This goes back to when I was new in New York City and did entertainment segments for WPIX TV on a local weekday show called "Best Talk in Town." Back then, in the mid 1980s, I was lucky. Many of the top talents from the Golden Age of Hollywood were still alive, many were still working in film and in TV show guest appearances, and they were available for interviews. That's how I had the the privilege to pass part of an afternoon at work with former 20th Century Fox movie star, Alice Faye.
When the camera was working again, she gave us one sweet interview. She talked about her benefit appearance. We talked a bit about her movie star heyday and her one career regret. In the 1950s, she and her radio star husband, Phil Harris, were offered the opportunity to do a sitcom -- like other show biz married couples Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, George Burns and Gracie Allen and Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Phil turned it down. She felt they could've had a hit TV series. She really wanted to talk about her fabulous friend, Don Ameche. He'd just been nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar thanks to 1985's Cocoon. She looked straight into the camera and declared, "He's got to win!"
I was pretty new then in my TV career. She'd become a Hollywood star when my parents were kids. Alice Faye survived Hollywood. I asked her for some advice. I never forgot the five words she gently said to me after a moment's pause: "Just don't expect too much." Through the years, I've come to understand the wisdom of that. Don't be focused on fame and fortune. Do the work. Enjoy the journey. Stay grounded. Especially if you have a fear of heights.
Don Ameche won the Oscar. I was lucky again. Mr. Ameche was a guest on my VH1 talk show to promote his excellent performance in the 1988 film, Things Change. Off-camera, I leaned over and told him what Alice Faye said about Darryl F. Zanuck. He let out a big laugh followed by how he loved that she never forgot her Hell's Kitchen roots. Before Alexander's Ragtime Band, Don Ameche, Tyrone Power and Alice Faye starred in a drama about a famous fire that devastated a big city. The movie was In Old Chicago.
Did you see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Elizabeth Taylor as Martha and Richard Burton as George? Well, in the first scene, after Martha munches a chicken leg, she can't remember the name of an old movie. He's stumped too. She mentions a movie starring "...little Miss Alice Faye." That's the movie Martha was talking about. She got the title wrong but she got the city right.