HOW I GOT MY WIFE AND MY GIRL TO BE FRIENDS!
By Jane Moore / Motion Picture magazine / September 1966
I was sitting with Lee Majors in his dressing room, listening to the almost wistful reminiscences about his first marriage and its subsequent failure. He also spoke touchingly of his young son, Lee Jr., and there were, of course, numerous references to girlfriend, Patti Chandler. He seemed to be grappling with some unresolved conflict, as if he were still trying to reconcile the roles each of these people had played in his life. I couldn’t help wondering what might have happened if his dream of becoming an actor had borne fruit just a bit sooner. Suppose The Big Valley had occurred just one year earlier? He shakes that handsome blond head of his. “It wasn’t acting that had anything to do with Kathy and me, with the end of our marriage,” he says, “Probably our coming to Los Angeles made it happen more quickly, that’s all – the financial pressure and the loneliness especially. But we were really two different kinds of people.
“Kathy and I are friends now and it’s working out great. She calls me any time she needs something; I’m always here and I get her whatever she needs. She and Patti are also good friends; they even go shopping together. And we all had grand times when Kathy was living in Los Angeles. Lee Jr. is in nursery school now. He’s happy and things are all right. I can see him any time I want and I used to have him on weekends before they moved back to Kentucky. Patti is crazy about him and he’s crazy about Patti. Since he’s visiting this weekend we’re going to take him to Disneyland – Patti and I, with little Lee and Roy Thinnes… You know Roy? Well he and Lyn Loring, who goes with him, are taking Roy’s little girl, who is also 3 – so we’re doing a little matchmaking and the 3-year olds can have a blind date.”
He grinned amiably, but there is a seriousness and sadness about Lee I never understood before and do understand now. He wasn’t afraid of marriage when he was eighteen, but he was deeply hurt and he’s not over it, although the divorce was final in June of this year.
“It takes a lot to admit you are wrong and that you’ve failed without that failure being shameful. There’s nothing to be ashamed of – but I sure didn’t know it then. It was hard for me, because I somehow thought we’d make it. I guess each party always thinks it’s the other’s fault. It was Kathy who asked for the divorce – and it killed me. It hurt for a long time. It hurt so that I never want to think of marriage again. Right now. I just don’t think I’m capable of establishing a marriage. I just like my freedom too much. I really don’t think I want to be tied down again – ever. I don’t think I’ll remarry.
“You know how I feel about Patti. We have a great relationship. I’ve never known a girl like her; but I’m afraid if we married, the relationship would change. A terrible thing happens in marriage – you get possessive, as if you owned someone. Little things bother you, little jealousies. It isn’t that I don’t think good marriages are possible. My mother and father had a fine relationship and a happy home. It’s me. Until I’m sure I could retain the same feelings I have now, I won’t attempt marriage. It’s just not for me. I want to feel free to go anywhere I want. If I want to hunting or fishing, I go. And I want Patti to have the same kind of freedom. In marriage you lose this. At least I do. I know people for whom it’s possible, but I’m not capable yet of accepting marriage and granting freedom. Patti goes on p.a. tours, fine. If we were married, I’d say no. There’s something about that legal bind that changes everything, and it’s not for me.”
Essentially, this is a guy who takes marriage very seriously. He’s not the type of actor who falls in love every time he plays a love scene. Far from it. “I find love scenes hard work, not temptation. I’d sooner ride a horse or something. It’s hard to be warm with a girl you’ve just met. If you can just talk to them a little bit, get to know them a little, that helps.” He’s really a good deal more comfortable in his scenes with Barbara Stanwyck. “She’s like my second mother,” he says. “She straightens me out when I get out of line, helps me any time I need help in a scene. She told me in the beginning to feel free to consult her and I do just that. I know Miss Stanwyck pretty well now. I’m comfortable with her.”
Comfortable is what Lee Majors needs to be. He’s shy and still finding his way in the world. He loves horses – has two – and has found himself a new ranch near Zuma Beach which means about an hour and 15 minutes drive to the studio. But that’s okay with Lee, because he doesn’t go the Hollywood glamour route anyhow; he goes home and feeds his horses. The nights he works, Patti handles that chore.
There’s no one like Patti, and Lee isn’t afraid to say so. But when it comes to marriage…he’s just plain not ready. It carries with it a threat of possession, a threat of jealousy. “Probably I was terribly possessive of Kathy and she of me. Maybe that’s why it failed. If you are able to sit down and reason something out… But we weren’t. When she first mentioned divorce, I sort of went into shock. It was a shocking word to me. I don’t really want to even discuss it…”
The shock hasn’t worn off. The scars are still there. He’s not about to have children and have them lost to him. “I feel that marriage and children go together. And having little Lee meant a lot. He’s a real character, this little kid, and I love him. But I don’t feel an immediate sense of responsibility – because we don’t live together. I’m not with him as much as I should be, but that again is a matter of circumstance. Financially, I take care of him, of course, but I’d like to do more than that…”
This weekend he’ll have a ball with his son at Disneyland and Patti will be with them. She’s great with little Lee, and they’ll feel almost like family, but better than a family they’re free – that’s how it seems to Lee.
To Lee marriage means total giving of himself – every iota of strength, thought and love. He did it once. He did it when he was far too young and the burden was too great. But now he’s gun shy. Recently when he and Patti planned a weekend together, she had an unexpected TV show. She did the show and Lee took off by himself. “Maybe if we were bound to each other, she’d say: “I don’t want you to go. Please don’t go.” This way, we’re both free.”
But it’s hard when you see how sweet this Patti is and how uncannily she fits into his way of life, to stand fast and admit? Marriage is not for me, But Lee Majors is honest and he’s standing his ground. He’s not scared of much in life, but believe me, he’s sure scared of marriage.