One-on-One with actress Angie Dickinson: Getting those stories down on paper (Part I)

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I know which celebrity autobiography I’m most looking forward to—the one Angie Dickinson has resumed working on. The veteran film and TV star started writing an autobiography nearly 30 years ago, but returned the advance because her publisher pressed her to reveal more than she felt comfortable revealing (especially about a certain admirer who became President).

Angie Dickinson knew everybody from Frank Sinatra (shown here) and Johnny Carson to Bob Hope and Betty White.

Whether Dickinson finally dishes about JFK or not, her book will be a must-read. Dickinson was a great, natural beauty in an age of platinum-blonde pin-ups. She was a talented (and underrated) actress in such films as Rio Bravo and Dressed to Kill. She became a household name with TV’s Police Woman, the first successful cop show with a female lead. She was married to the great Burt Bacharach. And she knew everybody, from Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson to Bob Hope and Betty White. If her book is half as interesting as her life, it will be a blockbuster.

I talked to Dickinson by phone from her home in Coldwater Canyon. She gave me so much good material, this will be a two-parter. Check back next week for Part II.

Have you retired from acting? You haven’t appeared in a theatrical film since “Elvis Has Left the Building” in 2004 or a TV movie since “Mending Fences” in 2009.

I don’t want to do grandmother parts. I’d rather stay home. That’s not fun. Movies are too hard when it’s not rewarding. If stage weren’t so hard, I would do stage, because I do love acting and I love performing and I’m a ham. I’ve also considered going on the road with a one-woman show, which I would love, but I’m not fooled. It’s too hard—all that travelling. It’s different for a woman too. You forget about what we do to look good.

Do you still have an agent and a manager?

Sort of. I just tell them in case Spielberg calls, you might as well have my number. If a really great role comes along, I know I would love to do it.

Wikipedia lists your three most notable credits as “Rio Bravo” (1959), “Police Woman” (1974-78) and “Dressed to Kill” (1980). Would you agree with that?

Yes. When I saw Dressed to Kill, I said, ‘Oh, holy s**t, I’m good!’

You were wonderful in that film. Were you disappointed that it didn’t lead to more great film roles?

Yeah, but they don’t write a lot of films for women, you know.

In 1989, you returned a six-figure advance from a major publisher for your autobiography.

Well, five figures. It was $75,000. I’m still probably going to do that. I’ve pretty much started. I have lots of stories that are interesting. They’re little stories, but they’re fun. And I like telling a story. And now I have 25 more years to add. And you see life differently as you live it. It changes your perspective a great deal. It will be from a different point of view. I think it will be more interesting.

Do you have a publisher?

No, not yet. I won’t have trouble getting a publisher.

Will you get into some of the stuff… The speculation was that you shelved it in 1989 because you didn’t want to divulge…

President Kennedy.

Yeah. That you just didn’t want to talk about it.

That’s right. They said ‘You’ve got to tell.’ I said no. So it was ‘bye bye.’

What will you do now?

I don’t know. I won’t answer that to you. I don’t know the answer.

What made you change your mind about doing a book?

I realized no one else can do it. I actually thought of doing an audio-only book and I may still try for that.

That would be great, with your famously honeyed voice. Hey, your audiobook could win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. So Burt (a six-time Grammy winner) would have nothing on you!

What do you think of the modern era of celebrity, with social media, Instagram, selfies? Are you glad you were most active before all this came along?

It’s just so different. I love YouTube, but not for making stars. It’s ridiculous. Now people are influenced by a kernel of corn. They are so pliable. They have no standards and no values. They’ll vote for anything that includes themselves. It’s awful.

In 1987, you received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for your television work.

I’ve got a good location too, by the way, thanks to Johnny Grant. It’s right outside the Hollywood Roosevelt. What struck me when I was getting my star, they go by in that double-decker bus and they were up there cheering. I tell you, I had a hard time controlling my tears. I guess deep down I really want to be a star, and I like being a star. You discover things about yourself in different ways.

It’s easy to see the Walk of Fame as a little corny, but for a lot of performers, it’s very meaningful. Fans come from all over the world to see it.

It’s not corny. It’s a beautiful square. It does light up the sidewalk. It’s a really nice tribute.

So I think the news here is that you’re working on your autobiography again, after putting it aside for 28 years. And as for acting, you’re not as retired as I had thought. You may act again if the right part comes along.

As soon as we can knock off Betty White! I need to catch a football in a Super Bowl (commercial) or something like that. Wasn’t that a great story? That was just wonderful. I talked to her after her stardom was just going to the peak. I said ‘Betty, I am so happy for you.’ She said, ‘Isn’t it amazing?’

I think it was inspiring for the whole country to see someone in her 90s still active and doing so well.

She’s a wonderful role model. In all seriousness, I know I’ve got to get going (on the book). I’m going to be 86 pretty soon (on September 30).

Ten years ago, you lost your daughter, Nikki, at age 40. You and Burt released a joint statement that read in part: “She quietly and peacefully committed suicide to escape the ravages to her brain brought on by Asperger’s… She was one of the most beautiful creatures created on this earth, and she is now in the white light, at peace.” That statement shows such understanding and grace, and you wrote it when you were in profound grief.

(quietly) Well, because it’s true. She was fantastic. She was just great. But there was nothing that could help her anymore. That was her only outlet, so she finally found relief. She was a great, great, great girl.

Paul Grein writes regularly about pop music for such outlets as Yahoo.com and HitsDailyDouble.com. He has written liner notes for two Burt Bacharach collections

Copyright 2017 The Tolucan Times

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Paul Grein writes regularly about pop music for such outlets as Yahoo.com and HitsDailyDouble.com. He has written liner notes for two Burt Bacharach collections.

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