THE COUPLE THAT SWINGS TOGETHER
February 1966 / Movie Life
The guy has that “something’s about to explode quality” about him. And the girl has “a small touch of everybody’s kid sister in her.” They’re Lee Majors of ABC’s Big Valley and Patti Chandler of AI’s Bikini Party in a Haunted House. They are a couple who swing together “steadyishly,” but in a most unusual fashion.
Patti’s dates with Lee are usually spent on his desolate ranch in a canyon near Calabasas, California riding through the surrounding mile upon mile of barren scrub country, with Patti on her graceful Tennessee walking horse, Squire, and Lee on his thick-necked roping steed, Red.
When Patti’s not at the ranch, rugged Lee sends her 13 yellow roses every single day. Is she in love with him? “Let’s just say,” she replies evasively, “that I’m a sucker for flowers.”
But Patti’s eyes betray her. And Lee Majors? He’s seeing less and less of Patti’s “kid sister touch” and feeling more and more of his “about to explode” quality. There’s more than horsemanship involved here, and it pretty much got underway one morning, not too long ago, when neither Patti or Lee had shooting schedules. Patti was expected out at the ranch. Lee stared out of the window, waiting impatiently for a sign of Patti’s bright red convertible.
Beginning to worry, he dialed her.
“What happened? Oversleep?” Lee asked when Patti answered. “I expected you out here more than an hour ago.”
“I just don’t feel like the ranch today, Lee. I called but nobody answered.”
“I must have been out saddling up Squire and Red.”
“Well, unsaddle them,” Patti told him. “And just for once why don’t you come into town?”
Lee rambled up to Patti’s house just a little before eleven, greeted her German Shepherd, Duchess, her hound dog, Scroochie, her burro, Julie, her poodle, Bridget, her racoon, Shis, and her South American boa constrictor, Mickey.
Formalities over with, Lee and Patti took off for the park, picnic lunch in hand.
They crossed the wide green mall where several boys were playing baseball.
“Hey, I’d like to get into the game.” Lee perked up.
“Never mind the game. This park happens to have the grooviest swings in the entire state of California.”
“Swings? You’re kidding! I haven’t been on a swing since I was 6-years old in Kentucky.”
“Well, it’s about time then, isn’t it? Patti yelled, running across the mall and into the enclosure, plunking down into one of the strong canvas seats, lifting her feet off the ground, and sailing into the fresh air.
Lee ran after her and leaped the fence over to the swing enclosure.
“Come on in. The water’s fine,” Patti laughed.
He finally accepted her invitation, but not without mentioning how foolish he felt.
“I think the reason you hide away up at that ranch of yours is because you’re so darned self-conscious.”
Lee began to settle into the swing, but his feet, in suede boots, were fixed firmly on the ground.
“Did Sugarman ever swing?” Lee teased, referring to Patti’s short-lived romance with Ann-Margaret’s ex-boyfriend, Burt Sugarman.
“He just kind of stared the way you were doing.”
“And Aaron Kincaid?” (Another extinguished flame of Patti’s.)
“He leaned on the fence and talked about surfing.”
“How many other fellas have you brought here?” Lee questioned.
“Do I ask you who comes out to the ranch when I’m not there?” Patti said, gaining momentum again. “You know,” she yelled down, getting higher and higher, “I haven’t taken anyone else here since I met you!”
Just about then, a crowd began to gather about the two adult-looking kooks on the swings, and some of them recognized them as Lee Majors and Patti Chandler. Lee blanched. His whole image shot to hell.
“Let’s get out of here, Patti!”
They left their lunch, ran over the mall, and zoomed off in the car.
“You know, Patti said, after she caught her breath from the run, “that was my acid test.”
“Your acid test? What do swings have to do with acid tests?”
“I don’t know yet, exactly what I want in a man, she said, “But there’s one quality he has to have. A kind of childlikeness. You know, enjoying crazy, nutty kid things. And I don’t know another actor in Hollywood who would have just done what you just did.”
“And I don’t know another woman who could have inspired me to do it,” Lee said. “Now what do you say we drive out to my ranch and take that ride we were supposed to?”
Acid test passed, Lee put his arm around Patti and they headed west – for Calabasas.