Several celebrity stories didn’t make it into The Bastard of Beverly Hills. Too many to count! But since they didn’t propel the narrative forward, they were left on the cutting room floor. However, here are a few anecdotes from some of those stories for fans of the book, or just the curious, that I couldn’t help but share. Starting with one about “Uncle Milty” Milton Berle.
#1 Milton Berle Was Big
You might be unfamiliar with this MC of yesteryear, but he was a legend in the TV business. He was also a comedian and, like Pete Davidson, known for his… other “qualities.” I learned about the size of his, uh, personality while talking to his last wife. In the middle of our conversation, she just blurted out that “the rumors were true.” It was unsolicited, but now I know why he always had that smile on his face. Milton Berle has been in my life in one way or another since the beginning. He nurtured my grandmother’s talent, the singer Mary Small in the 1930s and was a friend of our family for the next five decades. He would be 114 years old today!
#2 Dorothy Lamour Was A Stunner
One of my father Raymond’s favorite actresses growing up was Dorothy Lamour. He was ecstatic when he first met and got to know her, and it was quite a thrill for a kid from Seattle who would have never imagined forty years after watching the starlet at the Fox theater that he’d be sharing a dinner table. The “Road To” series of films she starred in also often featured Jerry Lewis, who was a tremendous philanthropist, but according to my mother, a real jerk. During casting for a film he was working on with Dean Martin, he singled out Mom, apparently saying the nastiest things in front of all the other extras. Dean Martin had to step in and force him to apologize to her.
#3 Jay Bernstein Carried A Shtick
Jay Bernstein was the press agent for Michael Landon, probably the biggest agent of his time, and became a close friend of our family as well for many years until his death. He probably learned a lot of what he knew from Warren Cowan, also a friend. I recall that Jay was a player and always had a beautiful woman on his arm. He was at my Bar Mitzvah, which is where this photo was taken.
#4 Joan Collins Was Down To Earth
We were introduced to Joan Collins when Mom was married to Tony Roma, whom I talk about in the book and I’ve blogged about, but their friendship continued beyond the short-lived marriage to the chef for some years. A glamorous and very nice lady, she was the antithesis of her character in Dynasty. When Mom went out to dinner with her, fans would often mistake her for Linda Evans.
#5 Fernando Allende Could Sing
The Moscatels were great friends with the Mexican singer and soap opera star Fernando Allende way back in the day. He hosted the Moscatels and the Landons at his estate when they’d visit Acapulco. She ran into him a few years ago at an event where this picture was taken alongside Beverly Cohen, owner of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.
#6 Elgin Baylor Had Mad Skills
My father always said that Elgin Baylor was the greatest basketball star he had ever played against. They had matches up in Seattle back in the 1950s and rekindled their friendship when Elgin took the General Manager position with the LA Clippers under Donald Sterling, whose story is included in my memoir.
#7 Red Buttons Held Court
Red Buttons, like Joan Collins, was another celebrity we got to know through Tony Roma, although Mom ran in the same social circles with him for years afterward. He was a tremendous talent, both a comedian and an actor. I describe a strange run-in with him and some of Tinseltown’s other greats at the Polo Lounge in the final chapter of my book, The Bastard of Beverly Hills.
# 8 George Burns Was A God, And A Devil
George Burns, the cigar-chomping, martini-slamming icon, was a pretty familiar face in Beverly Hills. He’d walk down the street sometimes and wave at my friends and me. I think he may have lived on Maple drive near the Mindel family. I had no idea that Mom and Dad partied with him until years later when I found this picture of him and some other very famous folks around him. If you know who they are, please leave their names in the comments!
#9 Mr. T. Was My Hero
Growing up in Beverly Hills, you get used to seeing celebrities, but nothing could have prepared me to meet my childhood hero, Mr. T., whom I ran into just last year while in Los Angeles. My folks also had an A-Team, a story which I documented in the book and can also be seen on my YouTube channel.
#10 Olivia Newton-John Liked To Party
We met Olivia Newton-John through Pia Zadora, whom I discuss in the memoir. I actually didn’t know who she was when I took this picture with her circa 1990. I discuss this encounter in the book, but I don’t mention her by name. See if you can find out what chapter!
#11 U.S. Senator Alan Cranston Was Slick
This photo was taken at my home while Jerry Brown was running for Governor of California for the first time in 1975. I write about the Governor and my parent’s role in getting him elected in the memoir. However, I use a composite of Cranston in the scene earlier that takes place in Vegas with Michael Landon and Dad. See if you spot it in the book!
#12 Joe Franklin Pioneered The Talk Show
Joe Franklin was a pioneer in the talk show business and revived many careers for one last hurrah on his show in New York. I had the chance to collaborate him when I made a short documentary on my grandmother, Mary Small, called The Little Girl with the Big Voice. You can watch it on iTunes.
RAFAEL MOSCATEL is the author of the best-selling business book series Tomorrow’s Jobs Today and director of The Little Girl with the Big Voice, a critically acclaimed documentary. His third book, The Bastard of Beverly Hills, a memoir about hope, forgiveness, and redemption, will be published in 2023.