While searching for Cover Girl images, I found this adorable photo of Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, circa 1979-ish. In trying to find out more about it, I came across an even more adorable story about their friendship around this time.
The memory comes from Joe Stewart, who was working as a hotel security officer in 1977 at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., where Hayworth was being presented with the Screen Heritage Award. Stewart was on Hayworth-duty when he got the call that he was to escort another guest up to see her before the show.
We got the elevator down to the sub basement level and in walked a man by himself. He got in the elevator. I looked at him and it was Gene Kelly that we were taking upstairs to see Rita. I could not think of anything to say to him so I just smiled. He smiled back. I must say he really did have a great smile. We took him upstairs to Rita’s suite. He did not come down with her in the elevator to go to the Palladian Room. I guess he wanted her to have all the attention from her public that night.
There are a few pictures floating around of Hayworth from the event, but I haven’t found any mention of Kelly, so it indeed seems like he kept his visit quite on the down-low. I love hearing stories like this, and perhaps it’s important to remind people—especially in light of the ridiculous kerfuffle over certain actresses’ appearances at this year’s Oscars—that life doesn’t end at 35, even if you’re a movie star.
By the way, I think it’s worth mentioning that Mr. Stewart’s brother was Bhob Stewart, the great comic artist who passed away quite recently. Thanks to Mr. Stewart for posting his story, and I’m sending him good thoughts. He runs a great blog over at JoeB-TallyHo.