I wish I could say that my story of meeting Rudy Vallee ended with him giving me his megaphone. It didn’t. But still it ended in a pleasant enough way to warrant this final Rudy posting.
I did as Tommy, his friend/helper, suggested (see 1/11 post) and sent Rudy a thank you gift for letting me tour his house; a postcard, circa early 1930’s, of the house itself, newly completed and advertised as the home of actress Ann Harding (she and her husband built the house and sold it to Vallee in the forties. I believe I found the postcard at Larry Edmunds on Hollywood Blvd.) Almost instantly I got a call from Tommy telling me that the boss liked the card very much. Just in case no further invitation was forthcoming I’d taken the precaution of also buying a few stills of Ann Harding showing off the house just after it had been built. I told Tommy about these as well. “Whyn’t you bring ’em on by this Sunday?” he suggested, a bit conspiritorially. So my second invite to the Vallee estate was in the bag.
This time I brought a friend with me (we’d spent much of our adolescence driving around LA peeking up long driveways and trying to sneak into mansions and this seemed too good an opportunity not to invite him along). And this time I wound up having another, slightly longer chat with Rudy–he seemed to be bustling around xeroxing lots of old clippings and doing a lot of filing work while his wife entertained the guests. I remember standing in a crowded storage room with him, talking about “How To Succeed In Business”–he was, again, quite charming and if not exactly super-conversational, he seemed pleased to be distracted. Before we left, he gave me a paperback copy of his often-retitled autobiography and signed it.
Now, if I were the man I am today I would certainly have felt satisfied with these two visits and would have not pushed the so-called envelope any further. BUT I WAS SEVENTEEN. And so I came up with yet another move. My father, Frank De Felitta, had recently published a novel called “Sea Trial”. I prevailed upon him to sign a copy of it so I could give it to Rudy Vallee, and keep this bizarre quasi-relationship alive. My father did so, expressing not the slightest bit of interest in meeting Rudy Vallee. Once again I called Tommy and told him I had something for the boss. He told me to come by on a weekday morning the following week.