sixties research

May 5, 2012

May 5, 2012

Hollywood Bowl1
It was thrilling to explore a legendary venue like the Hollywood Bowl. Actually, any casual visitor to LA can explore its exterior – the site is neither gated nor guarded. Tourists can park in the lot, stroll up and down the shell, even take the stage if they choose on off-season days when no one is doing a sound-check or performing.

13 Daisy Dell

Backstage, of course, is off limits. That and its exclusivity endows it with irresistible mystique, at least to me. I’ve been backstage at a few rock shows (notably Bruce Springsteen, Motley Crue and Kiss) but on those occasions I was so in awe of the performers that specific details about the surroundings were a blur.

Dressing room, Hollywood Bowl
Dressing room, Hollywood Bowl

The tour Michael arranged was perfect. Our guide, who’d worked there for years,entertained us with anecdotes about the rich and famous and we could take our time. I took a lot of photos, many already in the clubs and venues section of my site, some reprinted here.

View from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl
View from the stage of the Hollywood Bowl

Why my interest in the inner workings of the Hollywood Bowl? I’m writing a novel about a defunct rock’n’roll band, famous in the sixties. One member went on to success beyond his wildest dreams. My hero did not. The book – half of which takes place in the 60s – is about their attempt to reunite 25 years later. Will the secrets and betrayals that shattered them in the seventies resurface in 2000? Have any of them really changed?

Hollywood Bowl Empty Seats

April 28, 1968

April 28, 1968

My nuclear family circa 1968
My nuclear family circa 1968

It’s difficult if not impossible to convey what life was really like in 1968 to people who weren’t even born then. IMHO, most films set in the sixties are cliched embarrassments. The best was “The Big Chill” but even that was nothing like my reality.

I never considered running away. My father made a concerted effort to stay close. He would sit beside me and listen attentively to both sides of a new Beatles album – not to censor my music but to stay connected to my world. He took me – my opinions, my passions – seriously. Since I was still a self-involved child, it never occurred to me to exhibit similar interest in his music. My loss.

My father and I on my Confirmation Day.
My father and I on my Confirmation Day.

Baby boomers like me – teenagers in the late sixties – weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll although “revolution” was in the air. My friend JoAnn, an aspiring model, had been obsessed with appearances – her personal revolution was reflected in a new craving for more authentic relationships.

My friend JoAnn
My friend JoAnn

The times exerted a powerful effect on Tal Pomeroy, who drew a high number in the draft lottery. One of the smartest boys at Wilcox, he was successfully challenged in his efforts to help me grasp the periodic table of the elements.  He didn’t take a traditional route to his eventual M.D. like he might’ve in the fifties. Instead, he criss-crossed the US, worked all manner of jobs and got to know all kinds of people. Along the way, he handwrote long beautiful letters which could never be condensed to a text or tweet.

Tal Pomeroy
Tal Pomeroy

I’m grateful I came of age in the sixties. Were they better or worse than other times? I don’t know – but I doubt any other era could be as interesting.

Coming of age in the sixties

January 26, 2013

January 26, 2013

"I will win "Best of" before I die."
“I will win “Best of” before I die.”

I’ve attended more than my share of writing workshops, including some of the most torturous to get into (hello Bread Loaf and Sewanee) as well as other high profile names – Tin House, Aspen Summer Words, Napa, Taos.

Writers in Paradise

Eckerd College’s WRITERS IN PARADISE is one of my favorites. As far as I know, it’s the only workshop with a competition for best and second best pieces in the workshop. (The best got published in their literary magazine; the runner up got a nice write-up).  For me, this led to what a friend called “fang extension” – a fierce desire to win no matter what.

Clearly, Nicky's the one with fang extension - not me.
Clearly, Nicky’s the one with fang extension – not me.

Victory didn’t come easy. I lost both first and second place for three solid years. I loathe losing and swore I’d win before I died. Luckily, it happened sooner – because, to my chagrin, Eckerd discontinued the competition after 2013. Under the new system, all participants can revise the material they work-shop and submit it to the magazine for consideration. Speaking strictly for myself, I miss the thrill of cut-throat competition but since that resulted in nine miserable writers who lost and one triumphant writer who won, maybe it undermined community spirit and cooperation. Personally, I don’t think so, but who knows?

2013 Sabal

With or without the “Best of” competition, what makes Eckerd such a fantastic workshop?  For me, it’s their faculty. I don’t read literary fiction unless forced to  (I prefer stories /plots).  Consequently, I’ve never heard of the majority of  author/workshop leaders appearing at even top workshops. This isn’t true of Eckerd.  Books by Eckerd authors/workshop leaders are everywhere – many are best-sellers – because they’re entertaining. Where but Eckerd can a student spend time with writers of the calibre of Sterling Watson, Tom Perrotta, Stewart O’Nan, Laura Lippman, Michael Koryta and Andre Dubus? Dennis Lehane no longer leads workshops but he makes himself  accessible and never fails to fascinate.

Celebrity Autograph Show

St. Petersburg weather in January is beautiful, as is the lush green campus. It’s a safe place to stick your toe in the water (figuratively – there are alligators in Florida) and benefit from smart, professional feedback. I liked almost everyone I met there, even my competition – and I returned home a stronger writer. What more could I ask?

This is NOT a paid advertisement. Writer’s in Paradise is that good.

To download a copy of Celebrity Autograph Show, click on the link.



My diary entry for February 21, 1965 (the two clippings above were pasted into the diary.) In my defense, I was only 13 years old.

Diary 2-21-1965

Not only was I overly fond of exclamation points, in ’65 my life was a long seriously bad hair day. (See 8th grade school picture below, taken on what I then believed to be a good hair day.)  

School Picture

But I digress. Last night – slightly more than 51 years after their performance at the Hyatt Music Theater, I saw Chad and Jeremy at McCabe’s guitar store in Santa Monica – a considerably smaller and calmer venue.  No one fainted during their highly entertaining show which included renditions of two of my favorite Chad and Jeremy songs – “A Summer Song” and “Distant Shores”.  Here they are on stage. Sorry about the bad photo – our cell phones were supposed to be off.

C&J Concert

Even though we saw the second show, which started at 10 PM and didn’t end until midnight, they stuck around afterwards to talk to fans and sign autographs. I got one too.



Music is the closest I’ll get to time travel. When familiar – usually melancholy – chords cast their spell, 51 years dissolve. Contrary to the title of Chad and Jeremy’s first USA hit, yesterday is never gone. Long buried memories and feelings spring to life. My world-weary adult self morphs into the yearning dork I used to be. How much of a dork? Another diary entry from 1965.

Diary 1965_edited-1

As angst-ridden as I was at 13, I miss the passionate highs and lows. Where did all that intensity go?

I didn’t scream deliriously at last night’s show like I did in 1965, but I remembered how it felt. Exhilarating. 1965 was a very good year.


As long as there’s music, I don’t have to say goodbye to anything.  If a band you used to love passes anywhere near your town, it’s definitely worth the trip.