ME & SHIRLEY…SHIRLEY JONES! (I think I love you…)                                    

Celebrating the publication of my first book at age 65 — and probably my last — hubby Don, who naggingly urged, “When are you ever going to write your damned novel?” for ages, drove me, MISS DAISY, to Bearcreek Farms – The Hoosier version of Branson, Missouri, the quintessential home of Misplaced-Celebrity-Fests. Why? To meet and greet David Cassidy’s stepmother! Keith Kleespie, NOT Keith Partridge, chaperoned us. We visited James Dean land first, in Fairmount, Indiana, then motored on — to wheat fields which surrounded a piss-elegant gift shop and expensive restaurant as well as a rather country-fied/westernized theater-barn.

Paying extra cash to “meet and greet” Laurie from “Oklahoma”/Julie from “Carousel”/ Marian the Librarian from “Music Man”/Academy Award winning prostitute from “Elmer Gantry”/Mama Partridge and real-life grandma to 12 ranging from three weeks to age 30, I got pushed—yes, literally thrust—to the front of the line of a whopping dozen “fans”! Proceeding to establish, firmly and without the slightest doubt, that I rank as a star-struck fool, I gushed at the actress, gingerly hugged her so as not to disturb her sparkling sequins nor muss her false eyelashes, and then quickly thrust into the face of MS. JONES a half dozen CDS of Roy the Voice who, to my mother’s mind, rivals Mario Lanza. MOST Michiganders swear by his exceptional, magnificent performances as well as do countless central Indiana Hoosiers — though perhaps only three and one half relatives. We await his discovery.

Don squeezed Marty Ingels’ adorable, demure wife, proclaiming, “I am Susie’s husband!” Shirley Mae Jones retorted, “Ah, soooo you’re the hubby, and she’s the MOUTH!” I stifled purring back, in this instance of the “pot calling the kettle black”: “Hey, movie star lady, meow? I ain’t the dame who just jetted to a Midwestern barn to sing about 20 songs to an audience predominantly enamored of heart-throb DAVID CASSIDY’S “Partridge” Mom AND real-life stepmother.

Instead, though her vocal register has dropped a couple of octaves and Shirl is a clone of both my cousin Carole and Hillary Clinton, I attentively listened and watched utterly captivated while remembering, at age ten, I sang along with the LPS of her cinematic musical blockbusters (even “April Love” which was rather redundant— recurring in every other cut on the soundtrack?) and bought the sheet music so that I might follow the “bouncing ball” as she, Gordon MacRae, Robert Preston, and Pat Boone sang their little 1950s hearts out.

Other replies I might have shared with Shirley, had we meeted and greeted for more than a duration of three seconds, might have been: “I actually lovingly clipped out, and played for hours with, “Oklahoma” paper dolls when I was only ten and you, Shirley Mae, were say…about 22!” And the clincher: “I am here because I am a latent groupie of your FIRST husband — the actual father of not only DAVID, but also Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan.”

Jack Cassidy, who languished a bit as MISTER Shirley Jones, stole my heart via several Broadway shows: chief among them SHE LOVES ME; FADE OUT, FADE IN; and IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, IT’S SUPERMAN! Handsome! Outrageously talented! Wickedly witty. The wholesome diva left THAT hunk (a title which I seldom, seldom, seldom employ) to marry dimpled, clown-like Mr. Ingels of “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster” television fame, and the couple allegedly suggested two years ago that the then 75-year-old Conservative Republican Shirley pose in the altogether for PLAYBOY. So “Hef” evidently nixed that proposal?

At any rate, after watching a video of the wholesome former Miss Pittsburgh 1952 (who originally had planned to study veterinary science????) kissing Marlon Brando, Jimmy Stewart, and Glenn Ford, the audience welcomed the opportunity to shout out guess-timates as to Who might have been the best smoocher? Don screamed, “Bob Hope!” Not sure why we weren’t escorted outside into the petting zoo-barnyard to graze with the pigs and cattle at that point…

Plus we got screwed out of complimentary wine-tasting, arriving too late for dining prior to the show. Each of us famished, Mr. Kleespie earlier smuggled, into the theater, three thin plastic collapsible pop bottles and several crinkly packages of crunchy chocolate-covered pretzels. Sound effects! Obnoxious senior citizens behaving like irreverent high school juvenile delinquents eagerly harassing our beautiful teacher from slouchy positions in our third row seats, our personal songbird occasionally squinted into the audience, one hand at her forehead, shielding her eyes from the spotlights—attempting to identify her munching hecklers!

Closing number: “You’ll Never Walk Alone — Especially Those Gregarious Types with Big Mouths”. We headed to our very own “surrey with the fringe on top” and not the least “afraid of the dark”, we somehow found our way back home still wearing our “Shirley” VIP necklaces and “buttons (picturing Ms. Jones herself)…and bows”!

Hey, stalking cinematic-maturing-wandering-wonders, who travel to our state, is totally worth the bother. Mickey Rooney. Jerry Lewis. (Uh-huh! Both of them)! Shirley Jones!

And I learned to fuh-get about “throwing bouquets” at Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s teen ingénue discovery (Gotta be more to that story?) unless I am willing to duck. “Chicks…and ducks…and geese…better scurry!” — lyrics which continually reverberate within my mind when I review questionable time spent with Mrs. Partridge. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” Fickleness changed my tune considerably, but IF this effervescent chanteuse ever returns to a cornfield near us, we’ll eagerly follow through the maize maze for the rest of her career, especially if Shirley eventually, graciously thanks us for the CDS and introduces Roy to Stephen Sondheim.

POSTSCRIPT: My husband laminated Shirley’s poster while I wasn’t looking….

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