Feed on


(Column from The Macon Telegraph, Aug. 4, 2013) Thanks for reading!!!

Jack DeMave’s eyes dance when he remembers the day Camille Smith swept him off his feet.

He was a handsome Broadway actor who had appeared on stage with Charlton Heston in “Mr. Roberts.” She was a green-eyed beauty from Macon who had taken the train to New York City to pursue a career in modeling in the 1950s.

Time and circumstance brought them together. Love kept them together.

She was in a fashion show at the prestigious Hattie Carnegie’s Couture. Among those in the audience were Jack Benny, Grace Kelly and George Burns.

Jack would sometimes go there to use the phone but mostly to enjoy the scenery. His sister was a model, which usually got him in the door.

Camille was wearing a black dress and pearls. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He was bold enough to ask her for a date and pretentious enough to tell her he had friends in high places. He said he could help her with her modeling career. What he didn’t know was she already was with one of New York’s top modeling agencies and was too modest to tell him.

She suggested they go to the famous Copacabana nightclub. Jimmy Durante was performing. Jack figured he had made a huge impression when he got them a table near the front.

When the waiter brought the check he told them “everything is compliments of Mr. Durante. He wants to see you backstage after the show.”

Jack could not believe his good fortune. Nor could he figure it out. He looked over at Camille. She shrugged.

When they knocked, the man with the most famous nose in show business opened the door and threw open his arms.

“Camille!!! Sweetheart!!!” he said. “It’s great to see you!!!”

Camille turned to Jack and smiled. He was speechless.

“I was trying to impress her and didn’t realize she had worked with him,” Jack said. “She was two steps ahead of me all night long, just as she was for 50 years of marriage. But she always did it in a beautiful way, which was one of the many things I loved about her.”

Camille was a few steps ahead of him eight years ago when she brought him to Macon and began the conversation about planning for their twilight years.

“She must have had a premonition,” Jack said. “She told me if she died first, she wanted me to be taken care of. I said I didn’t want to hear that kind of talk. But that’s the way she was, always thinking of others instead of herself.”

Camille knew Jack would be like a fish out of water in her hometown. He was from the Jersey Shore. For 45 years in show business, they had been “bicoastal,” their careers shuttling from New York and Los Angeles.

Before he met her, Jack’s only connection to Macon had been his father, the famous heavyweight boxer and original “Golden Boy” Jack DeMave, who once stepped into the ring with Macon’s own W.L. “Young” Stribling.

Everyone figured the only “South” that Jack would ever call home was Southern California. They lived in Studio City, which was 10 minutes from Universal, 15 minutes from Warner Brothers and around the corner from CBS.

They moved to Macon in the summer of 2011, not long after the death of her sister, Regina McDonald Martin. That same year, Camille was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

They moved to Carlyle Place last November. Monday will be the one-month anniversary of her death on July 5. She was 84.

They would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 16. A celebration of her life will be held at Carlyle on Sunday, Aug. 11, from 2-5 p.m. and is open to the public.

Bob Crawford, who played in “Laramie” and worked with director George Roy Hill on several films, spoke at Camille’s memorial service at Macon Memorial Park.

There was a slideshow with photographs of Camille with Elvis Presley and actor Cary Grant. (She went out with Elvis a couple of times and dated Grant before she married Jack.) There were pictures of her with Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Chevy Chase and Robin Williams.

Clair de Lune was played. It was one of her favorite songs. A woman later told Jack it was the “most romantic funeral” she had ever attended.

“Walking through life with Camille was a rare privilege indeed,’’ Jack said in his heartfelt eulogy. “She was, and always will be, the best part of me.’’

Jack’s career in acting carried him across four mediums — stage, television, movies and commercials. In the early 1960s, he was cast as Ranger Bob Ericson on the TV series “Lassie.’’ He departed the show after three years, joking that “the dog got all the good lines.’’


He played opposite Doris Day and Mary Tyler Moore on their TV shows. He appeared on “The Fugitive,” “Days of Our Lives’’ and “Marcus Welby M.D.’’ He worked with such stars as Don Rickles, Bob Newhart and Bette Davis. He once appeared in a Paine Webber commercial with tennis star Jimmy Connors and played the Lone Ranger in a series of commercials.

Camille grew up in Macon on Vineville Avenue at the corner of Kenmore Place, not far from the Georgia Academy for the Blind. Her father, Walter Ellis Smith, worked for the National Biscuit Co., better known as Nabisco. Her mother, Henrietta, was a homemaker.

She graduated from Miller High School for Girls and left home at 19 for New York, where she captured the attention of two top modeling agencies, Eileen Ford and Huntington Hartford.

Her romance with Jack was put on hold for a few years as she split time between the fashion houses of New York and film sets of Hollywood. Jack stayed behind in New York when she moved to Los Angeles, where she was put in charge of the “new talent’’ department at 20th Century Fox.

She worked as an assistant producer on the “Perry Mason Show.’’ She later was an assistant to well-known producer Robert Arthur and director George Roy Hill. She worked with actors John Wayne, Dean Martin and Jimmy Stewart.

Camille was with Hill when he won the Oscar for “The Sting,” and she also worked with him on one of his most popular movies, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’’ with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. She and Jack became close friends with Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward.

Jack has dozens of framed photographs of Camille spread across the living room. He got them out after she died because she would never let him display them. Whenever he would sneak them to the coffee table, she would put them back in the closet or drawer. There is one of her and Elvis at a masquerade party. There is Cary Grant, with his arm around her. And a photo album of her from her modeling days, radiant with her five-car pileup beauty.

Jack said he plans to continue to live in Macon, where he has made new friends and is learning to appreciate the slower pace. He and Camille did not have children. His nephews, Tom and Brad McDonald, live in Macon and Fort Valley.

He finds it fitting that Camille would come “full circle” and return to the place where she began her life to leave him with so many happy memories.

Leave a Reply