My Boyfriend Richard Chamberlain By Clara Ray (Part 1)
To begin with, let me make one thing clear: Dick Chamberlain is the most important thing in my life.
And if he ever feels me inadequate to his needs he will have given me so much that I can still be his friend.
We go to the beach, we go to the theatre, we go to my house and have dinner. We listen to records. We're together every week-end. If it's possible to arrange anything during the week, that's topping on the cake.
Not long ago, I was taking care of my brother's children. My little niece is three, my nephew is seven, and we have a ball. They love to visit this little apartment of mine. Dick and I were going out that night. Dick phoned me after rehearsal and said he was on his way to pick me up.
So I said, "I still have the kids -why don't we eat here?"
He came over, and the four of us are sitting there having dinner, and in the middle of a bite Dick drops his fork and has hysterics. "Wouldn't the magazines love to have a picture of this?" he laughed.
We still kid about it.
He'll come up to the house calling, "How are you, Mother? Papa's here!"
How did we meet? It was in a tiny room at the studio of my singing teacher, Caroline Trojanowski. Seven or eight of her students were rehearsing for a Christmas programme. I had a solo, "Cantique de Noel," and I was giving it everything I had -but even so, I was aware of a tall, quiet boy in sneakers and a white dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves. He was quietly singing his part and I noticed he always stood in back of the others, not next to them, and I thought "Hmmmm."
The night of the Christmas programme I caught a glimpse of him backstage -so scared he was fit to drop. I wondered, what kind of singer is this? I'd been singing since I was five years old and I had no idea that some of the others weren't professional singers. Now, sensing this boy's tension, I walked up to him to talk a bit and put him more at ease.
But just then something very queer happened. I was wearing this green chiffon cocktail dress and I happened to glance down -and there were strange spots right across the middle of it! I let out a horrified scream. Someone had splashed paint on it.
I couldn't go on. I was in tears.
Dick said calmly, "It just looks kind of iridescent."
And he gave me a smile -well! -it was a smile that has melted TV audiences all across the country, only we didn't know it at the time. What I think happened was that I'd come up with a problem, so it made him feel a little better.
A few minutes later we were on. We did the ensemble stuff and then he sang his solo, "More I Cannot Wish You."
He just stood there with his hands quiet, and his voice -not really letting it go, but just enough so you knew how great it could be. And, the second it was over, he beat it out of there as if he'd been shot from a cannon.
It was a year before he asked for a date. This time we were rehearsing for a show. We'd finished rehearsal and then three or four of the kids would go somewhere to eat. I knew Dick was up to something because he was always running -he seemed to have been born in fast tennis shoes. I found out he was an actor -he was testing for "Kildare."
I also found out he was dating Vicki Thau. Myself? I was dating a man I'd been going with for five years -and I might have married him if my career hadn't pulled me away from him.
After the opening show, there was to be a cast party. Dick took another fellow and me in his little Fiat. As he slid in and out of traffic he asked me about an engagement I had coming up, and when I suggested that they come down some night and catch the show, he gave me a big surprise.
"Let's do that," he said to the other boy. "I'll arrange to get you a date."
Obviously he had a date -with me. He just took it for granted!
That double date never did come off. Just Dick came. He was working on "Kildare" by then and was caught up in a mad rush of activity -but he came to watch my show. I saw him from the side curtain, before I went out to sing.
Then I was out there, singing "An Occasional Man," looking down at him. He smiled and I just went limp. It dazzled me.
So that's the way it was. There are boy-girl relationships that are right from the beginning. Ours was -and we've changed each other's lives. We've had a profound effect on each other. Dick has lighted fire under me. He has a way of looking at me that demands action.
I've always been a little reserved, I've held in. This makes Dick furious. He thinks I haven't even begun to tap what he thinks I have. But he understands reserve because he's been reserved.
Dick always dreamed of acting but wouldn't tell anybody for fear they'd laugh.
Then, at Beverly Hills High, he did act, and his best friends told him he had no talent, he couldn't put himself over -and he believed them. Yet somehow he knew he had talent for something. He just had to find out for what.
The Chamberlains were a close family and they all loved him dearly, but he was "Little Dick" and he grew up conforming -outwardly -to everything they asked: to be nice, to be conservative, to avoid conflict. But he didn't believe any of it. He didn't know what to believe. He was searching for something -he wasn't sure what.
I guess the something was freedom -to be himself. Now he even screams when he wants to. When he boils over he'll walk into his dressing-room, slam the door and yell all the four-letter words there are. Then he'll come out, the script in his hand, ready for action -and smiling!
I will say, though, that as time's gone on, he's had to do that less and less. Because I was standing by. I was just there for him. I was there to talk to him, to understand him, to applaud him for trying to be himself. Not "Dr. Kildare." Himself -Dick Chamberlain.
Dick is amazing!
He's the boy who left a surprise for me in my car -I came out and found it literally filled with a potted plant. There was hardly room for me.
He's the boy who's one of the craziest twisters in town.
He's the boy who called m up one evening, when I had the ‘flu, and asked, "How would you like to do a small part on the Kildare show?"
I told him, laughing, "You're crazy -I can't act."
Then he read me the part.
I said, "Oh, I couldn't! You're out of your mind. I've never acted in my life."
But he convinced me it was nothing, and I could do it.
The closer it got to shooting, the more I was convinced -I couldn't do it!
I'd thought Dick was scared that night of the Christmas show, but you should have seen me on the "Kildare" set. I was so terrified my voice went up five octaves. I was supposed to be cute or something. We rehearsed once and the director said, "Okay, we'll try it with camera."
I'd never have made it without Dick. He helped me more than anyone -he just shut up and ignored me completely. He treated me like the most experienced actress in the business. But he was there.
And then, of course, afterwards -he doesn't say a lot, but when he says it he really gets to you!
Now I've caught the acting bug -he's done that, I'm not taking acting lessons yet, I'm too afraid -but I will. He'd never have told me I need them, but he's shown me, by little suggestions, bits of technique. I never knew there was such a thing as technique!
But acting is just one phase of it -what's important is that Dick's maturity has given me the confidence to mature. Sometimes we look at stills from the early "Kildare" shows and Dick was a kid compared to the man he's become.
Dick likes to think I remember things.
He came home from New York and he walked into my house, checked to see if I was wearing the diamond pendant he gave me; checked on the huge potted plant; checked the little Chinese lantern that he'd put up in place of the dinette globe -then went into the kitchen to check the dinner menu.
On his birthday I made him a cake -of solid concrete! We'd gone to dinner at a club, and twisted, and came home and I surprised him with the cake and a crowd of friends to eat it.
Oh, I surprised hill all right!
I don't know what went wrong with that cake, the recipe's been in our family for years. My brother can even make it. It's a big chocolate fudge thing -delicious and I didn't worry about it. Six eggs, a pound of butter, sugar, flour -I guess I didn't sift it. The icing was beautiful -but when Dick went to cut the thing it was like a rock!
He started to eat it anyway. I had to fight him to keep him from eating it. Luckily I had another cake. I'd bought it when I saw that this one didn't look quite right.
Anyway, Dick says I may not be the greatest cook, but he thinks I can be a star in show business. He's ambitious and he wants me to be ambitious. After the "Kildare" series is finished with, he'd love to try Broadway and he'd love for me to try, too. But whatever I do, wherever I go, it has to be as Clara Ray -not as Dick Chamberlain's girl friend.
Now I feel it would be very difficult to ever marry outside the business. If two people were in it, they'd know what it was like. It's no nine to five existence. If you' re working, you have to study, prepare. One thing Dick has taught me: consistent work is the only way to realise talent. Consistent work is the only way to make it pay off.
But, of course, a career isn't enough. No one thing is enough. If you hold too tightly to just one thing, you lose everything else. He's taught me this, too -that each of us attracts what we're ready for in this life. I believe that, with all my heart.