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I did not know Buddy Rogers well, but I have several vivid memories of him. I was hired by Matty Kemp to produce Buddy's prologue for the "My Best Girl" laser disk release of several years ago. The shoot turned out to be a minor nightmare because Buddy was not comfortable simply telling his story to the camera--he insisted on a script. Matty had "written" the script (which later turned out to have been largely "inspired" by words in Robert Cushman's book about Mry Pickford) and he insisted that the words be delivered as written. The wording was not conversational to to add complications, Buddy could not memorize the lines--so he insisted on using "idiot cards." The only problem with this was that his eyesight was no longer what it had been.
Anyway, we were scheduled to arrive at Pickfair lodge at noon and the crew gathered just outside the closed gate awiating the appointed moment. At the stroke of twelve the sound of piano came wafting from the house and the gates opened automatically.
As we entered his home, Buddy jumped up to greet us with great enthusiasm, and I must say as trying as the shoot was (both for us and for him), Buddy was never less than gracious throughout the afternoon.
After the shoot he invited us down to the bar (this and several other room he had literally transplanted from the by-now demolished Pickfair next door), chatted for a few minutes and then begged to be excused because he had to get ready for an engagement that evening--but we were welcme to stay as long as we liked. Of course, we left almost immediately.
Several months later one of Buddy's pictures was run at Cinecon. We invited him to come and speak, but he begged off saying that he had to get back to wife, Beverly, in Palm Springs. However, on the way down he did stop in just before the screening to say hallo to his fans. As he walked into the room he noticed the organ we had to accompany the silent films, and immediately sat down and played a few bars of the same tune he's played that afternoon at Pickfair Lodge! Then he said a few words--no more than a couple of sentences--waved to the crowd and off he went.
A couple of years later we had Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as a guest at Cinecon and Buddy came along. After the screening and Q&A with Doug, we went to dinner and in the course of the evening's conversation with his old friend, Buddy related that his male piano teacher in Olathe, Kansas, had made a pass at him, and this had upset him so that it ruined music for him the rest of his life. Despite the fact that Buddy had a successful career as a band leader in the 1930's, the aguish with which he dredged up this memory was entirely genuine and totally at odds with the polished and sometimes semingly rehearsed persona he presented to the public.
Buddy's accomplishments (and they were many) were so overshadowed by the accomplishments of America's Sweetheart that he was often dismissed as being "Mr. Pickford." However, his graciousness and generosity were unmatched in Hollywood, and as I write this I whisper a silent prayer to wish him well on his latest journey. -- Bob Birchard firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.mdle.com/ClassicFilms/Guest/birchard.htm