on to an anecdote I have been yearning to tell.
When I was first starting out as a movie commentator, or whatever you want to call it, I traveled from New Orleans to Hollywood twice a year to gather news on tape (that’s how we did it then). So, I’m sitting in my seat and the two little ladies in the seats just ahead were twittering like crazed birds when their nests are invaded. Finally, one turned around, leaned over and said, “Can we have your autograph?” MY AUTOGRAPH! HALLELUHAH! SOMEBODY IS RECOGNIZING ME! So, I signed “Jill Jackson.” “Oh,” they said, “we thought you were Dinah Shore.” Well, I did look like her, but I wasn’t her. So, that ended that moment of glory! As you know, Dinah is gone now, and sadly missed by all her fans.
© 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.