Remembering Ann Sheridan

Putting the "oomph" back in "The Oomph Girl"

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I was the Millionth Fan

The fabulous adventures of Veta Lee Wood whose fan letter won her the trip of her life -- to Hollywood!

by Veta Lee Wood (as told to Fredda Dudley)

Veta Lee WoodAs long as I live I'll never forget that Tuesday morning, March 24, 1947. I was just deciding which sweater to wear for school (I'm in seventh grade at St. Athanasius in Evanston Ill.), and what I wanted for breakfast, when the telephone rang.

That's how I got the news that I was the writer of Miss Ann Sheridan's millionth fan letter!

For a few minutes I couldn't believe it. It was too fantastic. I mean, I had been writing to Ann Sheridan for years, asking for still pictures from each of her movies, and I simply never thought anything so wonderful could come of it!  You see, I had read all about Miss Sheridan's plans to bring the writer of her millionth fan letter to Hollywood on a tour of the town, a visit to the studio, and a visit with her, but I expected my most recent letter (asking for still from The Unfaithful) to be, maybe, No. 999,999 1/2 -- certainly not that beautiful, even figure, one million!

After I had picked myself up from the floor (figuratively of course but it might have been literally if it hadn't been for my mother's helping hand), Mother and I went down the newspaper office where we were photographed just like real live celebrities.Veta Lee Wood & Mike North

When I was told that we wouldn't leave for Hollywood for two months (our train, The Chief, left Chicago on May 23, 1947 and we arrived in Los Angeles on May 25), I simply didn't know how I'd manage to live all that time with all this excitement brewing.

But at last, the great day rolled around.

Mother says I nearly drove her crazy, packing and unpacking my suitcase and trying to figure out what to take to California. I suppose it would have been worse if it hadn't been for the fact that Mother and I had visited my Aunt Dolly and my three cousins who live in Riverside, California, during one of the summers when my daddy, Robert Glenn Wood, was serving as a postal sergeant in the Army. At least I knew what I'd need!

Text under pictures in article: "Anne was laid up with laryngitis (result of dousing on the set of Silver River) day Veta arrived, couldn't meet her but sent flowers instead.  Next day Veta and mom took in Annie's Encino ranch.  Annie was working, so most of week was spent at studio, including lunch in her dressing room, autograph hunts (up with Mike Mike North), hours in wardrobe dept. trying on Annie's old costumes."

Daddy had brought me the most wonderful collection of souvenirs from overseas -- a Swiss wristwatch, a dozen Italian hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, two pairs of gloves, a Swiss music box, and a super collection of coins -- so I packed them all and around them I folded four sweaters, four skirts, eight pairs of bobby sox, an two pairs of shoes. Mother said she was afraid I was gong to pack the neighbor's cat.

The morning we left Evanston, the studio sent Mother and me flowers to wear on the train, and there were fresh corsages from Ann waiting for us at the Los Angeles station when we arrived. We were the Sumptuous Woods, but def.

Sunday morning we were met at the station by two Warner Brothers' Studio representatives in a shining black car about a block long, and we were taken on a sightseeing tour. It was wonderful, but on the way back I disgraced myself. I certainly hate to admit this; because it just shows how closely related chaos can be to ecstasy. First, I should admit that Mother and I had been so excited that we had only been able to drink fruit juice accompanied by a few bites of toast for breakfast, and we had been too busy to have luncheon.

At any rate, after the long ride in the blazing sun, after all the excitement, after looking until my eyes were about to pop out of my head....I was sick. They had to stop the sightseeing tour and take a miserable millionth fan home to bed.

Monday morning things looked much brighter.

Mother and I went downtown to the office of the Board of Education where -- because I am a minor -- we secured a work permit, allowing me to appear in a motion picture at Warn Brothers! Course, as it all turned out there wasn't time to crowd in even a teeny "extra" part, but I was officially "of Hollywood."
Around noon on Monday -- we found ourselves in the Warner Brothers' Green Room. I had read about this in MOVIE STARS PARADE -- and I had always thought it would be a room with green walls, green tables, and maybe even green chairs. Well, it isn't. It is a room about twice the size of your own home living room; its walls are cream-colored, and its tables and chairs are like those in any restaurant.

If you think this detracts from its glamour, you're zero-zero. Who cares what color the walls are, when you don't have time to look at them because of recognizing Jack Carson, Alexis Smith, Bruce Bennett, Arlene Dahl, Doris Day, Dane Clark, director David Butler, writer Owen Crump, and wonderful, handsome Ronald Reagan. He wears glasses off-screen, and I think he is even more attractive that way -- he looks like a High School Senior who is going to be voted "Most Likely To Succeed" or Greatest All-Around Member of the Class."

Monday afternoon we drove out to Miss Ann Sheridan's house for tea. She has two of the cutest French poodles in the world, and two horses named Jiggs and Rex.

Everything about Ann is perfect. She is even prettier off screen than she is on, and she is so real and friendly that she made me feel that I had known her all my life. She asked me about Evanston, and our new school (I am in the first class to be graduated from the new building), about my daddy's war record, and when I celebrated my birthday. (I was born December 3, 1934.)

She signed my autograph book, writing, "To Veta: Thanks for coming out to see me, and thaks for being so sweet! Hoping you have fun -- Ann." Wasn't that wonderful?

After we left Miss Sheridan's house, we went to the Brown Derby for dinner and I had shrimp curry. I'm just crazy about shrimp and I ate so many on this trip that my mother says my hair may turn pink. Oh well, anything to be dif.
Jimmy Lydon in person was in The Derby when we were having dinner, and the walls were a card index of every important person who has ever worked in pictures. Mother and I almost worked up stiff necks from looking up one row of pictures an down the other on all four walls.

Tuesday morning Mother and I were interviewed on Erskine Johnson's radio program -- and my fingertips will never be the same again. I mean my hands were bleu with excitement and my voice sounded as if it had been coated with dazzle dust.

Tuesday afternoon we visited the set of Silver River, the picture about the Civil War starring Ann Sheridan and Errol Flynn. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't see how a motion picture ever gets made. There are so many different people everywhere -- men on catwalks working on the huge spot lights that illuminate the stage, carpenters rushing about, soundmen turning dials and adjusting microphones, and dozens of other people everywhere. It's wonderful, and confusing, and exciting, but Miss Sheridan say that people who are on the set every day understand the muddle.

After we had watched the workmen fixing up a new "set," Mother and I went to Hollywood to SHOP! She bought me a darling blue dress and a dirndl, two peasant blouses, and a silver Indian bracelet. I felt richer than a maharajah and twice as lucky.

Tuesday night we had dinner in our own Knickerbocker Hotel Dining Room. I had a shrimp cocktail and fried chicken...and it was wonderful. I slept fine, which came as a big surprise to my mother.

"Don't blame me if you dream you are being chased by a starfish," she said. I didn't go into this as I didn't remember my natural history very well, but I still don't think starfish eat shrimp!

Wednesday noon the studio people took up to the famous Lakeside Golf Club for luncheon. Bing Crosby plays there, and so does Bob Hope, but they weren't around. I did see Wayne Morris and John Wayne, though, and I was surprised to see how much taller they really are than they seem to be in pictures. I never saw so many tall mean in my life as I saw around the studios.

Wednesday night Mother and I went to the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for dinner (I had a shrimp cocktail and roast turkey), then we went to the Biltmore Theatre to see Rosalinda, and operetta starring Irene Manning, who is perfectly beautiful.

Between the second and third acts I whispered to my mother, "Pinch me so I'll know I'm here."

I was there.

Thursday we had luncheon in the Green Room again and I added new names to my autograph collection. Thomas Mitchell was sitting just two tables away, and San Wanamaker -- who was Ingrid Bergman's leading man in Joan of Lorraine on Broadway and who is starring in Every The Beginning opposite Lili Palmer -- was three tables away. Akim Tamiroff was back in the corner and at the table next to him was Craig Stevens. Imagine all those living, breathing people in the same room with me! It was all I could do to finish my French fried shrimp.

Thursday night we went to Ching Howe's Chinese Restaurant out on Ventura Boulevard for my final dish of fried shrimp, for egg foo yeung, almond duck, spiced spareribs, and fortune cakes. My fortune cake said, "The trip of your life."

I told my mother, "That's ancient Chinese wisdom because I'm really on that trip."

"Want me to pinch you?" she inquired.

I gave her a long, long look. There was simply no place left on my arm to be pinched.

Because it was all real!

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