Rory Calhoun Visits Missourian

Newspaper people are pretty blase about celebrities. Or, at least, they pretend to be, even if they’re not. Notice how business-like Society Editor Emily Hughes is while she’s interviewing heartthrob  Rory Calhoun in 1966 or thereabouts.

As a testament to Emily’s importance, she was the only person in the newsroom with an electric typewriter.

I’m not sure who the suits are with Calhoun. Someone said they thought they might have been from KFVS-TV. I don’t know if a story ever ran in the paper. The Missourian had a quaint style that said you never mentioned the call signs of the Cape radio and TV stations unless you couldn’t avoid it. They were to be referred to as “a local station.”

Proofreaders are visibly impressed

The proofreaders are leaning around to get a better look at the genuine badboy star of The Texan, and more than 80 movies. He had a part in just about every oater on the small screen. When Westerns fell out of favor, he appeared on police shows and sitcoms. In all, he appeared in more than 1,000 TV episodes.

His father died when he was nine; a theft of a revolver at 13 landed him in reform school; he escaped, robbed several jewelry stores and swiped a car. That and some other escapades got him boarding in the federal pen in Springfield, Mo., and San Quintin until he was just shy of 21.

He got his acting break when he happened to run into Alan Ladd while horseback riding in 1943. His agent changed his name from Francis Timothy McCown to Troy Donahue, then decided that the young man made a better Rory Calhoun. (His agent eventually used the Troy Donahue name for another actor, Merle Johnson. Who knows why he thought Francis made a better Rory than a Troy?)

Calhoun had quite a reputation as a lady’s man. When his second wife, Lita Baron, sued for divorce, she named 79 women with whom he had allegedly committed adultery. Calhoun responded, “Heck, she didn’t even include half of them”.

He died in 1999, at age 76.

Proofreaders could save you

I always had a soft spot in my heart for Missourian proofreaders. They weren’t supposed to look for errors of fact; they were only supposed to check the copy against the type proofs to make sure the typesetters hadn’t deviated from the original text. In reality, someone like Gloria Davis, far left, above, would walk over to your desk with a piece of perfectly clean copy and say, “There’s a smudge here. The pastors name is Boone, not Boob, right?” “Oh, yes, I guess the typesetter must not have been able to read that clearly. Thanks for catching that.”

Rory Calhoun visits the back shop

Visiting dignitaries generally don’t make it back to the composing room – the back shop – where the paper comes together. The group is standing next to a “turtle,” a heavy steel table on wheels that support the frame where the lead type is laid out. After the page is made up, the bolts on the side of the frame are tightened to keep anything from moving. The back shop foreman, whose name escapes me, is showing the visitors the tool used to tighten the bolts. The man in the plaid shirt to his right is Johnny Hohler.

9 Replies to “Rory Calhoun Visits Missourian”

  1. I love this back-stage look at Rory Calhoun! How cute to see the proof-readers peeking around the screen in those big glasses we used to wear!
    Rory is so much bigger than I thought he was – and I had no idea that he was a genuine bad boy! I guess I don’t remember reading about him in the movie mags of the day. I was too busy reading about Audie Murphy, I suppose!

  2. I was interested in seeing Emily Hughes in the photo with your Rory Calhoun story. During that 1965-1966 time period Emily took me to a Missouri Writers Guild meeting with a local Cape Girardeau chapter group. The Guild didn’t take me as a member as I wasn’t yet published. Emily was a very sweet and accomplished person. The Guild accepted my membership years later after many publications. It was nice to see Emily in your article.

  3. Remember When: Note that Mr Bad Boy and some of the suits are all smoking – in a workplace – indoors! And Emily has an ash tray on her desk. And in the top photo, either the suit with the pipe has just exhaled some smoke, or he’s about ready to chow down on a mouthful of cotton candy.

    1. I started to comment about that and forgot to.

      That’s one thing I DON’T miss.I can remember going to city council meetings and realizing that I’d better shoot my photos early, because an hour or so into the meeting, the cloud of smoke would be so thick that my flash would bounce off it like a fog bank.

      Airplane mechanics like smoking because it helped them find pinhole leaks in airliners. They’d look for the tar marks around the holes.

      I banned smoking in the photo department years before it was popular. I used the excuse that it was a fire hazard in the darkrooms and that the ashed caused dust spots on the negatives, but the main reason was that all but one of us was a non-smoker and I was the boss.

      The Missourian was the only place I was tempted to smoke. I watched how reporter Denny O’Neil used a pipe effectively in an interview to buy time while he was thinking of his next question or waiting for the subject to reply.

      You’re right about exhaling smoke. We didn’t have a cotton candy machine in the newsroom.

  4. I worked at a shopping news paper as a typesetter 1975-1991 and it was only in the last 5 years that smoking was banned in our shop. The owners (smokers) decided to stop it when the computer tech had to clean the keyboards and found piles of ashes, etc. in them. He saved the debris and showed it to the owners. At that time, there were 6 typesetters and only 3 smoked. They were given smoke breaks during the day while the rest of us stayed at our computers and worked.

  5. My Dad enjoyed a full pipe for many years, not nearly so hard to put up with as when their crowd got together for monthly bridge parties where almost everyone smoked (hated the stench when those were at our house). Anyway, Dad later said that one day he woke up and realized that his tongue tasted like “the bottom of a bird cage” and quit cold turkey.

    I actually missed the smell of his pipe smoke which had a vague aroma of apricots, but have always tried to avoid the mess and smell of the cigarettes. I still have some of Dad’s old pipes and pipe cleaners amongst my various collections.

  6. Mr. Calhoun visited Homestead in Sikeston and was standing alone in the back of the store in a little set the Store setup for him to greet the public. My wife and I were shopping and my wife was carrying our Son Lee, and we said hello to him and Mr. Calhoun reached over and took Lee from his mother and gave him a big hug and my wife admitted at the time she almost fainted to be that close to a real movie star. Those days were so simple and real, and celebrities seem to really care for their fans. I thank God often that we were blessed to live during that time.

  7. Back in the 50’s Mr. Calhoun visited my parents bar in beautiful downtown Union, Mo, the whole town showed up. The photo editor from the Washington Missourian a Mr. Jim Miller took the photos. Mr. Calhoun was accompanied by his lovely wife Lita.

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