LEE MAJORS: OH THAT MAN... WHAT A MAN!
William Tusher / source unknown / mid-sixties
Lee Majors’ prowess in the romance department is well-vouched for by his best, pretty Patti Chandler – and a lot of other girls are saying they are more than willing for a wee free sample.
When we asked Lee Majors’ best girl, Patti Chandler, what she thought of her handsome beau – words left her. She just smiled and looked dreamy. She’s not the only gal who’s fallen for Lee – just the luckiest. We hustled on over to get a good look at “Lady-Killer Lee.”
Well, we found him, one recent afternoon, in his dressing room at Four Star Studios. Our hero sure did look tough – his flesh purpled under his right eye and sweat streaked his lean cheeks. He ran a perspiration-sheened hand through his yellow hair and was short of breath as he rested up from a slam-bang fight sequence that had just been filmed. But exhausted as he was, he couldn’t help grinning as we catalogued his galloping reputation as Hollywood’s newest, most bonafide and most unorthodox lady killer.
We explained that all sorts of intriguing rumors were rampant about him. And as we looked at this soft-spoken, lanky, six foot plus ex-football hero from Kentucky – at that exciting athletic frame, those smiling powder-blue eyes and that hair as yellow as a pumpkin – we could understand it. We said how the word was out that he gave no quarter and asked none – that, in fact, the girls weren’t asking for any quarter. All they craved was a chance to be with him – they’d gladly fend for themselves. We said how there even was one story that some time ago, on a balmy Los Angeles evening , he had borrowed a car from one girlfriend and drove another girl home in it. We said how we figured there must be something to the legend of Lee Majors, homespun lover. Especially since it had began long before the first public glimpse of him on TV screens.
Lee listened, bemused as the bill of particulars was recited at him. No frown shaded those devilishly good-looking features. No cry of righteous protest escaped his lips.
“You are developing a reputation whether you deserve it or not, as a woman tamer in town,” we added.
“A what? It was his one fleeting moment of coyness.
“A woman tamer. You’ve heard of that. Do you plead guilty or not guilty?”
Again, the boyish grin, and the slow charm-charged southern drawl destined by design or not, to mesmerize the distaff susceptible.
“On the phrasing of it I plead not guilty, I guess,” he hedged with good humor.”
“What about the substance?”
Lee didn’t try to squirm out of it.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said incredulously. “It’s a very fortunate situation, I guess but I’ve been approached by a lot people who are doing interviews who have just previously interviewed some of our beautiful ladies around town, some of the younger actresses, and they keep saying want a date with me. I can’t figure it out because half of them I don’t know.
“Well,” he said, a little awe-struck as he made a grudging effort to overcome his reluctance to tell tales out of school, “there was the girl (he was much too gallant to consider giving this panting beauty’s name) who has made it a rule not to date layouts. She was approached to do one and they wanted it badly. She agreed to do it but with no one other than me.”
The idea of being a lady killer doesn’t offend Lee, as the twinkle in those appraising blue peepers gives proof. But if he qualifies at all – and he seems content to let others properly be the judge of that – he insists on plying his wares as a lethal Lothario with one victim at a time.
If hardly a victim – as she would be the first to argue – Lee’s current captive and most willing and uncomplaining one, is pert Patti Chandler, heroine of numerous AIP beach party pictures and magazine covers. Patti won her first prominence as the Hawaiian girlfriend of Albert Finney. More recently she was the apple in the eye of carrot-topped, wealthy young businessman-around-town, Burt Sugarman, who once came this close to making it to the altar with Ann-Margaret.
Lee, a quiet country boy from Kentucky, entertains Patti at his primitive shack atop the trackless Malibu mountains - far, far from the maddening Hollywood throng. And Patti loves it. At Lee’s small ranch, she has him all to herself – which certainly wouldn’t be the case at a big Hollywood party. Still, even this retreat may not be safe for long, because more than one gal has announced that she’d like to mow a path right to his door.
Lee’s current preoccupation with Patti Chandler is evidence that while Lee indeed may be a dangerous male willing to field all the play he can handle, he had not been playing the field. In fact, Lee admits, with an infectiously disarming grin. “Right now, Patti is really all I can handle.”
The most obvious romance for Lee Majors never has happened, and from all appearances, never will. Proximity would seem to suggest it. Publicity would seem to compel it – but nothing. She is beautiful Linda Evans, who not only in his co-star in The Big Valley, but who was enrolled in the same acting class with him at MGM some two years ago.
Some lady killers wouldn’t be discouraged by such picayune obstacles, but when Lee first met Linda she was seeing another fellow, and he says he therefore regarded her as off limits. When fate paired them again in The Big Valley, she was dating Paul Raffles, one of the owners of P.J’s a Hollywood bistro. Again, this removed her from romantic contention. And by then, he was dating Patti.
However, without suggesting the slightest disloyalty to Patti, Lee does manage to convey the impression that this is a state of affairs somewhat less permanent than the Rock of Gibraltar. His growing image as a lady killer is not without some support from his own lips. He allows that, at 24, his career in high gear, and distaff Hollywood on his heels, he still has considerable wild oats to sow – which he’ll do in his own leisurely fashion. For even back home in Middlesboro, Kentucky, he preferred his flings one at a time. He does not object violently to the thought of numerous women in his life, but the notion of coping with several simultaneously seems to strike him as unnecessarily frantic.
“I was always the kind of guy, when I dated a girl, that it was just for a while,” he observes matter-of-factly. “I’ve always dated just one girl until we eventually went out separate ways. We usually parted friends.”
And thus, says Lee, has it been for the most part since he gave up working as a playground director at North Hollywood Park to star in is very first role in The Big Valley.
“I’ve dated,” he says with consummate modesty, “I’d say only two girls more than twice since I’ve been here in the last two yeas. They are Mary Ann Mobley and Patti Chandler. I’ve dated several girls in the business whom I’ve met on the set and so forth, but nothing more than to take them to a special event. Usually, I don’t go to those things, and I don’t date that much.”
There are some in Hollywood who arch their eyebrows and suggest that when Lee is put to the test he is capable of not letting his right hand know what his left hand is doing romantically. But to hear him tell it, and he tells it most persuasively, his idyll with former beauty queen, Mary Ann Mobley belongs to the past – a casualty not to disenchantment, but to the cruel exigencies of a Hollywood career.
“Mary Ann and I had a few dates,” Lee says, “but at the time she was going on some many personal appearances tours that it was hard to get together. And then I started the series, and had very little leisure time.
“Patti and I can date frequently because she’s under contract to American International Pictures, her schedule is not impossible and she doesn’t do any outside work.
But unless Lee has a sudden change of mind – not to mention a major change of heart – marriage simply is not in his plans. (Lee has been wed before.) Not even to Patti, to whom he admits he takes a very special shine to.
“I think,” says Lee, “You have to be very mature to be married in this business, especially if one is in the business and the other isn’t. Even so I think the career comes first with an actor and can mean he has to devote more time to it if he’s going to get anywhere.”
Translation: Lee doesn’t think it would be a good idea to marry someone who wasn’t in the business. He actually doesn’t think it would be a very good idea to marry someone who was in the business. Further translation: It may be some time before he truly takes himself out of circulation. Lee is anything but arbitrary about it, however. He has his own good reasons, and he doesn’t mind sharing them.
“His (an actor who’s going go anywhere) home life is going to suffer,” Lee explains with sweet reasonableness. “He may not want it to, but it will. While doing a series, I don’t see how I could be married and have a successful marriage, or feel that I was even giving someone else enough time.
“You go to work at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning, but you don’t know when your day will end. You don’t have any days off. You go home and you are so tired you don’t even feel like talking to anyone.”
Now only a mangy, thoughtless cuss would inflict such barbarities on a girl by marrying her. And spreading hardship is not Lee’s aim in life. Whatever else a marriage-minded girl might find wanting, she would be hard to put to fault Lee on candor.
“I don’t think I could handle a marriage,” he says straight from his straight shoulders, and he says it not with the callous disregard of a journeyman roué, but as if apologising for some congenital inadequacy.
“I am driving for a career,” he goes onto explain, “and naturally I want to work on it and spend more time pursuing it. I have a responsibility to a lot of people who want me to make good in this business – my agent, my folks, the studio, the producers. I just don’t want to take on the responsibility of a marriage right now.
Moreover, Lee is frank enough to state that he can’t conceive of any girl putting him in such a spin that he couldn’t be happy unless he married her, whether it was sensible or not. “That is something I don’t think I could do,” he shakes his head firmly. “I have a very strange character. I’m my own best company.”
One thing about Lee. He just doesn’t toss of cracks like that and leave them floundering. He’s a quick and earnest young man with a for-instance. “Like where I live,” he says. “I can go out there for days and stay, and be very, very content and happy without anyone else ever being there. I’m happy by just doing little things, working in the corrals, horseback riding, listening to music, writing letters, reading books and whatnot.”
If all this leads anyone to suspect that he has a ranchful of defences against marriage, you’ll get no backtalk from Lee – one-girl guy though he stoutly maintains he is. “You know,” he says, savouring the thought with transparent appreciation, “freedom is the greatest thing in the world. If I felt like taking right off now to go deer hunting I’d like to be able to just go, without any discussion or apologies.
“I don’t think I could give a wife enough of me, really,” he reiterates. “I can change moods quickly, too. I really do. One minute I can talk your leg off, and the next minute I probably wouldn’t know you were in the room, or you wouldn’t know I was in the room. That’s why I say I’m not mature enough to handle it.
“In a marriage, if anything comes up in your mind you should immediately talk it over with the other person; let them know what’s on your mind. This I can’t do. I sit and ponder about it, and wonder about it, and try to figure it out on my own, and there is no communication. I don’t communicate very well.”
For a guy who puts himself down as such a poor communicator, Lee delivers his message very nicely i.e. baby, whoever you are; don’t get your hopes up too high.
Despite his doubt about his personal readiness Lee Majors thinks love and marriage in Hollywood - notwithstanding the town’s frequently soiled reputation in those areas – is quite possible, for others if not for him. The closest Lee comes to bum-rapping Hollywood is when he handicaps the women. Some of the local darlings, Lee is frank to state, leave much to be desired. But he states it tactfully.
“I’ve found that most of the actresses I’ve met are all very nice,” he says. “But there is a difference between them. Some of them get just a little bit above you – mainly, I guess, because they don’t know you and their head’s swelled a little bit. You know the type. And some of them wear too much makeup.”
Scarcely the kind of indictment calculated to touch off a congressional investigation or to send the WCTU reaching for picket signs. But it does indicate that Lee Majors can be finicky when he picks up a woman – just as if he was choosing horseflesh, one might say.
“The funniest thing,” he remarks like a visiting rubberneck. “I went to a restaurant in Beverly Hills called La Scala. It was the first time I ever was there. There was an up-and-coming actress, a very beautiful girl, sitting at another table. Every three or four minutes she’d have a small mirror in front of her and be straightening her hair and putting on lipstick. It went on throughout the whole two hours I was there.
“Now, this is the typical actress type I don’t like at all. On the other hand, take the two girls I’ve dated. Mary Ann Mobley – she’s friendly. You wouldn’t think she is an actress at all. Nor Patti Chandler either. She never wears make up. She doesn’t need it, she’s cute without it. She could possibly be very beautiful with it, but she doesn’t really care about that. She’d rather be natural.
“It’s just the put on part that some of the actresses do that I can’t take. I guess that’s why I haven’t dated some of them more than once. There are also some actresses whose every other word is darling, love, and what not. That just doesn’t ring true to me.”
But Lee, scathing as he may be in one breath, is just as magnanimous in the next. If it isn’t the standard equipment for a lady killer, he may single-handedly succeed in making it so.
“These people are to be pitied,” he says generously. “You’ve got to be sympathetic with them. You know, they need this kind of thing. I don’t. You have to learn to overlook a lot of things out here. You can’t really say anything about anybody because everyone is what they are for their own reasons. And you’ve got to respect their reasons, whatever they may be, and let them live their lives and you yours.”
Tolerance and understanding would appear to be hallmarks of Lee’s personality – whether or not these qualities are generally in evidence among devastating males who frequently are too busy beseeching tolerance for themselves to spare any for others.
Yes, Lee Majors is a guy to watch. He comes with impressive credentials – and legend attaches itself to him like lint on a blue serge suit. It is not to be dismissed as an idle testimonial when Barbara Stanwyck – who plays stepmother to Lee as the illegitimate son of her husband –touts him as the most exciting male find since she forecast stardom for two other unknowns who got their acting feet wet in pictures with her – a couple of heart thompers named William Holden and Kirk Douglas.
Even when the myth is separated from the reality, it appears that plasterville-by-the sea – always yearning for a new Gable, an exhumed Valentino or a reincarnation of Jimmy Dean – has latched onto a devastating new hunk of a man