In 1965 Jerry Leggio designed the motion picture casting system for the Louisiana State Employment Service (today's Louisiana Workforce Commission). In 1969 he was awarded a State Science Foundation contract to Develop the Motion Picture Industry in Louisiana and In 1975 he led a multi-state committee to form the National Cineposium .
Jerry is the recipient of the 2014 ANNE PRICE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD in recognition of his pioneering efforts to grow the film industry in Louisiana.
It was November of 1957, a year before I met my wife, Gloria. I was on a date. I don't remember her name (doesn't matter) but I was beginning to feel sick (not because of the date). We had gone to a movie and now we were pulling into the parking lot of Rip's Huddle on Government St. near Foster Dr. I'm not sure it was Rip's (doesn't matter), but the location was correct. Rip's was a popular little bar with seating serving no more than 16 people at 4 tables. The word "little" does not begin to give justice to the description. It was "tiny". My date said "Wow, what a cozy little place. But I thought it would be full." There was no one else in the place except the bartender. My date was referring to the full parking lot. I explained to her that the bar was simply a front operation. In the back was where the real action took place ... illegal gambling. My sickness worsened and I had to apologize to her and take her home. I then went home (at age 22 I still lived at home with my parents). It was near 11 pm and my parents and brother were asleep. I looked for an Alka seltzer, but there was none to be found. My stomach was hurting worse and worse. I tried going to sleep, but to no avail. My stomach pain worsened. When I checked the time it was after 2 AM. Soon my mother awoke and came to check on me. I was writhing in pain. She awoke my father who also came to my bedside. "What did you eat tonight?" my mother asked. My dad asked "What did you drink?" I explained that I began feeling nauseous and weak before going to the bar and that we had gotten nothing in the movie theater. Near sunrise I could no longer take the pain. My mother said "I'm calling Dr. Thompson". Doctor O.M. Thompson was our family physician. Within 30 minutes Dr. Thompson arrived. Upon examining me he said "Boy, we've gotta get you to the hospital." I then asked "Do you have an Alka Seltzer?" He said "You're not going to get anywhere near an Alka Seltzer." My response: "But that's probably all I need." He said "Alka Seltzer would probably kill you." Gulp! Thank you, God, for not allowing me to find the Alka Seltzer! Back then the OLOL (Our Lady of the Lake Hospital) was in its original location just north of the state capital on Capital Lake. Today neither OLOL nor Capital Lake is still there. Upon arriving I was immediately put in a pre-op room and this lovely nurse came in with a straight razor and pan of hot water. She said "Hope you don't mind but I have to shave you." As attractive as she was I was not in any mood to discuss whatever she had to do. My pain level restricted me to just one word "Whatever". She proceeded to shave my lower abdomen. After the shave I was wheeled into the O.R. and an Anesthetist turned me on my side and asked that I curl up my legs to my chest (fetal position) as tight as possible. I was not crazy about having to contort myself while enduring intolerable pain, but I nonetheless complied. I was then given a spinal injection. The Anesthetist said that I was given about 15 minutes of anesthesia. A wall was then mounted over my chest to prevent my being able to watch my own surgery. The shot was a local allowing me to be conscious during the procedure. Dr. Thompson said that my appendix was seriously inflamed and would have to come out. I said "But why must it come out? The pain has gone away. I feel like I can go home now." With that insane assessment there were several giggles and titters coming from the medical personnel that were in the room. Dr. T said "You're feeling no pain because you've been given an anesthesia." I then felt what seemed like an icicle on my stomach. I said "Hey, Dr. Thompson, I am feeling something cold on my stomach. Are you sure I won't feel anything during the surgery?" He laughed and said "Boy, we've had you opened up for nearly 10 minutes now." My only response then was "Oh!" Anyway I was told later that the anesthesia affects all the nerves except the cold nerves.
In my euphoric anesthetic state I watched in awe via one of the surgical lamp reflectors. I could see a distorted view of the surgical activity. After a few minutes what I was seeing I was now beginning to feel. What's going on? I'm supposed to be pain-free during this procedure. After a few minutes more the pain had gotten increasingly unbearable. What's going on? Then I spoke up. "Hey, Doc, I'm feeling a lot of pain now. What's happening?" Dr. Thompson then explained that the procedure was taking longer than the 15 minutes of anesthesia was able to handle. I asked "Then why was I given only 15 minutes of pain-killer?" He said "Because we thought that we were dealing with a simple appendectomy, but we discovered that your appendix had ruptured, so we have to do a little more work." I said "Then can you give me more anesthesia? This is really hurting." He said "Not now we can't, but soon we'll sew you up and send you to your room." Crap! I was now gripping the mattress, the bed hardware, anything I could to help relieve the pain of this surgery. I could feel every tuck and pull. No fun! Soon the tuck and pulls subsided and I was being wheeled to post-op. Man, what an experience! I'd find out later that the surgery took nearly 45 minutes which meant I was not anesthsized for 30 minutes of that surgery. No fun! I was soon transferred to a room. For about 30 minutes I enjoyed the relief, then I began having those same pains again that had kept me awake all night. Now what's happening? I thought the surgery was going to fix me. When Dr. T came in a little later I asked about these post-op pains and he said that was gas and I would be having gas pains for a few days. He said I should just pass the gas, that it won't smell since it is really just air." What?! "You mean just fart?" He said "Yes." I said "But what if people are visiting me?" He said "You've had a very serious surgery. Passing the gas is OK. You may just need to explain to your visitors that you have to do this." Wow, how embarrassing! Over the next couple of days I was visited by family and a few friends. Then around day 4 of my recovery I was visited by a young lady I had dated several times. I think her name was Nancy. I was not going to pass gas (or air) while Nancy was visiting, so I held back. But the longer I held back, the more pain I suffered until I finally just had to ask her if she would leave the room for a few minutes. She did, then I did. Whew! A few minutes later she came back in accompanied by another visitor .... another young lady I had dated a while back. This was Dorothy (I think). I know, I know I should remember their names. But give me a break. It's been some 60 years ago. I could now see the tension growing between these two ladies. But not nearly the amount of tension my stomach was once again going through. I invited both to please leave the room for a few minutes. They left, I did my thing and I awaited their return. Didn't happen. They didn't come back. Hmmm! I wonder why. At that point I couldn't care less. I was alone and didn't have to invite anyone to leave the room.
Nine days later I was released to go home. Dr. T said my incision looked good (about 5 inches) and that I was not to exercise or do any strenuous activity for about a month. Wow, such inactivity was going to drive me crazy, but I complied .. at least for the first week. But then I got a call from state civil service asking if I would come in tomorrow morning at the Capital Annex for a job interview. I had applied to C.S. for a job with the Louisiana Division of Employment Security (today's LaWorks). The following morning as I was leaving the house my mother asked why I was so dressed up. "I have a job interview." With some justifiable concern she asked "Should you be doing this so soon after your surgery?" Attempting to put her mind at ease I said "Mom, I'm feeling fine. Dr. T simply asked that I not do any strenuous activity. An interview is not strenuous activity." So off I went to the appointed time of my interview with Mr. Clabo Roberts at the Capital Annex. After parking I made my way around to the front steps of the Annex. I had forgotten that the Annex had a lengthy stair entrance. Must have been 20 or 30 steps just to get into the lobby. The interview went well, I got the job and was to start on Monday. As I departed Mr. Roberts' office I began to feel a little whoosy. Upon completing my trek down those front steps I began to feel a wetness in the vicinity of my incision. Oh shit! Upon getting into my car I opened my vest only to be greeted by a pool of blood covering my shirt and pants. Seeing that image nearly put me out, but I managed to recover some semblance of control. I started the car and made it home. My mom said "Oh my God! You OK?" Not wanting to alarm her any more than she already was I said "I'm fine, Mom. Just a little bleeding, that's all." To which she responded "A LITTLE? I'm calling Dr. Thompson." He met us in his office and said "What have you been doing?" I explained that I had kept an appointment for a job interview. He then said "I've got to now clamp that incision. And this clamp will cause an adhesion." I asked "What does that mean?" He said "Your belly skin will adhere to your inner lining, the membrane that holds your organs." I asked "Is that bad?" He said "Don't gain weight. If you get too heavy and this adhesion breaks, you could bleed internally and die within a few minutes." Hmmm, yep, that's bad. I immediately set up limits on my eating habits. At the time I was around 180 pounds. I vowed not to go beyond 185 ... if at all possible. But then 1958 came and went, 1959, 1960, 1961 through 1967 and my body weight was now up to 205 and my gut hung over my belt. But then the Baton Rouge Little Theatre announced its summer musical choice for the forthcoming summer of 1968: CAROUSEL. Wow! I wanted to be, I HAD to be cast as Billy Bigalow, but not in my current physical condition. I immediately adjusted my diet and got my weight down to 185 again. And Gloria reminded me that the prospect of being cast in CAROUSEL may have saved my life. She reminded me of Dr. Thompson's admonition to watch my body weight or I could die. Wow! How could I have forgotten? But I had.
Anyway in the spring of 1968 Director Lee Edwards held auditions for CAROUSEL and of course I was there ... ready, prepared and determined. I had some pretty stiff competition and feared I might lose out, but after several grueling days of directorial indecision and vacillating, Lee finally called me: "Jerry, are you still interested in playing Billy?" Of course I was. But even before "Billy" my fortunes had changed. My dear friends from my "HIT OF MISS" days had all decided to go to either New York or Hollywood and begged me to join them. But I had just met Gloria, my future wife, and told them I was going to stay in Baton Rouge and bring Hollywood here. How I was going to do that I had no idea. But then my fortunes began to change in my favor. My new job with the Louisiana Employment Service came through for me. In 1960 my boss, the late Charles Densdorff, said "Jerry, since you are a theatre person, I'm assuming you wouldn't have a problem assisting visiting motion picture producers with their casting needs." And of course I didn't have a problem. That saga continues with my Raymond Burr link. Then in 1966 my good fortune continued. I was now on the payroll of GSRI (Gulf South Research Institute) and this story continues with my Otto Premingerlink. Then the adventure that closed the deal was John Wayne. After nearly 50 years these events culminated into an event of recognition I will cherish the rest of my life. The LIFF (Louisiana International Film Festival) had decided to recognize the now late Anne Price who had been the ADVOCATE news paper's Arts and Entertainment editor for over 6 decades. In 2014 The LIFF committee created the ANNE PRICE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD and to my great surprise and gratification decided that I should be their inaugural recipient. I was speechless. And still am.
Because our Plymouth Belvedere (see my Plymouth Belvedere post) was essentially rotting, I was able to sell it to an insurance salesman who said he only wanted it for going fishing...a likely story. He was a really nice guy, but no one at GSRI bought any insurance from him. So OK, let's assume he needed a car for "fishing." I let him have it for $300. Since all my GSRI friends knew I was in the market for a replacement, the auto sales husband of one of our urban planning researchers was summoned. His name was Don. Don was truly expert on the automobile economy and when I told him that I simply needed dependable transportation, he delivered. A couple of days after our initial meeting he drove up with this awful looking black beast (1964 Mercury Montclaire) and said "No, Jerry, this is NOT a joke. This is truly a dependable car." He said "Here, take it for a test drive down GSRI Ave." Now GSRI Av offered about 7500 feet of straight, low volumn pavement which had a reputation for allowing itchy racing enthusiasts late evening speed thrills. So I agreed to test drive the Montclaire. I opened it up, getting up to 95 MPH before coming to the end of that stretch. That was a "WOW". The car had power, great pickup and this little brief test was smooth sailing. Without consulting Gloria I agreed to buy it for the asking price of $450 (a great deal). I did ask Don why it was selling so cheaply. He simply said "...because it was so ugly no one wanted it." That satisfied me. When I brought it home, Gloria's first reaction was "What is THAT?" I briefed her about the excellent condition the car was in and the great deal I got to which she responded "You're kidding!" I said "No, it's in great shape". She said "I didn't mean THAT, I meant are you kidding about having ALREADY PURCHASED IT?" Gulp! Ofcourse I wasn't kidding and it did no good to show her how ingeniously this car had been designed -- the rear roll-down window which enabled the under dash manual vents to draw in cool outside air and not least of which was our ability to carry lumber or ladders through that rear opening. Again she said "You're KIDDING!" Another gulp. Footnote here: "We're still married." With great reluctance Gloria finally settled into acceptance, but not without occasional reminders about how extremely ugly it was. Friends at GSRI referred to my Montclaire as a "Batmobile". I kind of liked that "alias", but Gloria would only utter "You're kidding!" She reminded me that THAT vehicle was mine and she hoped not to ever be seen in it.
Fortunately she still drove and still loved her little 1960 VW Beetle. I'll have to admit that she was cute as can be in that little bug. She loved it. She especially loved being able to do a U-turn inside one lane. She could manuever that little beetle in and out of traffic like a real pro. She did admit one time that the Montclaire served us well one weekend when we went to Lowes for some lumber. She had to admit that the rear roll-down window came in really handy. But she still stuck with her assessment: "But it is still ugly."
Then one evening in late 1978 an event occurred and Gloria crossed her fingers. As president of the Capital Area Personnel Association, I was enroute to our monthly meeting and had picked up my secretary Lisa (also a member of CAPA). Lisa lived about 4 blocks from me. While driving down Country Club drive I was suddenly hit by a car on my right that was backing out of its driveway. The collision pushed Lisa practically into my lap. My right front door was severely caved in. No one was hurt, thank God, but my beloved Montclaire was seriously damaged. When the police arrived, it was readily established that the elderly lady who backed into me was 100% at fault. I felt very sorry for her. She kept saying "It was all my fault. I thought I was putting on the brake, but instead I was putting on the gas." Fortunately the only damage was that door. The door posts were unharmed which turned out to be a stroke of good luck as I would learn later that my car would probably have been totalled had a door support been hit. But nonetheless there was no way to open or close that door. That's when Gloria crossed her fingers...not in the hope of getting it fixed, but quite the contrary ... maybe this will be the beginning of the END of the Batmobile. The dealership said they would try to find a junk yard door since the manufacturer no longer made parts for this model. Gloria's fingers crossed even tighter. After weeks of trying to locate a worthy junk yard replacement, the dealership said there were no junk yard copies available now and that since this model was so rare I might not ever find a replacement. Hmmmm! Bad news. And worse yet was the fact that my inspection sticker was soon coming due. Gloria lit up. She assumed this meant that the Montclaire would finally be junked. How wrong she was. I was determined to keep my precious Montclaire and to get it fixed ... somehow. Then one weekend on one of our oft travelled picknicking visits to St. Francisville's Oakley Plantation, my oldest child, Jerry III, said "Hey Dad! Did you see your car back there?" Jerry knew that I was hoping to find a door for my car. Of course we were in my Montclaire at that time since Gloria's VW would have been too small for such an outing. "What do you mean 'my car back there'" I responded. Jerry said "There was a green version of this car back at that Texaco station." I said "Really? Please remind me to stop there on our way back." Seeing a Mercury Montclaire anywhere was a rare sight. Later that evening on our return from Oakley Plantation, we stopped at the Texaco which was not open since it was a Sunday. I got out and closely inspected that green Montclaire. Jerry was right. It was indeed a green version of my car and the good news was that it had obviously not been driven for quite some time. I wrote a note and put it on the windshield. Gloria asked "What did you put on the note?" I told her that I didn't want the owner to think I was desperate, but simply said: "Interesting car. Does it run?" I left my office phone number. By Wednesday of the following week, having not been called by the Texaco station, I decided to call. The nice gentleman who answered admitted that he had not even seen the note since he seldom had occasion to look at the car. He said that the car was "payment" for repair work he had done for another of the car's owner's other vehicles. He then said that it had been just sitting there for nearly a year. He then asked "Are you interested in it?" Not wanting to appear desperate, I simply said I was intrigued with that car's design. "Any interest in selling it?" I asked. He resolutely said "No way!" Of course I was not happy with that answer and was quite surprised at his apparent inflexibility, but decided to bid him farewell. While returning home Jerry asked "Why didn't you make him an offer?" I said "He has my number. I'll wait him out." My "wait" bore no fruit. So the following weekend we made another picnicking trek to St. Francisville. On our return I pulled into the station and put another note on the windshield. This one simply said "$75" plus my office phone #. The next day (a Monday) and the next (Tuesday) I received no call back. On Wednesday I was about to call him when my phone range. It was him, the Texaco guy. He said "You'll give me $75 for that car?" Upon hearing me say "Yes" he proceeded to tell me about all the car's imperfections. Though I had closely inspected the car's right front door, I simply asked "Any body damage?" He said that the trunk's lock was broken because he didn't have a key and needed to get into it. This little flaw was no problem for me. I told him I'd bring him $75 before the end of the week. He agreed. In the meantime I got in touch with my friend, Jim Davis (now deceased) who ran his own body shop. I told Jim about my need and Jim asked if I needed to keep the green car after he had installed and painted the "new" door. He agreed to do the job in exchange for the green car. I agreed. My insurance allowed free towing, so I had the green car towed to Jim's shop. The tow truck's driver simply put "1964 Mercury Montclaire on the ticket" which allowed me to get reimbursed by my insuror. I asked Jim if I could strip the green car of anything after he had completed the job and he said yes provided I didn't take the wheels or the tires. Agreed. Jerry and I went to Jim's shop with tools and took odds and ends from the green car including a right side visor which my black Montclaire needed. I also salvaged some really nice floor mats, a better bumper jack and a heavy duty lug wrench. After having received $450 from the insurance settlement, I found myself ahead by $375 plus the salvage items. I felt no quilt for this gain. After all I had to continue using the Batmobile in that condition for nearly a year and had to listen to more of Gloria's admonitions. These little inconveniences were certainly worth something. Gloria was not impressed with our little salvage "prizes" though she was happy that we could now replace that ratty visor. And she never said "You're kidding." But one day after loading the VW with groceries from Krogers, she pulled into the driveway when suddenly the VW's engine compartment caught fire. I was not at home, but she explained that she quickly asked our number 2 son, Mike, to come out and help her get the groceries out of the car. She may lose the car, but she damn sure wasn't going to lose her groceries. But while she got the groceries Mike got our garden hose and started spraying the engine compartment until the fire was out. But this was now the end of her precious beetle. Gloria was broken-hearted. In consoling her I felt as if we had lost a family member. My mother's health was declining and Gloria made daily 3-4 hour visits to help her with her medical and personal needs. Mom allowed Glo the use of her 1973 Buick Centurion.
In 1981 my mother passed away. She died intestate and my brother agreed to let us keep the Centurion. But Gloria still missed her VW. That was her baby. One day when Gloria was about to run an errand in the Centurion she noticed a long scratch on the right side of the car. Because our daughter, Felicia, had recently used the car, Gloria asked her about the scratch. Felicia said she didn't know about it. Our other kids had not used the car and also didn't know about the scratch. She re-interrogated Felicia further who then paused with obvious contemplation and said with what appeared to be feigned surprise "I may have hit a bus." To which Gloria said "YOU MAY HAVE HIT A BUS?" Felicia said she had made a left turn off of Perkins as a city bus was also turning left in the approaching on-coming lane and the bus "may have hit her during the turn." Gloria said "Well, did you stop and was the accident reported?" Felicia said "No because I wasn't sure he had hit me." Gloria told her that that was a hit and run, but Felicia reminded Gloria that she hadn't done the hitting, that it was the bus that "hit and ran." Wonderful logic. Anyway, the scratch, while unsightly, did not hamper the car's performance, so that issue was permanently put to rest. A few months later Felicia called us with the news that she had accidently backed into a landscape planter when leaving a night class she was taking at LSU. Crap! So Gloria and I went to her rescue and sure enough there was the Centurion with its rear wheels stuck in a landscape planter. "Felicia, how the hell do you manage to accomplish this?" To which she tearfully replied "I was just backing out of this parking slot and wound up in this planter." After calling a tow service from a pay phone and getting the car pulled free, Gloria cut her no slack and insisted on driving the car herself. We were in my Montclaire. I waited until they were clear of the parking lot, but as Gloria proceeded to the lot's exit, boom, she also went into a planter. Another call to the tow. Felicia didn't say a word and Gloria turned crimson with embarrasment. Nothing more was said about Felicia's driving.
In 1988 I took full retirement from GSRI and was allowed, as part of the retirement settlement, to assume ownership of one of GSRI's fleet cars, a 1978 Pontiac Bonnaville along with a computer and several nice pieces of office furnishings. Since I now had another "less ugly" car, it was now time to find one for Gloria. While the Centurion was dependable and comfortable, Gloria really wanted something smaller and more maneuverable much like the VW had been.
Then in 1988 we found this 1986 Honda Accord. She fell in love with it. We bought it and Gloria's distaste for and resentment of having to be seen in or anywhere near the Batmobile quickly dissapated. I could now relax since she had a very satisfactory replacement of her beloved VW Beetle. Since I now had the Pontiac I gave the Montclaire to Felicia. And so now we swerve into another Batmobile saga. One afternoon I get a call from Felicia. "Daddy, can you come help me out?" "How do you mean 'come help you out'"? "I just had an accident." After establishing that no one was injured I went to the scene of the accident. Upon arriving I saw this police officer surveying the collision and while scratching his head he said "This car (meaning the Montclaire) just ran into the rear of this car (a brand new Chrysler New Yorker) and this car (the Montclaire) has no damage at all, but this one (the New Yorker) is probably going to be totalled." I proudly directed his attention to the Montclaire's front bumper which was about 200 pounds of heavy chrome steel.
The rear of the New Yorker was a combination of plastic and what appeared to be particle board. Hmmm! He became a believer. A few weeks later, upon seeing a scratch on the Merc's front bumper, I asked Felicia about it. She said she was driving down Woodside Dr to the house when this US Postal Service vehicle suddenly backed out of a driveway and hung itself up on the front of the Merc. I had a flash-back to "YOU MAY HAVE HIT A BUS?" So I asked "Did you report it?" She said "Oh no, it was just a scratch. I didn't want to get the poor guy in trouble with the postal service." Felicia has always had a generous heart. All I could think of was how very fortunate the bus driver and the poster worker were. Upon the turn of the century in 2003 my precious Bonneville was slowly becoming a disappointing replacement of the Batmobile as the decorative detailing strips on both sides of the vehicle began to peal and hang loosely. The car's finish began to discolor and fade, the driver door could not be opened from the outside and Gloria once again began with her "you've got to be kidding" chastisements. But then to her great relief one night she returned from the Baton Rouge Little Theater where she was and had been the production manager for several years. She came to the bedroom and asked "where's your car?" To which I responded "What do you mean?" She said "it's not in the driveway" I went outside and my Bonnaville was gone. When I looked behind the hedges, she said "What are you doing?" Realising that my search was useless and that it could not possibly be "behind the hedges" I said "It's got to be out here someplace." She said "Why would you think it might be behind the hedges?" I felt stupid, but I was certainly not amused. Upon spotting some broken glass under the spot where the car's driver door had been, I called the police to report my stolen car. The next day I was visited by a very nice policeman who said that my car had been found. It had been abandoned at the end of Yazoo St. near I-10. He said it appeared to have been taken by a "joy rider." He showed me the wiring harness saying this damage will probably result in your car being totalled. The car had not been locked, but because the driver's door would not open from the outside, the thief broke the window to gain access. Had he tried one of the other three doors he would not have had to break that window. His action just further confirmed that street criminals are dumb asses. The officer was able to start the car for me, then he followed me to my car repair shop (Nolan Boudreaux) on N. Leo drive. I thanked the nice officer and Nolan said "Jerry, it will cost more to repair than the car is worth." This statement confirmed the officer's earlier presumption. My insuror, State Farm, gave me a choice: I could keep that car and they would write me a check for $1100 or they could take the car and write me a check for $1300. I settled for the latter.
I was able to to use that settlement as a downpayment on my current 2001 Saturn. While the Saturn can certainly yield a worthy sequel to this Batmobile saga I think I will refrain from that temptation for the time being. After all isn't enough enough? But I do thank you, the reader, for getting this far. And if you are truly starved for more automobile stories then I suggest you link to these: