Miss Davis will
be missed terribly
There was no one
saddened by the recent death of Bette Davis more than Provo dinner theater owner
Duke Major. He
knew her personally.
"I was a die-hard Bette
fan, and I'll miss her a lot.
It figures. Duke
grew up around Hollywood in the 1930s. In fact when he was a young man in the 40s, he
worked as a ticket taker for the nationally famous Lux Radio Show.
That allowed him to rub
with such big stars as Davis, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Lana Turner, Rita
Frank Sinatra and others.
It seems to have colored
the rest of
his life. Ever since then he’s has a
strong love of the world of entertainment.
Duke has acted in little
productions and several years ago he purchased two old movie houses,
Theater in Springville and the Alhambra Theater in Pleasant
Grove. He had hoped he could revive live
the pair of theaters.
Several productions were
them, but after operating too long in the red, he sold the Springville
and reopened the Alhambra as a family movie House.
was his return to his roots in radio. He
became the host of an old time radio show on KTALK Radio in Salt Lake City.
He played old radio shows and interview
veteran movie stars. Among those he
interviewed were Van Johnson,
and Fibber McGee and Molly (Jim and Mary Jordon). He also
interviewed the Lone
Ranger and Duke’s personal friend, Karl Malden.
His latest venture into
the world of
entertainment is the Backstage Cafe, a
music and dinner theater club in downtown Provo.
Its current production is the musical "Porter
“I believe the time is
right for a
dinner theater in Provo," he says, adding that
he knows the
entertainment business can be fickle.
"It has its upsies and
downsies," he says, mentioning the time he lost thousands of dollars on
production of “Damn Yankies.”
have more talent per square
inch than anywhere else
in the country but we don't have enough theatergoers per
square inch," he says.>
He jokes that if he were
would get into some real business, but he say’s he can't stop eating
"I even dream as if my
was a theater production," Duke,” says.
It must be
that it’s just in his blood. After all,
his grandfather Cluff opened the first theaters in Utah.
It is any surprise that
his hobby is
collecting photos of Hollywood stars.
They are all
over the walls of his new dinner theater and all other the walls of his
Looking back to his radio
the Lux, Duke recalls a day when he ended trying to control crazed
came to watch and scream over the young radio star Frank Sinatra who
on the Lux Radio Show.
He says a crowd of girls
Frank Sinatra's convertible at a stoplight near the theater, and Duke
help yank them off the singer.
had already pulled the convertible top down and by the time we got to
girls had almost de-pantsed him.>
"He seemed genuinely
scared. Incidents like this may have
helped give him the attitude he now has for over-zealous fans and the
press," Duke says.
He is still touched by
the memory of
an unforgettable Lux radio performance by the Swedish star Ingrid
He said that because
there were no
cameras as happened later with television, most radio performers could
with their voices.
Bergman was doing
"For Whom the Bells Toll."
"She was different,"
She was in character the
time, even as other people read their lines and she was waiting for
"She didn't need them for
audience, but she was in tears as she performed her emotional part.
"Everybody in the stilled
audience and even the technical crew were significantly moved and knew
seen a historic performance,” Duke said.
World War II was raging
when Duke worked
at the Lux Radio Show. And he says he
also ended up volunteering Betty Davis' Hollywood USO Canteen that
the soldiers in town.
Regular guys like Duke
stars at the canteen were equals, he says.
And he often found himself washing dishes next
to some big star who was drying dishes.
He remembers one time
a table at the canteen consoling a tearful Bette Davis after her dog
by a car.
Davis had a royal bearing
about her that
resulted in everyone calling her Miss Davis and never Bette, although
"She had a reputation for being a witch
spelled with a 'B,' but she
was really just a professional who was always prepared and couldn't
others who were unprepared," Duke said.
He said he will miss Miss
version of this column was published in The Daily Herald, Provo, Utah.)