Yes! it's Joyce Davidson Who said she ever stopped competing?
Here she is-the new Mrs. David Susskind, with a $160,000 pad, weekends in Paris and Acapulco. And love! So what’s a little nervous rash now and then?
HATEVER HAPPENED to Joyce Davidson? Remember —that pretty girl from Hamilton who seemed to be on TV all the time until she made that shocking remark about the royal tour?
Well, what happened to her (and maybe you remember part of this) is that she got fed up and moved to New York to star in a TV interview show but got fed up with that, too, and decided to play for the higher stakes of love and this spring surprised almost everybody by marrying David Susskind, the controversial and energetic New York TV producer, and throwing a ring-ading reception in their empty $160,000 apartment where U. S. senators were stepping on each others’ feet and Sidney Poitier did The Monkey with Joyce’s two teenaged daughters. That’s what.
It was the kind of party where Bobby Kennedy and Kenneth Keating, once rival candidates for the U. S. Senate, found themselves alone in the same elevator, a brush that made Leonard Lyons’ column the next day. Everybody who counts was at the party, including most of Joyce’s hairdressers, a couple of her decorators and all her family from Canada. (Well, everybody made the scene except Sammy Davis, Jr., and Mai, who simply couldn’t, and sent yellow roses instead.) Paddy Chayefsky became the first of many to walk all over the bride’s diaphanous purple dress. Designer Mollie Parnis delighted a Life photographer by spilling a thick, hot Mexican sauce down her front: she whistled for her chauffeur, whipped home to change and rejoined the fun.
Neighbor Bobby Kennedy gave Joyce a congratulatory peck on the cheek and told David, "You got a nice write-up in a Catholic magazine I read in church this morning.” A palmist installed in an upstairs bedroom read “a love of luxury” in Joyce's hand. Johnny Carson brought a beautifully wrapped forty-foot rope fire escape. "That will just about take us down to Truman Capote’s bedroom.'’ Joyce observed.
Jack Carter, in from Boston for the fun, peeled down to his shirtsleeves for a wild Frug. Joyce and Hume Cronyn traded horror stories of their Ontario hometowns, Hamilton and London. Tallulah Bankhead cornered Sidney Poitier: "Dahhling. I'm going to give you my unlisted telephone
JOYCE DAVIDSON continued
number, and you must give me yours.” David serenaded Joyce with I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face. Senator Jacob Javits and his gorgeous wife Marion danced the hora with the Susskind children.
Not an easy crowd to wow. But the Susskinds' new nine-room duplex did the trick, with its glass walls framing a thirty-third-and-fourth-floor view of the East River, the United Nations and a whole glittering New York. (Johnny Carson even decided to move in across the hall.) Located in United Nations Plaza, the town’s newest and most spectacular “in” address, the apartment was just about to undergo a hundred-thousand-dollar Louis XV transformation. But for the threethousand-dollar wedding fiesta it became a pop-art pad. decorated in crepe-paper flowers, highway signs and Camp jokes muraled on the walls. Among them, painted on the curving stairwell: “David, what will you buy me next year?”
From a Hamilton factory assembly line to that glass wonderbox is “a long walk barefoot,” as Joyce Brock Davidson Susskind puts it. She made that walk in twelve years, not quite barefoot but with no head start and not much help.
The early part of her story has been told often enough to become almost an authentic showbusiness legend. Born the Depression-era child of an ailing piano tuner in Saskatoon, she became the seventeen-year-old bride of a Hamilton construction worker. She got her first glimpse of the more glamorous side of life at nineteen, when she was picked, from among fifty thousand girls, to spend a golden week in New York City as Miss Oneida Silver Plate. A few years later, when the Davidson marriage fell apart Joyce, then twenty-two, went to work soldering condensers in a Hamilton factory for seventy-five dollars a week. At twenty-three she got a showbusiness break — chef's assistant on a local TV cooking show. At twenty-four she was doing nationwide TV commercials for Sunbeam appliances when CBC producer Ross McLean spotted her. McLean was looking for a hostess to replace the celebrated Elaine Grand on the regional interview program. Tabloid. Joyce got the job.
To that show Joyce brought freshness, warmth and what McLean called her “remarkable audience empathy.” Her lack of training was balanced by a zeal to learn, and McLean became her tutor.
Several other characteristics — an iron drive, an acid wit, a fearful insecurity — were already
evident to anyone who really chose to look. Yet she was publicly hailed only as “TV’s loveliest interviewer” and “the Canadian girl-next-door.” She was a national institution with some of the qualities of the Musical Ride: a wholesome,
photogenic, thoroughly noncontroversial image. That role was bringing her twenty thousand dollars a year, and she soon doubled that by flying off to Hollywood and New York, between Toronto programs, to work at TV commercials and interviews.
She was on one such busman’s holiday, as Girl of the Week on Dave Garroway’s early-morning show, when she casually remarked that she, “like the average Canadian, I think,” felt “pretty indifferent” to the imminent visit of the Queen.
That one remark touched off a memorable dustup. It didn’t matter that many Canadians agreed with her privately; one just didn’t say such things publicly, least of all on American TV. By the time Joyce flew back to Toronto the next day, she was virtually a national villainess. She had rocks thrown at her house and children shouting, “Traitor!” and “Pig!” at her door. Editorial writers roasted her (one decided she was “mentally retarded”), advertisers couldn’t drop her fast enough, and the CBC hustled her into what everyone there hoped would seem like a penitential retreat.
Throughout it all, Joyce offered a few qualifications (“When I feel tired I don't always choose my words carefully”). But she refused to take the time-honored out — she never did apologize or retract. Ultimately, that is what she has never been forgiven in her native land: her impertinent, unrepentant candor.
From then on, she was Notorious Joyce. One writer ominously noted that trouble began “the first time she said what she thought.” Joyce recently corrected that: “It was the first time anybody ever listened.”
Well, they listened after that. All she had to do was suggest that Hallowe’en should be for fun instead of fund-raising, and the press broiled her all over again. Her reflection on The Pierre Berton Show that any girl still a virgin at thirty was “unlucky” drew the official wrath of the Roman Catholic Church (“Miss Davidson may even have influenced some young girls to sacrifice their . . . treasure”). And so her shrunken circle of friends and fans was hardly surprised when, in 1961, she quit the CBC and accepted an offer to star on the PM East — PM West show out of New York.
As she discovered a little late, it was a leap
straight out of the frying pan. “It was an agony, an agony,” she says now, “a frightened show, almost inevitably a bomb. We’d tape and tape and tape and then do it all over again.” In two months of twelve-hour days she lost eight pounds. Her temperamental co-star, Mike Wallace, not only demanded bigger billing than Joyce got. he decided her good looks were too distracting for viewers and he refused to appear on camera with her. And so the two stars were soon virtually shooting their own separate segments with no rapport between them. It was unnerving as well as exhausting, and as Joyce puts it now, she ‘ reacted by not competing. I just did my job and didn't get any fun out of it.”
The show itself wasn’t her only disillusionment.
Before moving to New York with her fiftythousand-doll ar bank account, Joyce had ticked off what a star's life there would consist of: “a ten-room, five-bath apartment overlooking Central Park, an airtight contract with a large network, the very most chic designer to do your clothes, your hair done by the maddest hairdresser.” Sure enough, that's what she got. But the Central Park
West apartment was in such a dangerous neighborhood that she moved in six months — “a terrible waste of money.” The airtight contract banned her from outside work, anchoring her income at $750 a week. And her “free time” seemed to be spent sprinting between Jackie Kennedy's hairdresser, Kenneth, and Jackie Kennedy's designer. Oleg Cassini. So much for the glamorous life.
PM folded after the contracted eighteen months, and Joyce virtually vanished from public view. Except for occasional appearances on talk shows, she was off the TV screen that had tyrannized her waking hours for eight years. The reasons for retiring from her hard-won career were private, but they were known to have something to do with David Susskind, the television producer. whom Joyce met at a Hanukkah party in Chicago shortly after signing with PM. Susskind was separated from his first wife; it was questionable whether he would ever be divorced. Nonetheless, Joyce decided she valued their relationship more than her independence. “I knew how he felt, and I knew how I felt, and that was
all that mattered,” she says firmly. “From all the other worlds open, this was the one I wanted.” “It wasn't that easy, of course,” a close friend adds. "But Joyce had enough courage to do it.” Back in Canada, some newspapers at least proved they were ready and anxious to make the most of the situation. The Toronto Telegram picked up a rumor item from the National Inquirer (an American version of Flash or Hush) and ran it as hard news: “David Susskind gave Canada's Joyce Davidson a sable coat and a gold diamond watch ...”
Torontonians had been enchanted to have the famously unwed lovers Liz and Dick pause briefly among them, but that was different; Joyce was a Canadian. Despite her protests of “this gossipmongering on my private life,” Canadian papers continued to pick up tidbits and rumors about her.
Even some of the people she had known and liked at the CBC upset her, with the airing of a film sequence about her on the Document series of This Hour Has Seven Days. Joyce and David consented to the idea of the sequence — largely
a discussion of men,
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“Of course, I’m prejudiced ... I’m utterly
under her spell”
Marriage made it different
Back in New York, where the Susskind wedding was front-page news, even policemen and taxi drivers tendered warm congratulations. “We didn’t think marriage would make any dilference, but it does — at least to us,” said Joyce a few days later. “The feelings are just that much more intense, more tender, more protective.” Had she ever been happier than now? Her face lit up. “No, never. When my dreams come true it’s almost too much. And Sir John Gielgud said his astrologer said we’re going to have a marvelous year.”
One further change this year will bring: American citizenship for Joyce. “This country makes me sing — it always has,” she explained. “I only hummed in Canada.”
For David’s part, he claims Joyce is not only “a marvelous hostess, an interesting partner, one of the great cooks of our generation,” but “the quintessence of femininity: giving and solt and endlessly pleased. The longer you know her. the greater her charm.” He grinned. ‘"Of course, I am fiercely prejudiced. I m utterly under her spell.”
At forty-five Susskind is a shrewd, enthusiastic, charming, boundlessly
women and la différence — and the producer. Beryl Fox. has since said that some footage that might have heen used without offense to anyone else was scrapped at Joyce’s request. Joyce never saw the program, but friends who did have since convinced her that the whole thing was bad publicity, full of nuances about her relationship with Susskind. (He was described as “her friend and mentor.”) And the title of the program upset her: The Sinple Woman And The Double Standard. Now Joyce says the whole incident w'as “an abuse of my hospitality.”
After such abuses from the press, there was irony in the spur-of-themoment choice she and Susskind made when they needed two witnesses for their wedding on April 22 at the county courthouse in Arlington, Virginia: a reporter and a photographer on the courthouse beat. The happy couple celebrated by lunching in the U.S. Senate dining room with their old friend Senator Jacob Javits, and dropping in at the White House to see another oid friend. Jack Valenti, then one of President Johnson’s top aides. When an impromptu presidential press conference was called, the new' bride found herself sitting tw'o feet away from Lyndon Johnson in a swarm of scribbling reporters.
of other shows, ranging from the top-rated Get Smart and Supermarket Sweep through the spectacular Broadway flop Kelly to Sir John Gielgud's The Apes Of Man, or the recent revival of Death Of A Salesman. On a fairly typical recent day he picked up a story idea from Peter Ustinov in the morning, sold it over the phone to
energetic maverick — the sort of man who not only could buy a twentythree-room English castle to live in for sixteen days, hut actually did. (He managed to unload it eighteen costly months later.) He keeps in his hand as a performer by moderating his eight-year-old talk show'. Open End, but also concocts and produces a string
Anthony Quinn in Rome, and by afternoon wrapped up plans for October production in London. “So there's the rent money for this month,” he reported to Joyce over a delicious potroast dinner.
The pot roast is no more typical of Joyce than rent worries are of David. Except for a few short-term jobs (producer ol Susskind’s Hot Line show; "unit man“ or resident press agent on two movies), Joyce has been leading
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JOYCE DAVIDSON continued
“A woman can’t stop competing... now it’s for big game”
the life of a pampered lady of leisure, ‘it’s not a question of babying yourself. but really indulging your senses." she purrs. “I like feeling terribly female. If you start taking all this pampering bit seriously you'll end up like a Dorothy Parker short story. But if you’ve got the nerve and proportion and sense of humor and don't feel guilty about it, then it's good fun."
Part of the pampering takes place at Kenneth's, twice a week. “I love this place because it's homey,” Joyce said as Angela worked on her hair. Marie worked on her feet and Kenneth confirmed a Vogue magazine sitting over the phone. "I even come here for a rest when I’ve been shopping.” Everyone paused to toast the bride in chilled Dom Pérignon champagne, which she had brought along with paper cups.
More pampering takes place in California, where her French couturier whips up original designs for her: "He has a pattern: I send swatches. You don't even press these clothes, that’s how he makes them.” Minor alterations are managed by airmail.
A lot of pampering will take place in Joyce’s "incredible” new apartment, what with the work now under way with the help of an Italian chiefdecorator imported from Paris for nine months just for this job. The apartment, when finished, will have silk walls. An eight - burner stove. Pewter faucets and doorknobs. A
couple of five-hundred-dollar antique Oriental porcelains and sculptures converted into living-room lamps. Dial-a-dinner service from the giltedged ground-floor Voisin restaurant. A private elevator with its private telephone. A maid’s room with a million-dollar view. Twenty-five thousand dollars’ worth of custom cabinetry. A master bath with built-in refrigerator, stereo and telephone — "So you'll be able to have a bath, listen to Madame Butterfly, talk to London and get smashed, all at the same time,” says Joyce. "A woman in decorating is like making a baby: your creativity is on the line. I want this to be a house that looks like it's full of flowers, even with no flowers in it.”
A bit of the factory girl
When she isn't “running all over the city to warehouses, boutiques and antique shops,” Joyce has been picking her wedding china and silver at Tiffany’s and Cartier's. "Most of the people in cur set shop there.” she explains. Yet there’s enough of the factory girl left in her to be “broken up completely” over the gift of four dozen Baccarat glasses: "Who ever thought I'd have anything like that?”
At thirty-five, Joyce w'ears her inchlong eyelashes and five-hundred-dollar Alice-in-Wonderland hairpiece as comfortably as her sling-back shoes. She browses in jewelry shops the way
other ladies case the supermarket. A coffee-brown diamond ring labeled "$3,840” has been catching her eye. but she says firmly, “Maybe next year." She and David weekend in Acapulco, and in Paris with “probably our closest friends,” Ingrid Bergman and Lars Schmidt. They have a bottlegreen E-type Jaguar and a handmade beige-blond Cadillac, but often hire a limousine and driver to go shopping or to the theatre. Joyce, herself a good driver, hasn’t trod on an accelerator since David hit the scene. "Call it intuition," she says, smiling. “Anyway it's so much nicer to be driven.”
Hearing all this, most people would tend to agree with my janitor, who leaned on his broom and insisted, “But those people aren't happy like you and me." Ah. but they are, they are. You only have to sec them looking at each other across a pot roast to believe it.
By now you must have recognized the story, as old as theatre, or love or Cinderella. It’s all about the poorbut-pretty girl who became rich and famous ami then discovered her real happiness in love. But nowadays the story never seems to be that simple. It's often said the girl's climb was probably neurotically motivated, that the pressures of wealth and fame are fairly killing, and that being in love is the hardest thing in the world to do well. And it is true that the knuckle-cracking tensions evident in
David's life are just as real in Joyce's.
The girl in this story has retired from the little screen, but who got the idea she has stopped competing?
“A woman never can." Joyce says. "I've stopped competing professionally, on TV — but now I'm playing for big game.” She admits to “moments of fright”; at times, under pressure, she withdraws completely. A nervous rash that sprouted around her eyes on her wedding day was still evident at the party ten days later. Asked il she was enjoying the party, Joyce answered, “Well, I'm working hard.” Never mind the squads of waiters, chefs, bartenders et al.; she was working at the job of being Mrs. David Susskind, “which is a whole career if you do it well.” Joyce intends to do it well. ★