Monday, April 21, 2008

Gene Sheldon

Gene Sheldon was a comedy actor, best known for a banjo-strumming routine and pantomime. Today he's remembered as the character 'Bernardo' on the Disney-produced tv series "Zorro" (1957) which starred Guy Williams as the title character.

I met Mr. Sheldon in late 1975 during my search for Gino Corrado. I'd found an old address for the Italian restaurant Gino owned several years earlier, and early one Saturday evening, I took a drive to that location. It was on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, a northwestern suburb of Los Angeles. The restaurant was long gone, and the current business, a hair-styling salon, was closed for the day as were all the other shops. I did find an open business a few blocks east, though, in the neighboring city, Tarzana.

Montforte's was the name, and it, too, was a restaurant, with a large bar area. I entered and there were only two people there: the bartender and another person sitting at the bar, slowly sipping a drink. I told the bartender I was trying to find Gino Corrado, and explained to him that Gino had a restaurant in the area some years earlier. He referred me to the drinking person. It was Gene Sheldon, who apparently lived in the neighborhood and was a frequent early customer.

Mr. Sheldon remembered Gino's restaurant, having dined there a few times. He'd heard that Gino had died some years earlier (this was not true, as I did find Gino in May the following year - for that story, read my blog which links to a published article about my search).

At the time, I didn't ask Mr. Sheldon for his autograph, as the focus of my visit was finding Corrado.

A few years later, living back in New York, I remembered meeting Mr. Sheldon, and searched for an appropriate photo to send him for autographing. I could only find this one, which I photocopied from a book about vaudeville performers. He signed it and enclosed a very nice original glossy photo, also signed.

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