Connie Stevens - an apple blossom with the wham of bulldozer | TV Guide 1965-05-01 Northern California


Flanked by two naked light bulbs on Stage 6A at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank, Cal., a dozen actors, producers and other production personnel fidgeted at a long green table, nervously eying the stage door. They had convened for the first rehearsal of a segment of Wendy and Me, called for 9 o'clock on a Monday morning. Everybody had been punctual for the run-through save Connie Stevens, who plays Wendy. Comedian George Burns, the Me as well as the series producer, gamely filled the tedious wait with anecdotes from his vast lode of show-business nostalgia. The director glanced at his watch with growing irritation. 

Beneath floral-printed sheets, 15 miles away, Miss Stevens slept peacefully beside her husband of 16 months in a king-size bed. A phone call from the studio finally roused her. She hastily changed from her ice-yellow shorty nightgown into a polka-dot shift she had worn to church the day before. Her teeth brushed and a comb perfunctorily raked through her short blonde hair, Connie sprinted out of her seven-room ranch house, gunned her brand-new Mustang fastback and headed for the freeway. 

Fifty minutes late, she undulated onto the set. Her half-opened gimlet eyes were shielded by huge sunglasses, her translucent skin was devoid of any makeup except face powder. "Now, to get even with her," Burns said, in a stage whisper, "when she reads her first line, let's not answer her for a half hour." 

Connie picked up her leather-bound script and the rehearsal began. "Well, I'm all packed," she read. Her line was followed by complete silence. Connie's face turned red as the assembled throng stared at her with mock menace. Then they burst out laughing. "Let's get on with the thing," Burns interjected, having savored his subtle reprimand. "I just hope the script is as funny." 

What makes the Wendy and Me episodes humorous is their unabashed resemblance to the old Burns and Allen television series that enjoyed a successful run of eight years in prime evening time. Connie plays a younger version of the late Gracie Allen—a feather-headed mistress of the malaprop, with quaint methods of dealing with the computer age. 

Quite possibly this variety of fluff-headed female has become all too familiar for discerning TV viewers. Despite Miss Stevens' supposed popularity—she has decorated more than 200 covers of fan magazines and once was named among the Nation's most admired women in a Gallup poll Wendy and Me lagged in the ratings all season. And last month, when ABC announced its schedule for 1965-66, Wendy was among the absent. 

This harsh fact hardly dismays Miss Stevens, even though it means a hefty financial loss. She was cut in for 121/2 percent of the profits from the series. "A while back a lady told me: 'You're so wonderful in that show, you're gonna be on the air for 15 years,' " Connie reports. "My reaction to that was—my eyes widened and I panicked. I just don't have the emotional capacity to stick with something for that long. I have to be movin' all the time. I hate to disillusion people and say I love this part and I could do it for the rest of my dying days." 

Most of all, Connie yearns to be a revered motion-picture star, and she works overtime at making this dream come: true. Last January she brazenly burst into the office of producer Ernest Lehman in an attempt to sell herself as the young wife opposite Mr. and Mrs. Richard Burton in the forthcoming movie "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Dozens of actresses who possessed credentials far superior to Connie's nebulous television roles and her skein of troubled-teenager films ("Parrish," "Susan Slade," "Palm Springs Weekend") had already been vetoed. But this did not deter the ambitious Connie. "I'd be perfect for that part," she insisted. "I'm the right age and I can handle it. And the timing in my career is right to do a part like that, completely different than anything I've ever done. My craft is tremendously important all of a sudden." [Her efforts failed, however, and the role went to Sandy Dennis, a Broadway actress. ED.]