cindy williams

October 19, 1994

October 19, 1994

A. Martinez and Perry King on left; Felice Gordon and myself on right. A mystery, beyond that.
A. Martinez and Perry King on left; Felice Gordon and myself on right. A mystery, beyond that.

 This was the first and only time I traveled to the set of one of the MOW’s I wrote (other than shows that shot in LA, in which case I might drive ten miles – to Occidental, for instance, where they shot “She Cried No”). I’m not complaining – it’s boring on set unless you’ve got a job (and maybe even then, just saying). I was excited about a trip to Minnesota, especially with Joe Maurer, Brad Wigor and Felice Gordon, three producers who became friends. The fact they issued the invitation to me at all speaks volumes about how well they treated their writers.

A. Martinez, Me, Connie Selleca, Felice Gordon
A. Martinez, Me, Connie Selleca, Felice Gordon

In Minnesota, I sat through a table reading of the script – an extremely high-tension exercise for me. It’s mortifying when a line I wrote – especially a line intended to be funny – dies in front of the full cast and crew. There’s no ambivalence; it’s not a judgment call. Lines work or not and the thud is deafening when they don’t. I say nothing, draw a skull beside the clunker in the script, and slink down further in my folding chair.  If I don’t die of humiliation, I’m expected to fix what I failed to get right the first time – fast.  This close to production, every wasteful delay bleeds money.

Someone failed to focus this shot of me and Joe Maurer.
Someone failed to focus this shot of me and Joe Maurer.

After the reading, I accompanied Joe, Brad and the director – Bill Corcoran – on a location scout. By sheer coincidence (or cosmic design, you decide), we drove past Bethesda Lutheran, the hospital where I was born. In honor of this karmic connection, Corcoran insisted I leap out of the van and pose for a historic photograph (see below).

Me in front of the hospital where I was born.
Me in front of the hospital where I was born.

I sat by Felice on the return trip to LA and – along with other fascinating facts – discovered Felice was Jean Shrimpton’s manager when Jean was the ultimate supermodel girls like me longed to look like.

Me with Felice Gordon
Me with Felice Gordon

As if this wasn’t enough excitement, my youngest hit double-digits and turned ten.  Too much was happening, too fast. And I loved every minute of it.

A very happy birthday to Alex!

 

Birthday boy with his grandparents.
Birthday boy with his grandparents.
Alex with his cousins.
Alex with his cousins.

March 7, 1980


March 7, 1980

My favorite bridesmaid dress - for the Mary Bennett/Jack de Nove nuptials in 1980
My favorite bridesmaid dress – for the Mary Bennett/Jack Denove nuptials in 1980

I served as a bridesmaid six times – all after being a bride myself – and this was by far the best dress. I was far crueler to the five women who participated in my wedding (below). The lace overlay, garden party hats, puffed sleeves – any one of these might be an unpardonable fashion sin – put them all together and this is what you get.

The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r - Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett deNove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left
The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r – Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett Denove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left

In my defense, the year was 1975 and I’d go with five different colors again today. I doubt my bridesmaids wore their dresses again aside from the occasional costume party.

Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in emerald-green themed dresses.
Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in themed dresses.

While it’s an honor to be asked to serve as a bridesmaid – and I don’t mind admitting I was miffed on a few occasions when I thought I’d be an integral part of the wedding party only to find myself seated on the brides’s side with the rest of her friends who didn’t rate – it’s not all fun and games.

Wedding

Engaging with the bride
Engaging with the bride
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)

Standing up for your friend as she/he exchanges vows with the person they plan to spend their lives with becomes uncomfortable when you’ve got a strong intuition this union won’t survive the sniffles, forget until death do us part. I’ve been there and I’m usually right.

Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett's bridesmaid dress
Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett’s bridesmaid dress

Not always, though. No outsider can fully grasp another couple’s relationship because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. One of my cynical writing professors told me not to bother justifying why two mismatched people stay together in misery all their lives. “The same reason most relationships stick together. Inertia and fear of change.” Dramatically, he’s probably right. Realistically, he’s probably right about a lot of couples – but not all. I’ll never give up on the romantic ideal of people who promise “till death do us part” and mean it with their whole heart.

January 24, 1980


january-24-1980

It was totally in character for the late Bill Bowers to treat fledging writers to lunch – he was legendary for his warmth and generosity. In his drinking days, he churned out three or four scripts a year. Sober, he slowed but not much. He wrote a whopping 39 movies including “The Gunfighter,” for which he received an Oscar nomination. On the Zoetrope lot in 1980, Bowers occupied one of two offices upstairs from where I wrote a Cindy Williams MOW project.

Bill Bowers, playing the part of a senator interrogating Michael Corleone in "Godfather 2"
Bill Bowers, playing the part of a senator interrogating Michael Corleone in “Godfather 2”

My UCLA screenwriting professor Bill Froug interviewed Bowers for his first book – the Screenwriter looks at the Screenwriter – so I understood what a privilege it was to spend time with Bowers. He regaled us with stories about old Hollywood, each one better than the last. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to write them all down.

Martha Coolidge at early Halloween party
Martha Coolidge at early Halloween party

The other upstairs office belonged to Martha Coolidge, a rising young director. We formed a friendship that outlasted Zoetrope.

Martha and me at a Halloween party
Martha and me at a Halloween party

One of my most satisfying moments as a writer occurred when Martha and I shared a room at the Oaks, a health spa in Ojai.

Martha and me at the Oaks
Martha and me at the Oaks

She’d read and liked my spec script “At 17” but re-read it at the Oaks. From across the room, I scrutinized her face for clues – did she like it as much on her second read? What was she laughing at? Was it meant to be funny? It was hopeless, I couldn’t gauge her reaction — until she turned the last page, tears streaming down her face. Genuine tears! Does it get any better than that? I’ve never felt so validated. (I cried my eyes out when I saw “Rambling Rose”. A true karmic partnership.)

Eating very very little at the Oaks
Eating very very little at the Oaks

Recently, Martha suffered a serious fall from a horse that left her hospitalized for weeks. In true Martha fashion, she amazed doctors by her incredibly rapid recovery. It was less surprising to friends like me because I’m well aware Martha was born to break down barriers, exceed expectations and amaze the experts.

Martha also at the Oaks in Ojai
Martha, also at the Oaks in Ojai

Imagine that. My first paid writing job, and I got Bill Bowers and Martha Coolidge as office-mates – how lucky can one girl get?

 

 

October 30, 1980

october-30-1980

 

bruce-springsteen-10-30-80

after-show-onlybackstage-pass 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t write down any details about the concert but all Springsteen shows are great. This was his first tour for the River album. Even before the backstage drama started, it felt like there were so many subplots going on that it was hard to focus on the show on stage. I was acutely aware this wasn’t my natural habitat; I did not belong. I was tagging along as a guest, which made me feel pressured to be a good enough guest.

cindy-in-limo-to-springsteen-concert

 

In a less rarified atmosphere, this would’ve obliged me to strive to be entertaining. Here, that would’ve been rude, desperate and out of place. The last thing any of these big stars wanted was an unknown like me talking too much and laughing too loud. The best thing I could do – and the only thing I felt capable of doing – was to be Cindy’s Midge, the forgettable friend who knows her limitations, hence would never dream of competing with Barbie.

kathleen-in-limo-to-springsteen-concert_edited-1

 

For an unforgettable experience, it’s oddly hard to recall this night. I’m glad I wrote down some details – otherwise I’d almost feel like it never happened. At least I have the pictures we took in the limo to prove it.

 

 

 

May 17,1980

5-17-1980

Kathy and Cindy_edited-1

Cindy and Kathy_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These photos were taken a couple years later – at her baby or wedding shower – but they’re the only ones I can find of us together. It’s surprisingly awkward to ask someone famous to have their picture taken with you, even if you know them – especially if you know them, actually – because you’re supposed to treat them like just another average person. However, when they’re at the peak of their fame and people gawk, it’s hard to ignore the fact you’re hanging out with a star. It’s equally hard not to be aware that you belong on the other side of the red velvet rope, with all the fans and nameless people that don’t get “seen about town” in Variety. I’m not complaining – far from it. It’s exciting to orbit a star. I loved it.

Living in LA, it’s not unusual to see stars going about their daily lives. I ran into Dick Van Dyke at a play and got to tell him how brilliant he was in a TV movie called The Morning After. I passed Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Beverly Hills restaurant.  He’s much shorter than you’d think. My most memorable celebrity spotting, though, maybe because it was the first, was eating lunch at a table very close to where Cindy Williams and one of her co-stars from American Graffiti dined. I didn’t interrupt them, ask for an autograph or gape openly – it was enough of a thrill just to spot a celluloid heroine eating like a regular human being.  Given this memorable (on my end) early sighting, the working relationship and friendship we developed later felt fated – in a six-degrees-of-separation way. We met because Cindy was looking for a writer. A mutual friend recommended me, for which I am forever grateful.

Don’t bother looking for Little Miracles, the project we met about on May 13, 1980. The network shelved it. Luckily, our friendship survived.


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