The next day, Aria and I took a trolley to central Hollywood so I could
see Graumans Chinese Theater and a few of the other sights. When we got back to
Arias parents place, the phone was ringing off the hook. "Where the hell have
you been?" Irving wanted to know, "Rick has to be at Fox in twenty-five minutes.
Ill be right over to pick you up."
He was at the curb in five minutes and honked the horn. As we walked
down the path to his car, he called out, "You got a drivers license?"
"Yes," I said. "Why?"
"I hate driving," he said as he slid over to the
passengers seat. Aria got in back.
"We have fifteen minutes to get to Pico and Motor Avenue. Tell you
what, well go in the back way, from Santa Monica."
As I drove, Irv held onto the door and anything he could grab with his
other hand. Aria hung on for dear life and we made it to the Fox gate in just fifteen
As Irv and I got out of the car he turned to me and said, "If you
ever get the chance to do that again when Im in the car, DONT!"
Ben Lyon was all smiles and charm. "Not a bad test," he said,
finally addressing me directly. Wed like to put you under contract, how does that
"Fine," I said.
"Well start you at seventy-five dollars a week," he
"Seven years?" I asked, "twenty out of twenty-six?"
I looked over at Irving who looked back and shrugged helplessly at me.
"Whats going on?" Lyon wanted to know.
"He was offered the same deal last year by Leonard
Goldstein," Irv answered.
"Well, theres quite a difference. This is 20th Century Fox!
And thats only Universal.
"The offer was with no test, by the way," I put in.
"Well be gambling a lot of time and money on you. We put a
lot of young people under contract. Most of them dont make it. Were willing to
take a chance on you."
"And you want me to take a gamble, too," I said, very nicely.
Lyon was getting a little annoyed. "What the hell are you going to
be gambling on?" he demanded.
"At least six months of my life," I said, still very nicely.
"Did somebody tell you that you had to be an actor?" he
wanted to know.
I stood up and reached across the desk for his hand. As I shook it I
said, "I want to thank you for your consideration, Mr. Lyon. I grew up watching your
pictures. My price to start is $150 on a forty out of fifty-two. Ill be in town
another two days. Please, dont get up," and I walked toward the door.
His office was the size of a warehouse and wed been sitting near
the center of it. As I got halfway there, hed swiveled partway around in his chair
and called out, "Rick," I turned; Irv was right behind me. "Forget it.
Seventy-five is the offer and it stands."
"I understand, sir. I just thought we ought to know whats on
each others minds. This is a nice studio. I think Id like working here. So
Ill be back. But for a lot more than seventy-five or even a hundred-and-fifty
When we got outside and in the car Irv said, "There is a huge
difference between Fox and Universal, you know. Not only in the quality of pictures they
make, but in the way they treat you. I think youre crazy. Never have I had such a
positive reaction from any studio so quickly."
"Irving, Im sorry if you worked your ass off for nothing.
But I just couldnt accept it."
"Okay, I probably understand. So do me a favor will you?"
"Name it," I said.
"Drive more slowly on the way home."