Tag Archives: Marilyn Beck

MARILYN BECK 1928-2014

Marilyn Beck and Elvis PresleyMarilyn Beck, whose career as a Hollywood columnist spanned the star system to the digital age, died Saturday (5/31/14) of COPD after a three-year battle with lung cancer. She was 85. Beck was the last of the old school, high-powered Hollywood-based newspaper columnists with some 500 papers, domestic and international, running her five-day-a-week column at the height of her fame. That was in addition to her NBC “Marilyn Beck’s Hollywood Outtakes” specials, her long-running stints on television’s syndicated “PM Magazine” and E! Channel “Gossip Show,” her reports on L.A. radio station KFI, and her books.

She was never one to pull punches, especially when it came to asking celebrities anything – everything – whether it was quizzing Sylvester Stallone about leaving his wife, pushing Bob Hope to talk about his money, or digging for information about the jet set drug culture in Aspen, Colorado after the 1976 shooting of skier Spider Sabich by singer Claudine Longet. She also cut a memorable figure of her own with enormous energy and a mischievous sense of humor. This was a woman who owned a pair of shoes that could be converted into roller skates and wore them backstage at the Academy Awards on a dare. She dearly loved the Hollywood beat, but at the same time, after decades of dealing with studios, publicists and stars, she once joked that she was going to become a rancher, “because if there’s one thing I know, it’s bullshit.”

Marilyn wrote her first column for Bell McClure syndicate in 1967, having already established herself on the entertainment beat with a local column and fan magazine writing and editing. In 1970, she was namedsuccessor to Sheilah Graham by the North American Newspaper Alliance. Beck became a favorite interviewer of show business notables the likes of Richard Burton — who shared stories of his life with Elizabeth Taylor when their affair was the scandal du juor in 1963 and all three of them were in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Elvis Presley gave Marilyn his first interview after mustering out of the military. Dick Van Dyke, who chose Marilyn when he a decided to go public with his alcoholism, Lucille Ball, who disclosed to her nearly-debilitating health issues, and Michael Landon, who revealed his battles with pill dependence, are three examples of stars who placed their trust in her. She had long-running feuds with prickly, arrogant actors such as Robert Blake — and favorite interview subjects such as George Burns, who co-hosted one of her “Hollywood Outtakes” specials.

She saw through the psychedelic clouds of the time and wrote incisively, sometimes derisively, about the radically-changing film and TV scene of the 1960’s — the “Switched On Hollywood” as she was originally going to title her Marilyn Beck’s Hollywood tome of 1972 — “Easy Rider,” “Laugh-In” and the loss of flower power innocence that came with the Tate-LaBianca murders.

She moved her column to the New York Times Special Features in 1972. For nearly a quarter century, she has been syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

Although Beck had studied journalism at USC, the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-bred writer truly began her journalism journey after her son Mark and daughter Andee were both in grade school. As a housewife and mother with a newspaperman husband (the late Roger Beck), early on she would describe her fan magazine stories and celebrity news efforts as her “outlet” — as if they were simply something to supplement the family income and amuse herself between housework and shopping. It had to have become apparent fairly quickly that her capabilities and ambitions were too big to fit within such confines.

Through the ’70s her influence grew, and the end of the decade saw her prominently featured in the New York Daily News, with two reporters in their early twenties working alongside of her — daughter Andee and Stacy Jenel Smith, who was later to become her writing partner. After her divorce, Beck moved to a hillside home in Beverly Hills that she remodeled to include offices. There, amidst the furious clacking of typewriters, she and her staff (several different reporters after Andee took up her own career as a TV critic in Oregon) worked on an intense daily drive to pack each of her columns with A-list interviews and exclusive news items about the goings-on of the show business world. The house on El Roble was frequented by stars and TV crews.

With a visionary streak, Beck was determined to find a place on the internet when other journalists were ignoring it. By the late 1980s she was answering entertainment-related reader questions for Prodigy online. By 1990 she and Smith were popular contributors to CompuServe. Beck thought up the idea, never before attempted, of taking reader queries live, and then posing them to winners in the press room of the Academy Awards. This was accomplished as a co-venture with Michael Bolanos’ Entertainment Drive.

gone golfingAlso in the ’90s, Beck and Smith were staples of E! Entertainment’s “The Gossip Show,” did regular streamed video reports on the internet’s AENTV, and frequently appeared on other programs dealing with entertainment news. The 2000s saw Marilyn spending more time globe-trotting with her second husband (since 1980), retired mediator Arthur Levine, who shared her zest for adventure — and less time chasing stories. Having been at the forefront of reporting during the Roman Polanski scandal and court case of the 1970s, Beck appeared in James Marsh’s 2008 documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”

Beck won numerous awards throughout her career, including honors from the Los Angeles City Council, the Southern California Motion Picture Council and the ICG Publicists Guild of America. She was listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who in Entertainment. But her family always came first – and she was known to quote Lucille Ball, with whom she agreed that “If your children do well, they’re your greatest achievement. If they don’t do well, none of your other achievements matter.”

She is survived by Levine, daughter Andee Beck Althoff (who became a corporate paralegal before the newspaper business imploded) and son-in-law Jim Althoff; son Mark (a leading California attorney) and daughter-in-law Bonnie Saland; brother Mitchell Mohr; step-children Patty and Michael Levine; granddaughter Jeorgea Beck (Aaron Kirby) and grandsons Zeke Beck (Laura) and Harry Althoff (Jenn Thomas) and Daniel Althoff.

Stacy Jenel Smith will continue to write celebrity reports under the Beck/Smith Hollywood banner for Creators.



shirley maclaineInteresting, Shirley MacLaine’s response to daughter Sachi Parker’s scathing tell-all book. The septuagenarian actress released a statement that she was heartbroken over the tome, blasting thatLucky Me: My Life With – and Without – My Mom, Shirley MacLaine as “virtually all fiction. I’m sorry to see such a dishonest, opportunistic effort from my daughter.”

Well, this column can substantiate some of Parker’s claims from someone who clearly would know: Shirley MacLaine herself, in a number of jaw-dropping interviews of the past with Marilyn Beck. For instance, in 1983 she volunteered that she had let Sachi make all her own decisions, including where she wanted to live, from the time she was two years old. Marilyn, astonished, asked her “How can a two-year-old say ‘This is right for me?’”

“But you see,” answered MacLaine, “she knows that she’s not just a two-year-old. She knows that she’s a very old soul who also chose me for a mother and I chose her for adaughter and because we come together on the spiritual issues, she is very mature and taken responsibility for everything.” MacLaine said she and Sachi were mother and daughter in another life, too, except that then, Sachi was the mother.

Thus, it was Sachi’s fault – er, choice that she spent most of her childhood away from MacLaine, living with her father, producer Steve Parker, in Japan or in European boarding schools. At least, it was according to MacLaine.

Well known for her belief in reincarnation and a wide range of what were once called “New Age” views, MacLaine herself began her “journey of self exploration” when “I was two and commenced what I refer to as reflective therapy – wandering away by myself to think my private thoughts, to wonder who I was,” she said.

“Who says a wife is better, or a mother more loving and valuable, just because she’s under foot all the time?” asked the actress in a 1967 chat, justifying her very long-distance relationship from her daughter and then-husband.

In 1971, the star explained to Marilyn that a parents’job was to bring a child into the world, and then life was up to them. In essence, her obligation to Sachi was overonce she had given birth.

“I wish she had been a bit more of a mommie,” Sachi told People magazine, acknowledging that her mother wasn’t one. She also expressed her view that MacLaine wasprobably too young to be a mother and that the “very seductive” life of a majorHollywood star had much to do with her failings as a parent.

Actually, it’s not hard to make the case that Parker goes light on her mother’s complete self-centeredness and self-absorption.

In 1977, after finishing filming on “The Turning Point,”MacLaine talked about her degree of self love: “I think my level of self esteem borders on arrogance – not that I don’t lack self-confidence in some areas.”

Like what?

“Like feeling inferior because I don’t speak five languages. Shit like that.”

There is irony is MacLaine’s upset over Lucky Me – since her own tell-all books of the past have produced dismay in others. Brother Warren Beatty let it be known that such was the case after MacLaine’s hugely popular Out on a Limbwas published. And, in a scathing Esquire interview, her “Terms of Endearment” on screen daughter, Debra Winger, characterized MacLaine as a self-absorbed egotist who gave herself repeated birthday parties and who couldn’t be quiet about her love affairs.

“I don’t really want to get into that…reaction to that. Because so much of it is her problem,” she told Marilyn at the time. “I also have to say that Debra Winger or whoever else talks about me or does whatever they do in my life, in my play as a separate reality, has to deal with the karmic reaction to what they cause. You see, what she puts out, she will get back. And what I put out, I’ll get back.”