Everybody’s favorite (and most fabulously tanned) “Dancing” alum has just published his memoirs….
By BOB THOMAS
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES — The recent spate of male movie stars writing their life stories — including Tony Curtis, Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner — offers something that would have been verboten in their studio years: sex, sex and more sex.
Now, George Hamilton joins the tell-all trend with his memoir, ”Don’t Mind If I Do,” in which he writes about losing his virginity when he was 12 his stepmother. And that’s just for starters. Other exploits described in the book involve such notables as Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren, Judy Garland and Danielle Steel.
The autobiography, which was written with celebrity author William Stadiem, begins with Hamilton’s adventures on ”Dancing With the Stars.”
”When I heard it was a ballroom dancing show, I wasn’t very interested,” Hamilton said in an interview at his pied-a-terre high above Westwood. ”But my agent said it was an important show, so I agreed.”
During a yachting trip to the Bahamas, Hamilton fell down a flight of stairs and broke four ribs and damaged a knee. He was warned by a doctor that if he fell again while dancing on the show, he would puncture a lung. He tried to back out of the gig but was persuaded to try one appearance.
”I decided to make the dance a little movie, with myself as Fred Astaire,” he said. ”The audience loved it, and the judges couldn’t get rid of me.” He lasted six weeks before getting the hook.
Hamilton turned 69 in August, yet seems youthful, except for a swath of white hair above his forehead. He looked athletic in dark pants and shirt, the top two buttons loose. His face was unlined and, of course, bore the Hamilton tan.
”It’s so sad that I parlayed tanning into a career,” he said with a slight smile, facetiously referring not only to his enduring Hollywood persona, but also a successful chain of tanning salons. ”It (began) in Palm Beach when I was in prep school. … After the second day at the beach, I got a lot of attention. Somehow it came to me that I looked better with a tan.
”I can tan quickly. What takes people hours to do, I can tan in half an hour.”
The central figure in ”Don’t Mind If I Do” is Hamilton’s biological mother, whom he describes as ”incredibly beautiful, a real charmer, the ultimate Southern belle, irresistible to men.” The mother (not to be confused with Hamilton’s stepmother) had three sons and multiple marriages, and was repeatedly on the move.
During one period, she took the boys to Hollywood, where she sought a movie career. She didn’t have much luck, but she formed a liaison with Charles ”Buddy” Rogers. It was a relationship that lasted for years, Hamilton said, even though Rogers was married to Mary Pickford.
Hamilton himself came to Hollywood on a lark as soon as he finished high school in Palm Beach. Some of his fellow graduates were making the trip, and they invited him along, so he came out ”just for fun.”
”I had $90 in my pocket,” he remarked, ”and I paid $90 for four photographs to show the studios. I didn’t have much luck.”
Finally he landed the leading role in a cheap version of the Russian classic ”Crime and Punishment.” The picture cost $90,000 and Hamilton was paid $1,800.
”I couldn’t get a job because nobody saw the movie,” he said, referring to the fact it wasn’t immediately released. ”So I went off to South America to become a bull fighter. While I was there, ‘Crime and Punishment’ was released and got rave reviews. MGM saw it, and my agent told me to come back. MGM wanted to sign me to a contract. It paid $500 a week.”
Hamilton was cast in ”Home From the Hill,” which starred Robert Mitchum and Eleanor Parker, followed by a youth picture, ”All the Fine Young Cannibals.” With his career flourishing, he demanded and was awarded $1,000 a week.
As his fame grew, Hamilton became noted for squiring screen beauties, notably Elizabeth Taylor. They still remain friends.
”We talk a lot, but she doesn’t go out much,” he said. ”The last time I saw her, she was in a wheel chair. I have a good relationship with Elizabeth. She is an extraordinary woman.”
Hamilton dated Linda Bird Johnson, daughter of President Johnson, and a marriage was rumored.
”I think the last thing L.B.J. wanted was to have an actor in the family,” Hamilton observed. ”But I had an extraordinary time with him. I went hunting with him on his farm. … I liked him. His humor was extraordinary, but it was a barnyard humor. It was hard for him to follow John Kennedy, who was so smooth and eloquent.”
With his many affairs, Hamilton was often derided in the press. The exception was columnist Liz Smith of the New York Post. She is quoted in the book’s flap: ”Hamilton is more substantial than his image. He is smarter, edgier and sexier than one might expect.”
Patricia Grader, Hamilton’s editor at Touchstone Books, said that the actor was ”completely hands-on with this project from start to finish” — she means in a professional way. ”We were up against a very tight production deadline, but he never lost his savoir faire or his sense of the absurd — even break-dancing during the cover photo shoot,” she said.
Hamilton had only one marriage, to Texas beauty Alana Collins, the mother of his son Ashley, now 34. Their marriage ended in divorce.
”I dedicated the book to Ashley,” said Hamilton. ”He is an extraordinary (apparently his favorite adjective) human being. He had lots of addiction problems, and we almost lost him four times. So I learned to accept him unconditionally.”
A generation after Ashley, Hamilton had another son, George Thomas Hamilton, known as G.T. The mother is Kimberly Blackford, whom he describes as an eye-catching beauty in her 20s.
”I wish I had been the marrying kind, but I wasn’t,” Hamilton writes. But he did agree to make sure young G.T. would have all he needed, and he expressed his eagerness to spend time with the boy, now 8.
”I don’t use the phrase ‘I love you’ very often,”’ he commented, ”but I say it every time I talk to my children.
”Mom was right; there is no love like the love you feel for your children.”