My dad, James Whitmore, Part Three

I was sitting in my blue Chevrolet Corvair with a girl. Always a girl. We had been having sexual relations. And the crazier the better, I guess because that’s what I was with at this moment. I was 15 or 16 by now. I’d been arrested a couple of times for public drunkenness. Brought home by the cops. They did that back in the day.

I was living a life of luxury. I was in a house at the end of a road in Rustic Canyon, just below Pacific Palisades. My dad was pretty famous at the time. James Whitmore had had success in movies, already nominated for an Academy Award, and television. An acquaintance of mine said I was part of “American Royalty.” I don’t hold to to that, but we were well off because of my dad’s hard work and talent. Our house was huge. We each had our own rooms. We had a maid. I was living a dream.

Something was stirring inside me, though. Something was wrong; seeds of immature discontent. I sat with this pretty teen-aged girl in my blue Corvair and was antsy. Always antsy. She said she had some pills. Would I like to try them? What were they, I asked. Sleeping pills. Really strong. I said sure. She said I should only take two at the most. She held out four. I took four.

Next thing I know, I’m saying we should leave this town. Go back east. My older brother had recently moved back there. Let’s go find him. She was game. I drove home or she drove me home. I stole some cash. Left a note saying “I can’t take it anymore.’ Yeah, right. I can’t take living in the very lap of luxury with loving parents and two kind brothers. I scrawl a note and split.

Next thing I remember is waking up as this girl was barreling across roads somewhere in Arizona. My blue Corvair was flying over the bumps in the road. It was night. Jeez, I thought. I’m really doing this.

My memory is vague about the rest of the trip except we did stop somewhere where she knew somebody. I remember she went into a bedroom with a guy and a girl came out to be with me. I didn’t like it. I’d screwed up and I knew it.

My parents were frantic. They didn’t know where I was or if I was OK. Police, I was told later, got involved in the search. Drugs may have been involved, so they were looking for runaways and possible drug traffickers. My dad was a well-known actor at the time, so that made this whole debacle a little more sensitive.

We needed money and I was running out of money. She didn’t want to go back. We made it as far as Elk City, Oklahoma. I snuck out one day and called home collect. My dad got on the phone and was kind. He asked if I was all right. He asked if I wanted to come home. I started to cry. I said yes. He said he would wire me the money for gas and lodging to get me home. I was relieved.

This girl went crazy. We’re not going back, she said. I told her I was and she could do whatever she wanted. Of course, she came back with me.

I remember when I was coming down the grade into Los Angeles, the girl demanded that when we get back we stay boyfriend and girlfriend. I agree, just to shut her up as I remember.

I drop her off at her home in the Pacific Palisades. I get home and am greeted by a houseguest with enthusiasm. “Welcome home, world traveler.” He shouted. My mother scowled at me. She was angry. Had every right to be.

My dad welcomed me home and said we were going to have a talk. He smiled. His warmth made me feel OK. He’d paid for my trip back and was not going to kick me out. He was going to talk to me, which meant rules. He told me he loved me and I went to my room.

Part Four: Rules, false claim of pregnancy and dad’s intervention again.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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