A Trail Of Broken Hearts
Ah, what beautiful pictures the words "Hollywood bachelor" conjures up in the mind! Girls--swimming pools--fast sports cars--a luxurious pad. That's the life most American men would trade for, sight unseen.
OK, gang, meet a genuine Hollywood bachelor--Ben Murphy, the handsome young man who plays Kid Curry, alias Jones, on ABC-TV's surprising hit, Alias Smith and Jones.
Girls he's got. But he's so good-looking and virile that he'd get them if he lived in Hollywood or Squamish-By-The-Sea. But as for the rest of it, you'd better readjust the fine tuning on your daydreams. Ben Murphy doesn't fit the picture, not the least bit.
Here he comes now, driving up--but that's no fancy new sports job, that's a battered Chevy convertible. And he's not wearing the latest clothes from those fancy Beverly Hills shops, he's in faded dungarees and a clean, but old, sports shirt. And, as for that sexy pad with the heart-shaped swimming pool, forget it. Murphy's home is a nice apartment, but hardly anything that a Playboy magazine layout would be shot in.
In short, Murphy is his own man. He lives his own kind of life. He fits no stereotypes. He goes against the mold.
And it's always been that way.
He's a young man with a sturdy mind, and his mind tells him to do things the way he wants to do them, to live his life the way he thinks is right, to bow to nobody and to be beholden to no one. He just won't conform--and there have been many who tried to make him conform.
His family tried it--and failed. A bunch of different schools tried it--and failed. The church tried it--and failed. And only Ben Murphy knows how many girls have tried. And, so far, they've all failed, too.
And yet he isn't a rebel, either. He's not fighting anybody, nor is he trying to change anything. He simply wants to be left alone, to live his life his way.
"I've always been one to go my own way," he says, and that's about the size of it.
Marriage? Ask him about the possibility and he laughs. He doesn't say a word, but the implication is clear--who needs it? He has his pick of Hollywood's girls, and Hollywood's girls are the pick of the world's girls.
He isn't red-hot about kids and family life, either, so that marriage-motivation doesn't move him.
A loner? Not exactly. He says he likes to have people around--"but on my own terms."
It was always this way with Ben Murphy, even as a kid. He remembers when he was in high school, he needed people to play sports with. There aren't very many athletic endeavors you can do solo. So he buddied around with the boys as long as he felt like playing basketball or football or baseball. But the minute the urge left him, he was off.
Caption of b/w photos: Ben and lovely blonde actress Barbara Sigel made a date for a fine, sunny day, and decided to spend it at the Los Angeles Zoo. Barbara met Ben when they were contract players at Universal: TV viewers will remember her as Lloyd Bridges' daughter in "San Francisco International." Like Ben, a lot is expected of her. Barbara got her start in TV the traditional way by winning a beauty contest when in high school. Then she made her way to Hollywood after trying her luck in modeling.
Ben Murphy was born on a farm in Arkansas, but he doesn't remember anything about it. He was just a toddler when the Murphys--Patrick was the good Irish name of his father--moved to Clarendon Hills, a Chicago suburb. Patrick and Nadine Murphy, Ben's mother, opened a ladies' apparel shop in Clarendon Hills, and they still run it.
So his memories are those of a suburban childhood. It was good and comfortable and middle-class--and Ben Murphy hated it.
"I couldn't wait," he says, "until I was 18 and could get out of town."
It was the need to conform which nagged him. They tried to make him a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout, but he couldn't take it. He rebelled at the structures of school, of Little League, of Church, of the whole cultural pattern of the Chicago suburbs.
He did well in school, because he's naturally intelligent and his mind is eager and inquiring. But he didn't like it--he didn't like the classroom rules.
It was during his high school years that he first became disenchanted with the church.
The thing that did it was the conflict, in his mind and soul, between what the church demanded and what he knew was in him.
Sex, that was the thing that did it.
The church said that sex was a sin. There were strict rules and regulations, propounded by the church for teenage boys. And Ben Murphy knew he couldn't stick to them.
"The church's anti-sex dictum troubles me," he says. "I knew I couldn't stay a virgin, and the church said I had to."
He tried to talk to somebody about this, because he was young and there was a struggle inside him. But there was no one to talk to--all the older people he knew, his parents, his priest, were orthodox in their beliefs.
He might have been willing to bend a bit, to compromise. But it became apparent to him that the church would have all or nothing.
"It was the rigidity that did it," Murphy says now.
But the break with the church wasn't completely done then. The final break came later.
The day after he graduated from high school, he left, with hardly a backward glance. His first stop was New York, but that didn't do anything for him. He felt a strong urge for education, for learning, so began a period of several years of searching. He went to various colleges-Loras in Dubuque, Iowa; Loyola, in New Orleans; the Universities of Illinois and Colorado; finally to the University of the Americas in Mexico City.
Through most of his mixed bag of education he was studying international relations, with the vague goal of going into foreign service. The thought of acting had never even entered his mind.
It was during his collegiate period that his break with the church became final and complete. This time, the cause was no one thing, but an utter disillusionment on an intellectual level. He reasoned the whole thing out, to his own satisfaction, and concluded that the church had nothing to say to him. He left and has never returned.
He enjoyed that period in his life.
He was learning things and he was completely and absolutely on his own. He drifted, idly, as the urge came to him. And he realized that the urge was taking him steadily away from his Illinois home. At Mexico City, he understood. He had to get as far away as possible.
But even that wasn't enough. He found his way to California and, on a whim, enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse. They were eager to have him--young men with his looks and masculinity are few and far between.
He graduated, and he may be the only actor in the world with two Bachelors' degrees--the first, in international relations, from the University of Illinois and the second, in theater arts, from the Pasadena Playhouse.
And thus an actor was born. He found he liked it, and that half-ambition, to enter the foreign service, evaporated. His career started slowly, but, with Alias Smith And Jones, it has shifted into higher gear. Hollywood believes he has what it takes to be a star.
There is only one possible drawback--he looks, perhaps too much like Paul Newman. The resemblance is startling, and he's been getting double-takes for years. He says it hasn't had any effect on his career, but outside observers believe otherwise. The feeling is that the Newman lookalike business could hold him back. Hollywood has a way of frowning on those who look too much like established stars.
It doesn't really matter to him too much, one way or the other.
He would certainly like to have a crack at good parts, of course, but he isn't burning with ambition.
Ambition is usually a symptom of some kind of great hunger--for fame or fortune or something--and Ben Murphy appears to be fairly free of those hungers. Certainly, fortune isn't among his catalogue of wants.
He's earning a pretty good salary from Alias Smith And Jones but he hasn't changed his style of living from the days when he was doing bit parts. He says he doesn't spend any money, and that could be pretty nearly true. His old car and old clothes attest to his personal frugality. And he hasn't even hired a business manager.
He has his own small, unpretentious apartment, but he isn't much of a homebody. He never cooks, preferring to dine out. He does say that he's gotten to be pretty good at cleaning and ironing his shirts.
What he does do is go girl-chasing. He says that Hollywood is a great town for a bachelor to indulge in that beloved pastime.
"I do pretty well," he says, with a self satisfied smile. "I have to find that girl-of-the-day, and it isn't hard."
He doesn't care who the girl-of-the-day is, or what she does. He'll date actresses or waitresses, it doesn't matter.
He has no ties, and wants none. His relationship with his family, back in Clarendon Hills, is cool.
"There are no hard feelings," he says, "but no close contact, either. They're Middle West, Roman Catholic, rigid. I'm none of those things."
He says that his father was the more rigid of his parents. Ben and his mother were closer, but not close enough.
"There is a generation gap between my father and me," he says. "I'm regarded as a long-haired hippie."
Ben has a younger brother, who is now 15, and, strangely, the brother sides with his father against Ben. The actor hopes that that may change as his brother gets older. But he isn't counting on it.
He'd like it to happen, because he'd like
to have somebody. He's a man who goes his own way, who has so
far been able to elude the lasso of life but even Ben Murphy needs
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