In the 1960s, Ronnie Schell and Maggie Peterson were part of the most popular shows on network television. Schell played Duke on “Gomer Pyle: USMC” and Peterson was a member of the Darling family who caused problems on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The pair will be sharing the stage to present “Love Letters” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9 at the Bullard High School Auditorium. Proceeds will benefit the California Armenian Home expansion project. The California Armenian Home recently broke ground on a $42 million expansion that will increase by more than double the capacity of the Fresno senior living community.
Along with the performance of “Love Letters,” Peterson will sing and Schell will do part of his stand-up act.
This will be the fourth time Schell and Peterson have performed “Love Letters.” But, the actors have known each other for decades even sharing the same agent at the beginning of their careers. Schell and Peterson became such close friends during those early days in TV that they would have breakfast together almost every day.
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Four years ago, Peterson asked Schell to perform “Love Letters” at an event in North Carolina. The performance was such a hit, they went on to perform the play in suburban Atlanta and Las Vegas.
Schell has done very little stage work since his college days. As for why the pair selected “Love Letters,” Schell smiles and says, “It’s easy. You are just sitting and reading letters. But, I think that it is still strong because people can really connect with the story because its about life’s problems.”
I know Fresno pretty well. I have great memories of being here.
Performing in Fresno will be familiar for Schell. In the late ’60s, Schell performed for a full month in two consecutive years at the Hacienda hotel, once the central San Joaquin Valley’s premier entertainment venue.
“I really had a good time. The audiences in Fresno have always been fantastic,” Schell says. “Then I worked at the Fresno Memorial Auditorium with Bobby Goldsboro. I know Fresno pretty well. I have great memories of being here.”
One of those memories is a night he was doing his stand-up show and a large drunk Texan in the audience started a fight. He calls it one of the best shows of his career. The California native also remembers a few romantic encounters while here.
“Gomer Pyle” was Schell’s big break, but his first big starring role was in the 1967 TV comedy “Good Morning, World.” He recalls how the producers cast an unknown go-go dancer out of Baltimore to play his girlfriend. That dancer was Goldie Hawn.
“The first four weeks we rehearsed at my apartment. And, she hated to rehearse. After four weeks I turned to her and said, ‘Goldie, you’re never going to make it. You’re not disciplined enough.’ Two years later she won the Oscar for ‘Cactus Flower.’ I found out while I was working at a toilet in Omaha,” Schell says.
Schell’s career has gone far better than he likes to joke about. The 85-year-old’s acting credits also include “That Girl,” “Love, American Style,” “Down to Earth,” “The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Santa Barbara” and a lengthy list of animated productions. Schell has also been the opening act for everyone from Tony Bennett to Diana Ross.
The fundraising event is the work of Ron Mortanian and his “Reach For The Stars” organization in conjunction with the California Armenian Home Board. Tickets are $40 and available at the door or by calling Mortanian at 559-284-3810.
On the air
Eduardo “Piolin” Sotelois the new afternoon drive host at Fresno’s Exitos 107.1. His first day handling the 3-7 p.m. weekday time slot was Monday, Oct. 3.
Exitos is part of the Lotus Fresno group of radio stations. General manager Kevin O’Rorke says Sotelo has the special gift of being able to connect with the audience.
Don’t forget that Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on the 1960s comedy series, “Family Affair,” will be at Barnes & Noble 7849 N. Blackstone Ave. 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 for a book signing. Her books include “Surviving Cissy” (Taylor Trade Publishing, $24.95) and “X Child Stars: Where Are They Now?” (Taylor Trade Publishing, $24.95).
Meet the stars
Stars of NBC’s longest-running daytime drama, “Days of our Lives,” will meet fans at the “Day of Days” fan event on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Universal CityWalk, located adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood.
The event, set for 10 a.m.-5 p.m., gives fans the chance to meet and greet cast members during autograph signings, a Q&A session, a trivia challenge and much more.
Some of the “Days” stars scheduled to attend include Kristian Alfonso, Nadia Bjorlin, Mary Beth Evans, Billy Flynn, Galen Gering, Deidre Hall, Vincent Irizarry, Wally Kurth, Eric Martsolf, Stephen Nichols, Christopher Sean, Josh Taylor and Jordi Vilasuso.