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Gouges: Stuff That Drene Is Made Of

June 28, 1985|PAUL DEAN | PAUL DEAN.

Cost abuse by federal contract appears to predate the $600 toilet seats, $900 ashtrays and other blunders, bloopers and bleats surrounding military spending.

Among earlier gouges, reports test pilot Chuck Yeager, was an anti-frost liquid for the Bell X-1 rocket ship he flew in 1947. That was at Muroc Air Base, now Edwards AFB, a few months before Yeager became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound.

In his autobiography ("Yeager" by Bantam Books) to be published next week, the retired general tells how the inside of the X-1 windshield frosted over at test flight altitudes of 43,000 feet.

"Fogging was a continual problem but I was usually able to wipe it away," he writes. "This time, though, a solid layer of frost quickly formed. I even took off my gloves and used my fingernails."

So for his next flight, Yeager, now living in Grass Valley, had his crew chief wipe the windshield with Drene shampoo.

"For some unknown reason it worked as an effective anti-frost device," adds Yeager. "We continued using it even after the government purchased a special chemical that cost $18 a bottle."

A Star for Cheetah

David Link is a publicist for 20th Century Fox and a memory bank of great lines (Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, 1950: "I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille") and the semigrand portrayals (Herman Brix, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Ron Ely, Jock Mahoney, Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weissmuller and anybody else who played Tarzan) of his historic Hollywood.

So when Link, 31, read that Cheeta, Tarzan's chimpanzee co-star, is alive and retired to Newbury Park, he decided to visit this legend that walks on knuckles. He has since become Cheeta's chum and formed an understanding friendship with Tony Gentry, 78, the man who trained Cheeta.

Now Link has picked up on an old man's dream--that Gentry and Cheeta share a terrazzo and brass star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Next month, at the Park Plaza Hotel near MacArthur Park, Link and a group of close friends will host a Cheetathon; a $10-a-head fund-raising bash in search of $3,000 to cover the cost of the sidewalk star, its installation and the dedication ceremony.

Gentry's fading health might keep him from the party. Cheeta's personality (unpredictable when beyond Gentry's control) could prevent his attendance.

"We've been in touch with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and picked up nomination forms for Cheeta's star," said Link. "If he's selected, we'll invite Dorothy Lamour (who played alongside Cheeta in 'Jungle Princess'), John Sheffield (the actor who played Boy; now a 54-year-old home remodeling contractor in Chula Vista) and Maureen O'Sullivan (Mia Farrow's 74-year-old mother), who was the only real Jane as far as the dedicated are concerned, to the ceremony for Tony and Cheeta."

Masquers Raid

Despite the passions of Hollywood preservationists, development has gone before nostalgia and the Masquers, a Hollywood hangout for 58 years, has been torn down. Dispersed might be a better word. . . .

Thanks to careful planning, auctions, moving sales and sentimental pilfering, the historical show business contents of the Masquers, once of 1765 N. Sycamore Ave., are popping up all over the county.

Most of the priceless trappings--the bar donated by actor Alan Mowbray, the caricature portraits of all habitues from Errol Flynn to Joe E. Brown, carved back bar, murals by Henry Clive, mirrors and memorabilia--have been moved to the club's new headquarters at the Variety Arts Center, 940 S. Figueroa.

A chandelier from the Masquers' lobby now illuminates the spiral staircase of a Hollywood writer. Rose bushes that once flanked the club's pathway are blooming in a cowboy actor's garden in Studio City. Old clocks, fireplace facings, bar stools, even W. C. Fields' pool table, have found new homes. . . .

But nobody can find Alan Mowbray.

The record shows that Mowbray, a British-born character actor, died 16 years ago. Club members, however, say that reports of Mowbray's demise have been greatly exaggerated because his ghost haunted the old Masquers building.

There was the night of his club wake when gin mysteriously disappeared from the ceremonial martini glass. Bumps in the bar just after closing. Mowbray's voice on a prop telephone that rang when disconnected . . . but since the demolition, nothing.

But as they say in the ghost busting business, have no fear.

"We don't know if Alan has survived the move," said Masquers director Tony Hawes. "But then we haven't opened the new bar yet.

"Seriously, we took everything from the old club. His bar, his bar stool, his glass, his caricature. Obviously, we took his spirit. I'm certain he'll show up."

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