See ourselves as others see us

From 1950 to the early 1960s I was heavily influenced by that American propaganda machine, Hollywood. My world was now in bright De Lux colour, and the screen size had opened up to three times the size of the black and white, kitchen sink drama ‘B’ movies that were still churned out at the London Pinewood studios we now had Cinemascope and Todd-AO. The old actors of the late 40s and early 50s were fast disappearings, their places were taken by a new breed, not only could they act, but they could sing and dance, in glorious Technicolor, this was the era when the musicals would be given the Holywood treatment. Carousel, South Pacific, State Fair, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, The King and I, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the very first one I remember seeing Rosemarie, and who could ever forget, an effervescent Doris Day in Calamity Jane.

By the late 1950s we had the ‘Rat Pack’ no one really knows where the name originated but the Rat Pack was an informal group of entertainers that hang out with Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall at their pad in Los Angeles, among them were such names a Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. They appeared together on stage and in films in early 1960. Talent oozed from every pore of their being. They were smart dressers, they could sing, they could dance and were just so damn cool.

In 1958 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the then 24-year-old Shirley MacLaine were cast together in a Vincente Minnelli directed film ‘Some Came Running’ being shot at Madison Indiana. I remember in an interview on television many years later, Shirley MacLaine was asked about the making of that film. Shirley was sharing a house with the Rat Packers, and quipped, “How many times did I answer the door because the cannolis had arrived by private plane from Hollywood?”

In the film, Sinatra wore a white jacket, unheard of in Scotland, and always ended up with the girl. I had to get myself a white jacket. There was nothing that came close in the shops in Dunfermline unless you had it made, but I could not wait that long, so off I went to Princess Street in Edinburgh. There in the corner window of one of the big department stores, was a lightweight white linen jacket, it was an outlandish price, but I had to have it.

Inside the shop, the salesman had its twin off the rail, and in one graceful movement had me in the jacket. He placed me in front of the full lengthen mirror, and clutching a big handful of the jacket with his left hand behind my back, whilst brushed away invisible specks of dust from my shoulders with his right, “Made for you Sir,” he said. In the mirror, it certainly looked a good fit.

Friday night arrived and the Red Hawks were playing at the ‘Palace’, shaved and scrubbed, and with a rather healthy splash of Old Spice, I was ready for the dancing. The hall was bursting at the seams, and there in the corner was the wee lass from Alison’s, she was gorgeous. I went over and asked her for a dance, she accepted, she was making me look good, jiving out and in, as I held her hand and shuffled in front of her. See mum, I’m dain’ it ma’ sel’ – I a see yi son, you’re off clever. Three dances in, I bought her a lemonade, sort of unofficial rule.

I asked “Can I see you home, I have my motorbike”.

“Yes, that’ll be great” she said. Boy this jacket is the business, worth every penny.

I ran her home and we stood outside at the gate chatting until her grandmother came out and told her it was time she was in.

“Can I see you again, maybe the pictures or Mary’s cafe on Wednesday, the bikers all hang out there on a Wednesday night”.

“I’d rather go to the pictures” she admitted.

“OK, I’ll pick you up Saturday, around six, if that all right?” she nodded, “aye right,” she said, “but don’t wear that jaicket, you look like a waiter in it”. Clearly, the lass had no taste.

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