I’m eager to read the newly released memoir by actress Shirley Jones. As soon as I read a synopsis of her book and before news of her racy life went viral, I signed up with the local library to reserve it. I am number 1,625 on the “Holds” list which means the memoir will be ready for pick-up in 13 years. By the time I get the book, Shirley will be 92 years old and still self-pleasuring as she claims to do daily. If she still doesn’t have dementia in 2026, with the sexual mental images I’ll have of her, I hope I do.
I’ve always been extremely concerned about Shirley ever since she mutated from sweet virginal roles like Julie in Carousel, Laurie in Oklahoma, and Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, to become Lulu Bains the prostitute in Elmer Gantry. Hollywood called her Oscar-winning performance “playing against type” but years later I was extremely relieved to find her squeaky-clean once again as head of the Partridge Family.
I knew she was married to Jack Cassidy and for years I tried in vain to warn her about Jack as a “Sexual Svengali”—her term— because of my run-in with him. Actually, it was more like a sit-in with him: Years ago I appeared with urbane, goateed Jack on a short-lived ABC quiz program called “Funny You Should Ask.” It was a show best viewed with a couple of beers and the television off.
I wasn’t supposed to be on this show. At the time my UCLA college roommate Roz auditioned at ABC studios and was assigned to Hollywood Squares, the best of three possible quiz shows produced by the team of Heater-Quigley. With Roz’s incredible winnings, including a car, a Hawaiian vacation, and most of Sears Appliance Department, Roz could have simply purchased her UCLA diploma.
When I foolishly let her talk me into auditioning—she insisted I was a shoe-in for Hollywood Squares—– the closest I actually got to Hollywood Squares was climbing up that show’s three-story, rickety, tic-tac-toe-like metal structure where stars such as Paul Lynde and Charlie Weaver sat during videotaping and where the quiz show hopefuls auditioned.
The Heater-Quigley employees wanted contestants who were perky, hyperactive, and possessed an academic background, such as courses in Advanced Fawning. Most of us got assigned to one of the three quiz shows, except for the few potential contestants who fell out of the Hollywood Squares structure. If conscious, they were given a consolation prize waffle maker.
Regretfully, I was assigned to “Funny You Should Ask” which was hosted by Lloyd Thaxton (“the father of music videos”) and featured six wisecracking celebrities seated at desks who answered various opinion questions. After the questions, two contestants were brought out and had to guess which celebrity said what. A typical exchange:
Thaxton: “Here’s the question. ‘What does a man do standing up, that a woman does sitting down, that a dog does with one paw lifted up?’ Which one of our celebrities answered, “Read a newspaper”?
Contestant: “OOOhhhh, what a wonderful question! Really makes one think. Hmmmm….I don’t have a dog, but my cat goes to Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics. So I’m going to say Glenn Ford answered “Reading a newspaper” because he probably keeps up on all the news….Oh, and you were sensational in Star Wars, Mr. Ford.”
Glenn Ford (glowering): “That was Harrison Ford.”
Because five shows were taped consecutively on the same day—a week’s worth—- with a few of the celebrities changing sweaters for variety, by the time I was hauled in to answer who-said-what, I was a mere “2” on the Perkiness Scale. The associate producer seated me next to my competing male contestant, a 20-ish aspiring actor named Brad. A few feet away sat Jack Cassidy, the celebrity closest to us.
This was the exchange I remember:
Thaxton: “Here’s the question, contestants: ‘Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?’ Which celebrity said ‘Cary Grant?’
Me: “I think Jack said it because……”
Jack Cassidy: “Oh, it’s ‘Jack,’ is it? So you must’ve met me before?”
( Audience laughs.)
Me: (chuckling nervously) “No, I’ve never met you before. I think Jack said ‘Cary Grant’ because he……”
Jack Cassidy: “Oh, so you’re denying we’ve been together?”
Brad: “Hahahahahahah. Well, I’m sure WE haven’t been together!
Jack Cassidy: “Maybe not lately.”
Brad: “I think it was Zsa Zsa who said ‘Cary Grant’ because she’s a bubble-headed blonde cretin.”
Lloyd Thaxton: “You’re RIGHT! You’re our new champion. You just won yourself a trip to Las Vegas, 40 acres and a mule! And for our loser contestant, you get a waffle maker.”
This exchange occurred eight years before Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy divorced. But there it was—- Jack cozying up to me—– seen across the entire country by the show’s national viewing audience of 20.
In retrospect, I was happy to learn Shirley was no shrinking violet either. And, even if I’m dismayed to learn about the real Shirley Jones, at least she’s offered full disclosure of her provocative past, including a threesome involving a cockatoo.
Contrast that with the cowardly revelations of numerous male politicians, those upright paragons of virtue and family values who’ve concealed and even denied their affairs when confronted with the evidence:
David Vitter, Louisiana U.S. Senator, who admitted in July 2007 he was a client of the prostitution service run by the infamous DC Madam, and conducted a lengthy affair with a prostitute identified only by police as “Shirley Jones”.
Eliot Spitzer, New York Governor who resigned in 2008 after a scandal revealed he patronized an elite escort service and paid up to $80,000 for a prostitute named Ashley Dupre (aka “Shirley Jones”).
Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who resigned in 2009 after he publicly revealed he was having an affair with an Appalachian woman named Dewlene Mae Jones (Maiden name “Shirley Jones”).
Anthony Weiner, the New York Congressman once again in the news, who resigned in 2011 after admitting he exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with six women identified by the FBI as Lulu Bains, Shirley Cassidy, Shirley Ingles, Shirley Partridge, Davida Cassidy, and Shirley Jones, all of Beverly Hills, California.
Weiner’s current scandal involves his sexting with actress Joan Collins who has denied she is Shirley Jones.