Charlene was a stunningly beautiful Home coming queen who wanted to crash Hollywood, and she did crash it. For a few days during her glorious year. And that was that. She was soon burned out and left acting for other ventures, getting married in the end and raising a family. Let’s hear her story…
Charlene Mae Hardey was born on May 29, 1927, in Imperial, California, to Gordon S. Hardey and Mae Williams. Her father, a native of Oklahoma, was a owned and operated a car repair station in Imperial, her Texas-born mother was a housewife. Her younger brother Gordon Williams was born on November 14, 1930. The family lived with Gordon’s dad, Henry Hardey (have no idea where grandma was, as Henry isn’t listed as a widow, but married).
By all accounts, Charlene had a normal middle class upbringing, and was a movie fan who wanted to become an actress. After high school enrolled into the University of Southern California, majoring in drama. And then, her time of fame came… Here is a short article about it:
Queen to Reign in Home-coming Selected at SC Helen of Troy . . . She was selected at the University of Southern California yesterday and she launched a thousand sighs. As the prettiest Trojane of them all, she will reisn over the many events’ in the current Home’ coming Week on the Trojan cam pus. She Is Charlene Hardey. Dark-haired and petite 5 feet, 2 inches, 110 pounds Charlene is a senior majoring in drama. She belongs to Pi Phi Sorority. Her home is in Brawley. Charlene was chosen from among 21 finalists in the annual Helen of Troy contest before a full and appreciative audience in Bovard Auditorium on the SC campus. Picked to reign with her over home-coming week activities were four attendants: Harriet Steele, 20, a junior, of 368 Gladys St., Long Beach; Nevin Haugh, 21, a senior, of 135 S Van Ness Ave.: Patricia Judson, 20, a junior, of 9002 Norma Place, Beverly Hills, and Sally Harris, 21, a senior, of . 3378 -Huntington Drive, San Marino. All of the attendants belong to Delta Delta Delta except Miss Haugh who is a Delta Gamma. Judges who selected Helen of Troy and her four attendants were Film Actors Donald O’Connor and Lee Bowman and Band leader Les Brown, whose orchestra played before the final selection.
The papers listed all the actives she was to undertake as a homecoming queen, and there were quite a lot, actually. They were:
… As queen of the campus, Miss Hardey will be feted at a sorority reception today
. . . preside over the freshman-sophomore -push ball, sack race and tug-of-war and women’s contests on Bovard Field that afternoon
. . . ride in the Hollywood Blvd. Christmas parade tonight
. . . participate in the’ traditional Taxi Day parade that Friday when some 20 vehicles of all descriptions will proceed from the SC campus to the City Man where Mayor Bowron is scheduled to present the keys to the city to Helen of Troy
… be honored at a pre-football luncheon which will be given by President Fred Dl Fagg Jr. of SC before the SC-Notre Dame football game Saturday
. . . ride on a special float In the home-coming parade in the Coliseum before the game and reign over the home-coming dance Saturday night at Casino Gardens.
Phew, I hope it was worth it. Anyway, all eyes were on Charlene those few days, including the eyes of Hollywood. A talent scout, always hungry for pretty young ladies, saw her and she was signed to a contract.
Charlene appeared in only two movies. The first is A Life of Her Own. The plot is as follows: an aspiring, played by Lana Turner, model who leaves her small town in the Midwest to seek fame and fortune in New York City and gets mixed up with a married man (played by Ray Milland) and has to survive in the ruthless world of modeling. It’s a typical 1940s weepie, a overtly dramatic romance movie, not much more, but made well enough not to be a waste of time. But, I still think it’s worth watching. Plenty of well acted (and less well acted) angst works both for and against the movie. The ending surprised me nicely and Ann Dvorak role’s a plus. The original script was much more morally ambiguous, but sadly the censors cut it down into (same story of old Hollywood, it seems). Charlene played one of the models.
Charlene than appeared in another woman’s movie – Take Care of My Little Girl, a subject close to her very own heart – university life. The plot: A young woman enters college and learns some hard truths about sorority lifethe negative things.The movie looks like a fluffy piece of sugar, but it actually packs a punch if one watches it more closely. The movie carries a strong message about snobbery, shallowness, and hazing, something that is more relevant today than ever before. None of the thespians was first class – Jeanne Crain, while beautiful, was never a particularly talented actress, and Jean Peters, while always adequate, was no Bette Davis – same goes for Dale Robertson – but they are perfect for a movie of this kind, and hit the right notes. Definitely recommended!
After her movie career was over, Charlene did some TV work, a modus operandi for many actor and actresses of her generation.
After her acting career watered down to nil, Charlene for a time did TV films for Bing Crosby Enterprises, and then served as Red Sanders‘ secretary for seven years. Well, how did she become a secretary all of a sudden? Namely, Red lured away from the cameras to become his real-life secretary after she had played that role on his weekly TV show, “Pigskin Clinic.” After she left Red’s employ, she spend some time serving in the same capacity for Billy Barnes.
In his private life, Charlene was cool, calm and collected and never made any newspaper headlines. She met her future husband, handsome Stephen Steere, during the 1948 USC vs. Notre Dame football game, where he first saw her – she was on the field and he was in the audience, so perhaps the didn’t meet “for real”, as she didn’t even notice him. However, in a strange twist of fate, they “met” for real on a a blind date a year later and dated for six more years. They were married on December 14, 1956, in Los Angeles. Charlene retired after her marriage. Now, something about Steere.
Stephen Douglas Steere was a Southern California native, born in Santa Monica on June 20, 1925 to Fred and Gertrude (Gigi) Steere. He was the third of five children – his older sisters were Jeanne and Barbara (who were born in Canada, as the family was originally Canadian), and his younger siblings were Neila Margaret, born on January 7, 1928, and Donald Mack, born on June 22, 1929. His father managed Wilson’s Sporting Goods on 3rd Street and Wilshire in Santa Monica. His education was delayed by the War – he was drafted and returned to civilian life in 1945. After taking art classes at SMC, he rekindled his natural artistic talents and went on to attend Art Center College of Design, with a degree in illustration.
As his obituary (read it here, much information about the couple was taken from it) notes:
Following his focus on fine art, he went on to explore more commercial art avenues, working at Western Publishing in Beverly Hills, alongside artist Ellis ‘Papa Duke’ Eringer. This led to establishing himself as a successful free-lance artist, working primarily for Walt Disney Studios, as well as Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal, MGM, Hanna Barbera, Dell Comics, Mattel, and Hallmark among others. His talents evolved into a 50-year career drawing every popular character created by these houses of tangible imagination. Steve’s work appeared in books, comic books, coloring books, comic strips, and on clothing, videos, posters, etc. — hundreds of products enjoyed by children and adults around the world for decades. He also did early developmental work for Disneyland in advertising and merchandising. In later years, he returned to his fine-art roots, painting impressionistic and three-dimensional land and seascapes.
Charlene and Stephen had two children, a daughter, Shannon, born on February 18, 1960, in Los Angeles, and a son, Stephen, born on August 4, 1961, in Los Angeles.
When they first married, Charlene and Steve lived in Santa Monica, then Pacific Palisades, then moved to Malibu in 1960, first in La Costa Beach, then in Malibu West, becoming one of the original owners in the new neighborhood. When their house was destroyed by a fire, they rebuilt the home. They enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage for more than 50 years.
Charlene Steere died on October 23, 2008, in Malibu, California. Her widower Stephen Steere died on October 20, 2014.