Lugging a suitcase of his old scripts (Lassie, The Untouchables) to donate to the library, writer Charles “Blackie” O’Neal, 73, dropped in for a homecoming weekend at the University of Iowa, where he was a football star in the 1920s. He’s now at least as famous for being sire of Ryan and grand-pop to Tatum. One of his contributed works, Blackie confessed, had once helped his son’s rather lackadaisical pursuit of higher education. It was a story called My Father. In order to graduate from high school, Ryan had submitted it as his own—first scratching out the title and topping it: My Grandfather. Blackie’s granddaughter also was mentioned when he visited his old fraternity house, Delta Tau Delta. “I knew if I gave them money they would just spend it,” O’Neal observed, “so I said, ‘Would you be interested in adopting Tatum as a little sister?’ Just think. Every 14-year-old boy in the country would want to be a Delt at Iowa!”
Send in the Frowns
“My life tells in most of the songs I write,” admits Susan George, 27, who in the past decade has made the papers more for the names of her men (Jack Jones, Jimmy Connors, Rod Stewart, etc.) than for her movies (Straw Dogs, Mandingo). As for her songs, what songs? “I wrote a lot in one period of my life [after her four-year affair with Jones] when I was terribly unhappy, and I think the songs must have been terrible,” she continues. Now she’s advanced to warbling two cuts on a new LP—by Cat Stevens’ little-known brother David Gordon—and can’t shake her “loser” image. “This guy gave me a custom T-shirt the other day,” Susan confesses, “and on the front of it was stamped: R-E-J-E-C-T.”
First, to start a year of hassles, 10 Italian customs agents raided the villa Sophia Loren shares with husband producer Carlo Ponti. Next she was detained for a nine-hour grilling by suspicious border guards at a Rome airport. Then a month later she had to flee to the chilly roof of a Paris apartment building to escape a fire. Were things brighter professionally? Hardly. For The Cassandra Crossing, truly a disaster film, she was made up in an icky grayish pallor—and that was before she caught the pneumonic plague. In the current A Special Day, she plays—let’s face it—a frump. So it must have been a pick-me-up at age 43 when son Eduardo, 4, caught one of her old classics on TV and piped, “You know, Mommy, you really look like Sophia Loren.”
The name may be changed, but the Lynyrd Skynyrd band will perform again, despite the recent plane crash that killed lead singer and co-founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his vocalist sister Cassie. Fans, promoters and other artists already have contributed more than $10,000 to the Van Zant/ Gaines Memorium Trust, an educational fund for Steve’s daughter and Van Zant’s two young girls. (Ronnie himself was a high school dropout.) Why the fund? Though the band had started to make big money (its new LP, Street Survivors, is rising on the charts), expenses were high—the roadies, for example, were paid year-round, a rare generosity in the rock world. One of the largest contributions—$1,000—came from Madison Square Garden, where the band had been scheduled to headline last week as a symbol of finally making it to the top nationwide.
•Is the White House still hung up on traditional roles for women? A note for help was recently tacked to the Women’s National Democratic Club bulletin board. A presidential task force? No. Volunteers to address Jimmy Carter’s Christmas cards.
•”Do all these waterfalls and hanging gardens remind you of Shangri-la?” someone asked the old global gadabout in the ostentatious lobby of Chicago’s Hyatt Regency Hotel. Replied Lowell Thomas, 86 and been there: “No, I think it’s just Chicago.”
•Boxing champ Joe Louis, who’s lost a few rounds to the tax boys over the years, had some help in his corner when he was flown from Las Vegas to Houston this month for heart surgery. The whole tab—for the private jet, special nurses, hospital bill and the fee of famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey—was quietly picked up by a pal: Frank Sinatra.