In early 1933, silent film Billie Dove actress ducked out of sight after her public affair with Howard Hughes several years before.
Billie Dove, once referred to as the Elizabeth Taylor of the 1920s.
Billie slipped away with her current flame, rancher Robert “Bob” Kenaston. She was away for over three months. When her train stopped in Chicago, Billie and Lee Heidorn, her fan club president, met for the first time.
That March, rather than traveling across country to Los Angeles, Billie and Bob sailed on the SS. President Van Buren. Also on board were Billie’s friends, Dixie Lee Crosby, and Sue (Carol) and Nick Stuart.
Other than promoting her films, Billie almost never used her professional name. She opted for her birth name: Lillian Bohny.
In this manifest, Billie surprisingly uses her real year of birth, 1903.
When she had settled down from her trip, Billie caught up with Lee.
A dog lover since childhood, Billie also sent along a photo of the entire family.
Billie and her children: Scotty, Stingy, and Lassie.
In mid-May 1933, Billie and her handsome rancher drove to the Arizona-California border and tied the knot in Yuma. The news made front-page headlines.
After honeymooning in Palm Springs, Billie and Bob went to work on a new home. By Christmas, the newlyweds had settled in.
While she never made it official, Billie retired from the screen. In 1934, she gave birth to a son, Robert Jr.
Finally, in 1935, Lee and her sister, Doris, made the trip of a lifetime. They boarded the Union Pacific’s Pathfinder on September 14, 1935. They were Hollywood bound! They stopped in Salt Lake City for a short stopover. Lee picks up the story.
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Continuing on to Los Angeles, we were met at the train by Billie Dove and her husband, Bob Kenaston. This was our first introduction to Bob, who is more handsome than many of the best looking actors. Billie was dressed in white silk slacks and a yellow blouse, and she looked more beautiful than ever. They piled us in their car and we were off to spend a few days with them in their lovely home on the California Riviera.
Passing through Los Angeles, we found ourselves on Hollywood Boulevard, where Billie pointed out many spots of interest, including the Chinese and Pantages theaters, Sardis, the Brown Derby, the famous Trocadero Cafe and the Kings Club. Soon we were in Beverly Hills, and Bob drove around through some lovely drives and past many beautiful homes, including Jean Harlow’s gorgeous mansion.
Arriving at the Kenaston home, Billie showed us around, and then up to Bob’s room, which was to be ours during our stay there. She asked us to wait there a few minutes, and when she returned, we were introduced to their pride and joy, nineteen month old Robert Allan Kenaston. Bobby is a grand, healthy little youngster who looks much like his handsome Daddy.
Billie (Dove) and Bob Kenaston at the Swimming Club in Santa Monica
Then, after cleaning up and getting into our slacks–we were losing no time in “going Hollywood,” Billie took us down to the lovely Santa Monica Swimming Club for lunch while Bob went off for a round of golf. Arriving at the club, the first person we saw was Sam Hardy. While at lunch, we were joined by Bob’s brother, Jack, who is a swelll guy. Out on the porch, we could see Jackie Coogan,William Janney, and our old friend, Arthur Lake.
Bob, Billie, and Lee
Lunch over, we went outside, where Billie called Arthur over to us, and he was so surprised to see us. We chatted with him for a few minutes and then went down and lie on the sands and talked for awhile. Soon, two more of Bob’s brothers came over–he has five–and we were introduced to Gordon and Bill. As we were leaving the club to go for a drive, we met Bill Kenaston’s lovely wife, and a house guest of theirs, Bing Muller.
Billie and Lee's sister, Doris
Billie drove us up through Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Bel Air where we saw many more beautiful homes, including those of Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, Barbara Stanwyck, Neil Hamilton, and Colleen Moore. From there, Billie took us over to see her mother, who has a lovely new home. We visited there for awhile and then went back to the Swimming Club, where we saw Jean Carmen, one of last year’s Wampas Baby Stars, who is lovely. Bob joined us then and we again piled into the car and drove down Ocean Highway past Marion Davies’ enormous beach house, Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Cafe, and many other beautiful beach homes down to Malibu Beach.
After a grand dinner, two of Billie and Bob’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Rex Keller–he is a well-known inventor–came over and we all piled into their car and went down to Ocean Park, which is an amusement park located right on the ocean. There, Bill, Caroline, Gordon, and Bing Muller joined us and we started on a hilarious tour of the park–going through spooky houses, on exciting rides, driving midget machine automobiles with me beating everyone around the track. Billie said that I won only because everyone was afraid to try to get ahead of me. Billie got off a ride before the end because she knew what was coming–but we could take it! Thence home and to bed–and we were all tired. It had been a hectic, but grand day.
The next day, we again spent at the club, just resting on the sands, acquiring a nice suntan and playing pinochle. Arriving home for dinner, we found that Mother and Dad had arrived in L.A.–they’d left home a week before we did but we didn’t know whether they would get as far as California. After dinner, Billie and Bob drove us into Hollywood to Lina Basquette’s home, where Mom and Dad were going to be that evening.
Lina Basquette (second from right) with Lee and Doris in the Hollywood Hills
Lee (R) first met Lina Basquette (beside Lee) in Danville, Illinois, where Lina was appearing in a play.
Lina autographed this still when she was married to cameraman Pev Marley, her second husband.
They dropped us there at the lovely Italian-styled home that Lina and her husband, Teddy Hayes, had rented, and said they’d be back for us in a few hours. We heard all about the folk’s trip, told them of our experiences, and had a grant chat with Lina and Teddy, peeked in on little Eddy (their son), and then Billie and Bob stopped in for a little while before talking us back to Santa Monica with them.
Doris Heidorn and Billie Dove at the Kenaston home.
We took little Bobby down to the club with us the following day, and he was so cute as he waded into the ocean, of course, he held tight to his mamma’s hand. Then, after his nurse took him home, we settled down on the beach for our card game–this time it was Hearts. Saw Cary Grant, clad only in white shorts walking down the beach, and he’s very, very handsome.
Mother and Dad came down to the Club after they had lunched in Hollywood at the Brown Derby with Lina. They visited with us on the beach and then back to the house so they could see Bobby. After we left, we had dinner and then drove into Hollywood to look for an apartment for the remainder of our stay. We found a nice place just three blocks from Hollywood and Vine, the heart of Hollywood. The next morning, Bob, Billie, and Bobby drove us to our new home. Bob was going on a hunting trip that afternoon, so we wished him luck, and thanked them for being such grand hosts, and said au revoir for the time being.
(To be continued)