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Roy Nisson: Dentist To The Stars

StoryCorps/Utah Public Radio

From astronauts and test pilots to Hollywood celebrities, retired dentist, 93 year-old Roy Nisson talks with his wife Janice about his brushes with the stars.

Roy Nisson: After I left Edwards Air Force Base we went down to the Los Angeles area and we were looking for a place to set up an office. And we came to the place, Sherman Oaks. And I said, "Janice, wouldn't this be a great place to have an office...the Royal Oaks district." We went and took the practice over and it had all  these movie stars and I was telling you about...Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland  and Howard Hughes and all of those.

Marilyn Monroe was the one I want to tell you about now. She called in to make an appointment and so we were expecting her and Dr. Hollingbeck said, "leave plenty of time because she's always late." She came in and got out of her limousine and trotted in and she was standing there. I guess I was...my eyes bulged out of my head and I looked and saw her standing there. It was kind-of a frightful experience but she introduced herself. She was very friendly. She came in the office quite a few times. Three of four times a year. She had one of the most perfect sets of teeth there is.

But one time she was making a picture with Tony Curtis called "Some Like it Hot." And on the set one day the director says, "Marilyn, you've got to do something with your teeth...Tony is taking the limelight away from you because his teeth are shining." Well, Tony had them all capped. He had all porcelain caps on them and when the light hit the teeth they would shine back. She came in and I said, "we'll do what we can but you got to remember enamel is the second hardest material in the world next to diamond so I don't know whether we can paint them or what we can do but we'll try." Polished them up good and them we painted them. It worked good while we were in the office but once she got over and got on the set it started to flake off so had the flakes...so it didn't work. We tried several other things, I did. Finally, I took impressions of her mouth. Poured up models and made some little flipper that would go right on the front and made it really white and nice. Once she got before the camera she just snapped that on then she'd smile. But the trouble with that, it held out her lip and she looked like Loretta Young. Finally she came in...we was exhausted. I said, "Marilyn, you go back and tell that director that you've got the most perfect set of teeth in the world and that Tony Curtis' teeth is all capped and his is artificial and just let him know your teeth are fine." And that's the way it ended. In doing this with Marilyn I took impressions. So I had the molds of her teeth in the lab. And when I moved I lost them. I looked everywhere for them but we haven't been able to come up with them.

So anyway, she was a great gal and the last time I saw Marilyn was she came in the office two days before she committed suicide. I cleaned her teeth you we could tell that she was having problems. In fact, her last film was "The Misfits" with Clark Gable. She was always late several hours to the set and she was having a lot of problems with taking up and downers to keep her going. She was married to the playwright Arthur Miller at the time and they were having divorce problems and everything else. And it wasn't long after Clark died that she committed suicide. Anyway, that's about it. I sold my practice to another fellow in Chaplain. I went back to orthodontics school. We've had a good life and in the military we had a great life and then our dental professions. We've been very blessed.                                                                                                          

When his dad said, “Don’t play with that old radio, you’re going to get shocked,” 10-year-old Friend Weller was certainly looking out for his own best interests. What was at the time an elementary-school-aged hobby soon turned into a life-long career decision. Friend has worked professionally for nearly three decades as a radio announcer and engineer in both commercial and public radio.
Shalayne Smith Needham has worked at Utah Public Radio since 2000 as producer of Access Utah. She graduated from Utah State University in 1997 with a BA in Sociology, emphasis on Criminology. A Logan native, she grew up with an appreciation for the great outdoors and spends her free time photographing the Western landscape and its wildlife.