Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Dedication

When it came time to dedicate Hairpins and Dead Ends, I couldn’t settle on one, so I chose two important ladies in my life, two larger-than-life characters who had perilous journeys of their own: silent film actress Lina Basquette and Carol Ankerich, my mother.

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My mom has been gone over two years and the wound is still raw. She left a hole in my heart that no one will ever fill. I wrote about her illness and death in a blog, Losing Mom and Maebelle. 

Here are some glamour pix of mom and me.

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Here’s a glamour photograph of Lina. Now, there was a siren. My buddy, silent film historian Roi Uselton considered Lina his ideal movie vamp. She was smoldering.


Lina was my first silent film interview. I featured her in my book, Broken Silence: Conversations With 23 Silent Film Stars. She was also one who remained in my life until her death. We spent a lot of time together. In some ways, she was like a grandma to me.

When she came through the South,we’d hook up. She was the first person I saw who traveled with a portable bar stocked with her favorite liquor. Lina loved her cocktails before dinner.

At my request, she drove to Atlanta one weekend to screen one of her films and to sign her memoir. I booked her across from the Fox Theatre. She called me from her hotel.

“Michael, this is Lina. I’ve just arrived. I’m here at this dreadful Days Inn. The rooms  remind me of my vaudeville days.”

“Oh, no,” I say.

“Can we find another hotel?” You bet!

We did.  She was happy at the Renaissance Inn.

After the screening and book signing, Roi and I went back to her room. Lina curled up in bed and nibbled on Pepperidge Farm cookies and gossiped about this one and that until the wee hours of the morning.

Well, the stories go on and on. Someday, I will write in more detail about Lina.

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Lina and Michael on a cold November morning at a Katherine’s Kitchen restaurant in Georgia.

My mother and Lina were as different as water and oil. While both were gorgeous women, Mom was very shy and reserved until she got to know you; Lina never met a stranger.

Both of these unforgettable women made a significant impression on me. I love and miss them!


Dove Tails — Lee’s Hollywood Adventures with Alice White and Ruth Roland

Lee Heidorn and her sister, Doris, have been in Hollywood only a day or two and they have rubbed shoulders with some of their favorite movie stars: Billie Dove, Lina Basquette, and Arthur Lake. In this segment, she has her first “date.”

Lee picks up the story:

Our first “date” was one for tea with Ivan Lebedeff. We met him at the Hollywood Plaza Hotel, where he lives, and went into the lovely Russian Eagle Gardens next door.

Ivan Lebedeff signed this photo to Lee

Ivan ordered service for four, so we had a hunch that Wera Engels [his wife] would join us. Sure ’nuff, we were right. Wera is a beautiful girl and so very charming. We had a grand visit and when we left, it was with a promise that we would see them often. That night, we saw Phillips Holmes on the Boulevard.

Lee, Ivan Lebedeff, and Doris

The next day, Doris and I were Lina Basquette’s guests at a luncheon at the popular Al Levy’s Tavern. While we were enjoying our delicious lunch, we saw several well known people in the  various booths, including Al Rogell, the noted director, Jimmie Starr [columnist], Ena Gregory and Marian Nixon. Jimmie Starr came over to our table and chatted for a while, and on our way out, we stopped by Miss Nixon’s table and we introduced to her and Miss Gregory. Both are very lovely. We all went shopping with Lina then, and when she finished, we went for a short drive, and then home. That afternoon we also visited Jimmie Fidler and met his nice secretary, Luna Homan.

Ruth Roland was our next hostess. She called for us, and then we picked up Ruth and Marion [other friends] and went to Sardi’s for luncheon.

Ruth Roland, the serial queen

Ruth ordered the special buffet luncheon for us, and what a time we had trying to eat all they set before us. Saw Roy D’Arcy and met Larry (Lawrence) Gray. We told Ruth that we had wanted to go into the exclusive shops of I. Magnin and Co., but it looked too elegant for us. So, then and there, Ruth said we’d go right across the street and go in. There we met Ella Hall and the very lovely Lola Lane with whom we chatted for a few minutes.

Lee and Ruth Roland

Leaving Magnin’s, we piled into Ruth’s car and drove to her nice home where we met her charming aunt and where we were shown about her lovely home. Then Ruth took us for a long drive and we saw Pickfair, the Harold Lloyd estate, and the beautiful homes of  Connie Bennett, Fredric March, Anita Stewart, Charlie Chaplin, Ronald Colman, and many others.

The evening was spent with Lina and Teddy Hayes at their home. Millie Wist and Tove Blue, wife of Monte, and several others were there also. We spent a very enjoyable evening.

Lee and Alice White

Our next day was one of the most exciting, for it marked our debut in the movies. Alice White and Johnny Downs had invited Doris, Marion, Ruth, and me to lunch at Paramount Studios with them, where they were working in Coronado. Arriving at the studio, we were directed to the commissary, where Alice and Johnny were waiting for us.

Alice White poses for Lee

The place was crowded, so while we were waiting for a table, Johnny called Tom Brown over and introduced him to us, and he’s very nice. Ida Lupino passed, and Alice introduced her and I thought her very charming. Finally, Johnny secured a table, and while we were waiting to be served, we looked around and saw many famous faces, including those of Ned Sparks, Harold Lloyd, Lynne Overman, Andy Devine, Ernst Lubitsch, Marsha Hunt, Fred MacMurray, and Wesley Ruggles.  Jack Oakie and Victor McLaglen came over and chatted  with us for a few minutes.

Luncheon finished, we walked over to the huge set which this day was transformed into a taxi dance hall. There we saw Andy Devine again, Jack Haley, and a lovely newcomer, Betty Burgess, whom we later met. The set was a crowded one, so Johnny told us to come with him. Guess where he put us? Right on the set, and several times, the camera was trained right on us. So, unless we are faces on the cutting room floor, you’ll see us in Coronado.  

Lee and Doris spent an afternoon at the home of Johnny Downs. Lee and Johnny pretend to be acting a scene. Johnny's mother (in white) is filming; Doris is directing; Mr. Downs is coaching the dialogue.

We saw Johnny, Betty, Alice, Jack, and Andy do several scenes, but one of the funniest you won’t see. That was Alice doing her favorite beach dance with one of the extra men out of sight of the camera. As we left the studio after a very happy afternoon, we saw Mae West and James Timony drive up.

Johnny Downs and his mother

That evening, Ruth, Marion, Doris, and I were the guests of Ruth Roland and Ben Bard at the opening of Rusty Keys, a play produced by Ben, and acted by students of his dramatic school. We met Sada Cowan, authoress of the play, Dorothy Phillips, whose daughter had a part in the play, and Anita Stewart. 

The next installment continues with Lee spending time with Joan Blondell, Thelma Todd, and Jean Harlow.

Dove Tales — Tinseltown, Here I Come!

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

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)