Bill Jankowski
  Seeing Anna in "Follies" 2002...

 

 

My parents told me they finally wanted to give me my graduation gift last Monday night (which they told

me was on backorder) so they took me out to dinner and handed me an envelope. When I opened it, there

were three tickets to see Follies in there as well as a plane ticket to Los Angeles! I can’t begin to tell you

how happy I was!!

 

It turns out that Stacey, from the list, had called my parents almost two months ago, when I was still away

at school, and said she had gotten money from her tax refund and wanted to treat me to the theater tickets

for Follies, if they could treat me to fly me out there. She told me she’d be going out there too, much to

my surprise, and she’d drive me around and to and from the theater. Stacey is one of the very few members in this group who has met my parents and she often chats with my mom a little when she calls for me and my mom happens to pick up.

 

Also, little did I know that Laura from the group (Grit) would be coming until I called Stacey afterwards.

Turned out that she had been planning to visit Stacey in CA sometime that summer (The three of us plus

Carrie are the oldest "PD Friends" on the group, knowing each other since early 1997). Stacey told her that instead of coming to her house in San Jose, why not fly to LA to see Follies with her and me? Grit agreed and again, all were in on the secret.

 

After I found out from my parents that night, I called Carrie, literally screaming, telling her what my gift

was. She, of course, wanted to go too, so I gave her my flight information and she called the airline and was luckily able to get one of the last seats on the plane (though we were not sitting next to each other).

 

So, we wound up flying out on Thursday the 20th, where Stacey and Grit greeted us at the airport and from there we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and went out for a quick bite to eat. Stacey and Grit had already eaten, so Carrie and I ate and Grit had something else to eat and Stacey, who was the only one of us ever to have been there before, quickly showed us some of the sights that you can only see from Hollywood Heights.

 

On Friday, we set out to see more of the city, including the Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame. From

there we found some cool shop that had some great Anna photos for sale, so of course we bought them:-)

 

After this we went into the San Fernando Valley, to Chatsworth, to visit guess who....Eddie Applegate!!

(aka Richard Harrison from PD Show). The morning after I found out I was going to LA I called him and

asked if he was doing anything that weekend and he invited us to his house, that he shares with his wonderful girlfriend, Betty.

 

Well, we got lost on the way to Eddie’s, so after picking them up a pie, we called Eddie from a cell phone

and he told us to meet him at a certain gas station. Five minutes later he met us there and we caravaned to

his house, where we said our hellos and met Betty. From there he showed us around the house, including a

full wall of PD Show photos and then we went into their backyard where they had an enclosed patio. There,

we sat and chatted and showed them our Spokane photo album and they showed their album of candid shots

on the Reunion movie set in Montreal. Eddie also told us to send his love to Anna and said if they would have known about Follies earlier, they would have come, but by that time they already had plans they couldn’t get out of.

 

From there, they said they wanted to take us to this great deli a few miles away, so Grit and I rode with

them and Stacey rode with Carrie in Stacey’s car. We had more of a wonderful talk once there and of

course they INSISTED on paying for the meal. After some arguments, we asked if at least we could pay the tip and they said very sternly, "No!".

 

From the deli, Eddie wanted to show us where Sharon Stone had a house, not far from his, and then we

went back to their house and chatted for about another half hour and said our good-byes. Eddie then had us

follow him back to the Blvd. so we wouldn’t get lost going back and Eddie then said goodbye to all of us

from his car, before turning around to go back home.

 

From there, we stopped at a flower shop in Hollywood, just a few blocks from our motel, and bought Anna

the most gorgeous arrangement of flowers. And we signed it from us and all the Spokaners. After the

woman spent about 30 minutes putting together this beautiful arrangement, she said she only accepted cash. We planned to pay with a credit card, but thank God we had enough cash on us.

 

Back at the motel we showered and got dressed and ready for that night’s show and we were on our way to Wilshire Blvd. to see Follies at the Wadsworth! Carrie, who was in the front passenger seat, was carrying the huge vase of flowers on her lap and when we finally got there, I carried them up to the theater. Someone stopped us, who worked there, asking who they were for and we said "Patty Duke" and he pointed us to someone, in the back of the theater, that would give them to her. The man who took the

flowers from me told us to wait back right there, at the end of the show, so Anna could greet us. We then

proceeded to the front of the theater where we bought autographed Follies posters, which were signed by

every member of the cast.

 

We into the theater and sat in our seats and watched the play. I tend to agree with a lot of critics of Follies

that the book (story) is only average, but the music by Sondheim simply cannot be beaten. It was

soooooooooo great to see Anna up there, literally clicking her heels and singing and dancing, and of course

acting. Words cannot express what we were all feeling there.

 

During the intermission, we saw actor George Newburn walking outside. He played Mack’s brother in

The Evening Star and Dixie Carter’s son, Payne, on Designing Women. Then it was time to go back inside

to watch the second and last act of the show.

 

After the show we went to the back/side entrance, where they man who worked there had told us to wait

for her. Just behind us was crossed off from the public b/c that is where most of the star’s trailers were.

 

As we were waiting for Anna, we saw other stars from the show, such as Vikki Carr and Jean Louisa Kelly, being awfully sweet, greeting their fans and signing autographs and posing for photos.

 

Eventually, Anna finally walked out and was doing the same as Vikki and Jean with other people and then

someone from the theatre went over to her to tell her we were there and she looked over at us and smiled and told him to tell us she’d be with us in one moment.

 

When she did come over to us, she gave us all a big hug and kiss and saying how wonderful it was to see us

again and asking how long we’d be there. She continued with telling us about how Kevin and Mike weren’t

there that night, they were at an amusement park nearby, so she’d be driving herself back to the apartment the theater rented for her that night. She asked where we were staying and we said on Hollywood Blvd. and the typical Mom in her asked "Is it safe?" and we said it’s not Brentwood, but it was fine. She must have asked us if we were sure it was safe three of four times that night! LOL. She said she loved our flowers, but next time to send little ones. LOL...she said Vikki Carr, who she shares a dressing room with, saw the flowers earlier that night and went "WHOA! Where did those come from???".

 

We stood there chatting with her for about a half an hour or more and then walked with her to her car

where she said there is a chance that on either Saturday night or Sunday, we could all go out to eat, after

the performance, to a nearby deli she knew that was really well. She said she’d talk to Mike about it and let us know the following night after the show.

 

After saying our "See ya tomorrow’s we went out to eat and then back to the motel to sleep to get up the

next morning for some major sight-seeing.

 

That Saturday we went just about everywhere. We did some shopping in Hollywood, but mostly we took a map of movie stars homes, both living and dead, and made a list of everyone’s house we were interested in seeing and hit the road with it. We did see Anna’s old house in Westwood, Cloris Leachman’s,

Betty White’s, Bea Arthur’s, Helen Reddy’s, Elizabeth Montgomery’s, Agnes Moorehead’s, Lucille Ball’s,

Joan Crawford’s and Anne Bancroft’s. I think that’s it. Guys, correct me if I have left anyone out. We also

saw the high school that Sean and Mack had attended (which is right across the street from UCLA). We ate

lunch out there, in Brentwood, went back to Hollywood for some more shopping and then back to the motel to get ready for that night’s show.

 

At the theater, we had exactly the same seats as the previous night and of course loved the show just as

much! After the play, I called someone on my cell phone, and as we were getting ready to walk in the back to see Anna, David, from the list, came up to us and introduced himself. We read his post to the list about going right before we flew out, but with everything piling up we forgot he was coming, so that was a temporary surprise, until we came to our senses. LOL.

 

Standing at the same place as last night, we saw Anna and now Mike and Kevin. Mike came up to us to say

his hellos and told us to meet them by their car in the parking lot. Looks like tonight is the night we go out

to eat with them, it seems. On my way to the parking lot, a woman, around Anna’s age, I guess, came up

to me and asked if I was the president of her club. I said yes and she was so excited to have just met Anna.

She said she’d been waiting for that moment for over thirty years and it finally came true that night. I

wrote down my email, cell phone number and website address for her and went to the car where us, along

with David and his friend, caravanned behind Mike, Anna and Kevin to the restaurant.

 

We pulled across the street from the place we were going to, and Mike stopped the car the payment booth

and said we were all with them and they let us proceed, free of charge:-)

 

Once we got out, Stacey showed Anna the license plate cover that Kathleen had gotten for all of us

Spokaners at Christmas time. It says "It’s a Patty Duke Thing. You Just Wouldn’t Understand!" Anna loved it and posed with Stacey next to it before going into the restaurant.

 

While there, most of us, except Grit, decided on a soup, since we weren’t very hungry and it was after

midnight, after all. Us Spokaners always joke around about The Patty Duke Diet, how we can never eat

much when we’re around her! LOL.

 

Stacey, Carrie, Grit and I had some gifts to give to Anna and some that other people on the list had sent us

way back when, in the case of us meeting Anna again. Anna loved all the gifts, including the pillboxes we

gave her (she collects them) and I showed her a bunch of the photos I bought of her while in Hollywood. On one on A Matter of Justice, she commented: "When I started that part I didn’t know who this woman was. I had no idea how to play her. Then the hairdresser put my hair up into that tight bun and then I KNEW how that this was a no-nonsense woman, so that is how I should play her." The four of us chipped in to give her a photo, we found earlier that day, of a candid of her and Mike, as newlyweds, as they were attending the funeral of Donna Reed. Anna said she didn’t know her, but it was her duty as SAG president to attend. "I’ve aged Mike a lot, haven’t I?" she then joked, while looking at the photo again.

 

I also gave her a photo of her and Helen Hayes from One Red Rose for Christmas, from Me, David,

Kathleen, Tracy and Jeff. She told us the story again how that was her mother’s all-time favorite project she ever did and before every acting project she would do from then, until her mother died, her mom would send her one single red rose for good luck.

 

Anna also commented on how she is toying with the idea of starting to get involved with politics again. She

said she misses that and still has a lot to say!

 

Sean’s wife, Christine, was very pregnant now, with a girl. They still haven’t picked a name for the baby

and everyone seemed to like a name Mack brought up, but then Alli came up with "Rainbow" which Anna

said, while rolling her eyes, but right now they still don’t have a clue. She commented that Mack is staying

out of trouble, as he always does when he is working (he is now shooting a movie in Toronto) and that Sean

was in New Zealand doing some re-shoots for the upcoming LOTR movie.

 

At one point during the night, I asked Anna if after all the stress she’s had with Follies, if she would ever

consider doing it again, or anything like it. She thought about it for a minute and then said "Yes" she would. She was afraid, at one point, that they were going to extend the run of Follies b/c there was talk of it since the sales were so good, but she was relieved that they decided not to. Not because she hated it, but because she was exhausted after the whole show and wanted to get back home to Idaho.

 

By the time we were getting ready to leave it was after 2 am and Mike said he needed to take her back

because she had a matinee of the next day. Anna yelled at him not to rush us because she didn’t care, since

she was out of a job after tomorrow.

 

We were getting up, to get ready to leave, when Anna saw that I had a great photo, which I bought the day before, of her and Warren Berlinger in Billie, to sign. I told her I didn’t get a chance to meet Warren (who was in the Follies cast) and she said she would give it to him to sign, sign it herself and send it to me at home and that she had a huge crush on him back then. Anna then signed a few autographs, including a British Me Natalie poster for me.

 

After this, we were all taking our individual photos with everyone, and when it was time for mine with

Anna, she literally grabbed me and said "Come here, you HUNK!" I got a big kick out of that, of course.

Kevin was begging us if he could take a snapshot of someone, so I told him he could take one of me and his

dad, which he did do and the photo turned out just fine:-) Anna also had her own camera with her and she

wanted a picture of the group together, which of course was very sweet:-)

 

As we walked across the street to the parking lot, we talked a little more (as we also jay walked across the

street, we said "Wouldn’t it be funny if Patty Duke were on the front page of the LA Times tomorrow for

jay walking?" and she posed for a group shot with us and we all said our good-byes after thanking Mike and

Anna for treating us to that wonderful food we had just eaten.

 

Sunday morning, our last full day there, we went to see Valerie Harper, Tony Roberts and Michelle Lee in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. We were driving around (lost) for it on Friday and saw a sign for it and we went in and bought tickets for that Sunday matinee! Carrie and I each saw it earlier this year in New York on Broadway and we knew Grit and Stacey would just love it, which they most certainly did. All of us thought the play was nothing short of hysterical. When it was over, we wanted to try to meet Val again

(Carrie and I each did last year on the East coast) so we asked where a stage door was and waited for her

outside. Someone who works in the theater came out and asked us who we were waiting for. We told her

Valerie Harper. She then left and came back a few minutes later telling us that since it was between shows, Val was eating her lunch inside, but as soon as she was done, she would come out to see us. A few minutes later, she did and was very nice with us, posing for photos and signing our programs.

 

On the drive back, we stopped and looked a little around Rodeo Drive before heading back to the Follies

theater.

 

Once we got there, Carrie and I realized we had forgotten our tickets to the play that night and were of

course in a panic. We were debating on what we should do, as we were walking in the parking lot, towards the theater, when who do we see, but Kevin. Who is behind him? Mike. Who is behind them,

SEAN ASTIN, his wife and daughter.!!! We didn’t get a chance to talk long at all, but he was awfully nice

and shook Stacey’s hand! None of us had ever met him before and we were thrilled that he came home

early and surprised mom by going to that matinee performance. I learned this when I accidentally ran into

Mike during that evening’s intermission, as he called my name as I was taking a photo of the outside of the

Wadsworth (which did not come out) and he introduced me to a friend of his and Anna’s as "Billy Jankowski, a friend of the family" which was very nice. Oh and as you must have figured out, Carrie and I were able to get our tickets to go in and see the show from the box office!

 

We went to the show, one last time, this time sitting in the orchestra, and as with Love Letters in Spokane, the last show was certainly the most special. Actress Justine Johnston, who was reprising her original 1971 Broadway Follies role, announced that after that night’s show she was retiring from the stage for good. After the curtain call, one of the actors went up to her with flowers and danced with her. Everyone (especially Anna) just sobbed on stage, as most of us were doing in the audience, too. She is 95!!

God Bless her!!

 

After the show we waited in the back to say our good-byes to Anna. She was held up, talking to other

people, for quite a while before coming all the way over to where we were standing.

 

We said our good-byes to Anna and Mike and Kevin and posed for final photos with her. As we were getting ready to pose for mine, she told me that she had forgotten to tell me the night before how wonderful I looked and how much weight I had lost. I told her that I do try...LOL.

 

Anna blew us a kiss from the car window as they were driving off and we left to get in our car, of course

totally on a high. By this day, David had already left with his friend to go back to Brooklyn, so the four of us ate at the famous Mel’s Drive-In, which was featured in the film American Graffiti.

 

Once back at the hotel, we said our good-byes to Grit (since we were leaving at different times the next

morning) and took some final photos of each other in the hotel room and left for the airport the next

morning.

 

I apologize for not getting everything about the trip in here, but I am sure my fellow vacationers will catch

up with whatever I missed. All and all, though NOTHING can top the Spokane/Idaho trip of last year, LA

sure came awfully close! What a wonderful time we all had!

 

Love,

Bill

 

For information on Bill Jankowski's 1998 trip meeting Anna in Montreal, please visit this site: 

Meeting Anna in Montreal

 

 

 

 

 

 

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