Sam Snead returned to Hollywood one recent Monday morning to resume shooting on his Celebrity Golf television series and was due to meet Comedian Danny Thomas on the first tee at 8 a.m. Sam was there on the dot.
This would not seem to be at all remarkable. But, in view of the weekend that had preceded Sam's appearance at Hollywood's Lakeside Golf Club, it was just a little short of fantastic. Sam had flown from Hollywood to Boston the previous Friday; he had been involved in a frantic cocktail party (he detests cocktail parties); a man had invaded his motel suite at 3 o'clock in the morning and blown smoke in his face (he hates having smoke blown in his face); he had played National Open and Masters Champion Arnold Palmer in exhibitions at Providence, R.I. and Rockville, Md. He had traveled 2,700 miles on three airlines in a single day and had slept not at all on the planes and only two or three hours upon his arrival at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. On the jet airliner that took him from Chicago to Los Angeles, Sam had groaned and moaned, as is his custom when overtired, yearning for the day when he could take things easy. "There'll come a day," he had said, "when I'll quit all this runnin' around, when I'll take things so easy I won't even take a lick at a snake." In Sam's view, a man born and raised in the mountains of Virginia can get no lazier than that.
When I saw Sam off to bed a little before dawn this recent Monday, I didn't see how he could ever pull himself together in time for the filming of his match with Danny Thomas. But there he was at the first tee, looking bright-eyed, ready to go. The temperature was 99� and the smog was all but unbearable.
There was a sizable gallery on hand. Although Snead is matched against such big name performers as Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Perry Como, Mickey Rooney, Ray Bolger and Dean Martin in the filmed series, Sam himself was the big attraction and the man in demand among the autograph seekers.
Sam's first drive was a screamer down the middle. He didn't bear down too much against Thomas and, allowing for the latter's club handicap of 10, Sam won, 1 up. Afterward, there was a comedy sketch to be done. To start it off, Announcer Harry Von Zell, reading from an idiot card, remarked that it must be tough for Danny to get out to play golf, what with one wife in his television series, Make Room for Daddy, and another in real life. "Imagine having to sneak out on two wives," laughed Von Zell. Sam Snead looked like he had heard many a funnier joke.
Then Von Zell went on to explain that the sponsors of the series were going to give Danny a chance to earn a lot of money for his favorite charity, so much for every par hole, so much for a birdie and $10,000 for a hole-in-one by either Thomas or Snead. At this point Thomas departed from the prepared lines and adlibbed: "I already made $500, Harry. A pal of mine bet me I wouldn't even show up for this match with Sam!"
This got a good laugh from the gallery and thus called for an on-the-spot revision of the script. "Keep that line in, Danny!" cried the director. "And Sam, you take Harry's line about Danny sneaking out on two wives! Got it, Sam?"
Sam, with two hours' sleep behind him, a blazing sun beating down on him and the smog burning his eyes, nodded. Danny Thomas addressed the gallery, "When I get to the new line, folks, laugh it up like you did before." The scene went off just fine, and Sam's reading was judged adequate the first time.
After a picnic lunch with the camera crew, Sam started all over again with Randolph Scott. At the start of his match with Scott, I had the vague impression that Sam was a mite off his game. But on the 4th hole he drove the green and sank a 20-foot putt for an eagle. Scott, a fine golfer himself, shook his head and said, "Sam plays as good as he has to."
That night Sam turned in right after dinner. Next morning I was sitting by the side of the swimming pool having coffee, and Sam came bouncing along. I looked up and said, "My, but you look refreshed, Sam!"