Sally Todd Interview: Page 2


Last Update: March 31, 2011
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John: Although Red Skelton went on record as being totally against the use of off-color jokes on stage, I’ve heard that his humor off stage could be pretty blue. Did you experience any of that?

Sally: Yes, but it was all double entendre stuff…it really wasn’t that dirty. He would get just blue enough, you know, to get us all roaring. I was hysterical the whole time (in fact, I barely made it through the show). Rehearsing with Red was always a blast because he would slip that material in when we weren’t expecting it. Red Skelton was a fantastic ad-libber…probably one of the world’s best, in fact.

As everyone probably knows, Red always had a special place in his heart for children. He really loved kids and he donated a lot of money over the years to several different children’s hospitals and organizations.

I was very fortunate to have met and worked with people like Bob Cummings and Red Skelton. I thought my career was off to a really good start when I got those shows.

John: In the mid 50’s, you dated a handsome young actor named Rad Fulton (later James Westmoreland). In photos from that period, he kind of resembles a young Elvis Presley. Was that a serious relationship?

Sally Todd with Rad FultonSally: We dated exclusively for four or five months, and yes, during that time we were very serious about each other. “Jim” and I were two gorgeous and red-blooded young kids and we had an extremely physical relationship. In fact, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other! (laughs) Our life back then was going to one exciting Hollywood party after another, and we spent nearly every waking moment together. Jim and I met through his agent, Henry Willson, who also handled Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter and Guy Madison (among several other hot young actors). Henry was also my commercial agent, and he was one of the most colorful characters in town. He was gay and outrageous and I think he had a bit of a crush on Jim, because he was highly offended when Jim later told him that he wanted to leave his agency. Henry demanded that Jim immediately stop using the name of Rad Fulton, to which Jim replied, ‘No problem…you can have your lousy name back.’ (laughs)

John: Not long ago, you and Jim Westmoreland had a reunion after not seeing each other for nearly 50 years. What was that like?

Sally: It was wonderful. Jim writes books now and teaches golf, and he still looks great. It was amazing to see him again, and he is just as sweet and lovely as he was back in the 50s. He calls me several times a week and we have resumed a beautiful friendship. It is absolutely terrific.

Jerry Lewis and Dean MartinJohn: You have an interesting story about working with Jerry Lewis, don’t you?

Sally: Yes, that was before I heard about his somewhat legendary reputation with the ladies. (laughs) In the summer of 1955 I signed a contract with NBC to do six weeks work on the Colgate Comedy Hour (which had undergone a name change to the Colgate Variety Hour). Though the show was hosted by several different comedians, I was thrilled to learn that I would be working that summer with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Even though they were feuding with each other by then, I still was very excited because they were still enormously popular as a comedy team. Jerry and Dean were so much fun to be around.

The Colgate Comedy Hour was broadcast live each week which meant that I had to join the AFTRA union, of which I had not been a member previously. Well, Jerry evidently took a romantic shine to me as soon as he met me and he offered to pay for my union card, which I thought was kind of unusual, but I took him up on it as I really wanted the job.

The shows I did with Dean and Jerry were great. We would do different comedy skits each week and I would play a sexy nurse one week and maybe a secretary the next week and a girl in a bathing suit the following week. And, sometimes, there would be four of us girls introducing Dean and Jerry to the audience at the beginning of the show (just like Jackie Gleason would do later on in the 1960s, when he taped his TV show from Miami Beach).

As time went on, I noticed during rehearsals that Jerry was becoming more and more attentive towards me. But, I didn’t mind it too much as I was learning how to flirt with a man and then how to run away as quickly as possible afterwards. (laughs) I knew I had to escape him because I still had a couple more shows to do and I didn’t want to lose my job over something stupid like a false rumor going around that I was having an affair with Jerry Lewis. I mean, I knew I could be replaced at any time if people started believing that.

So, I always managed to outrun him and still have fun on the show and then on the last week of work one of the other girls came up to me and said, ‘Jerry is looking everywhere for you.’ At almost the same time, the assistant director came over to me and said, ‘Sally, we were all looking for you. Jerry wants to talk to you about your AFTRA card.’ Um…okay. I don’t know if Jerry Lewis expected me to show up in his dressing room with a check in hand, or what, but obviously, I didn’t go. You know, I never heard another word from him after that. (laughs)

A few months later, there was a big call over at Paramount for dozens of background girls for a new film that Jerry and Dean were starring in, called Artists and Models. Even though my agent knew what had happened between Jerry and me, he sent me over there for an interview. Well, I heard that Jerry took one look at my name on the call list and said, ‘In no way, shape or form is Sally Todd to work on this picture.’ And, needless to say, I didn’t.

So, that’s the story of my almost-romance with Jerry Lewis. He’s still around, God love him.

John: When I think of Jerry Lewis, I always think of Dean Martin, and when I think of him, I think of the Rat Pack. Did you ever date any of them?

Peter LawfordSally: Yes, I went out with Peter Lawford, off and on, for about a year. I first met him on the set of his TV show Dear Phoebe, in which I had a small part, and we hit it off right away. Peter was a great guy—he easily had the best sense of humor of anyone I have ever met, and he was gorgeous, too. Peter was warm and generous, and I still miss him. After he married Pat Kennedy, our relationship evolved into a close friendship, and a few years later he got me another acting job on his TV series The Thin Man. It was through Peter that I got to meet President Kennedy. That was an amazing experience for me and I’ll tell you that story a little bit later.

Jackie LougheryYou mentioned the Rat Pack and I do have a pretty outrageous story about Sammy Davis, Jr. that I think you’ll find interesting. During the time that I worked with Dean and Jerry (mid 1950’s), Sammy was opening one night at the famous Mocambo nightclub on the Sunset Strip, and I attended his show. My date that night was a young guy from UCLA and although neither of us had ever met Sammy, we were invited to sit at his private table. We were joined there by actress Jackie Loughery, who had won the first Miss USA contest a few years earlier, and a few other celebrities, including actress and singer Polly Bergen. At the time, Jackie was dating actor Vince Edwards, who, of course, went on to play Ben Casey. (Vince was not with her at the Mocambo.)

Vince EdwardsSammy sang beautifully that night and afterwards he invited my date and me to attend a very intimate party at his house for just a few select guests. So, we’re at the party, and while everyone else was eating and drinking and having a great time, I noticed that Sammy was acting very weird. He had gotten real quiet and moody and was pacing back and forth. He was extremely nervous, and when I asked someone about it, they told me that Sammy had secretly made a date that night with Jackie Loughery for after the party, and that Vince Edwards had found out about it. Now, at the time, Vince was notorious in town for being one of the most jealous and most hotheaded guys alive. He was an Italian bodybuilder from Brooklyn, and he was very buff and very dangerous. So, needless to say, before long, Sammy was having definite second thoughts about dating Jackie. (laughs) He was scared to death thinking that Vince was going to crash the party and kill him, or at the very least, beat the crap out of him.

John: What were you doing during all this drama…comforting Sammy?

Sally: No, the rest of us were unaware that our host was absolutely losing it right before our eyes, so we kept right on partying and carrying on. I remember Polly Bergen and I were drinking champagne like there was no tomorrow and at one point during the evening we even switched outfits with one another. I guess were both vying for the title of ‘Queen of Sammy’s Party’. (laughs)

Eventually, Sammy holed up in his bedroom where he continued pacing back and forth. At some point he saw me out in the hallway and he grabbed me and brought me into his bedroom with him because he didn’t want to be alone. I remember him saying to me, ‘Sally, I just know that Vince Edwards is going to show up here tonight and kill me.’ Once he explained to me what was going on I told him he was a damn fool. Everyone knew that Jackie Loughery was a big flirt, and you can’t get someone like Vince Edwards mad at you and not expect trouble as a result.

When I was in his bedroom, Sammy opened his dresser drawer and pulled out a gun which he started waving around. I was absolutely terrified. I had seen guns in person before, but never in that context. I’ll never forget Sammy crawling up on his bed and crumbling into a little fetal position and just rocking back and forth while cradling that gun. Here was a man who, just a few hours earlier, was totally together onstage, and now he was crumpled up like a baby. It was insane.

Finally, Sammy said he was going to call the police. At that point I felt it was time to leave, but since I had already gotten rid of my date, I wound up getting a ride home from Polly Bergen. She called me the next day to say that she had heard the police had indeed come out to Sammy’s house after we left, but that Vince never showed up. So, Sammy escaped death that night after all. (laughs)

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