‘60s star Diane McBain reflects on befriending Elvis Presley, turning down Aaron Spelling’s marriage proposal

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Diane McBain befriended The King and worked alongside Batman — but these days, the actress has taken on a completely different role.

The ‘60s screen siren has led a quiet life in Woodland Hills, California, where she’s been keeping busy as a writer. To date, the star has written three books, including her 2014 memoir “Famous Enough.” In late 2021, she wrote a novel titled “The Color of Hope,” which she described as the most important work of her career.

As the 80-year-old focuses on her second act, her late co-star Elvis Presley has been making headlines. A new biopic on the singer by Baz Luhrmann will hit theaters on June 24. It stars Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Presley passed away in 1977 at age 42.

McBain spoke to Fox News Digital about what it was like befriending Presley on set, why she didn’t marry Aaron Spelling, as well as what her life is really like today.


American actress Diane McBain, seen here in 1962, is enjoying her second act as a writer.
(Photo by Henry Gris/FPG/Getty Images)

Fox News: You’re the author of three books now. But looking back, what initially inspired you to write “Famous Enough?”
Diane McBain: Yes, I have two novels and a memoir now. But looking back, so many people would ask me to write the story of my life. I didn’t think it was all that interesting. But finally, I thought it was time. And it took me a long time. And I finished it with my writing partner, Michael Gregg Michaud, who wrote a book about Sal Mineo.

I was stuck in my writing process. He took me out of that, and it worked out beautifully. It’s been quite the experience looking back on my life. And you know, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It was a secret desire of mine for many years.

I tried to do it for so long, but I didn’t feel like I was doing anything publishable. When I finished the memoir, I was living in the mountains north of LA. And from there, the ideas just poured. I began writing my first novel, “The Laughing Bear.” And I’ve been cooking the last one for a while too, “The Color of Hope.” I feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s been an exciting adventure.

Diane McBain was a model before she was discovered by Hollywood.
(Getty Images)

Fox News: You started as a model. How were you discovered as an actress?
McBain: I lived in Glendale, California, and we had a little theater here. I was doing a play, and the talent guy at Warner Bros. came to see it. He saw me and thought I would be the perfect fit for a film called “Ice Palace,” which starred Richard Burton. It was about the statehood of Alaska. I remember there were quite a few wonderful actors involved with the project. The fact that they signed me to this contract at Warner Bros. to do this film was quite astonishing. I played the granddaughter in that movie.


Fox News: You famously worked with Elvis Presley in 1966’s “Spinout.” What was your initial impression of The King?
McBain: I loved Elvis. He was wonderful. He was in good shape at that time. I remember him being tall, slender and so beautiful. I mean, what a beautiful man *laughs*. And he had this beautiful voice. I liked him a lot. He probably had affairs with some actresses or co-stars, but not with me. I think he just liked brunettes, and I was a blonde, so he wasn’t interested in me *laughs*.

But we had a really nice friendship on set. He was a spiritual guy, and he loved to read anything about being spiritual. He wasn’t so much religious, but spiritual. And I, too, was fascinated by those things. So we bonded over that. We used to exchange books on set, and it was great fun. We would have conversations all the time about being spiritual. It was a good relationship, very solid. I just thought he was so terrific.

From left: Shelley Fabares, Deborah Walley, Diane McBain and Elvis Presley in ‘Spinout,’ circa 1966.
(Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

Fox News: It’s been said that Elvis was determined to be a respected actor in Hollywood. Did you get that impression?
McBain: We didn’t discuss that personally, but I knew he really wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. Our film was about racing, and it was a comedy. Of course, it was also a musical because the studio really wanted to use him in these lighthearted productions. He had a lot of trouble trying to convince them into putting him in more serious roles. He was almost too beautiful to be thought of as serious. I guess they felt it would hurt his image. And his manager was not very helpful in that regard either.

It was a shame. It must be very awful to be at the very top like that because nobody could possibly relate to what it’s like to be there and expect you to stay there. He of course embraced it beautifully, and he did a great job on set. But I think he was also pretty lonely. He probably wanted more for himself. He was, of course, very special. But I don’t think he saw himself that way. I know he tried very hard. There was a sadness about him. It’s probably why he eventually got into drugs. But I remember him very fondly. It just makes you wonder what could have been.


Fox News: You also worked with another pop-culture legend, Adam West, in “Batman.” What was that like for you?
McBain: Well, unlike Elvis, I really didn’t get to know Adam that well. He was the kind of actor who would go out, do his scenes and then lock himself in his dressing room. But I had a really fun time playing Pinky Pinkston. It was such a cute role. And I still get so many people who approach me about that role. I’m grateful for it. It brought people joy.

Adam West and Diane McBain, circa 1967.
(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Fox News: Is it true that Aaron Spelling asked your father permission to marry you?
McBain: Yes, he asked for my hand in marriage. How about that? It was the first time that ever happened to me. I think it was the last too. I don’t think my dad ever got any more requests. But I think what my dad said, at least based on what he reported to me was, “She can make her own decisions.” But I adored Aaron. He was such a wonderful, sweet man. We dated for quite a bit.

But when it came to getting married, I just couldn’t see myself married to him. It just didn’t fit my idea at all about the kind of person I wanted to be married to. He was a dear, sweet man. I adored him. I would never say anything bad about him because he was always good to me. But I just wasn’t ready for something like that. Even after we broke up, he was still very good to me. He always hired me for his productions. I never had to worry for a long time after Warner Bros. because of him. He was that good to me. He was a very special person in my life. And maybe I appreciate him a lot more today than I did at the time.

Looking back on it, he was just so amazing, the fact that he could still be so good to me even after things were over between us. And whenever he saw me, he would always talk to me. It was a good friendship. I’ll always be grateful he was in my life.


American film and television producer Aaron Spelling (1923 – 2006) with actress Diane McBain at a party for the film ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’, 1965. 
(Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Fox News: What was it like working with Joan Crawford in 1963’s “The Caretakers?”
McBain: I think the poor thing was very jealous. She was quite a bit older by then, and she had never really been what she would call a beautiful woman. She was attractive and had striking features, but she also had her own look. And by then, I guess she was starting to lose whatever attractiveness she had before. She was playing the part of a nurse in a white uniform, which wasn’t flattering, especially for someone who was once considered so glamorous. She was in uniform when I came on the set to meet her.

I was with a friend of mine, my best friend for many years. He had taken me out to lunch that day and insisted that I wear my best dress and a beautiful hat. So imagine me, dressed this way and meeting Joan Crawford in a nurse’s uniform. I can’t even begin to tell you how cold she was towards me. She was just dreadful. She didn’t like me from the very beginning, and she never did. She also had the final say on that picture. I was playing the part of a nurse. I was supposed to be the romantic interest of Robert Stack. We had scenes together, romantic scenes. Now Robert Stack was much too old for me, but that’s how they cast it.

I had a lot of scenes and I supposed that Joan Crawford, in the end, decided to cut all of that out. She had so much influence over the director. Whenever we were in a scene together, we were always in opposite parts of the room. I was always placed by myself. I could easily be cut out of a scene that way. And that’s what happened. By the time the picture was over, I had a minor role when I was supposed to be co-starring with Robert Stack. I had such a minor role that was almost inconsequential. It was just the part she couldn’t get rid of. And the film really became a Joan Crawford film. We did not have a good relationship, let’s just put it that way.

Diane McBain became typecast as a femme fatale, a role she wanted to break away from.
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Fox News: You were cast frequently as a femme fatale. How did you feel about that?
McBain: I didn’t like it for a while. In the beginning, of course, it was great fun to play. But after a while, it bothered me. I didn’t like it. I wanted to do other things. I tried. But I had this deep voice, which [the studio] felt was better suited for a femme fatale. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but that’s just the way it was.


I couldn’t really change it. But roles like Pinky allowed me to show my comedic side. And that was fun. But it was hard in those days to break away as a woman in the industry. Women have such a better time with it now. Not only can they work easily beyond the age of 50, but they can do amazing roles beyond the age of 40. Back then, there were only two types of roles a woman could play: a good girl or a bad girl. There was nothing else. Some women had a better time with it than others. I always ended up with the bad girl end of the stick. But you know, I do appreciate it more today. Those characters can be much more interesting to play than the good girl.

Fox News: In your memoir, you were very candid about everything that occurred in your life. How important was It for you to be so honest about your whole life, even during the more personal moments?
McBain: I appreciate honesty. When I decided to write my memoir, I knew I was going to be truthful. I was going to tell the story the way it was. I didn’t see any reason to hide anything. I suppose some people might look at it and go, “My gosh, why did she tell us that?” But I always felt it’s important to be honest. I was going to tell my true story, not just the good things that happened to me.

James Garner and Diane McBain in ‘Maverick’.
(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Fox News: Your career took a different turn when you finally felt ready to get married.
McBain: I always wanted to be a wife and mother. It was probably my main ambition as a young girl before I got involved with all this other stuff. I wanted to be a wife and mom. I wanted to have a nice family of two or three kids. I wanted a nice husband, someone who cared about me. I wanted a pleasant home to raise a family in. Having children was so important to me, as taking care of a family. But my life took a different direction with acting. I was 32 before I had my son, which was considered old in those days. By then, I just didn’t want to wait any longer. I felt ready. I had the desire to have a good husband and a family. And I felt it was slipping through my fingers.

I finally met my husband. He’s a nice man, and I cared about him. But I never fell in love with him… I just thought, “How long does love last in a marriage anyway?” It sounded logical at the time… I had a beautiful wedding. The first part of our marriage was fine. I got pregnant pretty quickly. I had my son, who is my world. But things went south in the marriage department. I guess by that time I was just too independent. I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t like the constraints of being married.


The women’s movement was happening during this time, and I was very much into that. We wanted to be free of demanding husbands *laughs*. My husband wasn’t particularly demanding, but he wasn’t very much into the marriage thing. He was doing something else. So it just didn’t work out. We divorced, and I raised my son on my own. We’re very close, and we have such a wonderful relationship. He’s 49, but he will always be a kid in my eyes *laughs*. I feel very good about our relationship. We talk every day. I’ll always be proud of him.

William Shatner and Diane McBain in ‘Barbary Coast’, circa 1975.
(Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Fox News: What’s life like for you today?
McBain: I have a cottage surrounded by beautiful flowers and ponds. I’ve made lots of friends up here, and I’ve been writing, which has been my dream. It’s quite wonderful. It’s probably as good as it gets *laughs*.

Fox News: What’s been inspiring you as a writer?
McBain: Really “The Color of Hope.” It was such an important job. I was writing out of my comfort zone… But it feels great to get a story like this one out. I’m really excited about it… I was very careful about how I constructed my character’s life. I also named her Cleo after my mother… She’s a young woman who has to provide for her family… I’m truly enjoying this new chapter of my life.

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