Those Who Do 'Gambit'

I just read Dick Roraback's article on the "Gambit" ("When Romance Had Leg to Stand On," March 6). To do an article on "the maneuver" without one mention of the undisputed Queen of the Gambit, Ruta Lee, is a faux pas of enormous proportions!

Every single morning, on every single show of the old "Wheel of Fortune" series starring Alex Trabek, complete with drum roll, crossing klieg lights and band fanfare, a voice somewhat resembling that of John Huston's playing God in "The Bible," would announce: "Ruta Lee," and out she'd fly from behind a scrim, scurry down to an enormous roulette wheel waving to one and all, blowing kisses left and right, batting her five-inch eyelashes, and while giving lucky ol' Alex a peck on the cheek . . . yup . . . automatically, up flew the right . . . no, make it left . . . sorry, right leg, until the heel of her pump kicked her derriere solidly.

It started the show hundreds of times without fail and became a cause celebre throughout Hollywood.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed your article very much. Only one question remains: Are you quite sure Claude Rains never did a Gambit? It seems to me, in "Mrs. Skeffington," when Bette Davis greets him at a cocktail party. . . .


Palm Springs

Actually, Ruta Lee was on television's "High Rollers," not "Wheel of Fortune."

Loved your piece on the Gambit. Here are some of my own thoughts on the subject: Linda Darnell wouldn't; ditto Cyd Charisse. Esther Williams is a definite maybe, and Jane Powell would, without a doubt. Ingrid Bergman wouldn't dream of doing it; Shirley Temple would adore doing it. Natalie Wood probably wouldn't; Janet Leigh probably would. Jennifer Jones and Jane Wyman? Never! Betty Hutton? Not sure.

Your article was such fun to read--thanks, Dick!


Canoga Park

Jane Russell did so! Maybe not in many movies but definitely in "Son of Paleface" because I remember her doing it with Roy Rogers. Later in the same movie she does it with Bob Hope and then both of his legs go up. Only one leg down between them.



Add Steve Lawrence to your list of who would do it. It was on "The Carol Burnett Show" and he and Carol were doing a send-up of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." She was Lana Turner in a white angora sweater and, yes, shorts and high heels, and he was John Garfield. When they kissed, her leg went up and after a moment or two his leg went up, and I went on the floor laughing.

When I saw "La Cage" I thought the director must have seen the same show. Or maybe funny minds just work in the same direction.


North Hollywood

Dick Roraback's excellent article on the Gambit, while deserving high marks for what it includes, does omit a very notable variant on the raised-leg-during-kiss maneuver. It's hardly a surprise to me that Roraback left it out because it confounds just about every rule he proposed concerning who did or did not make use of this lower-extremity love semaphore.

True, the ingenues and innocents, the pert little cuties bent the knee and extended their better calf into view in a way that suggested a sensuality, which might occasionally overcome innocence, but did not quite defile it.

However, certain less innocent ladies were known to raise one knee during moments of osculatory abandon and use the instep of that uplifted foot to massage the one calf that remained standing. This maneuver is almost never innocent. It seems to imply a wealth of erotic memories suddenly recalled by the current embrace. Eva Marie Saint did it in "North by Northwest," if memory serves. (In fact, I seem to recall it from a number of Hitchcock films; it's the sort of thing the wrongfully accused female does when she camouflages herself from the police inspector by kissing a convenient total stranger. The massaged calf is proof that she's deeply in lust with the gentleman, and not just trying to make his acquaintance.)

It is the move that overcomes the femme fatale when she's kissing the one man who finally gets to her. If employed by an ingenue, it was proof that she might be inexperienced, but she had strong instincts that would surely change that state very soon. The difference between the knee lift and the calf caress is the distinction between girlish excitement and womanly passion, if not outright lust.


Los Angeles

Mental Test for Drivers

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I've just finished reading "Defensive Driver Needs to Get a Tank" (by Marshall Berges, March 6). It is so reassuring to know that I am not the only person in Southern California who is scared to death on the freeways.

My friends won't drive with me, because they think I go too slow (at 55-65 m.p.h.). I have one friend who is an ICE, FF, LGGE and IOTRTYVM (I Crave Excitement, Fast and Fearless, Let's Get Going, Everybody, and I Own the Road, Thank You Very Much). When she lays her foot on the gas pedal, I feel like we're traveling into hyperspace. Every time I get into her car, I kiss my cats goodby and take a long, loving look at my house; I may never see them again.

My brother is basically an easy-going, laid-back, Orange County surfer-type. But just get him on the freeway and he thinks he's Mario Andretti. If a car passes him, he takes it personally and looks at it as a challenge.

I am sick to death of these crazy drivers, who endanger my life because of their psychological deficiencies. If it was up to me, I would require all motorists to go through intense psychological screening before obtaining their driver's licenses. Those who fail the screening would just have to take the bus or learn how to walk again.


Dana Point

International Day

The faculty and students at Westridge School in Pasadena read with interest Garry Abrams' Feb. 27 article on U.S. students "who have little sense of the world at large" ("Education Receiving Failing Grade in Advanced Nations").

The ethnocentricity of American youngsters may be growing, but ways can be found to counter it. Westridge School for Girls chose Valentine's Day as an occasion to try. Using the theme "To See What Love Can Do," we invited organizations concerned with feeding the hungry to set up booths on campus and share their information. We also invited parents and friends to purchase lunch items prepared by their daughters. Proceeds from the sale of food would go to hunger relief around the world.

The Valentine's Day event became a celebration that raised $1,700. And what an occasion to celebrate. The girls and their families learned about the world--both its cultural richness and its nagging problems. They purchased crafts from Third World Handarts, bought farm animals designated for other countries through Heifer Project International and farm tools through CROP. From food sales they contributed $900 to the hunger relief efforts of the American Friends Service Committee and World Vision International. They also performed folk dances from other countries, hung brightly colored international banners, played ethnic music and met with new friends, AFS students invited to our campus by our resident AFS student from Australia.

International day helped our students see beyond the boundaries of the United States. It educated them while also providing an opportunity to do something for those members of the human family who are in need. And now they are talking about doing it all over again next year.



Defining Plastic Surgeon

Your article concerning the recent meeting of otolaryngologists in New York ("Facing the '80s With New Eyes--A New Nose," by Elizabeth Mehren, Jan. 25) touches on a recurring issue that deserves clarification. It is misleading to refer to this group as plastic surgeons. The American Board of Plastic Surgery, the group charged with certifying surgeons as competent to be plastic surgeons, is an official branch of the American College of Surgeons, which oversees the practice of surgery in this country. The American Board of Otolaryngology ("ear, nose, and throat") is a separate board with parallel status under the American College of Surgeons.

It has become popular in recent years for a number of physicians to call themselves plastic surgeons. This includes some members of the specialties of otolaryngology, ophthalmology and dermatology. What they have in common is a desire to do cosmetic surgery, and they adopt the name of the physicians associated with such operations, the plastic surgeons.

Training is, however, quite different in the different fields. Plastic surgery residence is a program that follows internship and residency in general surgery. Plastic surgeons are therefore trained to operate in all regions of the body before concentrating on the techniques which distinguish their specialty. The overall process commonly requires seven years after medical school. Otolaryngologists do an internship and then an otolaryngology residency. Ophthalmologists typically do a medical (as opposed to surgical) internship and then a residency in eye surgery. Dermatologists do a medical internship and then a residency in skin diseases. California law allows any physician to call him- or herself a surgeon and, indeed, a plastic surgeon.

The formation of a specialty board or academy outside the umbrella of the American College of Surgeons can be obfuscatory for an unsuspecting public. What's in a name? A lot. Therefore, cosmetic surgeon is suggested as a more precise generic term than plastic surgeon. There is no question that qualified surgeons should be allowed to perform the operations for which they have been trained. However, the public's right to know should not be thwarted by labels that serve to minimize differences in professional training.


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