Danny Lockin

Holy Cabooses, Cornelius!

                          Danny's Life

   

             Daniel Joseph Lockin was born July 13th, 1943 on Lanai, the smallest island in Hawaii - the only child of Joseph and Jean Lockin.   His father, Joe, grew up in Iowa, and went to college at the University of California. Jean was the daughter of a doctor, and grew up in Nebraska. After she graduated from high school, she went to New York City and danced on the stage at the end of the vaudeville era.   She retired from the stage after a couple of years and went back to the midwest to live with her brother in Nashua, Iowa, where she taught in several area dance studios.  It's there that she met Joseph Lockin. They were married  Oct 31, 1937, and immediately after the wedding moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where Joe had a job waiting for him managing a Dole pineapple plantation. Danny and his parents lived there through World War II until 1946, when they moved back to the states, living in Plattsmouth, Nebraska from 1946-1953, before settling down in Omaha, Nebraska.  Danny's mother opened a dance studio, which became quite successful.

    As Danny grew up, much of his childhood was spent taking lessons-dancing, singing and acting.  He learned to dance so well that he joined the union and began dancing professionally at age eight, with another talented boy his age, Neal Reynolds.  They went under the name of "The Two Checkers", and performed comedy, pantomime, and song and dance skits- performing in the summer fair circuit and in hotels and restaurants around the Omaha area.  They were together for 9 years. Because Neal was black, they sometimes found it hard to get bookings, and had to tolerate many other indignities related to racial prejudice. "We  often had to find out of the way hotels and restaurants because of the segregation policies then. One town had only one hotel, and we paid twenty-five dollars  a night for a room.  We didn't make any money there, but we lived up to our commitment."  The result was Danny becoming an advocate for racial equality at a young age. Danny recalled a time when he and Neal were flown out to New York to audition for a new TV show, but were laughed out of the room, because of Neals race. "Our agent was in Omaha, and he arranged an audition for us in NY for a television series.  The producer, director and sponsors laughed, I mean they cracked up, then they said, 'Sorry'."  This repeated itself 2 years later, when they were  about eleven.   It left a lasting impression on Danny.           

        Danny was a wonderful jazz singer and was in a jazz quartet when he was around fourteen called "The Four Bits ", with  his friends Donni Meyer, Jennie Franco and Dennis Herre.   Buddy Graves, a piano player, tap dancer  and family friend was their coach.

    At Omaha's Benson High School, Danny was a good student, but realizing  when he was around twelve that he wanted to be an entertainer, he was eager to  finish school and  get into the industry.  He enjoyed great success in high school gymnastics- especially excelling in tumbling- coming in second in an important meet between northeast and southwest Omaha schools. His gymnastics ability would prove very useful later on in  the movie "Hello Dolly!", where he did many wonderful gymnastic moves.

    In 1959, Danny and his parents moved to Anaheim, California, strictly for the purpose of getting him into show business. He was very busy-on top of doing regular studies at Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove, he took extra dance, singing and acting lessons, and had many auditions for small TV roles. When he graduated from high school, he appeared in a benefit performance in which he not only danced but did some choreography.  A choreographer named Carey Leverette spotted Danny, decided he had a bright future, and became his manager. At 18, Danny appeared in his first professional show- "Time For Everything" in San Francisco, in which he had a featured role.  Sadly, Danny's father died suddenly a short time later, in July of 1961.                          

    Danny did well in California, getting parts in several popular TV shows, such as "Dr. Kildare", "Father of the Bride" and "My Three Sons".  He also did a "Head and Shoulders" commercial early on, playing a boy washing his hair in the tub.  In the 1962 movie "Gypsy", starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood, he played the role of Gerry, one of Rose's boys.  In 1963, he had a role in the movie "The Stripper", (also known as "A Woman in July"), starring Joanne Woodward.  He also tried out for the part of "Rolfe" in the movie version of The Sound of Music.  Although he didn't get the part, he was among only a handful out the hundreds that were auditioned that were seriously considered for the role. Danny wanted to dance, however, and not just to be in the chorus line,  so after graduating from high school, he moved to New York City.

   His work on the NY stage impressed Hal Prince, Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion and he got jobs in summer stock and traveled with road productions, including Sound of Music, Take me Along, Tom Sawyer, Gypsy and Music Man.  Because Danny was small, and looked much younger than his age, he was frustrated that he could only seem to get roles  for characters that were much younger than he was. A description of Danny by a reporter when he was playing Tom Sawyer -"Danny looks right as Tom Sawyer.  He is small, around 5 feet 8 inches, and a bit thin. He has a face full of freckles and long, dark blond hair combed back along the sides, but unruly up front...a pair of dark lenses were clipped over his glasses, which had tortoise-shell frames, and he was smoking a filter cigarette."(William Woo---Post Dispatch 1965)   Friends of Danny say that he was closer to 5 feet 6inches, and that his natural hair color was more on the reddish side.

     Around 1966, he landed the role of Barnaby in Hello,Dolly!, traveling productions, playing opposite several different Dolly's, including Betty Grable, Ginger Rogers and Eve Arden. This is when his young appearance worked in his favor. Danny never tired of playing Barnaby, sometimes doing 2 shows a day seven days a week! When casting for the 1969 movie Hello,Dolly!, Gene Kelly paid close attention to Danny, who was tested 13 times before he finally won the role. He also won a five year non-exclusive contract with 20th Century Fox, to do one picture a year for five years. 

      Danny helped two of his mother's students get bit parts in the movie-Madelon Tupper, and Teresa deRose, two girls around 10 years old.  He found out they needed children to dance in some of the scenes, so he recommended the girls to the studio; they got auditions and were  hired for the film.  Danny gained weight for the movie--getting up to a hefty 135 pounds!

   Many of the times that Danny was interviewed about his experiences in the Hello Dolly! movie, the conversation would inevitably turn to "what was it like working with Barbra?"  Danny would always answer politely that she was a real pro and very nice, but eventually, he became annoyed that the interviewers always seemed to ask about Barbra, and not him.  " It seems that everyone who talks to me is more concerned about her than what I have to say.  Then I'm misquoted.  I really get bugged about that. I never said Barbra was the most super-colossal thing that ever happened.  She's human.  But I have more respect for her than anyone I've ever worked with.  She is the most professional person I have ever experienced.  She has never done anything unprofessional.  But I deplore being used because of my association with her."(Los Angeles Herald-Examiner-Dec 26, 1968)  

    About the same time, Danny met and fell in love with a chorus line dancer named Cathy Haas.  Cathy had played the front end of a horse in a dance number when the Dolly! company played in  San Francisco.  In 1967, while working with Dorothy Lamour in Las Vegas, they got married and later lived in a tiny apartment in New York City.  During the shooting of Hello Dolly, Cathy became pregnant, so they moved back to LA., bought a house and in early 1969, their son Jeremy Daniel was born.  After filming ended for Hello,Dolly!, Danny went back to Broadway to play Barnaby opposite Ethel Merman and Phyllis Diller.  He also did several summer guest appearances on the TV show Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers.  In Aug 1969, Cathy took Jeremy and left, and filed for a divorce, something which devastated Danny.  He continued to play Barnaby on Broadway and when that ended in 1970, he went back with Hello,Dolly! road productions.  Danny also taught dance for 5 years at his mothers dance studio in Garden Grove. He was a favorite among the students-he was remembered for his twinkling eyes, boyish grin and his warm, gentle personality. When that studio closed in early 1977, he taught at another dance studio, until his horrible murder in August, 1977.  Danny's mother continued to teach dance in various studios, until  1989, when she suffered a series of strokes.   She moved to a medical center in Fountain Valley, Orange county, and died  of pneumonia on May 23, 1990.