Can a 21-year-old college drop-out from Elk City, Okla., (pop. 8,196) find happiness in Los Angeles (pop. 3,479,015), writing pop songs, producing hit albums, winning Grammy Awards and existing on a mere $500,000 a year?
Jimmy Webb did it.
Up, Up and Away which he penned in 35 minutes, won five Grammies for the Fifth Dimension group and himself as composer. By The Time I Get To Phoenix, grabbed two Grammies for singer Glen Campbell.
Not bad for a starter.
Jimmy produced, arranged and wrote all nine songs on the Richard Harris golden LP, A Tramp Shining including the hit single MacArthur Park. Presently the lad is writing the tunes and producing another album for Dickie Harris and one for Barbara Streisand too, meanwhile composing the score for a Universal filmusical, Peter Pan, and preparing the script and music for a TV Special, Jimmy Webb and His Friends for late fall airing. This will be his debut as a performing artist and, no doubt, as an idol of a few million female fans.
“I’m not sure I like being a performer in public,” he admits. “I hope it doesn’t mean I’ll have to sacrifice my privacy which I value above anything else.”
Though he’s been writing music since before his voice changed, Jimmy began to happen after his music prof at a small San Bernardino college said to him, “Jimmy, I can’t teach you anything more. Don’t let college strangle your creative originality. Get out and challenge the world now,” or words to that effect.
Fame and wealth came so fast, he says, “I’m dumbfounded, amazed and floored by my unusual position. I’m also deeply honored by it.”
After an afternoon with Jimmy, we came away filled with some awe and much wonder. How long can this tall, lanky, good-looking bacherlor remain as unspoiled, sincere, friendly, open handed and easy going as he is now? How long before he withdraws into a shell and shuts out the world except for a tight clique of close personal and professional friends: Lou Adler, Mama Cass, Johnny Rivers, Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, John Hartford and a few others?
Jimmy lives in a big roomy—but not showy—double-deck manor in the hills of Hollywood, three minutes from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, two minutes from Panther Pete’s Pizza Parlor. The front and back doors swing wide open to all sorts of people, both friends and strays. Jimmy doesn’t mind if the place is roarin’ and rockin’ with laughing, singing, playing. When he is songwriting, which is many hours a day, he locks himself in his upstairs rearview music room, equipped with organ, piano, hi-fi-stereo tapes, radio, tweeters, woofers, telescope on a tripod, spare pants, fresh shirt and the beads. Peeking into the telescope sight we noted that it was trained on a sixth floor window of a condiminium apartment a couple of blocks to the west, if that means anything. Did we really see or did we merely imagine a flutter of feminity behind those lacy curtains of daffodil yellow and cornflower blue trim?
Webb is a Leo (born August 15, 1946, which makes him 22 now.) He often, but not always, wears large round shades and an ear-to-ear grin. His brown hair is medium long, expensively groomed, probably Sebring-styled at $25 per sitting. He prefers mod wear from the boutiques although he isn’t too stubborn to put on a straight suit and Paisley tie if the occasion calls for it.
He is so vulnerable to feminine wiles, so eagerly responsive to their attractions and so outgoing in his show of affection for them that one wonders how he has ever managed to escape the clutches of some designing female. Jimmy is a heck of a catch for a chick.
Most of his songs, and he’s written about 250 to date, are based on personal experiences, emotions and insights. One summer vacation on a swing down through the Old South he witnessed things that rankled his brain ever since. Sooner or later, he told himself, he’d find a way to express his sentiments for change through the message of music. Pop tunes being too limited, he began composing and is now completing a full length pop opera, His Own Dark City, scened in a small Southern town where the whites debase the colored. The opus builds up to a climax of hope and racial brotherhood.
For the album, guest artists Cass Elliott, Trini Lopez, Bill Cosby, Herb Alpert and others will be invited to sing the leading roles. Even Frank Sinatra is interested. Broadway bossman David Merrick is eager to see and hear it as a possible legit theater production.
The casting calls are heavy for a new type of actress, a child-woman who combines the look of wide-eyed innocence with the mystique of artless and unconscious sensuality.
Hollywood agents say the type is so rare here they can’t supply the demand from the old-line studios or the new wave indie producers. The ideal they seek is between 14 and 17, willowy and curvy, with clear eyes, and young voice, completely natural and untrained.
Traditional sex appeal typified by Stella Stevens, Elke Sommer, and Racquel Welch remain popular with hidebound producers but even more so are actresses who are just as sexy but not so darned obvious such as Julie Christie, Carol White and Lee Remick.
In silent films, the vampire batted her eyes, gnashed her teeth, breathed with a wheeze, swayed her hips and swooned in fits of purple passion. In early talkies, she lounged on a tiger skin and cracked a whip. The vamp has undergone many transformations, and Sue Lyon as “Lolita” led the way.
Teen-agers Ewa Aulin in Candy, Judy Geeson in Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush, Jane Berkin in Wonder Wall, Susan George in The Strange Affair, and Olivia Hussey in the Italian version of Romeo and Juliet are tender gender symbols of the new youthquake in film-making.
Juliet in Shakespeare’s immortal classic was a 14-year-old Capulet when she died of love for Romeo, son of the feuding Montagues. All previous movie Juliets were played by 30 and 40 year-old-females until Italo director Franco Zeffirelli assigned the role to 15-year-old Olivia in the 1968 version…
It’s a kick in the head that under-16 filmgoers are barred from many theaters where it plays because of a wedding night scene showing Romeo (Lenny Whiting, 18) and Juliet partially undressed. Incidentally George Bernard Shaw’s Cleopatra was a mid-teen queen, not mature like Elizabeth Taylor.
Bob Hope is justly proud, and even a bit boastful, that all of his four children graduated from high school without getting suspended, expelled, bombed or busted. “They all made it somehow in spite of my advice,” he bragged.
One son, Kelly, joined the Navy to see the world. At least he’s seeing Vietnam, as a working member of an underwater demolition team, no soft cushy job.
The new Bob Hope movie, How To Commit Marriage, attempts to untangle some of the knots in the marriage ties and close up some gaps betwixt the younger and older folkers. He has, he says, plenty of faith in the future of the foolish young.
“I know out there in the teen-age world there must be some of our future scientists, educators, senators, pioneers of spacae, and I can only say that if they manage to keep our world in its present shape, we’re all in big trouble.
“True, science has made it a more abundant, more comfortable world. What other civilization has produced luxury bomb shelters? And our world has balance. Man finds a cure for diseases so we can live longer, then builds freeways to prevent over-population. Just think, in a few years we’ll be able to travel from coast to coast at 2,000 miles an hour—and that’s by car!”
In “How To Commit Marriage,” Bob plays the father of a teen-age girl, Joanna Cameron, who falls in head-over-teacup for Jackie Gleason’s son, Tim Matthieson, and then the fun begins. Joanna and Tim, both 19, are greenhorns in the acting biz, but very talented.
Soul brothers and sisters will be seen all over our TV screens this season. The idea of integration in a weekly series, not a variety song-and-dance show, had always chickened the network chiefs, censors and sponsors until nice Bill Cosby broke the ice on I Spy, and Greg Morris followed through on Mission Impossible. Now comes the deluge. No less than two score network series will feature Negro stars.
A family of three Afraamericans, Percy Rodriquez and Ruby Dee, playing parents of Glenn Turman, have moved into the previously all-white Peyton Place. Dark Pigmeat Markham is a new laugh-grabber on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Michelle Nichols takes off on Star Trek. Don Mitchell is back with Ironside.
Honky Don Murray shares a hard wild west life with ebony-hued Otis Young in The Outcasts. There’s no brotherly love between the pair of exiles but they learn to respect and put up with each other. Diahann Carroll is the star of Julia, new half-hour drama series. Julia is a Vietnam war widow and registered nurse, with a young son, who works for Dr. Lloyd Nolan, M.D.
Mob Squad comprises a mixed bag of color: Peggy Lipton, blonde and bronzed (except for the bikini marks), Mike Cole, a whiter shade of pale, and Clarence Williams The Third, a browner shade of charcoal.
The Monkees finally decided on a title for their epic colossal super masterpiece of the cinema arts. The title: Untitled. And if you start looking for a plot or story line in it, save eyestrain, there is none. Anyways the guys started and finished a movie which is more than you can say for Mick Jagger and his team mates.
For two or more years the Rolling Stones have been rapping about doing a motion picture. Now they claim they’ve started one called One By One, but seeing is believing.
Harken to Bob Mersey, Columbia Records music producer and sometimes kitchen cynic: “Sonny and Cher are the Ma and Pa Kettle of rock… Do you know anyone that ever bought a Bobby Vinton record?… Today’s teeny-boppers are the children of the Lawrence Welk lovers…”