My biggest regret in losing my scrapbook was losing all the great articles I had on Cheryl Miller. She was into all kinds of interesting activities and it was fun to learn about them. One of my favorite articles was the TV Guide feature in April of 1967.
Thanks to sites like eBay, I am beginning to restore these items to my collection.
Here is the complete article featured in TV Guide for the week of April 1-7, 1967:
The Lady and the Tiger
For Cheryl Miller this is just the beginning of togetherness on the ‘Daktari’ set
BV DWIGHT WHITNEY (TV Guide April 1-7, 1967)
We are in a sandy, wind-whipped arroyo in Soledad Canyon some 40 miles north of Los Angeles–and a hundred feet south of a plastic cornfield that is the only synthetic thing about the wild animal compound known as Africa, U.S.A. Up the line a ways Albert the elk is bellowing because he’s rutting, and Shanga the jaguar is crying because his pads are sore and he can’t be with the other animals until they heal. Shanga believes in Togetherness, and Togetherness is what it’s all about on the set of Daktari
Cheryl Miller, the beautiful 24-year-old lady star of this animal shebang, believes in Togetherness, too. She is the kind of girl who looks smashing at 6 o’clock in the morning in her form-fitting Levi’s and two suits of red thermal underwear. Right now she is nose-to-nose with a 425-pound Bengal tiger named Sarang, and not a cage in sight.
No guns, no whips, no chairs. Only love. Cheryl loves Sarang. Sarang loves Cheryl. They are the Garbo and Gilbert of the zoological set, Hollywood film-making division. They nuzzle. They cuddle. Sarang makes gurgling love sounds. Cheryl returns them in kind, whispering tigerish nothings–“love talk,” she calls it–into a hairy ear.
Suddenly the beast is licking her throat. The four trainers in their jungle camouflage suits tense. She grabs the animal by the scruff of the neck. “Sarang, I love you, too.Now stop it!”
“OK, let hirn settle down,” commands director Paul Landres, an affable but businesslike gentleman with a wicker safari hat and a Mr. Magoo-like nose. “Let’s make a picture.”
Make a picture indeed! This place is alive with wild beasts! This is Africa, U.S.A., the creation of affection trainer Ralph Helfer and his movie-making partner and fellow animal-lover, Ivan” (Flipper) Tors; and there are 499 more of these loving creatures roaming the place practically at will! I mean like 30 lions, eight tigers, eight leopards, 28 bears, four jaguars, four hyenas, six mountain lions, six elephants, two rhinos, five hippos, eight ostriches, four giraffes, 40 baboons, eight chimps, 12 rattlesnakes, five pythons, five two sloths and a scorpion all of them, to hear Helfer tell it, as gentle as babies!
On the immediate set, however, we are exposed to only a modest cross section of Africa, U.S.A.’s wildlife. There is Sultan, Sarang’s 385-pound double, pacing on his chain leash. If he brushes an actor or a crewman they hardly seem to notice.There is the Daktari company’s ever-present light comedienne and farceur, Judy the chirnp, mugging shamelessly, mad because she isn’t in the scene. In the absence of Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion, indisposed today, there is a full-grown African leopard named Yang beingchucked under the chin by Toni Helfer, Ralph’s attractive blonde wife. When the animal knocks over some photographic equipment, she bats him. “That’s a no-no!” she says.
In front of the camera, Sarang sits dog-fashion in the back of the “Wameru Study Center for Animal Behavior” jeep. Leaning against the vehicle, back to Sarang, is little Miss Got-guts herself. Cool? I mean this is nothing. Not for a girl who, since she first started making Daktari about a year ago, has rassled leopards (they’re the tricky ones), ridden a one-and-a-half ton white rhinoceros, wound a 5-foot African rock python around her neck, and allowed a scorpion to walk on her hand.
“Hi, Dad,” Miss Miller is saying breezily into a walkie-talkie as the cameras roll. “Yes, Sarang is fine, too. . . . You want me to photograph the mating processes of wart hogs? You gotta be kidding. . . .You’re not?” Sarang’s nose nuzzles the back of her neck. “Sometimes I wish I were a man. I might get some easy assignments.”
Throughout the scene the trainers wave, grimace and bark instructions from under the camera, behind the jeep or simply hidden in the foliage. “Hey, hey, hey, Sarang! … over here, boy. . . . Stay, Sarang.
Stay! . . . Settle down, boy. . . .” Sarang may be restless today but Miss Miller seems unperturbed. With her free hand she brushes him off as one might a fly. “. . . OK, Dad. Bye now …. You know, Sarang, I’ve got a feeling that—“
But the beast is not remembering what Helfer taught him in acting class. He is leaning forward affectionately, his weight inadvertently bending her 5-foot-7, 114-pound frame back over the jeep’s spare tire. Oh, this will kill ’em in Des Moines. The trainers jump in “for safety’s sake,” they explain later and extricate their lady star, who wipes a bit of slaver from her eye and flicks it on the ground daintily. “Cut!” yells Landres, disappointed that he couldn’t keep his cameras rolling longer .
Minutes later the scene is complete and Miss Miller is explaining how a girl gets to be Bernhardt to the Beasts. First of all she has to be born of solidly middle-class parents in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. Cheryl’s mother, then a housewife, now a travel agent, registered her pretty baby with the Screen Actors Guild at birth. The picture people came out to look at her while she was still in the hospital, succumbed immediately, and cast her as the infant in a Gary Cooper movie called “Casanova Brown.” She was all of four days old.
Even though she did what her studio biography optimistically describes as “over a hundred” movies in the next 20 years, and as many TV shows and commercials, Cheryl could hardly be described as gung ho for show biz. Not our Cheryl. She preferred the girls’ track teamand once ran the 50-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. She kept iguanas “for four or five years.” She was on intimate terms with hamsters, white rats, lizards, chameleons and a jar full of black widow spiders.
She had a sweet soprano voice, studied guitar and piano, and later harmony and composition at UCLA. She was very big in the church, and even after the late Walt Disney picked her up and made her a leading woman of sorts in a movie called “Monkey’s Uncle,” she could hardly wait to get back into the Christian Education department of the Bel-Air Presbyterian.
When Ivan Tors stole her for his movie version of Daktari called “Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion,” Disney was too polite to complain. Tors cast her, he says, “because she had the basic chemistry. You either like animals or you don’t.” When he asked her what her age was, she replied, “Do you want my agent’s version, or do you want the truth?” She told him the truth. She worked with Helfer and the beasts for four weeks before a camera ever turned. Helfer, a youngish-looking man with dedication written all over him, was to explain, “She wasn’t one of the sweaty-palmed ones. The animal knows. That girl is so good that she can do things with Sarang not even the trainers can do.”
As for Cheryl, she was already hip-deep in animal mystique. “Every animal has his own personality and his own ways,” she is saying. “Certain sounds, certain attitudes. We call this love talk. When I talk to Sarang this way, we get a better scene.
“An animal is like a person. You pay him a fantastic compliment and he’s 10 feet off the ground. But with an animal it can’t be false. That’s what Daktari is all about.”
That’s what Cheryl is all about. Acting? What is acting compared to the “experience” of working with the· beasts?” How many times in my lifetime,” she asks, “will I have such a unique opportunity?” She is constantly amazed at how many people visit the Daktari set without recognizing its subtler philosophical implications. “They draw me aside and say, ‘How can you stand working with these smelly animals?’ or ‘Tell me the truth, now, how many times have you been clawed or bitten?’ “To which I reply, ‘Oh, hundreds of times. Can’t you see the scars on my face?'”
Cheryl does not consider it extraordinary. She considers co-star Marshall Thompson the real magician with animals. “Marsh really does understand their ways,” she says.
Her long-term interests lie elsewhere. She flies jet airplanes. She horseback rides. She skis. She mountain climbs. She designs and makes her own clothes. She goes to flight school to study aerodynamics twice a week. She goes to French cooking class at UCLA twice a week.
She lives at home with her divorced mother and a Saluki dog named Sally, and keeps company with a neighbor’s son who is a lieutenant in the Air Force. When she ever sees them is the mystery. She arises at 4: 30 A.M. on working days, 6 A.M. on all others, often works a 13-hour day, and sometimes sleeps as much as six hours a night. “My 30-hour day,” she calls it. She has a brother who is a dentist, an estranged father who is an architect, and enough energy to move an army. If you need a Miss Christmas Seal or a marshall to decorate your parade, or a pretty fund-raiser for the Junior Foundation for the Blind, Cheryl is always available.
She even does some shopping. When she does, a peculiar thing happens. “If I wear my Levi’s I’m mobbed . Wear a dress and nobody even recognizes me.” Which, of course, is the price a girl has to pay for her Beastmanship.
But the beasts are calling now.The trainers are spraying Judy—aft—with nontoxic vegetable-dye spray, cosmetically preparing her for ·the scene. Sarang is pacing off-scene. Sultan stands by if Sarang should falter. The prop men are lighting the butane campfire and Landres is lining up his shot. They are bringing the beast in now. Some of the more skittish visitors move back uneasily. Us old Iron Nerves stay where we are. Really nothing to worry about. They’re just going to photograph Sarang and the lady sharing the same bedroll, that’s all.
Landres has the tape measure on the animal’s snout to determine the focus, and the lady has just placed her lovely blonde head on the animal’s rib cage. He stirs. “Now what’s frightened you?” she coos cajolingly. “The moon out there? Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” as we fade out.
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Here is the actual article as it appeared in TV Guide:
Click to Tweet & Share: Read the complete TV Guide feature on Cheryl Miller from the April 1-7, 1967 issue http://wp.me/p3hKG3-a3
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