by Jim Gregory
TV Radio Show, February 1972
"I forgot to tell you--I met Ben Murphy. He hates me!" Judy Strangis said in that inimitable way of hers--half-serious, half-mocking.

The seriousness came from the fact that Judy, the beautiful young Room 222 regular who has been David Cassidy's most frequent date this past year, had wanted to meet Ben Murphy for some time. The mocking note in her voice came from her realization that the situation was ironic, even comic. And Judy is a girl who never fails to see the humor in a situation--even when the laugh is on her, as it was in this case.

Photo Caption: At first it seemed a lark but then Judy found that she dug David Cassidy.

Judy's friends had been trying for months to get her together with Ben, the handsome co-star of Alias Smith and Jones. But when at last one of them managed to arrange a meeting, it was something of a disaster.

Judy told me the whole serio-comic story recently as we rapped over the phone, something we often do. For Judy, like David and Ben, is a friend of mine.

"You know Tony Rizzo, the photographer; Tony is always trying to fix me up with Ben Murphy," Judy explained. "He knew I'd always had a little crush on Ben. I've never denied it!

"Well, Tony gave a little party one Monday night at his apartment near the Sunset Strip, and I was invited. I went alone--but Richard Hatch, a New York actor who's on a daytime serial called All My Children, always stays with Tony when he visits out here. And Richard is a good friend of mine. I've been dating him on his trips to the Coast, and I really like him.

"So when I arrived at the party, Richard was there as Tony's house guest, and he became my date. And a bunch of us were standing around talking, when suddenly Tony ran up to me and said, 'Judy! Somebody just arrived That you must meet. It's Ben Murphy!'

"Well. I was embarrassed. Because here was my date thinking, 'Oh, boy! She can't wait to meet Ben Murphy!' So I said, 'Oh, I think I'll wait, Tony.'

"So I kept talking to Richard. But Richard knows Ben. So all of a sudden Richard said, 'Well, let's go talk to Ben.' So I went to the ladies room to fix hair, because it didn't look too great-- had gotten dressed in just a few minutes to come to the party.

"Frankly, I didn't really want to meet Ben right then, because I didn't look at my best, I was really tired, and I had to go to work the next day. So it was a really bad night."
But just how bad it would be, Judy was about to find out.

Photo Caption: Then Judy had her terrible experience with Ben Murphy. It wasn't funny anymore.

"Anyway, I went into the other room, and Tony said, 'Judy, this is Ben.' I said, 'Hi,' and Ben said, 'How are you?' I said, 'Fine, thank you.'"

But as this unstimulating exchange went on, Judy's date suddenly startled her. "Richard grabbed me and put his arms around me, and Ben was just standing there. Well, nothing was being said, and I was so embarrassed.

"Then, finally Ben said, 'Look, Judy. I came to the party to meet you. But I see you're with somebody else.'

"I was so nervous," Judy continued, "that I just muttered, 'Oh!' and started laughing! So Ben left! He left the party five minutes later! Oh, Jim, Ben must hate me!

"But I was in such a spot. I didn't want my date to think I had a crush on Ben, and I didn't want Ben to think I was with Richard." Of course, both of these were true, and that was Judy's problem.

"I had no idea that Ben would be at the party," Judy insisted. "I was in a horrible situation that I never want to be in again. And to make it worse, Tony called me the next day and said, 'Ben is really mad.' And Tony hadn't known I would be with Richard--he thought I'd be alone. I was so upset, because all that time I'd wanted to meet Ben!"

And then a pleading note entered her voice as she added, "Oh, Jim--if you ever talk to Ben, please apologize for me."

I promised her that I would do so at the first opportunity. And after I said goodbye, I thought about everything that had led up to Judy's disastrous meeting with Ben.

I remembered, for one thing, that it was not actually Judy's first encounter with the attractive young actor. For during a previous discussion about Ben while we were having lunch together at a Westwood restaurant, Judy bad told me "I first got interested in Ben before he did The Name of the Game. I used to go to Universal all the time on interviews for various parts, and I always used to see Ben there. I guess he was a contract player there--he was just starting on his career.

"My sister used to drive me to the studio, because I was too young to drive in those days. And Ben would always come over and talk to us. At that time, much as I liked him, I always thought that he'd be a nice guy for my sister to date because he was several years older than I was, and I was so young. My sister was nearer his age.

"Then I didn't see Ben for a year or so. And then all of a sudden I saw him in a brief part in The Graduate. I said to myself, 'Oh--there's that guy. Ben Murphy!' And than I saw him on The Name of the Game a few times, when be played Robert Stack's assistant.

"And finally I saw him on Alias Smith and Jones. And now I found that I was attracted to him. I thought, 'Gee! I feel like dating him myself!' Before that I had thought, 'Well, I'm just a little girl.'"

Suddenly Judy knew that she wasn't a little girl any longer! What did Judy know about Ben that tempted her so much? "I don't know--just what I've read in the magazines," she said, like any fan. "Another thing that attracted me was that he was Catholic. He went to a boys' Catholic school, and I went to a girls' Catholic school. So we have the same religion and background and I thought that would give us something in common. There were other things I read about his upbringing that reminded me of mine. I don't remember exactly what, but every time I'd read about him, I'd, think, 'Oh, gee--there's another thing we have in common!' And we have a lot of friends in common who have been trying to get us together for a long time.

"But," she added cautiously. "I don't know what he's like today. I don't know if he's a wolf, or what."

Her doubts were caused by articles in which Ben said things like, 'By the second time I date a girl, it's a case of, 'Your place or mine?'" And there was an article in which he told of living with a girl for some time. No wonder Judy wondered if Ben is a wolf--or rather, it's a wonder that she had any doubts at all.

Knowing this from Ben's own words, I asked Judy, "Do you think you can handle yourself around Ben?"

"Well. I think anybody can handle themselves," she said. "All you have to do is let the guy know what your scene is, and he can take it or leave it. If he leaves it, he's not worth it."

Judy's scene, she assured me, is dating gentlemen. And she admitted that the greatest gentleman she knows is her frequent date, David Cassidy, who became a star last year on ABC-TV's hit series, The Partridge Family.

"He treats me with a lot of respect, maybe because he's known me ever since he was in high school. I mean, he's a perfect gentleman! He always opens the car door for the girl, and he never seems to take you for granted.

"He's very careful about language in front of a girl, too. If somebody is swearing in the room, he'll excuse himself and say, 'Well, you know, there's a girl present.' And he himself avoids swearing in front of a girl. So he is very much a gentleman."

And yet, Judy points out, "David is strange to date, because it's not like dating anyone else, whom you can see several times a week. If you see David once a week, you're very fortunate.

"You see, every weekday he works on his television series, and usually he is recording at night. So Friday night is his only free time to date, because on Saturday morning he leaves on his weekend concert tours. So if you get a date with him, it is usually on a Friday night or a holiday.

"And it's fun, you know! It's different, because you can't go to the really normal places with him. You can't say, 'David, let's go to a movie.' He has to be very careful where he takes you because he always attracts crowds when he goes to public places.

"So we usually go to private parties. We went to Dave Madden's place at Malibu on the Fourth of July. We've gone to other people's houses, too. Often we'll just go to David's, and a lot of kids will be up there--all his friends. Somebody will fix something to eat, and we'll talk and play records.

"Or else David will come over to my house and we'll watch television. But basically he really has to watch where he goes now, because he's so well known. So dating David is very different from dating other people--but, as I say, it's fun."

Although Judy enjoys dating David very much, both date others frequently. Indeed, if Judy didn't, she'd be at home most of the time, since David's schedule is so full. That's why, when she found herself attracted to Ben Murphy, she was anxious to meet him again after so many years, knowing that it would not interfere with her relationship with David in the least.

But now her hopes of dating Ben seemed shattered by their unfortunate meeting at Tony Rizzo's house--and Judy had asked me to help.

So I phoned Ben a few minutes after my phone conversation with Judy. After discussing one or two other matters, I told him, "Judy Strangis asked me to call and tell you that she feels she owes you an apology. She told me that she met you last Monday at Tony's house, but that she was with another date because nobody had told her you'd be there. She knew Richard Hatch, who was Tony's house guest, so she sort of became his date for the evening, even though she had come to the party alone. That's why she was with someone else--she didn't know you were coming to the party. She's sorry, because she feels she put you in an awkward situation, and she's afraid you're mad at her."

"No, I'm not mad. I was only kidding!" Ben assured me lightly, in that casual manner he has.

"Really, they never told her you were coming," I told him.

"Why should they?" he asked.

"But...she thought you had come to meet her."

"Well, I did," he admitted. "I really did. But I also came for the party. I would have come if she hadn't been there, but I was also coming to see her. Anyway, I thought she handled it beautifully!"

And then he added with a mischievous laugh, "I may not be able to see her again..." And then he added, "Because I'm booked up for a month now!"

Was this the brush-off for Judy? No, it wasn't.

"No, you see, I'm going out of town on a publicity tour for Alias Smith and Jones. That's why I m booked up.

"Will you tell Judy something for me?" he asked. "Tell her about my tour, and that I've been very busy opening the season for our show, and that's why I have not called her, though I have her number. And when I get back from my tour, I will call her."

Those were the words Judy wanted to hear--and when I relayed them to her a few minutes later, she was delighted.

Not that she'd necessarily be counting the days 'till Ben called her--after all, she still cherishes her friendship with David Cassidy--but it was something to look forward to.

And now the next move is up to Ben.

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