“What are you doing here on the Warner Brothers lot?” Karen Sharpe asked Jimmy Dean — whom she hadn’t seen since her days at the Hollywood Professional School when he was dating her best friend, schoolmate, Beverly Wills. Karen was now on the WB lot having been signed to a contract by Batjac and debuting with John Wayne in “The High and the Mighty.” “What are you doing here?” Karen asked Dean. “I’m in some small picture called ‘East of Eden,'” he told her. “And if someone comes over to say ‘hello,’ don’t blow my cover when I mumble. Remember when I told you (back then) I was going to figure out how to be a star–well…”
Karen and Jimmy remained friends through his four film career. She laughingly recalls her Hollywood Professional School era when she and Dean would play a “young married couple” and went ‘shopping’ in stores on Hollywood Blvd. She also said her mother would feed Dean “when he hung around our door” all this time his girlfriend was Beverly Wills, Karen’s best friend. The two girls–plus fellow HPS classmate Wally George and John Gary–would often entertain riders on the Big Red One trolley which ran down Hollywood Blvd.–en route to the school. Karen lived on Whitley Ave. between Hollywood and Franklin Ave. I knew that trolley-and had also ridden on it. Our house was atop Whitley Terrace–where Hollywood stars such as Betty Grable and Harry James had lived. You could often see stars of the ’50s walking on Hollywood Blvd. But I never saw Jimmy Dean or Karen Sharpe on Hollywood Boulevard. Karen returns to the Blvd. and her alma mater, the Hollywood Professional School (she graduated in 1953), for the Sunday, Aug. 26 , “farewell party.”
Sharpe, who later married Stanley Kramer, has produced “The Stanley Kramer Film Collection” with Sony. The five-DVD set will be released next Feb. Tom Brokaw opens the set and those onboard also paying tributes to Kramer and his films include: Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Al Gore, Harrison Ford and Kevin Spacey.
Variety 100: 100 Icons of the Century: James Dean