In The Pipeline: From James Dean to Marilyn Monroe, he knew them all

August 03, 2011|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

"I was working at Googies the Sunday Dean was killed, and as you now know, I knew him fairly well, and I swear it was as if a meteor had crashed into Hollywood killing thousands. People on the street who had no connection to the industry were weeping."

He's referring to James Dean.

"Same with Monroe. I knew women who wore black for weeks in mourning. My then-wife, Janet, summed it up perfectly when she said, 'Hell, had she'd known it would cause this much of a stir, she would have killed herself years ago!' And remember, Janet and I knew her pretty well."

That's Marilyn Monroe.

Meet Steve Hayes, author, actor, painter and raconteur so exceptionally blessed with the art of storytelling — and life experiences — that he's already filled two books of memoirs, "Googies, Coffeeshop to the Stars," parts 1 and 2.

If you didn't know, Googies was a famous Hollywood haunt back in the glamorous 1940s and '50s, a hot spot where Hayes worked for years.


When he wasn't acting.

Or living with Errol Flynn.

Or squiring Ava Gardner around town when Sinatra was away.

When he wasn't with Tyrone Power, Lana Turner or the aforementioned Dean and Monroe.

Or when he wasn't in Cuba with Castro and Hemingway.

Hayes' life is almost comically rich with provocative, romantic escapades and adventures. But as interesting as his past is, it's his present, and no doubt his future, that, to me, make him most compelling.

I met Hayes last week at the Starbucks on Goldenwest Street near Yorktown Avenue. It was 7 a.m., and he'd just finished up at the gym. He works out there from about 4 to 6 a.m. six days a week.

And he's 81 years old.

I almost omitted that fact, because it really adds little to this story. See, when you meet Hayes, you'd probably guess he's about 60 or so. Then again, the firm grip, boundless conversational energy and electric twinkle in his eyes might have you shave off yet another five years. This isn't a story about age. It's about attitude.

He told me he's conditioned to only several hours of sleep each night, after being awakened so often as a little boy growing up in war-torn England.

"The bombing raids were murder for sleep," he chuckled in a polished, somewhat devilish laugh.

Back in the 1950s, Hayes' dashing, matinee-idol looks landed him plenty of small parts. But the writer in him won out, and to date, he's penned countless screenplays for TV and film, almost two dozen fiction books and his two-part, all-but-impossible-to-put-down memoir.

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