I came to know Debbie Reynolds on several levels. When I was a kid at the Boys Club of Buffalo, one of my first 45 RPM records was Tammy. We always ended every dance with a slow romantic record, Tammy was a favorite.
Today I am writing this piece from KABC’s new studios on the grounds where MGM used to make musicals at the rate of one a week. It is raining and it reminds me of her singing in the rain with Donald O’Conner.
Debbie had a good heart and was very generous. She went on to form an organization called Thalians, for needy children, where she collected most of the MGM treasures like the shoes from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and the umbrella from Singing in the Rain, etc.
I became friends with Mickey Rooney and his wife, Jan Chamberlin. We did a cooking show on TV from their home in Westlake. Before Sugar Babies on Broadway with Mickey Rooney, he and Debbie opened a casino in Las Vegas when I was President of Wayne Newton’s company. We laughed about my fake name “Reynolds.”
The hotel and casino was a showroom for entertainers and limited gaming so as not to compete with the big money guys. The Hotel went under as they tried to get high rollers to spend money on card games and slots. Debbie peppered the place with Memorabilia, it was very cool.
In 1977, I was Creative Director at 20th Century Fox and met Carrie Fisher on the lot at the commissary. We had lunch in the Shirley Temple room for execs and joked about how the Fox corporate guys coming to lunch were like the Cantina bar scene in Star Wars.
Carrie was very bright and at the time I was doing some album photography shoots with Barry White who was on 20th Century Fox records. I asked Barry to come meet Carrie Fisher, Annie Bancroft and Shirley Mclaine who were filming Turning Point. He said Carrie was “a little genius.”
In the next chapter of my life I was the host of the first satellite show called “Satellite Live from LA” every week. I put Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds together and we had a blast. Carrie was outspoken and Debbie was more private in the Hollywood tradition.
I wish Rona Barret would talk to me on my new show, no one knew Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher better than Rona. She’s the Yoda of Hollywood!
We lost two greats and they know no equal.