Memories of Old Hollywood with Lucille Kennard
Recorded Feb. 9, 2006
Nori: Here we are at the old desert homestead on Alameda Dr. We're here with my folks, Don and Paula Hassler, and Lucille Kennard, an old family friend my patents have know since about 1953. I was born in 1956, so I've known Lucille all my life. Lu's husband, Arthur Kennard, was a Hollywood agent. To get into that, we're going back half a century. Lu, Please tell me about what you were both doing then.
Lu: When I got out of school I worked with John Robert Powers [modeling agency] in New York. That was interesting, and that gave me enough confidence to start working in the theater. I did a lot of theater back there and that's where I met Arthur. He and I were in several shows together. Before that, at the age of twelve or thirteen, he had his own orchestra and he used to blow trumpet. He was very big and every time we'd go to a dance, he wasn't interested in dancing with me, he was interested in joining the orchestra. From there we decided to get tied up together, we got married.
Nori: What year?
Nori: Same year as my parents.
Lu: Right. Then he was working for an artist in the city but he wasn't that good and Arthur wasn't that happy. Then he had a chance to go on the road with Pearl Primus, which was a dance band. So he had to leave home and travel by bus. They were going stop to stop and when the bus was in California he met an agent for Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton. They were doing readings in a theater, so the agent signed him up to come out and work with them. So after he returned on the bus tour he said "We're moving to California. I'm driving the car. As soon as you can break loose, join me." Okay, so that's what happened. He moved out here and he wrote me and told he had a wonderful place at Ann Jeffreys guesthouse - and what a view. And I thought great, so I come out, and I go up to Ann Jeffreys guesthouse, up in the hills, and the view was of what is now the Hollywood Freeway. Except in those days it was roads and it was cars.
I eventually got bored sitting home so I got a job in Hollywood. I had to take the trolley everyday, because he had to take the car. He was now Mister Agent. He went to work for Lester Salkow, who was a big agent at the time. He had a large roster of stars. He was with him for sometime and eventually he opened his own agency. Lester died, so he took over the agency. We were on friendly terms with all the stars and we hob-nobbed with them. We would go to openings and we would visit their homes or they would visit mine.
We enjoyed the friendship of a lot of the stars because they were real people, not just stuck up in the air nose thing. He had that agency for quite a long time. I was busy raising chillen while he was doing that, so I was pretty much at home.
Nori: What were his responsibilities? He ran the whole thing?
Lu: Yeah, oh yeah well, and he had a staff of people working for him, but he made all the big deals. And he was really good at that. Certain people like Vincent Price, Raymond Burr, Peter Lorre. He had all the spooks. He had the Raymond Burr series Perry Mason and the cast.
Nori: Where was the agency located?
Lu: It was right on Hollywood Blvd., where Hollywood and Sunset come together. He stayed with that until business was going down and there wasn't much going on at the time. He finally got out of the business. He moved way up in the hills to Tujunga. By that time we were divorced and I had moved first to Encino, then got a place in Winnetka. [When we were married] we had a place on Camino de la Cumbre, which overlooked the whole Valley. This was a beautiful home. He did a lot of work there and so did I.
Nori: I want to find out a little bit more about the movie stars. What were they like? Can you recall a specific time when you went to one of their houses?
Lu: We went to Jonathan Harris' house for dinner. Lost in Space. He was a really nice guy. He was a lot of fun. We had a wonderful time at his house.
Raymond Burr had a place on the ocean with a mini-zoo. It was dark. I didn't go down there, so I don't know what he had. It was an elaborate house. In fact the upstairs was one great huge room with a circular bed, as I recall, right in the middle. On one side of the wall were a couple of steps and that's were all the closets were with the bathroom. Then there was a balcony looking out over the ocean. Barbara Hale's husband, Bill, gave me the tour up there. That's as far as I'm going with that conversation. [all laugh] So then Barbara came up and we chit-chatted and then we went back downstairs. The whole cast of Perry Mason was there. And he was a very nice person.
Vincent Price had a big, Spanish home with many, many rooms. His kitchen was to die for. He had a butler's pantry and all the pots and pans. He loved cooking. He wrote a book on cooking and his travels, he and his wife Mary, that was his first wife. She was also involved in the movies. He was very charming. We went an opening to Hollywood Boulevard for one of those spook shows. We were all climbing in a car to save parking, you know. So it was Vincent and his wife, Arthur, Mr. Salkow - he was the agent at the time. So we're all crammed in and I had to sit on Vincent's lap because that was the way it was. So I said, "God you've got bony knees." And he laughed, because we were kidding, playing. Then he proceeded to tell me that even though he was tall, he was mostly legs, so when he sat down on the sofa to make love to the co-star in whatever movie he was in, she was always taller than he was. His body was short but his legs were long. She they'd always have to prop him up on pillows to make him appear taller than his co-star, whoever that may be. I thought that was kind of an interesting thing that most people wouldn't even know. These are the things - when real human beings are not impressed with themselves - these are the things that you find.
Nori: Were movie stars really rich back then?
Lu: Well, he was. Yeah, I would say. The ones that we know. Arthur had a very large roster of people. I never had a copy of the list, but they were very nice people. Very important people, but I didn't know them all. The ones that we did associate with were fun and I enjoyed them. I had them in my house for dinners and we went to various other houses. I can't even remember them all. I remember one New Years, though. We went from house to house, which I didn't enjoy because I like to go to one party and hob-nob with the people at the one party. Not just breeze in and "hello there, we're here" and then goodbye and do it again. And then coming home, there was a terrible accident at Van Nuys Blvd. and Ventura. I'm sure it was a drunk driving thing and that scared me. That was before we had that word "drunk driving." After that I decided I'm not going out on New Years. I'm staying home. I can drink a bottle of champagne at home. I don't have to go out to do it. If anybody wants to come over and join me, welcome. But I'm not hitting the road anymore.
Nori: Was it part of being an agent's wife to have people over and entertain them?
Lu: Not necessarily. But if you had a good relationship with certain clients, you then became more like friends than just clients. Like Richard Kiley was almost Arthur's best friend. They were very close until he died. They were just like brothers. He's a very nice man. He wasn't impressed. He would come up to Arthur's up in the hills in Tujunga and visit, kick back. He was a big star. He was, but he was pleasant.
Nori: Where did Arthur learn about the agent business?
Lu: Actually he learned when he worked for Mr. Salkow. He was a natural born salesman. He had a charming personality. He could charm the ears off you. He was a handsome man and people liked him. The women liked him.
Nori: It's a disadvantage to be married to a man like that then?
Lu: Well, yeah, because they would always flock around him. Especially since he was an agent. Again, the story of the casting couch and all that.
Nori: There's probably some truth to that.
Lu: I'm sure there was. But it was an exciting life. We'd go out to dinner with various ones. It was always - movie stars would stop at the table and talk to us. You had to go to the right places, because that's where the stars would hang out.
Nori: Like on Sunset Strip?
Lu: Yeah, but not necessarily just there. There were other class of restaurants. Some of them are not even there anymore: Brown Derby, Ciro's.
Nori: So it started in 1951 when he moved out to work with Lester Salkow. When did it end?
Lu: There was no one special cut-off day. It was sort of like he sold the office, his secretary moved to Florida, his bookkeeper - I don't know what happened to her. But he was still in touch. He was still making deals, because he made really good deals for those people. He would hold out. He would demand a certain amount of money and if the studios didn't want to pay it, he wouldn't let his star work there. When the studio would want the star bad enough, then they would accept his deal. That's why he was so good ad what he did. Even though it scared some of them if they wanted the job.
Nori: Kind of like a roller coaster.
Lu: Yeah! But usually he got his way and he knew how to do it.
Nori: He must have had a lot of self-confidence.
Lu: Oh yes. That was his job and he did a really good job at it. He was good.
Nori: How long did it go?
Lu: You mean his office?
Nori: When did it start to wind down?
Lu: The whole Hollywood business kinda shut down. I don't know if it was around '70? I'm not good with numbers, but that's when he sold the business. Then he went with his current girlfriend up to Wisconsin and they got married up there.
Paula: He got married?
Lu: Oh sure, you didn't know that?
Nori: Two additional young wives, right Lu?
Paula: Any kids?
Lu: Not with them. She kicked him out, too.
Paula: Was he still drinking?
Lu: Oh, sure.
Paula: But he quit then, at some point, right?
Lu: Not at that point. He was still going heavy. Later, he came to my house when I lived on Winnetka for some reason and I could tell that he was really in bad shape. His face was all flushed and everything. I kicked him out of the house. I told him "get out" and he was so depressed, he told me later, that he got in his car and drove up to the top of Mulholland and was thinking of just driving off. [all gasp, sigh] That's how bad he was. He remembered that one of his friends had wanted to take him to an AA meeting so he decided to try it. And that's when he started with AA.
Nori: Let's see if there's anything else we didn't talk about . . .
Lu: After we broke up I had difficulty getting child support. He told he me he'd sold his business and everything and didn't have any money, which I found out later wasn't true. Wife number three ran off with quite a bit of stuff. She was smarter than me, I guess, but I believed him. So I had to work for several companies, several jobs at one time.
Nori: Now you met my parents when you all lived in that apartment on Grace Avenue, right?
Lu: We were in the same apartment - we used to sleep head to head with a wall between us. We had wonderful times getting to know each other in those days. Bill and Paula [Nori's parents] moved out and they built their own home. We decided we were going to get a home too and move out of that crazy apartment, and I do mean crazy.
Some time after that we had a lot of people coming and going in our lives so we got divorced. He moved to Wisconsin and married wife number two. That didn't go too well after a while. She used to call. He was coming back to California because he wanted to see the kids, so I always let him come and stay with me so he could visit with the kids and so forth. Then they got divorced. Then he met another girl. She was really too young for him, but she came down and I met her. She was nice, but she was really too young for him. So they got married and that didn't last.
Then he decided he was going to move back to California. That's when he lived in Tujunga. Again, it was way up in the hills. He had a thing for living in the hills. It was unique, it needed a lot of work. And it was so uphill it was horrible trying to walk around the place. It's what he liked. It had a view. I would go up there and help him plant flowers and take care of things. Then he became kind of disabled. It was difficult having to drive that far and I was concerned that if he were to fall, we wouldn't know about it. It could be dangerous for him. I tried to get him to wear one of those things around his neck, so in case he falls somebody would know about it. Of course he wouldn't do it.
He agreed to move in closer so his family could come in and take care of him. So that's when he moved to Studio City. It was a nice little house with a swimming pool and he liked to swim. But I don't know if he ever stuck his toe in the water because he went downhill from there. I used to have to drive him up to the VA for visits with various doctors. He just didn't do well after that. By this time our kids had grown up and left home and taken on their own lives. He didn't have anybody at that point in his life to help him. I lived nearby, so I went over and schlepped him around. I think that's about the end of it. He finally passed on.
Nori: That was about a year ago, right?
Lu: A couple years ago.
Nori: What did he do in the military? World War II?
Lu: Jumped out of airplanes, parachute. He liked daredevil things. When he used to date me he took me to the Huguenot Yacht Club, because my family were members. He would make friends with those guys with the speedboats and I'd see him out there on waterskis just having a ball.
Nori: So when you moved to Hollywood, that was 1951?
Lu: That was 1951.
Nori: And you met my folks in about 1953.
Lu: No, because we came out in '51, so it was either '51 or '52.
Paula: We must have moved there in December.
Nori [to her mother]: Come say it to the mic.
Paula: We were married in February '50 in Chicago and then I remember it was icy and snowy and it was almost Christmas. We drove to Minneapolis for Bill's promotion, which was the manager of the Minneapolis bureau for United Press International, UPI. We lived there two years almost. I remember on my birthday in May, we looked out over Lake Minnetonka and it was still solid ice. You could walk across it. We said, Let's get the hell out of here." So Bill looked on all the maps and climate and everything and decided Los Angeles was the place to go. We had no kids, very little furniture, so we went. It seemed like the spring of '53.
Lu: After we left Ann Jeffreys' house, we moved right to Grace Avenue.
Paula: And when was that?
Lu: He came out in '51, so '52 maybe?
Paula: How long had you lived there, not long?
Lu: Not long.
Nori: The other night we were talking about how the walls were so thin and how there was no air conditioning.
Paula: Nobody had air conditioning. Theaters did.
Nori: Was there anybody else in the building you knew, or just you two couples?
Paula: There was a race car driver. What was his name? He had a girlfriend up there. I think it was his mistress. He used to walk by our window and wave. It was a floozy looking babe. He was probably married, with a big house in Beverly Hills, but put her up in this apartment.
Did we know anybody else in the building? We should have.
Lu: No, it was just the girls across the way - the stewardesses.
Paula: The stewardesses! Should we tell that part?
Lu: They used to take a shower up against the window so the boys could see them.
Paula: We don't know if they did it on purpose, but the windows, when they showered, you could see through them. Of course, Bill and Art and Ed and Larry were hanging over the balcony watching. They called it the "shower scene."
Lu: That was on Sunday.
Nori: So you guys knew Larry Burrell and Eddie Hilliard.
Lu: Oh sure, that was our group, really.
Paula: And then Jackie, later on. And Donnie, a girl named Donnie.
Lu: And Marion.
Paula: Is Marion the one that Ed went out with?
Lu: Sure and remember those [human] pyramids we built on the sand?
Paula: Sure, she's in those pictures. She was a gorgeous looking blonde.
Lu: Gorgeous blond with a long, blonde pony tail.
Paula: And remember, her husband had her followed and served her with divorce papers. He was a TV producer. He got a private eye. Oh, we could have had a private eye at the beach with us.
Nori: So you were saying that sometimes it got so hot in one apartment . . .
Lu: We would barbeque. We would go to the beach Sunday morning and we always went down to Laguna Beach. The beaches here were always so crowded, so we would go down there, spend the day there. You had to find the place where you could go down the steps to the beach, because most places wouldn't, so we had this one place scooped out. When we got through sunning ourselves and making crazy at the beach, we would come home. The boys would all chip in and buy a steak, and cook a steak down on the barbeque, down by the parking lot. Paula and I - if Paula cooked in her house, then we ate in my house. Because no air conditioning. So whoever did the cooking, we ate in the other apartment. We would put on music and Paula would get her pots and pans and Eddie would play music on the pots and pans. In the apartment.
Nori: I'll bet the neighbors loved that.
Paula: Well, the manager called on us a few times.
Lu: Oh yes, and he used to come up with dirty, filthy boots to check the plumbing and I wouldn't let him in the place. What was his name?
Paula: I don't remember it. He was an old German guy and he had an accent. "Vat you playing up there? Vat you doing in that apartment?" He didn't like us and . . . well, we were twenty-something, what did we know?
Nori: So you were on Grace Avenue, just up from Hollywood?
Paula: No, we were just up from Franklin, but we could walk. Your dad walked to Capitol at Sunset and Vine for work. I walked down Hollywood Boulevard to the Broadway down there at the end of the line. It was a beautiful stroll.
Nori: So it was safe back then.
Paula: Oh yeah, it was safe. There were a lot of tourists.
Lu: Except that night when a freak was walking along behind the apartment. I looked outside to see what it was and almost came face to face with him. That scared the heck out of me. I said, "We're moving." It was behind our apartment, but remember they built new apartments behind us? There were strange things going on up there. I remember peeking out the window to see what was going on, because it was really strange. I thought, well I guess that's Hollywood.
Paula: Then you bought your house on Camino [de la Cumbre]?
Lu: Yes, well you moved out first.
Paula: Yes, we did. I remember Art teasing us when we went up, off Dixie Canyon. "What's the matter? Couldn't you find a place in the City?"
Nori: Oh yeah, because Dixie Canyon is in the San Fernando Valley.
Paula: Then they moved out farther than we were.
Lu: It wasn't that much further.
Paula: A little bit.
Lu: But it had to be up in the hills.
Paula: Because Hollywood people were disdainful of the Valley - until they moved there.
Nori: It was like that even when I was a kid.
Paula: But when we got there it was pretty nice.
Nori: Yeah, well, that's where the movie stars bought their ranches. It was all open range or orange trees back then. Last night we were talking about your parents, how they got involved in elections. We also had elections at our house when we lived on Longbow.
Lu: Well, I come from - not a long line of politicians - but my paternal grandfather was a senator, Marmaduk Burr. My parents weren't really political, but in Pelham they became involved in elections, which were held in the colonial grade school. They made sure they had the roster and made sure people got out to vote. They had people come to the house and if so and so hasn't voted, we'll go get them and make sure to take them down if they can't get there, so they helped run the elections. My mother ran for councilwoman, she was councilwoman at one time. Her name was Lucille F.W. That was the end of the political line.
Nori: But that's great. What year was that?
Lu: I was still in school, so it was probably 1938.
Nori: That was before World War II, so there weren't a lot of women out in public life. Like Osa Johnson, there were a few examples. It was World War II when the women went out of the home.
Paula: And guess what happened when the men came back from war?
Nori: They all went home.
Paula: They all got pregnant and went home again. They had their four years!
Lu: My maternal grandfather was a doctor in North Carolina. That was another interesting facet. My mother was a Rebel and my daddy was a damned Yankee, so I had both sides of it.
Paula: So the southern belle marries a Yankee.
Lu: A damned Yankee. Most of my relatives are from the South. In fact, they're still there.
Nori: Did you know Faith and Hal?
Lu: Oh yes. When I first moved out here somebody gave me her name because I didn't know many people. So one day I decided I was going to call this woman I did not know. So I called her and we made arrangements to meet and get together and that's how your mother met her.
Nori: Yeah, because they live in Phoenix now. And Hal was a musician who played with Capitol for a while, right?
Paula and Lu: Stan Kenton.
Paula: He played trombone.
Nori: And Don [Nori's stepfather, Paula's husband] worked with Kenton too, right?
Paula: Yes, but I don't know that it was at the same time. Hal is older than we are. He was at Pearl Harbor. He lived through it. The story is that he was drunk and in town, not on the ship.
Lu: Whatever it takes!
Nori: So after you met Faith, she became part of your group.
Paula and Lu: Oh yeah, both of them.
Lu: We used to have parties at our house all the time. We had a huge fireplace that covered the wall.
Nori: I might remember that. Did you take me there?
Lu: Yes, you were there. But that was the stage. It had a big, wide ledge, which was a seating ledge, until Eddie [Hilliard] came. Then it was a stage. (all laugh) I never had to worry about entertaining my guests as long as he was there. And he would get up on the stage and everybody would say, "Hey Eddie! Tell the story about so and so," and he would say, "Okay!" They he would start telling a joke. His delivery was so great. Everybody knew the jokes, but everybody would still laugh.
Paula: We would want to hear them again and again.
Lu: This was the way we usually would spend our evenings. It wasn't a question of everybody seeing how drunk you could get, it was just the entertainment.
Paula: We had food and we had drink and entertainment. You know that movie called the Aristocrat? That was one of Eddie's jokes.
Nori: They stole it from him?
Paula: No, it's an old show biz thing. The joke teller says, "Well this guy goes into an agent and says I've got this stage act." It was the filthiest, most horrible stuff. You could make it filthy and long. The punch line is the agent says, "Oh my god, what do you call this act?" "The Aristocrats."
Lu: See, I'd forgotten that one. I've heard about the movie but haven't seen it.
Paula: I don't want to see it. Ed told it better than any of those people could. It's an old show biz joke because the funnier the comedian, the more awful things they can put into it.
Lu: Well talk about comedians. I've been to the Red Skelton rehearsals. That was strictly off the cuff, because what they did at rehearsals they would not do on the air, obviously.
Paula: Were they naughty?
Lu: Of course, but they were funny. Arthur made sure I got to see some of those because they were really funny. I mean the shows were funny, but the rehearsals were really a crack up.
Nori: Looks like we're coming to the end of the tape.
Paula: Are you going to transcribe this and get it in order?
Nori: I'm not sure what we can do with this. I'll make you copies. Probably what I would do is put it in chronological order.
Paula: She did it with that interview we did with Don.
Nori: That one about Capitol Records was so easy. The first two thirds of it was perfect. I didn't have to edit it at all. Just the part about my dad getting fired from Capitol Records, we started it out without explaining to the audience what we were talking about. So I did kinda edit that one. I just switched things around. But basically, I didn't know the whole story of why my father got fired from Capitol. I think the main thing that got him fired was when he suggested the Capitol artists play in the Playboy All Stars Band. He went to the musicians and the old guys thought that was really wrong of him to talk to the musicians about it, like go over their heads.
Paula: Well what really did it though was the advertising guy.
Nori: Well, then that guy wrote a letter to Glen Wallich, "Bill Muster said that you guys didn't like us because we're like a porn magazine, but we know you like Playboy Magazine." Boom.
Paula: Goodbye Bill Muster.
Nori: He got canned.
Paula: He stepped out of his line.
Nori: Yeah, and I don't know why that guy was quoting my dad, because he was just a peon there.
Paula: One more thing about Bill's departure from Capitol. Nori was just a little kid then, two. Irv Stern, our friend who was very funny and very sharp - he knew the whole deal - he asked Nori, "Why do you think you daddy got fired from Capitol?" And Nori said, "I think it's because he didn't keep his desk clean." (all laugh)
Lu: That's cute.
Nori: Later on, when I was about eight, I asked my mom why we had a subscription to Playboy. Because it came every month for as long as I could remember from childhood. She said that was because they got my dad fired and they gave him a free subscription. I never knew the real story.
Paula: Well, they gave us a lifetime subscription when we were first dealing with him, trying to go through him to get Capitol to advertise then they just let it run. But when we moved to Sunnyvale it stopped. The change of address, they said, whoops these guys didn't pay. But then we subscribed to it with money.
Nori: Yes, that was a subtle twist to the story. I knew at eight that they had given him a free lifetime subscription, but then it expired and they had to pay for it.
Lu: Speaking of Playboy, James Gregory, also a well known TV star, he and his wife became my best friends at one point. He was defending Playboy, saying it wasn't just the pictures, they have so many interesting articles. I looked at him and I thought, yeah right.
Nori: But it was true.
Lu: Well I'm sure, but that wasn't the main point.
Nori: Oh, the guys looked at it for the pictures.
Lu: I forgot to mention them and they were very close friends of mine. In fact he died, but his wife lives out here.
Nori: Please tell the one about my dad embarrassing Art at a party.
Lu: Oh, well at one of the parties we had Barton MacLane and his wife, among others. Bill walked up to Barton MacLane and said, "What do you do?" and Barton looked at him and said, "Well, son, I'm a rancher," which he was, when was not being a big, fat movie star. It's true! Arthur was so embarrassed.
When Chris, our son, was born, we had a christening party. Who all was there? Barton McClain, Virginia Grey, who else?
Paula: It's only a vague memory.
Lu: A lot of the stars were there. Larry Burrell came up to me and wanted to use the phone. I thought, I'm so busy, what do you want to use the phone for? All right, go ahead use the phone, I don't care. I was off doing things. First thing I know, he says, "Can I turn on the radio?" and I thought, What is with this guy? So he turns on the radio and he turns it up full blast, and he was broadcasting this party! I had no clue what he was doing! He was announcing, "I am here at the Kennard residence and we're celebrating the birth of their son, Christopher." All the celebrities, and he's naming them. I couldn't believe what's going on. It was a surprise. I'll never forget that!
Nori: Larry Burrell was in radio . . .
Lu and Paula: He was very well known.
Nori: Tell the one about all the critters you had living on your hill.
Lu: Well, Eddie Hilliard used to call Arthur the "Gopher King," because we had so many of them. It was hysterical. Every day you'd come out and there were more gophers.
Paula: You could see one of your ivy plants go pffst - the gophers got it down and they were chewing on it.
Lu: Then they would stick their head up and look around.
Paula: But they were horrible, they infested everybody's yard! They would make holes and the earth would fall down.
Lu: And Art was out there putting traps in their holes. That didn't bother them at all, then he would lose the traps. They would pull the traps in their holes. Finally, they came with gas, and you put it in the hole and turn it on 1 - 2 - 3, then turn it off. That eventually got rid of them.
We had snakes up there too. The snakes probably ate the gophers. The kids were up visiting, playing in our backyard with the swings and all, and they came into the house screaming. So I go and look, we have one side of the house that was all glass. Here's this big garden snake, like this, squiggling down the side of the house. It goes down the end of the place and turns down the wall, and I watched it go across and down the hill.
It was later, when Arthur came home, sometimes he would go in the back door, and I was told there were rattle snakes that were coming down. When we had just moved in, he was at work one day, and I had just brought Chris in for a nap, but the dog was still out in the dog yard, because we had covered the place with sand and swings for kids. The dog was barking and I knew by the bark that something was wrong. I went out to investigate because he was barking and backing up, barking and backing up. There was this tarantula bigger than my hand. Well, if I see a little spider on the wall, I panic, so you can imagine how I felt about that. So here's the original pioneer woman. I ran and grabbed a shovel, brought the dog in first, grabbed a big shovel. I went out and I can't bring the shovel down on this thing, it scared me so much, but I knew I had to do it. I had to protect my kids. So I picked the shovel up, turned around and came back, and I went whack, and I hit this thing. And he moved, and I thought oh, and they say that's what murderers do. So I kept hitting him until he stopped moving.
My heart was beating so hard. I was alone. There were no neighbors up there to speak of. So I shoved him up and put him on the ledge. About that time the phone rang, so I said, "H-hello?" I mean, I was petrified. Well, it was Arthur. He said, "What's the matter?" I said, "You - you - you won't believe what just happened!" And he says, "Oh yeah, it's nothing." I said, "Fine, I'll show you when you get home." When he came home and I said, "You come here," and I showed him this big thing. He was very impressed. They say when there's one, there's always a mate. So I had to live in fear. I never let any of the kids in the yard unless I was there with them. To this day I can remember my heart beating. So living in the hills was not my favorite thing. When I left, I went down to the ground level. When I hit Encino, I wanted a neighborhood for my kids to play in. Up in the hills I had to import kids to play with. I used to bring your kids up there.
Don (leaving for a rehearsal): How's your interview going? Did I show you my big book of genealogy?
Nori: He has done a lot of research on the family genealogy.
Lu: My grandfather did all that. I have a picture of my family tree going back to the 1200s. It shows the tree and all the branches, all the way up to when my mother and all her siblings were born. That's where it ended. And he's written a couple of books that I have on my genealogy.
Nori: The 1200s? What countries?
Lu: England. One of the coats is of a tiger with a spear going through it. Also a little French, a little Scotch.
Nori: You have the coat of arms?
Lu: Oh yeah, I have the several coats of arms. One shows a spear running through it and I think it was my mother's side of the family, because my grandfather has written a couple of books.
We didn't trace Art's genealogy because he changed his name. His stepfather was Defosses, but when he was going into show business he changed it to Kennard. I told him to put the two n's in it because with one n it sounded like canard. Originally, he was a Defosses and his mother was a nurse. His father was an attorney. He was a very sweet man.
Nori: Would you tell me a little about your life in New York before you met Arthur?
Lu: In the 40s when I was dating, we would go to Glen Island Casino, which was known as the cradle of the bands. Every big band played Glen Island Casino: Claude Thornhill, the Dorsey Brothers, Glen Miller, all those big ones. If you had a really great date, that's where you would go. The upstairs was the ballroom where the band was. Downstairs they had a peacock alley with a bar, booths, and a jukebox. If a date couldn't afford to go upstairs, then you would go downstairs. I used to date a guy who had a speedboat from the club, so on hot summer nights we would go over to the boat and putt out to cool off over the water. Then we would putt up to the casino and they had French doors all the way down, open. We could sit there in the boat and see all the people dancing to the orchestra and then we could see all the people downstairs walking down peacock alley to the bar room.
We would just sit in the boat, nice and cool, and we'd have beer there, that's it. We'd just sit there and it was so pleasant to sit there. It was just like watching a stage show. Then there was a place after you go back on shore called The Barge. It was very popular with the young crowd. That's literally what it was, a barge. That was also on the shore there. There were planks going up to the barge. Everybody would park their car and walk up the planks. There were hardly any lights. The jukebox lit up the dance part in the back and then there was a bar in the front part, but it was always dark. They had little lights on the wall, you could see. It was the place to go. No matter where you were, you had to end up at the barge.
Lu: Next time you come to California I'll whip out my photo albums so you can get a better idea of things.
Nori: You have pictures?
Paula: The great photographer of record.
Nori: So you took a lot of pictures.
Lu: Yes. Like today. I got the photo of you and your mom at your apartment in front of all your paintings. I want to have memories of the places I've been, that I've enjoyed.
Nori: Well, that's the end of the interview. Maybe I can scan some photos later and add them. Thank you so much ladies!
[Editor's note: one photo added so far.]
Seen below, sitting out on the Grace Avenue apartment balcony are (l to r) Paula, Arthur, Lu, a friend (unknown name). Photo by Bill Muster, circa 1955.