Sally Kellerman and Me ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

People ask, “But what about that Sally Kellerman story you keep promising?” Grab your favourite beverage and sit back kiddies. It’s finally arrived. 

Back in 1973 I was a starving Media Arts student at Sheridan College of Applied Arts and Technology in Oakville, Ontario Canada. Despite being a naive 21-year old, I already had a failed marriage behind me.

When my marriage broke up, I threw myself into college activities, helping run the Radio Sheridan, which a bunch of us tricked the Student Activity Council into financing and editing “A Student Magazine,” an alternative publication that we tricked the Student Activity Council into financing. In fact, that’s where and when I started my writing career.

My first regular column — in a lifetime filled with banging words together — was called “Octoroon Expressway; Next Left,” a title that would probably generate outrage today, but these were much simpler times. At first I was just attracted to the word “octoroon” because of all those Os. It’s just a great looking word. However, when I learned the definition, I knew that’s what I wanted to call it. It’s hard to imagine that people once kept track of that sort of thing, but I digress.

The Media Arts course was somewhat of a free-wheeling mess, no offense to my instructor Jim Cox, whom I’ve only just recently reconnected with on Facebook. It was just so loosey-goosey. The course had only recently been created and this was the very first year a 2-year Media Arts course was offered. Everyone was looking at this period as a shakedown cruise. We were all — faculty and students alike — feeling our way. Consequently, the students got a way with a lot. It was like Hogan’s Heroes in that regard.

I remember arriving one day to see boxes stacked 6 feet high lined up along both walls of the entrance hallway. I started moving them into the center of the hallway. People arriving and leaving started to help. Within a few minutes we had created a maze which people had to navigate to get in or out of the building.

Today I know better than to create a maze at the entrance to a building. Of course, I wasn’t thinking about fire regulations. I was just having fun. But, it wasn’t fun sitting in the Dean of Student Affairs’s office getting chewed out by Dean John Bromley and the Chief of the Oakville Fire Department.

I digress. This was supposed to be about me and Sally Kellerman.

But first, A Dollar’s Worth Of Trouble, a comedic episode of Bonanza guest starring Sally Kellerman:

Still with me? Good.

Once a week, for Film Appreciation (or whatever it was called), Jim Cox would show us a movie or two. These were not limited to your typical Hollywood fare. We saw movies from the entire world; from every era; and every genre, from experimental, to documentary, to animation. From Metropolis to The Lady From Shanghai. From El Topo to Point Of Order. From Norman McLaren to Don’t Look Back.

It was this class, more than any other, that opened my eyes to what film could accomplish and this is as good a place as any to thank Jim Cox for instilling in me a lifelong love of the medium.

One week Film Appreciation was your typical Hollywood fare, but even that was atypical. I don’t know how Cox managed it, but he got a hold of the movie Slither to screen for us, and it had not been released to theaters yet. If that weren’t enough, when the movie finished in walked Sally Kellerman, who did an hour’s Q&A with everyone who stayed through the movie. Not everyone did.

Naturally, I knew who Sally Kellerman was. M*A*S*H, the movie on which the tee vee show was based, was a huge hit when it was released. She was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her role as Hot Lips Houlihan, and deservedly so. The movie is far darker, and a much greater condemnation of the insanity of war, than the Alan Alda series of the same name. And, of course I also knew her as Elizabeth Dehner in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the Star Trek episode famous for being the second pilot, although it was the third episode aired.

We had a real live Hollywood star in class. To be honest, I can’t remember if I even asked Sally Kellerman a question.

And that’s my story about me and Sally Kellerman.

Just kidding. If that were all, there’d be no reason to write about it. However, as far as I knew at the time, that was the end of it. Until later that night . . .

It was already after dark and I was already settled in for the night when my phone rang. One of my classmates was inviting me over to the townhouse she shared with several other gals. I declined. She got more forceful. I declined again.

“Get your ass over here or you’ll be sorry. And, that’s all I can tell you.”

This was a 13 miles drive along Lakeshore Drive, in winter, from Oakville to Burlington. However, my curiosity got the best of me and I bundled up and drove to the townhouse. When I arrived I was told that everyone was in the back room and just to head on back. There was one long corridor with rooms off to the side. As I approached, I came into view of more and more people who all said, “Hi, Headly.” “Hi, Headly.” “Hi, Headly.”

As I entered the room to this chorus of Hi Headlys, the last corner of the room came into my view. There, curled up in a beanbag chair, was Sally Kellerman, the last person to say “Hi, Headly.”

It turned out that my classmate got to talking to Sally after the Q&A and, out of the blue, invited her to spaghetti dinner back at the townhouse. To her surprise Sally accepted. They had been eating and smoking dope for hours before I got there.

During this period of my life (and for decades afterwards, on fact) I kept a journal, which I carried everywhere. I used it to put down all kinds of nonsense, not just words, but entire collages of pictures and words. [Another project I want to perform when I find the time is digitizing some of it for Not Now Silly. They are currently packed away.] Sally took my journal and thumbed through it and anointed it in 2 places. On a sexy picture she found of lips sucking a straw she wrote something to the effect of “I didn’t know you still had this picture of me.”

We all had a great time talking and laughing and one by one people drifted off. As it got very late, Sally said she had to go back to Toronto. That seemed to be the end of the night and I stood up with her. We walked out together and I walked her to her limo, where the driver sat waiting all night. We kept talking and suddenly she said, “Why don’t you come back with me to my hotel?”

Here’s how naive I was at 21: It never occurred to me that Sally Kellerman was inviting me back to her hotel room for anything other than continuing our scintillating conversation. All I could think was the logistics of “How do I get back to Burlington to get my car” and “I have a class in the morning.” So, I declined.

Later I read she liked younger men and I certainly qualified at the time.

I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *