Pearson had show biz in his blood
Concordia native, Robert E Pearson, died in Clay Center on the 4th of July, a day Bob would have picked as the perfect day of departure. According to an Internet site, Bob was involved in making more than 100 movies and television programs.
At the age of 12, Bob grew bored with Concordia and hopped a freight train to Hollywood. After several days traveling back and forth across the country in a boxcar – supposedly on his way to California – Bob’s train slowed and came to a stop. Unbelievably, he was back in Concordia.
This is but one of Bob’s fantastic tales of a daring youth and his determination to make a mark in show business. According to a <i>Lawrence Journal World<i> article, Bob made the decision to go to Hollywood after “witnessing a band concert at Concordia High School when he was ten years old.” This inspiring concert took place around l928, so it would be interesting to go back and try to find the event listed in an old Blade.
The Brown Grand Theatre showed movies during Bob’s early youth and he remembered telling his mother, Dorothy, “someday I am going to be a movie star just like them.”
Bob finally made it to California. Even though his first try landed him back in Concordia, Bob once again climbed aboard a westbound freight train. Using a combination of hitch hiking and riding the rails, Bob finally arrived in Hollywood. After a string of door-to-door sales jobs, Bob joined the Army at 15, but a knee injury led to his discharge a year later.
It was then that Bob started getting bit parts in movies and stage shows. TV was gaining in popularity about that time, so Bob made a number of appearances on popular shows like “Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre,” “Perry Mason,” “Day in Court,” and numerous others.
Bob claimed in later life that he had given producers the idea for “Ironsides,” about a wheelchair-bound detective. Raymond Burr was trying to make a comeback but was no longer the slim actor audiences remembered from “Perry Mason.” Bob told producers to put Burr in a wheelchair and his added weight wouldn’t be noticed. Thanks or not to Pearson, “Ironsides” became a big hit for its star, Raymond Burr.
Hollywood was a small company town back in the l950’s, and Bob claimed knowing all the big stars of the day. He helped Ronald Reagan with landscaping at his new Bel Aire home. One day at the famous Schwab’s Drug Store, Frank Sinatra drove into Bob’s new car parked in front and gave him a handful of cash to pay for the damage. While his car was being repaired, Marilyn Monroe gave Bob a ride to the studio. And on and on. He had a thousand stories.
Later on, Bob started writing his own scripts, directing and appearing in his own films. One was, “The Devil and Leroy Bassett,” the last film shown at the Brown Grand Theatre before it was closed for restoration. Bob finally made it onto the screen that had inspired him to make movies.
~ Susan Sutton, friend
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