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Column: I’m true to my roots, even when in Hollywood
Ronda Rich
Ronda Rich

A while back, Tink and I had a meeting to pitch a television show on the Fox Studio Lot in Los Angeles.

It wasn’t the first time I had been there. At least three times, before I knew Tink, I passed through the Fox’s guarded gates. Once, I had lunch at the commissary with producers who were interested in optioning a book I had written.

One of the producers was directing an episode of a show called “NYPD Blue.” When we left the commissary, he invited me to stop by the set. We walked into the darkened stage and immediately saw a tall, slim guy squatted down in front of a monitor he was adjusting.

The director said, “That’s Mark Tinker, one of the show’s executive producers.”

Several years later, “that guy” would become my brother-in-law.

Fox Studio and HarperCollins Publishing, who published a couple of my books, share a parent company. Harper kept an office and an executive on the lot so, another time while in L.A., he had taken me on a tour of the lot and lunch, again at the commissary.

Later, I flew out to appear on a sports show that filmed from the Fox executive offices.

But I had never seen it through John Tinker’s eyes, and what a sight that was to behold. 

Tink worked on the Fox lot for several years under a development deal. That meant he was paid to have an office there and try to think up TV shows. During his days there, he developed a hugely successful show called “Judging Amy.”

When we finished our meeting, he asked, “Would you like to see where my offices were?”

I will never turn down a moment on the grounds of one of Hollywood’s original studios. I love old Hollywood. So much history. 

Founded by William Fox in 1915, the studio was almost destroyed by the Depression. Bankruptcy was just around the corner when the studio was saved by the immense talent of a twinkling, dancing little girl named Shirley Temple. Her movies not only pulled the studio back from bankruptcy but flooded it with such cash that the lot expanded and was jokingly known as “The Temple Shirley Built.”

The studio built for Shirley an enormous dressing room and another building — both in pretty, English Tudor style — for Shirley’s doll collection. Over 50 years later, John Tinker would come to have an office in Shirley’s dollhouse. I was in absolute awe as I stared at it.

My feet were also hurting. I had on a dress and 3-inch high heels. Blisters were forming and I was limping.

“Baby, do we need to go back to the car?” Tink asked.

“No!” I had to see his next office. Actually, I had seen it earlier when I toured with the HarperCollins executive but knowing that my husband once had the same office as William Faulkner made it more excitingly personal.

It was a picturesque cottage with window boxes and thick green grass surrounding it like carpet. In that building, Tink had labored in the same room as Faulkner who, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, took a shot at the big money that the studios offered popular novelists.

Fitzgerald loved it, Hemingway tolerated it and Faulkner despised it; as soon as his contract ended, he headed home to Mississippi.

My feet had had enough. Standing in the velvety grass, I took off my shoes and, barefooted, toured the rest of the lot. By the time we passed the executive office building on our way out, my feet were black with dirt.

A large fountain and pool beckoned. I didn’t hesitate. I sat down on the edge, put my feet in and washed them thoroughly as passersby took astonished looks and Tink took photos.

You can take the girl out of the country, but she’ll just take the country with her to Hollywood. 

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.