MEMORIES OF RICHARD BASEHART
In this section I hope to collect memories, stories and anecdotes about Richard Basehart from his family, friends and fans.
The following came out of a telephone conversation I had with Diana on February 22, 2003, a couple of days after returning from Debbie's and my trip to Los Angeles to meet with her.
I asked, "What year did you actually meet."
"Don't ask me years. I am so dyslexic." I am 68 now and 23 then. ( That means they met in the second half of 1957 or early 58)
We had our differences but I will tell you something. it was the intensity of love and understanding. I directed Richard. I shoudn't-- You know I don't know what you should put on and what you shouldn't. I was always on the set of anything that was meaningful to Richard and he said the only person he trusted totally to direct him was me. So I was always there. We had a signal which was rubbing the botton of my nose with my finger and he would come off the set and come over. I don't know whether that would be offensive to the director. Do you see? You have to be careful, well, what the hell, it is the true. I used to cue him as I was an actress for some many years. I used to be his cuer. I used to be his choir director. When he did Shakespeare, when ever he did a play I was always directing him, working with him.
He was always practicing at home. He always argued. "That's not right, Diana." Bless his heart. He would argue and argue and argue and then 5 minutes later-- "Well I am going to do it this way." which was exactly what I told him.
Talking about Hitler. He read Rise and Fall, read everything he could. He tryed me. Being Jewish made it very hard on me. He tried to find something in Hitler to make it easier to be able to play him. Maybe he was a vegetarian. Maybe he liked German shepherds. He was reaching. I said, "Just do this quietly." He couldn't play a role quietly. He was always sitting in the middle of the living on the same part of the chair at the end of the couch and doing roles. The children learned to roller skate in the house be cause we got a floor that was very rough looked as if it was 20 years old and it didn't scratch. The kids were roller skating and he was still able to do roles.
"Don't you want to go upstairs?"
"No this is fine. I'm fine right here."
He didn't even notice the children were roller skating. He was always cooking I would hear him in the kitchen. He was always cooking meals unless he wanted something very simple then I was allowed in the kitchen. He wouldn't let me in the kitchen. He always liked to market, too and I would say "Bring two potatoes home" and he would bring a whole sack of potatoes. "Hell, what are we--" "We are going to eat them." That was left over from his orphanage days of hunger. He could not part with food. At that time we were eating turkey. He would give someone a turkey because he was afraid they wouldn't have anything in the house. This was one of the few things that was a carry over. The rest he seemed to get over. I was sort of his mother which was weird cause I was 20 years younger.
Then she said. I haven't dated. I haven't dated one person since Richard was gone."
I asked her "How do you compare anyone else to him?"
She said "You can't. I wouldn't want to do that to anyone. It's not fair to the other person."
Never did I finish a piece without him. He was always at my shows. He was my director. He was at all my opening night gallery shows, which I had a very good career. We traveled. I had my own thing as well but it was always in conjunction with Richard saying we are finished or we could continue with it. It was a total partnership. He didn't read a lot of the scripts until I read them. And then I would say whether to read it or not.
Here she says they were in Mansion of The Doomed. (This is when I found out that it was Jenna in the swing with Diana sitting on the bench with Gayla running around)
That was a gag because I had been an actor---quite unknown. That was a part of my life. He did not want another actress. He was just terrified OH, no he didn't ever want to have anything to do with the business and I was doing very badly anyway in LA, very good in London and very good in New york, but very badly in LA. We clicked so amazingly. That I would have--If I had been successful which I wasn't I would have given it up. It was just intense, it was intense. Our 26 years was intense. It sounds so arrogant, but he really couldn't do with out me.
It was then I went to England without him because he was shooting something here. The house keeper said he when he was home he wouldn't leave the house and when he was on location 2-3 times a day he would call. "What are you doing? What are the children doing? What did you eat?" It is as if he didn't want to miss anything He had a very unhappy childhood. Told great stories about his Irish grandfather and grandmother and the crazies in the family. Every body has crazies.
Richard was a very spiritual person. He was into Zen. Bill Shatner was reading a book on Zen and the Art of Archery and turned him onto Zen.
In order to see him I took Jenna to the set everyday. He left at 4:30 AM then come home at 8 and get pages for changes in the script. Jenna was in bed at 6:30.
They would yell "Quiet on the Set" and we would teach her to put her finger to her lips so she would be quiet. It got to where she did it automatically. She would do it and tell her Daddy to be quiet on the set. She was shooshing her Daddy. (There is a picture in the family section showing this.)
She was the director. Those children he treated like the yorkies. He would pat the yorkies with two fingers and do that with the children. They were his girls. He said his girls were his life. We were his "3 girls:". He was a man of compassion.
He found a rat on the street and brought it home and put it in a cage in my sculpting studio. I saw him go out taking something in a bag. "Richard what are you doing? Are you eating? We have had dinner." He said, "No there is an injured rat and I am feeding it. Just keep the kids away it might be rabid. He wore gloves when he fed it and he brought it back to health and took one of the carriers and drove at least 2 hours into god knows where, wilderness dear, the wilderness, up the mountains down the streams through the tunnels to let the rat out.
Diana brought a stray cat home and explained to Richard that it was going to be killed and could they keep it. Richard told them to go out to the car and get it. They were startled when he said that because they didn't tell him it was in the car. He said "Go on. Go get it. I know you have it in the car."
He wanted a place where the kids were safe and he loved the view. We saw the house and it was probably one of the ugliest houses I have ever seen in my life.
He looked, he stood on the steps and he said we'll take it.
"What do you mean we'll take it. You haven't even been through it."
"It doesn't matter. I can make it something. This is exactly what I want."
"But it is hideous. It is hideous."
He went through it.
"It doesn't matter. It can all be changed."
And it was hideous I sat on the broken concrete slab what was called a patio and I cried. I cried. He made it into a very beutiful home. It was awful. Cork floors, purple wall paper in the bedroom. It was a horror show. But he knew what he could do. He made a cathederal arch here. He could have been a designer. He changed all the doors to cathedral arches and put in rough parquet floors. He wasn't clever. He couldn't change fuses. He would pretend to be. When he would go to the gas station and look at the engine. I don't think he knew if the engine. --If he could have carried his library books in it, he was interested. But in Hedgerow he had learned to be a carpenter. He had taken it on a little bit. The ascetic side. He learned the mechanics but it was not interesting and it didn't seem to be a lasting thing.
He was a lousy student. The only reason they kept him in was because of what he was reading. He was quite good. He had the Harvard classics finished by the age of 15.
She would tell him that he couldn't keep letting the children do what ever they wanted.
"You can't keep doing that."
"I can't say no to the girls."
"You say no to Jackie."
"That's different. He is a boy."
She said also when she mentioned about going out more, he responded. " I met you when I was 43. Since then I have no need or desire to go out I just want to stay with you."
Talking with Gayla
She said that Richard really liked doing the role in Andersonville Trial. She said he took her to school and picked her up from school everyday when he was home. On the way home he would stop and buy her some candy and they would sit and she would eat the candy and he would smoke his cigar. She said that was their secret time. I asked her about the article that mentioned she had never seen rain before when she went to New York as a child. She said she read that, but can't figure it out because she was 5 and knew she had seen rain. As she put it "she was allowed to come outside". The one thing she does remember is a bird pooping on her while she was there. She said that they both loved Evita and she memorized it and Richard always had her singing it. They would act out Macbeth and she was Lady Macbeth. She said he liked "elevator music." He was baffled by a lot of the new music, although he did let her listen to her favorite radio station in the car. He enjoyed doing Richard II. She said when he read he sat at the end of the green couch. He would get a glass of iced tea and cashews, sit and read.
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