George Christy Talks About Kirk Douglas, The Ragman’s Son, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and More! | BH Courier

George Christy Talks About Kirk Douglas, The Ragman’s Son, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and More!

Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas

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A shout-out for Mr. D.

“A life, extraordinaire,” assesses Yanou Collart, his (and our) friend for decades who knows the Who and the Who here and abroad.  And possibly in outer space. Yanou’s fame is unparalleled, extracting those impossible bookings with the power-packed dining rooms in her native France or wherever.

Yanou telephoned from Paris last week.  To remind that Mr. D’s birthday was around the corner.  “December 9th!” when he would celebrate his 100th year!

Looking back, dear Yanou, how we miss that jewel – ­­box La Stresa along  Right Banks’ rue Chambidges, where we dined often when yearning for an Italian menu and where the now-retired, handsome seven Faiole brothers held court  with tony locals and, European and Hollywood movie colonists.   Royals, too, in a tiny  and homey joint.

Actor and matinee idol, producer,  director, author, and a foremost philanthropist, Kirk Douglas lives up to the character in his 1949 film, which was his eighth. Champion!

Film classics and three Oscar nominations followed.  Alive with hallowed performances in our cinema archives.  Roles gripping and unforgettable in movies that are timelessly discussed by new and veteran cineastes in academies and likely until the apocalypse.

Kirk’s film odyssey going back fifty years!  Stanley Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory; Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole, playing a newspaper reporter searching for his big scoop  (a favorite of Woody Allen); the cult classic Lonely Are The Brave.

Also: Young Man With A Horn based on the Bix Beiderbrike’s  career’ The Bad And The Beautiful (Lana Turner rarely looking more gorgeous, with rumors spreading about an irresistible fling); Spartacus with Sir Laurence Olivier; Seven Days In May; Inherit The Wind … the list roars on.  Many awards followed for the hunky hero, whose square-jawed countenance could launch a thousand ships.

A son of immigrant parents “who spoke Yiddish at home in Amsterdam, New York,”  Kirk was born Issur Danielovich.  He wed Diana Dill of Bermuda heritage in 1943, with whom he sired sons Joel and Michael.  Then, marrying the dedicated philanthropic Anne  Buydens in 1954, a Hollywood marriage lasting 60 years. And going strong.   Anne birthed sons Peter and the late Eric Douglas.

In his 1988 biography, The Ragman’s Son, Kirk describes his family of six sisters and his father surviving a horse trader in Russia before struggling as a door-to-door ragman in his new world.

Living in the heart of Beverly Hills and weekending at their Palm Springs hacienda (now sold), Kirk and Anne amassed a museum-worthy collection of Impressionist art.  Our hunch is that much of the art is sold, to make way for their phenomenal philanthropic lifestyle. 

Anne’s built a women center in downtown Los Angeles for mothers and others in need.

Kirk’s funded the CTG Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, an impressive addition to the cultural landscape for new playwrights to  engage in fine productions with established performers for their creative endeavors. Faithfully reviewed by our perceptive L.A. Times critic Charles McNulty.

Additionally, Kirk and Anne’s extraordinary financial largesse to Cedar-Sinai Medical Center and for continuous charities is an inspiration.

Let us not forget Kirk survived a helicopter crash in 1991.

A man for all seasons, indeed, whose centennial the world salutes.

We remember that happy evening when Kirk and Anne were the first to call and invite us for dinner at the popular Le Saint Germain in Hollywood (where Providence is now) after we began writing The Great Life column – thrice a week for our Hollywood Reporter publisher and editor Tichi Wilkerson Miles.  She had pleaded time after time for us to step aside from our 11 years as a roving editor for Town & Country magazine, where we contributed monthly articles plus a column, Are You With It?  Encouraging us to pursue the challenge of being a THR columnist.  Writing  about whatever we wanted.  Entertainment, politics, literature, health, heroes and heroines, elephants that we love, etc. 

We sipped and supped on Le Saint Germain’s sublime French cuisine, attended to by the suave co-owner, the Flemish-born Paul Bruggemans, a grand host among hosts.

Ah yes, a moment of    togetherness we smile over from our memory bank of a long, long ago.