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A Romantic Evening With Cary Grant

February 17, 1986|KAREN LAVIOLA

More than 20 years ago I was in love with Cary Grant. My husband would say, "He's 60 years old."

"If you look like that when you're 60, just think how much I'll love you," I would say.

Cary Grant is 82 now and I am still in love with him. My husband isn't 60 yet, so he still has a little time to develop that style, that class, that something that Cary Grant, no matter how old he gets, still has.

When I discovered Cary Grant was coming to La Mirada Civic Theatre recently, I was nearly the first in line to buy tickets. I wanted to ask for an interview, but when I imagined his voice saying, "Hello, Karen, how are you?" and the image of his smile came to mind, I fell apart. I knew I couldn't do it.

Although there had been almost no publicity, it was a packed house. An attractive blonde in a white fur jacket stood near the sold-out notice on the box-office window waving her "I need two tickets" sign. She got them and rushed to let her mother know they were getting in as another woman grabbed the discarded sign to begin her own search.

A 14-year-old girl came with her parents and grandparents to tell Grant that she and her friends loved his movies. One woman got her ticket for her 30th birthday. A man came to tell the star that he had seen him when Grant gave a similar performance 43 years at an Army camp.

Fans of All Ages

They were all ages, as many men as women. A few used canes, some wore furs, one man wore a tux. They had come to see a star. One woman even said it--"It's a lifelong dream come true."

Retired from show business for more than 20 years, the octogenarian still flutters the hearts of teen-agers, their mothers and their grandmothers.

About eight times a year he fills an auditorium somewhere in the country and sits on stage to chat with the folks.

They clearly love him. Several of the women even told him so. A couple of the men did, too, although not in those exact words. Two people came up to shake his hand, even though he does not care to sign autographs or shake hands because he does not want to start what he calls a "chain reaction" of hundreds of people requesting the same thing.

The middle-age lady who shook his hand obviously was thrilled, which seemed to mystify Grant. "It takes so little to please some people," he remarked.

Several people reminded him of experiences they had shared with him, ones he did not remember. One man had sold him tennis videotapes to give his wife for her birthday. A woman who works in Aaron Spelling's office told him he had given her his autograph three years before.

"I must have been drunk," Grant joked.

An 18-year-old girl apologized for sneaking up to his back door five years ago with friends. Although Grant maintained that had been impossible, the girl staunchly persisted that it had happened and she wanted to apologize. Grant's wife, Barbara, reminded him from the audience that they had not had a gate five years ago. Perhaps the girl's story was accurate after all.

A woman named Helga asked him to repeat, "Helga, Helga, Helga" as he is known for supposedly having said, "Judy, Judy, Judy."

"What is that? Finnish for Judy or something?" he asked. "You know, I never said that. I don't know who made it up. Probably the National Enquirer 40 years ago."

Bright and Witty

The audience laughed appreciatively at every bright and witty aside Grant threw out. After one man praised him at great length as being a very great man, Grant asked him if he would like to embellish that. The man who had seen him perform during World War II said, "I was much younger then. Of course, you were, too. But you're just as sharp answering questions now as I remember you then."

Most of them wanted to know the secret of his good health. Apparently there isn't one.

"I'm supposed to do exercises. A year ago I had a slight stroke, but I never exercised. I don't eat much, don't smoke--it (smoking) is ridiculous. I only have me, I have to take care of that," he said.

While admonishing those in the audience to take care of themselves, enjoy life and not let themselves get old, he admitted, "I'm a fake. Watch me waddle off stage. And catch me going upstairs sometime."

They were polite. They were caring. Although some in the audience seemed mystified as to why he would choose to come to such a modest theater on the border of Orange County, he answered that, too.

"It's an ego builder," he explained. "I enjoy it. I trust you enjoy it, too."

Friendly, Nice

In an age when stars are all too human, the one and only Cary Grant seems impeccable, timeless, perfect. Yet there he was, answering questions, laughing, joking, enjoying himself. He was human, he was down-to-earth. Not exactly the guy next door, but friendly, nice.

I spoke to him. I told him I loved him and that he wasn't supposed to get married, he was supposed to wait for me.

He looked at my husband and said, "It doesn't look like you did too bad."

"I won't know until he's 82," I said.

Laviola is a View intern from Cal State Fullerton who fell in love with Cary Grant as an impressionable teen-ager in the late '50s after seeing "Indiscreet" and "Houseboat." She never imagined she would ever have the chance to meet him.

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