Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Jan. 21, 1960
January 21, 2010 | 2:00 pm
A Little Story with a Big Schnozzola
Some newspaper reporters are frantic. They run around chasing the big story all the time.
But I’m too old for that. What I do, I run around chasing little stories. They’re easier to catch. And when you boil them all down, they’ve got just as much heart as some of those front page scoops that Steve Wilson holds up the presses to rush into print.
A few weeks ago, for example, I got a tip from Memphis Harry Lee Ward, the Hollywood literary critic whose hobby is selling newspapers, that there’s a man loose in town who thinks he’s De Gaulle.
Steve Wilson, who’s let all his big exclusives go to his head anyway, would probably have passed up a tip like that. But not me. I started digging.
Yesterday, my dogged efforts paid off.
I was patrolling Vine St. when I spotted a man answering the description which Memphis Harry had supplied me.
He was about 6 ft. 3 in. tall, and straight as an arrow. He was wearing a straw, long-billed Foreign Legion cap and a three-quarter length French coat. And he had a nose. I mean, like, it was a nose!
I studied the man for a moment, then stepped casually to his side.
“De Gaulle?” I hissed quietly, trying not to attract a crowd.
The man jumped back, like he’d been shot. He glared down at me around both sides of his nose. Then he cried out, “You, too?"
Gesturing wildly with his long arms, he shouted, “What’s the matter with you?” All of you! Why does everybody think I’m De Gaulle?"
“I’m sorry,” I apologized quickly. “But I thought you thought . . . "
“That I look like De Gaulle,” he finished. “I know. Everybody thinks that I think that I look like De Gaulle. But they’re wrong. They’re the ones who think so. ‘Eddie Davis,’ they say, ‘you look like Charles de Gaulle.’
“Why,” he demanded, “doesn’t somebody say. ‘Charles de Gaulle, you look like Eddie Davis’?”
A crowd was gathering so I grabbed Davis by the arm of his three-quarter length French coat and led him down the street.
“I’m really very sorry-“I started.
“That’s all right,” he cut me off. “The thing that bothers me is that I’m only 31 years old and he’s over 70. I’ve got nothing against the man personally, understand. He’s probably a very pleasant individual. He’s a big man in France, they say.
“After all,” he added, nudging me in the rib cage, “50,000 Frenchmen can’t be wrong.”
“Ummm,” I agreed.
“It’s just that I’m an electrician. I do a lot of work at the studios. And there, nobody even knows my name is Davis. They all say, ‘De Gaulle, do this, De Gaulle, do that, De Gaulle, strike your arcs.’
“Deborah Kerr calls me De Gaulle. So does Joseph Cotton. Only Darryl Zanuck shows any compassion. He calls me De Gaulle Jr.”
“He must be a nice man,” I agreed.” “But, actually, being mistaken for Gen. de Gaulle-“
“President De Gaulle,” he corrected crisply. “But you see, I came to Hollywood hoping to make it as an actor. In the East, I’d done summer stock and some television commercials. But out here, I’m type-cast. Unless there’s a part for De Gaulle in the picture, nobody wants me.
“I’ve been singing Jolson for years,” he continued. “I’m great. The best Jolson man in the country.
“But how would it look,” he asked plaintively, “De Gaulle singing ‘Mammy’?”
Cherchez La Schnoz
He stopped for a moment and looked at me intensely. “I’ve got a real dilemma. I’ve been thinking about getting a nose job. If I do,then people will stop bothering me.
“But with my luck, as soon as I do, Sam Katzman will decide to make De Gaulle’s life story.”
“Well, Eddie,” I said philosophically, “c’est la vie.”
He shrugged agreeably. Murmuring “Au voir” and kissing me on both cheeks, he disappeared down the Rue de la Vine.