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Hail, Caesar

Page 5 of 6

"All of a sudden, people are parting, and here comes Nixon with all the heavyweights--Agnew, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, Kissinger," says Vic. "He hugged me, and he says in my ear, 'You're a hard son of a bitch to get a hold of.' Then he says, 'Here we are because of your song.'" Pro trouper that he is, Vic allows a perfect, pregnant pause. "Because of your song. He loved me. He would have given me Delaware. He would have made me an ambassador."

I ask him if Nixon had bad breath.
"No, he talked to me two inches away. But you know who did have bad breath? Sidney Poitier. Wheeeeew! But Nixon? No, God, no."

Let's follow Vic into the '70s, one hell of a Caesarian section. His marriage, which produced Caesar spawn Bobby and Julie, is over. He "bullshitted my way into acting," doing sex-and-violence romps like Alice B. Goodbody, Gosh, Massacre Mafia Style ("The most violent picture ever made"), Bare Knuckles (he played a gay bartender) and The Executioners.

"We killed 48 people in that. The Hollywood Reporter said it was worth ten Godfather look-alikes," which I guess is a good thing.

Vic's got one of those rough, devilish, seen-it-all faces; you can imagine him easily in character roles. One night, he was at a party over at George Hamilton's place.

"Ryan O'Neal grabs me by the face and says, 'If I had this face, I'd be a superstar.' I grab him by the face and say, 'If I had this face, 'd be getting laid every night!'"

Caesar took a hiatus from the constant nightclub circuit and, though he always had his own place to live, pretty much moved into the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, California. It was a life of backgammon, parties, ladies, fine food. He stayed for about ten years.

"There were some things that went down over the years," Vic clarifies. "People schtupping broads in the Jacuzzi. But mostly it was like a big family." Things happened, all right. Vic reels off tales: Hef accidentally swallowing a Ben-Wa ball (figure it out for yourself); Vic hanging with the late Dorothy Star 80 Stratten; Vic handing Hef a Pepsi-Cola while the boss was the sole male in a five-way adult situation. ("It was like giving spinach to Popeye.")

But there was work involved, too. At one point, Hef hired Vic to lead the Singing Playmates. That's something. By '79, one of Vic's Mansion pool-shooting buddies was legendary actor and Kennedy bagman Peter Lawford. Our man was "between houses." Guess what happened?

"Pete said, 'Why don't you come stay with me?' I said, 'I'd like that, 'cause I happen to love you very much.'" "Bachelor high jinks" were the watchwords at the Cole and Sunset pad, which also had some interesting furniture.

"In the corner of the living room, there was a little tiny chair, it was a rocking chair, and once Lawford says, 'You know which chair you're sitting in?'

"The way he said it, I said, 'Your brother-in-law's.' Yeah. That was his chair from Hyannis Port. I was sitting in the president's chair. I loved John Kennedy. But you had to sit with your back straight up. I hated that fuckin' chair."

Eventually, Vic landed back in Phoenix. He worked on one project or another, wrote a screenplay based on the life of wrestler Gorgeous George, lived for a while with his dear friend, millionaire nice guy Geordie Hormel. Vic says that once Geordie--"a beautiful human being"--gave him a check for $10,000 as a Christmas gift.

These days, Vic says he "doesn't think about my career anymore" yet has various new plots up his sleeve. Last year, he released a charming album of standards with pianist Jessica Williams, as well as a reissue of "Nixon's the One."

"I'm on the verge of making a lot of bread right now with the Nixon record," he claims. "They expect to sell 50,000 at five bucks apiece for me. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how much that is." He also plays piano and sings every Sunday during brunch at the Wrigley Mansion, crooning the standards, as he has for decades, in a voice that has aged wonderfully.

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Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap