When we arrived at the bookstore in Culver City, it was at 2:30 on a warm Saturday in June. I drove my mother from her South Bay home to meet Dolores Hart, the well-documented actress who turned her back on Hollywood to become a nun.
Mother Dolores, all of 74, was in town to promote her book, “Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows.” My mom was a fan back in the day, although I think it was really about Elvis more than all the starlets who draped his arms.
Just the night before, I called my mom and asked, “how would you like to meet Dolores Hart?” My mom, in her reserved but excited way, answered, “Why, yes, I would.”
The bookstore parking lot was a bear. I barely found a parking stall. Then, 10 seconds after entering the bookstore, Pauline Book & Media Center Daughters of St. Paul, I saw a table of displayed hardcover books that were dwindling before my eyes. Instinctively I dived (at least that’s how I want to tell it) for a copy, not knowing whether it smudged, bruised or bent — thankfully, it was blessed condition.
Within seconds, all of Mother Dolores’ books were in the hands of adoring fans. How was I to know that half-way through the book signing, all of her books would be sold out? Anyway, I handed the book to my mother and she took her place in line. Meanwhile, I circled around to take photos.
There was a crowd in the bookstore. I heard a lot of quiet chatter among people, whispers of “Is that her?” and “Gee, she looks good.” The book signing was a hit, if I’m allowed to say that. Mother Dolores was radiant and gracious from the first person to the last. She greeted my mother with a charming smile, a warm handshake and words that were delivered as if greeting an old friend.
Dolores sat and signed her autobiography. Her lifelong friend and book co-writer, Richard DeNeut, sat at her side. A TV news cameraman and I exchanged nods. I saw so many fans step up to touch Dolores. One guy pulled out every Dolores Hart, actress publicity photo in his collection, and she signed each without a sigh.
Another gentlemen in his 70s carried a board with photos. When he reached the front of the line, he pointed to a teenage girl and boy, and reminded Dolores, “you were my prom date.”
She chuckled and studied the photos with delight.
I was reminded of years past, when as a kid I heard about Dolores Hart, the ingénue, the new Grace Kelly. Her name stuck with me, as did a hundred other actor names, because Mom was a fan of the Hollywood cinema.
And on this day, it was like turning back the clock.
My mother walked out of the bookstore beaming, clutching her new book and regaling stories of old Hollywood. She was strolling down memory lane with a twinkle in her eye. And for the briefest moment, I was that little kid hearing those wonderful stories of a time that was.