Leon Russell’s Palatial Pad Scene for ‘Simple Ceremony’
By Staff Reports
Jun 9, 1973
1/16/13 at 2:25 AM
“It’s gonna be some wedding,” said the teeny-bopper sprawling in blue jeans and halter on a brick ledge just outside the high white gate leading to Leon Russell’s palatial pad in the heart of Maple Ridge.
Her face was round and innocent and filled with awe. “They’re gonna have on costumes and everything.”
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., somewhere between the third and fourth glass of champagne, Leon Russell sat down at the baby grand, brushed back the gray black blond hair and beat out a very traditional version of the wedding march.
Emily Smith, the bride, and Edward Simon Peter Miller-Mundy entered through a large glass door at the back of the room.
Everyone lowered his glass and stepped aside. Leon Russell’s “roadies” were costumed like swamis and matadors and one large yellow chicken. There were some local businessmen wearing business suits and some counter-culture overlords from as far away as California; a turbaned Indian from India, all present at Leon’s house for the wedding of his friend, the friend for whom he composed “Sweet Emily.”
Emily is the daughter of Tulsa baseball Oiler owner A. Ray Smith and her husband is descended from English nobility and as the teeny-bopper said, it was some wedding.
Long before it began, Les Black entered through the front gate with a movie camera mounted on his shoulder, following a young girl carrying a microphone the length of a Volkswagen tailpipe.
Emily’s niece, 8-year-old Melena Bates, stood on the porch, between massive colonial pillars and sang “Joy to the World."
“Do you want us to move?” a woman asked when the camera turned on her.
“Stand still. We’re filming the party.”
Black had been filming a movie for Russell, sage of rock ‘n’ roll, for more than a year. The party may become part of the film.
“It hasn’t taken any form yet,” Black said.
Inside, 50 or so guests mingled in one large room of the house, formerly the McClintock mansion, which now breathes ancient teakwood and rare oriental carpet, heavy fixtures which Russell claims he found prowling through junk shops.
Shortly before the wedding march began, glaring food lights mounted on either side of the room were switched on. Emily, wearing a traditional Japanese wedding kimona, and Miller-Mundy, wearing a green velvet suit, white shirt and no tie, were escorted into the room by Denny Cordell, Russell’s partner, and maid-of-honor Andrea Cohen, an actress-photographer from Beverly Hills.
Tulsa Dist. Judge Richard Armstrong performed a simple ceremony, traditional enough for even Muskogee and the group adjourned to the Rose Room, and old East Virgin Street ballroom still filled with the ghosts of parties past.
“Why the costumes?” one of the roadies, a hip name for the technicians who tour with Russell, was asked.
It’s a festive occasion,” he said.
When Mr. and Mrs. Edward Simon Peter Miller-Mundy entered, the nine piece integrated band played a jive version of the wedding march.
“Would you believe I used to do that for a living?” Russell said, referring to the days before he was playing bigger gigs.
The bride and groom danced.
Emily was asked were her husband was from.
“What does he do?”
“He’s a gentleman.”
Where are you going to live? London or Tulsa?”
“All over the world.”