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This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Imagine if Malia Obama were to show up at this year’s Academy Awards with Jaden Smith on her arm. Something not unlike that unfolded a half a century ago, except with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 22-year-old daughter and a B-level star even then famous mostly for his tan.
Somehow George Hamilton, 26 at the time, had begun dating Lynda Bird Johnson — whom he’d met at a dinner party given by Henry Ford II’s daughter Charlotte — and invited her to the 1966 Oscars. THR reported that Johnson was “the unofficial star of the evening.” It turned out to be a brilliant publicity move for Hamilton, who became the focus of enough worldwide media attention to make a Kardashian weep with jealousy. Emcee Bob Hope made a joke about another Hamilton being in the White House if George played his cards right. (The comedian presumably was referencing Alexander Hamilton, who never was president.)
The most press the actor previously had gotten was when he and his mother were mistakenly arrested as diamond smugglers at Rio de Janeiro’s airport. But the new scrutiny of dating a first daughter shined a light on Hamilton’s Vietnam War draft deferment for “extreme hardship to dependents,” with which LBJ’s critics had a field day. (Hamilton supposedly was supporting his mother, whose fourth husband was an heir to the Spalding sporting goods fortune, in her 1100 Carolyn Way residence in Beverly Hills now estimated to be worth $15 million.) They broke up after a year. A few months later, Johnson met Chuck Robb, now her husband; and Hamilton continued acting.
The currently single 76-year-old was traveling in St. Moritz, and unavailable for comment, but William Stadiem, co-author of the star’s Don’t Mind If I Do memoir, says the “thing to remember about George is he’s the best-connected actor in the history of the film business. He knows everyone in high society, finance, fashion, and he could have been the first Hollywood son-in-law in the White House.”
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