A Day at the Golf Course...
As you all know, Christopher is an avid golfer, and during the time I worked with him he played in some charity tournaments, including one on March 9, 1979, at the El Rancho golf course in the vicinity of Beverly Hills, California. Having made the inimitable mistake of telling me about this open-to-the-public tournament, Christopher kindly suggested my Mom and I might like to attend. !!
We arrived about 11 a.m., parked three long blocks away (ah, to be young again, ha), and entered the clubhouse. The pairing sheet for the tournament indicated that a "Scott, Christopher" would be playing at noon. Christopher had said he would be playing at noon….incognito, it appeared, or somebody didn't know how to spell "Lee". We walked to the main house, asked around, got desperate as no one knew of a Christopher Lee playing today (??) and then Mom said "Isn't that him, over there beside Alan Hale, Jr."?
My Mom. I see the Captain from "Gilligan's Island", star of numerous other films (son of another famous actor, Alan Hale, who swashbuckled with Errol Flynn), and she just points him out like a Lee land marker. Well, she's a bit spoiled: she saw Clark Gable parked in his Silver Cloud Rolls in front of MGM when she lived near the studio in Culver City. And I also think she just acts more mature than I do when it comes to film stars…
Well, it was Christopher, carrying his red golf bag slung over his shoulder, and a grin on his moustache-accented face. My Mom had spoken to Christopher on the phone, but this was her first encounter in person. He was so very formally gallant, taking her hand and bowing over it when I introduced her to him, very old-world charming. Then he turned to me without a break and said "Can I have a dime, I need to call home." Ok, who yelled "cut" to that scene, eh?
Christopher didn't have any change, so I fished out a dime (yeah, a dime in 1979 got you a local call). "Please watch my bag, they'll disappear every time if you are not careful…" and I grabbed it as he dropped it on my toe, and I watched him dash off to the closest phone booth. My Mom was laughing behind me as I shifted the bag off my foot and tried to shake some feeling back into it. Christopher, my right foot is more flat than my left thanks to "The Move" and "The Golf Tournament"!
Back again, must get in some practice at the driving range…"see you on the first tee, ladies"…ahem, Mom, let's go get a Seven-Up, quick, my throat just went totally dry. Gulped that thing like it was going out of style while we watched him practice. Mom and I toured around a bit, watched Claude Akins hit a few (he played Teddy Roosevelt in Christopher's "Sherlock Holmes" 1991 films, as well as beloved Sheriff Lobo, and in dozens of TV/Film appearances…). We also watched Monty Hall, game show host….
We went off to sit at the first tee, and Christopher came up to us, smiled, checked out his clubs, and came over to chat a bit…seems they were a bit late starting, and he had 15 minutes, excuse me, I am going to go over and putt a few….left alone again, Mom and I watched a few teams tee off, then Christopher returned all ready to go…still time to kill. Plops down next to Mom on a bench after giving me his golf bag again, and talks about the crowds…generally bad, beer cans all over the place, noisy, spectators talking during the shots, people who wear heels on the greens and fairways… Mom sat and chatted with him like she'd known him for years, and with only 3 years difference in their ages, they had a bit more in common, so I felt like a kid eavesdropping on the adult conversation **grin**. And as usual, I was left holding the bag…
Finally, time to tee off….
Every hole, Christopher either came up to us and commented on his shots, or walked with us remarking about the bad lie of the ball he had, or that marvelous drive his female partner made (as I recall, it was an LPGA tournament, professional women with celebrity men). He did tell my Mom that this one female golfer had great legs…my Mom just chuckled, and I looked at him in slight shock….even after all the years of knowing Christopher, I never could get over how he could be so….uh….American in some of his comments, ha.
He'd moan with his bad drives, let out a hoot with the good putts, wave a bit if I gave him a "great shot, Chris" okay sign with my hand, and/or just shrug and then twist his moustaches slightly in true melodramatic-villainous fashion. He gave us insight into the game; it was called "scramble", where the man with the best shot is the lie for all the balls; i.e. if Christopher hits the best shot, all the players move their golf balls over to his position on the fairway, no matter what their lie is, and play from there. On the green, the first one to hole out, they just move on to the next green.
Christopher was such a trooper. His back was hurting him terribly during the tournament. He had a fused vertebrae in his neck, and a slipped disc (at that time if he twisted wrong it would pinch a nerve); twice he swung his club and stopped dead in the middle, the ball going a slight bit haywire and naturally his face would end up in a grimace. He said he'd needed to go back to the doctor for more corrective treatments; carrying voluptuous women around dressed in a mummy suit can be hazardous to your health. I know all of you reading this appreciate Christopher's acting, but you should really appreciate the stunt work he did in his Hammer days as he really has paid for it in back pain!
Mom grabbed a tree branch at one point and started swatting me on the backside with it while we were walking alongside one fairway with the group; Christopher came over and didn't say a word, just kept pace with us, watching with his head cocked to the side like an interested German Shepherd. Obviously wondering what exotic American ritual we were performing, he finally trudged back to the group, visibly shaking his head, but before he turned I distinctly saw a grin and heard him chuckling. The King with his court jesters…
After 9 holes, he said the two of us should stop and rest, or really not go on any longer (he's the one hurting, and he's worried about us!). Mom did decide to wait out the rest of the tourney at the clubhouse, but I asked if I could continue to follow him the back 9. I walked all 18 holes with him, joking, cheering for him; at one point he came up to me, staring demonically, and asked why I had NOT clapped at that last wonderful drive of his on the 12th hole??!! Scared me so bad I clapped even when he hit it into the trees. I think if he had fallen down face first into a sand trap, I would have been standing there clapping like an idiot, after being chastised like that: "Bravo, classic fall, Master!"
He and I did play "Under the Bridge" a few times when I held the sideline rope up for him to pass under…finally he mentioned the stick swatting by my Mom. I told him I seemed to be a target for that; his daughter had hit me over the head several times with an Egyptian Pharaoh poster given her when we went to the King Tut Exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum downtown. I remember his eyebrows raised a bit, but he said nothing.
I remember him asking if Mom was ok after the walk, she had looked pretty tired, and I said it's ok, she'll pass out when she gets to the clubhouse, and his reply was "Oh, dear!!!" and then he asked if I was going to make it. I said "being 21 means never having to say you're tired" (what a hokey comment!) and he replied "..or rather, having the tact not to let anyone know?"
Finished, we made our way back to the clubhouse…spotted Mom, walked with Christopher to his golf bags, put the cover on them, waited until he talked a bit with the people he'd played with, shook hands, said goodbye, and watched him as he came out the course main door.
Now, all of the contestants received special gifts, including a bottle of Crown Royal Whiskey and a lovely gold stand for the bottle. I yelled out "NOW I know why you enjoy these games so much!" and he, bundles in one hand and bag on his shoulder, let out one of his "HA!" laughs and shook his head at my Mom. He doesn't drink whiskey, he told me later. He sure was careful not to drop that bottle, though, heheheh.
We went home and I watched Louis Jourdan's TV version of "Dracula" which was being shown as a special that night. It was fair…ok, so I'm spoiled. My Mom said something about Christopher being a very nice man. Yeah, and Clark Gable was just a very nice man, too, and that's why she went nuts telling her relatively new husband about Gable when she saw him sitting in the Rolls outside MGM, all those years ago. It's all a matter of perspective.