WAMG Interview: Harriett Bronson, first wife of Charles Bronson and author of CHARLIE AND ME
Harriett Tendler was 18, the only child of a widowed Jewish farmer, when she enrolled at the Bessie V. Hicks School of Stage, Screen, and Radio in Philadelphia in 1947. It was there she fell in love with Charles Buchinsky, a fellow student eight years her senior. Charles was part of a large Lithuanian family from an impoverished coal mining town in Pennsylvania. He had served in WWII as a tail gunner and was using the GI bill to study art and acting. Harriett and Charles were married in 1949 and two years later, Charles was cast in his first film. In 1953 he changed his last name to Bronson and found work as a solid character actor with a rugged face, muscular physique and everyman ethnicity that kept him busy in supporting roles as indians, convicts, cowboys, boxers, and gangsters. Life was good for the Bronsons and they had a daughter and then a son. By the mid-1960’s Charles Bronson was on the verge of mega-stardom but the Bronson’s marriage was about to collapse. While filming THE GREAT ESCAPE in Germany, Charles met and fell in to an affair with a younger British actress, Jill Ireland, who at the time was married to one of his co-stars, David McCallum. Charles and Harriett divorced and he quickly remarried Jill, who had divorced McCallum. The divorces were tabloid-fodder messy but Charles wound up the world’s most bankable movie star throughout most of the 1970’s and Jill became his frequent co-star until her death in 1990. Charles Bronson died in 2003 at age 82 after almost 50 years as a Hollywood star. But the story doesn’t exactly end there. What of Harriett? Here was a woman who had put her own acting career on hold to focus on her husband’s pursuits and suddenly had to reinvent herself and discover her niche in life. Determined not to be known as an “Ex Mrs. Famous”, Harriett Bronson did just fine on her own. She found her own voice with a rewarding career as a radio talk show host on stations in Los Angeles and as the author of three books, including her newest, Charlie and Me, an account of her marriage to Charles Bronson.
In Charlie and Me, Harriett Bronson tells the story of her marriage and a high-profile divorce with much raw emotion but it’s not an angry, gossipy, or bitter account. Harriett was wise enough to recognize that it wasn’t just Jill Ireland that led to the unraveling of their marriage, but the way her husband dealt with his fame. It was Harriett who had ironed his shirts, raised their children, and offered moral support to the actor as he slowly worked his way through the Hollywood ranks. But it was Jill who ended up co-starring with Charles Bronson in 15 hit films, not because of any great acting ability, but because it was she who was married to the world’s biggest movie star, a man who got what he wanted, and he wanted her there. Her fairy tale may have fallen apart but Harriett Bronson manages to write an upbeat, humorous memoir filled with the type of anecdotes that could only have been written by someone who was there. It’s not always an endearing portrait of the man, but it’s one that really humanizes the famously reticent and reclusive actor.
Charles Bronson has been this Movie Geek’s favorite movie star since I saw THE DIRTY DOZEN on television as a child in the late 1960’s. In the introduction to an article I wrote here at WAMG last year, ‘Top Ten Tuesday: Charles Bronson’ (read it HERE), I wrote “Of all the leading men in the history of Hollywood, Charles Bronson had the least range as an actor. He rarely emoted or even changed his expression, and when he did speak, his voice was a reedy whisper. But Charles Bronson could coast on presence, charisma, and silent brooding menace like no one’s business”. I have five biographies of Charles Bronson on my bookshelf (and two books just on the DEATH WISH films). They’re all good for referencing the man’s films but the biographical information within always seemed sketchy to me. It was always the same anecdotes (“Bronson grew up in such poverty he had to wear his sister’s hand-me-down dresses”) that seemed to come more from the pen of a press agent than any deep interview or knowledge of the man himself. None of these books attempted to lift the mask, that unchanging expression, to uncover the human beneath. I was aware that Harriett had written an account of their marriage when it was mentioned in a tabloid story soon after Bronson’s death in 2003, but at that time she was still looking for a publisher. I was thrilled recently to hear that she had finally published the book and immediately bought and read it. I contacted the publisher, Timberlake Press (http://www.timberlakepress.com/), and Harriett Bronson was kind enough to call me. She and I talked at length about her book, her life, and her famous husband.
We Are Movie Geeks: Congratulations on your new book Charlie and Me
Harriett Bronson: Thank you. Let me ask you, how did you hear about my book?
WAMG: About a month ago, my mother was watching Regis Philbin’s TV show and Regis mentioned the book and she immediately called me and told me. I became aware that you had written the book several years ago, after Charles Bronson’s death. I had read in one of the tabloid reports that you had written it and were seeking a publisher.
HB: Have you read the book?
WAMG: I certainly have
HB: What did you think?
WAMG: I thought it was very interesting. I have five biographies of Charles Bronson sitting on my bookshelf and two more just on the DEATH WISH films and I thought this one really humanized the man.
HB: Right, because this really wasn’t a biography. This was my story with him.
WAMG: And another thing about these other biographies, they’re mostly about the films and the stuff about the man is all the same. The same anecdotes, almost like they came from a press release or something like that. For example, the legend that he grew up so poor he had to wear his sister’s clothes. That seems almost like something a press agent would make up. Was that even true?
HB: No no, not quite. Have you seen the A&E Biography of Charles Bronson?
WAMG: Yes, I have it on VHS tape.
HB: Well, I was in that. It’s an interesting story. They found me, the production company, they were looking for me. I had just broken my femur and had been in the rehabilitation center. I had just been brought home by ambulance and as soon I got in the house the phone rang and it was the producers. I arranged for them to come and interview me and they liked what I did so much that they had me narrate much of it. But that was mostly also about Charlie. This book is about Charlie and me. It’s mainly about the reinvention of me after Charlie and it’s also about my life with him.
WAMG: You were married to Charles Bronson from 1949 to 1965. I liked a lot of the anecdotes in your book. I liked how you referred to the neat Bronson and the sloppy Jack Klugman (Bronson’s roommate in New York when they were struggling actors in the mid-1940s) the ‘original Odd Couple’. That was funny. Did you stay in touch with Jack Klugman?
HB: I’ve seen him throughout the years. Not a lot, but from time to time I’ve bumped into him.
WAMG: Another anecdote I enjoyed from your book was about the HOUSE OF WAX wax head that Charlie brought home from the set. He put that in the front window of your house?
HB: He wanted to. And I was horrified. I couldn’t believe it. I mean it looked exactly like Charlie! So he thought we’d put it in the hall closet so when guests would come over, they would see it. It was terrible! So I talked him into taking it to the Beuna Vista Wax Museum.
WAMG: Yes, the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Vista. I’ve got a vintage postcard from that wax museum that is a photo of the Charles Bronson HOUSE OF WAX exhibit.
HB: Really? I would love to see a copy of that.
WAMG: I’ll scan it and send you a copy. In fact I know the man who owns that wax head right now.
WAMG: His name is Daniel Symmes. He’s president of the 3-D Preservation Society there in California. He knows everything about 3-D and his favorite movie is HOUSE OF WAX and he owns a lot of props and memorabilia from that film.
HB: What does he do with the head?
WAMG: I’m not sure. I think he just keeps it at his home.
HB: That is so bizarre.
WAMG: Did you ever meet Vincent Price?
HB: Yes, but not when he and Charlie made their movie together.
WAMG: They also costarred in MASTER OF THE WORLD in 1963
HB: That’s right. No, I met Vincent Price later when he was promoting his book. I was in radio at the time and was invited to a lot of book events. Wonderful man, so interesting.
WAMG: Yes, he’s from St. Louis and we’re getting ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth here. Let’s see, you and Charlie married in 1949 and he made his first film a couple of years after that, the Gary Cooper film YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW
HB: Right, that was about two years later when he was at the Pasadena Playhouse. There was a teacher there, I think his name was Thomas Brown Henry, and he had some sort of connection with YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW, the first title was U.S.S. TEAKETTLE but they changed it and he recommended Charlie for the film and that was the first movie Charlie did.
WAMG: Another famous legend was that he got that role because he could belch on command.
HB: No. I don’t know where that came from.
WAMG: Probably the same source that claimed he had to wear his sister’s clothes!
HB: (laughs), No, he wore shoes that were kind of worn out, but his brothers joked a lot about poor Charlie’s made-up misfortunes, whoever made those up.
WAMG: Probably his press agent.
WAMG: You write a lot about Charlie’s brothers, Hollywood Joe and Dempsey. Those guys had moved out to California to be near Charlie?
HB: Kind of. They were’t connected with the entertainment industry but I think once Charlie let them know how great it was out here, and of course life wasn’t that great back there (Ehrenfield, PA, the coal-mining town the Buchinskys grew up in) so one by one, they came out here. His brothers Dempsey and Joe came. Not all of them. His sister Katherine.
WAMG: Did any of them try to break into the movie business?
HB: No. They weren’t interested.
WAMG: They weren’t interested? So I assume none of them changed their name to Bronson.
HB: No. None of them did.
WAMG: There are some great photos in you book. I had never seen photos of him just sitting around with his mother and his brothers before.
HB: Yes, I thought people would like that.
WAMG: When Charlie started making more films, did you go to the premieres of those films with him?
HB: There weren’t a lot of premieres. Whenever there was one, I went but in those days they didn’t really do premieres like they do them now. For some big production they might. And you know, he did the Man With a Camera TV series.
WAMG: Right, I have some questions about that as well.
HB: Did you ever see that series?
WAMG: Oh yes
HB: He starred in some Roger Corman movies at that time. One was called…..oh….
WAMG: MACHINE GUN KELLY. But let’s talk more about Man With a Camera. That show was sponsored by the Sylvania ‘Blue Dot’ Flashbulbs and Kodak Films.
HB: Yes, we had tons of flashbulbs! Not only that, we received a lot of GE products. An icebox, a television, and we did all kinds of traveling. I went with Charlie when he did personal appearances all over the country. There are some photos in the book of that. And that was a lot of fun.
WAMG: I’ll bet.
HB: What was nice about him having a TV series was that he came home every night for dinner because he was doing a series and he wasn’t away on location.
WAMG: Man With a Camera ran from October of 1958 to February of 1960 and aired Friday nights at 9pm. What were Friday nights at the Bronson household like? Did everyone sit around the TV, Joe and Dempsey, and watch Man With a Camera on ABC?
HB: No. Charlie actually did not like sitting and watching the things that he acted in. We would catch some, we would. It was a half hour series and while he was doing one, he was studying for the next episode and they went quite fast. But it was nice to have him home more than away.
WAMG: Is it true that the show was cancelled because Sylvania stopped making that particular bulb?
HB: No, no. It was just a three year contract and that had nothing to do with it.
WAMG: Another Charles Bronson myth debunked. On ebay I once saw a box of those bulbs for sale and it had a Man With a Camera tag on it so they must have merchandised the show somewhat.
HB: That’s interesting. Also, Richard Donner, you know the director?
HB: He was doing commercials in New York and came out here to direct Charlie in a GE commercial and Charlie introduced him around and he was in fact in Richard Donner’s first movie, X-15. Donner became a friend and he wanted to meet Steve McQueen and Steve was doing….all of our friends were doing TV shows at the same time. Steve was doing Wanted Dead or Alive, so Charlie introduced him to Steve. Mike Ansara was doing Broken Arrow, Barbara Eden was doing How to Marry a Millionaire, and Chuck Conners was doing The Rifleman. And we were all friends. And Aaron Spelling was story editor on Zane Grey so we had this whole group of friends that were all about in the same position.
WAMG: Yes, and you write about some interesting barbecues. Did Clint Eastwood ever hang out with that crowd?
HB: No. We didn’t know him at that time, although Charlie was in….oh, what did he do?
WAMG: Charlie was in an episode of Rawhide (in 1965, the episode titled ‘Duel at Daybreak‘).
HB: Right. But we weren’t socially friendly.
WAMG: I’ve watched that episode because Clint’s my second favorite actor, next to Charlie.
HB: Clint is an amazing man.
WAMG: Yes. It’s the only time my two favorite actors performed together but Rowdy Yates wasn’t the main character on that particular episode. They barely interact, which was too bad. You said Charlie didn’t like watching his TV show. Did he enjoy watching himself act in films?
HB: Well, let me clarify something. Charlie was in this business only for the money. Period. So watching these TV episodes he was in wasn’t on his list of priorities. What was coming next was his priority. He did not have a publicist for many many years and what happened was, he had a publicist briefly but he really didn’t like promoting himself. So finally when he obtained Paul Kohner as an agent..
WAMG: This was after Meyer Mishkin?
HB: Yes, Paul Kohner wanted him to have this certain publicist and he said to Charlie “If you agree to have this publicist, on your next movie you will make a million dollars.” And Charlie said to Paul Kohner “If I make a million dollars, I buy you a Rolls Royce.” And that’s what happened.
WAMG: Were you at all involved in the business end of his career during the marriage?
HB: No. What happened was I was studying, as you read, to be an actress and our arrangement was that when he got going, I would get going. But stuff happened in between the agreement. But I was not involved….my job or my value for Charlie was, I was his anchor.
WAMG: That’s important
HB: Yes. He had a home, children, and me. And we were all about him because what happened to him would also affect us so our whole focus was on his career and I thought that was perfectly natural. I mean that’s what I wanted, what he wanted, and everything worked like it should. I was in love with him. I wanted success for him and whatever good came to him came to me and our children.
WAMG: Do you think Meyer Mishkin did a good job as his agent?
HB: Oh absolutely.
WAMG: Were there any roles during that early stage of his career that Charles Bronson turned down?
HB: Oh yes, I can’t name any specifically, but there were.
WAMG: For example, we talked about HOUSE OF WAX. I thought he was very scary in that movie. His look.
HB: Oh yes. We went to the premiere of that and a girl saw him in the lobby and started screaming. By the way, he did turn down A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
WAMG: He didn’t like the script. After HOUSE OF WAX though, I wonder why he wasn’t offered more horror roles because he was such a spooky Igor.
HB: He may have been offered them and he turned them down.
WAMG: That was his only horror film.
HB: He became very selective in what he did and the film that really worked best and made him a superstar was the first DEATH WISH.
WAMG: In America anyway.
HB: Yes. And why that was important was that then he became bankable. After that movie, you could borrow money on ‘Charlie’. You couldn’t do it before that. There had to be a whole cast.
WAMG: Was he close to his family, his mother?
HB: Yes. His mother came out here often.
WAMG: Did he keep any souvenirs of his days in ‘Scooptown’ or did he sort of put that behind him and not look back?
HB: He did a painting that I have. You know he was an artist and I have the painting he did of Scooptown. He may have had some other things. I don’t remember any though but yes, he talked about those days.
WAMG: Did he talk much about his World War Two service?
HB: Not too much. He talked to me about it. He was a tail gunner in the B-29 and that made him a little claustrophobic.
WAMG: I read that in the 1970’s, when Jill Ireland would take him to premiers of their films, he would show up with her and as soon as the movie would start, he would go to the lobby and smoke cigarettes for the duration of the film
HB: Oh, really?
WAMG: Yes, he didn’t like watching movies. You say in your book and earlier in our conversation here that he became an actor for the money. I can’t think of too many actors who would admit that.
HB: It worked for him. That attitude. He was in the right place at the right time. A lot of this is luck. And a lot of it, as Woody Allen has said “The secret of success is showing up”. Charlie showed up. Or we showed up. I also showed up.
WAMG: Did Charles Bronson have any love for the art of acting?
HB: No. That was what was different about Charlie and Jack Klugman, and they were close. The difference was that Jack was in it for the art and what he could do and present as an actor and Charlie was just in it for the money so they would have these long discussions about this. Jack lived in New York and would stay in New York until there was a role for him in one of these anthology series, or a film, here. He would do it and then go right back to New York. And while he was here he would visit with us and they would have discussions about the industry and what it all meant.
WAMG: That’s interesting. I talked once to Paul Picerni, who was the young romantic lead in HOUSE OF WAX. He said he had lunch one day with Charles Bronson at the Brown Derby while they were filming. Charlie was wearing his Igor makeup and he pointed to a portrait of John Garfield that was on the wall and he said “Someday I’m going to be a leading actor like Garfield”. Picerni told me he looked at Charlie and thought to himself “This guy’s crazy, his looks are all wrong. He’ll never be a star”. But like you said, he was in the right place at the right time and his charisma and presence carried him to the top.
HB: Yes. Speaking of John Garfield, I had a drama coach out here, her name was Lillian Chavanne, and we were talking about what makes a star. And her answer was the energy that they project on the screen. There are actors who have starring roles but there are certain people that project that energy that she considered stardom. The thing about John Garfield is when I first met Charlie, I thought he looked like John Garfield. I was a big fan of Garfield, so it was interesting that Charlie mentioned that in that conversation.
WAMG: Do you think Garfield was one of his heroes perhaps, or an influence?
HB: No. I think he probably just remembered my remarks but the resemblance was pretty prominent when I met him.
WAMG: Did you keep a scrapbook of articles about Charlie when you were married?
HB: No, not really. I have some but they were mostly from after we separated. A lot of things were written. I didn’t collect scrapbooks. Charlie’s whole thing was’Life Is earnest, life is real’ and that’s what attracted me to him. And our story is a love tale gone wrong. He was not a reality star. He was a movie star. And what I’ve been told is that during our marriage, this was Hollywood royalty at its best and there’s no story like our story. Afterwards I had to start reinventing myself because I was so attached to Charlie. This book is about Charlie and me but it’s mostly about first wives who marry men who want to achieve fame and fortune and usually when they get married, that’s the goal and a lot of times they have children and a lot of times while the man is out there achieving fame and fortune, that can apply to politicians, the music industry, anywhere they might have a lot of notoriety. While they’re out there achieving, the wife is at home with the children doing her part as a wife. He’s out meeting a lot of people and suddenly he and the wife are in different directions emotionally. He gets his adulation fulfilled by other people and so the first wife is almost not there. She doesn’t know but that’s what happens. Then there’s a divorce. Then there’s the second wife. And there may be a third wife
WAMG: There was a third wife in this case.
HB: Yes, though I think Charlie would have stayed married to Jill, had she lived. I think so. But what I’m trying to say is that very often the first wife is gone and forgotten and I wrote this book to address that. To address that these things can happen and that first wives really have to be on top of the game. It’s not an easy thing. So it has to do with that after the marriage collapses, it’s very hard for the wife to have a lot of hobbies when she’s raising small children. And the other part that’s difficult is that if she wants to travel with her husband, that takes money and that can take away from their needs at home. It’s a very important issue. Charlie was a lot of fun though. At times I was appalled. You know he loved to get reactions by doing crazy things. For instance, when he wanted to stop smoking he decided to chew tobacco. He brought a spittoon home from the movie set and nobody could understand how I could put up with him chewing tobacco but every time the phone rang, he would have to spit the juice in a cup to pick up the phone. I had put a plant in the spittoon. Once he was on a movie set and several nuns came on the set and there was a bucket several feet away and Charlie would spit the tobacco juice in the bucket while the nuns were watching this and he thought that was funny. So he had this kind of humor.
WAMG: Let’s talk about your children. You had Tony and Suzanne together. What are they doing today?
HB: They have asked me not to talk about them.
WAMG: That’s fine. Your son and I are the same age. We were both born in 1961.
HB: Oh, you were? That’s interesting. I will tell you that both of my children are doing very well.
WAMG: Good. Did you continue to go and see Charles Bronson movies in the 1970’s when they played at the theaters?
HB: Oh yes. As a matter of fact, I mention in my book one of the experiences I had with a date I was involved with, an actor, and we went to see the movie MURPHY’S LAW and he played a detective in the movie. And the scene was that Charlie encounters this detective and the detective says to Charlie. “I saw you wife last night at the strip club and she has great boobs!”, and Charlie socked him in the ribs. This was the guy I was also dating, so I said to him “Does Charlie know you know me?”, and he said “Are you kidding?”
WAMG: That’s funny. That was a good movie too, MURPHY’S LAW. Angel Tompkins played his stripper ex-wife in that.
HB: A very good movie.
WAMG: Was it hard for you to watch these movies after the divorce and see Jill in them. They made fifteen movies together. Was that painful?
HB: Yes. It was hard to see Jill in them because that was supposed to be something I was going to do. But I did see them and I kind of reconciled my issues with Jill, and Charlie wanted her in the movies so she was. But she wasn’t in every movie he made.
WAMG: No, but she was in a lot of them.
HB: She was in a lot and he insisted on that. We were already over our marriage and I was going on with my life and you know I did talk radio.
WAMG: What were some of your favorite Charles Bronson from that later period?
HB: I Think…..THE MECHANIC
WAMG: You know they’ve remade that one now.
HB: They’ve remade it?
WAMG: Yes, there’s a remake opening in the next week or two with Jason Statham in Charlie’s role.
HB: Really? And it’s called THE MECHANIC?
WAMG: It is.
HB: Well, I liked THE MECHANIC, HARD TIMES, and the first DEATH WISH. That’s about it. Those three I think were his best.
WAMG: Speaking of Jill, did you see ASSASSINATION, her last film?
HB: ASSASSINATION? No, I didn’t see that one.
WAMG: That’s a hard movie to watch because she was in advanced stages of cancer when they filmed it and she just looks very sick. Her complexion and everything. Just sad.
HB: Do you know how many films Charlie was in?
WAMG: I believe around 95.
HB: How many television shows?
WAMG: I believe he made 85 TV appearances mostly between 1955 and 1965. Did you ever see the Made-for-TV movie that was the Jill Ireland story with Jill Clayburgh (REASON FOR LIVING: THE JILL IRELAND STORY – 1991)?
WAMG: It’s not a very good movie but I really like that they cast Lance Henrikson as Charlie.
HB: Well, Charlie didn’t like that. He tried to stop that.
WAMG: What didn’t he like about it?
HB: He didn’t want it made. He tried to stop it but he couldn’t. He threatened a whole lawsuit and everything. Also, you may know that the paperback you have called Charles Bronson Superstar….
WAMG: Yes, I have that book
HB: He bought up, or tried to, every copy of it. You couldn’t get it after the first printing.
WAMG: I didn’t know that. Was there something unflattering in it?
HB: There are things in it unflattering about Jill. Very unflattering. There’s some things about my first two books in there too, humor books. Some pictures in there. Steven Whitney wrote it and we don’t know what happened, but the story goes that Charlie bought up all the copies. He did not want the book out.
WAMG: Well, I’ve got it so I guess I’ve got a collector’s item.
HB: Well, all the books on Charlie are out of print. By the way, my book is available on kindle.
WAMG: I’ve got a lot of old movie magazines, and you excerpt some of these in your book, that covered your divorce.
HB: Oh, the tabloids?
WAMG: Oh yeah, I’ve got a scrapbook on Charles Bronson so thick you wouldn’t believe it. He’s been my favorite actor since I was a small child.
HB: What are you going to do with all of that?
WAMG: That’s a good question. I just enjoy looking at it. I did a Super-8 Charles Bronson film festival here in St. Louis last summer at a nightclub and had a great turnout.
HB: Wonderful. By the way, did you know Cindy Adams wrote about my book in the New York Post? It was around the 9th of December. She did a nice mention.
WAMG: I’ll tell you Harriett, I think there’s a renewed interest in Charles Bronson’s career. I really do. I talk to younger movie buffs, kids in their twenties who did not grow up watching his films that have taken an interest in him.
HB: Are you saying younger movie buffs are members of his fan clubs?
WAMG: What I’m saying is that his cult status is ascending. Younger movie geeks are now discovering him, I’d say he’s more popular now then he was eight or ten years ago.
HB: That’s good to know. You know, the fact that we came out here to California so many years ago with only 250 dollars and two one-way bus tickets on a Greyhound bus, and that bus was horrible at that time. It was damp, it was cold. We had two one-way bus tickets, 250 dollars, five suitcases, and a black umbrella. That’s what we came here with. With a dream. And total focus. And that’s what it takes. We decided not to have children for the first five years.
WAMG: The Buchinsky five year plan. You talk about that in your book.
HB: That’s right. We didn’t want anything to distract Charlie from pursuing his career. A lot of the students who went to the Pasadena Playhouse, they had children, they had jobs on the side, and they really couldn’t focus on their dream but it was sort of an automatic reaction. Nobody told me this. I just sort of thought okay, that’s the way we’ll do it. That certainly was fine with Charlie and we were really a team.
WAMG: You portray him in your book as very determined.
HB: And I was crazy about him. And it all worked, and it was a shocker when everything came down. It was a total shock. You read where Jill said to me “Maybe he’s seeing another woman”.
WAMG: Are you in contact with Kim Weeks (Charles Bronson’s third and final wife) at all?
WAMG: What happened to her? She was in those FAMILY OF COPS movies.
HB: She became the merry widow.
WAMG: She’s younger than I am.
HB: She walked away, literally with the farm and everything else. But I do have to say this, Charlie took care of everybody. But for the short marriage that they had, she did very well.
WAMG: Why wouldn’t she let you be at Charlie’s bedside when he was dying?
HB: I don’t know why. It was just a horrible situation. She was just mean. I wanted to go but Tony, my son, refused to let me go because I was on a cane at that time. I had broken my femur and he was worried that Kim might push me. I wrote her a letter. In fact, in one of the tabloid articles, the entire letter is there that I wrote to her but she just wouldn’t let me in. The one thing I feel good about is, at our daughter’s wedding (in 1999) I did connect with him again and I felt good about that even though I couldn’t go to the hospital.
WAMG: I guess Kim Weeks dropped out of acting after that second FAMILY OF COPS film.
HB: I don’t think she dropped out. I don’t think anybody wanted her. Charlie put her in those films.
WAMG: Yes, she played Charlie’s love interest in those FAMILY OF COPS movies and they added gray streaks in her hair to make her look closer to his age.
HB: She didn’t sit well with the whole family. Nobody really cared for her. You know the way she met Charlie?
WAMG: I’ve always been curious.
HB: She was working for Dove publishing company, publisher of Jill’s book. She would get the written materials from Jill, go back and forth, and she met Charlie that way. So she kind of worked her way in and Charlie, what happens to a lot of older men, is that many get more estrogen and women get more testosterone so Charlie became, after Dempsey died, who sort of took care of him , Jill needed someone to help him and Kim was available so she told Charlie she would oversee everything and take care of things. Then he became very dependent on her. So dependent on her that she wanted to marry him and she threatened to leave if he didn’t marry her. So he married her. I’m sure she was a decent person also. I mean if he couldn’t stand her he wouldn’t have married her so I guess it worked for him and it worked for her.
WAMG: Do people contact you a lot wanting to talk about Charles Bronson?
HB: They contact me wanting to talk about me and my life after Charlie.
WAMG: This is your third book, right? And you were a radio talk show host. Did you ever get to do any acting?
HB: I didn’t want to. At first I went back to study acting and I was signed by an agent and all of that but it wasn’t anything that interested me as much as it did earlier in my life. So I made up a job as a ‘Song Plugger’ I found out about a song writer who was very good. And I knew nothing about the music industry. But I thought the things she wrote were so good. And she had demos made of and I found a music publisher and represented this song writer. She had eleven of her songs signed to people like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Dionne Warwick, Reba Macintire. I represented authors. I did voice-over work. I did a lot of things. When I hit talk radio, which became the thing that I really liked and was really good at.
WAMG: and you did that for many years.
HB: Correct, and I had 150,000 listeners. I became very well-known out here as a talk radio show host. I did a show on the lifestyles of human behavior and the entertainment industry and I called myself a conversationalist. I had my own career and finally found what suited me.
WAMG: You found happiness and that all comes out in your book.
HB: But life got in the way. I had Breast cancer, lung cancer. I had a broken femur, three surgeries on that. I’ve been a lot of physical stuff and that’s when I had to put the book on the back burner. I just couldn’t get to it but finally last year I could.
WAMG: I’m glad you did. I enjoyed reading it and I’ve enjoyed talking to you today even more. Good luck with the book and all your future projects.
HB: Thank you Tom, so much.
Thanks to Sylvia Cary at Timberlake Press for arranging this interview