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Hollywood Holiday Splendor: Doris Day’s Friends and a Glorious Holiday Tree

Mary Anne Barothy author of Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond

When I was Doris Day’s secretary back in the 1970s, Doris introduced me to a good friend of hers, Grace Emerson a numerologist. I had heard the term “numerology,” but had no idea of what it really was. According to Wikipedia, “Numerology is any belief in the divine or mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names, and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.” A little different.

Doris encouraged me to go for a “reading” by Grace Emerson, which I did.  Doris was interested in knowing what Grace told me. At the time, I shared with Doris the ideas and thoughts Grace introduced me to as a part of her numerology beliefs. I admit this was all interesting and definitely “new” to me, but also somewhat confusing. I was happy to finally meet Grace and after that first reading, we struck up a friendship.  After all these years I really can’t remember what all Grace told me back then. As a good Catholic, that may have been just as well for me.

Harold Lloyd - A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen.jpgMy Father, Charles Barothy, passed away in May 1971. Later that summer my mother, Rose Barothy, came to spend some time with me in Los Angeles. I thought it would be good for her. This was while I was working for Doris when she was filming “The Doris Day Show” at CBS-TV in Studio City.  Grace was eager to meet my mother and wanted to help me show her around during her visit. Grace had been able to meet the daughter of the famous silent film star, Harold Lloyd. Gloria was now her client. Grace called Gloria to ask if she would take us on a tour of her dad’s awesome home. Grace said Gloria had extended the invitation many times, and I guess Grace was just waiting for a good time to take her up on this.  My mom’s visit was the perfect time for the tour.

The big day came, and Mom and I picked up Grace and we drove to meet Gloria at the incredible historic home of Harold Lloyd located at 1740 Green Acres Drive, Beverly Hills.  Also known as “Greenacres,” it was built in the 1920s by the silent film star, whom everybody remembered for his frightening role clinging to a clock tower in the film “Safety Last.” It remained Lloyd’s home until his death in 1971. The estate originally consisted of a 44-room mansion, golf course, outbuildings, and 900-foot (270 m) canoe run on 15 acres. It has been called “the most impressive movie star’s estate ever created.” After Lloyd died, the estate was subdivided into multiple lots, though the mansion remains and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The main attraction of the Greenacres holiday season was always its mighty Christmas tree…which, as befitting its silent comedy megastar owner who always thought big, was no ordinary tree. It was three trees lashed together. The enormous decoration was 20 feet tall and no less than 30 feet around, standing proudly at the end of the Lloyd family’s orangery. By the 1950s it held something in the neighborhood of $25,000 worth of ornaments collected from around the world–and was starting to be left up until March.  Believe me, some of those ornaments were nearly the size of basketballs!

Needless to say, thanks to Harold Lloyd’s daughter, Gloria, Grace, Mom and I were so lucky to get an up-close look at this historic mansion and the awesome Christmas tree.

Little did I realize that memories of that historic tour nearly 50 years ago would open up a new connection to Harold Lloyd. Somehow quite recently the Harold Lloyd Facebook page popped up on my Facebook page. I checked it out and was thrilled to see that giant Christmas tree which I remembered from our tour of the Lloyd mansion.  I decided to make a comment about having had the opportunity to tour the Lloyd home with Lloyd’s daughter, Gloria, and Grace Emerson.  Within a day, I had a comment from Suzanne Lloyd, Lloyd’s granddaughter.  She shared that she and her mom were great friends and admirers of Grace Emerson, our mutual friend. Needless to say, I responded to Suzanne and then sent her a copy of my book. Suzanne shared with me that she loved Doris Day, and shared Doris’s love of dogs, saying the Lloyds were dog crazy too!

It’s a small world. . . you just never know who you are destined to meet!  Thanks to Doris Day, I met Grace Emerson and Harold Lloyd’s daughter, and now am in touch with his granddaughter, Suzanne.  Fun memories touring the Harold Lloyd mansion. Oh, the good old days!