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In Van Johnson’s footsteps—NOT!

16 Apr

As a prelude to this post, here’s some background on a Hollywood matinee idol who died a few months ago (the info was taken from an Internet entry):

Van Johnson (August 25, 1916–December 12, 2008) (born Charles Van Johnson) was an American film and television actor and dancer who was a major star at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios during World War II. Johnson was the embodiment of the “boy next door,” playing “the red-haired, freckle-faced soldier, sailor or bomber pilot who used to live down the street” in MGM movies during the war years. At the time of his death in December 2008, he was one of the last surviving matinee idols of Hollywood’s “golden age.”

And now for my posting:

I lived in Midland, Texas for several months during the summer of 1948. My mother, my stepfather, my older sister (older by 18 months) and I were wedged into a single motel room with no air-conditioning and no fans – our only relief from the West Texas heat was through an open window (no screen) during evening and night hours. The motel was directly across from the municipal swimming pool. Admission was free, and because of the heat in the motel-room-from-hell I spent many hours in and around the pool.

One memorable day at the pool an attractive young girl, a complete stranger who appeared to be a bit older than my age of 15 years, approached me and said (unsolicited), “You look just like Van Johnson.”

It changed my life—Van Johnson at that time was 32 years old and the toast of Hollywood, the “golden boy” of Hollywood’s “golden age.” Because of that chance remark (I repeat, unsolicited) equating my looks with his, I strove mightily to look like him. I mimicked his walk, his speech and his facial expressions, even his haircut, and for a long time I “walked on air.” The walking on air was probably an attempt to mimic his height, but with little success—he was over six-feet tall and I topped out at five-seven (several years later).

After awhile I outgrew the effort to be someone else. I must admit that it never got me anywhere, not even close, neither financially nor physically, and I reverted to my real self. I never tried to mimic his red hair and freckles, and I also never, EVER, tried to imitate his sexual orientation – yep, Charles Van Johnson, one of the golden boys of Hollywood’s golden age, was (said to be) gay.

The few short months that I spent in Midland included many more memorable happenings, including some details of my job as an attendant at a self-serve laundry (I learned how heavy a number-two washtub filled with wet clothing could be), details of my job as a lumber-yard clerk (I learned about Texas-sized wasp nests), and my subsequent relocation to El Paso, Texas. That relocation was followed by an odyssey  which included an overnight stay (on my 16th birthday) in the Valley Park, Missouri city jail, a brief stint in New York City’s Greenwich Village (at 21 University Place), a return to Mississippi and then off to Alabama as an indentured farm worker.

All those happenings are fodder for future postings (that’s meant as a promise, not a threat). When, and if, they happen will depend of whether such postings are of any interest to viewers.

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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Childhood, Humor, Uncategorized

 

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