My Last Personal Encounters
by sally mierop

Our trip to Florida to see Roddy McDowall’s lectures, January 13 - 21, 1998.

The temperature in Cleveland was a mere 12 degrees and wind chill, who knows. We, my husband and I, were thrilled to be leaving this cold, but the forecast for Florida didn't look too promising for shorts either.

An Evening and Afternoon with Roddy
I attended two of the lectures, Avon Park and Melbourne. (When Roddy was still in New York, I casually dropped him a line telling him I was going to be at these two lectures.) Avon Park's South Florida Community College lecture was in the evening(Saturday, January 17, 1998). Our seats were second row center with nobody seated in the first row through the second row up to us. Roddy wore a dark blue velour sport jacket, a light blue shirt, tie, and tan slacks. [I love blue] He looked thinner from when I saw him backstage in NY. We arrived early so we mingled with some of the ushers. The program director told us Roddy was working out at a gym before he came to the lecture that night. The audience consisted 99% of senior citizens but I'm not one of them.

Roddy first read a letter to a Miss Winsome dated New York, April 12, 1916 about the perils of motion picture work from Mary Pickford. The letter was to his *mother.*

Some stories:

Mae West - RM's first meeting with her was during the filming of a Planet of the Apes movie. She started telling Roddy how much she admired him in a certain part in another movie. The only thing wrong was that it wasn't a part that he did. But he decided not to let her know. They became good friends.

Marlene Dietrich - RM took a few pictures of her including one during her show in a mink coat which he wanted to use for his book. She said that wasn't her in the photograph. RM said what do you mean? Marlene said she never has that expression in that coat. RM says who's the broad then? Marlene didn't answer.

A third of the way through the lecture, the spotlight burned out and left poor Roddy in the dark. But he took it like a man and went on without a spotlight. When the spotlight came back on, it was a different color and they changed it a few times while Roddy would comment on each color that they shined on him.

During one of the slide switches, Roddy placed his hand over his forehead, and gazed into the audience and said, "There you are. I must have gotten the days mixed up or something." He appeared to be looking straight at me.

The last 15 minutes was the Q & A session which didn't last long, because the senior citizens were leaving in droves, so RM ended early.

Who were his 5 favorite male actors?
Claude Rains, Henry Fonda, Walter Huston(never got his photograph), James Mason.

What did he think of colorization?
It didn’t work, which was good. The positive thing that happened out of it - a lot of footage was put back in that was cut out.

What's his favorite film?
Hard…"Easy Living" - Jean Arthur, "The Lady Eve," "Gone With the Wind," "Wizard of Oz," "Singing in the Rain," so many.

Did he know Gloria Swanson's son, David?
No, but knows her daughter.

How's Elizabeth Taylor doing?
Fine, she’s marching forward.

Did he know Dick Powell?
Not very well, didn’t work with him.

What was Donald Crisp like?
Like a surrogate grandfather. They were pretty close until he died.

An 80 year old lady said she met 7 year old Roddy and his mother on a train when she was traveling with her mother and she gave him her movie magazines. Did he remember her?
[Roddy would not of been 7 years old. He didn’t come to America until 1940, which would of made him 12 years old when he arrived.]
Oh well, we’ve known each other a long time then.

My husband had our new automatic zoom 115mm camera and took about 15 photos of Roddy during this time but unfortunately, all came out too blurry.

A few people gathered around the stage for an autograph but Roddy said he had to leave. He shook hands with one woman next to me. We thought he would return but the director said he didn't intend to come back out.

When we returned to the parking lot, it was deserted. We didn't know if Roddy left or not, but we drove to the side of the theater and saw his limo and chauffeur waiting. A moment later Roddy emerged from the door. I opened my car door[I thought it would take too long to open the window.] and said, "Hello, Roddy...It was great." He replied, "Thanks for coming to the show." I told him, "I'll see you at Melbourne but our seats will be way in the back." I didn't mention who I was though. When we pulled out of the parking lot, the limo was behind us and stayed there for about a mile before it pulled into a Holiday Inn. We kept going.

The next day we were at Melbourne's Maxwell King Center for the afternoon lecture. Our seats this time were about eight rows back to the far right. The opposite side of where Roddy stood. This audience contained more young people than Avon Park. Roddy wore a gray velour suit with a gray turtleneck. He looked simply gorgeous.

We noticed a few slides were changed and perhaps he told one or two more stories than the previous night.

The Q & A session went to the full 15 minutes with alot of people asking questions and less people leaving.

What was Margaret O'Brien like?
Most talented. Was supposed to be the original girl in the movie, "My Friend Flicka," but had other movie commitments. I always resented her because she could cry at a drop of a hat.

Is he in contact with Anna Lee?
Are in contact, she just had her 85th birthday and he called her and Maureen O’Hara. Like family. She’s on "General Hospital."

A local Hedda Hopper/Pam Harbaugh did an interview with him, did he want to respond to it?
She doesn’t seem to have the correct credentials to be occupied in her position.

A lady confessed that she had a crush on RM for 30 years. Never misses a Roddy McDowall movie.
You are a very discerning lady. He does.

What happened to Peggy Ann Garner?
Died young in her early 50’s. They worked together a lot. She had a very unfortunate life.

What's his favorite movie he's in?
You count the films that you had the best experience making - "Dead of Winter."

Who are his favorite male actors?
Claude Rains, (What did I say, I lie a lot), Henry Fonda, Walter Huston(never got to photograph), there are so many he thinks are terrific … Spencer Tracy.

Was Donald Crisp Irish or Scottish?
Very Scottish.

Tell us about the Black & White Ball(November 28, 1966)?
Truman Capote party - First there, last to go, didn’t know there were that many there.

Did he love working in radio?
Loved radio. Does a lot of books on tape. Had to dress up in evening wear to do those programs. Got to keep all the money.

What was Mollymauk?
The character from "Lord Love A Duck."

Will you watch the Golden Globe Awards tonight?
Don’t think he’ll be able to, but he would if he could.

Are you the voice of Snowball on "Pinky & the Brain?"
Yes, he loves doing cartoons. Mad Hatter - Batman. Starting new movie, "A Bug's Life," character is Mr. Soil.

Roddy did not stay around for autographs nor photos either.

Out in the parking lot, my husband noticed some young guys heading for the back of the theater. My husband asked if the limo was back there and they said yes. This was another opportunity to see Roddy, so we took it. The limo was there and so were four young men, two seeking RM's autograph and one his photo.

We waited for about five minutes and Roddy peeked his head out the door and said he was looking for a lady he promised a photograph. There was nobody else out here. I waved and he ducked back in the theater. In about five minutes Roddy returned and went straight to the limo door which the chauffeur was holding open. One of the guys pleaded with Roddy for his autograph, so Roddy gave in and proceeded to sign.

Roddy and I next to the limo Well, I didn't want his autograph but a photo, so I went behind the guys and stood by Roddy while my husband took a few pictures. Roddy did not recognize me nor did I inform him it was me again. I asked Roddy where he was going next. He turned to the chauffeur and asked him, which he replied, "Sun City Center." Roddy then turned to me and said, "Sun City Center." After that, Roddy got into his limo and left.

One of the guys said rumors were that Roddy was staying at the Comfort Inn down the road.

On the way back to our car in the parking lot, we met a lady who was taking pictures of the Maxwell King Center building. My husband approached her and said she must be a real Roddy McDowall fan. She looked into the car, where I was seated, and said, "You must be the infamous Sally Mierop. You look like your picture." She told me that she admired the work I had done on my old website (where my work was posted at the time). I found out that she was a friend of Roddy's. Naturally, we had lots to chat about and even took a few pictures together also.

After leaving an hour and a half later, we saw a limo at a gas station next door to the Comfort Inn. Hmmmm . . . could have been Roddy.

A few days after returning home, I received a souvenir Florida postcard from Roddy. He was wondering if he caught a "glimpse" of me at one of the lectures. Ha-ha! You can imagine what my return letter said.

These were my last encounters with Roddy, at least, until we see each other in Heaven. God bless you, Roddy! Bye for now.

In My Father's house there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:2 + 3

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Copyright © 1998 by Sally Mierop. All Rights Reserved.