Apparently Candice Bergen dated Donald Trump once, when they were both students at Penn. Apparently he wore a three-piece burgundy suit and burgundy patent-leather loafers. Apparently he arrived in a burgundy limousine.
Apparently this is talk-show material.
On Sept. 13, a TV talk-show guy asked Bergen, “Did you find him alluring in any way, or did you find him douche-y?”
Coyly: “He was a good-looking guy. And a douche.”
Conversations like this keep me away from television altogether.
Still, I was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania along with these two legendary folks, so this piece of momentary trivia caught my attention. Bergen, then calling herself Cappy, shared a few journalism classes with me. Or vice versa, depending on your perspective. She was a competent writer whose papers and discussions I grew to respect. She was also a talented photographer, pleasantly balancing her enduring career on the other side of cameras.
Journalism classes met in the brand-new Annenberg School of Communication, in a building that opened after I matriculated, before Cappy and Don did. All other classes in the building were for graduate students.
Cappy and I were groupies, before that word existed, for a professor named Lew Barlow. Between classes, we tended to hang out in his office, which was always open to lovely young women. We were “coeds” then.
The late Mary Ellen Mark, then a graduate student, later an award-winning photographer, was Barlow’s third groupie. If any of us was sitting in the professor’s office when another one knocked and stepped in, one left after brief pleasantries. Mark and Cappy remained close friends until Mark died in 2015.
As the daughter of the beloved ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who created the puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, Cappy was the best-known student on campus. We did not hang out together. We were not friends. I never knew her well, but I knew her.
But Don Trump? Never heard of him. He was my sister’s classmate, an underclassman, a nonentity. While Cappy Bergen was Miss University, Don Trump was invisible.
So here’s the odd factor about that burgundy date. Cappy and I lived in the same dormitory, in which each floor housed 14 female students and contained two wall-mounted telephones. We had to stand in the hallway to speak, so a conversation, neither private nor comfortable, was short. Plus, two phones for 14 coeds? Do the math. Hang up fast.
When a phone rang, whoever answered asked who was calling. Then we shouted the name of the resident. If a woman was on the phone, we hollered, “Phone for Judy!” If a man, we yelled, “Telephone for Barbara!” So the callee knew in advance the gender of the person on the other end.
Bergen was gorgeous and famous, but she was a loner, and I often wondered why. Perhaps she opted for privacy, or she didn’t trust people who wanted her for her fame, or whatever. Still, the tale flew around campus that when someone yelled, “Telephone for Cappy,” she answered. If a man opened with, “You don’t know me, but…,” she said, “Then leave me alone,” and hung up.
True? I was never there. Yet I wonder how Don got through. Maybe he knew someone who knew someone who knew her. Maybe he tapped her on the shoulder as she crossed Locust Walk. I’ll never know. But Don and Cappy and, indeed, Mary Ellen Mark, went on to fortune and fame.
I keep up with all of them, as a model wife, a photographer of my grandchildren, and president of my sons’ fan clubs. No talk-show spots for me.
Susie Perloff is a writer in Philadelphia. Contact her via writerphiladelphia.com.