My start in show business was on a linoleum rug in our living room
Show business is just full of
"where I got my start," stories from some of the biggest stars of stage and screen. Stars such as Richard Gere, George Clooney, and Jessica Alba, to name three.
Some of the stories are hilarious and some are, frankly, far-fetched. But all in all, each star has his or her own way of explaning how they made it to where they are today.
Oh, I am not here to judge or offer any denial to their stories, but until now, no one has ever heard or read of "my" short-lived career in show business when I was at the tender age of six.
How did I learn of Hollywood
and the glamour that went with it when my family didn't own a television set?
I give that credit to Mrs. Chloe Roberts, a saintly neighbor woman and her husband who lived about two miles from our rural home. Oh, how I longed each week for Friday night to arrive just so my mom and dad and I could make the trek to Mrs. Roberts' house for "television night," as she called it.
"Television night," only lasted from six o' clock p.m. until nine. But in those three glorious hours, I watched with grandeujr in my soul the stars of Hollywood--James Arness, Clayton Moore, sometimes Rick Nelson, and always the Gillette Friday Night Fights, the real reason for this event every night to begin with for my dad, rest his soul, loved boxing with a passion.
And besides being my dad, and leader of the family,
he was also responsible for keeping the picture clear and wrinkle-free as the early black and white television sets had in their pictures for only God knows why. It was very annoying I tell you. Just when James "Matt Dillon" Arness was just about to say his famous line, "hold it," the picture would go into a wavy display of something that only someone on L.S.D. could have seen.
But I dealt with it as any up and coming celebrity would do. I gritted my teeth, kept the images in my heart and carried them back to our home where the next day at a strategic point, I would put on a show to end all shows. A show that would make Richard Burton green with envy. A show that would make Buddy Holly pack up his six-string and go into pumping gas for a living.
But I dealt with it
as any up and coming celebrity would do. I gritted my teeth, kept the images in my heart and carried them back to our home where the next day at a strategic point, I would put on a show to end all shows. A show that would make Richard Burton green with envy. A show that would make Buddy Holly pack up his six-string and go into pumping gas for a living.
This performing was not that hard. In fact it was fun. I never used a script. I felt that using a script only hampered my natural creativity. So I would wait "in the wings," in the hallway until my name was called by my dad.
When he said, "get out here, Kenny, and show us your show," my heart raced at a hundred miles per hour. My blood pressure shot up at least one point. I was excited. This was it. My early steps to stardom.
I would start off by saying the start of Gunsmoke: "Gunsmoke! Starring James Arness as Matt Dillon!" Then I would pretend to have a six-gun on my side and look as serious as possible and pull my gun and fire at the bad guy. Then without missing a beat, I would then become the bad guy who Dillon had just shot.
"Ohhh, aggghhhh," I would moan with my hands clutched to my bleeding chest and slump to the slick linoleum floor. Another evildoer done away with. Law and order once again rules in Dodge City.
Lest I forget
Lee Marvin, legendary actor in movies and a bold television show called, "M-Squad," which was short for "Metropolitan Squad," a police unit that patrolled a big city to cut down criminals and keep crime in it's place.
I loved how Marvin would carry himself on the screen. I loved how he talked with that liquor and nicotine-chiseled voice. He was a natural for these tough guy roles.
But I think his best effort was "The Dirty Dozen," where he starred as a military colonel who had to train twelve Death-Row inmates for an underground military operation against the Nazi's. This film had stars by the bucketful. Clint Walker, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, to name a few.
And when it came to my performing a weekly episode of "M-Squad," well, I charmed my family with my obviously-too-young of a voice to be Lee Marvin, but I gave his part my all.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto
were not forgotten. I did these separately due to I didn't want my "audience" to be bored with me just doing Westerns. But I tell you. Playing two characters at one time is tough. Here is a small example of me as The Lone Ranger and Tonto:
LONE RANGER: Uh, well, Tonto. Nightfall has caught us. You ride on up the trail a few miles and see where the Apache warriors are camped. I will stay here and guard our camp.
TONTO: uggh, you think-em I am stupid?
Or something like that. My family loved it.
was always tough to duplicate on my linoleum rug. Besides Lee Marvin, Mike Connors also starred as a tough private eye who always fell in love with the pretty blond client whose husband was cheating on her and well, you get the story.
For this role, I would comb my childish blond hair down a bit into my eyes and swagger onto the linoleum rug and then yell, "it's all over, Buster! You are hereby under arrest!" Just like Mike Connors did on "Tightrope."
Notice how articulate I was in remembering the dialogue of these shows from Mrs. Roberts' television set?
My mom, dad, and sister
would grin, smile, laugh and give me a round of applause. I would then bow as gracious as possible for I knew that being grateful to my fans was the first step in a successful show business career.
To give my "audience," a variety, I would belt out a few tunes by my favorite singer, Rick Nelson. I would do what I knew of, "Travelin' Man," or "Mary Lou," as my folks were glued to my every word. Or at least the words I knew for Mrs. Roberts' television picture would always go wavy and distorted just as Nelson went into the second verse, so I just sang what I knew of the first verse.
What were my folks going to do, walk out on me?
My sister's idol in the singing business was of course, Elvis Presley. At age five I never had his hips or snarling lip, but I could do a pretty good version of "Hound dog," or ':Love Me Tender," and again, I only did the words that I knew. Seemed like Mrs. Roberts' televisoin set had it in for me and my early show business career.
But sadly, as time went by and I grew up, my performances on our linoleum rug in our living room became fewer and fewer. Oh, my mom would want me to sing Elvis or Rick Nelson songs when the rest of our family were at school or work, but even that fizzled out with time.
I remember how sad I was when he moved from that shack of a house and into a better, bigger house somewhere out of the rural section of Marion County in northwest Alabama.
I wasn't as sad for leaving the rural surroundings and the lonesome old house as I was for leaving my first "stage" behind: my slick, linoleum living room rug.
That ended my show business career.
Our bigger, better house didn't have a linoleum rug, but tile floors.
And those will hurt you when you pretend to be shot by "Matt Dillon."