January 1, 2008
"Drop dead gorgeous!" That's how my father, Will Tracy, described Jewel Shepard when I asked him about her. My Dad and Jewel were friends when I was born, so I was too young to know her, but my brothers knew her. My Dad and his Chinese friends opened the "321 Club" (321 Santa Monica Blvd.) for teenagers, when Moody's closed, and Jewel was my Dad's partner who taught young kids, including my older brothers, how to breakdance. They were also partners in "The Ball" which was an exclusive club at 2719 Wilshire Blvd, in Santa Monica. A couple of mentions of the Santa Monica "321 Club" can be found at www.inthe80s.com. And for those who don't know, the spelling of Jewel's name is correct.
My Dad knew a lot of Hollywood celebrities, and some of the most beautiful women in the late 50's and 60's. He has always said the most beautiful woman he ever met (after Mom of course) was Trish Hilton, the wife of his good frined, Nick Hilton whose first wife was Elizabeth Taylor. And when you consider my Dad was Marilyn Monroe's, Kenpo instructor, and she chose him, over the big guys at Ed Parker's studio, well, you figure. Many of the people he knew would call, but I didn't know most. And I knew my Dad had helped a lot of people get started in films. I had heard of his most successful campaign, but didn't know the details until I came across a very impressive press kit that had Jewel Shepard's picture (head shot) and press clippings. My Dad told me that Jewel didn't have many film credits at the time, but she was great at getting publicity. With her looks, I can see how. Jewel wrote a personal letter to each of the producers or directors my Dad knew. Well actually, it was the same letter, with the name of the producer, and on December 16, 1985, my Dad personally took the press kit to 104 of the producers he knew.
This was cold calling. That is, there was no roll Jewel was up for, and he didn't call in advance, but simply took the press kits to their offices. Most people can't do that, but every studio in town was open to my Dad. He could drive on without having an appointment and if they didn't know him at the gate, a quick call to any one of a number of producers gave him the all access pass. He knew that out of 100 press kits, Jewel would get at least five calls, simply as a courtesy to him. But he didn't give the kits to the producers; instead he gave them to the secretaries and told them if they liked what they saw to give it to the producer. That would normally be the "kiss of death" because a secretary's job is to throw out things like this.
They figured if they got 10 responses it would be great; anything over that would be fantastic. Jewel go 97 calls on the press kit. My Dad's phone was ringing off the hook the next day with secretaries calling to ask who "that girl" was, and three of secrataries wanted him to promote them the way he had Jewel.
My Dad did that for one of producer's office workers by shooting a great photo layout and writing a great bio for her. He only gave it to one producer, personally. The man looked at the material, thanked him, and when they walked out into the reception room he hired the girl on the spot. She had worked for him for several months and he had never noticed before, because she was just another good looking girl. But she never got the acting job, because two months later the producer married the girl.
It was interesting to see that my Dad took very little credit for this success. He told me all he did was dress Jewel up and knock on some doors. It was Jewel who sold herself. My uncle, Jim, was really impressed with Jewel. He could never figure out why a beautiful girl like Jewel would take the time to talk to him and take a real interest in him. As for Michael Chong, my Dad said Michael didn't like most of the beautiful girls who came to his beach bungalows in Santa Monica, but Michael didn't dislike Jewel so I guess that was the best anyone could get out of Michael Chone. As for how my Dad felt about Jewel, she was the only person he taught Kenpo after he retired from teaching. Master Bong Soo Han loved her and wanted my Dad teach her at his school. Needless to say Master Han signed up a lot of students who saw Jewel there. Then Dad wrote a movie script with a beautiful love story for Jewel, "Between the Heartbeats." He was offered a good deal of money for the script, but refused to sell it unless Jewel played the female lead. It sits in a drawer, never sold, because he had not written it for anyone but Jewel. Dan O'Bannon wrote the roll of Casey for Jewel in "Return of the Living Dead," and that's the way people thought of Jewel.
When I came across Jewel's press kit, on New Year's day, 2008, I asked my Dad about her, and then I looked her up on the Internet. What a knock out. I asked if I could put the entire press kit on line, but he said, no, because it has all the elements of how to promote someone in Hollywood, and he doesn't want it out there. He did say it would be alright to put Jewel's head shot up so people can see what the producers saw. Dad said her birthday is on January 3, so Happy Birthday Jewel. Dad only wishes other people could know and admire you as he did.
Many people have asked me how well I knew Marilyn Monroe and what she was like, which I don't talk about. Ralph Roberts was a close friend of Marilyn, and trained with Ed Parker when he was in LA and convinced her to take self defense. She chose me as her instructor in 1958. Marilyn gave pet names to her closest friends and I introduced her to the woman to whom she gave then name, Sirius, and with her, she gave me the name Son mari. About two weeks after she began training with me, she invited me to a party to celebrate the Supreme Court overturning her husband's conviction for contempt of Congress, and we met whenever we were both in LA, and we met with her in New York several times, and they became sisters. I returned to LA in late October 1961. Marilyn had returned earlier and asked Ed to have me contact her when was back. She wanted me to help her get settled in LA. I helped her find her hacienda, which was about a mile from Ed Parkers Santa Monica Studio, and I went with her to Mexico where she bought some things for her home. She did not have a car, and I let her use the Pontiac whenever she wanted. In late June, she had stopped working, and said she was going back east. She knew I was struggling to get over my loss, and told me I should go to San Francisco where my brother, Jim, had opened the first Tracy's Kenpo Karate Studio and left the Pontiac at her house. She left it at Ed's studio, shortly before she died six weeks after I last saw her. We were friends, and I knew her well enough not to believe any of the conspiracy theories on her death.
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