LOS ANGELES – He called it “a big love,” and she called it “a 50/50 love.” Whatever kind of love it was, it’s the kind of red-hot love affair that happens to a person once in a lifetime, according to 84-year-old Bettina “Betty” E. Washington. The passion and love for one man was so strong for Washington, that she decided to pen her memoirs in the new book, “The Cliff Dancer: My Love Affair With Ivan Dixon” (Fat Bet Publishing; on sale April 7, 2015; ISBN-13: 978-0692407943; $9.99 paperback/$5.99 e-book; United States). Co-written with her daughter and filmmaker Fatima Washington, the 230-page tome is self published and available on Amazon.com on April 7, 2015, coincidentally a day after the late actor Ivan Dixon’s birthday.
Instead of taking secrets to her grave, the octogenarian decided to bear her soul and come clean to her youngest daughter about the man that changed her life – that is, Dixon, a celebrated actor and director of television and film. He is well known for his role in the CBS sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes,” portraying POW radio technician Staff Sergeant “Kinch” Kinchloe. He also directed a plethora of popular tv shows, including “The Waltons,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Bionic Woman,” “Magnum P.I.” and “The A-Team” – just to name a few. On the big screen, he appeared in “Porgy and Bess,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Nothing But a Man” and “A Patch of Blue,” and he also directed the controversial cult classic, “The Spook Who Sat by the Door.”
But, it was in 1963 that Washington fell in love with Dixon as she watched him in the film version of “Raisin in the Sun,” and his portrayal of Joseph Asagai. When the movie credits ended, she proclaimed her love for the actor that played the character of the African student, not knowing his real name. Washington says, Dixon’s smile in his first scene of the movie with actress Diana Sands, “gave her all kinds of crazy feelings.”
In a case of real life is stranger than fiction, a chance meeting with Dixon at a function in Los Angeles would begin a long and passionate extramarital affair despite the fact that both were married with children. On their first date in Malibu, Dixon looked at Washington and simply asked, “So, what are we going to do about this big love?” To this day, his words still ring in her ears like it was yesterday. To understand her instant attraction and adulterous affair with Dixon, she said their personal lives mirrored the chemistry and storyline of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1965 film, “The Sandpiper.” In fact, the two declared their song as “The Shadow of Your of Smile” from the movie, which also won the Academy Award ® for Best Original Song. They were soulmates; and Washington loved him so much, she didn’t mind sharing Dixon with his wife!
Stuck in a loveless marriage, Washington was the wife of a dentist and part of LA’s Black high society, back in the 1960s. She was trapped in an “empty shell marriage,” filled with Bridge games, parties and dances. She stayed because her husband, Dr. George Washington, was financially stable and a good provider, despite being a lousy, philandering husband. But eventually, she did leave – her husband as well as her lover, and reclaimed her life as an independent woman at the dawn of feminism.
“The Cliff Dancer” is an enthralling tale that recounts the life and choices of a Black woman in the 1960s, with all the trappings of high society. Luxury and social status came at a high price for Washington; but through her faith, she was able to forge her own path toward self-discovery and independence.
“With feisty and revealing prose, Ms. Washington tells an extraordinary story full of surprising turns that include devastating betrayal, extraordinary love, tragic loss and an ultimate triumphant of spirit. This well-crafted autobiography is essential reading for anyone who has ever attempted to pursue an authentic life, no matter the cost.” –Lisa B. Thompson, author of “Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class” and the Off-Broadway play “Single Black Female.”
IN HER OWN WORDS:
To hear Washington chat about her new book and her love affair with Ivan Dixon, visit YouTube at http://youtu.be/KAy0PzedNfY
OTHER JUICY BITS FROM “The Cliff Dancer:”
- On how she got the nickname “Betty Bang Bang:” Sick of her husband’s womanizing, Washington bought a gun at Sears. During a domestic altercation, she shot the woman; albeit in the leg, upon finding out she was sleeping with her husband while she was giving birth to her third child. Legally separated from her husband, Washington refused to hide from humiliation, instead she appeared in public, and the dentist wives dubbed her “Betty Bang Bang” for her audacity to show her face in public.
- On how she finally got her divorce from her husband after 15 years of marriage: Staying true to her nickname, “Betty Bang Bang,” Washington threatened her husband with a .22 caliber gun, and held a gun to him as they rode down Crenshaw Boulevard in her shiny, two-door Coupe de Ville Cadillac to her attorney’s office to sign the divorce papers!
ABOUT AUTHOR BETTINA “Betty” E. WASHINGTON
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Washington is a retired educator of 28 years with Oakland Public Schools. She married George Washington -- a WWII veteran and a star basketball player for Morgan State College -- at the age of 19. She supported her husband through dental school at Howard University, and began her studies there as well, pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. After her husband’s internship at the Jersey City Medical Center, the Washingtons moved West for better opportunities. Washington eventually finished her studies and graduated from Pepperdine University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Married for 18 years, the couple has three children. Today, Washington is the mother of four, and resides in Northern California.
ABOUT CO-AUTHOR AND FILMMAKER FATIMA WASHINGTON
A native of Oakland, Calif., Fatima Washington received a master’s degree from USC’s film school and currently working on her new, debut feature-length indie, “She’s Got a Plan,” set to hit the film festival circuit this year. “She’s Got a Plan” is a dramatic comedy about Isis Angelo, an aspiring Hollywood writer-director who is beginning to realize that her dreams just may never come true. In the tradition of Robert Townsend's “Hollywood Shuffle,” “She’s Got a Plan” is a fresh and innovative film, satirizing the Hollywood experience. The ensemble cast includes Washington, Faizon Love, Paula Jai Parker, Golden Brooks, Ja’Net Dubois, Chris Williams, Charles Malik Whitfield, Kelitta Smith and Johnny 3Nutz.
Washington began her career in show business, working behind the scenes on the groundbreaking sketch comedy show, “In Living Color,” created by Keenen Ivory and Damon Wayons. She also served as a music video director for Universal Music Group, Motown and Relativity Records.