Watching the original “Sound of Music” children on television today (who are now all in their 50s-60s) took me back to 1965 when I saw this film every weekend for the entire summer in my small town of Eastbourne in England.
My parents had separated and my English mother had whisked me back to her family; we ended up not returning to the States for four years. Life was very confusing to me then, so when I saw the ads for this film which had children (like me), AMERICAN children (like me) singing and dancing (like I wanted to do), I insisted my family take me to see the Grand Premiere at the large theater in Brighton. I was hooked.
When the film finally came to Eastbourne in the summer of ’65, I went every Saturday for three months where I could lose myself in the fantasy of being a Von Trapp child, escaping to a new life over the mountains of Austria. Of all the children, the one I was most admired was Louisa, played by actress Heather Menzies (center in photo).She was everything I wasn’t – graceful, tall, blonde, freckled – I thought she was a goddess.
When I got to finally meet my “idol” nearly 20 years later, it was pretty funny. I was hanging out with friends at a local Beverly Hills restaurant called Nibblers. It was just an upscale coffee shop but it was great for celebrity sightings (I’ll share my Alan Alda story another time). We had just finished lunch when I looked over and saw a couple sitting down side by side in an adjacent booth. It was Heather Menzies, I knew her in a heartbeat! She was with a cute dark haired man, actor Robert Urich who at that time was starring in “Vegas” as Dan Tana.
I found myself jumping up and marching over to their booth. They stopped eating and looked up at me expectantly.
“Aren’t you Heather Menzies?” I said.
“Yes…” she replied with a shy smile.
“Oh My God, you are my idol. I saw Sound of Music like fifty five times and it and you meant so much to me, it’s just so amazing to finally meet you…” I was babbling. I was also completely ignoring Urich, who seemed bemused and amused at this fan worship. Heather thanked me profusely for my words and just to throw him a bone, I said to Urich “And you’re doing pretty well yourself…but Heather! She’s amazing!” He took her hand, squeezed it and agreed with me.
They eventually married and started a family, son Ryan and daughter Emily. Sadly, Robert Urich died much too young of cancer and Heather has gone on to create the Robert Urich Foundation dedicated to cancer research, in particular sarcoma.
Funnily enough, years later I ended up working for the producers of “Gavilan,” one of the series Robert starred in for MGM-TV back in the 1980s and he was a terrific guy, as was his brother David who was also on the crew.
This was one of the times when meeting one’s idol was truly a “dream come true” instead of a disappointment. Thanks for the memories, Heather!
Until next time, hooray for Hollywood!