When I was a girl my family used to visit a cabin in a place called Montazah. It was an idyllic spot away from the bustling city – woods, green gardens and the sparkling Mediterranean on our doorstep. My sister, my cousins and I would have a blissful time during the summer holidays, free to explore and find beautiful locations to dream up romantic stories, usually incorporating the actors and actresses of the era whom we admired.
One summer, when I was fourteen years old our stay at the cabin in Montazah coincided with an international film and television festival. My sister, my cousins and I watched with mounting excitement as sleek cars glided towards a grand hotel where a reception was to be held. Hiding behind a bush, we watched Hollywood icons emerge from the cars and enter the hotel – be still our pounding hearts!
Determined to see more, we marched up to the front door of the hotel – pink-cheeked, bright-eyed and dressed in our simple summer attire. The doormen, proper and formal, were not prepared to let us saunter past, and were determined to deny us access.
A reconnaissance mission revealed an open window at the back of the building. In we climbed, and proceeded to mingle with the stars of television and film – they in their evening dress; we in our shorts. To see them in the flesh, rather than on a black-and-white television screen or at the cinema, was simply amazing.
The actors we approached were friendly and gracious. My sister asked Roger Moore, whom we knew from the TV series The Saint, whether she could kiss him; his response: ‘But, baby, I’m married.’ Robert Conrad (Hawaiian Eye and The Wild Wild West) was dashingly handsome in the flesh, and signed an autograph.
But it was Gardner Mackay, star of Adventures in Paradise, that I most wanted to meet. I asked a man dressed in a tuxedo whether he knew where I could find Mr Mackay.
‘Why do you want to speak to him?’ the man asked.
I explained that I was a huge fan.
‘And what about me?’ he demanded. ‘I’m Richard Burton.’
I had no idea who he was, and politely took my leave. If only I had known!