Not 20 minutes after Anne and I first met, back in ’65, she was underneath a crisp white bed sheet, naked and looking like the most beautiful thing that my four eyes had ever seen. She was blonde, glamorous, sharp as nails and absolutely fearless. For me, it was love at first sight.
And yet, six months later, we were through. I never blamed her for walking out on me. Even then I understood that it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Besides, Anne was a breathtaking 35-year-old at the top of her game. I hadn’t even made it out of third grade yet.
When you are 8 and a woman like her appears before you, it is impossible not to fall in love — and very, very hard. So it was on September 17th, 1965 — a Friday night which was also, as it happens, my mommy’s birthday — that the knockout gorgeous Anne Francis arrived inside my TV screen in the guise of one “Honey West,” sexy private eye.
“The Swingin’ Mrs. Jones” was the title of the very first episode in the 30-minute detective series, and swingin’ my girl Honey surely was. Not only did she lay naked (and, sadly, covered by a sheet from the shoulders down) on a massage table for a glorious sixty seconds or so, but even clothed the woman had it seriously goin’ on. She wore both a leopard print coat and bathing suit; a black catsuit was so wonderfully tight-fitting and revealing that I dream of it still today.
Honey made out with handsome guys easily, teased them, beat the crap out of the bad ones (via karate chops and wearing a close-fitting, sequined Nolan Miller evening gown, no less), and uttered the word “sex” in their presence casually and without even a hint of contrition. She had a pet ocelot, of all things, and tipped like the classiest of ’60s-era broads ($50 for the bellhops who carried a couple of bags to her hotel room). The woman was a total turn-on and not just for an 8-year-old, I’m pretty sure. (“Honey West’s” producer was the legendary Aaron Spelling; need I say more?)
Honey only stayed for half an hour that Friday evening, including commercial breaks. After the credits ran, I would have gladly abandoned my parents and both of my brothers forever to run away with my new love. She was the most exotic creature that I had ever laid eyes on. In some ways, she always will be to me.
See, we didn’t have blondes where I grew up, let alone the kind who could take your breath away and keep it in their back pocket until they were damn good and ready to give it back. In the ’60s, my neighborhood in Brooklyn had only two kinds of people: Italians and blacks. And neither looked anything like Honey. Dark hair and complexion pretty much summed up everybody I came across when I was eight.
So you can imagine the impression a blonde bombshell — with a crazy sexy birthmark next to her lips no less! — might make on a boy like me. The woman was nothing short of a goddess. And Friday nights were for her and her alone. If either of my brothers had any boneheaded notion of tuning into “Gomer Pyle” instead of Honey they had me (and, as I think about it, possibly my old man) to answer to.
By April, after only 30 glorious episodes (12 actual hours in Honey’s company, give or take), the suits at ABC ended my first love affair by not re-upping the series for a second season and choosing to air the British import “The Avengers” instead. That was nearly 50 years ago now — a lifetime, I know. And yet, if ever I happened across the (now quite elderly) suit at ABC who decided to get rid of “Honey West,” I would haul off and beat the geezer senseless.
That’s the way love is.