Celebrity Collector: Beverly Washburn / giraffe figures

Beverly Washburn has been acting in films and TV since she was a kid. Her credits include “Shane,” “Old Yeller,” “Star Trek” and “Here Comes the Groom.” She loves giraffes and collects giraffe figures.

By the time she was a teenager, Beverly Washburn was already a veteran of films and early television programs. She often got parts on the strength of her uncanny ability to burst into tears on cue. In fact, TV Guide once did an article on her titled, “Beverly Washburn – For Crying Out Loud!” Her early film credits included roles in the classics “Shane” and “Old Yeller,” as well as the Oscar-winning “Here Comes the Groom,” with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman, and “The Juggler,” with Kirk Douglas.Amber giraffe by couch.jpg

Gorgeous amber giraffe, made of brass and with a body that lights up, casting a wonderful glow.

Beverly loves giraffes and has a collection of giraffe figures made from “just about every material known to man,” she said – ceramic, crystal, brass, copper, wood, porcelain and more. She estimates she has more than 500 giraffes, which she keeps in her home just outside Las Vegas, in Henderson, Nevada. Her infatuation with giraffes dates back an epiphany she had while on a Disney ride, at around age 17.Giraffe clock.jpg

Mother giraffe and her baby doubles as a clock. It was a gift from a friend on Beverly’s 60th birthday.

“All of my friends had collections of things like owls, penguins, cats and whatnot, and I was looking around for something that I could collect, too,” she remembers. “Then, one day a bunch of us were on a jungle ride at Disney Land, and when we came around a bend I suddenly was looking up at this gigantic giraffe – fake, of course – with long eyelashes and the most beautiful, peaceful look on its face. I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to collect. I’ve always loved animals anyway.”

At first, Beverly pretty much gobbled up every giraffe that crossed her path. “It didn’t matter how much it cost, how big or little it was or what it was made of,” she said with a laugh. “If it was a giraffe, I had to have it.” Then, of course, friends and fellow actors learned of her passion and began giving them to her as gifts. Clown giraffe.jpgLater on, her husband, Michael Radell, also bestowed many giraffes on Beverly, despite countless empty threats to leave her if she added one more giraffe to her collection.

Marble-base sculpture of a clown on a ladder scrubbing down a giraffe, signed by the artist Ron Lee. The dog in the photo is Beverly’s long-haired Chihuahua, Chuckie.

Radell, the former vice president of operations for Hilton Hotels, passed away after an illness in 2005, at age 57. Many of the most cherished giraffes in Beverly’s collection were presents from him, including a lovely vase signed by the Chinese artist who created it and depicting a mother giraffe and her baby; a watercolor painting of a giraffe that today hangs over the fireplace mantel; and a metal sculpture of just the head and neck of a giraffe, by an unknown artist.

One giraffe, a gift from the legendary actress Loretta Young, came as a complete surprise. “I had worked with Ms. Young before, several times, but she suddenly began sending me little gifts,” Beverly recalled. “It was maybe six or seven years ago, not long before she died. Giraffe silhouette.jpgThe giraffe was a carousel on a marble base, maybe four inches tall. It was very touching.”

Metal wall hanging in the form of a giraffe’s head and neck. There’s a place behind the neck to put a candle. It was a gift from a dear friend.

Beverly Washburn was born November 25, 1943, in Los Angeles, one of five children. Her older sister was an acrobat and her older brother acted in local stage productions (and later in films). Often, young Beverly would tag along to watch them perform. Once, when she was about five, she was at the Long Beach Hospital, watching her sister perform for patients, and one of the organizers invited her up on stage to sing a song. She proceeded to belt out “I’m a Big Girl Now” and a career was born.Giraffe sculpture by tree.jpg

Iron giraffe sculpture guards the back door of Beverly’s house. It was a gift from her husband.

In 1951, she landed a part in “Here Comes the Groom,” and that was followed by a role in “Superman and the Mole-Men,” the movie that immediately preceded the popular TV series. In fact, later that year Beverly was cast in one of the very first TV episodes of “The Adventures of Superman,” starring George Reeves (the subject of the recent movie “Hollywoodland,” with Ben Affleck in the Reeves role). In 1952, she appeared in Cecil B. DeMille’s hugely successful film, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It wasn’t long before Beverly’s career would turn toward the fledgling medium of television.

Early TV was often broadcast live, and Beverly appeared in some of those productions, on prestigious shows like “Playhouse 90,” “Zane Grey Theatre,” “Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre,” “General Electric Theatre” “Studio 57,” “Four Star Playhouse” and “The Loretta Young Show.” But she continued to act in films throughout the ’50s, in classics like “Shane” (1953) and “Old Yeller” (1957), Beverly in Old Yeller.jpgas well as “The Juggler” (1953) and the movie version of “The Lone Ranger” (1956).

Beverly (left) pays a bedside visit to Kevin Corcoran in the classic Disney film “Old Yeller” (1958).

During the 1960s, Ms. Washburn appeared in some of the most memorable TV shows of the time, such as “Wagon Train” (in an episode that also featured the comedian Lou Costello, in his one and only dramatic role; he played an alcoholic drifter, while Beverly was an orphan); “Leave it to Beaver,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “The Patty Duke Show,” “Gidget,” “Mr. Novak,” and one episode of “Star Trek,” in which she famously dissolved into dust right in William Shatner’s arms. Beverly on Star Trek.jpg

Beverly has parlayed her role of Lieutenant Arlene Galway on one episode of “Star Trek” (1967) into annual appearances at Trekkie conventions, where she happily signs autographs.

That last part has actually created a whole ‘other career for Beverly. She appears annually at the Star Trek Experience convention in Las Vegas, signing autographs and reminiscing about her role as Lieutenant Arlene Galway for hordes of adoring Trekkies. That’s not all she does, though. Beverly is quite busy, always has been, with two movies just filmed (the horror film “Demon Haunt,” filmed in Las Vegas; and a movie about gambling titled “Hard Four,” with Ed Asner and Dabney Coleman).

In addition, Ms. Washburn is involved in projects for My Space and YouTube. In January, she travels to Ohio, to sign autographs at a horror convention. She recently helped celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the movie “Spider Baby” (1967, with Lon Chaney, Jr.), in which she had a starring role as a sexy, deranged murderess. She keeps an eye peeled for parts that strike her fancy, but is partial to roles that keep her in Nevada, where she’s lived since her husband was transferred there years ago. Beverly Washburn today.jpg

Beverly Washburn grew up in the Los Angeles area and has been acting in films and TV shows since she was a child.

Beverly also tells her intriguing story to audiences nationwide in the form of a multi-media lecture program. Her insightful, one-woman show covers her TV and movie career and goes into great detail about the many stars with whom she’s worked. She talks in frank detail about the joys and heartbreak of being a child star, and maturing into womanhood in the Hollywood whirlwind. The show is complete with 140 star-studded slides and rare videotape footage.

Fans interested in corresponding with Beverly Washburn, or securing her to present her show (“Beverly Washburn: Hollywood, Television and Me”), may write to the star c/o Living Legends Ltd., P.O. Box 5290, Santa Rosa, CA 95402. The e-mail address is livinglegendsltd@juno.com.