robert evans marries phyllis george -- 7/22/22
Today's selection -- from The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life by Robert Evans. When they met and got married, Robert Evans was head of Paramount Pictures, and Phyllis George had taken the broadcasting world by storm as part of the CBS football broadcasting team:
"[At the 1977 Superbowl], I must have been a pain in the ass climbing over the CBS sportscasting trio of Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, and America's sweetheart, Phyllis George, while they play-by-played the Pittsburgh Pirates/Dallas Cowboy duel. Unfortunately for them, we shared the same row, only eight seats apart.
"When the next Super Bowl rolled around, Brent, Irv, and Phyllis play-by-played it again, the only difference was that Phyllis had a new last name -- Evans. Months earlier Ed Hookstratten, Phyllis's business manager and mentor, had given a bash at his Bel Air home. Warren Beatty and I were Hookstratten's two choices to be Phyllis's blind date for the evening. Working harder for the gig, I got the part. Not a kiss good-night, but it didn't matter. It was me, rather than Warren, whose foot was in the door to America's sweetheart.
|Phyllis George as Miss America 1971|
"If ever the title fit the person, Miss America fit Phyllis George. She had all the glamour in the world but she was still the wholesome, smalltown girl from Denton, Texas. Phyllis had become the first woman sportscaster on a national level. The Texas-size smile on CBS between Brent Musburger and Irv Cross, she was the first Miss America since Bess Myerson to become a household name. Her dimples were so deep that a scoop of rocky road ice cream could fit in each one. She was the real thing -- America's sweetheart.
"A month later, we bumped into each other on Rodeo Drive. Chance meeting -- lunch for two. From that moment, we never left each other until she became the fourth Mrs. Evans.
"There was one problem in our bond of Mr. and Mrs.: she was Miss America and I wasn't Mr. America. Her first marriage -- my fourth. Her marital bliss: a white picket fence, church on Sunday, the Bel Air Country Club. I never belonged to a club; I didn't want to move; my place of worship is my home, not a church; and I didn't want more children.
"Would you say we had much in common? She wanted a church wedding. I wanted to exchange vows on the high cliff overlooking Acapulco watching divers jump into the sea below.
"We compromised. A private morning wedding under the old sycamore tree at my home. Then off to Acapulco to watch the divers.
"Shortly after our marriage, Los Angeles Magazine did a story on Phyllis. There she was on the cover, her smile aglow, her dimples deep, a football under her arm. The caption read: 'What happens when a country girl turned Miss America hits it big in TV sports and hooks up with Hollywood's most notorious Prince Charming?'
"Disaster, that's what. Everything Phyllis wanted was right. But she couldn't fight the biggest mismatch of the decade. When being interviewed on national television, smiling Phyllis cooed, 'I know I'm not the first Mrs. Evans, but I'm definitely the last.'
"Poor Phyllis, she was in for one hell of a surprise. Square? Let's just say she made Mary Tyler Moore look like Madonna.
"I can't think of a bad thing to say about Phyllis. On every level she was the girl a guy wants to bring home to mother. But my mother was dead and ego was what motivated my perversity in wanting to make Miss America Mrs. Evans. I couldn't understand what she saw in me. I was everything she was not. She was everything I would have liked to have been. My goal was to clean up my act, and she was the inspiration. But, damn it, it's true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, and I was one hell of an old dog. The more I told her l was wrong for her, the more she wanted to prove it would work.
"I planned a scenario that would ensure a split, giving her the dignity of her leaving me, not me her. It was the first of my four marriages where the cause of the breakup was not infidelity (and that's only because I never got caught!). Rather, filmmaking was my 'mistress.'
"My biggest surprise of the entire relationship was her mother calling me, pleading, 'What did Phyllis do wrong? I know it's her fault.'
"My persuasive best was needed to convince her that Phyllis's only fault was in choosing me.
"In 1985, Only the Best, a pictorial coffee-table book celebrating the greatest gifts of the twentieth century, was published; one page features, 'Phyllis George to Bob Evans.' Its text:
Wedding presents are an age-old custom, but how often does one hear of a divorce present? Among her many talents, anchorperson and former Miss America Phyllis George is an accomplished pianist. She had always wanted an early Steinway, and shortly after marrying Hollywood producer Bob Evans she found the piano of her dreams. The beautiful instrument was made in 1872, its glossy frame carved entirely of rosewood.
The piano was part of an estate, and so it was some time before it arrived in the Evans living room. The Evanses were thrilled to see that it fit into the room as if made for it.
The marriage lasted less than a year, but when the piano's ardent possessor started to pack up her treasure, she changed her mind. 'It is too beautiful here,' she said, 'I can't take it from you; it is yours.'
"How can you meet a better dame? Beautiful, earns twice your bread, needs nothing from you but love returned; and not only did I blow it, but I myself set it up for it to happen. Worse even, with no remorse.
"Less than a month after Phyllis and I split, the McQueens became MacGraw and McQueen. Less than an hour after that news broke, my old pal Beatty was on the horn.
"'Your ole lady, she's free. Do you mind if I call her?'
"I couldn't believe his words.
"'Warren, she ain't my ole lady, hasn't been for five years. Why are you asking me? It ain't my call.'
"A rare Beatty stammer, 'Well, I just felt I should.'
"'I don't know, it just felt like the right thing to do.'
"'You do the right thing?'
"We both laughed."