Shirley Temple is 80, April 23… I was sure I wouldn’t be able to get through on the phone to wish her a happy birthday — so I called today. She didn’t sound happy at all. Over the (many) years, we usually chat at great lengths — on all subjects — from showbiz to politics — both about which she is well-versed and legitimately well-opinioned.
But her always-warm voice was different and she begged off quickly explaining, “I broke my left arm.” She awakened during the night, neglected to turn on a light and fell over a chair and suffered a compound fracture. “It’s very painful,” she allowed.
Until now, Shirley had been busy finalizing the second book of her autobiography — the first is “Child Star’ — but had not yet signed with a publisher. She can add this chapter to her incredible story. And I have been lucky enough to have been present at some of her accomplishments, history and honors.
I have been in the “Shirley Temple Bungalow” on 20th Century Fox lot, the studio that she saved from bankruptcy with her films like “Bright Eyes,” at the age of five, then “The Little Colonel,” “The Littlest Rebel,” “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” She received an honorary Oscar in 1935.
When she entered the real world, she was appointed a U.S. delegate to the United Nations by President Nixon and she invited me to tour the U.N. with her. She headed the Government’s Office of Protocol in Washington instructing upcoming ambassadors. She was our ambassador to Ghana and the Czech Republic and arranged for us to visit the ambassadorial residence in Prague. She ran unsucessfully for Congress.
The world’s women — young girls — have grown up seeing Shirley Temple films. My wife Selma recalls marveling at Shirley faultlessly dancing down the stairs with “Bojangles,” Bill Robinson in “The Littlest Rebel.” And she loved singing along with her “On The Good Ship Lollypop.”
Manicurist to the stars, Maggie Joy, told me she grew up in Cuba watching Shirley Temple movies in Spanish. Celeb hair stylist Adela Irines recalled to me her childhood in Romania where she viewed Shirley Temple movies in English — sub-titled in Romanian…Millions of little girls grew up — and continue to grow up — collecting Shirley Temple dolls. And generations of us have felt “grown up” drinking “Shirley Temples” before we grew into Cosmopolitans. Drink one on us, Shirley — happy 80th birthday — raise a toast with your good right arm.