Sunday, October 20, 2013


He came from immigrants of Kiev and Romania, dropped out of Santa Monica City College due to bad grades. Had planned to study medicine or become a jazz pianist.

Years later, he is known as a true American icon of film, television and theater.

He won two Oscars, six Golden Globes and received a Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2012.

We know him today as one of the most beloved, admired, famous and versatile actors of our time!

His Bio in 2013 reads like a Smithsonian History of American Film and Theater!

He finally made his debut as a director last year—and whenever his name appears in print or in lights people smile and say, " He's one of our Real American Heroes!"

His Aunt Pearl once told him, "You can't be an actor—you are not good-looking enough!"

By now, have you guessed his name?

Take a little walk back in time with us at Crime Writer's Chronicle and share a little piece I wrote for our July 24, 2011 blog.

The setting was idyllic. Outdoors near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Mountains, clouds, pure clean fragrant air, open cabins, good food, great atmosphere, terrific comrades, wonderful teachers!

The Perry-Mansfield School of the Dance and Theatre, the gold star of Dance-Drama summer training.

We were taught by stars - Daniel Nagrin, Helen Tamiris, Harriette Anne Gray, the best in the field.

We ate, drank, talked dance and theater 25 hours a day!

We bonded. Made instant best friends.

When the session was over, I joined in the drive east with my friend Ginny, who was to become a world celebrity at PBS, as series producer of the famous Adams Chronicles, who would also receive the highest TV honors worldwide for this work.

Ginny also shared her car with two fellow students.

Larry, a handsome, young blond god, a charmer who saught a great future on Broadway. He brought a friend, a nice but quiet young fellow, not terribly gifted, who'd spent the summer sweeping the floors of the theater and filling in for the more handsome, talented actors.

We all felt kind of sorry for him. But he was on his way to the bright lights too. Maybe he'd get to sweep the great floors on Broadway, while Larry shone on stage.

We shared motel quarters, ladies on one side, gents on the other.

All very modest and proper.

At Omaha we parted ways, the others headed for New York, I to my home on a Tennessee mountain, back to teach college prep students modern dance.

Ginny and I were sure we'd soon see Larry's name in huge lights.

Time passed…

A few years later, I saw an ad for a hot new film. Everyone was raving about it, coast to coast! And its leading man.

It was called THE GRADUATE.

His picture looked familiar. My companion from the trip east.

He'd said his name was Dusty.

As they say, the rest is history.

Can you ever tell a book by its cover?

P.S. Larry WHO?

© 2013 Thelma Jacqueline Straw


  1. Kudos to Kate Gallison, our brilliant blog administrator, for providing those excellent pictures! tjs

  2. Thelma: At the end of the sixties [December 1968-April 1969] Dustin Hoffman appeared on Broadway in a show called "Jimmy Shine." Of course, this was after "The Graduate," so although this was technically his third Broadway undertaking, it was the first where he was top-billed. I was a student at the time and had the pleasure of watching this show from backstage, standing in the wings. A truly gifted actor; an amazing experience . . . .

  3. Thanks, Joan - what fun that must have been for you1! Thelma

  4. It's a great story. It's always so interesting to be reminded that the big names -and I am a big Hoffman fan - started somewhere. My kids knew someone who was baby sat by Marisa Tomei, and my aunt went to college with a girl whose brother was "writing a book." It was called The Naked and the Dead.

  5. Triss, you are so right - maybe our names will be on someone's blog way out there sometime! Thelma

  6. "who'd spent the summer sweeping the floors of the theater and filling in for the more handsome, talented actors."
    In many Zen traditions, one must sweep the floors for years, watching, absorbing, before even setting foot on the practice mat or picking up a sword. The power of apprenticeship.

  7. Thank you, Leslie and Marge! Leslie, isn't this what we writers do before we get our names in lights????? Thelma

  8. This is a wonderful story. Hoffman deserves so much credit for sticking to his art and developing his craft while his chances of ever making a living at acting -- where the rewards went to the good-looking -- were minimal. He was prepared when The Graduate came along and American movies were set to take a turn for reality in the late 60s and 70s.

  9. Thanks, Sheila - yes, he has the discipline!!! Thelma

  10. Charming story and so well written. Barbara Bent

  11. Thanks, Barbara - am looking for your novel soon! Thelma