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The occasion was a 1964 party for Emmy Award nominees and I was in Los Angeles on what turned into a working vacation while I was the TV editor at the Akron Beacon Journal. That is, I was headed for California, anyway, so the newspaper offered to extend my visit a week if I arranged a few interviews.

Publicists are always happy to cooperate. Unfortunately, I don't have any photographs to document the highlight of my California stay – which was lunch with Mary Tyler Moore.

The photograph I do have was taken at that party where celebrities were sitting ducks. I'm not sure why Andy Williams attended, but his can't-wait-to-get-out-of-here expression is understandable because such events are not unlike speed dating where you have five minutes to figure out if you've just met your One True Love. Only in this case the journalist appears amiable, but what he's really trying to do is extract enough information for a story.

Unfortunately for the celebrity, all journalists tend to ask pretty much the same questions, which can be sleep-inducing. Williams was pleasant, but this particular meeting produced no story and would have been forgotten except that a photographer came along and snapped a picture that was sent to me by the publicist. (My mother's reaction: "When did you start drinking?")

One thing I recall from the interview – though I don't know how the subject arose – was that Williams predicted stardom for Michele Lee, who had become a Broadway star in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," who would reprise her role in the film version. In 1964, however, Lee had only done one thing on camera, and that was a 1961 guest appearance on TV's "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." Williams' prediction for Lee had more to do with her singing than acting.

Another subject concerned an old rumor that Williams had dubbed the song, "How Little We Know," for Lauren Bacall in her first movie, 1944's "To Have and Have Not." Williams was a teenager then, singing in a group with his three brothers. I asked him about it and he told me he was hired to sing it, but that director Howard Hawks decided to stick with Bacall's version. Almost every account I have read since then supports what Williams told me. Bacall's version was almost the same, except she said Williams' voice was used on a couple of high notes she couldn't reach.

[NOTE: Andy Williams and his brothers appear on camera in a charming 1944 film called "Janie," starring Joyce Reynolds as an irrepressible teenager who defies her father and falls in love with a soldier. Through a mix up that would take too long to explain, Janie finds herself unexpectedly playing host to about 100 GIs at her parents' house. Williams and his brothers play GIS who show up at the party and sing. Based on this small sample, I'd say The Williams Brothers could have done very well for themselves had they remained a quartet.]

Andy Williams was the youngest of the singing Williams Brothers. After he went solo, he was part of an interesting rotation on Steve Allen's "Tonight Show" (1954-57). Four singers were used, but none appeared every evening. The others were Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme and Pat Kirby, the only one of the four who didn't later become a headliner in her own right. Lawrence and Gorme later married and became a team, though Lawrence also acted in several movies and television shows.

It was inevitable that after Andy Williams emerged as the most successful singer of the "Tonight Show" singers that someone would get the bright idea to make an actor out of him. In 1964 he starred with Robert Goulet, Sandra Dee and Maurice Chevalier in the movie comedy, "I'd Rather Be Rich." Goulet had had experience acting on the Broadway stage, albeit in musicals, but Williams clearly was lost trying to play someone other than himself. After that he concentrated on singing and hosting TV variety shows and specials.

 
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