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Roger Smith

Ann-Margret 7 Years After
The Motel Room Scandal

Ann-Margret can't cook so much as a piece of toast. But that doesn't matter worth a damn as long as she can get Roger to "fly to little towns just for dinner."

MEMO FROM EDITOR: See Ann-Margret. Top Benedict Canyon. Husband in France. Behave yourself.

That's a joke, son. A newsman doesn't last long in Hollywood if he makes passes at stars that he interviews – unless the star makes a pass first and a reporter can go through a lifetime without that kind of luck.

BEAUTY WITH THE HYPHEN

I hadn't sen Ann-Margret in seven years and now I was asked to interview her. When I got the delicious assignement, pictures of her past tossed through my mind.

One fan magazine splashed the headline, "Ann-Margret's affair with Eddie Fisher." Another told of a motel room fight between Vince Edwards and Robert Vaughn over her charms. And still another told of her throwing an engagement ring in the face of man-about-town Burt Sugarman.

She had led an exciting life. She dated girl chaser Bo Belinsky. She was seen around with handsome Peter Brown. She was photographed dancing with Ty Hardin, Frankie Avalon, Peter Mann and Hugh O'Brian.

She said she drew no lines for dating as long as her man wasn't maried. Louella said she would marry Gardner McKAy. When she didn't, Louella ran an editorial directed at Ann-Margret that warned her she could kill her career by dating every night.

Ann-Margret told me she was an adult, and as such she was entitled to do whatever she wanted as long as she didn't hurt her parents – that was important to her.

I wondered whether she had changed any now that she was married. Had she quieted down or was she still wild and unmanagable? I'd soon find out.

So off along winding roads after an establishing phone call to Ann-Margret's rented, furnished, gorgeous home atop the Canyon. Two cats came up on the run to greet me but at the last minute veered and ran down the wooded hill. Calling didn't bring them back.

Ann-Margret lounged in a deck chair on the lawn, looking up at the hot sun. "Hey," she said lazily. I had met her before. It's customary to kiss cheeks in Hollywood but I just shook her hand because she was sprawled too low to do it gracefully.

Ann-Margret is lovely. What agreat face, freckled and healthy looking. She was dressed in a pastel blue which faded into the sky in back of her. A knot of a diamond sparkled on her hand. Simple sandals hung from her dangling feet.

Came time for the questions and the answers:

Q: Is it true the press hasn't been friendly to you? ( A loaded question.)

A: Well, I have had arguments with the press. If you don't say what they want to hear then they don't print it. It's all preconceived.

Q: I think you said once you don't like to talk about family and marriage to the press.

A: True. I don't think that's anyone's business.

Q: You don't think a person in the public eye has a responsibility to the public?

A: Yes. But up to a a point. And I've changed a lot.

Q: How?

A: I don't get into as much trouble because I'm not as trusting. I used to tell stories off the record and they'd appear in print anyway. Now I'm very careful what I say and still I worry about interpretation. A star lives two lives – one in reality and one in the press. But I don't think the public understands that.

Q: Let's get to another subject. What has all thius success meant to you?

A: I'm glad you asked that because I have something to say about it. I believe success moves you further and further away from everyone. They cease to be honest with you because you are a different kind of being. Soon you lose everyone except family and husband. Oh, and the animals remain the same to you. Naturally there's a lot of cliches I could say about success. Certainly it's gratifying to reach a goal you've worked hard for. Isn't that what most people are trying to do? Success, like Jackie Gleason says, is sweet.

Q: I never see you around at parties or the swinging restaurants. What do you do for fun or relaxation?

A: Roger (her husband) flies his own plane and we fly to little towns just for dinner or a weekend. Roger has three children (by Victoria Shaw) and we take the kids out. And I get on the bike a lot.

Q: Are you domestic?

A: No, I can't cook. I like steak and Roiger can fix that. I love champagne and always see that there are chilled glasses in the refrigerator- Roger doesn't mind that I can't cook. (Who would with Ann-MArgret as your wife.)

Q: Someone once told me that picture-making bored you. Is that right?

A: If it's straight drama like "The Cincinnatti Kid" then all the waiting bores me. Usually for a TV or film musical I can keep busy with rehearsals, dance numbers or new music. But you can sit and think just so long. Repetition is always wearing and that's what movie making is.

Q: I know you do a lot of dancing which I imagine keeps you in trim. Do you maintain any other klind of diet?

A: Yes, I eat rich desserts. I don't have trouble with weight so I eat what pleases me most.

Q: (Show her clipping.) You said a few years ago it was impossible for a show business marriage to work – that is between actor and actress. Yet you married an actor and you've been married for a couple of years, apparently happy. Any comment?

A: We're happy. Roger does more directing and producing now. He's pretty much stopped acting. There's more pressure on us because we both are in show business. But so far, so good. I have always thought a good man can make a good marriage. If that theory holds up we'll always be happy.

Q: I understand you'd be a lot happier if you didn't think many people exploit you.

A: I expect exploitation. I am not naive enough to believe if I wasn't a success there'd be plenty of people who wouldn't be nice to me.

Q: Just one last question on what I imagine is a delicate subject for you. Why is it that the Women's Press Club gave you their "Sour Apple" award twice as the industry's most uncooperative actress?

A: Mostly they represent fan magazines and they believe I'm uncooperative because I won't talk about my private life. I've never appeared in the nude or semi-nude either because my body is my business. Mostly women writers confuse my real life with my screen life. Because of that my answers don't make much sense to them. So I'm difficult. Well, I'll have to live with it.

Driving away from the Ann-Margret home, I felt a wave of nostalgia hit me. I liked the 21-year old Ann-Margret better. She was even prettier today but the face was a mask, a facade. She once was uninhibited, unafraid, direct. Now she was suspicious, careful, formal.

Most actresses change the same way. I mourned for a lost youth – her lost youth. Her skyrocketing career had left its mark on her. The chances were no newsman would ever get a truly honest answer from Ann-Margret again. It would be guarded, circumspect.

Goodbye young Ann-Margret. You were an exciting addition to the early Sixties.

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By Leo Guild

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