By STEVE PERSALL
One lifetime achievement award isn't enough for the life Terry Moore has lived.
Her 69-year screen career, including an Academy Award nomination, would be enough for the Gasparilla International Film Festival to justify giving her one at tonight's opening ceremonies.
Now consider that Moore lists eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes and Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis among her six husbands, became the third woman ever to fly a jet and posed for Playboy at 55. She keeps in shape at 80 with yoga, boot camp training and running the 26.2-mile Los Angeles marathon.
Somehow one trophy doesn't seem like enough.
Moore still acts — a production of Elizabeth the Queen in L.A. is going dark this weekend so she can attend the Gasparilla festival. And she's the author of How Do You Stay So Young?, answering the question she hears all the time.
Moore can drop names like other people drop their "g's." The St. Petersburg Times caught up with her a day after an emergency trip to the dentist after chipping a tooth on candy. Asking about a famous friend seemed like a good place to start:
You began at Columbia Pictures, where you met an interesting drama classmate.
I was 18 years old and they had me working with a drama teacher from Russia. All I could do was monologues because I was the only student. One day, the head of casting brings this young girl in and says: "We just put this young lady under contract, so now you'll have someone to do scenes with. Terry Moore, this is Norma Jean Baker."
Who later became Marilyn Monroe.
Yes, it was Marilyn. We were both under contract at Columbia until Come Back, Little Sheba. (Studio mogul) Harry Cohn didn't know how good it was — I got an Academy Award nomination — but he dropped my contract, then dropped Marilyn's the same month. Twentieth Century Fox picked us up, and I got to work with Elia Kazan (Man on a Tightrope), who was by far the greatest director I ever worked for.
What do you recall about filming Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1956) in Tarpon Springs?
I remember getting very seasick. Every day we'd go out in a sponge-fishing boat that was anchored, so it would just bob up and down like a cork. First I'd throw up over the side, then (Robert) Wagner would, then Gilbert Roland would, for that entire picture. But I loved the people of Tarpon Springs, the fishermen and those wonderful Greek restaurants. I remember how to say s'agapo (I love you).
What was Howard Hughes really like?
He was a visionary with a great sense of humor, believe it or not. He was a little boy, like Walt Disney, another friend of mine. I would go to Walt's office and he would be sitting on the floor playing with toys, figuring out the rides to build at Disneyland. Howard was the same way; he'd take my toys apart — radios and cameras — to see how they worked. The problem with Howard was that he never got them back together.
Didn't you have a tough time proving you were married to Howard?
(The estate) actually sued me. I was going to go to my grave and never let anybody know. I had two children by then, so there was no need. In going through his things, they found a log of our marriage. They figured I was going to sue them, so they sued me first. I didn't want anything, particularly, but my lawyer got rich off that. I just wanted to be acknowledged as the legal Mrs. Howard Hughes, which I was. Or am. I never wanted all that money. I'd spend my life wondering who my friends are, which he did.
What did you think of Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Howard in The Aviator?
Jane (Russell) and I worked with Leo on his characterization. Leo, in my book, can do no wrong. We're Auntie Jane and Auntie Terry. We love him. Jane's so outspoken. When we met Leo, she looked at him, so young and good looking, only 29 years old then. And she said: "Well, you're no Howard Hughes."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.