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Episode 174

The Making of a Matinee Idol & Icons of Hollywood's Golden Age (Michael Gregg Michaud on Troy Donahue

Episode 174
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When TVs entered living rooms and Cinerama lit up movie screens, teens went nuts for Troy Donahue. Born Merle Johnson Jr. he was discovered at The Golden Pheasant restaurant in Calabasas by bigwigs, William Asher and James Sheldon. Signed to Rock Hudson’s manager Henry Wilson, Troy won the role of Johnny in A Summer Place and was a teen idol by the morning after opening night.

A screen dream, Troy’s reality was a nightmare. Author Michael Gregg Michaud has written books about Sal Mineo, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Diane Mcbain. Michael joins us to discuss his biography, Inventing Troy Donahue: The Making of a Movie Star.

Long intrigued by the darker reality behind Hollywood’s seemingly perfect presentation, Michael helps us understand the challenges that shaped Troy’s life. He lost his father at 14 and undiagnosed dyslexia adversely affected his grades and his sense of worth. Troy began drinking in middle school. He says he was drunk all the way through his two TV series, Surfside 6 and Hawaiian Eye and unable to master new lines because of his learning disability and his inebriation. By the time he made Paul Springs Weekend, he was downing three codeine laced aspirins with a pint of vodka, followed by four lines of cocaine just to get himself up and out the door.

This regimen was quickly followed by a career on the skids, financial ruin and four failed marriages. Troy’s charm, humor, wisdom and gratitude pulled him through recovery and bonded him for life with ex-wives, girlfriends and screen partners, Suzanne Pleshette, Sandra Dee, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Angie Dickinson.

We also learn from Michael about his other books, including a brand new one on Mae West’s nightclub act. It’s called Mae West and Her Adonises.

Plus, Fritz and Weezy are recommending the new doc series on Paramount +, Willie Nelson & Family and Loudermilk on Amazon.

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