From riding around town with James Dean and being cool with Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe to attending celebrity filled parties full of sex, drugs and alcohol, among other things, St. John has been in the Hollywood fast lane and lived to tell the story in his memoir “Hollywood Through the Back Door.”
To call St. John a Hollywood insider would be an understatement. As a black man who literally started from the bottom and emerged as a successful actor and composer during the ‘50s and 60’s, that alone is worth a look at St. John’s pageturner.
So much so that plans are being made to bring the entertainer’s story in a movie format. The working title for the project, St. John says, is “Feelin’ Sin Comin’ On.”
Chatting with the Electronic Urban Report/EUR, St. John revealed that interest is high on the film based on the material found in “Hollywood Through the Back Door.”
“They’re trying to decide from the script whether to make it a feature film or a miniseries. This is a big quandary right now,” St. John said. “They’re trying to decide how far to take it because there’s so much information in the book as far as my background back east, my experience there growing up and then my transferance into the Midwest, from the KKK to Hollywood. That’s where life changes. So it goes right down the line, yes.”
In “Hollywood Through the Back Door,” St. John recounts growing up under the umbrella of a racist world in “Hollywood Through the Back Door” as he shared a vivid memory during a 2012 interview with The Examiner. For the young St. John, the trip he took with his grandmother was an eye opener to the horrifying impact of seeing a black man hanging from a tree in Georgia.
“…that was something that is still churning in my memory-tremondously!” St. John recalled. “Once a child sees that kind of horror, it does make a change in his thinking as well as his chemical make-up.”
Over the years, St. John would regularly see various racial incidents, one of which resulted in a life-changing move to California after a confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan in Richmond, Indiana. From there, things got worse. St. John’s dorm room was firebombed, which prompted a decision from campus officials to get him out of Indiana for his safety and relocated to a safe place, which turned to be Los Angeles.
It was there, that St. John attended USC with a strong desire to make a name for himself as he became immersed in the entertainment scene while working as a script boy on hit shows like “Gunsmoke,” “ The Jack Benny Show,” “My Friend Irma” and “Curt Massey Time With Martha Tilton,” the CBS series he identified most with.
As time progressed, St. John met and befriended a host of legendary celebrities, including Dean, Monroe, Agnes Morehead and Hudson, among others.
St. John’s close friendships with Dean and Hudson are detailed in “Hollywood Through the Back Door” with accounts of the party life in Hollywood and the interesting things that went on behind closed doors with partygoers and celebrities. It was one of those parties where St. John met Hudson, who ended up taking him home after he got drunk from punch that spiked with LSD. The party itself was notable, with St. John seeing various celebrities “sexually compromising positions, including one comedian with his mouth on the penis of a mannequin,” the Canyon News reported.
The following “Hollywood Through the Back Door” excerpt provides a glimpse at what St. John saw at the party:
Re-entering the hallway, I heard myself laughing. My head was spinning, and the only thing that was on my mind was escape. Where? I didn’t know. By the time I turned the knob to the next room, a strange voice had taken over. It was like walking through hanging gauze. I felt hands pulling me in the room.
The me that had suddenly become this new voice was not only permitting, but was helping to take off my clothing. I felt the naked bodies of men and women invading every part of me. My hands were being tied to something like a hook and it felt as if I was hanging from the ceiling. An invasion of hands, lips, and caresses from every direction danced about on my body as if it were their last meal. Then everything went dark.
When I woke up I was still naked and lying on a wet sheet. My body was sticky with half-dried semen. The strange voice had disappeared. I felt repulsed and threw up in a nearby trash can. I wanted to yell out for help, but I couldn’t make any sounds. Pains were shooting through my body; I had to get out. I quickly put on my trousers and rushed from the room to return to the lower level of the mansion. The lights had been shut off. A group of huge candles had been set up instead.
…Then out of nowhere a voice asked, “Do you want to get the hell out of here?” I turned to find it was Rock Hudson who was fully clothed and wearing a big smile. “Obviously,” he said, “you had some of that infamous punch.” I nodded. He laughed and offered to give me a ride home.
After giving him breakfast and taking him home the next day, St. John says he and Hudson became friends and remained so until the day Hudson died in 1985 from AIDS-related complications.
With James Dean, the notorious Hollywood bad boy was a close friend of St. Johns. According to St. John, Dean would often pick him up to hand out. So much so that St. John recalls Dean using him to spy on a woman he thought was cheating on him with another man.
The following is another excerpt from “Hollywood Through the Back Door”:
At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I was being fitted to wear the hat of a gossip columnist….Frankly, I was surprised and even disturbed that he would ask me to do such a thing. He wanted me to be a Peeping Tom!
…Fortunately, the curtain to Dorothy’s living room window was partially open. It was easy to see into the room. Yes, she was with her musician friend. However, they were not rehearsing in the traditional sense. It looked more like a personal inspection. The guy was all over Dorothy, and she appeared to be enjoying the encounter. As their passion mounted to a high pitch, I decided I had witnessed enough. Voyeurism was not my game.
Returning to the car, I described what I had seen from Dorothy’s window. Jimmy’s face was a mixture of anger and excitement. He made me repeat a few times what I witnessed. He then unzipped his trousers and masturbated right in front of me. Afterwards, without an ounce of embarrassment, Jimmy asked, “You think I’m awful, huh?” My only response was, “Well, you’re a handy little fella, aren’t ya, Jimmy?” He thought this quite funny, started the car and drove me back to the University campus.