Esther: (Walks up to the pay window on the studio lot) Paycheck for Esther Blodgett please.
Paymaster: “Go to “L””
Esther: Now wait a minute!
Paymaster: You’re new here right? You got a new name, you’re Vickie Lester, V. I. C. K. I. E. L. E. S. T. E. R. Got it? Go to the window marked “L”.
Esther: (walking way she tries the name on) Vickie Lester? Vickie …Lester. (It’s a fit) Vickie Lester!
I was only four years old when A Star Is Born staring Judy Garland premiered at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd. I don’t remember the locally televised premier when I lived in that hell hole of a town outside of Los Angeles, called Fontana. I don’t remember going to see it at the movies either. What I do remember is seeing the film and falling in love with it at nine when it was played every night for a week on the Million Dollar Movie. It was all about Hollywood, that mythical place just 50 miles to the west. That place that I wanted to be, not where I was, wedged between Kaiser Steel and the stinking chicken ranches. Which ever way the wind blew…it smelled like rotten eggs.
Each night when the Million Dollar Movie came on at eight p.m. and the great Warner Brothers logo appeared on the tiny black and white television, I was there pushing my imagination inside that t.v. tube to another universe. The WB faded to reveal the night lit diamonds scattered below the Hollywood hills that made up my dreams, and as the searchlights twinkled on and the orchestra swelled I knew I was going to see a real movie about an unreal place. And then there was her, the star being born night after night and that song, a song that has followed me all my life.
(Outtake of That Song)
That was the first time I heard the name Vickie Lester and over the years that passed since that spring of 1960, through war and assassination, protest and peace, disco and the devastation that is AIDS, and the man that got away her story and music have been with me. As the years piled up my Hollywood dreams were put away but whenever Vickie Lester showed up on the screen they were dusted off and tried on of a few hours of dreaming. What I never imagined was that one day I would meet Vickie and she would turn out to be more wonderful than in the Movies.
When I was just beginning my blog I surfed around to find other blogs that might be of interest to follow. One day I happened upon Beguiling Hollywood by Vickie Lester. Vickie Lester! At once I knew that anyone who would write under that nom de plume had to have a great sense of humor. Then to my delight I discovered that not only did she have a great sense of humor but she was a Hollywood history buff, a lover of the eclectic electrically exciting architecture of Southern California and a great, great writer and storyteller. And most fun of all, being an insider in that town of make-up and make believe she had stories. She knows the dirt and how to dish it veiled just enough to keep her audience guessing. “Did that really happen?” She won’t say for sure, and neither will I.
In time and over many posts and then a phone call or two and finally a visit to her home on a very Mildred Pierce street in Los Angeles we became friends. So close in fact that I call her Sis and she calls her big brother. It is a friendship forged by dreams and elevated by mutual admiration and a great recognition of souls and love.
Today is Vickie Lester’s Birthday and I would like to share with you this hope. The hope that for each of you a star has been born somewhere out there in the world where dreams really do come true, some one you can always call a dear and beloved friend. A special someone who is better and more exciting than any movie star in the firmament of the Hollywood heavens, someone like Vickie Lester.
Happy Birthday Sis…
(Vickie Lester and Lanier Smith smelling wildflowers in the Hollywood Hills. Photographed by Lane Tibbs.)
Please do visit Vickie Lester’s blog Beguiling Hollywood
And her novel It’s In His Kiss comes out in June!!
(Times Square 1954)