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TCM’s ‘Debbie Reynolds Friday!’

Dame Stephanie Spaulding, Theater/Film Historian

I am so excited that my dear friend, Stephanie Spaulding has agreed to write a column on TCM Film Classics, highlighting featured classics, showcases, and backstage stories. She is quite an authority on the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.

BELLY UP TO THE TV Y’ALL! TCM is hosting “Summer of the Stars” in August and America’s girl next door, Ms. Debbie Reynolds, is the star of the day, Friday, August 19. And she is a Texas gal, born in El Paso in 1932. She got her big break in 1952 with “Singing in the Rain,” but did you know at the time of filming, she was not a trained dancer? Could have fooled me! This gal can do anything! With dancing under her belt she went on to add several vocal chart-topping hits like “Tammy”. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” earned her an Oscar nom in 1964. But she was a busy lady outside of her career with 2 children, her daughter, is Carrie Fisher (we all kinda knew that).  Debbie even tried her own talk/variety show in 1969-70. Again, is there anything this woman could or can’t do? Thanks to Nicole Barrett, I met and saw DR in action, talk VERY CANDIDLY about her career and life at a benefit luncheon in Dallas this past April.

Debbie Reynolds and Nicole Barrett

 Why I do believe Ms. Reynolds, at the age of 79, has a future in stand-up. Come on Vegas book her…she is amazing…Sharp, edgy, tenacious and a ball of fire; she has more energy than my 5 & 6 year-olds combined! Oh, and I saw her daughter “Princess Leia” perform on Broadway 2 years ago in “Wishful Drinking”. Carrie is an amazing writer, capturing and sharing moments of her “unnatural” life for the layman to understand. When you come from talent, sometimes you don’t have a choice but to be talented.

Debbie Reynolds, circa 1950's

For more on Debbie Reynolds read the fabulous synopsis in this link from TCM: Take the poll below:


‘If you really want to help the American theater, don’t be an actress, dahling. Be an audience’. -Tallulah Bankhead

Hello Debbie ! ‘A Fabulous Luncheon 2011’

Debbie Reynolds, Me, and my High School Teachers

They said I couldn’t do it. They said, ‘Debbie Reynolds ? No way.’ I love doubters ! This Dream was born 3 months ago. It came to fruition 2 days ago. Built on alot of Heart and alot of Faith, it all became reality on May 14th when I walked into the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz Carlton in Dallas. Thank you , God !

Jonathans Place- A Home for Abused Children in Dallas, is very close to my heart. When I decided to help raise awareness and money for the facility, I knew I had to think ‘BIG’. Well…It doesn’t get any bigger than ‘America’s Sweetheart’, Debbie Reynolds ! I envisioned a beautiful afternoon Luncheon with Debbie Reynolds as the Keynote Speaker. How did I get her ? O.k…here is the secret: Lean in close, and don’t tell anyone…you ready ?? Here goes…I CALLED HER !! And when I did, the answer was almost an instant ‘Yes.’ Then my heart started to beat triple time and I thought,’ What have I gotten myself into ?’ No need to panic. Time to get to work. I got on the phone and started looking for sponsors. That was tough. But, I never gave up. United Healthcare (the awesome Kim Whitaker) was on board immediately. Then God sent Karen Lukin with Whole Foods. The rest of the sales came from individuals from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Houston who were dyin to see Debbie ! Talk about a Home grown event.

Of, course, there was a little chaos. First of all, she arrived in town early. Wouldn’t you know it ? I did not have time to change into one of my cute outfits, redo my hair/make-up, or even change shoes. Her first impression of me was a frantic girl in blue jeans, askew hair, and sunglasses. She reached out her hand and said, ‘Hello Nicole, I’m Debbie Reynolds.’ When I heard those words, I wanted to scream, ‘I KNOW !!! I LOVE YOU !!’ But, I remained calm, and at her command, sat down and had a glass of wine. Let’s relax . And, I was just that. Now, only in Nicole’s World, would I be sitting in the bar of The Ritz Carlton with Debbie Reynolds, and in walks: Tony Bennett ! ‘ Hello Tony’, she says..’Hey Kid !’ he responds. I love it when old(er) people call each ‘Kid.’ They chat and hug, and I felt like I just jumped into a TCM movie ! And, the weekend only got better.

On Saturday, the Luncheon was held and she shined ! She was funny, witty, a little risque at times, but the audience couldn’t stop laughing ! In her speech, she told the story of growing up poor in El Paso, Tex and then Burbank, California. A former Miss Teen Burbank, she won a studio contract and the rest is ..Herstory ! She took questions from the audience, did a dance or two, and she closed with her signature, ‘Tammy’. Afterwards, she signed autographs and took more photos in the foyer. Everyone had a great time and felt that it was time well spent. And, we weren’t done yet..

With Film Legend, Debbie Reynolds having dinner at Al Biernat’s Restaurant

That night, I had the Honor of escorting her to my favorite restaurant, Al Biernat’s in Dallas. When we walked in a slight silence fell over the bar area as we walked to our corner booth. Debbie, Jenny (her Assistant), Karen(my Assistant) and, myself- the Awesome Foursome ! If that booth could talk. We shared political views, religious, and of course the entertainment business. We laughed, we cried, and we knew that we had all met people that we would surely not forget.

I am grateful to Ms. Debbie, Jonathans Place, Whole Foods, United Healthcare, and everyone who helped make this magic happen. It was truly the best day of my life. Debbie Reynolds has a way of making anyone feel ‘Unsinkable !”

We are already talking about, next year…..

That’s the view from ‘A Real American Girl’
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