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Shaken -
Not Stirred

by Stephen Lautens


December 22, 2000

I think it's finally safe to tell the story of Christmas past - a few Christmases past to be precise.

A few years ago my wife's search for the perfect, thoughtful Christmas gift made her mention it to a friend named Karen. Karen knows the most interesting people, and she immediately thought of a little old lady she knew who had a colourful acting past. As it happened, the little old lady was selling off some of her mementos from her time as a bit actor in Hollywood.

She had apparently been quite in demand in the 40s and 50s, appearing beside (and slightly behind) some of the great stars of the silver screen. She spoke fondly of Bogart, Fairbanks and Flynn. And she had little things around her house that she had taken home when the movie wrapped up, and now she was selling them off since they were a burden to dust and her children weren't interested in them.

That's when our friend Karen mentioned to my wife that one of the things she had seen the last time she visited the old dear was a martini shaker. A perfect gift for yours truly, since I love martinis and all gadgets associated with them.

Over tea and cookies a price was negotiated. I never asked what that was, but I suspect that in spite of the lavender and lace the old girl drove a hard bargain.

Christmas day came and I opened my presents. Last under the tree was a tall box, and inside was the martini shaker.

I was thrilled, and then my wife explained the story behind it.

Apparently it had been used as a prop on the set of one of the legendary Tyrone Powers' last movies. Maybe 'The Sun Also Rises', or 'Witness for the Prosecution'. Whatever it was, the fading Hollywood queen had played a supporting role in the performance, and when the filming was done, she took the shaker home as a souvenir. She implied that she had quite a thing for the matinee idol.

"It's stainless steel because Tyrone Power felt they made better martinis," she had explained as the transaction was completed.

I was doubly thrilled. Not only was it a great martini shaker, but it had a real story behind it, and being in the story business, there's nothing I like better.

I admired it from every angle. I turned it over and looked at the a name stamped into the bottom.


I blurted it out it before I could stop myself.

Unless Tyrone Power enjoyed putting his own furniture together and shopped at the Swedish home furnishings store, the shaker was a faker.

Especially since Tyrone Power died in 1958.

So was the senior citizen starlet a con artist? I don't think so, unless she was still a very good actress. When it was returned she said one of her children must have taken the one from Tyrone Power and replaced it with the 1990s version.

I would have been happy to keep it, but our friend Karen insisted on returning it. In its place I got a huge silver shaker that I'd be happy to be buried in.

So it turns out I got not one, but two great presents that Christmas - a martini shaker and a story to tell with it.

© Stephen Lautens 2000

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