As I was driving to work, this morning, I was following a car that had been purchased at a dealership in Santa Monica, California. Upon my arrival to work, I stepped out and was hit with such a strong sense of nostalgia brought upon by today’s wonderful Santa Monica like weather. Then, it hit me. August 7th. Hiya, Kathryn.
I’ve said numerous times before that Kathryn Grayson is my favorite person. While it could be for reasons such as her immense talent, it goes far beyond that. I suppose that some of you reading this don’t know the story, so I’m going to tell you a little bit of it.
It started with a website. I had been a fan of Kathryn’s for many years, and decided to make my own tribute to her, online. A lot of things fell into place for me, then, too. Dan Van Neste wrote the most comprehensive article ever done about Kathryn, after interviewing her. I can’t tell you how much of a debt I owe to him for that, as it became the overall basis for my biography section. With the site up, I began hearing from other fans across the globe, and, eventually, Dan himself. He was going to forward my efforts to Sally Sherman, gal Friday to THE KG, herself. Holy! What! This put into motion a series of events that I look back on, thinking they had to have happened to someone far more important, more meaningful, more… anything than me.
First, came the full set of private label CDs. Being a Class A Pack Rat, I still have the mailer they came in. I made copies so I didn’t hurt the originals and listened to them for MONTHS, uninterrupted but by the music I had to hear at work. My favorite thing to do was to have stop light music wars with people playing rap music. I once got an air high five from a mail man, for that.
Oh wow, this is already much longer than I anticipated. I just really love Kathryn, okay? So time goes on and I find out she’s doing an autograph signing, in California. UH, THERE. THERE SO MUCH. While some of the day of the event were never fully retained in my memory, possibly because of full on shock, I will NEVER forget Sally Sherman’s response. I said, “I’m Kayla, I have the website.” I know I mumbled it, the first time because I was so nervous. She asked me to repeat myself. Then… I’m still kind of sorry for the people behind me, in line. Sally grabbed Kathryn’s arm- “KATY, IT’S THE WEBSITE GIRL!” Oh my God, maybe you do know this feeling, but have you ever felt like someone really really really important was actually excited to see YOU, and not the other way around? AND IT WAS ME. JUST NOBODY ME FROM NOWHERE, ILLINOIS. And she was Kathryn Grayson, Queen Of Literally Everything! I vaguely recall her signing my Desert Song poster and me buying some pictures. I mostly remember the picture part because she asked if I wanted them signed and I may have accidentally imitated her character from Two Sisters From Boston at her. I sat down (or maybe someone physically had to sit me down, I have no idea, ha) next to her, and my hand was on the table. Then she just grabbed my hand like NBD YOU ARE SO SWEET and like a tool, I just stared at her hand holding my hand because I was so nervous! She was so concerned that my hand was freezing, too. IN SHOCK, IT’S FINE, I’LL BE FINE, KG. This was the beginning of the “I Look Like A Bridge Troll Next To This Person” line of pictures, which continues TO THIS DAY.
Skipping a bunch of stuff and going on to the next year, she was going to be at an autograph show, in Las Vegas. HEY LOOK I’M GOING THERE, TOO, said the me. Not only was KG going to be there, but Howard Keel, too. WHAT THE WHAT?! My mom, cousin, her wee one, and I drove across the country, almost died in Denver, and arrived only a day late to Las Vegas, but still in time for all the festivities. This is why I still have a complex about needing to leave hours early for everything. My mom and I walked into the convention… thing place, and Mom loves to tell this story- I’m meandering up toward Kathryn, when Sally appears OUT OF NOWHERE and gives me this HUGE hug. LIKE WHAT NO I’M SORRY WHAT I’M NOT WORTHY. Kathryn took us all to lunch or brunch or whatever it was for that time zone, and we talked about everything from the reason why I’m still pissed at Esther Williams to, and I kid you not, the video game Grand Theft Auto III. The whole event was crazy amazing for a fangirl, I got to build my own personal grudge against both Mickey Rooney and Tippi Hedren, chatted it up with Rose Marie, who was a HUGE fan of my homemade purse, and got wholly and completely emotionally scarred by Howard Keel’s wife. BUT THAT’S ANOTHER TOPIC FOR NEVER, SO. I also traded my sunglasses for my favorite picture I’ve ever had the great fortune of taking.
I have realized that I am still not done. I mentioned above that we almost died, in Denver. Upon hearing the woeful tale of our drive, Sally gave me the holy freaking grail of unlisted phone numbers- KATHRYN’S- to call and let her know we made it home, safely. So I called. Once. Because those were the instructions. I kind of acted like the paper the number was on was going to self destruct, if I dialed the number again. A little while went by, and a friend convinced me to call again to check on everybody there. I AM SO SORRY EVERYONE, I CALLED AND HUNG UP LIKE 3 TIMES BEFORE I HAD THE COURAGE TO SPEAK. My bad, I’m really awful at phone. These phone conversations became a regular thing, and one day in January 2004, Sally asked me when I was coming back to California… and that when I did, I had a place to stay, with her and Kathryn.
Keep in mind that I was told this like 34 seconds after being given a heads up that Ann Miller was not well. Have you ever tried to hide the fact that you are ugly snotting and sobbing, on the phone? That’s fun.
So in August of 2004, I visited California again, staying at 2009 La Mesa Dr. Santa Monica. To this day, I have no idea what I ever did to deserve such an incredible, indescribable honor as this. Kathryn and Sally changed my life. Until staying there, I never felt much like I fit in, anywhere. And in those ten days, I felt so very normal in a good way. It was an acceptance of my eccentricities that I’d never known before. I truly felt like I belonged.
Sadly, the house which was her home for over 60 years was sold to someone who has turned it into a party mansion. Most of the beauty and character that it had has been stripped and replaced by garbage. Should I ever win the lottery, my first mission is to buy the house back and return it to it’s former splendor. The only parties that will ever be held are movie screenings. 🙂