We spent wonderful days together seeing everyone from Richard Burton in Hamlet to Sammy Davis Jr. and Lola Falana in Golden Boy. I hadn't yet been exposed to Shakespeare in school, so as a teenager, Hamlet was not easy to watch. Still, it was beautiful and spellbinding. I have never forgotten Richard Burton's massive presence on the stage. This was the first time I ever looked at an older man and thought he was sexy. Eileen Herlie, who I would end up working with years later on All My Children, played his mother, Gertrude. This particular production of Hamlet was done in all modern dress. I was speechless when Eileen crossed the stage in a full-length mink coat. She was an inspiration and so glamorous and elegant. On the way out of the theater, I somehow got swept away in the sea of people leaving the show. I was thrust up against a waiting limousine outside the stage door. My mother was trying to rescue me but was unable to reach my hand through the crowd. I turned to look into the window of the waiting car and there was Richard Burton sitting in the backseat with his arm around two young girls. I don't know why, but I thought one of them might have been Elizabeth Taylor's daughter Liza Todd. Mr. Burton looked so protective of those girls. He saw me peering through the window. We gazed at each other for mere seconds, but I was absolutely mesmerized by his very blue eyes. Although I wasn't so happy about being thrown up against his car, I was absolutely thrilled to have shared that moment with someone who was larger than life. When my mother took me to see Golden Boy on Broadway, I begged her to let me wait outside the stage door so I could catch a glimpse of Sammy Davis Jr. Even as a teenager, I recognized Sammy Davis as one of the greatest performers of all time. I wanted to wait so I could ask for his autograph. We stood outside that door for hours, but he never came out. As I turned to my mother to say that we could finally leave, Miss Lola Falana was standing right in front of me. I remember watching her dance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and now there she was! It was thrilling. I don't know why I always remember what people were wearing, but she had on jeans, an oversize crisp white man's shirt, and sneakers. She was absolutely gorgeous.
"You're Lola Falana!" I said. "I've seen you on TV!" I was a giddy schoolgirl.
She just looked at me, like, "Yeah, so?" And then grabbed my Playbill to sign it. She wasn't rude, just quick. It was in that moment and exchange that I said to myself, When I grow up and become a famous actress, I am definitely going to sign autographs! I would never forget what it was like to be the wide-eyed girl full of hopes and dreams.