Love Letters
Aug. 2-5, 2007
Pollak Theatre
Monmouth University


The first time I saw David perform was at Thursday Night Dress rehearsal.  He had gotten permission for me to attend, for which I was most grateful. 

David was apparently getting dressed for rehearsal and was having a costume issue.  I spotted him right away.  He was standing behind the half parted side curtain into the artist’s area with his coat off and no tie on yet.  I stopped, taking in his beautiful snow white shirt and sexy red suspenders.  Linda saw me walk in, but where she was standing, her back was to the curtain area.  She walked over to welcome me and we had a brief hello chat, until David called her over to “fix” whatever it was he had come out of his dressing room for. 

I moved down the left side of the first aisle and picked a seat about 1/3 of the way up and settled in as it was almost time to start.  I listened to the crew discuss changes – I heard the actors call - and then David and Nancy came out in costume.   He walked all the way over to her desk with her, pulled out her chair and made sure she was seated properly.  He then went over to his desk, sat down and started to read.

It was lovely.  I had never seen this particular play performed, but I had seen the movie.  I was told on Friday night seeing the movie didn’t count.  David’s voice was strong and clear and he did a magnificent job.  

David looked fabulous in his dark navy suit and navy blue tie and he had a very flattering hair cut.  He was sitting at a very square wooden desk that reflected the character he was playing.  In, short, everything on it was correct and “stuffy.”  Nancy’s desk was gray metal and very open - well-suited for her “artist” character.

Each of them had a bookstand in the center of their desks to hold their “reading” scripts.  This play – if you are not familiar with it – is a fifty year series of letters between a man and woman who are friends, and who marry others.  They continue to keep in touch by letters, because they fill a need in each other.

I was the only non-crew person at the rehearsal.  David read it right through without any hitches, but his voice started to go at the end of the first act.  I dug down in my bag and motioned Linda over during the break.  I handed her the bag of Ricola throat lozenges I had brought for him, because I know this happens.  Linda took them back and came out empty-handed and said David said, Thank you.  His voice was okay during the second act.

Nancy Dussault – who David first met while making a Love Boat episode – was also spot on.   She was very nice and made a beautiful and witty “lost princess of Oz.”   Linda brought her over to meet me while David was getting his notes from the director.

She said, so, this is Diane.  This made me wonder what she had heard.  Linda told me later she had been telling her about Voyage fandom and what I did in the fandom, but mostly that I had been doing publicity for this play via David’s website.     

David came down from the stage to greet me when the Director was done giving him his notes.  He managed to negotiate the steps after complaining about his bifocals.  His glasses looked new or least this was the first time I had seen this particular gold frame.  He made it down to the relief of everyone. 

I hugged him hello.  He asked after John.  David wanted to know where I’d be sitting Friday night.  Second row.  Center.  Seat 107.  He told me that was a horrible seat.  I should be further back in the hall so I wouldn’t have to look up at the stage.  I told him I had chosen to be close so he could see my reactions.  David told me he couldn’t see anything beyond the lights. 

So much for that plan.  Oh, well.  I asked if not being able to see us in the dark bothered him.  David smiled and said no, that he would hear any reaction he was looking for and/or received.

David was concerned about something I had told him earlier.  I didn’t like the play because the two actors were not allowed to look at each other and that had to be hard for him.   He explained that they did react to the letters being read, like he would laugh when she said something funny, like if he was reading it. 

I explained I knew David liked to connect with his co-star.  It was one of the things about his acting he did really well and I was “upset” he wouldn’t be able to do it with this play.   David smiled and said it would be okay.  I told him I trusted him.

I checked out my seat afterward and I was satisfied.  I was not quite at his feet, but I did have a great view of David and Nancy, right in between them.  If I look slightly left, I’ve got a good angle on David, to the right, I could focus on Nancy. 

It had been a very long day of rehearsing.  I chatted with David a few minutes about what I saw and what I thought were David’s best scenes, then he was released to go.  Linda came up and told him she needed his clothes.   David teased her, asking if she was going to sell them on eBay.  This had apparently been their running joke for a few days now.  

Linda told him she wanted to wash his shirt.  David said fine, he had his notes and went off to change.  He left very shortly after that with Ms. Dussault and her husband Valentine Meyer.  Val had apparently been cast in the role of chauffeur for the week, since Nancy and David (and Val) were all in the same hotel.

Linda very graciously introduced me to the stage crew and the director.  John Burke – who everyone calls Jack - was all over the theatre, listening to the reading.  He gave good notes to both David and Nancy before he released them.  There were a few last minute adjustments, the stage manager wanted a coaster for each desk and David wanted a more macho looking water glass, something completely different from Nancy’s.

He got the new water glass the next night.  It was different.  Nancy had a single red rose on her desk and since Andy sends her red roses twice in the play, I thought that was a nice touch.  David also now had a red and gold tie on, which did look better than the blue one the night before and he kept that red tie for the entire run.

Linda invited me to go to the Ink Well coffee shop with her and the Director afterward and she told me about all the events of the week, when David arrived and what they did and where they went.  Jack wanted to know a bit about my work, including my books.  It was very pleasant out there on the patio under the stars.

Friday night we all started congregating about 7:30 PM.   Jane was there when I walked in and Elizabeth (Betty) Dickie, her daughter Laura and her husband Greg came in right before I did.  I said hi to Betty and we chatted briefly.  I was standing near the door, when Hildy looked at me and said: Don’t I know you.  I shook my head and told her I wasn’t local.   No, she said, I’ve definitely seen you before.  Taking a guess, I said, well, I run David Hedison’s web site and my picture is posted up there.

That was it!  She absolutely loved the website and visited it often.  I thanked her and was happy she was enjoying all “the gorgeous pictures” I had up of David on the site.  The Voyage theme song starts playing.   Hildy’s going what the… I hear music.   It’s the Voyage theme!

I admit it’s my cell phone.  I dig in my black bag for my black case and flip open the phone, figuring it’s something important and you know what, it’s a sales recording.   It was worth it, however, to see everyone’s reaction.  I said I couldn’t take credit.  Downloading the Voyage ring tone was John’s idea.  He thought it was apropos since I work for David Hedison. 

The doors opened and we took our seats.  Hildy ended up sitting beside me and Betty sat in front of me.  I believe Janis was on the other side, behind Hildy.  Janis and I had met at a Chiller in 2004 and it was good to see her again.  Betty was at the Nostalgia con in Aberdeen.

The water glasses came out, the lights went down.  David and Nancy walked out to vigorous applause.  He seated her, then himself, and began to read.  The audience started laughing.  And we were whisked off to Connecticut – otherwise known as the Land of Oz.

Friday after the play they asked us all to leave so they could take some official photos of David and Nancy on stage in their costumes.   I stood outside the door and looked in, watching David have his picture taken.  He looked good sitting at his desk reading, and then laughing and joking with Nancy.

Nancy came to the lobby first.  I think she had fewer clothes to change out of.  David came strolling out a few minutes later.  I had the camera up and ready and snapped his entrance. 

He made a beeline for me and asked how he did.  I told him he did fine, which was true.  He was even better tonight, added more inflections and gestures and got loads of laughs.  He told me he had felt very comfortable and had enjoyed performing.  He was wearing a powder blue Cuban shirt and tan linen pants. 

He started talking to all the other people waiting to meet him and he signed their playbills with a green sharpie.  We had a good group waiting for him.  David probably signed ten playbills and chatted with everyone: Linda, Jane, Caitlin, Janis Gianforte and her husband Bruce; Elizabeth Dickie, her husband Greg and daughter Laura; Hildy and her friend from Philadelphia; plus at least five other people I did not know.  Everyone took pictures, including me.  

David asked Linda specifically if she had gotten me in one of the pictures.  Linda assured him she had.  I don’t particularly like having my picture taken and David gets after me not to be like that.  I made sure I smiled when she was taking it.  We’ll see how I turn out, when Linda sends it to me to put up on this site.

Everyone was teasing David about looking so good.  Hildy wanted to know where the Fountain of Youth was he was drinking from.  I quipped that he still won’t tell us where the picture is.  The group laughed.  Elizabeth said it was at the bottom of the sea.  David laughed and said it could stay there.  

Several folks told David he made them cry when he read the final letter.  He really did a great job, interpreting and giving life to the words in all those letters.  One of the couples mentioned Voyage and how long it has lasted and how amazing it was that he was still remembered for that after all these years.

Right before Nancy Dussault told David to get ready to go and after she had him talk to her limo driver, I took him off to the side to do some business.   The Casino Caper Audio book had arrived at my house the day before I left and I figured David hadn’t seen one yet.  He hadn’t. 

David wanted to know how he sounded on it and I told him terrific, particularly on John’s five speaker surround sound system.  The Denver con wanted some things done and we agreed on what I should send him to approve.  

David said Bridget was bringing me his interview for our 50th anniversary Fly book with her the next day.  Did I have another chapter ready for him to go over?  It was back at the hotel.   He wanted me to bring it to him.   I promised I would.   I hugged him again and told him yes when he asked if I would be in the audience again tomorrow.  

Nancy Dussault told him to come on. Val was there with the car.  They left.    

Janis took Hildy back to her hotel and I waited until they drove off.  Linda and the director, Jack, decided to come out and have their late night snack at the Applebee’s across from my hotel, so Linda called me on my cell to come join their group. 

I teased Jack when I sat down that we had to stop eating like this, this being my second night out with them.  Linda mentioned David told her to make sure that I was invited as he was concerned for me, because I was there all alone.   John had passed on coming with me.  It would have been too much for him.  It gets way too hot in August for him to travel and he doesn’t like to fly, either.   I was not happy it was that hot, either, but I managed.

Saturday during the day Linda hosted a pot luck party for all the fans who had come in to see David.  We had crab cakes and dip and pie and submarine sandwiches.   Linda showed us a clip tape from various episodes that had been set to music – they do this for conventions.  It was really funny.  We all noshed and visited and watched an episode of Voyage (Fatal Cargo) until it was time to go and get ready for the play. 

At 3:00 PM Linda said she had a special surprise for the group.  She had been talking with Robert Dowdell, the actor who played Chip Morton on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Robert had agreed to take a group cell phone call from our party.  

Linda dialed him, put him on speakerphone and said, everyone say hello.   So we all yelled hello and bowled him over with our volume.

She then passed the cell phone around the room so each one of us could say a few words to him.  I was given the honor of going first, after Linda told him I ran David’s web site.

Robert’s voice was very strong and quite deep.  I welcomed him into the fandom and told him I had followed his career for years and mentioned two roles of his I had particularly liked.  Then I passed him on.  We had to encourage a few of the more shy ones to take the phone, but in the end everyone talked to Robert and he seemed to really enjoy it.

We posed for a group picture before we all scattered to leave for the play.  We’ll see which one turns out the best to be posted on the site.  Instead of cheese, they told us to say submarine.  I hope that worked.  

Let’s see, it was me, Linda Delaney, Jane Daffron, Kathy Agel, and Wendy Rosenkrantz – who brought her husband George – Janis Gianforte, Kim Quire, Lin Whinney, Sue Kite, and Pat Crumpler. The party also included Linda’s Mom, her daughter Caitlin, her son Conor and two of his friends.  A good time was had by all.  Caitlin took the picture – she was doing that all weekend.  So there should more pictures up here later on.

The Road trip crew (Lin, Kim, Pat, Sue) came back to my hotel to get ready – it was closer than theirs – and I piled everyone in my van to take them to the theater.  We had quite a crowd by the time the doors opened.  I was pleased that there would lots of reaction for David to hear.  That always helps the actors.

Bridget was at the play on Saturday night, as was Serena, but I never was able to spot them.  I had Lin, Sue, Pat and Kim with me, so I might have been a bit distracted.  Alan Prigge waved hello and I waved back.  Lin was given an ADA device to help her hear and she was very pleased that she was finally able to hear David speak.  She told me he had a very distinctive voice.

The crowd was amazing on Saturday, they laughed at everything.  I thought the Voyage fan contingent was going to bust a gut when Andy wrote he had joined the Navy!  They got even more hysterical when he ended up on an Admiral’s staff!   I don’t think A. R. Gurney planned for that happening when he wrote this! 

I could see both Nancy and David responding to all this hilarity.  They blossomed.   Everything got bigger and broader.  The audience loved it and laughed all the louder, until it was time to cry.   Trust me, David made everyone cry with his reading of the final letter.  They both got thunderous applause, which was well deserved.

There weren’t any pictures taken or autographs after the play.  David was not feeling well and Bridget took him home.   About ten of us went out to the Applebee’s (again) for a great post play party. We gave the road trip crew a raucous send-off.

Linda brought me over to the theater early on Sunday – to visit with her until it was time for her to set everything up in the dressing room for David’s arrival and his last performance.

She said I could park (for now) in the artist parking, with the understanding I would have to move my minivan when the real talent started showing up.  My rental was a little big for the spot, so I wasn’t quite straight, but I figured I’d be moving it before it mattered to anyone.

She asked if I would be all right sitting alone in the lobby while she worked. I said I’d be fine. I did offer to help, but she said she didn’t need any.  I had brought something with me, knowing I’d have time to kill, so I worked on that until George and Wendy came in.   Wendy wanted to talk, so we did that until Linda came back out and told me it was now time to move my car.

David had arrived early and was pretending to be mad there was a crooked car messing up his parking – pacing up and down with large gestures and being overly dramatic.  I think David knew it could be mine.  He was aware I had a rental and the van in question had Connecticut plates – a dead giveaway – plus it was one he hadn’t seen back there before.  After a week – David knew which cars (with New Jersey plates) belonged back there.

David declared he would not go on stage unless this offending car was moved immediately!  I told Linda to go tell him I was moving the car.  God forbid I be the cause of a riot because he refused to perform!  I told her be sure to tell him there would be a riot if he didn’t perform!

That’s how I found out David had come in on Sunday.  At least he now knew I was there as well.

I really didn’t notice Bridget had taken a seat on the floor until Dori Martin said to me oh, there’s Alexandra.  Alexandra would stand out in any crowd, so I swiveled around.  The three of them were sitting about three rows behind me on the right side of the center section.  I had no idea what Serena looked like these days – the picture I have is fifteen years old – but once I saw her sitting on the other side of Bridget, I knew. 

There was about fifteen minutes until the play started, so I rose and moved to the right end of my row and walked up to them.  Bridget looked at me and I stuck out my hand.  Hi.  I thought I should introduce myself.  I’m Diane Kachmar.

I shook Bridget’s hand.  She started to introduce me to her daughters.  I extended my hand to Alexandra and said, “Alexandra.”  She took it.  I turned to Bridget’s other side and said, “This must be Serena,” and shook her hand when Serena leaned forward to give it to me.

Bridget and I discussed some of the work I had done with David in the past four years and she thanked me again for taking good care of him on the road.  She apparently finds it very amusing that I bring her husband “treats.”  She mentioned the cans of almonds. 

I couldn’t resist teasing her.  I mentioned I had cookies in my bag, if David wanted them after the show.  This exchange amused both daughters.  Alexandra said she had to do something and got up.  I stepped back and apologized if I had been leaning over her to talk to Bridget, but she said, no, I was all right.

Right before I left, I said to Bridget:  We met before.  About 11 years ago.  You were running around in David’s white shirt.   (This was at another play.)

That had to be Nebraska, she said immediately.  That time they lost my luggage. 

I nodded. 

She looked up at me.  I don’t remember you. 

That’s perfectly understandable, I replied, I was one of a group of six.

I had met Bridget before that, but it was in 1993, so I decided to only talk about the most recent one.  I went back to my seat. 

Linda came out a few minutes later, with my Fly book chapter in a grey folder and said, “David said to give this to you.” 

I thanked her and put it in my bag, telling her I knew what it was and was expecting it.  I asked Linda if David wanted me to send the envelope he had asked for back with her.  She said David didn’t say, but I could take it back with me after the play.  David wanted to see me after the show.  I was to sit tight until she came for me.  I told her I would.  

It was a smaller audience on Sunday, but David and Nancy were still magical together and the lines that got laughs on Friday still had them cracking on up Sunday.  I think the fights (by letter) were some of the funniest lines, but a few Christmas notes came in a close second.  Melissa loved to puncture Andy anytime he got pompous, what with him becoming a lawyer and then a senator.

After the play, we let everyone clear out, except for the other people Linda had also told they could go backstage.  I let them go first.  Dori had five year old Megan.  Megan gets a little impatient at times, which is understandable.  Wendy and George were next and I brought up the rear.  

As I left my seat to move over by Dori, Megan announced to the whole theatre, Hi, Diane! 

Bridget gives me a look. 

I smile, say Hi, Megan, and explain out loud that she’s met me before.  

Third time in fact.   Megan loves watch David on TV with Grandma.  Megan was our youngest; the only other young person who attended was 10 year old Laura Dickie on Friday.  David took the time to say hello to both of them.

Linda told us to go through the back door and we stopped and waited for someone to come take us down the corridor.  It was Caitlin.  Linda met us half way.   We stopped in a line about 6 feet from a black curtain, behind which I could hear David talking.

Serena came through the side entrance in front of us and went behind the curtain, exclaiming Daddy!  There was much hugging and kissing.  She told him quite exuberantly that he made her cry!   You could hear the pride in her voice.  It was a first for me to hear him being called Daddy.  Several times. 

I heard David say, he had to go say hello to some people.  The curtain parted and it was the man himself, dapper in a navy Hawaiian shirt and brown linen pants.

He went to Dori and Megan first for their play reactions.  Then he went to Wendy and George.  Wendy blurted he was her first crush.   David laughed and said your second and third and fourth and fifth.   Wendy caught on and pointed to George and said twelfth!

Then he came over to me.  I stepped up and hugged him.  I told David he had really pulled out all the stops that night and brought the performance up to a new level.  It was the best of the four I had seen!  He informed me that was what he was supposed to do.  I told him he had done it so well, that he made me cry, too, and I’m not a weeper. 

David was duly impressed.  He wanted to know where his new Fly book chapter was.  I handed it to him from the bag at my feet.   He said he would read it on the plane going home to Los Angeles.  Did I get the one he sent out to me?  Yes.  He hoped I’d be able to make sense of what he added in.  It was a bit of mess.  I assured him not to worry, I was used to him and I’d figure it out. 

This got a laugh from the group.   Not quite sure why.

Before he turned away, I asked David for a kiss and he obliged me.  I bussed him back.  David thanked me so much for coming.   I told him I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  He was so good, and brought so much to each of his individual performances, that I thoroughly enjoyed watching all four of them. 

The lines never got old and I loved watching David work the material and see the evolution of all that work come out in his performances.  He really knows his craft.  It was such a treat to be there and watch David perform this play.    

He carried my envelope back behind the curtain and that was the last I saw of him.

Nancy Dussault came out to meet some folks the director had brought back.  One of them was the dean of the theater.

I stepped up and hugged Nancy after she was done with her guests, telling her she was my favorite “lost Princess of Oz” and that I really had enjoyed watching her evolve through the run as well.  

She knew I had been there since Thursday.  I told Nancy how much my husband loved her in the Peter Falk version of The In-Laws.  My one and only film, she said.  And a cult one, at that!  

John replied when I told him, if you are only going to make one film, that was the one to pick, because it is hysterically funny and she plays her part (Alan Arkin’s wife) – to perfection.  Go rent it, if you haven’t seen it.

After that, we wandered out to the lobby to wait for Linda, so we could get her something to eat after.  Alexandra and Serena came out and went in two different directions.  Naturally, a minute or two later, Bridget comes out into the lobby looking for both her daughters. 

I asked her which one she wanted.   We decided Alexandra had walked farther away and Bridget went after her.   While Bridget was getting Alexandra back, Serena came back into the lobby from the side wing.  I told her to go out and find her mother.  The three of them came walking back past me to leave.  Bridget asked if I had seen David. 

I said yes.  He had given me a hug and kiss and I was very happy.  Bridget smiled and said goodbye.

When Linda came out with Caitlin, we all decided to go have a bite with Wendy and George and the Lighting Designer – George Hensel, once again at the Applebee’s!  It was either there or the 24 hour White Castle.   There was another place on the way – I think they sold chicken wings - called CLUCK U – I told Linda I didn’t want to know!  

That was the play.  I got up at oh dark thirty on Monday, drove the rented minivan back to Newark Airport and took my two flights home through Atlanta.   I was only delayed an hour in Atlanta, which I understand, given the way flights have been this summer, that I was extremely  lucky it was only an hour.

As I told David, I wouldn’t have missed it.  He was so good.  It was a treat to see him perform on stage again.  

Diane Kachmar   August 10, 2007