In November of 1966, Betty Grable began touring for Hello, Dolly!, opening in Chatanooga, followed by performances in numerous cities before eventually arriving in Las Vegas. It played at the Rivera Hotel, opening on December 23. With two shows a night, it ran until autumn of 1966, and then it played in Chicago at the Shubert Theatre for two months. On June 12, 1967, Betty replaced Martha Raye on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! and stayed with the cast until November.
They took the Channing company out of Chicago after many months, putting them on the road and Betty’s company into Chicago; a run which lasted nine weeks. Betty had had a long run of the show and was considerably tired, however she remained a fun person to be around. She was quite a remarkable woman; very down to earth and no pretensions of grandeur or her talent.
Once, for some reason, at a rehearsal , they asked her to do the “So Long Dearie” number. And, at the end, the whole company broke into an applause for her. She turned around, looked at the company straight-on and said, ” Well, that’s what a no talent does with it.”
She also told several members of the company a story about the making of How to Marry a Millionaire. During the filming apparently there were several stories in the LA papers about an alleged “feud” between she and Marilyn Monroe. One day , there was a knock on her dressing room door and it was Monroe. She told Betty that she wanted to assure her that these “stories” did not come from her camp. Betty said, “Honey, don’t worry about it. Just relax and enjoy your success and your time in the spotlight cause the day will come when you are the old broad and some new young thing will be selected by the press as your replacement.”
That was Betty. Honest to the core.
There was a moment in the “Hat Shop” scene when Dolly discovers that Cornelius and Barnaby are there. She hitched up her skirts to show her legs when she said, “Good Lord, the place is crawling with men.” The audience went wild when she flashed those famous legs.
Her memorable entrance to the Harmonia Gardens and the beginning of the Dolly number was spectacular! She came down those stairs and one would have thought that she was having an orgasm! I’ve never seen such a star entrance!
She came down center stage, reeking of the most wonderful perfume; quite the vision in that red dress.
She started the number. “Hello Harry, well, Hello Louis.” Ron was Louis, and “believe me when she turned and smiled at me, it was all I could do not to melt into the floor!”
There is a story, perhaps, apocryphal, that someone once asked Lucille Ball why she never did the show. She said, “Who wants to sing the title song of a show that starts with “Hello, Harry?”
At the end of the show, she came out for her final bow, adorned in the white dress, the white hat, the white wig, and those beautiful big blue eyes flashing like crazy. When she turned around to acknowledge the company and give them their bow, she literally took Ron’s breath away every night! One of the most beautiful women he says he has ever seen! “And the beauty came from within as well.”
“As you can tell from my remarks, I was smitten!”
Betty loved to be active. When they were in Chicago, every Thursday night, a group of them along with Betty would go to a bowling alley after the show. She loved it! One night, word got around that the little blonde lady was indeed, Betty Grable .
An older guy who had had too many drinks, hollered at her every time she got up to bowl. “Hey, Betty. Show us your legs.” It went on and on. Finally, the guy who played Rudolph in the show went to her and said, “Betty, should we go to the manager and ask this guy to stop?”
She said, “Are you kiddin? Spoil his night out? Every Thursday night he comes and has a few too many drinks and hollers at some old broad. Leave him alone.”
So, those are some of Ron’s very fond memories of Betty.
He is still in possession of a card that she sent with every name of the company to thank them for the flowers they sent when she went into the New York company, expressing to them how she missed them dearly. He also still has a sweet note that she sent to him from Vegas after she had left the show.
Betty opened Hello, Dolly! on Broadway on June 12, 1967, where she reigned as Dolly Levi over the course of a four-month contract. Betty Grable was, to say the least, an exceptional lady; a person of whom was clearly an important part in Ron’s life as he grieved in volumes when he learned of her passing.