In our last issue, we related Steve's beginning in motion pictures subsequent roles on stage. In this segment, we cover the period he appeared on Broadway in the musical, "Kismet," and some very significant changes in his personal life.
In August 1954, Steve returned to Los Angeles to start shooting "Athena" with Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell. After completing the film, he had a couple of weeks free before returning to New York. He was living on Hobart Street near Western and Franklin, in the Hollywood area.
The house was owned by Danny Blum, a New Yorker who wrote coffee table books about the theater. He met Steve while Steve was doing "Kismet" in New York and offered Steve the room while he was in Los Angeles. Danny's sister occupied the front house and he often let a few aspiring actors use the back house while they were in town. An interesting note is that the person who occupied the house just before Steve was no other than Charleston Heston.
Now that "Athena" was completed, Steve was feeling really good about everything and decided to spend some of his free time at the beach getting some sun. So Steve went down to Wilshire and Western and caught the bus to Santa Monica's Muscle Beach. At the time his prized '48 Ford convertible was stored at his mother's house in Oakland.
At the same time, a very beautiful young teenager of 17, Sandra Smith, was soon starting her senior year of high school. She was dating Larry Carr, a fitness buff who closely followed the bodybuilding scene. Occasionally he would show her pictures of different bodybuilders including Steve. At that time she wasn't overly impressed with these physical culturists.
One day near the end of summer, Sandra caught a ride to the beach with some friends. They took her to Muscle Beach, a beach she never been to before. After they picked a spot on the sand, she laid out a blanket and soon some other friends of Larry's friends joined the group. One blanket with eight people on it was quite jammed so she move to the edge of the blanket, facing the water and looking at the ocean while the others were talking among themselves and having a good time.
Steve got off the bus and walked down to the boardwalk from Main Street. He spotted the group on the beach and saw a few people he knew, so he walked over to them. Someone said, "Here comes Steve Reeves!" Sandra thought to herself, "I've heard that name, oh yea, one of those muscle guys, oh boy"... as she kept facing the water. One of the people on the blanket introduced Sandra to Steve. She turned her head around and said, "Hello" and turned back towards the water. Suddenly Steve shouted out, "Hey, let's all go in the water!" Everybody jumped up and ran to the water, except Sandra. And Steve.
He sat down beside her and said, "That got rid of them." She though that was very clever and was impressed, really impressed. For the next three weeks Steve and Sandra were inseparable. Steve sent Sandra special delivery cards each night, which the Post Office would deliver around 10:30 or 11:00 P.M.
The time passed quickly - too quickl
Back in New York, Steve picked up where he left off. "Kismet" had opened about nine months earlier on December 3, 1953 at the Ziegfield Theatre. The action of this musical "Arabian Nights" takes place in Baghdad within a twenty-four hour period. It was a Charles Lederer presentation of Edwin Lester's production of a musical play in two acts and fourteen scenes. Steve played one of the wizard's guards.
Steve's good friend John Weidemann, who also was appearing in the play, had a motorcycle and asked Steve if he wanted to take a ride one Sunday. John asked Steve, "Have you ever driven a motorcycle?" Steve replied, "No," and John said he would teach him. After receiving instructions from John on the shifting of gears and braking, the two were off with Steve at the helm. Once out towards the country every thing was going great and they were having a good time.
John spotted a little country store and thought it would be a good time to get something to drink. As they were now nearly past the store, John shouted in Steve's ear and pointed for him to "turn here!" Steve cranked the handlebars to the right but the front tire started to slide in the loose grave. Steve knew he wasn't going to make the turn.
He heard John say, "I'm bailingl" Steve laid the bike on its side and both he and the bike slide into a tree. He heard a loud "pop" and knew he had dislocated his shoulder. He immediately popped it back into the correct position, with the help of the tree. The two guys straightened the bike's front rim and limped it back to the city.
Steve went to a hospital to find out what damaged was done. He had dislocated his shoulder, fractured some ribs and messed up his hands. After a few days of recovery, Steve called Sandra and told her that he had to take some time off from "Kismet" due to his injuries and wanted to spend some of it in Oakland with his family. He asked Sandra if she'd like to fly up to meet them. Sandra received permission from her parents and made arrangements to take a couple of days off school.
Steve recalled that Sandra looked like a super model with her new dress, gloves and hat. She wanted to look picture- perfect to meet his mom. Steve picked her up at the airport in the '48 Ford, then crossed the bay by the way of a ferryboat. Those wonderful curls in her hair came out with all the moisture from the bay and the motion of the water made her nauseous. Not an auspicious start!
However, once off the ferry Sandra felt better. The first stop was a visit with Ed and Alice Yarick. The Yaricks had a gorgeous little boy named Bart. Steve's mother baby-sat Bart on a regular basis. During their stay in Oakland, Steve and Sandra took Bart for a ride in Steve's convertible. Bart would pull himself up on Steve and lookout the windshield laughing with his dark brown locks blowing in the wind.
The first night, Steve's mother gave a party for Steve and Sandra. Al! of Steve's friends were there, including the Yaricks. Sandra was very nervous and scared because this was the first time she was away from home. Sandra and Goldie, Steve's mother, hit it off and began a friendship that lasted for years.
After the short stay, the couple drove back to Southern California in Steve's Ford. Steve stayed in Los Angeles for about two more weeks. His motorcycle injuries were nearly healed by then, and soon it was time for him to fly back to New York and resume his work in "Kismet." This meant another sad "farewell" for Steve and Sandra.
It now was around the first part of November and Steve called Sandra a couple days after arriving. At around 5:00 P.M. West Coast time Sandra's mother was cooking dinner when the phone rang. Sandra's mother answered it. She said "Sandra, It's for you. It's Steve."
Within the next few minutes, Steve proposed to Sandra. It didn't take her long to exclaim, "Yes!" He gave her three dates to choose from for the wedding because of the show's scheduling. Sandra was in her last year of high school and Steve said that she could finish school in Manhattan. Sandra and Steve settled on January 31st as their wedding date.
After getting off the phone, both Steve and Sandra were really excited. Sandra went running into the kitchen, jumping up and down telling her mother the big news. Her mother was very surprised and happy for her. When her dad got home from work they all sat down at the dinner table and her mother said, "Sandra tell him, tell him, tell your dad, tell your dad!" She quickly exclaimed:
"Steve asked me to marry him!" Her dad sat for awhile and then said, "Hon, just don't move in with us." Her dad had spent many years working at the movie studios, and wanted to keep his daughter away from the studios and actors. He was taken back a bit and wondered how this happened. But he was really happy for his daughter and Steve.
After some logistics, they decided to have the wedding in Sherman Oaks, near Studio City in the San Fernando Valley. The small wedding was to take place on a Monday evening because of the show's scheduling.
The news of Steve Reeves' impending wedding was the talk of the entertainment and bodybuilding worlds. People began sending wedding gifts from all over the globe. Steve was 29 and Sandra was 18 when they married at the United Methodist Church in Sherman Oaks.
Famed artist and sculptor of prized Steve Reeves busts, Kenneth Kendall, was one of Steve's wedding attendants. Afterwards, a charming reception was held for the newlyweds at the home of Sandra's parents. It was a modest home on Bellingham Street in Studio City, also in the San Fernando Valley. It was an area inhabited by many famous and not-so-famous people who made their careers either on camera or elsewhere at the studios.
The wedding guests included only close relatives and friends along with one mysterious couple who travelled to the wedding from Germany. Neither Steve nor Sandra nor their parents had a clue whom the couple was, but they were quite cordial and seemed right at home with the wedding party!
No time for honeymoon. That very night, the new Mr. And Mrs. Steve Reeves boarded a plane for the Big Apple, just in time for Steve to make his curtain call the next evening. Steve and Sandra made their home in New York for a short time before leaving with the show for its extended road tour.
In our next segment, we'll see how Steve gets on with his life and his career and opens his gym in Florida.
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