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Central Casting
by Betty Jo Tucker

In the 1940s, students at Central High School were expected to demonstrate school spirit every day --- which meant showing an interest in sports, especially football. Although that required an Oscar-caliber performance from me, I didn’t have to fake my enthusiasm for pep assemblies. I quickly became involved in writing skits and choreographing dance numbers for these almost weekly events.


One of my favorites featured imitations of Al Jolson, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. I’m sure Margie (my debate partner) and I had more fun performing this act than the students had watching it. Except for my “Put the Blame on Mame” rendition, that is.  Evoking so many laughs for impersonating Rita Hayworth didn’t sit well with me. I was going for Gilda’s sexy persona. Maybe that’s why my friends started calling me “Torchy” while giggling behind my back.         


At one of the pep assemblies put on by a different class, I sat in the audience enjoying four girls singing and dancing to “Ramblin’ Rose.” Suddenly, I was shocked when a  boy came onstage to join the routine. It was Larry, my cousin Sanford’s best friend. I didn’t know he could dance. This talent, plus his Glenn Ford-type good looks and offbeat sense of humor which I admired since our first meeting, made him irresistible. “If he likes movies, he’s the one for me,” I thought to myself that day.


On our first date, Larry took me to ---surprise --- a movie! Romance on the High Seas featured Doris Day and Jack Carson in a rather predictable love story. After the film, the evening became more interesting. Larry drove to City Park and turned on the car radio. We danced in the silvery moonlight, using the vacant tennis court as our private ballroom. Both of us laughed when we recognized one of the selections being played as “It’s Magic,” a tune from the movie we had just seen. What a perfect song for such a magical night!   


Larry and I dated all during our senior year. We saw as many movies as possible and loved talking about them. I began to worry about leaving for college after graduation. Although I had a scholarship to Barnard in New York City, I feared I would miss Larry terribly. I was right.


(Excerpt from my award-winning memoir CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, available in paperback or e-book format on

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