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Short Takes

A Ring-a-Ding Bellperson

October 09, 1988|DICK RORABACK

He hasn't exactly dined and wined with the likes of Richard Nixon, Lana Turner, Willie Mays, Mickey Cohen and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he's strolled down the corridors of one of Los Angeles' finest hotels with them, exchanging small talk and larger courtesies.

Finally, this morning, he's getting a breakfast in his own honor, at which Willis Eden will receive an award as California's Bellperson of the Year.

The "Bellperson" part draws a chuckle. When Eden started at the Biltmore, back in 1940, they were bellboys, no matter what the age. ("Remember 'Johnny,' of Philip Morris? Call him a bellperson.")

Whatever, Eden is still on the job--taking it easy at 79 by working only four days a week now. He wonders where the time went: "Awful fast," he says, "but it's still interesting work. Always something new, and you meet a lot of people, most of them nice."

Among the nice: Betty Grable, John F. Kennedy, Pee Wee Reese, Jack Benny, Jane Fonda--"I have a list of about 900 back in my Huntington Beach apartment."

Among the naughty, of course, was gangster Cohen, who gave $10 tips "way back then" just for crossing the lobby to buy him a cigar.

Then there was Eleanor Roosevelt--"Everyone fought to get her room, because she tipped $10 too"--and Eden's all-time favorite, Harry Truman. ("I'm biased; I'm from Missouri too, born on a farm.")

Tips, remarkably, haven't increased that much: "You get a lot of ones; sometimes you get lucky and get a five. . . ."

But service remains constant too. "Even if they're young enough to be called 'sonny,' I call everybody 'sir.' " They seem to like it."

They seem to like you, too, sir.

The Final Resting Place for a Soldier's Bible

The last amen may have sounded for Danny Shuler.

Edgar (Bud) Parsons, one of Shuler's World War II comrades-in-arms, had written to The Times (Short Takes, Sept. 18) inquiring after Shuler's next-of-kin. Parsons had come into possession of Shuler's Bible, left behind when the young Angeleno, an Army lieutenant, was killed in action during a heroic one-man attack on a mortar crew as U.S. forces made their final push into the heart of Germany.

Dr. William Robertson of Culver City, another veteran of the 272nd Regiment, 69th Infantry Division, recalled attending UCLA with Shuler in 1942 and part of '43, but knew the young man only vaguely.

Kathryn Davis of Park La Brea called The Times: "I'm sure it's the same Danny I knew; his parents--Dan and Nell Shuler--were friends of my parents'. Danny had no siblings, but the three of them were just about the finest people I've ever known." Dan Sr. was an accountant, hired out of Texas by Davis' father; later, he worked for the Southern California Gas Co. The family lived in what was then called Pearl Park, in Hollywood; then moved to Lasheart Drive in La Canada. Davis thinks "they passed on."

"I went to see them right after they'd heard Danny was missing," Davis recalls. "Nell showed me a picture of Danny in uniform, at the officers' club. He was such a handsome boy. Attacking a mortar crew to save his men. . . . Yes, it sounds like something Danny would do."

Remaining clue is an inscription in Shuler's Christian Science-distributed Bible: "Presented to Dan R. Shuler by Lee Andrus (possibly Leo Andrews)." The 28th Church of Christ, Scientist, in Westwood reports that a Mrs. Frieda Andrus was a member in the 1950s.

Bud Parsons, meanwhile, awaits word back in North Carolina. "All we want," Parsons says, "is to put the Bible into the hands of Dan's family or friends."

The Polygraph Is Put to the Test

Willie (the Actor) Sutton would have loved it. Sutton, of course, was the professional felon who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied: "Because that's where the money is"--a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.

Less candid, it seems, were the method actors enlisted by USC psychology professor Michael Dawson in a polygraph experiment. Of 24 students at Hollywood's Lee Strasberg Theater Institute who participated in the study, half were assigned to an "innocent" group. The rest were told they were "guilty" and directed to perpetrate their "crime" by swiping a $20 bill from a desk drawer when no one was watching.

Motivated by a $5 bonus for lying successfully, as well as by a sense of professional pride, the guilty subjects used all the countermeasures in the Stanislavsky book to block telltale physiological responses--including heart rate and sweating--to the questions on the missing $20. All of them failed the lie-detector test.

Meaning the polygraph works? Hardly. Among the 10 "innocent" actors, two also failed the test. Dawson, then, concluded that while the lie detector indeed seems to nail the guilty, "errors are more likely to be made among the innocent," which is "counter to our philosophy in the courts. . . ."

Concedes Dawson: "The actors may have strived so hard to prove they could lie (without physiological betrayal) that if anything, they were more detectable. . . ."

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