Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on June 3, 1928 · Page 79
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 79

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 3, 1928
Page 79
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jetruit $wt Sunday, June 3, 1928 v I f flit ilNttf (flhj Mi jbfili Hilts J m iklm li From Cash Girl In Port Huron, Michigan, To Nation-Wide Fame -Author of "The Scarlet Woman" Rivals Both Fiction and Drama In Story of Her Career "A c amy- Jfl Sears on !ii& YllLrON.CoNN. ; uNoeawooo AMO k M Hi 1 . if nr. Zecda Pzaw cJCJS7 'AFTFRSRE Graduated from mst H0W-2tRt. PHAfE or fEl? CAREER,. fl THE $OCfAL CLimER, V tout pop; we MaeicAL PHAVZEdOA $AR2 WROTE, MR Ada May. ZzLVAitAM AS "HATTIE. ffl THtL SCARLET WOMAN: BY MARY GRIFFIN. EUJA SEARS bPlievea in lucky far from stars. Not supprstltiously - it but figuratively. "I must havn been horn under one of them," she says. "I've worked, of course worked like a fiend, ever Blnce I was a scrap of a child. But every time I've been in a bad coiner, every time I began to wish that ink had never been invented, luck came to my rescue. All through my career accidents have happened to throw me into good things." Noted now as actress and author, as scenario writer, and as a woman of charm, and with her lucky star shining brightly in the theater firmament, Zelda Sears has lived a life and followed a career that rivals the drama in the best of plays. To begin at the beginning. Ze:da had a father and a niother-a circumstance not at all unusual. But the parents WERE unusual. The father, Justin h. Paldi, an Italian, was an engineer by profession, a dreamer by nature. The mother was an English girl and expressed herself in Chimes I-Jinn cockney. When (hey met. neither could speak the homeland tongue of the other, hut each knew French. The warm, sweet words, "Je vous adore," wero said, and marriage followed. The Farm Hream. Nature fascinated Justin Paldi and in-spired him to leave his profession to try farming. He sank all his money into a little farm near Port Huron, Michigan, and promptly lost it. He had pedigreed horses, pedigreed cattle, pedigreed Eheep. pedigreed trees but he was not cut on the pattern of a farmer, not at all! Money that was needed for the land went into beautiful books, and time vanished in day dreaming excursions and into the enjoy ment of. music. "I could make believe as much as I liked," says Zelda, Sears, looking back upon the sunny days when she was everything from Duke to chimney iweep in tiANMOhftL Zelpa Pears Photo by 8ely. Io Angrlc. gorgeous p'ays she carried out before an audience of pleasantly munching cows and to the appreciative applause of baa-ing sheep. "The first requisite of a great actor Is that he bring from childhood that marvelous power of being able to throw himself wholeheartedly Into 'Let's pretend.' No one can get anywhere on the stage without it." At night riie read books all of Dickens, all of Si-ott, and Bulwer Lytton, before she was ten. She read until the crooked wick of the old oil lamp smoked up the glass chimney and until she was filled brimful of vicarious experiences. "Vanity Fair" thrilled her tremendously and "Alice in Wonderland" was her favorite book. When she was ten years old, the Paldi family moved to Port Huron, and at twelve, Zelda went to work as cash girl In a store. She earned the magnificent salary of $3 a week, but she was not destined to become a permanent fixture In the establishment. L. A. Sherman who owVd the shop In which she ran with cash at beck and call of the salesmen, also owned the Port Huron Daily Times Now, Zelda had an ear for news. The gossip that floated between the customers fell like music on her ears. Ehe got Into the habit of writing out bits of news in her round childish scrawl and placing them on Mr. Sherman's desl:. They soon found their way to the Times and in a short time Mr. Sherman found it decidedly convenient to say: "Zelda, Marie Flint Is getting married today, and we've no one to cover the wedding. Run down to the church and see it then write me a nice little story." Decidedly interesting for Zelda. too -compared to the activities of cash-girl business. Detroit Newspapers Turn Her Down. But she had more than gossip to give to the world, and decided to go to Detroit and write. There she betook herself, a slim young thing with very little money and very big plans. She tried to get a job on a newspaper. "It pains me to smirch the fair name of Detroit's judgment," she says today, "but everyone turned me down very, very coldly! Hence the scalper's ticket and my descent upon Chicago, where I thought they might appreciate me. I decided that if I must starve to death, I'd starve with a change of scene. "It was Just dusk when I got off the train in Chicago. I must have been a homely little rat. My worn mahog- any-colored dress, my queer little imitation leather bag everything about me looked poor, and that Is an unpardonable sin. And somewhere bark of the Michigan Central station, on a baggage car filled with handsome luggage, there was a funny trunk with a rope tied around It. That was mine. I was in Chicago, to do or die with just seven dollars in my pocket!" ' Funny or no, young Zelda had a f sense of humor, the same one that has probably been more responsible i for her Buccess than the lucky star to which she ties the credit. She took a room in the shabby old Y. W. C. A. building on Michigan avenue. "Dampened by my reception in Detroit I decided that I would creep up on the newspaper world of Chicago unaware, as it were. Knowledge that, seven dollars would not last forever might have had something to do with my determination to get a job that could be found Instantly. It proved to be one In a factory. The firm's name was Longenecker and Company, and they had a loft on Wabash avenue, near Randolph street. My job was painting flowers that never grew on sea or land, on celluloid boxes. The salary was six dollars a week. My board at the Y. W. C. A. was five. I shared a room with two other girls. We did our laundry in the wash bowl. The matron was a dear. I remember the jam sandwiches she used to put up for us poor things to take to work with us. By the time I could eat mine they always were very fragrant of paint and turpentine. And to this day I can't bear the smell of celluloid." She Tackles Verse-Writing. Zelda used to sit up a!l night writing all manner of things for her onslaught on the journalistic world. She also wrote verses for valentines, Easter and Christmas cards, and sold many of chem. "They seem Immortal, those little verses." she says. "Hardly a holiday passes without my receiving one of them from an unsuspecting friend." One of her blithe Easter verses, written In the gloom of her Y. W. room where the grim hite pitcher of water w?s shor ed aside to clear space for a make-shift desk, ran like this: "The sun shines bright, snd hearts are light. The world seems made for mirth, While the springtime's potent Ichor, Riots In the veins of earth." It brought her S3. 75 and gave her new courage. While the greeting card endeavors absorbed some of her time, they did not keep her from constant writing for the newspapers. Her first story to be accepted was entitled. "My Sensations in Learning to Ride a Bicycle." "I made up every word of it," she laughs. "I'd never had a bicycle or learned to ride one. But I'd seen an article on someone's sensations in going over Niagara Falls, and I did my best to record a sensation that would interest people." Then all of a sudden, the lucky star shone brightly. The divine Sarah Bernhardt came to town. But she was not In a mood for interviewers. Her son was about to arrive with his bride, and she had much to ponder. Newspaper men not already bald from worry, tore their hair. But they got no story. Zelda. serious seventeen, decided to get the Interview. The man at the desk said, "You couldn't get it on a bet." His words fell on deaf ears. Zelda sharpened a pencil, t'-ok a wad of copy paper, and went to Bernhardt' hotel. Bernhardt was at the theater. Zelda went to the theater. Bernhardt was not se'ln; interviewers. ZMda went around to the etare door. There she found a Ion? line of girls, and took her place at the end of the line. They were applicants as supers, and had bcn waiting a long time. They waited a long time "onger, then t!' door opened and they were admitted lr." the presence of a distracted stage mans; t who could speak only French, and fcsl somehow to impart a message to a crci of g.rls who rpoke on'v English. "And that was my l'tck main." says Zelda. "One word in the French my parents h-'.d taught me fn 'iph for S Zelda ,tre pretty Sfowgirh op more wan THIRTY YEARS' AGO, WM& Sm WAy APPEARING f7 ERCANGER'S MUSICAL, COMEDIES. him. I was hiren ooth as a super and as his Interpreter to the other girls. That night I saw Bernhardt, and something happened that played a front page story right into my hand. 'The play was 'Cleopatra.' Bernhardt first appeared on a barge rowed by slave. The barge stopped at the bark of the stage, a carpet royal was thrown from it to the stage and she made a triumphal entrance. That was the way It was supposed to happen. But in this particular performance the side of the barge did not meet the stage floor hy nearly a foot. Not noticing this, the Blaves threw out the carpet as usual, and Sarah arose to step heaven knew where--but pro'iably into that, crevice. "I left the mob of wh;,.h I was a part and ran up the steps to Sarah Bernhardt as If It. were my part In the play. In French I said 'Madame, be careful. Thern Is a space. You'll break your leg!" She took a long step and the danger was over. I held her train until she was down the steps, still as if I were acting according to a fixed role, then hied myself back to the privacy of the mob. "It was a night of nights! After the fhow Sarah took me to her dressing room and gave me a monogrammed handkerchief, the book of her play, and an Introduction to her son, Maurice, and his bride. "It was like picking up a hand of bridge and facing 13 trumps. What a story I had for the Chicago Herald!" Zelda, the Show-Girl. One taste of footllght thrills was not enough for Zelda. She decided to learn the stage business, and It was about this time that she changed her name from Paldl to Sears for the sake of convenience. Louis Defoe gave her n letter of recommendation to A. L. Erlanger, who engaged her as a show girl. It ai a Ions way from ca.-;h girl to the ticbn and fluffy skirts of Broadway, and she was determined to go still further. S"- worked a year in the chorus, thn deci ied that the spoken drama was hr eho.c. and went into It, pl:iying one-nlsht stands, the country over. "I've been all over Christendom," she says. "The mi es I've traveled in little companies would reach four tims around the world and have enough left frr a pretty bow-knot. Finally I decided that I was ready for New York again. And a?aln accident came to my aid. A ten, twenty and thirty-cent actress has no more chance of getting into New York than the p ovrrhla! rich man has cf getting Into heaven, but while I was applying for a Job, a maaag'-r came Into the" In a hot state of excitement. "An accident had happened to a member of his can and he had to have a g'rl Continued en Pag Four.

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