Suite 221: The Mamie Van Doren Suite

This is the video of the Mamie Van Doren Suite dedication party at the Andreas Hotel & Spa in Palm Springs, CA. It has appeared on Facebook, but I wanted to make sure everyone has access to it on the blog. The music, I Only Wanted You, is by my friend Kim McLean who kindly gave me permission to use it. It was a fun night in the desert, and friends came from all over SoCal. I wish all of you could have been there.




I spent the last few nights in Suite 221, the Mamie Van Doren suite, at the Andreas Hotel & Spa in Palm Springs. I slept like a baby in that big, wrought iron canopy bed, wrapped in the lovely, warm feeling of this new suite named after me.


The Andreas put on a fabulous party to christen 221, with Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden introducing me, and shoals of friends drinking champagne and touring the suite. It is thrilling to know that so many future guests at the Andreas will share the glamor of the suite that bears my name, as well as some of my Hollywood memories.

Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden.


A little bit about the suite: it’s done in a sort of Art Deco/Hollywood Glam style. Black and white, crystal chandelier and lamps, wrought iron, and memorabilia. I’ve loaned my portrait done by Olivia De Berardinis–Jungle Red; a copy of Playboy with me on the cover; oodles of photos of me from movies; and photos of me in Palm Springs history–as Miss Palm Springs and as queen of the Palm Springs Rodeo in the 1950s. It’s just the kind of place you would want to party in and tell your friends you slept in Mamie’s bed.



There’s a lot of me in the history of Palm Springs. I was here for the dedication of the palm trees that line Palm Canyon Blvd. I can see them out the window of my suite right now. I was discovered here, of course, by Howard Hughes after he spotted me when I won the Miss Palm Springs beauty contest. My suite is one block from the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe on Tahquitz Canyon Blvd. and from my star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars across the street. I’m going to go visit my star later today.


Some special thanks are in order: to Janie Hughes, with love, for all her work in making this possible; to Gina Laughton, the Andreas Hotel manager who took my suggestions for the room’s decor and made it all beautiful; to Zack Cordero, the assistant manager who makes miracles happen; Reggie Cameron, the p.r. whiz who made sure everyone knew; and to the thoughtful, efficient staff at the Andreas. Everyone contributed to make the party fun and my stay in 221 memorable.

Enjoy the pictures of the festivities of friends stopping to chat and sipping bubbly. Video is on the way as well.

Janie Hughes and her young friend hamming it up with me for the cameras.








Seymour Hersh

I posted this link to a Guardian article about Pulitzer Prize winning author Seymour Hersh’s take on Obama, the NSA, and American media—newspapers and network news departments—but apparently not many read it. It is so worth reading that I’m posting it on INSIDE/OUT so that it won’t become lost on FB’s timeline.

I hope you’ll take the time to read it here.

In case you don’t know, Seymour Hersh is the journalist who first uncovered and wrote about the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and the one who was the first to write about the abuses at Abu Ghaib prison in Iraq. Seymour has really big balls and gets really big stories.

Hersh is one of those figures—like Julian Assange, Chelsea/Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden—who are unafraid, or at least undeterred, by the power structure. In fact, Hersh seems to enjoy pissing off politicians and fellow journalists with his revelations of abuse of power.

He chillingly insists that the Obama administration lies consistently and is actually much harder to write about than the Bush administration. He tells the Guardian, “The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama.”

He believes that journalists with the guts to be unpopular with their government sources hold the key to bringing about change, “I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever…”

I highly recommend you read this piece about Hersh in which he claims that the story of Osama Bin Laden’s death is “…one big lie, not one word of it is true.” Admittedly, he’s promoting a new book due out soon, but who would not want to read THAT story?

On a personal note, I flew over My Lai when I was in Vietnam in 1971. My helicopter pilots made a couple of low passes while I took pictures with my little Petri 35mm camera. That camera with the film still in it was confiscated by (oxymoron alert!) Army Intelligence after I was medevaced to Trippler Hospital in Hawaii. By then Calley had been convicted in a court martial, and the My Lai shit storm was still raging.

The view from the gunner’s door of a Huey.

We travelled in pairs when flying to the next fire station.

The guys who fearlessly flew me around Vietnam.

Bobby Bennett, my conductor, comrade, and tower of strength while I was in ‘Nam.

The photos here are courtesy of my Kiwi band leader, Bobby Bennett, who had the good sense to get his photos developed in Saigon. He gave me an extra set which the geniuses in Army Intelligence overlooked.

You can read the Seymour Hersh article here.

Greyhound hugs and sloppy kisses

I spent the better part of the day at Hemopet in Garden Grove hugging greyhounds and getting more than my share of sloppy kisses in the bargain. Hemopet is a canine blood bank in addition to being a greyhound rescue facility. The greys donate blood and the funds from that help support the rescue mission.

Arriving at Hemopet in Garden Grove.

Many of you may know that my dear Suave was an alumni of Hemopet, and since his passing Thomas and I have volunteered to walk, feed, water, pick up poop, hug, kiss, and generally spoil as many needlenoses as we can. One day we’ll adopt another, but for now we spread the love around every chance we get.

Tony was a little shy at first.

The first dog I met today was Tony. He’s a very gentle boy who had just donated blood, as you can see by the bandages on his neck. Tony was a little shy at first and needed to warm up to me. Once he did though, I got my first kiss.






Once Tony warmed up to me, it was love, love, love!

This little black and white girl you see giving me a smooch is named Muse. She is young and energetic. I mean ENERGETIC. We took her into the exercise run area and she chased toys until I was exhausted.

Muse can’t wait to give kisses.

Then there was the handsome brindle named Roman, who definitely had a roaming Roman nose. That brindle coat makes him look like a wild animal, and he was very interested in trying to dig his way out of the exercise pen.

The wild guy Roman!

And last there was handsome Nexus. He’s a big gentle fella who loved to walk around the grounds, and then thoroughly inspected my new iPhone.




Nexus checks out my new iPhone.

If you have never been around a greyhound, I cannot recommend them highly enough. They have keen intelligence, sweet dispositions, and astonishing intuition. If you allow one into your life you will count yourself forever blessed. There is most likely a greyhound rescue near you. If not, you can contact Hemopet who can ship greys wherever there is love in this world.

Shave it


I know the world’s going to hell in twelve different directions–Syria, NSA spying, Obamacare, unlabeled GMOs–but I’m on the warpath about something else right now: beards in baseball.

Yes, I know I’m going to piss off a few of you, but who is the Beard Zero that started this bumper crop of unkempt, mountain man whiskers? I suspect it might be Brian Wilson, now of the Dodgers, who grew that forest of dyed-shoe-polish-black chin shrubbery when he was with the Giants. I like Brian because he seems to be a true original, but I wish the Johnny-come-latelys to beard cultivation would find a new hobby. Apparently the beard growing fad caught on like a brush fire, because these days the benches of many major league teams look bushier than a nudist colony on a summer day.

Which brings me to another question: isn’t all that facial hair hot—especially in a summertime sport? Isn’t there a lot of sweating going on under there? Never mind, I don’t want to know.

I suppose there are many women who think beards are somehow sexy, but I’m not among them. I recall hearing that French women consider a kiss without a mustache to be like an egg without salt, so whatever tickles your fancy, I suppose. I just never found the pictures on the Smith Brothers cough drops packages a turn on.


I’m willing to give a pass to Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. I run into Billy at parties in Hollywood and he’s a really lovely, sweet guy. And to Charles Darwin and George Bernard Shaw and Walt Whitman. But to the Boys of Summer—come on guys, trim that hedge a little.

Punishing the victims


What an embarrassment we have become in the world, that we bluster and threaten to rain destruction on a country already in ruins in the midst of a civil war. Our justification is to punish a bully by killing his victims. Doubtless we will be told that our air strikes and cruise missile attacks will be precisely targeted surgical strikes.

This is bullshit.

Recall the surgical precision with which we showered Baghdad with “Shock and Awe” while killing thousands of civilians. Recall the surgical precision of our attack helicopters the Iraq war in Collateral Murder, or our drone attacks in Afganistan. I do not believe that we will do any better this time. There is no safe way to wage war. No matter our motives, civilians will die because we have suddenly become high and mighty.


Or is there something else we want? Like control of a region bordering Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Iran—effectively isolating Iran. Or oil or natural gas? We always have a reason for being nobel.

Attacking Syria to punish Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons on his own citizens by killing more citizens positions American foreign policy directly on the cutting edge of hypocrisy. Our president, vice president, secretary of state, and the rest of the power structure want us to believe this is really complicated. That is how they stay in power. But ask any third grader if it makes sense to discipline a bully by beating up his victims and they will tell you the answer.

Of course not.

It is the futile gesture of a crumbling empire.

Johnny Grant, mayor of Hollywood

Johnny and me at his 84th birthday party. Once a breast guy, always a breast guy.

Johnny Grant was looking down my dress from the stage at the Hollywood Palladium the first time we met. It was 1952 and I was dancing to Stan Kenton’s music with my date, Jack Dempsey, the former heavyweight champion of the world, 40-some years my senior. I looked up at the elfin little guy on stage and we exchanged smiles.

Though Johnny Grant died in 2008, he is still legendary in Hollywood, inextricably connected to the Walk of Fame. While Johnny did not create the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he recognized its potential. Originally begun in 1960, the Walk of Fame had fallen into disrepair and obscurity by 1968. Johnny, then a member of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, began drawing attention to the Walk of Fame by requiring celebrities to attend their own presentation ceremonies. Worldwide press coverage began increasing and eventually, by sheer force of his personality, Johnny revitalized the Walk of Fame and Hollywood into first-rate tourist destinations once again.

In the process, the Hollywood Walk of Fame became almost as much a symbol of Johnny Grant as it was of Hollywood. He presided over the presentation of more than 500 stars, including mine. As the honorary mayor of Hollywood for more than 30 years, Johnny Grant was also a tireless organizing force around Hollywood’s image as the movie capitol of the world.

The night back in 1952 that Johnny was looking down my dress, he was a well-known radio personality in Los Angeles, hosting a live broadcast of Stan Kenton’s orchestra. He was the first radio disk jockey anywhere to intersperse live traffic reports and celebrity interviews with music. Moreover, he pioneered the new medium of television, creating the first Entertainment Tonight-style news program.

I was still dreaming about breaking out of the cocoon that was little Joanie Olander. It would be ten eventful months before Universal Studios signed me to a contract and created created Mamie Van Doren, but Johnny Grant would be a part of my life for the next 50 years.

Johnny and I dated often over the years. It was never really a romantic attachment between us. We enjoyed each other’s company immensely, perhaps for dinner and a show or dancing. If occasionally we necked a little, we both understood it was just for fun. Though he never married, Johnny was famous for always having a beautiful woman on his arm. If it wasn’t me, it would be Jayne Mansfield, Anita Ekberg, Angie Dickinson, or the latest and most voluptuous Miss Universe. (He was a breast guy, of course.)

Johnny spent much of his life bringing entertainment to service men and women around the world through personal appearances and USO tours. A few weeks before his death, Johnny made a tour to Iraq to entertain the servicemen and women. He asked me to go with him to Korea in 1956 with Bob Hope’s show, but my son Perry had just been born and was too young for me to leave. In the 1970s, when I fell ill in Vietnam during my tour to entertain the troops, Johnny helped me retrieve the belongings I had left behind when I was medevaced back to the states.

In February of 1994, a friend called to tell me that the L.A. Times announced that I was to be the recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was a pleasant shock, and I immediately called Johnny.

Mamie Sunday Star_rev_sml_rotated
My star at 7057 Hollywood Boulevard, near Farrah Fawcette and the Beatles. Photo by Alan Mercer

“I didn’t want to tell you, Mamie,” he told me laughing. “I wanted you have the surprise of reading it in the paper.” He went on, “Some of us have been trying to get you on the Walk for years, but Bill Welsh kept voting against it. I don’t know what you did to Bill, but he kept shooting you down. Angie Dickinson sponsored you this time, and we got it past him.” (Bill Welsh was the president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for many years and a local television personality. I have no idea why he developed a dislike for me. I barely knew him.)

I often spent hours on the telephone dishing the dirt with Johnny. Occasionally his roguish side would come out and we would have phone sex. When I told this story at a testimonial luncheon for Johnny, the audience was hysterical. Johnny merely nodded and smiled. “Yes you did, Mamie, it’s true.”

Johnny laughs while I spill the beans about our phone sex.

Sitting next to Johnny on the dais that day and listening to the other speakers, I noticed that he had nodded off. When it was time for him to speak, he roused himself and addressed the room energetically for fifteen minutes. A few days after the event, I got word that Johnny was in the hospital. I immediately called and he started chattering like the old Johnny.

“Mamie, the battery on my pacemaker ran down,” he said, explaining why he dozed off at the tribute. “They had to charge me up! I could use a little of that dirty talk we used to do!”

In November of 2007 I hosted a series of gala events introducing a new line of wines bearing my name and picture on the label. I invited Johnny to attend the evening launch party in L.A. “Mamie,” he said, “I don’t usually go out that late anymore. By that time of night, I’m here in my rocking chair watching TV. But if you really want me there, I’ll do it.” I understood and told him to stay home, be comfy, and know that I loved him.

About a week after New Years in 2008, I called Johnny at home in his suite on the top floor of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There was no answer, so I left a message. A few days later I saw on the evening news that Johnny had died. I called Ana, his secretary, and she explained that Johnny had retired early on the evening of January 9th. When he didn’t answer the door the next morning, the hotel staff went in and found him dead in his rocking chair, the TV still on. My message was still on his answering machine.

Johnny never tired of telling the story of our first date in his new Jaguar roadster. We were driving to Hollywood over Coldwater Canyon, the major thoroughfare to and from the San Fernando Valley before L.A.’s freeways were built. Coldwater climbs steeply over the Santa Monica Mountains before descending into Beverly Hills, and as we neared the crest, Johnny’s Jaguar began to overheat. He pulled into a gas station at the top of the hill, and I sat in the car while Johnny and the station attendant peered under the hood. The Jaguar had a firewall with large holes for the control cables to pass through. After a few minutes, Johnny came around to my side of the car and whispered in my ear, “Mamie, you’re going to have to get out of the car. The attendant won’t stop looking up your skirt through the firewall!”

Johnny always finished the story with his delightfully lascivious laugh, “Mamie was so hot she blew up my Jaguar!”

I’ll always remember that laugh. Certain people in this world have real magic. Johnny was one of them. Sleep well, Johnny.

Onstage at the Pantages theater delivering a eulogy for Johnny’s memorial service.