The day Doris just rang up ..& be­came my friend Mega fan Martin on his Hol­ly­wood pal

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News - BY NI­COLA SMALL ni­[email protected] sun­daymir­ror. co.uk

SU­PER­FAN Martin Woods­ford fired off a string of ex­ple­tives as a “prankster” rang up and an­nounced she was Doris Day.

The then 21-year-old was set­ting up an in­ter­na­tional fan club to his idol and was con­vinced some­one was pulling his leg.

But the per­son on the line WAS Hol­ly­wood leg­end Doris.

And that call trig­gered a last­ing bond which saw the un­likely pair be­com­ing the great­est of friends.

At the time Martin, who was work­ing as a trainee nurse, was strug­gling with de­pres­sion af­ter an abu­sive child­hood.

He had writ­ten to Doris – who died this month aged 97 – to say he was ap­pear­ing in an am­a­teur pro­duc­tion of one of her films, Calamity Jane.

She sent signed pho­tos. And when he said he was set­ting up the fan club, Doris rang the hos­pi­tal where he worked. His re­sponse was met with laughs by the ac­tress, who Martin cred­its with sav­ing his life.

Over the years, Doris – who suf­fered mar­i­tal abuse – of­ten called Martin and al­ways replied to his let­ters. Martin, now 47, said: “I still can’t be­lieve it. But she re­ally cared about peo­ple.

“I think she wanted to treat oth­ers as she wanted to be treated her­self.

“She en­dured so much ad­ver­sity in her own life and I think she wanted to do some­thing to bring a lit­tle hap­pi­ness to my life.”

OR­DEAL

Martin was beaten and kicked by his al­co­holic fa­ther, who would even stub out cig­a­rettes on his son’s skin. The or­deal ended when, aged 11, he was taken into care.

Martin, from Pe­narth in Wales, said: “I told Doris how much she meant to me and how she had

helped me sur­vive my child­hood. I loved watch­ing her mu­sic and films. Her whole­some im­age was com­fort­ing. It gave me hope. Doris said she was pleased her films had given me the strength to carry on.

“She told me I had so much to give to the world and I just needed to be­lieve I could achieve and then I ab­so­lutely would. Her words have stuck with me for ever.”

Martin loved Doris’s songs – es­pe­cially Que Será, Será, from The Man Who Knew too Much, the Hitch­cock film she starred in.

He once sent her a paint­ing he had done of a Dal­ma­tian, and she said she would hang it on her wall. The pair ex­changed 30 or so calls down the years. Martin went on: “She was just so per­son­able and I felt priv­i­leged and hon­oured that she was call­ing me. She never wanted to talk about her­self, other than her an­i­mal wel­fare work. She al­ways wanted to find out what I was do­ing. She loved hear­ing of the cup-cake busi­ness I’d set up in her hon­our called Cake Sera, Sera!

“Just a con­ver­sa­tion with her or a let­ter would lift my mood.”

At Doris’s in­vi­ta­tion, Martin stayed at her dog-friendly ho­tel in Carmel, Cal­i­for­nia. Now the home he shares with fiancé Si­mon Cot­ton is dec­o­rated in yel­low – Doris’s favourite colour. He named his dogs Doris and Os­car, say­ing: “It’s the Os­car she never got.”

Martin, who runs Slim­ming World groups af­ter shed­ding 13 stone, added: “She’s the big­gest in­flu­ence on my life. Her legacy is no mat­ter what life throws at you, there is al­ways an­other door that will open.”

IT’S ALL IN A DAY’S WORK Ac­tress Doris Day struck up friend­ship­with No1 Bri­tish fan

LET­TER Doris’s note af­ter Martin sent paint­ing

FRIEND Doris fan Martin

IDOLISED InCalamity Jane role

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