Friday, October 26, 2007
eva gabor - 1951

For some reason, I remember that very first summer at The Sea Cliff Summer Theatre where I apprenticed, better then the next two summers that I worked there. Maybe because it was all new to me and everything was interesting and exciting and I was learning how things worked. The first play of that summer season was “The Curtain Rises”, with Veronica Lake. (Her leading man was an actor named Ward Costello….an attractive serviceable actor). It was kind of exciting to have a ‘movie star’ be the “STAR” of the play. I don’t have any particular memories of her….I think I worked the concession stand during that week and probably ate more Hershey Bars and Milky Ways, than I sold! My favorite film of Veronica Lake's and one of my very favorite films of all time was "Sullivan's Travels", in which she co-starred with the highly underrated fine handsome actor, Joel McRae....I wish I had had the courage to speak to her about that film back then at Sea Cliff, but unfortunately I didn't. Being a lowly apprentice who cleaned the toilets, built and painted the sets and did props sometimes, too....just didn't give one a whole lot of courage.
Then came, Melvyn Douglas & Signe Hasso in a little ditty called, “Glad Tidings”….I have no memory of that week either, except that Mr. Douglas was very nice and very good, in the play, too! He was a superlative actor who had a wonderfully long career, winning an Oscar along the way, plus being any number of wonderful films in his later years like "Hud" and "Being There" and another favorite film, "I Never Sang For My Father", as well as having the amazing distinction of playing opposite Greta Garbo in her very last film.

The 3rd week was the wonderful Lillian Gish of whom I have spoken in one of my previous posts waaaay back in 1784, doing a play called “Miss Mabel”. She had a couple of heavy weights with her; Clarence Derwent, who was an icon in the American Theatre and also was President of Actors Equity Association, at that time….(also, there is an Award named after him)--and a distinguished gentleman and very fine actor, was he; Dennis Hoey, who we knew from the “Sherlock Holmes” films…the ones with Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce. (He was Inspector LaStrade, in the later films of that series, and was very well known in theatre as well….). Miss Gish was a smart savvy lady and knew to surround herself with first class actors. It’s hard to believe that Lillian Gish was only 55 when she did “Miss Mabel”. Because I was still in my teens, (just barely), I thought she was ancient!!Next came “Her Cardboard Lover”, with Eva Gabor. Miss Gabor had told the Producers that she would need a ‘Dresser’. I am not sure why they chose me, except, I think they thought I was nice, and would get a kick out of being her dresser. So, I had gone home and showered and put on fresh clothes in order to meet her. Everyone else was filthy with paint all over them as I had been also before going home We were all tired as hell and most everyone looked like 7 unmade beds! As I've said before, this theatre was pretty much a mess and that included backstage. The ‘Star’ Dressing Room was very tiny and pretty disgusting, too, though we would try to keep it as clean as possible so that there would be no remnant of the previous person who had ‘lived’ in this little room the week before—in this case that was Lillian Gish. Miss Gabor asked me my name, and I told her it was Naomi. She immediately proceeded to call me Gertrude and did so for the first 3 days or so….we decided that her "Dresser" the week before must have been named Gertrude and she just held on to that once she had finally learned it…we were all interchangeable to her, I’m sure! She then handed me a list of the things I was expected to do before each show, including the two shows on Wednesday and Saturday. Among the many things I was expected to do, (I think there were 9 directives in all), I had to help her dress, literally, including helping her pull her girdle on, (oy) and get down on the floor on my hands and knees and help her put her shoes on(!!!). Then, iron…yes, iron her 8 or 9 costumes—most of them huge skirted dresses---this was the crinoline 50’s remember and, my personal favorite, brush her little dog before HIS entrance in the second and third acts. (Two brushing's per show mind you). I was rather stunned by this daunting list of duties.
One of the Producers, Louis McMillan & his partner George McIver, who was our Stage Manager, were chomping at the bit to find out how it went and what I had to do, and, mostly they wanted to know was she a real blond! I was pretty overwhelmed with the list of chores, let me tell you—not feeling up to these tasks at all—especially the ironing—
I was so afraid I would burn her very fancy dresses---satin, lace, etc., that I just couldn't even contemplate how I was going to do this! I told them everything that was expected of me and how fearful I was of ruining her dresses. The crowning blow was when Louis heard I had to brush her dog before the dog's entrance, too. He barked angrily…”My God, she needs a $90 a week dresser! (That would be $1,900. in today’s money, and it was considered a job for a ‘professional’….) “This is outrageous!!!”, he continued, “I’m going to call her agent! I will tell him he has to hire someone for her right now. I’m putting a stop to this kind of thing, right this second!” He was much madder than I could have imagined. I began to realize that it really was an outrageous expectation on her part and hoped he would somehow take care of this situation. I don’t remember where I went in my mind while he did all that yelling on the telephone to her agent, but after he got off the phone he told me to go home. He said..."Leave the theatre, and don’t come back till the evening". I was a little unsure about this, but he was my boss, not Miss Gabor. “I’ll see to this, right now!”, and he stormed out of the Box Office where we had been talking and I could see he was on his way through the theatre to backstage where he was going to give Miss Gabor, 'what for'..
I scurried out of there, fast. I had promised to pick up some props that were needed for the show anyway, and so off I went, not knowing what the outcome would be. But I was very relieved that he understood that THIS was definitely beyond my expertise as an apprentice.


I returned to the theatre about about 7pm and went backstage to see what was happening, terribly afraid of Eva Gabor’s wrath. She saw me and immediately asked me into her Dressing Room and closed the door and said; “Oh Please, Gertrude, don’t leave me! I need you Gertrude, and you are the only one here who looks clean…it won’t be so hard…..I’ll help you! You’ll see, Gertrude, you’ll see!!” This woman was begging me….!
My favorite thing was her saying, ‘you look clean’…! Well….needless to say, I didn't leave her….And ultimately she learned my proper name, and in fact, turned out to be a lot of fun and a very good sport, too. George McIver would call half-hour of course and those first few nights he would come to the Dressing Room door and knock rapidly, calling out, 'Naomi Gertrude Hirshhorn, it’s half-hour'! During that week a couple of the kids went to a joke store and they picked up the most real looking and I might add, truly disgusting joke-dog-poop. George put it where he knew Miss Gabor would see it and she did see it, and the result was pretty hilarious. She screamed thinking her little dog must have dumped it there. But then after looking at it more carefully—good egg that she was, she laughed. She laughed harder than anyone else! A good sport, like I said.


As the week went on, there was a lot of discussion among all the apprentices and the rest of the staff as to what Eva Gabor would give me as a ‘thank you’ present. It was the customary thing to do, especially given the laundry list of chores Gabor had me doing. Much speculation ensued. Some thought it might be a piece of jewelry. After all, her mother, Jolie Gabor, owned a very famous jewelry store in Manhattan. I knew that her sisters and mother were coming to the show on the coming weekend and the thought was that perhaps they would be bringing the gift with them. They did come and all four of them crowded into the dressing room chattering away in Hungarian—I did not understand one word of course—she would stop every so often and ask me a question in English, like—‘Who are the Benefit people here tonight?’, and I would answer her, ‘The B’nai Brith’. She would repeat that to her family, ‘B’nai Brith, (aga baga golta…it all sounded like gibberish to me...but, whatever)...going right back into heavy-duty Hungarian. Eva, Zsa Zsa, Magda, and Momma Jolie…all talking at once.

Then, the end of the week came and she was now calling me ‘Naomi’ ---and I just knew, the girl the following week at whatever theatre she was going to would be called Naomi, till she grasped the new name. She thanked me and gave me a signed 8 X 10 glossy of herself and a little gift box. She said I should open it after she left. So after closing,
we had this little ritual just to unwind before we began tearing down the set---this merry-go-round of Summer Stock and of a different show with a different 'star' coming in every week was about to start all over again.....We always had our little bit of food and drink, (Soda was my speed at that time), and we had ‘The Opening Of The Gift from Eva Gabor to Gertrude', ceremony. I must say that by this time I thought it might really be a truly nice piece of jewelry.


Drum Roll:

I opened the box and inside was a rhinestone pin in the shape of an over sized snowflake with a fake pearl in the center….a pin that might be worn by a woman of 40 or 45, but not a by a girl of 19. And it was from Mama’s store, this piece of 'costume jewelry' as it was called back then.
I still have that pin. In all these years, I have never worn it but I couldn't get rid of it or even give it away to someone else. It was never the kind of jewelry I would have ever worn, but it is a keepsake and a reminder of another time.

The following winter, sometime before Christmas, Eva Gabor was doing a radio show from a hotel supper club, in the city, ('Coming to you from The beautiful Glass Hat in the Belmont-Plaza Hotel in The Heart Of Manhattan....'), and I went with a couple of friends. And during the course of this radio show she was to give away as a prize---a weekend at The Concord Hotel, a popular resort in The Catskill mountains at that time, and it may still be for all I know. The contest consisted of her calling out the name of an obscure song and you had to say what Broadway show it was from. So she said the name of the song and....nothing! No one said a word. Eventually she had to give a hint by naming another more well known song from the same Broadway show. She called out the more well known song in that charming accent of hers…’All The Things You Are’, darling'….and suddenly I knew what the show was.
I could see the sheet music in my minds eye because we had it at home, so I screamed out, “Very Warm For May”! ‘That’s it! That’s it!’, she said…’Who said that?’…..I stood up in the back of the room where we had been sitting, and waved at her, and said…’I did’. She screamed in recognition, and said, ‘Oh, it’s my dresser, Gertrude!’ Well, I won that weekend, which I never actually took, and discovered that to Eva Gabor, I was still Gertrude after all! Ahhhhhh, how quickly they forget! The picture below is from "Her Cardboard Lover" at Sea Cliff...It was not retouched in any way, shape or form....This was how Eva Gabor actually looked in the Summer of 1951.


More To Come.....







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38 Comments:
had this to say:

Another great story. What a wonderful life you've had! I was thinking about the "Gertrude" thing. Maybe it is Hungarian for "dresser girl."

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 12:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Gerturde, oh excuse me, Naomi....she really was a beautiful woman. I liked watching her as the farmers wife, in Green Ackers.....How old is she now? I can't imagine ironing satin and all those delicate fabrics...I probably would have burned at least one dress....What memories you have there....It must have been a dream working in that theater.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 1:18:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh, Gertrude (LOL)!!! What a wonderful - truly, truly wonderful journey you have had!! This is such a delighful story, and what I would have given to have been in your shoes!! Miss Gabor!! And LILIAN GISH - one of the most luminescent of screen legends - to have even breathed in the same space as her - do you know how lucky you are??!! Yes, I am aware I sound a little stagestruck, but honestly...it's just all such amazing stuff!!! :) The closest I ever came was spending my school work experience assigment at Sydney's Ensemble Theatre - oh, such magic to be part of the theatre (even if it was just as a gopher!!) - and I was only 15 at the time, so you can imagine how amazing it was to me - but nothing like working in actual summer stock alongside such legends, as you did!!! I love reading these reminisences - thanks so much for sharing!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 2:42:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I want your memory cells! lol.. I don't know how you manage to remember soooo much!
Boy.. I'm glad you had it all straightened out or you would have been going crazy working for the Gabors! It must be hard having someone to do EVERYTHING for you.. (sarcastic heh)

ohhh Naomi! Lillian Gish! How I loved her movies! I think one of her last movies was The Whales of August which I have on vhs and absolutely love!! Now she's and autograph I wish I had!!

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 3:38:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

She was soooooo beautiful! I remember seeing her on Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin (didn't he date her?), as well as Zsa Zsa. Was the other sister named Magda? I remember that name associated with them.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 6:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Great story. I do love these nostalgia pieces. But I'm on the edge of my seat over here... was she, or wasn't she a real blonde? I guess you should've counted yourself lucky she wasn't having you washing her panties (YUCK!).

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 6:23:00 AM PDT 

Blogger TLP
had this to say:

I always tell my husband about your posts. You have led the most exciting and remarkable life.

I guess I have to end up thinking that Eva was kinda cheap. She could have given you a very nice gift instead of costume jewelry. It is the thought that counts: she didn't give it thought.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 7:28:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Love the picture of the 3 sisters...is that Zsa Zsa doing the Hawaiian sign? Looks so out of place back then, so common now!

That brooch is lovely, but as you say...not something the average 19 year old would like LOL!

One of the women I work with wore a lovely brooch to work last week, and I asked her if I could photograph it (http://tinyurl.com/296j5x)

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 8:13:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What great stories you tell!! I always thought Magda was the most beautiful but we never heard much about her. Of course I caught up with Eva on Green Acres.

My mother used to talk about the Gish sisters. She said one of them had the most beautiful hands but I can't remember now if it was Lillian or Dorothy.

Their films still show up from time to time.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 9:10:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh this is so amazing....and this is not a story, this is real from you Naomi aka Gerturde.

As I scrolled down to read your post I imagine travelling back to your time standing next to you seeing your frantic look as you do the ironing....handling the dress with care etc ...etc...

Absolutely a beautiful memory and Eva Gabor, I've seen her classic movie...very very nice :D

You are amazing, I love your life experiences, have a nice day Naomi...I'm heading to your country soon in Nov :D

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 9:38:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, I just LOVED this memory of yours. I laughed out loud at McIver saying "Naomi Gertrude Hirshhorn, it's half hour!"

I always liked Eva. And I had no idea their mother owned a jewelry store. That piece is prong-set, which usually means it's higher quality (even for costume jewelry). What a fun story!

~S

~S :)

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 1:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

have such wonderful stories to tell. I think Naomi is a much nicer name than Gertrude! Here from Michele's today.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 1:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Ohh Naomi, this is another treasure of a story from the movie history. Reading through and listen to the story through your telling is just amazing. You have so much wonderful things to share and I feel honored to be among the readers who have found you my dear blogger friend!

Of course I remember Greta Garbo and no wonder she called you a common Swede name Gertrude. Its quite a common name in Norway too and very popular in the 50s.

Btw: since you have not mention it: I'm glad you are fine despite the fire storms around in your area. I was worried about you, you know!

Wishing you a wonderful end to your week :-)

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 2:32:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hello, Naomi, Michele sent me to say that this was a wonderful story! It just boggles my mind that you met and worked with all these wonderful people that I've seen or heard about all my life.

The Gabor sisters truly were beautiful - and they certainly seems to have very glamourous lives...but then so did you...

Your stories are wonderful and I love them...

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 3:55:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful stories about people we've all watched, fascinated!

Thanks for sharing, Naomi!
N.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 4:55:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi!! I loved reading this!! She sure did expect a lot didn't she?? I would have been scared to iron those things too. Goodness!!!

You spoke of a past post you did back in 1784!! LOL I know it's a typo dear, but I did LOL when I read it!! That would make you pretty old now!!

Oh your life has been so fascinating and you write so well.
I mostly recall Ms. Gabor from Green Acres, where she played as such a silly person, but she is really pretty.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 5:30:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

So far, this is my favorite of your non-family, non-garden stories. :)

You shall, forever more, be crowned "Gertrude", LOL. On the bright side, at least she didn't call you Blanche.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 5:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh Naomi! I loved this post!! Wonderful, wonderful. You remember the fine details which I love.

Its good you held onto that brooch and never gave it away, even if you never wore it.

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 7:39:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You went from making me despise her to making me love her. What a wonderful story!

Friday, October 26, 2007 at 7:59:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh my dear, the life of an aprentice back stage - which for many people would be a dream - but it's hard work and also a kind of slavery: You have to do what should be expected "the star" should do by his/her own. I know it;D
I'm overwhelmed by your honesty in this post. And, I could "hear" your voice when reading it.

btw. Call you soon from Miami.

hugs from
Vikingland

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 12:35:00 AM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

Oh Naomi! Deep sigh. Melvyn Douglas and George Brent - they were so cool.
I always thought the Gabor girls a touch autocratic but you obviously charmed Eva. They certainly were a good-looking bunch. What experiences you have had and it's great you share them with us.

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 12:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi, we read your comments left on Lind's Blog referring to the award and would just like to say thank you very much for YOUR comments about our Blog!! Now we have found your Blog and wow, what a thoroughly fascinating read! You have an extraordinary memory and a magical way with words! Miss Gabor, she was so Hollywwod Glamour, adored her wardrobe, what a job! Nice brooch though truly! Thank you for sharing this wondeful post! Jenn and Jacqui

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 8:40:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

thank you, thank you, thank you for such a wonderful (and wonderfully written) story. i love the theatre and all that goes along with it, so i adore back stories.

mementos are such a treasure, wether real or costume, that pin is a treasure. in fact, i've been looking for something similar to attach to my jeans jacket. i love flashy mixed with denim.

your blog reminds me of all the stories my grandma used to tell. i wish i had tape recored her. she was an authentic flapper, born in 1900 and a bit of american history was lost when she died. thanks for writing down your american history.

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 8:50:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Randy LV
had this to say:

I just love reading all your stories and seeing the wonderful pictures. Each one is priceless and you really have led an interesting life!

Your photography is spectacular also -- beautiful nature shots that could be published.

Thanks for sharing so much.

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 1:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a great story and interesting experience, Gerty! :)

Did you ever have the pin appraised? I'd be curious to see what it was worth.

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 2:50:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

OH, GERTY! Are you ever going to live this down for sharing that great story with us? LOL Nah....you're NOT a Gertrude in the least. A definite Naomi! (I've always loved that name, by the way)
I was mesmerized reading this account. It was super, and I felt like I was reading the first chapter of a wonderful memoir and I want MORE!
I smiled and giggled all the way through it, Naomi. You made it all so personal and real. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 3:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This was the best story EVER!!! Oh my god... she sounds like the Dianne Wiest character in "Bullets Over Broadway".

I remember the Concord, too. Now I have to see if it still exists.

Hope you're having a good week, Gertie. ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 3:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a funny story!
Wow, she had some work done, huh? The Gabor sisters were the early pioneers of extensive plastic surgery though, weren't they?

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 5:26:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a fun story!! Gertrude just doesn't fit you at all, but I sure like the story behind it. Naomi suits you much better.
You never did tell us if she was a real blonde or not.
I'm thinking she had a little help from a bottle.
That pin would look good on the lapel of a coat, but I agree with you that it was not a gift that a young woman would have worn. It's a wonderful keepsake!
Now, I'm off to read your previous post...

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 9:34:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Such fine entertainment for my morning coffee!!! I know "you look clean" (lol) but Gertrude...was the name of Mr Mar's aunt, who was call Tante Trude, it's a very old-fashioned German name!
I can fully understand your "ironing fear", I would feel the same way if I had to iron somebody else's anything (except for maybe a T-shirt!) and you know my teen years are very far away, lol.
The brooch looks very nice (not for a young girl, though!), I have never had one!
It seems the Gabor sisters have been around all my life...I normally only remember Zsa-Zsa...

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 11:14:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That was an amazing story with which to start my day. Thank you for taking the time to write it down.

I like Garbo's second-to-last movie, also with Melvyn Douglas: Ninotchka. (Garbo Laughs!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 6:30:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

What a charming story! You're a natural born storyteller!

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 6:50:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I had no idea when spending time with you last night that I was actually spending time with a "Gertrude". My goodness! :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 8:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Gertrude! LOL! I wonder if all her dressers were Gertrude?

This is such a wonderful story, and it reminds me so much of working backstage. I remember so much having to take down sets after the last show. That would be such a long day after doing two shows as we wouldn't stop until the show was down. There were times as well when we would go straight through the night to the next day and start putting the next show in. Boy did we get dirty so I know exactly what Ms Gabor menat! LOL!

I love that you kept the pin she gave you. It's great to have these little keepsakes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 10:11:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You have some of the coolest stories! I am always amazed by who you know and what you've done. This was so interesting. I just loved reading it. I was always fascinated by the Gabors and all their glamour. Eva was considered the nice one and Zsa Zsa the mean one right? And I loved Green Acres, I had no idea she had done so many projects! Great story!

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 3:45:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Lyn M.
had this to say:

The Gabor sisters certainly occupied a large share of space in the gossip columns which was the sum total of their fame.
If a picture of them could paint a thousand words. they would probably all say...Vell Dahling, Vhat did you Expect??

Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 4:02:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What famous people you knew! All I remember about he was in Green Acres!

Our own Robert Goulet died today, made a fabulous star with Camelot. I still love his singing on that album!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 7:01:00 PM PDT 

Blogger Pat
had this to say:

This must have been before I discovered you. A wonderful story and maybe her calling out Gertrude was her way of remembering a private joke between you.

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 1:44:00 AM PDT 

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