Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra & Judy Garland
Black performers were not allowed to stay at the Vegas venues that employed their services on-stage, not until Frank Sinatra took a stance on the issue in the early sixties. Lena Horne was performing at the Sands when her child waded into the casino’s pool and the manager, bowing to the demands of some bigoted guests, immediately had the pool drained to remove the ‘contamination’. Sinatra heard about it and was incensed. The next time he and his close friend Sammy Davis Junior were about to appear there, he informed the Sands management that he would refuse to perform if Sammy was refused a room. ‘If my friends are good enough to play here’, he declared, ‘they’re good enough to stay here.’ Sammy was permitted to stay and to gamble in the casino if he chose to. The segregation rules were altered forever in Vegas. ‘Frank cared when nobody else did’, said Sammy later. ‘Before it became popular.’
Donald Sutherland & Shirley Douglas (Kiefer is sitting on his dad’s knee)
From 1966 to 1971 Canadian actor Donald Sutherland was married to another Canadian, actress Shirley Douglas. She would one day become the mother of another actor, Kiefer Sutherland, and his twin sister Rachel. As difficult as it might be to believe, in 1969 Shirley was actually arrested for attempting to purchase hand grenades for the Black Panthers. She has always said that the FBI framed her because of her anti-Vietnam War stance and her support for black activism, particularly for her part in formulating the fund-raising group, ‘Friends of the Black Panthers’. This resulted in her being jailed for five days, after which she was denied a work permit and sent back to Canada. Fans of Lolita (1962) might recall Shirley playing Mrs. Starch. In 2003 she was presented with the Order of Canada for her activism in promoting public health awareness and for her contribution to the performing arts.
Governor Kerrey & Debra Winger
Terms of Endearment (1983) was shot in Nebraska and starred Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson. Winger’s behaviour was highly erratic on the set, due in no small part to her endeavours to overcome a severe cocaine addiction. She was also dating the then Governor of Nebraska, Bob Kerrey, a former Medal of Honour winner who lost the lower part of one leg whilst in action in Vietnam. When reporters asked him how their relationship began, he laughed and told them – ‘She swept me off my foot.’ Their relationship lasted two years.
Belafonte & Fontaine in Island in the Sun (1957)
Joan Fontaine plays Mavis Norman in Island in the Sun (1957), a woman from the elite ruling class who falls in love with Harry Belafonte’s character David Boyeur, a young black politician, and wants to marry him. That proved to be enough reason for Joan to receive hundreds of hate letters containing dimes and quarters, which read, ‘If you’re so hard up that you have to work with a nigger…’ The letters were post-marked all around the nation, but similar phrasing indicated that they were all penned by the same organisation, probably the Ku Klux Klan.
Nigel Havers Ruth Ellis
In the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, the part of Lord Lindsay was played by British actor Nigel Havers. He came from a very ‘legal’ family, his grandfather being the notable high-court judge who sentenced Ruth Ellis to death in 1955. When she was hanged for the murder of her lover, Ruth became the last woman to be executed in Great Britain. Nigel’s father Michael Havers QC was the attorney-general in 1981and chief prosecutor in the trial of Peter Sutcliffe, the notorious Yorkshire Ripper. Sutcliffe murdered 13 young women in a five-year killing spree in the north of England. On a somewhat lighter note, Michael Havers also successfully defended Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard on drugs charges in the sixties. His efforts resulted in having their prison sentences overturned, thereby, saving their careers. Had their sentences stood, the Rolling Stones would not have been allowed into America ever again!
Most fans may not remember Joanna Moore. She was a very attractive blonde who graced movies and TV in the fifties and sixties, married Ryan O’Neal and gave birth to Tatum O’Neal in 1963. She bristled when ordered to darken her hair for Touch of Evil (1958) because the picture’s female star, Janet Leigh, was a blonde herself. The male star of the picture, Charlton Heston, lured her to his room intending to seduce her, but she managed to avoid his clutches. Then, when she made Follow That Dream in 1962 with Elvis Presley, he tried to break down her door! ‘He’s a bore’, she told an interviewer. Under contract to Hitchcock for several years, she resented his ‘controlling’ of her hair styles and wardrobe and it was not a happy experience for either party.
Wesley Snipes & Jennifer Lopez in Money Train (1995)
Both her co-stars in Money Train (1995), Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, made passes at Jennifer Lopez during filming. Woody was far less persistent than Wesley who refused to take no for an answer and became more heavy-handed and insistent as filming continued. ‘He got really upset about it’, recalled Jennifer who was in a nine-year relationship with another man at the time. ‘His ego was totally bruised.’ Totally miffed by her rebuttal, Snipes refused to speak to her for two months afterwards. ‘Actors are used to getting their way and to treating women like objects’, Jennifer added. ‘They’re so used to hearing the word, ‘Yes’.’
Dustin Hoffman as ‘Tootsie’
Dustin Hoffman tried out his disguise as Dorothy in the 1982 feature Tootsie by pretending to be his daughter’s Aunt Dorothy at her parent’s evening at school. And the teachers present never suspected for a moment. During a 2008 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Hoffman related how he similarly fooled actor Jose Ferrer in an elevator. He sidled up to Jose and introduced himself as Dorothy, an enormous fan, before offering him oral sex there and then! ‘Not right now, thank you’, replied the actor. As Hoffman exited the elevator, Ferrer looked at assistant director David McGiffert and asked, ‘Who was that scumbag of a woman?’ A year later Hoffman ran into Jose at a benefit and confessed to duping him.