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Classic Hollywood: Remembering Gene Kelly -- what a glorious feeling

This is Susan King, a 26-year veteran entertainment reporter and guardian of the Golden Age of Hollywood galaxy. Every Friday in my Classic Hollywood newsletter, I get to share with you my passion and love of that era, whether it be notable births and deaths, milestones, fun events around town for movie and TV buffs, and memories of legends I have interviewed.

I never interviewed Gene Kelly, who died 20 years ago on Feb. 2, but I did get to see him in person in 1989 at El Camino College in Torrance. I was at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner then and assigned to cover an "evening with" the legendary musical comedy star, dancer extraordinaire and innovative director. I had fallen in love with him at 14 when I first saw "Singin' in the Rain" on television. He was handsome, fit and athletic. I was hooked. While friends were worshiping David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman, my teenage dream was Kelly.

And though the sold-out audience at El Camino filled with fans who first saw him when they were young in the 1940s and 1950s in such classics as "Anchors Aweigh," "On the Town," "An American in Paris" and  "Les Girls," there were many teenage girls on hand who weren't shy about professing their love for him.

One teenage girl from the balcony yelled out, "You ruined my puberty." But perhaps the sweetest moment was when a teenager, who had flown down with her family from Canada, came up on stage. It was her birthday and her present was to meet him. Kelly was kind and caring with his young fan, who would always remember that night. And even 27 years later, I feel as if it was yesterday.

Here is the Los Angeles Times' obituary of Kelly as it appeared on Feb. 3, 1996.

RADIO MILESTONE

Long before Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels rode to fame as the Lone Ranger and Tonto in the beloved TV series "The Lone Ranger," the western drama was a long-running radio series. In fact, the series debuted on Jan. 30, 1933, at WXYZ in Detroit.

The show didn't have a sponsor in the first season, but sponsors came on board and it lasted 22 years and 2,956 performances.

George Seaton was the first voice of the Lone Ranger, followed by Jack Deeds, Earle Graser and Brace Beemer.

AROUND TOWN

The UCLA Film & Television Archive is presenting a retrospective of feature films based on radio shows. And this Monday at the Billy Wilder Theater is 1947's campy "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome," based on Chester Gould's comic strip and radio serial. Ralph Byrd plays the square-jawed Tracy and Boris Karloff -- natch -- is Gruesome. Also featured are three chapters of the 1940 series version of "The Shadow."

SNEAK PEEK

In this Sunday's Classic Hollywood, I chat with Michael Westmore, the 77-year-old Emmy- and Oscar-winning makeup artist and member of the famed Westmore family that has been doing makeup in Hollywood for nearly a century. Westmore, who worked on all four syndicated "Star Trek" series and scores of movies including "Rocky," "Raging Bull" and "Mask," for which he won his Oscar in 1986, is a mentor on the popular SyFy competition series "Face Off," which began its 10th season this month.

FROM THE HOLLYWOOD STAR WALK

Notable births this week include W.C. Fields (Jan. 29); John Forsythe (Jan. 29); Victor Mature (Jan. 29); Tom Selleck (Jan. 29); John Ireland (Jan. 30); Dorothy Malone (Jan. 29); Tallulah Bankhead (Jan. 31); Eddie Cantor (Jan. 31); Carol Channing (Jan. 31); Mario Lanza (Jan. 31); Brian Donlevy (Feb. 1); John Ford (Feb. 1); Clark Gable (Feb. 1); Farrah Fawcett (Feb. 2); and Nathan Lane (Feb. 3).

For more vintage Hollywood, go to the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page and follow me on Twitter at @mymackie.

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