In the early 1960s, Sterling Hayden lived in Sausalito, California and wrote an autobiography, Wanderer. As a 16 year-old high school dropout, and future Hollywood film star, Hayden took a job as a ship’s mate and his love for the sea stayed with him for the rest of his life. Over the years, Sterling Hayden returned to Hollywood only when he needed to accumulate funds for his next adventure.
“The sun beats down and you pace, you pace and you pace. Your mind flies free and you see yourself as an actor, condemned to a treadmill wherein men and women conspire to breathe life into a screenplay that allegedly depicts life as it was in the old wild West. You see yourself coming awake any one of a thousand mornings between the spring of 1954, and that of 1958—alone in a double bed in a big white house deep in suburban Sherman Oaks, not far from Hollywood.
I’ll go back to Hollywood to pick up a dollar, but that’s all…Everything is wrong with that city.
The windows are open wide, and beyond these is the backyard swimming pool inert and green, within a picket fence. You turn and gaze at a pair of desks not far from the double bed. This is your private office, the place that shelters your fondest hopes: these desks so neat, patiently waiting for the day that never comes, the day you’ll sit down at last and begin to write.
Why did you never write? Why, instead, did you grovel along, through the endless months and years, as a motion‑picture actor? What held you to it, to something you so vehemently professed to despise? Could it be that you secretly liked it—that the big dough and the big house and the high life meant more than the aura you spun for those around you to see?
“Hayden’s wild,” they said. “He’s kind of nuts—but you’ve got to hand it to him. He doesn’t give a damn about the loot or the stardom or things like that—something to do with his seafaring, or maybe what he went through in the war . . .” —Sterling Hayden (Source: Wikipedia)
During the early eighties I had the opportunity to cross paths with Sterling Hayden many times in Sausalito. We were actually on parallel paths in the late afternoons, me walking south on Bridgeway and him walking north.
My wife worked in a building across the street from infamous-madam-and-former-Sausalito-Mayor-then-restauranteur Sally Stanford’s Valhalla. When I got off work I took the Golden Gate Ferry to Sausalito and slowly worked my way to her office. When The Lioness finished working, we rode home together in the Carpool lane.
Yes, Love is grand.
Many’s the time that I was awed by the approaching figure of a large man—he was 6-foot 5-inches in height—wearing a black frock coat and an Abraham Lincoln-style stovepipe hat atop his head. Sterling Hayden looked nine-feet tall and bulletproof.
Alas, he was not.
He would be dead from Prostate cancer within 5 years, at age 70.
I like what he had to say toward the end of this article, “…there’s no alternative to the fact that we serve ourselves best by trying to serve the interests of others.”
R.I.P. to a true original.
Source: Sausalito News Newspaper, January 16, 1960 via California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside