February 2019

February 28, 1972

February 28, 1972

The late sixties and early seventies were fertile hunting ground for cults. Hare Krishna’s invaded airports and the streets of Westwood swarmed with friendly Scientologists offering students a “free” personality test. My night with the Moonies was my closest encounter with a genuine cult. At least twenty devoted disciples shared sleeping-bag space in a large room. I’ve repressed specifics about the bathroom facilities, but it’s a safe bet personal privacy wasn’t top priority.

Krishna girl selling book at LAX
Krishna girl selling book at LAX

I must have completely forgotten who I was, when I accepted the invitation. Growing up PK meant growing up in the heart of my father’s congregation, fine people I can’t complain about. Still, as kind and generous as they were, I felt itchy and uncomfortable much of the time.  It’s not religion that bothers me – I’m pro-religion – the trouble is that it’s frequently packaged with a group.

Joyce and Eric Onstad in a skit at Clairemont Lutheran in San Diego - Joyce was always much better in groups than me.
Joyce and Eric Onstad in a skit at Clairemont Lutheran in San Diego – Joyce was always much better in groups than me.

I prefer people in small doses. One or two at a time, maybe as many as half a dozen. Ten, twenty, forty, a hundred? Get me out of here, I can’t breathe.  I feel more alone in groups than I ever have when I’m alone.

Alone - the way I like it.
Alone – the way I like it.

All that said, I still plan to brave my Wilcox reunion this fall.

 

February 26, 1971

February 26, 1971

Project One Films

The first time I saw a commercial for a phone that shot photos, it looked absurd. Cameras were for taking pictures, phones were for talking. The combination could only weaken them both.

As close as I can come to a photo of a vintage Vivitar Super-8.
As close as I can come to a photo of a vintage Vivitar Super-8.

Obviously, I was wrong – so very wrong. Today, even though I have a good digital camera, I shoot photos with my phone.  However, this brave new world was far in the future when I unwrapped my second-hand Vivitar. To me, it was state of the art; I couldn’t imagine asking more of any device.

In San Diego with the family around '71.
In San Diego with the family around ’71.

As it turns out, there’s no end to things I couldn’t imagine then but take for granted today. Remote controls. Microwaves. Cheap calculators. Smart phones. Cars that come with screens and GPS. Watches that keep track of my steps, my heartbeat, my minutes of REM sleep.

And, of course, the unsettling reality that unknown corporations, foreign and domestic, know more about me than the people in my life. The amount of data that potentially could be harvested from this blog is scary. Why keep doing it?

A selfie taken with my phone today - unimaginable in 1971,
A selfie taken with my phone today – unimaginable in 1971,

Realistically, I can’t stuff the genie back in the battle. What hits the net, lives there forever. And I kind of love it that after I’m gone, bits of my life will live in cyberspace.

 

February 23, 1999

February 23, 1999

Citizen Kane

Growing up, there was one centrally located television set (without a remote) in our house and we watched TV as a family. “Leave it to Beaver” and “the Flintstones” were early favorites. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch the Three Stooges (my father disapproved of the cruelty in their humor) or cheap horror movies. (“If you want to see that kind of thing when you’re older, that’s your choice, but you will not be watching it here.”)

S'n'A around this time.
S’n’A around this time.

In my home today, there’s at least one TV (and remote!) for everybody, including the pets. Zelda barks her head off at any dog or four-legged creature who dares to make an appearance. J can watch football, S can watch anime and I can binge on a Netflix series simultaneously without crossing paths.

Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.
Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.And she watches carefully all the time.

For me, watching a program together is a far superior option but sometimes no one else is interested. That’s why I was so thrilled when S and A expressed interest in AFI’s list of the 100 greatest American films. (AFI’s 100 top films)

At fourteen, I knew nothing about classic films. If they screened in Santa Clara, no one told me. After UCLA opened my eyes to that world, I wanted to share it but some people just weren’t interested. (Their cultural loss, IMHO). I love sharing great entertainment with S and A even though some TV shows that looked hip and brilliant in the 80s (hello, Miami Vice) didn’t age gracefully.

The whole family, circa 1999.
The whole family, circa 1999.

Occasionally, J gives me a hard time about calling TV viewing “quality time” but I can’t think of a more pleasurable way to imbibe history, culture, art and the principles of storytelling than watching and discussing the boob tube.

 

February 21, 1965

Chad & Jeremy Clipping
February 21, 1965
A couple years ago, my sisters and I saw Chad and Jeremy at McCabe’s, a relatively small venue in Santa Monica. They signed autographs after the show so I got in line. As I inched forward, I overheard people in front of me – all of whom, to my biased eyes, looked decades older than I felt. (I’m sure they thought the same about me.)

Chad Stuart signing an autograph.
Chad Stuart signing an autograph.

In December, Joyce and I saw Jeremy Clyde at an even smaller venue, The Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, CA. It poured on the drive over and Joyce ranted about how she hated to drive in hard rain. Everything changed when the show started.  Our seats were spectacular – literally, about two feet from Jeremy – who was charming, witty and self-deprecating.

Jeremy Clyde at The Coffee Gallery in December.
Jeremy Clyde at The Coffee Gallery in December.

He explained Chad stopped touring. He played Chad and Jeremy’s biggest hits – Yesterday’s Gone, Willow Weep for Me and Summer Song – and selections from his solo CD series, the Bottom Drawer Tapes. In a perfect world he would’ve played Distant Shores, too, but this was close enough for me.

Our seats were spectacular - literally, about two feet from Jeremy
Our seats were spectacular – literally, about two feet from Jeremy

On April 9, 2016 I wrote a precursor to this blog, thinking I had done everything in my power to see Chad and Jeremy, AGAIN, after 51 years (http://www.kathleenrowell.com/2016/04/09/51-years-between-chad-jeremy-concerts/) – little did I know I would experience this wonderful evening with Jeremy Clyde.  I hope new opportunities arise as I seem to be growing younger, at least with my music idols.

February 18, 1967

February 18, 1967

This entry’s self-conscious attempt at being “lyrical” suggests I wrote it for others to read, not to bare my soul. One of my failings as a writer (or strengths, depending on your point of view) is my conspicuous lack of place description. It bores me in other people’s fiction, so why torture my readers?

Sandy on this snow trip.
Sandy on this snow trip.

Elmore Leonard’s ninth and tenth rules of writing are:

  1. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  2. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The parts I tend to skip are description – of place in particular, but pretty much everything else too. Some people love elaborate descriptions of food. I hate them. Unless it affects the plot – for example, if there’s arsenic in the quiche – it just doesn’t matter if the hero selects steak or salmon as his entrée.

Me in the snow
Me in the snow

One can argue what people eat defines aspects of their character. The guy who loves Popeye’s is rarely mistaken for the dude who dines at Nobu. That said, there’s no excuse for describing more than one meal per person per book.  The reader doesn’t need to know and I don’t want to.

February 9, 1964

February 9, 1964

When dinosaurs roamed the Earth, if you missed Sullivan the first night he featured the Beatles, you were out of luck. No internet, no streaming, no DVDs, VHS or Beta. Today, when virtually any entertainment is a click away, it’s hard to recall when missing a show meant never seeing it, unless you caught it on summer reruns.

My sisters and I around '64
My sisters and I around ’64

Since then, I’ve seen this performance many times. Even if I didn’t own the DVD, it’s widely available.  While still entertaining, it can’t possibly match the excitement of watching the event unfold in real time, live.

The Beatles with Ed Sullivan

Do people born post-Beatles fully comprehend their impact. I write about them because they were that important. There’s “before” the Beatles and there’s “after.” How many entertainers – heck, how many people – can you say that about, on a worldwide basis? Their music was the soundtrack of my adolescence, their existence colored my world.

Around '64 again - a very different world.
Around ’64 again – a very different world.

When I listen closely, I still shiver with excitement. More than fifty years later, they still sound fresh. Different. Thrilling. Electric. She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, oooooo. I think I’ll watch that tape again.

February 7, 1966

February 7, 1966

Nobody likes to wait, I get that. Some people handle it better than others. I’m not one of them. It enraged me when friends arrived hours late. Ten minutes tardy, no big deal. Three hours late, and the least you can do is call and advise three solid hours are now available to do something else.

My sisters and I in front of Hope Lutheran under construction - 1966
My sisters and I in front of Hope Lutheran under construction – 1966

When somebody can’t be bothered to call, their silence sends a message. That message is, “Your time is worthless. Mine is precious because I am important, unlike you. The best use of your time is waiting for me.”

Another family photo, circa 1966
Another family photo, circa 1966

I phone when I’m more than ten minutes late which happens more often than it should because I cut it as close as possible. This is more than a little hypocritical because, when I cut it close, I risk being late. For sure, I’m never early because being too early usually entails waiting, too.

You can't be late until you show up

 

 

 

February 5, 1975

February 5, 1975

The morning after I met J, I told my best friend Gail “I met the man I’m going to marry.” I believed this but – as the above entry makes clear – J hadn’t reached the same conclusion. Because it was a done deal in my own mind, I needed J and Gail to get along.

J and I, a million years ago
J and I, a million years ago

It’s a problem when your best friend loathes your significant other. Usually, I’m the one who detests my friend’s beloved. The friendship suffers when my friend chooses the love of her life over me, her jealous, bitchy buddy. Go figure.

My best friend Gail
My best friend Gail

I didn’t want to choose. Choosing means giving up an option, possibly forever. I avoid it when I can. Luckily, J and Gail clicked. Despite many miles and years since that night, we remain close today.

Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) - I'm still apologizing about the dresses!
Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) – I’m still apologizing about the dresses!

For the record, I did not get more aggressive and gregarious around Law House although J did get more irritable (and irritating) as finals approached. It didn’t matter. My premonition was correct. I’d met the man I would marry.

RIP Judith Russell

Judith at an Oscar party
Judith at an Oscar party

Some of you may remember Judith Russell, a guest at some of our outrageous 80s and Oscar parties. I’m sad to report she died earlier this week, alone, in her apartment; her body wasn’t discovered for two or three days.  When I knew her, Judith was pretty, vibrant and funny.  Two industry heavyweights – Terry Semel and Sherry Lansing – hired her to be their personal secretary – she had the perfect voice, face and sassy attitude to charm the public.

Judith with writer Art Everett and Oscar-winning cinematographer Russ Carpenter
Judith with writer Art Everett and Oscar-winning cinematographer Russ Carpenter

Judith’s life was anything but enchanted, though. In the 80s, a fall on the Warner’s lot dislodged a brain tumor that could not be 100% removed – sooner or later, it would grow back, and she’d face surgery again. Hospitalized at UCLA, she was inundated with flowers and get-well wishes from almost every A-list celebrity.  Her hair grew back and she recovered.

Judith an Once at another Oscar party
Judith an Once at another Oscar party

She couldn’t recover from alcoholism, though. Employers paid for pricey inpatient rehabs because they wanted her sober. Judith had no interest whatsoever in life without alcohol. After one Oscar party, I took her car keys because she was far too drunk to drive home. In the morning, she was gone. Turns out she traveled with a second set in her purse, “just in case” something like that happened. That’s alcoholic thinking in action.

Judith in Edwardian costume with Kirk Hulstrom
Judith in Edwardian costume with Kirk Hulstrom

She lost the high-profile jobs and lacked the high-tech skills required to land an equally impressive gig. She withdrew from her friends. My sister Joyce hung in there the longest. She and Judith went to Saturday matinees in Burbank for years until it interrupted Judith’s drinking so she declined.

Judith and Joyce - yet another Oscars night
Judith and Joyce – yet another Oscars night

For the last ten years, Judith woke up and went straight to her local bar, where she spent the day and part of evening, until she staggered home or close to it – sometimes, she passed out in the parking garage or vestibule.  Her landlady was concerned. We all were, but she no longer talked to people that knew her before.

Judith playing bridge with me, J and Gail. I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.
Judith playing bridge with me, J and Gail. I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.

I grieve for the Judith I knew in the past. I think she had a lot to give, but we’ll never know. I wish she’d let someone help her but she was adamant – to Judith, life without booze looked worse than death. So, of course, it had to end like this.

RIP old friend

Rest in peace, old friend. I pray you’re in a better place.

Judith with Bill Connell and Joyce
Judith with Bill Connell and Joyce

February 2, 1970

February 2, 1970

Neil Sedaka was right – breaking up is hard to do, especially when you live in the same dorm.  Luke and I ran into each other in the dining hall, the lounge, the mailboxes, the path to north campus.  I wanted to talk to him and at the same time, I never wanted to see him again. He broke my heart and I missed him.

Luke and I separating
Luke and I separating

I didn’t see it coming, probably because I’d threatened to leave Luke so often. How ironic that he pulled the trigger every time we split. It took us at least half a dozen tries to master the art of leaving each other.

Going different directions
Going different directions

According to my friend Monica, a divorce attorney, our dance was the rule, not the exception. By the time the average couple follows through with a divorce, they separate a minimum of three times. While by no means scientific, her theory rings true. It’s hard to break the habit of another person, especially when it feels like they’re part of you.

Natalie Ann Nilsen high school graduation photoMy friendship with Natalie didn’t die but it changed – because I changed when I left Santa Clara. I thought my departure was temporary. I was sick with longing for my city. The landscape ached with melancholy as it receded in the rear-view mirror. I would’ve done anything to return to the life I’d known, the person I’d been. But, of course, all of that was already gone and there was no going back.

 

 

 

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