Wednesday, October 2, 2013
R.I.P Dear Friend AC Lyles
AC Lyles and me on the Hollywood Walk of Fame circa 1995
Kristine M. Smith, Dorothea Smith and AC Lyles
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame circa 1995
It was a great sadness to learn of AC Lyles' passing just yesterday via email. He passed away on Friday, September 27th.
I talked to him last in February when he was in the hospital. He wouldn't tell me why he was there, so I figured it was something serious. His wife Martha let me know it was, but she, too, didn't tell me what it was.
That was quintessential AC; he never talked about anything negative. All he wanted to talk about, ever, were positive things--a trait that made him a delight to be around.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about AC was that he made you feel like the most important person on the planet when you were with him. Two different times while I was visiting him in his Paramount office, his secretary at the time, Mary Ann Dunlap, buzzed in from her outer office to report to him that Kevin Costner and Buddy Ebsen were on the line.
The first time, I was flabbergasted to hear AC tell Costner, "I'll call you back. The most beautiful woman in the world just walked into my office." Surprised, I turned around to see if someone else had entered his office--Elizabeth Taylor, perhaps?
No ... he was talking about me! After he hung up, I told him he needed glasses! He smiled, "No, I don't."
When Buddy Ebsen called, he asked Mary Ann to let him know he'd call him back. I objected: "Buddy Ebsen is getting up there, AC. He might not be around when you get to calling him back. Take his call!" He said, "No. I'll do it later."
I polished AC's and De Kelley's stars on the Walk of Fame for twelve years (nearly every week) until I moved away in 2003. AC used to let visitors know that he had a star polisher. (Very few stars do.) When he told a tour group leader from England, a man named Clive, the group leader made arrangements to stop by with his UK tourists when I would be polishing AC's star the next time they came to Hollywood!
As the big day approached, I called AC and joked, "Hey, it's high time you came down and watched me polish your star. Why don't you stop by and surprise the tour group this weekend?" Of course I expected him to beg off. But he said, "I will!"
When Mom and I got to the star on the designated morning (we planned ahead to be sure to get there 20 minutes early), AC was already there, surrounded by his fans from the UK. Of course the gathering caused other tourists to wander over to see what was happening. In no time at all, there was a crush of people on the sidewalk watching how AC's star polisher did her thing and to meet the man himself--Paramount Producer and Goodwill Ambassador for at least 55 years at that time (1995)!
AC stepped over to Mom, took her hand in his, and said for all to hear, "I have to confess something: I'm in love with your daughter." I cracked up. Mom joked back, "Spare me the details! I don't want to know!"
That was AC. He made everyone feel adored. That's because he genuinely did adore everyone. He was one of the very people in Hollywood (De Kelley among them) who never got drunk on their own corks, didn't buy their own press. AC, like De, wasn't full of himself. He was genuinely interested in everyone he met.
I will miss knowing he's not holding down the fort at Paramount. I simply cannot imagine the Paramount lot without him and his white 1955 Thunderbird on it. An era has truly passed...