Friday, August 18, 2017

Strange things

It's funny about "blogging" daily...sometimes I just pour out content and other times its like Karo Syrup in January (as my grandmother used to say).

I'm not quite sure yet how much I want to share or even mention and what just stays proprietary info...TMI is TMI...

I was thinking about connections-which I find fascinating-does anyone but me remember that TV show where they would connect disparate things via complicated means?

I like puzzles so I guess that's why...

We are, today, in a tenuous world-we got here by anger and hate and seething turmoil that was going unaddressed...I don't think anyone was aware just how angry the population was...

It seems to me the elections and how that played out should be telling people something very loud and clear but so many are missing the point...and the way news and opinions at disseminated in the world make it even more cloudy and hard to understand exactly what is going on.

There was just this event-I don't know what to call it, between what seems to be White supremacists, Neo-Nazis, separationists and other groups that range along an arc of ideologies-the disagreement seems to be who was RIGHT and who was not...that sort of distillation of an event into black and white is impossible, futile and frustrating...depending on your point of view almost everyone was right or wrong to some extent.

We are long past the shiny, whitewashed days of the white hats vs the black hats-symbology  is much more diffuse today and we are in the age of the anti-hero-who would have ever thought of Batman as a vigilante or SUPERMAN as anything less than an American hero? Truth, Justice and the American way...

Not so simple and easy anymore-someone always wants to debate...every issue.

I have an odd stance on a recent point of polarization-GAY MARRIAGE.

One would think that I would be for it and I am but here's where the fog rolls in:

I think MARRIAGE-the institution-should be the purview of the Church, religious organizations in general and CIVIL UNIONS should be available to everyone - as a matter of fact if you want to be legally joined ONLY a civil union should carry any weight with the government.

If you want to be married in the eyes of a church you go there after you get your license and are joined by the state-wow that sounds like the USSR doesn't it?

We have separation of CHURCH and STATE for a reason-it's important...if you don't understand why you need to look at what happens when that separation is unclear or ignored-you get a theocracy-that is where the dictates of the state religion are the law-so chopping off hands, eye gouging, beheadings and other scary stuff is normal and accepted.

Too much of what we call law in the USA is actually based in Judeo-Christian Bible laws-and we have a small but mighty minority of extreme religious zealots that would like very much to rule this country according to old testament laws.

If EVERYONE were married by the STATE then religion wouldn't have a say and NO they should NOT be forced-if private institutions paid for abortions then the government could stay out of it and the subject could be between a woman and her conscience-not the business of a bunch of old white guys in Washington.

If people paid attention to birth control there would be less unwanted pregnancies and thus less abortions; its just a matter of getting people to have self control and take responsibility.

So---if I don't believe in YOUR God that's just tough because that's THE LAW.

I'm not going to continue this particular line of mulling very long-it's boring and it makes people crazy but WHICH GOD is the correct GOD-you know there have been thousands of Gods since we became able to conceive such things...its clear that there are TWO Gods in the BIBLE and the NEW GOD was created to mollify the practices of the old one...

You might want to read Neil Gaiman's excellent books in the AMERICAN GODS series which ponders the what ifs of how Gods are born and fade and how people bring their own Gods with them when they change places.



If you have ANY doubt this is true do some research on Islam and Sharia Law-it should scare you-if it doesn't....???

The Handmaid's Tale is another cautionary book about how religion becomes just as corrupt as any political engine when it is in control-absolute power corrupts...

SOOOOOOO, Stranger things:

UFO's. Aliens, Planet X all that sort of stuff...

I had a scary online covo with a guy on YouTube----about the EARTH being FLAT...

I detest stupidity-it really annoys me...empirical research tells us that the earth is not flat-did we not prove this fact scientifically 500 or more years ago?

The part that bothers me is that KIDS are involved in this and the pundits say there are actually MILLIONS that believe in a flat Earth theory-it used to be a "thing" amongst intellectuals to debate such nonsense to make each other irritated-that's how the Flat Earth Society was born.

I went back and forth with this young man about his beliefs and finally he explained to me offline via email:



IF we live on a stupid little rock flying around at the edge of a huge galaxy nowhere in particular we are insignificant and GOD is useless but if we live on a flat earth under a dome built by God for us we must be important which makes GOD important and it makes the flat Earther feel better about everything.

So God actually sits on top of this magical glass dome-it says so that the seat of his throne...

I asked what does the great terrarium sit ON, what is underneath? If you go outside the dome what is there?-I had LOTS of questions...

Poor guy he just got angry and finally told me to F*** Off and disappeared.

They don't l9ike it when you shake the magic terrarium.

AND-how is this different from the earth sitting on the backs of three elephants who are standing on a turtle and there is a coiled serpent in the stack somewhere...



Eventually one sees that everything is a version of something that came before it-ancient stories and tales told to hel people understand natural wonders.

There is a total eclipse this week in the USA-we know there is no Dragon swallowing the sun but just in case if there is one would someone try to catch it or at least get a picture-and then when its done swallowing does it unswallow or poop it out? What?

People are more ready to believe that space aliens have crossed endless miles to hang out here than what we are seeing is military black ops stuff that was NOT reverse engineered from a captured space craft.



Planet X is way late-it has been predicted for at least a hundred years or more-it was supposed to be here virtually every month last year and a couple of times this year-its nowhere in sight, scientists keep telling people it would be disrupting everything in the solar system not just Earth but NASA lies about everything so.....???

Poor NASA---they get a terrible rap and while I have no doubt they do lie or at least twist the truth-many things they get blamed for they have no control over its the NSA or probably some alphabet soup organization much higher up.

If you don't know about the BROOKINGS INSTITUTION REPORT you need to look it up...

Basically it says "tell them nothing-they can't handle it"-I believe it was written in the 50s or 60s-very different times-I think we are actually glad they kept things from us-we are only just now finding how close we came to being tiny burned particles floating off into oblivion.

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis-I ask you what would happen if THAT were to happen today? Seems like we have been mighty close in the past few weeks....North Korea, Putin, Iran, Syria...

Here is something I do believe: I think we, humans, are more powerful than we know-I think when we use our collective consciousness we can do amazing things---if you want to call it prayer, that's fine-however the forces are focused it seems to work except on things we don't know about-like Earthquakes hit so out of the blue-hard to stop them but we are so far overdue here in California I think the ANTI=earthquake thinkers may be doing some good.

Eventually the Yellowstone Caldera will probably erupt-check out YouTube and the number of CRAZY people that sit all day and all night watching the web cams from Yellowstone and SWEAR they can see the ground rise and fall...



I don't think we can stop a super volcano from erupting-we know it has erupted so WHY do we live in the BLAST ZONE-people do...same reason people live in California.

When we have a big quake they leave and then time passes and Disneyland continues to operate and they start coming back.

But why FRET about it 24 hours a day?

Move South-you will probably only have to worry about the hole in the ozone layer and Australians are very nice people (kiwis as well)...

I think the smarter we become the crazier we become---we FIND things to worry about even things we cannot do anything about-almost as if we NEED to worry as a distraction from other things.

Cause and effect?

I see patterns when something happens over here there is a counter thing over there and then another somethings and so on-when you slow down and look at it all there is a BIG thing and lots of little things-the BIG thing gives rise ti the other stuff and therein is yet another conspiracy theory.

They keep us agitated and frightened-"THEY"? who are They?

The very very rich people (organizations) at the top of the food chain or the various GODS we have created to worship "or blame" when things happen...I have my opinion you can have yours I am not into debating the subject.

Anyway it falls the real conspiracy theory could be MUCH worse-we could actually be living a MATRIX existence-we could be a construct in the computer of a 17 year old hormonal super being who forgot to feed the Turtle...

OR this is my dream and you all exist in it-which is not so far off from Mormonism-next time you're in a motel, READ the book...






Liz Taylor and Liz Taylor

If you've followed this blog since the beginning you may remember I said in passing that Liz Taylor and I coloured together...thats true.

My Grandma Fran was the best...and she really wasn't my Grandma-she was my step-dad's mom.

She always treated me just like I was her blood and I used to love to go and stay with her in the summer.

I would go for a couple weeks and later my sister would stay a couple weeks...

I was pretty low maintenance...Grandma always said give him a stack of paper and some colours and he's busy for the rest of the day.

Still true...

I may have mentioned that Grandma Fran taught me how to do blush on colouring books or drawings-her colouring had a distinctive 30's feel to it even though I don't know that she had nay artistic leanings---ballet I know when she was a kid and of course she was the Ukulele girl for her 2nd husbands band...I guess those are art...

She was very fussy about her hair...it was (at this juncture in her life) a dark mahogany red, never brassy always subdued and always on the short side...I can't imagine Grandma with big hair-she was too little.

I always said she was like a feisty cookie jar...short and round and full of spice...she was fascinated with life and everything about it....

When I was about 25 she called me on the phone one night "Buddy? (remember that's my nickname)  Elmer won't take me to see the Female Impersonators over there on Ventura Blvd-I want you to come get me one night and we'll go over there...I'll pay."

She had a red Volkswagon-I think 60's-when she died in 1986 it had about 5 thousand miles on it-it had always been in the garage and was very well taken care of-like Pristine condition...it was my sisters by bequest-I don't know what happened to it...

Anyway she would toodle (remember when people used to "toodle" around?) around Van Nuys in her Red Volkswagon with her red hair and red lips (usually with a cig clenched between them) and explore.

They put an Adult Book Store in a few miles from her house-she wanted to know what it was all about-so one afternoon she drove up, parked and went in with her purse on her arm.

I would have loved to have seen the faces of the men who were browsing the wares...

She said it was "interesting" but also "nothing she hadn't seen before"...no judgement...

So, she took me with her to the Parco Brothers Salon in Sherman Oaks---Italo Parco did her hair I don't remember the other brothers names- I think one was Sal, Salvatore Parco...but he didn't like Sal so he was Tito (I think Tito Puente was popular then and Tito Parco had a similar ring) there was at least one other maybe two...but I digress---they were all like central casting extras, broad Italian accents and big gestures...but not feminine...more like the waiters in old Adolphe Manjou movies...

Grandma had brought a few colouring books, some blank paper, the big box of Crayons with the sharpener built in and a rug to corral me on in an area near the dryers but out of the way "where I can keep an eye on him."

It was interesting...I was perfectly happy and I had never been in a place where ladies got their hair done...or their lip bleached or permanent waves...it was a lot of work and they all looked better when it was over but tired.

The Parco brothers provided Italian Cookies and WINE, nice for ladies a little sweet snack...keep the sugars up...

There was a commotion at the front and a lady came in with a TURBAN and BIG sunglasses-she was very TAN and had tight capri pants, a yellow top and wedgie shoes that were sorta like straw and hawaiian in a way-lots of jewelry-she had a funny loud laugh and Tito fussed over her a lot...



"who is this? You're too blonde to be a Parco Brother...are you colouring?"

And with that she plopped on the floor and asked if she could colour something-so I gave her the hollywood stars colouring book because she look kinda like some of the ladies in there I thought.

"OOOOOOHHHHH this one is FABULOUS, wait...I'll show you!"

She flipped pages and came to a lady with a short flipped hair do and a big dress with a long full skirt..."see that one is ME...!


BIG LOUD LAUGH

"Miss Taylor we are ready to start you now..."

"No, I am colouring with my new best friend so go away for awhile..."

"You can call me Elizabeth..."

And that was that, I pointed out my Grandma and told Elizabeth about how we went to the movies and to the amusement park and answered all her questions and she told me I should see her pictures from when she was a little girl and it turned out I had seen her in National Velvet on channel 5 movies...she coloured her dress and hair in the book and told me about Mickey Rooney and I told her that I had breakfast with Frankenstein and the Wolf Man and how I had seen Ida Lupino kiss her Great Danes right on the dog lips at the drive in  restaurant on Santa Monica Blvd.



"IDA needs to be more discreet"

BIG LOUD LAUGH

She was under the dryer when we left so I just got to wave good bye-but she was fun...

Her husband was killed that year and it was very sad.

My dad and Grandpa Elmer had both worked on portions of her husbands film and my Grandparents had been to the premier in Hollywood.

Fast forward 1977 :

"Kadota can you come in here" my new nickname based on Figs at a breakfast recently came over the loudspeaker-I was on VIP's at the tour.

"We need you to meet a limo out front and there will be a publicist from the lower lot-you're on their clock so you are their property-check in with Ops when you get back."

Occasionally when someone important visited the lot we would go get them at a local hotel or their "home" in Beverly Hills or Hollywood and escort them to the studio.

When I saw the limo I knew it was someone BIG since their was no LOGO on the car-it was a classy, black Rolls limo as I remember and I think it belonged to Dr. Stein who was head of MCA-he also endowed the eye clinic at UCLA-I never met him---I had met Uncle Lew (Lew Wassermann) several times-(nice man).

PUBLICIST: Oh good a mature one, have you done this before?

ME: I have, several times.

PUBLICIST: OK this one is a hand full-do what she wants, whatever she wants-so not argue with her-if she wants to fly somewhere call the studio first-this is the number...try to be back before midnight-do NOT take a tip from her!

ME: May I ask who "HER" is?

PUBLICIST: Elizabeth Taylor

ME: FABULOUS! Maybe she will give my colouring book back...

He turned pale so I gave him the short version of "we used to colour together when I was a kid"

PUBLICIST: She almost single handedly put 20th out of business try to see she doesn't do it to us.

I picked her up at a very swanky boutique hotel on San Vincente not far from Chasen's.

When she came downstairs and into the lobby I swear they had special lights for her-she literally glowed-she was also wearing THE Diamond (33 carats given to her by Burton)-she had a cashmere coat with a large lynx collar over her shoulders and a PA with another coat, an overnight bag and other "important stuff" trailing behind her.

I introduced myself and tried to be as polite and charming as possible-in my head I kept saying-she sat on the floor and coloured, you've seen her in a shampoo coat and under the dryer getting her toenails painted...

HER: I'm starving I have called Chasen's and they are doing breakfast for us-we can WALK there!

I just followed her and the PA and the "STUFF"

Lot's of welcomes and MRS. CHASEN was there-we were at a table towards the back away from the front door and any NOISE.

When we were finally all settled-she had FRESH squeezed Orange Juice with just a splash of Champagne-I had Iced Tea-she asked me NOT to have coffee please because she hated coffee breath before noon-in a very nice way.

She had LAVENDER eyes you know.

I finally had a chance to remind her of our meeting in the past when she asked if I was wanting to be in the Movie Business.

This required a huge amount of tact because you can't say "when I was a child....etc etc" or "when I was a tiny boy...etc etc" so I led in with You have no reason to remember but we have met at the PARCO Brothers hair salon in Sherman Oaks on the floor near the dryers_I was with my Grandmother..." (fairly classy I thought for an unrehearsed intro).

HER: Oh My GOD, well you were too young to have been sleeping with any of them so you must have been a child---tell me more"

And I did-remember I told you first about it- see  above...

HER: (to the PA) YOU-take this crap (she used another word) back to the hotel-leave my coat and my bag if I need anything I will call you AT the hotel-this is an old friend so we need room to visit...

and that was that!

We had the most incredible CHILI OMELETS (no onions), some lovely toast points (assorted with sweet butter) and fruit-the most amazingly good fruit cup I have ever had-my first brush with sour cherries...

We took the Limo and went to Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills-she took my arm-she told me many stories about MGM and making Cleopatra and almost dying several times.

We went to Gump's where she bought a gift for a friend (giftwrap and send).

I realized when we sat down for LOVE FOOD SALADS in the Neiman Marcus Tea Room a few hours later (she had bought a lot of STUFF in between -all charge and send, some gift wrap charge and send) I had never seen money or a credit card change hands nor had anyone asked her any questions-it was some amazing code.

We stopped at the bottom of the escalator (main floor) for exactly 5 minutes when she almost literally bumped into a very TAN actor (George Hamilton)-she introduced me, he looked at me like I was a fungus, she verified their dinner plans for the next day, said "I'll call you or you call me, I at the Hermitage" and we were off.

We took the limo to Malibu to a friends house who I can not name because I promised I wouldn't where we sat in the living room while the sea crashed outside and looked at jewelry brought in for her inspection by a jeweler whose store we had been literally yards from not 2 hours earlier.

We snacked on cashews and kumquats-more iced tea (minty this time)...some transcendental chat and we were off again.

In the limo she considered a "quick trip" to San Francisco-I must have gone pale because we stopped back at the hotel where she changed and we went off to a very exclusive restaurant in Topanga Canyon where there were cocktails , hors d'oeuvres and eventually dinner...more Movie and TV people...a well known talk show host (when he comes over here wait 2 minutes then remind me we have to leave almost at once)...I did, we did not.

I walked her into the hotel at precisely 1 am-I had been on double time since 4:30pm...

She was charming and tired and a little tipsy she took my hand and held it for just a bit and said "Thank you for being a perfect gentlemen, a great shopping companion and not some Hollywood tight assed son of a bitch-you may kiss me on the cheek"

As she made her exit she turned (in that special light reserved just for her) - diamond sparkling alluringly in her amazing cleavage and said "Good Night Buddy" and disappeared.


I never did get to ask for my colouring book back.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

what was that noise...

So....there I was luxuriating; warm and comfy, in that half in half out place between sleep and I don't wanna get up:

My ears perked up.

It's a strange thing when that primal part of ourselves kicks in and we suddenly are alert.

I was operating on some out of body sense-in one graceful move I picked up the 9 inch chefs knife I kept by the bed and padded silently and quite naked, into the hall and on to the living room.

It takes a second or two for the eyes to connect to the brain and understand what you are seeing.

There was a young man who had squeezed in through a sliding window now trying to figure out how to open the lock on the sliding glass door to make an easier exit for himself.



Drawing myself up to my full 6 foot two and in my best naked man monster voice I invited him to leave the premises - immediately...

For a second or two I actually felt a little sorry for the dumb sucker---he thought he was doing an easy, weekday morning BnE-a rear apartment with a convenient patio hidden from any pesky nosy neighbors and any view from the street and now there he was-trapped empty handed and weaponless between a locked slider and a BIG naked man with a loud voice and a very large KNIFE.

In a moment of sanity I retreated and grabbed a robe, returning to the living room I was just in time to see his skinny ass disappearing out the window he entered through.

I continued across the living room and dialed 911.

I would love to have a tape of that call-the woman wanted to debate the semantics of being
robbed versus burglarized however she did mobilize the police-I found pants, shirt and shoes-
and there was a knock at the door and that lovely sound of a deep voice announcing, "POLICE"...

They already had him I was told-so into the police car I went and they drove me via shadows so I couldn't be seen to the local mall where my ROBBER (I know he was actually my burglar but that's harder to say than ROBBER) was up against a patrol car wearing the most stylish bracelets...

I realized how amazingly photographic our brains are under duress-I had perfectly described his hair, pants and the crooked tooth he had in front but he had changed his shirt-I heard "he changed his shirt?" come out of my mouth.

Apparently he thought that would throw off the man hunt-the other shirt was found in the space between my apartment building and the house next door-he had been carrying a stack of jeans, neatly folded as if they had been "removed from someones drawer" (not mine, wrong size).

SO...that was that...I was returned to my home, there was a parade of various investigators and detectives, fingerprint powder everywhere-

Just inside the window he came through was a white macrame plant hanger which held a large, shiny, YELLOW pot with a lush fern.

No comments, it was the early 80's that was very chic...

Said shiny, yellow pot had a perfect hand print where he had gently pushed it aside to get in.

That evening I slept on the COUCH with the knife and a pistol provided by a neighbor...the next day every window was drilled and pegged so they wouldn't slide open without removing the peg stops...new poles in the slider door tracks...deadbolts.

How violated, creepy and vulnerable one feels after such an event can hardly be described.

We think that walls and windows and doors offer us enough protection sheathed as we are in our false sense of security...

I had to testify against the little bastard in court where his red neck father and trailer park girl friend glared at me from the audience area and hissed epithets at me as I left the courtroom-as if I had done something to them...obviously he wasn't a felon he had stopped in for a humanitarian purpose...moronic

That proceeding, of course, acerbated the anxiety which was just diminishing after about 6 weeks...there is always the chance that they will get off on a technicality...

As it happens I was Burglarized twice more at that address-by the third episode I had added an alarm-I had closed in the patio with lattice---useless, obviously in that case they had sent in a child to open the door from the inside via a break in the lattice work.

In neither of the other cases had I actually confronted the perpetrator as I had in the first event...

By the way that first burglary was not the first of my life I had been hit at least twice in the early 70's when I lived in Hollywood and I had been mugged (at knife point) a block from my apartment at twilight.

In the 90's the van we used to do art fairs and shows was literally broken into via a wind wing (remember those? don't see them much anymore) and they took the brand new sound system that had been installed to make the long trips less tedious...it was parked in front of the house in Burbank.

This morning I read a very sad, upsetting angry post on Facebook...a friend in Oklahoma was burglarized...obviously she was shaken...its a terrible. impotent feeling...you want someone to hit or slowly torture...I think we lose our civilized selves and go to that primal place where the old programmed genetics that govern "run, hide, protect, defend." still exist.

For most of us who aren't wealthy film moguls or oil barons, robbers seldom get anything of particular value...they take stuff that they think they can sell off for some money to get their next fix or whatever...I guess its stuff they snort now-meth-amphetamine...the drug du jour.

When they do get something important it is only important to us at a heart ache level and is irreplaceable ...something from a friend or treasured relative...

One of my robberies they took two hundred dollars in cash, the insult was they took the Godiva Box I kept it in...

That box was worth more to me than the Mona Lisa...it came from a friend who had passed on, it had been given for a special occasion...

A friend said to me that they couldn't steal the memories...yeah, well...I want my Godiva Box back because there was something written in the lid...it was just a paper box...it meant nothing to the drug addict who pushed it into a pocket and moved on...

That person wanted the 2 hundred bucks and the GODIVA chocolate box was a symbol of rich stuff-if I could afford Godiva I could afford to lose 2 hundred bucks...they apparently make up reasons that justify what they do.

Take the money, leave the box...

I don't care how much tough love, scared straight, well meaning ex-con therapy they hand out in prisons there will always be some smart assed punk who runs laughing through someones home, believing they are Robin Hood grabbing bits of this and that and then breaking the stuff they couldn't carry just for meanness.

They don't care that they grabbed things that were mementos of long dead friends, reletives, moments of our lives that only have meaning to
us.

For quite a few years I have had am old fashioned hat stand in my living room-it came from my friend Chuck who was my friend, vocal coach and accompanist for many years...one of the dear ones I buried in those horrible years of the plague.

On the hooks where hats should hang I display things that I love to look at as I walk by---little bits of art and junk that are treasures to me.

One was a bright yellow, hand painted tie from the 1940's...it belonged to my dad.

I was very, very sad that Dad was not buried in a yellow shirt...he loved yellow shirts-we always bought him yellow shirts for every occasion-it was a thing...my Mother in some grieving widow moment decided to bury him wearing the tie his BOSS had given him (instead of a decent salary or a bonus).

My Dad hated to wear a TIE...what he loved was a yellow shirt...

I had that yellow tie...it was so him...it was vintage, it was so me...we weren't connected by blood but we were connected by his love...

What could that stupid tie have meant to anyone but HIM... and me?

So...it was stolen...by some random person that came through my house...it's gone forever...

A burglary happened in Oklahoma, they took things of sentimental value, broke a window...

But here in California its the 1970's and once again I am a violated, young, naked man with a knife and I want to punish that selfish punk and ALL the selfish punks who steal our memories and our security...


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Highway 49

a huge part of the history of California is the Gold Rush of 1849 and the colourful characters and happenings of the times...the era and the portion of the state that was involved is commemorated by Highway 49 which runs basically North and South through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Starting a Mariposa in the south you pass through beautiful scenery and colorful Gold Rush era locations like Angel's Camp, Columbia, Coloma, Grass Valley and Placerville.

Well, you used to pass through them now you whizz by adjacent to most of the towns and the area has been hurt by over-building and the by-passes which were instituted to help and protect the historic towns and like many well meaning modernization schemes-they basically killed the towns in the process.

The first time I visited this area was back when I was about 12 or 14 on a family vacation.

Like many of the vacations the folks planned there was lots to see, lots of history and most of it was very inexpensive or free.

There were ruins along the road carefully preserved and actual towns with iron shutters to help protect from fires ( a constant threat in those days), historic bars, hotels and other structures.

 The road wound through the foothills-2 sleepy lanes most of the way and always went straight through each of the mining towns and camps.

Columbia had been a project of the state Historic Societies and is now a state park and registered Historic Site-many think its like Knott's Berry Farm-built for tourists but Columbia has a checkered past back to 1850 and was past it's prime by the 1860s.

It was a filming location over the years starting back in the 1920s and still features amny of the shops and businesses that it has for over 150 years.

I remember well that we had stopped for dinner in Jamestown which was south of Columbia near Sonora-my sister was about 7 and she asked for a menu-the waitress was surprised and said "Can you read?'-I guess literate little girls of 7 were a rarity in Jamestown?

We had a lovely, homey dinner and chatted with the server-the cafe wasn't real busy and I suppose she appreciated the company...

My Dad asked her how far it was to Columbia which was our first stop for the next day and the lady offered that she thought it was about 30 or 40 miles, she didn't know exactly she had never been there.

It was less than 10 miles.



The Gold Country in those days was still quiet and rural and had charm.

Over the years I went up or down Highway 49 many times-and I watched it change.



There was a fear that the constant traffic was not good for the "delicate" historical buildings so the highway was changed into a series of bypasses-one had to leave highway 49 and use the bypass through the town in order to visit them.

In places like Jamestown the historic route went in front of the businesses and the bypass went behind-sometimes even closer than the original road.

So which was best? Cars slowly traveling through the business district or barreling down a "freeway" which rattles the structures day and night but benefits no one.

Since many towns were barely a block of businesses that mostly operated during the tourist season-the reputation that the area was mostly CLOSED started circulating and more people went past than went through the towns.

Some Towns like Sutter's Creek did OK since it was not possible to go around the town which is nestled into a small picturesque Valley below Placerville.



I actually almost bought a historic Building with a gift shop and lamp business up there but was warned it was a seasonal business and might not be the best investment.

Friends of mine at various times had shoppes along 49-one had a used book store in Placerville that did quite well and another had shoppes in bot Grass Valley and Nevada City that flourished for awhile but like most other tourist dependent businesses eventually succumbed to the fight between merchants associations, historic societies and fluctuations in the economy.

The gold Country is on the East side of the San Joaquin Valley and summer temperatures can be brutally hot and dry-winters can be cold and snowy.

The history of the area is rich and there is much to be learned, characters like Belle Starr, Mark Twain and Black Bart.

In its approx. 300 miles of road one passes ny the Marshall Gold Strike State Park where the original 1849 discovery of Gold started the Gold Rush and along the way many of the sites of mines and towns that make up that portion of the history of California.



Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks are also a part of this area.

At the North end the road ventures into Alpine terrain and eventually disappears-Placer Mining and other highly destructive mining practices were common up this way and the scarred landscape has been preserved for future generations.

The question will ultimately be whether or not the historic towns with their Gold Rush flavour will survive the onslaught of Condos, Walmarts and Gentrification that has been intruding on the area for the last 30 years.

Bear Valley was once the portal to a daunting series of switch backs and hairpin turns which traversed a 1500 foot descent into Hell's Hollow:


A main highway goes across the state, through Placerville and on to Reno or Lake Tahoe.

The modern day trend to rush from one attraction to another is also killing the tourist industry in this area.

One wonders (over 40 years later) if MINERAL KING a proposed Disney project for a ski resort and tourist town near Sequoia would have changed the area for the better?

Working with the state Disney would have created a mining town/ski resort that was pristine, maintained the natural beauty of the area and kept cars at a distance-forcing visitors to park in a central lots and be shuttled into the resort.

Many "theme park" style attraction have come and gone in the Gold Country-the simple truth is people want history and real gold rush flavour-not processed "Hollywood" repackaged attractions that rewrite history.

It seems that in many ways the mining days and the colourful characters that sprang from them are becoming dim memories and less of an attraction in this century.

I have a strong wave of nostalgia for those vacation days of my youth and the sites and sights my family visited.

I doubt my Niece and Nephews will ever find their way up into those foothills even if the quaint little mining camps manage to survive.

How many generations will it take before its all artifacts behind glass in a dusty museum?

The USA has not done a great job of preserving and presenting its history (in the way Europe has for instance)-we thankfully do seem to have a love affair with beautiful scenery and natural wonders and in the process we manage to save some portion of the contributions of humans like Mesa Verde and Canyon De Chelly.

On the other hand seedy or controversial sites like the red light districts of Big Cities or ethnic settlements like Chinatowns quickly vanish if their own inhabitants don't fight to save them.

Bodie, one of the best preserved mining towns is a GHOST TOWN on the Eastern Slope of the Sierras-it is protected by the state in a condition of "arrested decay"-fires and weather have taken their toll and little of the rough and tumble parts of the town remain-although 2 of the churches still stand.



If you ask they will vaguely gesture to an area where the "cribs" of the prostitutes "may" have been.

It comes back to that repressed side of American's and their history-rather than laugh and take joy from our diverse history we varnish over what embarrasses us.

We never stop to think that those tough, hard boiled, thick skinned people of history all were a part of what it took to create this country.

No matter how much we would like to portray it otherwise we did exploit Chinese workers on both the Railroad system and in mining.

Someday we have to find a way to accept all of our rich history and not apologize for it but rather see it as the rich tapestry it was and how it has affected our lives today.

Its astonishing to me that many Americans refuse to believe there was a time in the east when many businesses had prominent signs that said No DOGS, NO JEWS, No IRISH and it was about 1970 before the FAGGOTS STAY OUT sign came down off the wall in Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood.

Herein is the danger of presenting history as it was-the Gold Rush is portrayed in many films and TV shows (not to mention books and stories)-Saloon Girls, Chinese Workers (remember Hop Sing?) picturesque Mexican Bandidos (including the gone and long lamented Frito's Bandido), there must be many others, a cleaned up and sanitized version of what actually was going on in the USA of our history.

I love the film McCABE AND MRS MILLER-it's a haunting, gritty and at time beautiful film about life in a Sierra Nevada Mining Camp in 1902.

Robert Altman who directed the film called it an ANTI-WESTERN because it circumvented so many of the dull Hollywood stereotypes and conventional plot points to present a more realistic portrait of greed, lust and life in that period.

Like CASINO which takes a similar look at the glitzy gambling empire of Las Vegas-McCabe is a movie which deserves the honor it received by being preserved in the library of Congress as culturally and historically significant.

For the same reasons we need to be sure that our historic towns and sites are maintained, preserved and shared with not only our population but with the people of the world.

If we let developers take the best land and condoize it eventually the will want the adjacent property to improve property values and to improve the view-how long will it be before our history just fades away amongst the Burger Stands and Gas Stations?

This started out to be a memory of a part of California that I love and have loved for many years-it turned into a rage against the loss or potential loss of the places from which the memories spring.

Even more it's anger at how we have allowed the world to just forget and pass by inconvenient parts of our history, less attractive parts of our past.

Twenty years ago on a well traveled road in Pennsylvania we passed a spot where the highway was deserted around a small fenced off plot about 8 x 10 feet maybe that held some family graves...no one seemed to find that unusual...I remember saying "That would never happen in California."

Here we would have moved the remains into an established cemetery...maybe.

OR we would have created a bypass that didn't require people to slow down and understand why they were going around a part of history.




Friday, August 11, 2017

I hate E MAIL

We don't seem to be able to do without it and at the same time so many people fight and curse it-I just simply hate EMAIL and texting and twitter and all those short and simple manners of "communication LITE' we seem addicted to.

The first and more obvious strike against EMAIL is it's lack of depth and tone.

In an old fashioned letter one can wax on and fill pages with rich verbiage doing their utmost to convey exactly what they are feeling (and meaning).



EMAIL by design and intent is short and concise-you cannot see or hear the person writing and often you may not have any frame of reference by which to gauge their actual meaning and intensity (or lack thereof) .

Things meant to be light and joking can read out as stiff and haughty or demanding.

Seldom have I been involved in an email misunderstanding where in the recipient thought the whole thing was funny and mocking.

Actually that is NOT true it happened once-a person emailed me to scold me for missing their birthday (ignoring their birthday) and I shot back a lengthy message outlining why they were a miserable bastard , how I had done far more than my share and to wither and die unless they could find a convincing apology somewhere in their miserable rat bastard soul.

I got a short concise reply: ROTFLMAOPMPTRDMF

They seriously thought I was kidding and had written the funniest piece of recrimination in history.

Cut down an email to a few words hastily thumbed off on a cel phone and you have the tweets and texts that some of our current leadership is so fond of-even easier to misunderstand and it seems likely to get one into trouble.

I want to go back to the days of softly scented rich writing paper/stationary embossed, engraved, designed for the purpose of communication and wanting to be filled with lovely script handwriting.

They stopped teaching kids how to write, penmanship became a thing of the past...you  are no longer judged on you margins...

Only the very wealthy own fountain pens and they reside in a special case for their writing implement collection.



I used to collect note cards: singles, boxes, sets, handmade and manufactured-I never sent a store bought greeting card I always put something together from my collection of various writing surfaces kept in a cardboard lap desk along with parchment envelopes of bits and bobs-inclusions...how lovely to send a beautiful card carefully written in purple ink, scented with lavender and containing a delicate hankie , tatted book mark or some other little unique treasure.

At one time people would save silk ribbons, single feathers; even the wings of butterflies to tuck into a note-it was important to have the perfect thing to go off in the mail not just a piece of cold paper.

Not so many years ago we always had prints of photos put aside and letters EAST or overseas never went without a snapshot or two.



I suppose attachments have filled that purpose but who prints them off anymore-they end up in the smart phone and are swiped up for others to see and then forgotten.

I loved to buy cards from Papyrus-they had so many styles, cards sparkling with glitter, pierced parchment inserts.....luxury.

Special pens in gold, silver, bronze and copper inks and coloured pearls or glitters-they are still around, I used them to sign photos, autograph books, make a special note in a margin...

They wrote BOOKS about how to write letters, notes, apologies, acceptances, invitations...correspondence was an ART FORM.

Now its quick and cold...terse...maybe the occasional emoji (ick, is it POOP or is it Chocolate Yogurt? No one seems sure).

I want my grace and beauty back.

I do know a few people who still attempt the style and class of another time but truth be told it's not so easy to get the proper supplies and when you can they are bloody expensive.

Eventually it will be micro files with short statements or vids clicked off with cams in the phones or animated GIFS (or whatever comes next); a clever Rabbit that pops up and says "I'm late" and then explodes into a cloud of glitter.

There was a book that had that sort of futuristic paraphernalia-opulent little nonsensical events, computer generated and masquerading as style.

SO....I hate EMAIL....I use it-it certainly is cheaper than stamps...but I still say it's sparse.



Perhaps they could invent a form of 90 second movie that encapsulated the essence of what you were trying to say and could be personalized-OH WAIT...Jib Jab....never mind.

I hate EMAIL.



 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Operatic Interlude 1

Maria Callas is one of the most famous opera divas who ever lived.

MANY would argue that her fame had less to do with her vocal prowess and more to do with her temperament and famous (rich) friends.

She knew fashions and fashion designers and she knew how to wear clothes-except on this one occasion:



Since the theatre was full I would guess that there are others who were also in attendance on this particular evening.

The press had noted that according to her publicity people the somewhat mysterious Madame Callas would be wearing a Twenty Five thousand dollar couture ball gown for the occasion.

Indeed she entered in a stunning silk peau de sole gown, lavishly flounced and of a perfect cut, style and fit for her stunning model like figure.

Around her shoulders she had a stolla-a longer than average shawl or stole which was her style-she always wore them for concerts-I thought of the garment as her silk teddy bear-something she could play with, fondle, hide inside rather than using her expressive arms and hands as she might in an operatic performance.

This one was a little too shiny and didn't quite match with the fabulous dress.

As she walked across the stage to thunderous applause the stole began to move and in a long graceful descent, oozed off her shoulders and left a shiny trail behind her across the stage to mark her passage.

Not unlike a snail.

Only at the last second did she feel it going but she avoided snatching at it-simply stopped at the piano and waited for someone to go catch it and return it.

Almost immediately a gentleman in a tuxedo came out from the wings picked up the stole shook it to remove any pretentious dust and brought it back to Ms. Callas.

Instead of taking it from the man she turned her back to him arms gracefully outstretched indicating her should drape her with the fabric, which he did and she acknowledged with a quick smile and nod-

He exited to applause from the audience.

She stood therefor a moment as if by magic once again the stole began to escape from under he left arm heading for the stage floor.

She managed to catch the right end just as the rest plummeted off her shoulders.

Seeing yet another tragedy in motion, Tuxedo Man was already on his way.

Once again he retrieved the stole this time looking at it as rto inspect for hidden threads or motors, gave it a firm shake and when he was sure it was dead he offered it to La Callas who this time took it and deftly wrapped herself in it-the audience once again applauded more for her flourish than his assistance and then massively moaned as the stole again hit the floor.

TWO men showed up this time and picked up the stole-it was obvious that man #2 had something to do with wardrobe-there were inaudible words exchanged Callas took the stole folded it in half, gently laid it on the lid of the grand piano, the 2 men left, the audience quieted and the stole slithered off the piano and onto the stage.

The audience went wild Callas put up her hands in feigned despair Man #2 returned with what looked like a white cashmere stole-picked up the fallen predecessor and drug it, fluttering in protest, from the stage.

Callas then sang Oh Mio Babbino Caro better than she had in 20 years.

It was rumored that the offending wrap was tried for disturbing a diva and fined.

It was never seen again.




JAWS

In 1976 I was in transition from higher education to the next thing and I was looking for a job that I found interesting...but not too challenging.

I had just come off the 3 job, 7 day work week teaching at ELACC, Managing for Basking Robbins and singing at Temple Baptist.

I hated to give up my cozy little place in Beverlywood and the West Side in general with its afternoon fog and insane people.

My pal Rosemary and I went one day to Universal Studios-the tour had opened in 1965 and I had never been out there.

It was no Disneyland but the studio in those days was still mostly a studio making films and TV on a regular schedule.

I let my Dad know that I would like to give tours at the studio, he let Elmer know, Elmer talked to one of the salesmen and the salesman knew George Flaherty who was the president of IATSSE (the 2nd most powerful union on any studio lot.

I got a call from Elmer with instructions to make an appointment with Ricky Bush in Tour Personnel.

It was shortly before Easter week and with the influx of tourists during vacations that was a big hiring season for the tour.

As I remember we had about 60 full time employees year round which swelled to a couple hundred for the summer season.

Properly attired in a blue blazer and khaki pants i braved the hot sun of the Cahuenga pass to meet with RICKY who turned out to be RICCARDA.

Ricki Bush was a fascinating woman with snow white hair in a sort of modified Pixie cut with an intense "locked in" gaze.

She had done many interesting jobs including being the coordinator of the Miss Universe Pageant and forming a care and protection organization for street kids in Quito, Ecuador...how she ended up as head of personnel for te tour I have no idea.

She escorted me into her cool, dim office which featured a glass "ginger jar" lamp on the desk full of actual POPCORN and proceeded to grill me on why I wanted to be a tour guide and wouldn't I rather work in FOOD SERVICES where I would make more money?

What I didn't know was: I was what they called "POLITICAL" that meant I had an in from a higher up person in the studio hierarchy and they pretty much HAD to take me on and in the position I wanted.

Many Movie Star offspring would pass through the tour, mostly as Tour Guides when I started Stacy Webb the daughter of Jack Webb of Dragnet fame and Julie London who was starring on EMERGENCY with her husband Bobby Troupe was a tour guide later Ceilia Peck and her brother Tony (Gregory Peck children) and George Peppard's son (who was a tram driver) among many others came and went.

So, I would have to start the week long training the next Monday-they gave me a large folder (loose leaf) that was the tour "spiel (narration); Ricki gave me one of those "I hope you know what you're getting yourself into?" looks and literally patted me on the back as the sent me out the door.

The spiel was daunting but what it called for was a "ROAD TRIP" so I grabbed Rosemary and we took off on a weekend drive To San Francisco during which she drummed the entire tour into my head.

I had learned Opera Roles and lengthy parts for plays but learning a narration for sometihing you had seen once was a differant animal than any I had known.

Rosemary had a great plan she first made me memorize the tour route first you do this then you go down a hill and then a right turn, soundtages, back through props and greens department across the bridge...I can still do the entire tour start to finish as it was in the mid 70s over 40 years later.

Once I had the route solid she filled in the facts and figures-almost 2000 acres founded in 1917, Carl Leammale, etc etc etc.

The hardest part for me was learning all the current TV shows-I watched very little broadcast TV (still don't) and I had no idea who the stars of ALIAS SMITH AND JONES were...BANACEK? BARETTA? KOJACK?

I could do all the monster movies that Universal was famous for-I used to have breakfast with those guys.

The STING had just been a hit, JAWS was making waves-movies were not the problem-most of the departments I knew from Dad and Grandpa-I knew what a wild wall was and the differance between a carpenter and a grip.

By the time we got back to L A on Sunday I knew the entire tour-all of it, word for word.



Monday I joined a room full of fresh young faces (mostly would be actors and entertainers not unlike myself) and we settled in to learn to represent a major motion picture studio.

Years later when I went to work as a cast member at Disney we had two evenings to get "trained" at Universal you had basically 3 days, the 4th day was testing and uniform fittings and the 5th day you gave your first tour with a trained guide to evaluate you (just in case).

Actually the "test" day was partly on the tram and partly on the walk thru portion at the sound stages.



When I started at Universal Easter Week of 1976 the actual tour was 4 hours so practically speaking you could do 2 tours a day one before lunch and one after.

During peak periods they would speed the whole process up to about 2 hours so you could do 4 tours.

We also had what were called Half tours-you could either do the first half of the tour from the tour center to the drop off halfway thru at prop plaza or you could go directly to prop plaza and pick up a load and do the back lot tour and back to the entertainment center.

During the first portion of the tour you would stop at the dressing rooms and sound stages where you walked your group through LUCY's dressing room )mock up) and through 4 sets on sound stage 32 Matte Paintings ( a really interesting presentation) The "Perry Mason" set where you showed people how settings are designed for filming, a Rear projection demonstration mostly audience participation for laughs and giggles and finally a MUNSTERS based haunted castle set with spooky noises, fire and very little else----these were changed shortly after to a combo set that included the interesting parts Matte shots and rear projection, The BIONIC WOMAN set and a silly presentation at the end based on the BIONIC MAN and that franchise-it included a machine that could show you the bionic parts that had been installed in a guests that got to participate-during training Mark Perillo managed to show everyone in the training class his "bionic Penis" (on a 6 foot overhead screen) that piece of equipment was modified to disallow such showings in the future.

In the busy season we had alternate dressing rooms (Julie London and Bobby Troupe) and an alternate sound stage 31 (we mostly used 32).

Now here's the thing: sound stage 32 was all the nice real sets for the tour 31 was set up for the busy season and might be anything-one year it was set pieces from a forgotten swashbuckler film starring
Robert Shaw (JAWS) called SWASHBUCKLER (how apropos).

You pulled up to the sound stage area and the "lead" would wave you to you first stop-usually in front of the dressing room.

Next you would walk your group through the dressing room and stop at the back-then through the various stops inside the sound stage and finally back out to pick up a tram to continue the tour.

Flashing lights let us know when we had a few minutes to wrap the spiel and then move when the light went out-each stop was about 12 minutes or so...12 minutes in front of the dressing room 12 minutes behind 12 minutes for matte paintings, 12 minutes for Bionic Woman `12 minutes Bionic BS and out to the pickup area where a tram would normally be waiting to board.

Except in the summer:

In the busy season they usually crammed TWO tram loads into one "shared" experience and the two tour guides took turns so the tour guide out front did the front of the dressing room stuff (where ya from, rehearsed jokes, what are we doing? Let's look at a dressing room) tour guide two would meet them out back form them into a mob (in the sun, no shade, no water fountains) and tell them what was filming currently and about who they might (never) see walking around the lot the the first guide would wave them over to the first set in the sound stage and so on till they were back on the tram.

TWO things were different the "stops" were now 3 to 5 minutes and there were many more of them.

You could stop twice before the front stop at the dressing room and twice or three times afterwards before getting to the sound-stage where they were whisked through only to find 3, 4, 8 stops outside to get back to a tram.

In the summer on the asphalt in the afternoons the temperature on the back lot could hit 110F or even 120F easily and because of the way the studio lot sat in a sort of bowl canyon there was little or no breeze.

Stopping hot thirsty tourists from Atlanta to yell BS at them was not real popular so we collected many mostly true "fascinating" anecdotes about MOVIES to share with our unhappy guests.

A truly fine tour guide could keep them happy and engaged all the way through the process-one guy named Steve Towsley was a genius-he had a square jaw, perfect white teeth and a sort of "handsome Kennedy Brother" vibe-plus a great voice for public speaking-he could keep them mesmorized heat and discomfort aside.

A sad event was a newish blonde surfer girl guide who just happened to get a large pod of French tourists on her tram-French Tourists were not our favorites in those days-they were delivered annoyed and would shortly become surly when they found there was no FRENCH speaking tour guide (preferably just for them) and downright mean when they insisted about 10 minutes into the tour they were done and wanted a full refund.

In the new girls defense she really THOUGHT she could speak French...after all she had almost a year of it in High School.

The French are very nationalistic, especially about their language.

Let's leave it at the FRENCH people got their refund and the newish tour guide spent the remainder of the summer in a shop that sold surf type clothing...rumors of blood and dismemberment are mostly exaggerated.

Mad Dog Mitchell (as he came to be known) was working the penny pincher in the entertainment area when he lost all control and BIT a female guest on her POH POH.

Exactly what portion of the guest was considered a POH POH was never revealed.

I myself on a particularly 120F summer afternoon while waiting over 1/2 hour to see the 3 minutes JAWS rubber shark attraction went sound asleep in the tour guide seat and drooled for my guests.

The only reason I awakened was the driver seeing the drool "popped" the clutch causing the tram to jerk.

He later told me he had hoped it would knock me completely out of my seat (the drivers were not entirely fond of the tour guides).

By the way in the slowest months-like January all the rush rush of the summer would turn into an enormous slow down and those 12 minute stops could become 30 minutes each.

On a rainy day the tram could be loaded with as few people as one family-I literally had a tour with 5 people on it on a cold rainy day-I never picked up the microphone-I sat on the from seat of the tram with them and acted like I was taking reletives through the studio-they all got to do everything and take pictures in the process-I even talked the driver into stopping the tram so they could get a family photo on Beaver Cleaver's front porch.

All joking aside the Universal Studios lot was amazing in those days and I always thought it should have been preserved as a National Landmark.



The beautiful Colonial Drive was a shady leafy avenue of homes from many famous shows like the Minsters, Marcus Welby, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (older folks might recognize Marnie, Harvey, Monster on the Campus and many many others).


We had a drive through of the prop warehouse and sets from Spartacus and the old horror films.

Among all these actual filming sets were a collapsing bridge, a rock slide, a flash flood-the famous red sea crossing where the tram drives through the lake putting the tourists at eye level with the waters surface and the avalanche tunnel.

In later years other attractions were added and some taken away-JAWS came along and was an "expensive" addition to the tour with a large rubber shark that sort of attacked the tram.

Seriously its first incarnation was pretty embarrassing and some guides refused to do the spiel as written opting instead for much funnier versions that were less humiliating.



Finally after threats of firings and having each tour guide "tested on their JAWS spiel-they did improve the attraction somewhat and it became a "camp" favorite for many years-they even built a more elaborate version at their Florida theme park.

By fall of that first year, since I was full time-I was offered VIP tours which were stressful but at the same time so much better than a tram full of 120 bored tourists.

We had a little "trolly" style vehicle with seats both inside and out and we could seat about 24 max-usually the VIP tours were 10 to 15 in the cooler months and might have a few more in the summer.

There were usually 2 a day, occasionally a special tour often presented in a limo or the front unit of a tour tram for larger groups might be added; in the summer 4 to 6 tours a day.

When you were on VIPs you also worked the info booth where they signed in for the tour, answered the info lines and above all got to spend the day in AIR CONDITIONING.

I met some amazing people over my years on VIP tours, Jean Genet the writer of many classic plays. Lotte Lenya and Signe Hasso two famous actresses who had both played lead rolls in the musical CABARET, Tip O'Neil, Jimmy Carter, Jane Fonda, Prince Faisel of Saudi Arabia, The king of Thailand---that one I can tell a little about.

Dana Wilson (a senior guide) and I were assigned to the king's tour:
The day started with us being strip searched in the locker rooms and then escorted to a highly guarded Tram unit which was crawling with armed security.

It was a slightly rainy day but away we went on the tour-Dana sat in the tour guide seat-I sat on the motor cover-the king was in the middle of the front row-my head refused to be lower than his and I couldn't sit on the floor of the tram so I had to slump to maintain protocol.

On either side of the kind were large red faced men with aviator sunglasses each with a portfolio in his lap and in each portfolio was one of their hands holding a gun-one pointed at Dana, one at me one at the driver and an extra one just in case.

All I could think of was one backfire and we're all dead.

The king was a jovial man who apparently spoke little English since a translator in the seat behind him maintained a constant dialog into his ear for the duration of the tour.

The remainder of the tram seats were his family members and staff all book ended buy guys with guns.

At the end of the event we were presented with gifts-mine was a bone handled knife wrapped in a $100.00 bill-so hazard pay was the name of the day.

I was at Universal from 1976 to 1979-I might have stayed longer if I had seen any chance for advancement-it was a fun job-you would think that having given the tour over 1,000 times it would have become boring but we found ways to make it fresh, there were always new shows and new movies to promote-we had some great perks like we got to see advance previews of new films in the screening rooms on the lower lot.



During a VIP tour where I had some people from Disneyland and some Imagineers I was offered a job doing tours at Disney-a business card and a number to call...it was a long way to Anaheim and I had other offers, the park wasn't hiring male guides at that time so I went in other directions.

My oldest nephew Jonathon worked at Universal using a recommendation from me (so he was political) where he worked on the JURASSIC PARK attraction.

The stories he told after he worked there were very similar to stories from my day-the Tyrannosaurus got cranky and threw up hydrolic fluid on a row of guests, some tour employee ran mad in the heat and was pouring ice water on random people, the French were not good guests...not much had changed.

One memory that I have is how wonderful Australians are as tourists-I was a favorite guide for OZZY groups, the tour escorts would ask for me by name and we always had a wonderful time-they were happy, jovial and fun loving-always just a little "lit" by 8am when they arrived but they took being on HOLIDAY seriously-if they liked you they would give yo little gold kangaroo stick pins-we would put them on the wide lapels of our ORANGE wool peacoats-I had over 100 kangas before they limited us-told us to accept the pins and then remove all but one at the end of the tour.

I was annoyed but it worked out well-if you only had one Kanga it needed friends so we got MANY more pins from our tour guests (even a KIWI or six) ad in 1979 I had over one thousand marsupials and 100 birds or so-in a cigar box...one of my favorite mementos of the tour.

My last day as I walked to the parking lot I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders but at the same time a deep sadness that a significant part of my life and career was passing-i kept many friends over the years from the tour days-Martin one of my good friends sold my house when I moved from Burbank to where I am now-he was a very funny guy and turned into a fine realtor.

Even now putting down these memories I would love to give one more tour of Universal-even as it is today-I could tell the people what they are missing and what use to be where....



For my friends who have heard other stories of the tour and find them missing-I think you'll understand why I have left them out and maybe they will show up in the "BOOK" version





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What a shame

It was like some huge Science Fiction/Disaster film gone wrong except...we are still waiting for a happy ending.

I had moved to Glendale in the early 1980s and had a busy schedule-I always filled my days too full back then.

I was finishing up a small theatre run of Side by Side By Sondheim, my Dad was sick, I was looking at a new "real" job working for a corporation-just lots of new in my life.

I noticed a lot of people I knew were not feeling well, nothing specific but weird.

A friend of Aunt Mildred's died at City of Hope in the late 70's of a strange form of Cancer.

In San Francisco they were talking about ALIEN viruses , strange imported tropical diseases, the CIA-all sorts of conspiracy theories...

My friend John was still working at Universal Studios Tour and he was worried that there seemed to be "something" going around-lot's of people that I knew were still at the tour...

It seemed to only be targeting men and of course that in itself was reason for even more conspiracy talk and wild rumors.

A fellow I knew had asked me to do some art work for him and when he dropped by I notice he had dark brown blotches on his arms and one on his cheek-when I asked about them he said they still weren't sure but it might be some "Greek" disease...he didn't seem sick it just looked scary.

As time progressed suddenly people were very sick and even started to die.

A friend was in the hospital complaining of severe headaches and other symptoms.

Lot's of the people I knew worked for Hollywood Presbyterian and Children's Hospital on Sunset Blvd.-Lucky for them they had good coverage and often the hospitals just put their employees who were ill in for tests quickly.

"David" my sick friend turned out to have a fatal infection inside his brain cavity of some kind of strange fungus.

Kaposi Sarcoma became a common disease-a skin cancer that was for many years rare and confined to the Mediterranean area was popping up all over.

Pneumocystis Pneumonia also was common and doctors were talking about GRID (gay related Immune disease): they thing was, YES, many gay men did have the disease but it was also hitting drug addicts, people with blood diseases...its was scary, didn't make sense and no one knew how it was transmitted...one brave soul ventured that if was air borne the human race could be doomed.

In 1982 the disease officially became AIDS - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.



The disease was traced to a virus and it was known that the virus was mutating-there were at least 2 strains HIV 1 more virulent than HIV2.

More than anything else-people were terrified-with a lack of information, contradictory tales from many sources and a code of silence from the white house the numbers of sick people rose and the quantity of real solid information dwindled.

I found myself visiting hospitals more than any other social activity.

Conditions in some places were horrible-since patients were sequestered, quarantined urban hospitals filled quickly.

Patient care was spotty: the condition came with nasty side effects like diarrhea and the drugs acerbated this problem-also vomiting, night sweats-it was horrible.

Hospital workers refused to change or wash patients-in some hospitals patients meals were delivered to the door of the room where the tray was pushed across the floor into a general proximity to the bed....these people were SICK they couldn't get up to get a tray-many were too weak to lift the meal trays.

It became obvious that it was up to friends and family to do what they could for people they knew and cared about.

So I changed my friends, got them fresh hospital gowns, fed them, sometimes with other friends, sometimes alone.

One memorable night I was struggling with a friend who was about 6 foot 4 and although he had lost lots of weight he was still a big fellow-i was huffing and puffing and my back was killing me, I was tired and angry and disgusted and guilty; finally I dropped into the bedside chair and just cried...a very kind man came to my assistance and together we made my friend clean, comfortable and fed.

I found out later that he was one of the most prominent brain specialists in the country.

Many of the patients had been abandoned by their families especially in cases where they had been living closeted/under the radar lives-a diagnosis of AIDS was a cruel way for the family to be informed.

MANY drugs were tried with some success but also the costs were enormous and often not covered even by those with good insurance.

At the height of the plague I had 26 friends who were seriously ill and in and out of hospitals-all of them would ultimately die-since I was not sick I took on a lot of responsibility and besides general care I arranged funerals and other services as they became needed.

I learned how to deal with the Veteran's Administration and found one man with a sensitive ear and broad shoulders-he helped me when many others would not.

This was also a time when one heard things like "It's killing all the right people.", "It's God's Wrath on the sinners", "They deserve to die...".

Later when children, women and general population members, even a few nuns became infected did the slurs diminish but the anger and vitriol was still directed toward the Gay community.

If you are interested in what went on at this period I recommend "And The Band Played On" which was produced I believe by HBO in 1993-a docudrama it gives a fairly comprehensive overview of this time in history.

Other films like "Philadelphia" with Tom Hanks and "Angels in America" also offer views of life in the time of HIV/AIDS.

Eventually a cocktail of drugs was found to work best but there is still no cure or vaccine against the retrovirus.

As of 2016 almost 700,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States-the disease is still running rampant in Africa, India and other 3rd world countries.

Death rates have gone down but not fast enough-the disease was declining in the US but has started to rise among young people (under 20) and seniors (over 55).

Since the virus can lay dormant for several years unless people are tested they may not know they are infected: Immigrant populations, minorities and ethnic groups such as Muslims where taboos against homosexuality are strong are at high risk.



The virus has continued to mutate and many specialists feel that what started as a virus in nature has been tampered with; perhaps even weaponized...and there is still the chance that it could mutate into an airborne strain.

Since bisexual men can carry it to their female partners and the disease has been introduced to the general population via blood transfusions it is important that everyone gets tested and regularly especially if you are sexually active (at any age).

Many public health clinics and almost all Gay Community Centers offer free or low cost testing and usually do a mouth swab first which is painless and initial results are given very quickly and confidentially.

We are beyond throwing epithets at each other and blaming people for how badly the epidemic was handled-most people don't remember that the Reagan Administration refused to even say the name of the disease in public and mostly ignored it.

IGNORANCE is a horrible thing it feeds the fire of PANIC with so much unknown people need to understand that we must remember but perhaps the time of blame is over?

We have so much more information now but we cannot rest until we have a vaccine and a cure-do all you can to make sure your Senators and Representatives know your feelings at both the state and Federal levels.

People still die from the disease it just takes longer and the medications are still far too expensive-the tradition of Big Pharma adding in the costs of R and D to each dose raises a pill that could be produced at a modest price to a platinum drug and this isn't only for AIDS meds its for any disease in the USA....people in other countries often get drugs for a fraction of what we pay here.

The effort you put forth may benefit a member of your family.

My Mother couldn't understand why all her friends were dying when she was nearing 80; when I reminded her that at 40 many of my friends were already dead she didn't seem to connect to the concept.

Those of us in the ARTS community especially were hit hard by AIDS related deaths and a syndrome called AIDS Related Isolation Syndrome has been recognized-the fear of rebuilding a social circle only to find it taken away from you by disease.

Better to be alone than to live in fear.

If we all work together we can end this horrible disease in my lifetime----I would really like that.

Not only for myself and those who have passed but for the children of my nieces and nephews and all the children yet to come...


Out for a RIDE

We didn't go for a ride every Sunday but we looked forward to going when we could.

There were still many odd and interesting things to see along the roads in Southern California and the local news made tourist attractions of natural and man made disasters.

One year the waves were huge and were tearing away at the beaches and beach shacks around Redondo and Manhatten Beach-of course we went there as soon as possible.

We were in time to see a huge wave snatch a house and drag it out to sea.

At a young age you have trouble knowing the difference between real and make-believe, scary and just plain dangerous.

The lure of waves and destruction last just so long and luckily the heavy seas didn't close down the other tourist sites like te Ocean Aquarium and the side show-WILLY THE WHALE WITH THE DETACHABLE TAIL.

A poor sea mammal had been the victim of a run in with a boat propeller and died when its tail was neatly severed-a clever showman had the carcass taxidermied into a 25 cent tent show with the whale-obviously a juvenile and its tail on display seperated by a young lady in a bathing suit who was happy to smile and pose with you in a photo (for a small additional fee).

That "show" lasted for a few seasons before it disappeared-I found it as part of a road side attraction on the East Coast in the 1990's-same ole Willy and his Tail without the bathing beauty for added punch.

Auction City was somewhere over by Maywood/Bell-from the front it looked like a carnival and inside it was tents full of merchandise and men who were willing and able to reach right into your pocket and take your money....in between were pony rides and high diver acts and occasional ferris wheel or merry go round and food trucks.

We didn't go there often-it was a sort of rest stop on a circuit route of free stuff.

In 1959 the WATTS TOWERS built and designed by an Italian immigrant name Simon Rodia became big news and a hot flash point in Los Angeles.

The site had been quit claimed to a neighbor by the artist in 1955 when he moved away to take care of his sister.

His little shack on the property where he slept burned in 1956 and the county or city condemned the structures and threatened to tear them down.

It all came to a head in 1959 when the city broke a couple of pieces of heavy machinery trying to pull the towers over and they became a historical landmark and an art center in this area.

In the 60's Watt's would explode in race riots and local citizens protected the towers from vandals.

The Watt's Towers like The Underground Gardens in Fresno were the work of a solitary man with a vision and both became lasting monuments to the immigrant spirit and vision.


The towers were constructed of rebar, cement and bits of broken pottery, glass, tile, shells and anything else he could use to encrust them.

When we went there on a Sunday drive you still couldn't get inside the fences to walk among the towers.

The had once been a Buffalo Farm in Orange County and in the mid-50s an alligator farm opened near Knott's Berry Farm.

We never went to the Alligator Farm because there was an admission fee-my Mother had lived in Florida-she had seen all the alligators she wanted to so it was not on the Sunday Drive list however in the old Days much of Knotts was open and free to wander around-the ghost town Walter Knott had built to attract people to his berry farm and Chicken Dinner Restaurant was one of the original themed parks in Southern California and drew large crowds of tourists and locals.

It is now owned by Cedar Point-the amusement Park Corporation-there is a Ripley's Oddatorium down the boulevard from it, there used to be a large Hollywood Wax museum which has faded into history and other various tourist stops come and go.

My Mother had found this book of places that were inexpensive or free in Southern California and we visited many of those spots.

One of her favorites was the Wayfarers Chapel at Portuguese Bend- a glass church covered in climbing vines that has long been a favorite spot for weddings-the scenery in the area is some of the most beautiful in Southern California but sadly the terrain is highly unstable and is slowly slipping into the ocean.



Near that chapel was a business center with some shops and galleries that featured a fountain with a stature of Neptune-it is still there and one of my favorite places to visit.


We seemed to stay within an area that was not more than maybe 45 minutes from home and we usually went towards the sea rather than inland.

Many of my friends would talk about going to Coragan Ville-a movie ranch owned by "Crash" Corrigan that would later become infamous during the Manson Trials-further our was Jungle Land where many movie animals including Cheetah Tarzan;s Chimpanzee were warehoused.

When we would go to visit Fran and Elmer in the days before freeways took over L A I would beg to go home via Riverside Drive a road along the Los Angeles River that passed through many tunnels.

Like caves I have always loved a good tunnel...

In later years, when my Mother live next to me in Burbank I would sometimes take her for a ride-I would drive by our old houses in Lynwood and Pico Rivera...familar sights from the old days.

The Whittier Downs Mall where she had taken us to see personal appearances by Sherrif John, Skipper Frank and engineer Bill Stella (local kid's TV personalities)....

In the "old days" when gas was 23 cents a gallon and a McDonald's Burger was 15 cents hitting the road on a Sunday was a great way to have family time in a family where the father was only available on Sundays.

It's odd that I don't have lots of fond memories of these Sunday outings-more of a melencholy nostalgia.

I'm always happy to see my old friend Neptune but not because of happy memories-mostly because I really like that statue...

Strange things

It's funny about "blogging" daily...sometimes I just pour out content and other times its like Karo Syrup in January (as my gr...