Katherine Carpenter hung onto David's arm, comfortable, content and secure. Her wide-brimmed straw hat, with a white silk ribbon tied under her chin, gave an Audrey Hepburn quality to her face. She wore no makeup whatsoever. He and she were about the same height, and seemingly perfectly matched. There was no doubt about her feelings for him. It was written all over her -- she worshipped him. And it made him feel good. "Meet my Katherine," David said. This was the way they presented themselves to me, coming up the sweeping steps from a lower terrace of the Caleta Hotel in Acapulco. The preceding evening David and I had sat in Armando's Discotheque and talked...about Katherine, about his children, about this important juncture of his life. He would marry Katherine as soon as his divorce from Jill Ireland became final. He would be free in late August, and marry Katherine in September. She had joined him in Acapulco and he wasn't hiding the fact that they were practically inseparable. Earlier in the year she had accompanied him on his trip to Asia and Australia because he would not think of going without her. It was lovely in Japan, and they would go back at the first opportunity, but Australia left them with a bitter after-taste. "I'll put it very politely," he said. "Many Australians sent us letters after we came back apologizing for the way the press had treated us. There were innuendos abut Katherine, and about the children..." He shuddered at the recollection.
Anyway, now he was making a movie in Mexico and she was his lovely kibitzer. I wanted her down here to help me with this film," was the way he put it. "Katherine will stay with me through the whole thing," he said, the thing being Sol Madrid for MGM. And then Katherine would go back to New York....
Back to New York? Why? "Because I'm not divorced yet. It's that simple. There are these couple of months till it's final. Meantime, Katherine models in New York. We won't be separated really, because I go there a great deal to see her family, and she comes to Los Angeles whenever she can. She'll. work for a while, but it's only a short while." In a sense, it's a fashion model's swan song before she marries the man she loves.
We talked about the reaction of David's three sons -- the sons that will always be both his and Jill's - to the divorce. "They were always our prime consideration," he says solemnly. "How to ensure their happiness ... this is not an easy thing. Paul is almost nine, so he understands," David went on. "Jason and Valentine aren't old enough to really comprehend what had happened, but it proved very hard for Paul. We didn't know about it, but the boys in his school were bringing fan magazines with all those so-called intimate details of relationships of Jill's and mine into class. Many of them were fictitious, in fact most of them were.
"At first he would deny everything, saying he knew nothing about it. Then he'd. come home full of these so-called facts about what his mother and father were doing. He'd be seeking to protect us and hoping it wasn't true and blaming himself as children invariably do. Any child counselor will tell you that a child will almost always turn family problems against himself, asking, 'Why is my mother, or my father, behaving this way? What am I doing to make them do this?' And in divorces I know it's very common for the child to blame himself for the break-up. That's why it's imperative to be honest with children. I think the only time things don't go well for them is when you don't tell them the truth. Yet it's human to want to hide it from them, as Jill and I did at first.
"And so it was very difficult for Paul to understand what had gone wrong within his own family. But then Jill found out about the boys in school and the magazines. She had a way with him, and he is very frank with her. Paul can tell her almost anything."
A shadow crossed David's face and he smiled, a bit painfully. "You must understand that we didn't split up suddenly, overnight, as a result of an infatuation with someone else. It seemed like a sudden crisis. But it wasn't. Actually," David explained, "I had gone to live in a house in Malibu eight months before the announcement."
He was in Italy making Three Bites of the Apple when it all came out. Jill had gone to England, and the reporters saw her with actor Charles Bronson, who by then had become very close to her. Neither of them felt like denying anything anymore.
A statement was released saying that David and Jill had been separated "for some time" and would discuss the question of their future after his return from the movie location. "There was no question of our patching up our differences," he said. "No such clichés. It was really consideration for the children. So, I came back to Jill, to the house, and it took us a month more to decide what we were going to do and how to do it."
Jill filed for divorce, and then one morning it was all over. David was free to join Katherine, whom he had met in the spring of 1965, and Jill was free to join Charles Bronson, whom she'd known for about the same length of time. But it wasn't that simple. David felt a deep responsibility toward his children. He was not giving them up, he wanted to be their father more than ever. The question was how could he, limited as he now was to visitation rights every second weekend?
One of the first unofficial understandings he reached with Jill after the divorce, he said, was that he would see the children as often as possible. When he was ready to go to Acapulco, Jill permitted him to take Paul along, and father and son spent four days together at the Las Brisas Hotel, where they had loads of fun. Then Paul had to return to school. By then David had become a lot closer to his eldest son. Given more time with him, David felt he would be able to establish a relationship similar to the one that exists between Jill and Paul.
"What matters is that once Paul begins to know what my world is, and what Jill's world is, and then in time what his world is, he can draw the most benefit from each of the three worlds. Which, I know now he will..."
How did David know what to do? "I sought advice, I thought a great deal, I listened to Jill, I listened to Katherine," David replied. "I got some important tips by talking to another child, the boy of a friend of mine who is also divorced. Being a total stranger to him, I learned a great deal about how I should approach Paul.
"But Paul approached me, too. He was looking for an answer himself. I think he has his answer today -- for himself and Jason and little Valentine. That when they come to me they will feel loved, fed, taken care of. That ours is an honest, warm, loving relationship. That they find the same things in their relationship with their mother. And going between both, they make the best of two worlds. But even more important is that I think they know that neither of us is playing one off against the other. And when either or both of us gets married again, they will relate to all the other people involved. In a sense, they already have. I am very hopeful that it will work out all right and that when it comes to loyalty it won't be a case of divided, but equal loyalty."
That night in Acapulco, in the darkness of an oceanside discotheque, a star who had made it a point never to discuss private matters was talking freely, almost eagerly, on the intimate feelings of a father caught up in a divorce. He even reflected that children of divorced parents often gain, as both father and mother now shower them with love. But he moved quickly to contradict that thought. "There are families that show a much stronger mutual affection while remaining intact. This is the family I want to create one day. Katherine's family is like that, you know. There's a closeness and honesty, a frankness and awareness within her family that defies description. I have never known a family like this, close in happiness, also in tragedy. There are four children. Katherine's brother was killed in Vietnam a month or so ago, and you should have seen them take this terrible loss. To see them under those circumstances was like an introduction to the purest and sweetest of all feelings. I would have loved to have had this with Jill and our children. The Carpenters have taught me what family affection can be. So, we'll go on from there."
Katherine was at his side the next morning when he came over to the hotel, even though we had made no arrangement to meet. They were waiting on the terrace when I came over after breakfast. I told Katherine she reminded me of Jean Shrimpton, the British model. She raised a quizzical eyebrow. Well, at least a little, I said, explaining that the Shrimp had a double personality, the beauty on the magazine covers and the gawky "duckling" in real life.
"This certainly doesn't apply to Katherine," David said, almost triumphantly. He squeezed her hand and she squeezed his. "I guess there are models and models," I said. "You bet," he replied.
"How do you live nowadays, David?" I asked. "Back in Hollywood, I mean."
She turned towards him as he spoke. "I have an apartment in Santa Monica," he said nonchalantly. "Two thousand square feet, high up in a skyscraper overlooking the sea. There's no furniture in it at all, except a bed to sleep in and a built-in table in the kitchen, where I eat."
"That's it? Why?"
"Because we haven't really decided, Katherine and I, what we are going to do. Until we do, there is no use surrounding ourselves with a lot of material things."
But doesn't it feel uncomfortable?"
"Not at all. It's marvelous. It really is wonderful. The place is full of green plants, and is very open. I feel that it's not where you are so much as the people you're with. Katherine and I are in America, and I work in California, my children are in California, so that's where I'm happiest." His was a tri-cornered world now, with Katherine and the children and his own home making up its three points.
"I have two more years of my U.N.C.L.E. contract, and after that who knows? If I'm going to do pictures and get to that happy point where I can do two films a year and select what I do carefully, then I can choose where to live. In which case I would still want to be near the children."
Katherine nodded approvingly. Just then the telephone rang. It was Hollywood. Somehow the Mexican telephone operator had traced David down to the Caleta. He excused himself and was gone.
"A very wonderful boy," I said. "May I ask you a question, Kathy?"
"Yes," she replied, "provided you call me Katherine." Obviously, she didn't like diminutives.
"Do you feel that you and David will be very happy together?"
She looked straight into my eyes. I knew that whatever she was going to say would be an honest and sincere appraisal of their relationship. "That's a very difficult question," she said quietly. "I would never use those words. I don't know ... I feel that we would be able to solve things together, to enjoy life together. We have similar minds, similar ways of dealing with life, we think alike. Very much so. I suppose that is as much a guarantee of happiness together as anything."
"And his children?"
"They are lovely."
"Are you good friends?"
"Yes, marvelous. Very good friends."
"This is the most important hurdle, isn't it? To become friends with the children?"
She shook her head in protest. "I don't think it's any hurdle, really. I think it's a very natural process of events. We'll get closer as I spend more time in California, and as they become more used to me. But we are friends, already. As I said, now it's merely a question of degree. Mind you, I don't really live in Los Angeles. My home is New York, but I've seen them in California, sometimes as often as once a week - with David, of course. But they have their mother, and I have no right to take her place. Friendship is something else again." She spoke confidently, easily and sincerely.
"Tell me about yourself," I asked her.
"Well, I went to grammar school on Long Island, a country day school. And I went to boarding school in Connecticut, Miss Porter's School in Farmington."
"A very exclusive school! Is your family rich?"
"It's a very good school, yes. My father used to be a stockbroker. He's a playwright now. He's working on a musical at the moment."
"He's my father!"
"How and why did you become a model?"
"Because I decided that I wanted to work. When I was at Farmington, there was an accepted fact that every girl went to college. I've always been sort of rebellious about accepted things, so I said, 'I don't want to go to college. A lot of time and money has been spent on my education, and I'd like to see what I can do with it.' I had been accepted at Wellesley but I never went. I went to New York instead and worked for a year as a secretary."
"What did your parents say to that?"
"My father left Wall Street to be a playwright. It was an unusual thing, wasn't it? So, my asserting myself was quite acceptable in our family. Trouble was, I got bored being a secretary. So I decided I'd try college after all, and I went to Sarah Lawrence. As soon as I got there I decided I really did want to be on my own and just take care of myself. I don't know how to explain it, but I felt I wouldn't have much time to develop a career before I'd be married. I was looking for a chance to express myself in a hurry.
"And then one day a woman came up from Vogue, looking for models. I remember she set up a sort of field headquarters in one of the college buildings and she took us one by one into a dressing room. Because, she said, the best way she could tell whether one was photogenic or not was to look at one in the mirror. She pulled my hair back from my face and asked, 'Where in South America do you come from?' And I said, 'New York.' And she said, 'Would you like to work for us?' And I said, 'Yes'.
"It was to be for a day. It became a week, and it helped me to make up my mind. I had already decided that I didn't want to go back to college, but I didn't know what I did want to do. So I left school in June, three years ago. I called an agency and they were very rude on the telephone, so much so that I told them I didn't want anything to do with them. I got very disappointed and for a month or two did nothing. Then by chance I met a photographer who took some pictures and sent me to another agency. And I began working as a model. But if it weren't for him I might never have tried a second time."
"What did your family think of David when you first brought him home?"
"Well, that was quite a while after we met," she said. "Much later, after I knew for certain that David and Jill had agreed to dissolve their marriage. I want you to know that I was never the cause of their break-up. He was a very lonely boy when I first met him."
"He indicated to me that he found a new home at your parents' place."
"They have formed the perfect mutual admiration society, if that's what you mean. Yes, they like David very much."
"Tell me about your family. I understand you lost a brother in Vietnam..."
I shouldn't have brought it up. Her big brown eyes grew misty. "Yes," she said. "George was two years younger than I. But we were like twins all through life. Very close. There were four of us, and even though I was oldest, he was really in charge ... of me and Caroline, 16, and John, 13. And now... Katherine's brother was not coming back.
Changing the subject abruptly, I said: "You won't remain a model after you marry David?"
She shook her head.
"Could you tell me in a few words what you like about him?"
"I can tell you in one word. Everything!"
She was smiling again. By then David was back, and we continued sitting around, talking about Acapulco, about his movie-making and the television series, and the world we live in. It was exactly a year since he and I had another such session in Corina d'Ampezzo up in the Dolomite Alps of Italy. On that occasion, though, we were alone. He had to be careful then what he could say, about Jill, the children, the house in Hollywood. He had to pretend then that all was well. Somehow he remembered it all very vividly.
"I wanted to talk to you about that," he said suddenly. "I couldn't tell you the truth then. I had moved out of the house some eight months earlier, and Jill and I had agreed to go our separate ways, but I had to pretend all was well. Then, suddenly, everything became public and we filed for divorce. I felt I owed you this explanation and apology." He grinned a bit sheepishly at me, and I accepted his apology.
Katherine put her hand over his and they smiled quietly at each other. One could not help but feel glad that quiet, reserved David McCallum has put unhappiness behind him at last and found a new life - and a new love that he can call his own.