The Stewart "Memory Wall"
"The Stewart Memory Wall" affords a glimpse into the life experience that gave novelist Richard Eugene Stewart (aka performer Dick Stewart) the rich background and interest to write his first novel "Girl from JakesCannon" set during WWII with its Gangsters, Hollywood Movie Stars, and the life and death realities of a World at War.
Remembering . . .
Stewart's Oakland, California, high school buddies laughed when at 17 he got his parents' written permission to join the Marine Corps "for the duration" of WWII. To his parents' relief (and his subsequent children's, grandchildren's and second wife's), the War ended before he was out of boot camp and he completed his service in 18 months, but his buddies got drafted for the Korean War. He had the last laugh: He got on the boxing team to get better rations! And he learned to type "San Francisco, California" at 90 words a minute as he filled out the discharge papers for the returning combat heroes.
Though he didn't actually get the chance to see combat, he still learned that "once a Marine, always a Marine" holds true. At a recent nostalgic trip to the Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, watching the graduation ceremonies and seeing young faces of recruits with their parents and families in the commissary, brought back memories of the old days and his unwaivering appreciation for our fighting men in uniform who protect our freedom. He was embarrassed at the tears that welled up in his eyes.
Marines don't cry! Like Hell they don't!
He had a talent for singing and acting and, definitely, an interest. So, he went to Radio School on the GI Bill and worked with big dance bands that came through the San Francisco Bay Area, such as Norville Knight, Del Courtney, and Carmen Cavallaro. He married his first wife (now deceased) and started a family (3 daughters, Victoria, Suzanne Emily and Jennifer; and 2 grandkids, Amanda and Landon).
Winning a Bay Area talent contest brought Stewart to Hollywood where he began his career as a television singer and actor, and at times was on the air seven days a week!
Not being one to collect memorabilia, thanks to his proud Mom, these photos survive the period:
Here he is playing one of his many characters, "Marvie".
As a regular on "Words About Music", Stewart sang with Millie Corey and the Page Cavanaugh Trio.
Too busy to actually pursue acting, he still got tapped for a bit part (uncredited) in "The Glass Web" (see the entire movie on YouTube" starring Edward G. Robinson and John Forsythe (fast forward an hour and ten minutes into the movie and see him in a four-shot where he turns his back to the camera!) and for a nice role in "Good Morning Miss Dove" starring Jennifer Jones (see this YouTube clip).
An avid fight fan, Stewart enjoyed posing for publicity stills with Lauro Salas, World Lightweight Boxing Champion.
Then, in 1958, Stewart was called to save a failing show in San Francisco called "KPIX Dance Party", a teen music and dance show that, in his hands, even appealed to adults. Within weeks it became the #1 daytime show and stayed that way until 1963 when CBS needed the time slot for its expanded network news. Click here for a rare clip of Stewart on the show that was found on the internet.
Stewart helped launch the "The Lettermen" (he is included the "Vocal Group Hall of Fame"), and broke many hits like Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife", Marty Robbins's "El Paso", and The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You", among many others.
Among the guests on Dance Party, Stewart sang with Annette Funicello of "Mickey Mouse Club" fame who went on to a film and recording career.
He enjoyed sharing the spotlight with the young stars of the day, seen here with beautiful actress Yvette Mimieux.
During this period, Stewart bought his second plane, a WWII SNJ5 Navy advanced trainer. While taking off in a thick layer of San Francisco fog, he found himself engulfed in it and not being instrument rated had no idea he was in a graveyard spiral until he noticed iincreased air speed. The head gear he was wearing wasn't connected to anything because the air field was without a tower, but he heard in a mechanical-sounding voice, "needle-ball-air speed...needle-ball-air speed". He broke into a sweat and lined up the needle, the ball, and lowered the air speed, and, in what seemed an Eternity later, popped out of the soup. He flew until he could land and knew he had been saved by the voice of a Guardian Angel.
The plane was sold in a divorce settlement and the 60s brought with it a Single-Father-cum-Playboy lifestyle.
As a purveyor of 40s Big Band music, Stewart formed "The Dick Stewart Band", encouraging young musicians to play the "big band" sound.
(Nov. 2009, Fred and Gina Funes Radke with the Stewarts)
It was a thrill for Stewart to discover that one of his young trumpeters, Fred Radke, went on to join and is presently owner and leader of "The Harry James Band". In November 2009, Fred paid tribute to Stewart at the opening of a new exhibit at the "Pima Air Museum" Black-Tie Gala in Tucson, Arizona.
Stewart had the opportunity to break ground in race relations by including "soul" music and black teenagers on his dance program. Regular Paul Mooney was a standout and went on to a career as a writer/comedian.
Other regulars who went on to acting careers were Barbara Bouchet (Regular Babel Goutscher, or Goutscher, or Gutscher) and Anne Randall (Regular Barbara Burrus), who in 1967 became Stewart's second wife and still is.
Stewart's celebrity afforded him opportunities to produce and MC fundraisers for charities like the Cystic Fibrosis Event which was the last show ever staged at the fabled Fox Theater. Here on stage, Stewart just introduced Joey Bishop who addresses the crowd.
At that show, Stewart sang "I Believe" to great audience response unaware that it would be an audience favorite. While Stewart was finishing up producing a rock-and-roll group's recording session, a co-worker suggested using the extra recording time to record something himself. Stewart said, "No, I don't know what to sing. I've got nothing ready." Then, the co-worker suggested, "Do the song you did at the Cystic Fibrosis show, 'I Believe'." Stewart said he had a 25-piece orchestra at the Fox and here he only had a rhythm section and a rock backup group (The Blossoms!). With more prodding, he acquiesced, "OK." Stewart's recording "I Believe" reached #1 and the rock-and-roll group's record went nowhere. "Go figure," Stewart said.
"Dance Party" has become a bond and, thanks to Regular Manny Interiano, there have been reunions in 1997 and 2004. See Manny Interiano's KPIX Dance Party website by clicking here.
Golf became a passion during this period. This photo shows good times at his friend Jackie Jensen's Golf Tournament in 1962.
When "Dance Party" ended, Stewart went on to do "The Dick Stewart Show", a talk-variety show. It ran five days a week and he had weekly guest hosts, many of whom became friends, like Mel Tormé, Dan Rowan, Bill Cosby, Don Adams, and Pat Harrington, Jr., among many others.
Mel sang Stewart's song "I Remember Suzanne" at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Stewart's wedding. He sang, again, at their 25th Anniversary party at Playboy Mansion West!
Dan signed Stewart to join the cast of "Rowan & Martin's Report" in the 70s.
Stewart also had many great singers appearing with him singing duets like John Gary depicted here.
A bond was created when Stewart performed the ceremonious "cutting of the tie" ritual after Mel soloed his plane for the first time. And another connection was Mel's passion for old movies; as part of his "deal" to do the show, he required Stewart's making the station's film library available to him while he was guest hosting for the week. The two watched the films together.
Other shows Stewart produced and starred in during the period were "On the Scene" (a news show), and "The San Francisco Palace" (variety).
Stewart's 1967 marriage to Anne Randall moved his life into new directions. Her appearance in Playboy as Miss May '67, began her acting career, so, it was back to Hollywood to new opportunities and focus on married life and family, raising his daughters . . . and friendships: "The Good Life".
In 1969, Anne got the lead in "A Time for Dying", Audie Murphy's last movie which was directed by Budd Boetticher, Stewart's friend and neighbor in the 50s, when Boetticher introduced him to bullfighting in Mexico.
Here Stewart watches Budd set up a shot during night filming of "Time".
Stewart's career continued, producing TV shows like "The LaLanne Affaire," a talk show starring Jack LaLanne, "The Melvin Belli Show," and "Arbogast and Margolis." He also began working in television commercials, on camera and voice-overs, which was his main thrust until his retirement (in 1994).
After Anne worked with Hugh Hefner's girlfriend Barbi Benton on "Hee Haw", the Stewarts became part of the Playboy Mansion West Family which they are to this day. The common interest in old movies and big band music drew Stewart to a life-long friendship with Hugh Hefner and the rest of his life has been spent sharing Hef's version of Shangri-la.
In this photo with Doug, they are feigning good sportsmanship.
In 1973, Stewart line-produced friend and director John Derek's movie in Mykonos, Greece, that starred unknown Kathleen Collins, who later became Bo Derek, Derek's fourth wife. This picture was taken Christmas Day on a boat sight-seeing the islands in the Aegean Sea during a break in filming (L-R: Bo, Anne, female crew member, and Stewart).
Here the Stewarts attend the movie premiere of Playboy Production's "The Naked Ape" starring friend Johnny Crawford.
Becoming close friends with Director Richard Brooks started Stewart thinking about writing. Brooks recommended reading 1,000 pages before writing a single word which began Stewart's thirst for books. He started writing during this period, coming up with story ideas and screenplays. But, on camera work came, writing never materialized as his vocation. He kept at it just the same for the love of it. (Photo with Richard Brooks at the New Year's Eve Party at the Mansion--sleepware, of course!--Dec. 1987)
The Stewarts went out with Hef and Kimberley Conrad on their first date. Stewart gave the toast at their wedding. And the Stewarts were there when Kim came home from the hospital with both sons, Marston and Cooper.
The Hefners gave a black-tie gala 25th Anniversary party for the Stewarts which combined the celebration of friend band leader Ray Anthony's 70th Birthday whose entire band worked the gig gratis as his present!
Stewart and Hef had a lot in common, both had piloted aircraft, loved old pre-code black-and-white 30s movies, and big band music. The Stewarts spent every evening at the Mansion for years trying to watch them all but never were able to get it done; Hef's collection is astounding! --- This was before Turners Classic Movies, mind you.
Stewart encouraged Hef to renovate the Hollywood sign and to start restoring classic movies; with Hef, the thought becomes a thing, and it was done. Although Hef fondly repeated the mantra: "You've shared the Dream" (which they did), retirement was coming and the Stewarts had their dream of golf in Arizona but kept both dreams alive by making frequent trips back to share Hef's, too.
Stewart once commented that he feels like "Zelig", Woody Allen's character who is in all the photos standing next to the really famous people.
Although they hated to leave the Mansion, in 1994, the Stewarts retired to Sun City, AZ, to golf---no more auditioning! Before the move, a trip with the Hefners to Chicago to tour the family home and neighborhoods as well as the Chicago Mansion was a rare treat to revisit Hef's boyhood dreams.
Stewart instigated Hef's starting "Men of Mondays" which turned into "Manly Night" when the guys would come over to watch the old movie collection. The tradition has continued to this day, but in 1995, it was a nostalgic blast to have 40s star Gloria DeHaven join the guys to watch her performance in "Two Girls and a Sailor" (see YouTube previews). Talk about bringing your dreams to life. She still looked great and was full of funny anecdotes about the filming. (Photo: Top Row: Bob Ridgeley, Bill Shepard, Ron Borst, Richard Bann, Mel Tormé, Chuck McCann, Peter Vieira, Walter Ralphs; Front Row: Hef, Gloria DeHaven, Stewart, Ray Anthony.)
The golf came to an abrupt end when Anne began the trend of the decade: Saving Stewart's life. (She says her hobby is to raise a 100-year-old hubby!). Open heart surgery in 2000 slowed down his interest in golf since his score climbed due to his inability to completely pivot. That's when Stewart had the time to read and write, exclusively...
He was working on "Girl from JakesCannon" and sending chapters to his daughter Jennifer (above) who lives in California. She is a voracious fiction reader and wanted more chapters, so, she compelled him to finish it.
Finally, in 2009, Anne suggested "Girl from JakesCannon" was too good to just sit in a file drawer. But, being an unknown writer in his 80s, Stewart lacked the faith or drive to get an agent and a publisher in a bad book market.
Anne reminded him that he started his singing career by winning a contest. So, she entered him in a novel contest, the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Although a smidgen disappointed it didn't win the brass ring, he was very delighted it made the top 100 semi-finalists out of 10,000 entrants worldwide. And the reviews were great.
Jenny and Anne decided they wanted to see a book in their hands and a book is what they got. Createspace! Amazon.com!
Self-publishing has now made it possible for everyone to publish, removing the middlemen, and very inexpensively get a book into the hands of the readers. What a world we live in!
In November 2010, "Girl from JakesCannon" hit the market. And now the job is getting the word out.
You can help by emailing this web site to a friend who likes to read and "Girl from JakesCannon" is a great read!
"Girl from JakesCannon"
Semi-finalist in Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest
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