Despite the disaster at the Mocambo, I'd sworn to myself that I would not take any action against Clemmie until Juliet returned from summer camp...my daughter adored the little monkey (and Clem loved her, as well), and I simply couldn't 'dump' the ape without giving my daughter a chance to know why, and to say 'goodbye' to her...
Well, summer camp finally ended, and Benita, Clemmie, and I drove up to Camp Runamuck to pick her up. Juliet had loved the camp, and the new friends she'd made, but she wrote that she really missed all of us...and we missed her, too! As we pulled up in the parking lot, and Juliet, tanned and freckled, ran out to greet us, my heart was in my throat, I was so excited!
"Oh, DADDY!" she squealed, and gave me a huge hug! Then Benita received the same greeting...then she and Clemmie stared at one another for a moment...then both let out a yell, and embraced!
Benita and Clem joined Juliet, who wanted to show off her handicrafts in the meeting room, but I was waved aside by the Chief Counselor, Mr. Peebles...
"Mr. Colman," he said, shaking my hand, "I wanted to discuss your daughter's performance at the camp..."
"Is everything satisfactory?" I asked, puzzled at this impromptu meeting.
"Oh, she's an exceptional child," he reassured me. "A gold star in Art, in Handicrafts, in Sports...but...", he paused, "We could not award her any stars for her Dramatics!"
I stiffened. "What? A daughter of Ronald Colman NOT excelling in Dramatics???"
Peebles looked very uncomfortable. Clearing his throat, he said, "Oh, she had energy, and gave a very...enthusiastic performance...but her choice of material..."
"Just what did she perform?"
" 'Frankie and Johnny'," he said, turning red. "You know, the old torch song about..." he cleared his throat, again, "...adultery and murder..."
"My goodness!" I replied, stunned.
"Indeed!" he agreed, nodding his head. "These are 4 to 6-year-old children, Mr. Colman! We expect 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star', not 'She done him wrong'!"
"I can certainly appreciate that," I agreed.
"But the worst part is, when we asked her about it, she claimed a monkey taught her the song! A MONKEY!!!"
It was my turn to clear my throat! "Well, you must understand..." I began, trying to figure out a way to explain the impossible, without sounding like a lunatic!
"Please," he interupted, "I don't want you to air your 'dirty laundry', here! I just want you to understand, Juliet may be in need of psychiatric help...Perhaps Mrs. Colman has had a negative influence on the girl..."
"Well, I will look into it, I promise!" I replied, relieved that I didn't have to explain about Clemmie.
Peebles smiled, and seemed relieved. "I'm glad that's over with!" he said, brightening. "You are one of my favorite actors...I don't spread this around, but I want to be an actor, as well...tell me what you think...'It's a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done...' "
Oh, great, I thought, another acting 'wannabe'! But I smiled, patted him on the back, and quickly rejoined my family!
Juliet, busting at the seams in her excitement, dominated the conversation, the whole way home! "...and when all the girls told me they were going camping with their families..." she said, " I HAD to tell them WE were going camping, too!"
"Well, Juliet," I replied, "you shouldn't have lied..."
"Why CAN'T we go camping, Daddy?"
Benita jumped in. "Your father is far too old and inept to be 'roughing it'!" she said, laughing.
"My dear Benita," I answered, testily, "I have done my share of 'roughing it'...back during the Great War, I spent a LOT of time surviving in the outdoors!"
"That was World War I," Benita explained, to Juliet. "back when your daddy was middle-aged..."
"Confound it, woman, what has come over you? Look, darling, Daddy is so busy making movies, and doing radio, and writing, there just isn't time to do..."
Tears welled up in Benita's eyes, but she said, "It's okay, Daddy, if you don't want to go camping..."
I sighed. "If my little girl wants to go camping, we'll go camping."
I was startled. And I had thought I was finally going to be rid of the beast! "Oh, alright, Clemmie, too..."
As Benita and Juliet gaily started planning our next adventure, I had a sinking feeling that things would not go well!
After we arrived home, I slipped upstairs, changed into my smoking jacket, and quietly made a phone call...
"Fred MacMurray, here..."
"Freddie, it's Ronald Colman..."
"Ron! Great to hear from you! What's up?"
"I need a favor.."
"I can't take Clemmie...sorry!"
I laughed. "No, that's not the favor! Look, you take your kids camping, all the time, and Juliet just talked me into taking her on a camping trip...Honestly, I haven't bivouaced since 1914, and I need to ask somebody how to go about it!"
Fred chuckled, and replied, "Ron, it's a lot of fun, nothing to it! There's just a few things to remember..."
"Keep it simple...as you haven't done this in a while, don't try to turn things into a big production for yourself! Get yourself simple camping gear, that is easy to assemble, stick to a national park, as they always have excellent campgrounds, and be sure and bring all the essentials...plenty of water, matches, cutting tools, a good First Aid kit, bug repellant, and most importantly, toilet paper..."
I laughed, again, and admitted, "It's starting to come back to me!"
"There you go!" He then said, excitedly, "Say, I'm glad you called! The Little Playhouse, in Pasadena, is producing "A Tale of Two Cities", and I think I'd be perfect in the lead...'It's a far, far better thing I do...'"
I winced. "That's fine, Freddie, just fine...Thanks a lot!"
Benita insisted on doing most of the camping 'shopping' herself, and we were soon our our way to an outdoor adventure!
"We're going to Wilderness Mountain National Park," I informed everyone, "a six-hour drive, but truly spectacular..."
"Six hours?" Benita asked. "Isn't there someplace closer?"
"Closer, yes, more beautiful, no," I said, smiling. "Fred MacMurray recommends it, it's a place he and his family camps at, regularly..."
"Well, I guess as long as there's a beauty parlor..."
"There isn't...Benita, if we're going 'back to nature', we have to go all the way...so don't expect to find beauty salons, fancy restaurants, cabanas, or room service..."
Benita sighed. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," she remarked, then laughed. "We'll have fun, right girls?" Juliet giggled, and Clemmie snorted!
Eventually, the park appeared, in all it's grandeur...
We passed the sign, welcoming us, and directing us to the campgrounds...but when a small sideroad appeared, Benita said, "Turn here!"
"But this isn't the posted route to the campground..."
Benita tut-tutted. "Ronnie, this is obviously a short-cut! Why else would there be a road, here?"
"A fireroad, perhaps..."
"Nonsense! Did you see a 'Fire Route' sign? We'll beat all the traffic, trust me!"
I shrugged, and turned off onto the small road...and within twenty minutes, we'd reached a fabulous spot to camp, next to a river, in a level, camplike meadow.
"See?" she said, triumphantly. "Always trust a woman's judgement!"
As we parked, near the river, and started unpacking, Juliet and Clemmie ran around, exploring...and were so excited that I smiled, and realized what a wonderful idea the trip was!
Sadly, however, I soon discovered how much I'd forgotten, since 1914, when I attempted to set up the tent...
Clemmie, after shaking her head and grunting, dove into the tent, and quickly corrected my errors!
"Why, Ronnie!" Benita exclaimed, walking from the car. "It's beautiful! Good work!"
"Oh, it's nothing, really," I shrugged...and Clemmie kicked me!
It was approaching sunset, and Benita suggested lighting a campfire. I reached into my pocket for my matches...and realized I'd left them on my desk!
"Uh, let's do it the 'old-fashioned' way," I alibied, and, grabbing two sticks, started to rub them together. After ten minutes, without success, I knew we were in trouble!
"Where's an Indian, when you need one," Benita cracked, then turned...and there was an Indian, beside her! She nearly jumped out of her skin!
Regaining her composure, she said, "Leave everything to me...I know the Indian's language!"
Raising one hand, she said, solemnly, "HOW, big Chief! Big old brave, beautiful squaw, and little papoose need 'um heap big fire, to warm 'um wigwam!"
"Where did you learn THAT lingo?" I cracked. "Monogram Pictures???"
"You're just jealous," she snapped.
The Indian turned to her. "And to think," he muttered, "we lost our lands to you!"
"You UNDERSTAND our language?" Benita said, astonished.
"Fluently. And we prefer the term, 'Native American' to 'Indian'. We are NOT from India..."
"Is your teepee nearby?"
The Native American turned to me. "And you married this woman, Mr. Colman?" he asked.
"You know me?"
"Reservations aren't that crap your movies portray! We have stores, businesses, schools...even a theatre that shows your films, occasionally! I loved 'A Tale of Two Cities'...'It's a far, far better thing I do...'"
I was getting to hate that movie! "Listen, can you help us build a fire?"
"Well, I'm not real good at firemaking skills, but I'll try...Ask the ladies to gather some kindling..." As Benita and Juliet ran to gather firewood, he set to work...
After several minutes, he was achieving no better success than I had...and Clemmie, in disgust, kicked his stick from his hands!
"Think you can do better?" the Native American asked. Clemmie nodded, and picked up two nearby stones. She struck them together, a spark appeared, which quickly ignited our pile of brush!
"That is one smart monkey," he said, in awe.
"You're telling me?"
The 'Indian' wished me good luck, and disappeared (back, I assume, to the reservation), and Juliet soon reappeared, with an armful of twigs and branches. A few minutes later, Benita appeared, carrying what appeared to be spokes from an old wagon wheel.
"They were just lying around," she remarked, as she tossed them into the fire. We all feasted on canned meat and marshmallows, enjoyed the fire's warmth, then turned in, for the night.
A few hours later, Benita woke me. "Ronnie," she whispered. "I have to go to the bathroom...where'd you pack the toilet paper?"
"I pack?" I asked, groggily. "I thought YOU packed it!"
"I didn't," she snapped. She paused, for a moment, then grumbled, "I guess I'll have to do it the 'old-fashioned' way, with leaves...", and she crawled out of the tent, to answer 'Nature's Call'...
The next morning, Benita was scratching her posterior like mad, totally miserable!
"Ohhhhhhhhhhh!" she moaned, "This is TORTURE!"
I glanced around, and found her make-shift 'latrine'. "Are you familiar with these plants?" I asked.
"No," she admitted.
"Well, congratulations, you wiped yourself with Poison Ivy!"
I tossed her ointment from the First Aid kit, and she ducked into the woods to apply it.
When she returned, she was no longer rubbing her behind, but was swatting away a swarm of mosquitoes!
"Why ME?" she cried. "I just covered myself in bug repellant..."
"Let me see it," I asked, as I hadn't purchased any, prior to the trip....
The label appeared home-made, and misspelled...I opened the bottle, placed a drop on my finger, and tasted it....SUGAR WATER!!!
"Clemmie!" I shouted, and I could hear the monkey in the woods, laughing!
After cleaning the syrup off of Benita, we all sat to make plans for the day.
"Today, Juliet, I teach you how to fish!" I announced.
"Yippee!" she cheered. "Will we use the canoe?"
"Of course," I acknowledged. "I want to do a practice run, first, then we'll catch a boatload of trout for Benita to clean and cook, and we'll have fish for dinner!"
"Wait a minute!" Benita snapped. "I DON'T clean fish!"
I looked at her, exasperated. "How do you prepare the fish I catch, when I'm out with Bing?"
"I hand them over to Beulah, the cook, and SHE cleans them!"
The things you learn on a camping trip! "Oh, well," I shrugged, "I guess you and I will clean them, Juliet..."
"Oh, boy!" Juliet cheered...for her, this was all a great adventure!
"Say, Juliet," Benita asked, "While your father is doing his 'test run' with the canoe, why don't we take a nature hike, and look for berries, for dinner?"
"I love berries!" Juliet exclaimed. Clemmie looked at the pair, and smiled benignly.
After dragging the canoe from the top of our car, I searched for a good point to depart from. Then I spotted the sign, with Clemmie sprawled over the top...
Quickly, I slid the boat into the water, climbed in, and paddled down stream...as Clemmie climbed off, and revealed what the sign REALLY said...
...and within a few minutes, I was rowing for my life!!!
A large, jagged boulder punched a hole through the canoe, sinking it, quickly...and I barely managed to crawl to shore...
Stumbling back to our campsite, I discovered Benita and Juliet had left, but Clemmie was waiting, grinning ear to ear!
I glared at her. "You're...despicable!" I muttered, and, exhausted, collapsed in the tent for a nap!
Things were going no more smoothly for my ladies...after a half-hour, fruitlessly searching for fruit, they discovered something else...
"They told me in camp that if you see a bear, to stay very still..." Juliet whispered.
"I have a better idea," Benita whispered. "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!" As the pair charged back towards the camp, Clemmie appeared, from behind some trees, and 'paid' for the bear's services!
I was sleeping, blissfully, dreaming of dinner at the Trocadero, when I felt a nudge on my shoulder.
"Daddy," Juliet whispered, "Mommy's making a big mistake..."
"Eh?" I mumbled, and slowly arose. As I stepped outside, I QUICKLY woke up!
"Here, kitty, kitty! Nice kitty," Benita cooed. "Ronnie!" she shouted, seeing me. "Look what I found! What a pretty cat!"
"Back up, slowly, Benita...that's not a cat, it's a SKUNK!!!!"
"Peee-YEWWWWW!" Juliet yelled. "Mommy's STINKY!!!"
Benita began to blubber..."I HATE this TRIP!" she cried. "I HATE CAMPING! I HATE THE FOREST!!! I'm RUINED!!!!"
Attempting not to inhale, I tried to reassure her. "Everything will be all right," I said. "Get out of those clothes...We'll have to burn them, I suspect...and get into the river...I'll bring you a case of LUX to scrub yourself...you'll NEED it..."
Benita ducked into the bushes, and quickly undressed...then looked up, to discover an audience!
Grabbing some fronds to cover herself, Benita hissed, "What are YOU all doing here???"
"A-HA!" Scoutmaster Peebles shouted. "I see the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, Mrs. Colman"
"What ARE you talking about???"
"Poor little Juliet! This explains so much!" He looked to his group of hikers. "Come, men!" he ordered. "This Nature Hike just got a little TOO natural!" As the boys whistled and hooted, they marched away!
After an hour's scrubbing, Benita smelled no worse than a dirty locker room, and her disposition had improved, a bit.
"What's next on the agenda?" she said, bitterly. "Killer bees???"
"Excuse me!" a commanding voice shouted out. "You don't BELONG here!"
"Why, what seems to be the problem, officer?" I asked.
"This is Park land, not a campsite," he said, glaring at us. "You are trespassing!"
I sat, heavily. "You're kidding."
"Park Rangers DON'T kid..." His eyes suddenly grew wide. "You're that actor fella, Ronald Colman!"
I bowed, in my chair. "Yes, I am," I acknowledged. "I wish I could say I was happy to meet you..."
He broke into a grin. "Why, this is an honor! You know, I act a little, in my spare time...'It's a far, far better thing I do...'"
"Anyway," he continued, "You can't stay here. Tourists destroy the habitat, spook the animals..."
"What about what they do to me?" Benita sniffed.
"Right," he said. "They also do really stupid things...We have a covered wagon display, right up the road, with hundred-year-old remains of wagons that came all the way here from St. Louis...and some idiot tourists are always trying to use it as firewood..."
Benita barely maintained her composure...and I mentally noted to make a large donation to the National Park Service...
"It's a hefty fine, being caught here...but since you're Ronald Colman, I'll do you a favor, and not write it up...but you have to pack up, and leave, right now!"
"That's very generous of you," I admitted.
"No problem...I'll be back, shortly, to lend you a hand..."
As he walked away, I glared at Benita. "Take the short cut, insult Native Americans, burn some priceless artifacts..." I muttered.
"Well, nobody's perfect," she whined. She licked her lips. "I'm not going anywhere until I put some lipstick on...I left it in the car..." As I shook my head, she ran to our vehicle, and began searching...then SCREAMED, as a raccoon darted out, the lipstick in his paws!
"Give it BACK to me, you, you RODENT!" she shouted, and chased him into the woods!
I stared at Juliet, and we both laughed...then our car began rolling towards the river...Benita had accidently disengaged the emergency brake!
"Save the car!" I screamed, as it plunged into the water...and Clemmie dove into the river, behind it!
There were a few moments of silence...then Juliet cried out, "Daddy, Clemmie's DROWNING!!!!"
Flailing her arms, wildly, the monkey dropped below the surface, popped back up, then dropped back down!
"CLEMMIE!" I yelled, and ran to the river, diving into the icy waters.
It took a few moments to find her limp body, which I cradled in my arms, bringing her ashore...
Drenched, I lowered her to the ground, then collapsed, next to her, to catch my breath.
"Daddy, you have to save her!" Juliet cried.
For a moment, I wondered if this were just another of Clemmie's 'tricks'...then I realized, I couldn't take the chance! Placing my mouth over hers, I began 'mouth-to-mouth'...once...twice...three times...and suddenly I felt a simian tongue in my mouth, and Clemmie's arms, squeezing me onto her!
"YIPPEE!" Juliet shouted.
"All those stories are TRUE!!!!! You Hollywood actors ARE a bunch of PERVERTS!!!!"
As the Ranger drove us to the Station, so I could call for a tow truck to retrieve our car, Benita pointedly ignored me, and refused to sit beside me!
I'm in big trouble!
THE RONALD COLMAN SAGA
"The Dinner Party for Erich von Stroheim"
"The Misadventures of John Barrymore's Cheeky Monkey, Clementine"
"The All-Star Surprise Party for Laine"
"The Classic Hollywood Long Beach-Catalina Yacht Race"
"The Ronald Colman Seance"
"My "Lost Horizon" Surprise!"
"A Night at the Hollywood Canteen!"
"But I Thought You Were..."
"The People vs. Ronald Colman"
"The Epic Hearst Costume Party..."
"The Monkey on Ronald Colman's Back Saga" (A 9-Part Adventure):
"A MAN, A MONKEY, the MOB, and RONALD COLMAN!" (A 5-Part Adventure):
"Introduction: Broadway, 1920..."
"Chapter 1: A LONG Memory..."
"Chapter 2: Barrymore's Reply..."
"Chapter 3: Barrymore in Cement!"
"Chapter 4: A Desert Grave..."
"SURPRISE PARTY for RONALD COLMAN!"
"The RONALD COLMAN Banner Collection"
Finally, if you'd like to 'go to the source', with over 200 photos of Ronald Colman's life and career, please visit Myspace.com/Ronald Colman...the page that started it all!