By Frank Nahigian
LOS ANGELES — Life has a funny way of changing paths. In the 1930s, Richard (Dick) Bakalyan’s father was an Armenian immigrant who worked wherever he could find a job as a short-order cook in diners and restaurants around Watertown, Mass. He died in 1939 when young Richard was 8.
Little could they imagine that 25 years later, in 1964, Dick Bakalyan would be dining with Prince Rainier and his wife, Grace Kelley, on the deck of their yacht in Monaco as a guest of Frank Sinatra.
During the filming of “Von Ryan’s Express,” 20th Century Fox studio had rented a yacht for Sinatra to keep him happy; Sinatra invited some of his favorites in the cast, including Bakalyan, to cruise around the French Riviera, and when they pulled into a dock in Monaco, they were berthed next to the prince and princess, who invited them all to join them a couple nights later, which Bakalyan remembers as a fabulous time.
“Hey, I was there, not as the feature player, you understand, but I was fortunate to be there, be welcome and feel comfortable there,” he recalled in a recent interview.
He had nothing but good things to say about Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jack Nicholson, Anthony Quinn, Cesar Romero and virtually every other Hollywood personality with whom he became acquainted. Naturally, being a puritanical New Englander, I asked him about morality in Tinseltown. “It’s the same as in any other town; it’s a small town.”