by Rima Magee
Some of us get to look back over a lot of years during which the circle of those who know us has shrunk. Who really remembers us? Film and TV stars, authors, sports stars, politicians, statesmen and women, even murderers, remain in the public memory. To keep them there, historians dredge up details and offer us yet another biography. But what of the rest of us, the 99.9% of the population who never did anything important enough to be put on permanent record.
First of all, we live, work, raise families, vote for (maybe) the right guy, serve on necessary committees in our communities, and do all those things that people do to maintain our civilization. We fight for causes in which we believe, spending precious time and money in their support. We try to be good citizens as we despair over those who are not. Once in a while a name pops up and momentary fame is granted for good deeds accomplished. Mostly, however, we struggle along Life’s Highway in relative obscurity until the last words appear on a tombstone that, in the course of time, will crumble into dust.
Ah, fame! Aside from my writing, I have had a small taste in my 80-plus years. I found an old file folder with some newspaper clippings that brought this to light. It was 1926, I think, that I became famous in Poughkeepsie, New York, as a dancer. As part of a 22-person cast, I was in a Christmas production of “The Magic Whirl” from Babes in Toyland staged at a local theater by the operators of the dancing school.
“Baby Star at Bardavon” was the headline. It burbled on from there to: “Just the darlingest little actress ever seen, Rima … , daughter of … , danced her way into the hearts of Bardavon audiences … .” My mother paid for my lessons by sewing, making costumes for children of parents with better incomes than ours.
She continued this sacrifice in 1928 when we moved to San Francisco, until I broke her heart one Saturday. I was supposed to be at the dancing school by 11 o’clock (“and don’t you dare be late”) for a particular surprise. But I failed to watch the clock and I was late by about half an hour. The surprise was that the teacher had invited a Hollywood talent scout to come see me dance. If he had liked me, I would have been on my way to challenge Shirley Temple. But he was gone, my teacher was very angry, and my mother was crying. That ended the lessons.
Other clips that surfaced years later in Houston after WWII ended indicated that the newspaper columnists seemed to follow me around. I was “Adgal Rima …” doing this and that. I had lost my job at The Press when one of the staff reporters returned from service and I was reduced to the ignominious ranks of “advertising and public relations.” The columnists loved me. I worked on interesting promotions that gave them a lot of great copy and freebee luncheons with big local names – stuff like opening new hotels, charity balls, and building new hospitals. This skill followed me to Hollywood where I joined Bob Hope’s PR staff. And you can’t get more famously connected than that.
I had my chance at Hollywood. Even Broadway, where I was. briefly, part of the cast of The Children’s Hour. I was on a radio show in New York for a while during high school years. I acted in school plays and was with the Little Theater in Houston. Something always seemed to interfere with advancement in the theater.
My writing continues to give me pleasure of accomplishment. As for fleeting fame – I have always maintained that it is much better to be a Has Been than a Never Was.