Wednesday, March 14, 2007
sammy

Look at that sweet innocent face. It was 1951. He was on the brink of twenty-one years old in this picture....We were apprentices together that first summer at The Sea Cliff Summer Theatre. But, I had met Sammy the very first day of drama school, in September of 1950....he had just turned twenty a few days before that. He was from Montgomery, Alabama where Lucy Feagin, the founder of The Feagin School Of Drama & Radio....(yes, radio...they added Television to the name, that year...) was from too, and she was famous in Montgomery,
so this is why Sammy came to this particular Drama School in New York City. We were on the 6th Floor of The International Building of Rockefeller Center. That is where we met that very first day, sitting in the little theatre that was part of the offices of The Feagin School...and we knew the moment we met we would be friends for as long as we lived. That friendship continued until the day Sammy died, in 1985 thirty-five years later, one day after his 55th Birthday.....


I think of him every day. He was, as Reader's Digest used to say, 'the most unforgettable character' I've ever met or known, I might add. He was an 'original' in every way. Talk about a way with words....he was a brilliant writer. He was a very wonderful special actor, too. The summer after that Junior year at Feagin, Sammy and I were apprentices at Sea Cliff. And here we are below, many of the apprentices that summer, in a picture taken with Lillian Gish, one of the most gracious actresses to ever draw breath. That's little old plump me, down on the bottom left of the picture...We all thought that Lillian Gish was old...(That is a wig she had on for the play...but)...she was 53 years old....lol. What did we know about 'old', we were just silly young people...but, we all recognized how special she was as an actress and more particularly as a person.

Here is Sammy's first "professional" picture of that time...Remember, it was the very early 50's....He was certainly a beautiful looking young man.... Bruno of Hollywood was the theatrical photographer of the time...especially for young male actors....And he was a great and famous photographer, though I don't think it was Bruno himself who took all the pictures at that time----after all, he was in Hollywood, not New York...And you will notice Sammy had this beautiful full head of hair. That did not last....Here, below is a candid shot of us with another dear friend from Feagin, Jack Fogarty taken around 1952 or '53, I think.... We had spent a long weekend together during a summer hiatus, at a friends cabin in The Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania....a beautiful area that I was very familiar with from my childhood....The three of us met that first year at Feagin, and became fast friends...

Here below is Jack's "professional picture---another Bruno Of Hollywood 'head shot'....Jack's story is not a happy one at all....
He was a fun guy and I was crazy about him, but he had problems that became greater and greater as time went on. He was in and out of 'mental' hospitals and eventually, sometime in the early 60's he ended up killing himself. I remember in the mid 50's I had one of my singing jobs in Springfield, Mass. in some horrid little divey nightclub, (Well, actually, it wasn't so little...but it was a dive!) and Jack just happened to be in a hospital there, (I'm pretty sure it was a VA Hospital, in fact I know it was---The V.A. Hospital in Northampton, Mass. He had been in the Navy before Sammy and I met him that first year at Drama School, and he was actually going to Feagin on the G.I. Bill....) and I went to visit him during the day on one of the days during the weekend of this singing gig....I was so happy to see him, I clung on to him like he was my long lost brother...and in a way, he was. Singing in nightclubs 'on the road' was a very very lonely life, I tell you....

Poor dear Jack....in some ways both Sammy and I never quite got over Jack's death....it is hard when you know someone so well, and yet, he became more and more tortured as time went on, and in some ways, more and more of a stranger.....it was as I said, a very very sad end....

There are so many wonderful stories about Sammy and his particular 'southern' way with words. After I moved to California, we use to do the Ouija Board with friends of an evening and had a great time doing it. But always when Sammy was 'on the planchete', there was a particular way the board said things---a kind of southern gothic way, even though there were other people working the planchette with him, it always sounded like him. One time when a few of us were playing with the board at my apartment it revealed that one of our dear friends was going to die in a horrible car crash, (very very Sammy...). Sammy then asked the Ouija Board in his most wonderful soft spoken Alabama accent, "Who else among are most intimate friends is going to die violently?...". Such a 'Sammy' way of putting things, none of us there that evening has ever forgotten this sentence....In fact, only a few days ago I spoke with one of the people who lives in New York now who was there that night and he actually quoted that particular memorable and funny sentence, and not for the first time, either....we both laughed with joy at the memory....

I think Sammy did have a deep and somewhat dark way of seeing things, (though he wrote a number of very amusing screenplays that were not dark at all....) especially things that could possibly end up tragically....The novel that he wrote which was published was called "I'm Waiting".It was about a then not very talked about type of killer---the serial killer, and in fact I don't believe that term had come into usage yet at that time. His book was published way before all the movies involving this type of story were ever made and it was truly scary----a scary and wonderful book which was optioned by some film producers with the idea of a picture being made with Sammy writing the screenplay. He worked on that screenplay on and off for a long long time....But, unfortunately it was never filmed. The history of that journey--book to screenplay--could be a whole book unto itself, as I am sure many journeys-of-screenplays-filmed-and-never-filmed could!

I loved the look of the back cover of Sammy's book, too....Here it is, below....A very provocative and rather frightening image, to be sure....It was two hands with a nylon stocking over them---an important plot point in the story. The thing that was special about this book was that it was a true character study. We got to know the young man's family---his sister and his mother. We learned quite a lot about what made him the killer that he became, and it took place in the seamier side of Hollywood....It was really really good!

But before Sammy began working on his book, he continued working as an actor in television while he wrote a number of screenplays, as mentioned above. And, he made a number of very memorable films. "PT-109" the story of John F. Kennedy's time in the Navy, most especially that period when he was the captain of a PT-Boat...the 109.Sammy played one of the sailors on that boat, and had a wonderful scene with Cliff Roberston who played JFK. It was a very big film at the time, 1962-63. I have these really special letters from Sammy while he was on location in Florida filming "PT-109". He was a very prodigious letter writer and his writing was such that you wanted to save and savor every letter that came your way....I saved pretty much all of them....In fact, I believe I have saved almost every letter I ever recieved from Sammy during the thirty-five years of our friendship.....



More About All Of That To Come......








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39 Comments:
had this to say:

What a special friendship you had and what a talented man! He sounds like he was a wonderful character and yours is a loveley tribute as ever. I am really looking forward to finding out more :-)

And you are right. When I saw the back cover of his book I immeditaely though what a chilling image it was.

I'm just catching up on my blogging. Insurance wrangles adn studying are taking all my spare time atm!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 4:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

He certainly was a handsome thing! (so was Jack) I had never heard of this talented actor/writer... but once again YOU have brought to life a little piece of history for me to delve into! You do have some incredible memories... and some incredible friendships!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 5:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a wonderful glimpse into the past and into the character of your friends. Thanks for sharing. I also have a friend that I knew when I met her, we'd be friends for life. What an extraordinarily, special gift to have, a lifelong friend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 6:15:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow...nice pictures..good to see the way u have cherished thgis beautiful relation of friendship...if u wanna check out some fun stuff on friendship...u can take a trip at my blog...wont leave u dissappointed I guess :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 6:42:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi!.. as always you sure were drawn to handsome men! It's been ages since I've seen PT 109 I'll have to find a way to see it again now lol...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 8:25:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I am sorry for your loss of Sammy and Jack. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Your tribute to Sammy is beautiful!
Life long friends are extraordinary. Your relationship with him touched my heart.
I spent a lot of time in the Poconos myself. It is a beautiful place.
Your memories are wonderful.
Huge hugs

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 9:37:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What an interesting post. You bring up things that I've never heard of but will look into!

Oh hey, I have a picture of Tiny up that you've gotta see!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 9:52:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a great story and what a special friendship you had...
Thanks for sharing those memories and those beautiful pictures with us...your post filled my heart...

Maria

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 10:42:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous LYN M.
had this to say:

Your friendships have meant so much to you, every one with everlasting care. Socrates said:
"oblige with all your soul that friend who has made you a present of his own" and you have obliged them all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 3:01:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You've been mentioning wanting to write this post about Sammy for quit some time, Naomi. I'm sure it was quite difficult--and I hope that in writing it you've been able to work through some of your feelings about this. I've never been that close to any friend of mine and I can't imagine how much pain this has caused you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 3:15:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Such a lovely post. It is obvious by the way you write about him how much you cared and still care for him. I look forward to hearing more when you are ready to write it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 3:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Sammy was a handsome fellow! So was Jack and how sad that he had such problems and killed himself.

I loved all the pictures!! Your posts are so interesting Naomi!! Thanks for sharing this with us. I look forward to more!!

Hugs to you and a pet for Sweetie!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 4:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Love reading about Sammy and am sorry I never got to meet him. I looked him up in the L.A. Times Archives and found a rave review from a 1956 play called "End as a Man" by Calder Willingham in which Sammy co-starred with Robert Vaughn and John Erman. "Sammy Reese made a fine impression," the review said. There was also a ghastly review by Charles Champlin of a 1970 film called "The Traveling Executioner" co-starring Stacey Keach, Bud Cort, and Marianna Hill (born Schwarzkopf and related to the famous general Norman) including a picture of Hill coming on to Sammy who played the prison priest. Oy! I assume you saw this as well. Was it as bad as Champlin suggests? It played only at the Picwood Theatre, a movie palace at Pico and Westwood, now the Westside Pavillion Too (and currently being turned back into a big movie theatre multiplex). Do you have tapes of Sammy's TV appearances?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 5:55:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You have mentioned Sammy before, Naomi, and I know how special your friendship was. This is a lovely tribute. I can imagine how special his letters are to you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 6:19:00 PM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

Yes, there is just something about the slow, drawn out speech patterns of the South. There is an old world feeling to the voices and a feeling of comfort. This is a wonderful tribute to someone who was very special to you and many others. Thanks for the glimpse into his talented life.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 12:03:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

It must have brought back so many memories typing up this post. I'm sure you shed a few tears along the way. It was a beautiful post. How precious your friendships have been to you and I get teary eyed reading about your life together. You just come across as so sweet and so dear that I always leave feeling like I want to give you a hug! (Both men were very handsome and I always enjoy it when you put up the pictures of your life!)

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 6:15:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Old Lady, thank you for sharing your memories. A living history, about friend ship and life's stuff. I enjoy, the history that you share. pat

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 7:40:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Life is so bittersweet because it passes by so fast. And he died so young. I do enjoy reading about the people in your life, real life characters in a true story.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 8:02:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous R
had this to say:

Very interesting reminiscence. Especially the Ouija board part!

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 11:07:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous mar
had this to say:

What handsome young men! you've met not only the most interesting personalities but truly beautiful people, literally! We tend to think that young, beautiful, and talented people have an easy, uncomplicated life and look at your friend Jack... Such is life. And you have such a good memory and a special way of sharing these stories.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 12:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh what a great shutterfly book those letters would make! (lol... you knew I was going to say that).

As always, I never tire of hearing stories of yesterday from you. What a life you lead, Naomi. :)

~S

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 2:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow, first time I bumped into your blog! I want to read all of you post!

Can I link you up? Can you also inlude me in your links :)

I love your life!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 5:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a great friendship you guys had!
You have such an interesting life Naomi! I can't wait to hear more of your stories.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 6:45:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lovely and intense friendship you had with Sammy! Sounds he was a great and talented person and he was so beautiful, too! Love this post Naomi! I am enchanted with your lovely memories!

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 8:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

WOW awesome pics and great story. .
Hello, Michele sent me..

Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 11:35:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful friendship, my dear. Sammy, Jack and Naomi :-))

My friendships tend to be intense but short-lived - although my Crazies and I have been together for eight years!
Perhaps in another 20+ years I'll be reminiscing about Aginoth and Cyberkitten [big grin]

And I have found Sammy's book on Amazon.uk - I'll let you know what I think :-)

This is the second time I have visited with you and Sammy. But I have a day off today (off to the doctor this morning) so I have the energy to leave a comment this time.

cq

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 3:55:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Those of us who have been blessed with friendships like yours are fortunate. It is wonderful to read about the adventures of Sammy, Naomi (and Jack).

You and Sammy certainly had a relationship that was stronger than death. I love all your pictures Naomi - thank you for sharing your vivid and treasured memories. Hugs

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 5:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I just love coming here and reading all these "intimate" posts. The ones where you share so much of your own personal memories of life,love, and friendship. It's always so inspiring when I read a post like this. It stirs something in me and makes me want to strengthen my own ties that bind. Oh, and what a 'hottie' he was!! =)

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 12:30:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for the story - I'm sure it is a great loss for you.
I was born in '52 and my parents - especially my mom, was a great fan, so I have heard about them before:-)
Btw: if you feel for a free cruise starting from Stockholm to Oslo this weekend, your welcome on board.
Whatever you chose, I wish you a wonderful end to your week!

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 1:24:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That's quite an incredible story you've got there, amazing and filled with excitement. A tremendous tribute. You're fortunate to have such wonderful stories to tell, but I wonder if any other era could produce even a glimpse of the magic that the fifties held.

Great post.

Here from Michele's.

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 1:30:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I wish everyone had a friend like you to write such richly vibrant memoirs of them as you have of Sammy.

The way you write about your friends - both here and not - speaks volumes about your depth of soul, Naomi. You inspire me as a writer, and more importantly, as a person. I want to lead a life well lived so that I will be remembered as poignantly as these special people who were lucky enough to have been part of your circle of friends.

I know, I aspire to much in this world. But I have great mentors.

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 2:01:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I was certainly engrossed in this story as I read about Sammy and Jack and you.
How very sad that Jack became so troubled that he resorted to suicide as a means of escape.
It is wonderful that you saved all of Sammy's letters.
When you read them, it must take you right back to that moment in time when they were written.
I look forward to the "rest of the story."

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 4:43:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Love your stories!!! And I remember Bruno of Hollywood. How funny.

That is a very creepy image from the book, indeed. And how cool are you, to have known Lillian Gish? You never cease to amaze, my dear.

Here by way of michele...

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 7:30:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow, what a great friend, what a great story, and what a fascinating life you've had. More, please?

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 8:33:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lot of wonderful memories you have. I remember reading about Lillian Gish - a very great actress. Of course, 53 is not so old :) Did you notice that in the Oscars three of the "best actress" nominations were older women - Meryl Streep aged 57, Helen Mirren aged 61 and Judi Dench aged 72 - all wonderful actresses.
Michele sent me.

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 10:36:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Michele sent me. As I was reading about Sammy and your captions to his pictures and your descriptions, I could not help but hear the Kelly Clarkson song "Beautiful Disaster" through my mind... How bittersweet to have lost a wonderful friend, but to have loving memories of him that can still make you laugh.

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 11:15:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Michele sent me. What a wonderful friend and a special person.

Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 12:27:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I am slowly catching up on reading all your posts that I have missed, and I have MISSED reading them while I have been busy.
I love to hear you talk of Sammy even though it is bittersweet because you lost him far too early :(
BTW Mark was asking after you yesterday so hello from him as well ;)

Friday, March 23, 2007 at 8:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Two very handsome looking and talented men. How fortunate you've been to have the deep friendships you made over the years.
BTW....I LOVED your 50's look with the cuffed jeans, white socks and loafers. The epitome of those 50 years.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 8:44:00 AM PDT 

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