I sat down on the outside deck of Burr Raymond’s Valley Creek Dry tasting room (www.Raymondburrvineyards.Com) when it was still late morning. The hills in front of us were covered with vine-covered undulated hills, resembling a great swatch of green corduroy. Benevides is quietly funny, filling our time together with many experiences that quickly pass, yet feel like many lifetimes.
The endeavors of the Benevides/Burr clan, like numerous others, were a collective undertaking, designated as a homage and commemoration of Burr, the vineyard.
According to Benevides, “eight acres discovered the initial parcel of land for me. I have never possessed any land, but I have desired to do so ever since I was ten years old and perused The Good Earth by Pearl Buck.”
As we have been producing wine continuously, our initial wine was bottled in ’89. In ’86, we planted the grapevines. Although it happened in 1985, he thoroughly enjoyed it. Naturally, he couldn’t prepare meals for fewer than 20 individuals at once; cooking for others was his ultimate passion. Raymond expressed his desire to have a vineyard since he loved cooking and said, “I believe we should plant some grapevines.” Initially, the idea revolved around owning a splendid property close to our relatives.
Environmentally friendly and powered by solar energy, the vineyard has become a prime example of sustainable industry. “Rather than disturbing the soil, we maintain a no-till vineyard,” Benevides explains. “We regularly mow the area and allow vegetation, such as grasses, to grow between the rows. This creates a habitat for a diverse population of beneficial insects. Consequently, we abstain from using chemicals to eradicate certain insects, as it would harm the beneficial ones as well.”
The land on which the bench is located makes the vines struggle for their heartiness, ultimately resulting in better quality grapes that produce Franc Cabernet and Sauvignon Cabernet, which is probably one of my favorites. It depends on what I’m eating for dinner, but spaghetti is a good choice. Just like you, I like them all.
Burr, although Benevides was commonly called his “business partner” or “friend” in written works, Burr was associated with fictitious spouses and a child that probably did not actually exist. Difficulties that are typically not encountered by heterosexual couples frequently arose in Raymond Burr’s life.
Benevides was still pursuing a career in television when I was an actor. I did a lot of plays and television shows. The last thing I did was a play called “Son and Seidman” in Hollywood in 1963. When I decided I no longer wanted to do that, it was a difficult decision for me. But I enjoyed being in front of the camera so much and saw how easy it was for him, and one day when I came home, he said, “Well, you don’t have to do that anymore.” It was such a load off my shoulders and I never thought of it that way. We had been together for about three years when I came home to talk to Raymond on day one, and it was just agony.
I was a producer on From then, and we were all set to go into production on the side office in Universal City. I don’t know why you’ve been doing all of it without me. You’ve been working on my scripts, doing production stuff for me, and Raymond already told me that I don’t have to do any more of that carefully worded pronouncing stuff.
They worked through two entertainment companies, Productions RB and Island Harbour, because we used to go to a small island called Island Harbour in the Bahamas. It’s strange that the secretary was R.B, as were the initials of both R.B. Quips and Benevides. I used my license plate for Jaguar, but I only sold barrels for one year.
Members from both Perry Mason and Ironside, including the cast and crew, have a close relationship with Benevides. “I am still deeply in love with Barbara [Hale, who portrayed Della Street in the Perry Mason series], and she feels the same way about me. I recently had the pleasure of sharing two dinners and a brunch with her in Los Angeles, and our connection remains strong. She is the sole surviving member from the original Perry Mason cast. As for the Ironside cast, I am still in touch with Don Galloway [who played Detective Sergeant Ed Brown]. He is the reason behind my tattoo,” he explains, rolling up his sleeve to reveal a delicate bird inked on his forearm.
In Singapore, there was a tattoo shop called Thumbs Two run by a gentleman named Johnny, who was referred to as Siamese. Don, a producer from Hotel Raffles in Singapore, wanted to add his wife’s name to his heart and get a tattoo on his arm. When we were at Hotel Raffles in Singapore, I, along with Guy Della producer [Don, Raymond], got a sweet little bird of youth, and Cioppa had been drinking pink gin. We each had two thumbs up on our hands, just like Johnny wanted with the Lion of Singapore.
In addition, the couple loved to travel and had several getaway spots in various locations. One of their favorite spots was the Fijian island of Nye-tum-ba, where they later built a hospital and purchased services for the local islanders.
Raymond was searching for a place to get away, and we were looking at Hawaii. He always considered a large hotel, but this time he found a little beachy place that seemed like the next door property.
“That got us bigger and bigger eyes as Raymond was telling us about this little boat that will take you to a little dock in 45 minutes by taxi, and then you have to go to another island by plane. It’s difficult to get to Fiji because you have to bring everything with you. I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I just came from another island where they sold me an island. I’m sorry, I’m just joking. This gentleman over there said they mailed me a letter and they got it back. He said they had about 10 acres of island and they mailed me the letter from Australia. But, of course, there is no Chamber of Commerce in Fiji. Why don’t you write a letter to the Chamber of Commerce in Fiji?” Said Raymond. “They simply looked at me and said they stopped being the ones to look at other pages of the world. Never.”
“The bovines were employed as lawn mowers. The livestock primarily served the purpose of trimming the grass for the coconut trees–the cows were essentially lawn mowers,” chuckles Benevides. The piece of land they would eventually obtain consisted of 4,000 acres filled with cattle and coconut trees.
‘In 1965, we sold it and he fell in love with it. We stayed there for two days and drank champagne. He said it’s a sign and opened a bottle of champagne. It was very stormy and cloudy on the island. A shaft of light came down and he shook my hand, saying ‘We’re going to sleep now, Raymond.’ I took Dramamine because I was getting seasick on the little boat. Despite the rugged nature of the place, our first impression of the island lasted.’
Did Raymond really like green thumbs and orchids when he met Robert before? Why don’t vintners, land barons, and Hollywood superstars add another job description to their resume like farmers do with orchids?
Robert Burr, the owner of Raymond’s Orchid Nursery, had a favorite color which was blue. He showed me many blue flowers in the humid jungle-like greenhouse of his greenhouse. The catalog of American hybrid orchids had registered about 200 orchids and he had created over 2,000 crosses. The couple remained on their property in Sonoma County, where they had two greenhouses, for the next few years. During this time, Robert Burr remembers getting a license for God Sea Nursery. He needed this license because he imported a lot of weird stuff. He thought he could just import a lot of weird stuff and raise all sorts of exotic plants. He had a house down the way beyond the cliffs in Malibu.
Look at how beautiful the flower is, with its vibrant blooms that surpass the foliage in the season. I am amazed by the abundance of flowers. He immediately fell in love with her, as she was a wonderful friend to Raymond, just like how she is a great friend now. This particular person was named Ruth Doctor, known as “Doctor Good The.” Robert announces and takes a pot.
“She zoomed by me,” I unlocked the door and realized it was Ruth. I peered through the peephole and couldn’t spot anyone. We were in a hotel preparing to leave when there was a knock on the door. He proceeds, recounting their initial encounter, the laughter starts softly and intensifies.
“He might have placed her in his pocket,” he chuckles. They presented a comical sight, one can envision. “‘Where is he? Where is he? Where is Mr. Burr?'” Mr. Benevides exclaims as he hurries along the row of plants, waving with his arms raised high, imitating Ruth Westheimer in his finest falsetto, all the while maintaining his dignified demeanor.
Today, Benevides spends a lot of his time traveling the world, which is why I made a promise to myself that I would travel every month. Some months, it’s not very far, like this month when I’m only going to L.A. To see the opera. But next month, I’ll go to Guerneville, which is the week of the year that I love the most – the Lazy Bear festival in Wales; it’s like an opera for Lazy Bear lovers in Valencia, Spain.
Every year, the vineyard’s wine club hosts a celebration in honor of Raymond’s birthday, ranging from relaxed barbecues and tastings to wine cruises. Creating a welcoming atmosphere is of great importance to him. At his vineyard, which he considers a hidden treasure, he takes pleasure in educating guests about the wines produced there. When he is not traveling, he spends his time at home in the art-filled house that he shares with Burr in Sonoma.
We get a lot of people who are very charmed by the laid-back, easy-going atmosphere here. It’s a good time to have a picnic and enjoy the basic premise of coming here, where people like to relax.
While Raymond Burr had never had the chance to taste the bottled product from the grapes he nurtured, each bottle is a heartfelt tribute to him.
I think he deserves to be named after him, and now we’re making great wines at his memorial idea, but he didn’t like that at all. We had talked about the possibility of naming it after him, but he didn’t want that. Finally, I decided it should be called Burr Raymond Vineyards. We still hadn’t released any of the wines when he died in ’93, but I know that reflects him.