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Roger Smith


What's in her drinks?
Only her closest know the truth

A wild dance for the photographers, a swirling night-club visit with a young millionaire, a drink - and a sensational headline to go with the morning coffee next morning. Swedish Ann-Margret is now on top in Hollywood's dream factory. But part of the job is fooling the audience!

April 9, 1962 was a big day in Hollywood. The day of the Academy Awards. A sophisticated, worthy gala, with tight nerves, hearts beating fast inside dinner jackets and diamond decorated thousand dollar dresses. It's the day of the year when an almost unknown 20-year old with big dreams wouldn't stand a chance of drawing any attention - unless that 20-year old is called Ann-Margret!

Five melodies were nominated for an Oscar as Best Song. Each was presented by a young singer. Ann-Margret was one of the chosen. It was a great chance - but a chance that a lot of unknown singers had had through the years... It had never meant anything significant in their lives.

"Bachelor In Paradise" was Ann-Margret's song.

Every living female creature has some time locked themselves in their bathroom or bedroom and there, all alone, in front of the mirror, in complete solitude, done poses worthy a Madame Pompadour - or gone completely wild and danced an exaggerated, sensual dance to a record a lonely night, when you long for someone or something.

That's also what Ann-Margret did with her Oscar song. The difference was she didn't do it alone, but in front of an audience containing some of the world's most famous film stars and millions of TV viewers!

She snapped her fingers, and let the rhythm flow through her body. It was like throwing Easter-crackers at the worthy Oscar-ceremony.

Bob Hope was hosting the show. He had neither seen nor heard Ann-Margret before. When she had been waiting for her turn, really nervous and breaking into cold sweats, he had whispered: "Who is that? A pony that has escaped from a circus?"

The effect it had on her performance was tremendous. Whispers of "It's a scandal!" were heard... It was said that "that much uninhibited sex doesn't belong anyway near the Oscars".

But the hip-shakin', foot-stompin', finger-snappin' made everyone aware of who Ann-Margret was! She was the new sex symbol.

Now telephones were starting to ring at her agent's.

But now - what would she do? Should she tell everyone that she was a nice little girl who lived at home with her mum and dad, and went to bed early, just to have energy to work on her career and her big dream that put all other dreams aside... that all the sexy stuff is something she just turns on whenever she hears the music...

The green-eyed Swedish girl isn't stupid.

She took one look around. Once - only a couple of decades ago - film companies and audiences demanded that their heroes should be faultless, that they should walk a few feet above ground. Today, there's been a change. Today, success and scandal are close liasons. Sometimes it seems it's better to have been part of a big divorce or a love drama, than to actually have trained for the stage or the art of acting...

What if fat, legendary comic Fatty Arbuckle had lived to see this day and age! Once he was the talk of the town, but after a wild party, he was accused of manslaughter and rape. Though he was acquitted, he never made another movie. The same goes for many other actors and actresses. Scandals were hushed down, if possible, if not, they were sacrificed to the special acting hell called Forgetville.

Slowly, things started to change - maybe with Charlie Chaplin. He was brought to court in a paternity case. The world's most popular comic was booed at when the trial began, but slowly Chaplin, and his lawyer, the legendary Jerry Giesler, managed to turn events around. Chaplin was sentenced to pay alimony, but he left the court house as beloved as his various film characters. People cheered and even more people saw his films.

Chaplin became something of a pioneer in what a Hollywood player can do. Errol Flynn was involved in a paternity case with minors, but he was still successfull. A court once read out parts of Mary Astor's very detailed diary aloud. Her producers were scared senseless when her next film premiered. But the audience stood up and cheered when she appeared on screen!

Today everything is just the opposite. Audiences not only tolerates less moral living - they often seem to demand it from their favourites!

The closest example would be Elizabeth Taylor. The love triangle Elizabeth Taylor - Eddie Fisher - Debbie Reynolds gave all involved lots of publicity, film offers and increased wages!

Rita Hayworth's romantic escapades raised her price. The same goes for Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner and many more.

Young people in Tinseltown have found out: It pays to be written about, to be considered "wild".

Ann-Margret launched a publicity campaign, together with her agents.

She broke off her engagement to the young businessman Burt Sugarman. Ann-Margret dated Eddie Fisher and said: "He's nice. And he's a man. I like boys but I prefer men". At the same time she was seen here and there (gossip writers were always well informed) with Peter Brown, actor, Peter Mann, actor, Bobby Rydell, singer, Frankie Avalon, singer, Bo Belinsky, famous baseball star, Gardner McKay, TV actor...

She was saying things like: "There's a safety in dating many men - you don't get too attached to any one". "I have to learn more about love - I have a lot to learn..."

The most famous "romance" was of course with Elvis Presley, when they starred in "Viva Las vegas". Ann-Margret sighed and hinted. She even went as far as to say "Maybe I love him?"

A real romance? Hardly. Just two smart Hollywood stars who knew the rules of the game. That they could get loads of interviews, speculating articles, more fan letters, more parts, higher wages!

The flood of articles and publicity continues, as Ann-Margret makes film after film. She can pick and choose between offers and today she is one of Hollywood's hottest stars.

If the real truth were to be written about Ann-Margret, not many paragraphs would probably be written. If one uses common sense and look at her schedule (shootings from early mornings until late nights, with singing-, dancing- and speechlessons, charities, endless interviews, photo-shoots), you realize there's no place for wild and crazy nights out!

Sure, it's true she was seen at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go last week, doing the Watusi with a young millionaire! But noone saw her agent who took her there, the accompanying photographer who snapped a picture during her one dance, and the pure orange juice she downed before jumping in her agent's car and was driven home for eight hours sleep!

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By Marianne Ruuth

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