Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kim Novak

In 1955 two movies were released which grabbed me and would not let go. They were PICNIC and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. I was not so much impressed with the plot structures or the production values of these two films as I was with the female lead actress that appeared in both. Her name was Kim Novak. I fell immediately in love with Kim. This of course was 3 years before I met Gloria.

I was mesmerized and obsessed with Kim Novak. I thought she was the sexiest, most gorgeous woman I had ever laid eyes on. I was smitten.

I was in my third year with the Louisiana National Guard’s Anti-aircraft battalion. Each year we would embark by rail to Fort Bliss, Texas for 2 weeks of field training. The battalion comprised about 600 men.

In 1956 we were about 2 weeks out from our excursion once again to Fort Bliss for summer field training. I had shared my Kim Novak infatuation with some of my closest National Guard buddies. I was careful not to over-dramatize my obsession for fear of boring them to death.

Four days after our arrival at Ft. Bliss that year, my name was called out at mail-call. I got a letter. Because the envelop was pink and the embossed stationery lettering was gold, this drew the attention of many of my guard colleagues. “Hey, Leggio, that your girl friend?”, “Leggio got a love letter”, “Maybe it’s a dear John letter”, etc, etc. They crowded around me much like the sailors did when ENSIGN PULVER (Jack Lemon) opened a letter from MR. ROBERTS (Henry Fonda). I said “Hey, guys, this is personal.” 

The letter was from Kim. She told me of her upcoming film projects, wishing I could be there with her, etc., etc. One of the guys, unbeknownst to me, had been peeking over my shoulder. “Hey, guys, you won’t believe this. Leggio got a letter from Kim Novak!” Many said “No sh*t”, “I thought Leggio was bullsh****g us.” All hell broke loose. I have to admit that the attention and adulation I was getting was quite gratifying and ego-stroking. Within a matter of 30 minutes everyone in the battalion had heard about my letter from Kim Novak. I was overrun with masculine praise. I was “big man” on the post.

While I truly enjoyed the adulation, admiration and envy with which I was being showered, I began to have serious bouts of guilt.

My friend, Bill LaVallee, was now living in Hollywood and he was fast moving into the film and stage spot lights. I had shared with Bill my obsession with Kim and he too agreed that she was indeed a gorgeous woman; though he wasn’t smitten as was I. I suddenly had an idea. Since I had shared my Kim fantasy with members of the 769th Anti-aircraft Battalion, I fantasized with Bill about corresponding with Kim. Bill then offered a suggestion, which I jumped at. He said he could create Kim Novak personal stationery and write me a letter from Kim and send it to my Ft Bliss address. Man, that was tempting. After giving his suggestion some thought (about 2 seconds), I said OK. 

I never admitted to my National Guard buddies that they had been victims of a hoax. When 600 guys had formed this high opinion of me, phony as it was, how could I have shattered their collective vicarious Kim fantasies? This would have been cruel. Actually my real fear was having to run for my life.

To this day I occasionally have little pangs of guilt, but then I revive the memory and again relive the fantasy. It’s been just over 60 years now and sadly I have come to see more and more obituaries on many of these guys. But I appease myself with the reminder that I too was a victim of this hoax more so than the guys. Those still living can still enjoy reviving it. It was REAL to them. Maybe some may read this post. If so, I may have to deal with that. But my biggest regret is that I have no idea what I did with that letter.

My Kim obsession ended in late 1958 when I met my true love, Gloria. I was smitten again and have been ever since. The grainy picture of Gloria was taken some 3-4 months before we met.

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