Ben's real home town is Jonesboro in Arkansas which he always found unbearably dead and quiet. The rest of his family now live in Illinois, a state that holds no special charm for Ben either!
"I'd moved around quite a bit before I came to California," he recalls. "But, once I'd been here for a week or so, I knew that this was the state for me...I reckon that California can give a guy the best of everything. No matter how varied your tastes are--you can find that you want within the limits of the state boundaries...
"Hey!" he broke off grinning, "sounds like I've been hired to do a commercial for it, doesn't it? Who knows? Maybe if they get to read you piece, I might get hired yet!!!
"Seriously, though," he went on, "there's always something happening here, but, at the same time, everything is always so casual and easy-going...and that's a combination that suits me down to the ground.
"Imagine me moving some place where I had to guy myself up in a suit every day--with a tie! Man, I'd drop out of that, soon as look round! I'm very much the jeans, shirt, and sandals type, so I'm really in tune with L.A. and the other folks here.
"I guess, for me, California spells freedom...Freedom to be the person I really am inside and not to put up any facade...and freedom to do what I like, go where I like. I've always hated the feeling of being hemmed in, but you just don't feel that way when you're based in L.A.
"Because, you see, you only need to step on the gas and, within an hour, you can be right away from the city...Maybe down on the beach, or up in the hills, or just bowling along a great long stretch of open highway with the countryside spreading out around you, so it seems like you could go on for ever and never come to the end of that road."
Ben often does just that...Gets into his old jalopy and heads for nowhere in particular:
"It's such a surprise when you get there, that way!" he laughs.
"If you set out and aim for a definite place, well there's no surprise at all when you arrive, is there? 'Cos you knew that's where you were heading all along!"
Ben returned to his commercial for the California Tourist Board:
"Another thing about California is that you can go skiing and surfing at the very same moment--if you could be two places at once that is! And there can't be all that many states where you find such extremes. Down here on the coast you'll be getting brilliant, hot sunshine with the surf breakers rolling in. While, up there in the mountains, you've got beautiful, tight-packed snow that's just perfect for skiing. What more could you ask for?"
Before I could say a word--let alone suggest anything extra that might be asked--Ben said:
"And if you're gonna say you could ask for a local supply of wine--okay, we've got that too, right here! It's good, too," he added, groping around in one of the closets till he found a lurking bottle for us to try. (He was right, it WAS good!)
In fact, Ben finds only one fault with California...and that is the state of the atmosphere in the big cities:
"That was one of the things that was so great about Europe," he recalls, "the air was so clean and pure after here in the States. Even big cities, like London, Oslo and Amsterdam felt so after Los Angeles..."
Actually, London has kept a particularly strong hold on Ben ever since his visit to Britain last year. He has often been heard to say that he would love to live and work in Britain for a year or so. It wouldn't be a case of leaving California for good; just giving up his stake there for a short while in order to broaden his horizons and, hopefully, his acting range.
I asked him if he would really consider living in London for a time if he was given the chance.
"I'd be there like a shot," came the reply without a moment's hesitation. "Of course, right now it looks like I'll have to wait till my contract with M.C.A. is through, but I'm pretty certain I'll still feel exactly the same way about it when that time comes.
"I'd really love to do some stage work in London theatre. But, if I couldn't get a part in live theatre, I'd be perfectly happy working in films over there. As soon as it looks like being a possibility, I'll start to look into the chances of getting work there.
"I'd reckon to stay a year or two,
so I'd really feel I knew the country and the wonderful people
there...But then I'd be heading back to California, back to base.
'Cos that's what California is for me...My home base. In fact,
I guess it's come as near as any place has ever been to feeling
like my HOME."
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