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Beyond Miss Dee: Sandra Dee Grows Up

You aren't going to believe this, but Sandra Dee is an all-right chick. The first thing she said was: "Well, do you want the party line? You know, about my mother and my new mink coat, and how I feel about my divorce, and how much I love to cook, and how I'm really just a little ole homebody at heart?"

"Well," I said, "you are really just a little ole homebody at heart, aren't you? Anyway, that's what Screen Romances magazine said just the other month in its article entitled, "A Homebody Without a Home: The Secret Tragedy of Sandra Dee."

"Oh crap," said Sandra Dee, the cute little blond powder puff with a heart of gold. "I'm not like that. Nobody can really be like that. I mean, if I really believed all that stuff, I'd have to be mentally retarded or something. And I'm not. I'm no genius, sure, but I'm no dum-dum. But for 10 years I've been giving the stock answers to the stock questions, because that's what people are supposed to want to hear. Well, it's me talking now."

She puffed on a cigarette and then held it up for scrutiny."Look at this," she said. "A cigarette. I like to smoke. I'm 25 years old, and it so happens that I like to smoke. So out in Hollywood the studio press agents are still pulling cigarettes out of my hand and covering my drink with a napkin whenever my picture is taken. Little Sandra Dee isn't supposed to smoke, you know. Or drink. Or breathe."

She sighed tragically. "Forty years old, they'll still be pulling the cigarette out of my hand," she said. "I could run for Congress. Why not? Good heavens, if Ronald Reagan can be President, I ought to make a great secretary of the treasury.

"Still, I shouldn't complain. Seven years I've been on the list of the top 10 box-office draws. Knock wood." She knocked wood. "I get terrible reviews, but there are people who like to see me in the movies, I guess. The money men out in Hollywood have a system for figuring out how much of an investment will be safe in a movie. If I'm in the movie, they feel safe investing $1,800,000 in it.

"That means they can spend that much and feel sure of making money. That's just if I'm in it. Then they tack on more money depending on the box-office status of any other people in the movie. For example," she added, "if George Hamilton were in it, that would be another $600,000." She smiled angelically.

"So then the movie comes out, and it makes money, and the reviewers don't like it. They call me a cute little powder puff. For 10 years, I've been the cute little powder puff. I claim I don't care about the reviews. You know, in the movie fan magazines, they quote Sandra Dee as saying, the reviewers may not like me but my millions of fans do.

"Well, I do care," she said. "Yes, I care. The reviewers tear me apart. I bleed. I'm a favorite target. They go along for six months looking at movies, praying for rain, and then a new Sandra Dee movie comes out and their eyes open and they lick their lips. Before they've ever seen it. Wow, here comes Sandra Dee again. And then they compose biting, cruel little essays about the stupid little powder puff."

Surely you're exaggerating, I said.

"No, I'm not," Sandra Dee said. "Biting and cruel. Anyway, when I made 'Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding,' I thought the critics would really have a field day. Wow, it had everything. Cute little powder puff gets pregnant, falls in love with George Hamilton. But, curiously enough, a lot of reviewers like it. I wonder, why."

No telling, I said.

"What I'd like to do now is get out of comedies once in a while and try serious roles," she said. "Not sex roles, thought. That's what seems to happen these days. You take a young actress who has always appeared as sweetness and light, and the way you show she's grown up and ready for serious roles is, you make a movie where she takes off her clothes."

Who was she thinking of?

I'm not going to mention any names."

Jane Fonda? Hayley Mills? Uh, Elizabeth Taylor?

"No names," she said. But, I'll never take off my clothes in the movies. Playboy wanted me to pose for some nude pictures, Never. It's nobody's business but my own.

"Not that I'm a prude or anything. I've never been as naive and sweet and good as my so-called image. I'd be a moron. I used to be so bored, giving those stupid interviews. I'd sneak off into the ladies' room and smoke a cigarette. Everyone thought I had kidney trouble. But I couldn't be seen smoking. Now I can be more honest I guess. I've been in show business 11 years, got married and divorced, have a 5-year-old son. So I can let the secret out I'm grown up."

She giggled. "The other day on a radio program, I really got carried away. The interviewer asked me what I thought about premarital sexual relations, and I told him."

Uh, what did you tell him?

"Never mind," said Sandra Dee.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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