fantasy

October 1, 1998

October 1, 1998 Much like every other Baby Boomer girl, I grew up playing with Barbie. My first – and still my favorite – was the classic titian ponytail. Much like my own wardrobe, we rarely splurged on store-bought Barbie clothes – my mother sewed them. And, unlike little girls today, I had one Barbie and probably a Ken, Midge and Skipper too. We spent hours playing the Barbie board game, trying not to get stuck going to the prom with Poindexter. Feminism was far in the future, as a casual perusal of the rules and goals of the Barbie board game make abundantly clear.

Barbie Characters

When I left for college and my parents prepared to move to San Diego, they asked me what to do with my dolls. “Give them away,” I said cavalierly, confident that I was far too sophisticated to ever miss them.

Barbie Images

I was wrong. As an adult collector, you could argue – as my long-suffering husband does – that I spent a fortune trying to reconnect with those dolls I so casually gave away. After years of being oblivious to 11 inch fashion dolls, in the mid-nineties I browsed a Barbie Bazaar magazine while shopping for toys for my children at FAO Schwartz  – and I was hooked.

Barbie image

Naturally, I didn’t collect in moderation – I don’t do anything less than obsessively. Meeting Chris Varaste was a lucky fluke.  He was writing a book about Barbie (Face of the American Dream) and many of my dolls were immortalized in photographs for the book.

book cover

With affection, I call Chris my “idiot savante” of the Barbie world. He knows which shade of eye color appeared which year and which ones are rare (example – say what color and year). Thanks to his eagle eye and willingness to curate,  my collection was elevated in class almost instantly.

Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda
Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda

Neither of us are as mad about Barbie as we were then although she’ll always have a place in our hearts – how could she not, being an American icon? More important, Chris has a place in my heart. We’ve talked about far more than Barbie over the years and he’s proven himself to be as trustworthy as I intuited on the day we met – nineteen years ago today.

 

March 9. 1969

March 9, 1969

This wasn’t my first – or last – fantasy about taking drastic measures to escape my life. I didn’t follow through on this brilliant plan or any of the others which didn’t stop me from devising new schemes to start over someplace else whenever I’m overwhelmed where I am.

Flying away to Sweden
Flying away to Sweden

Before my wedding, I thought about hopping a plane and disappearing in Sweden (because I took Swedish at UCLA, as if that would do me any good.)  Thank God I lost my nerve – or regained my senses – and showed up at the church on time. Sticking around and seeing things through was always the right choice.

Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.
Hop a train to a new life, new name, new city.

The fantasy of running away – starting a new life with a new name – is probably impossible in our high-tech surveillance-happy world. Even if I could, there’s no reason to believe my new life would improve on the one I’m living. As the saying goes, wherever you run to, you take yourself with you.

Go where?
Go where?

And of course, “myself” is the problem. The only way to change my circumstances is change myself. It’s an inside adjustment, not an outside one. I didn’t know that in ’69, as I sank into a bottomless clinical depression. I find solace in the fact that no matter how much I wanted to leave this life, I stayed – and you know what? It got better.

These boots are made for walking - incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here
These boots are made for walking – incognito woman of mystery somewhere far north of here

March 1, 1965

March 1, 1965

animated-scared-image-0006

what if?

What a classic example of freaking out about something that isn’t close to happening. From the sound of this entry, I wasn’t even babysitting when I started down this terrifying path of “What ifs?”  That said, on more than one actual babysitting job, my parents had to deliver Janet to calm me down – and I hadn’t even seen movies like Halloween.  (They hadn’t been made yet and even if they’d been available, my parents forbade us to see horror movies. Their attitude was, “If you still want to see this gore when you’re 18, fine. Until then, you don’t need it.”  Given my propensity for hysteria, I can’t argue with their wisdom.

Photo clearly taken on March 2nd - could be 1965, not sure (sadly)
Photo clearly taken on March 2nd – could be 1965, not sure (sadly)

This tendency to extrapolate the most dreadful outcome of any given situation was a curse in romantic relationships. If a guy didn’t call me on time, I convinced myself he was losing interest, intended to drop me, hated me, was madly in love with my worst enemy. Once these ideas took hold, it was hard to release them and I turned into a needy clingy nutcase.

In front of our house on Del Monte around this time.
In front of our house on Del Monte around this time.

Lucky for me, one area where catastrophizing is an asset not a liability is film and television writing.  When writing a movie of the week, you look for the worst possible alternative. If a husband checks out the hot divorcee down the street, odds are his wife will be dead by the first commercial break. The more trouble a writer can hurl at his hero, the more dramatic and emotionally involving the story. The principle works in fiction – not so much in real life.

December 9, 1969

december-9-1969

 

Sharon in the Botanical Gardens
Sharon in the Botanical Gardens

It’s difficult to reconstruct my thinking that fall because it was – to put it kindly – demented. I was assigned to the dorm I requested – Hedrick. The first night, I went to a barbeque with my new roommate. From the bleachers, we watched people below line up for food. My roommate and her friends playfully paired strangers – the ugly guy with an ugly girl, fat guy with a fat girl, etc.

Granted, it wasn’t nice but given a sliver of self-awareness I might’ve remembered I wasn’t always nice myself. Instead I unleashed my judgmental, self-righteous inner judge and jury. How could a sensitive soul like myself co-exist with such dreadful people? I needed to move out of Hedrick – now! This was brilliant reasoning compared to my next brainstorm.

My problem was finding someplace to live. My inspired solution was – go through Greek “Rush Week” and pledge a sorority!

What I usually wore to school.
What I usually wore to school.

Whaaaat? At UCLA in ’69, frats and sororities were as cool as Nixon and Goldwater. Inexplicably, it slipped my mind I wore jeans to school every day. I pictured myself 30 pounds lighter, in cashmere twin sets and designer suits  with shiny straight hair and perfect make-up.

Closer to the correct "Sorority Girl" look for school (a slight exaggeration but not much)
Closer to the correct “Sorority Girl” look for school (a slight exaggeration but not much)

What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. I hate groups, especially those that burst into song for no discernable reason.
  2. I hate dress-codes and pantyhose (sorority girls had to endure both).
  3. I hate setting tables, washing dishes and making my bed – chores pledges were required to do.
  4. I hate sharing my space. Pledges shared a tiny room with six other girls as well as a communal bathroom.
  5. I hate committee meetings, especially when they involve ritual.
  6. Did I mention I hate groups?

Spotting a couple kinks in my plan, my parents urged me not to act hastily but – blinded by my vision of my secret sorority girl self –  I plunged forward. Yes, I said, I’ll pledge your sorority! My new sisters sang a secret song of welcome.

"What do you mean, this doesn't qualify as a natural look?"
“What do you mean, this doesn’t qualify as a natural look?”

I moved my earthly possessions into the sorority. As I unpacked, sanity returned. With mounting  horror, I remembered who I was – and who I wasn’t.

I told my sorority sisters I’d made a terrible mistake. They didn’t sing; they were too furious. I didn’t blame them. They kept their part of the bargain. I was the crazy flake who forgot who she was and what she wanted.

They were clear about what they wanted – me out of there. I got my eviction notice the same day I moved in. Luckily, Mary Bennett – my roommate from the prior quarter – needed a roommate. We arranged for me to move back into Sproul Hall – the same funky dorm where I started my college education.

I’m not suggesting my experience merits lines as profound as those T.S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding” but I’m going to quote them anyway.

we-shall-not-cease-from-exploration

November 7, 1966

november-7-1966

 Judging by the amount of diary space allotted to the tragic break up with my first boyfriend compared to my conversation with Mrs. Seidenberg, it’s obvious where my priorities lay. By 1966, I had a burning desire to be a writer and encouragement from others fed that fire. Sometimes, though, I can’t help but wonder if praise from people ignited the fire in the first place. In other words, would I have wanted to be a writer if not for early positive feedback telling me I was good at it?

positive-feedback

In all honesty, writing wasn’t my first ambition. Far from it.  Long before I dreamed of seeing my name on the spine of a book, let alone a movie or TV screen, I wanted to be a trapeze artist. It didn’t occur to me acrophobia – fear of heights – might be a liability for a future trapeze artist.  Likewise, being born clumsy posed a serious challenge as did early evidence I’d be a 5’9” bruiser by the time I reached maturity making me a risky catch for all but the beefiest male aerial artist.

trapeze-artist

ballerina2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since flying through the air with the greatest of ease did not appear likely in my future, I aspired to a new dream – prima ballerina. Astute readers are probably ahead of me here. The same factors (with the possible exception of acrophobia) holding me back from swinging under the big-top demolished any chance I’d be dancing the lead in Swan Lake – not only did I move like a blind ox, relatively few guys – if any – could hoist me aloft and spin me for a romantic pas de duex. More likely he’d stagger under my weight and collapse, at which time I’d tumble after and crush us both.

Dead ballerina (if she was my weight) with dead partner she crushed.
Dead ballerina (if she was my weight) with dead partner she crushed.

On top of that, I’m positive both of the above professions require constant practice, consisting of strenuous workouts to stretch physical endurance to the max.  Prodigious sweat is probably involved. Not exactly my thing, once I remember who I am. So what attracted me to situations I was so ill-suited for?

Sam played a ballerina (well, the ghost of a DEAD ballerina, to be specific) in one of my TV movies. This is as close as I got to a career in ballet although I saw a ballet once (at least until it put me to sleep.) But I've still got to give it up for the costumes!
Sam played a ballerina (well, the ghost of a DEAD ballerina, to be specific) in one of my TV movies. This is as close as I got to a career in ballet although I saw a ballet once (at least until it put me to sleep.) But I’ve still got to give it up for the costumes!

The skimpy sequined outfits and tights, obviously. Lucky for me, I can wear the costume without the career. Since I write alone at home, I can wear anything I please. That said, I rarely indulge this professional perk. I can’t remember the last time I hit my computer keys dressed like this.

You never know, though. Maybe it’s just the inspiration I need.

ballerina-at-computer_edited-1

October 16, 1975

October 16, 1975

I met Walter Hill in 1973 at a dinner party hosted by my screenwriting professor, Bill Froug.

Bill Froug toasting at a dinner party
Bill Froug toasting at a dinner party

Walter and David Giler were the only two other guests I remember by name. I was in awe of their talent and success as writers. Finding myself a guest at the same dinner party made me feel like anything was possible. My life could be as big as my dreams.

dreams

Walter and I dated for a few months. I was living in San Diego and commuting to LA for meetings so a serious relationship never developed – well, certainly not from his point of view. I was wildly infatuated with Walter; I thought I was in love.

Walter on the phone
Walter on the phone

In retrospect, I didn’t know him well enough be in love although there wasn’t anything  not to like. He was witty, confident, talented, brilliant and kind. He introduced me to Randy Newman’s music. The problem – aside from the fact that he wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship then – was I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t really want to marry Walter so much as I wanted to be Walter. I wanted to absorb his talent, his confidence, his success, his work ethic.

Me in 1973 - not knowing who I was or where I was going
Me in 1973 – not knowing who I was or where I was going

Maybe he sensed I was a predator, out to steal his soul. Maybe he just liked someone else better. I’m pretty sure I scared him away. I did write one ill-advised insane letter I deeply regret mailing but that’s another story. He made the right decision when he cut me loose.

When we ran into each other again a year later, he was the nice, confident, talented witty guy I remembered. I’m grateful he forgave and forgot how close I came to being his stalker.

It was exciting to see his star rise over the years. I felt proud – and lucky – that I’d met him. By then, I understood that dating a famous writer couldn’t transfer his talent or confidence to me. Even marriage couldn’t have accomplished that. I was forever stuck with being myself.

Being myself
Me, being myself

And it’s not so bad.

October 10, 2014

october-10-2014

the-trouble-with-trouble My absolute all-time favorite game growing up was dress-up (today, it’s called role-play but it’s the same thing.)  I was up for a part in any fantasy – princess, boarding school, teen-ager, Rapunzel and Bonanza were perennial favorites. The only role I couldn’t relate to was horsy. Then as now, the appeal of prancing around pretending to be a palomino eluded me. For starters, playing horsy pretty much precludes costumes unless you count tucking a fake tail in the rear of your pedal-pushers (I don’t).these-bitches-need-some-class

I have only two requirements for a good game of dress-up.

  1. I play a human (no horsys!)
  2. I wear a costume – and hopefully a wig.

Beyond that, anything goes.

shopping-for-more-useless-stuffIt’s a shame that dress-up tends to be cast aside before adolescence. It’s all but forgotten by the time we’re adults. IMHO, this is a real shame. Luckily, like riding a bike, the requisite skills reside inside you, ready to resume active duty if called. If you can get past your self-consciousness for a  trip into fun and silliness, dress up is even more fun to play as a grown-up.

now-i-take-a-pill-for-that

Technically, each of us gets only one life to live. Dress up role play lets you dabble in as many lives as you can make up. If – like me – sometimes you get sick of being yourself, take a break. Cut loose and be somebody else – someone without a mortgage, congested kids, or pets pooping on the rug. All you’ve got to lose is your dignity. Isn’t it about time?

ANY GIRL CAN BE GLAMOUROUS. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS STAND STILL AND LOOK STUPID.
ANY GIRL CAN BE GLAMOUROUS. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS STAND STILL AND LOOK STUPID.

If you’re over 18 or past the age of consent: Dress-up role-play is unlikely to be hazardous to your sex life, if you get my drift. Enough said.

 

September 23, 1972

September 23, 1972

 

BACKUP TO DIANA ROSS AND ARETHA
BACKUP TO DIANA ROSS AND ARETHA
ARETHA "JAZZ" KNUTSEN
ARETHA “JAZZ” KNUTSEN

As far back as I can remember, my sisters and I – usually with my friend Natalie – entertained ourselves with what we called “record acts” back in the day. Today, it’s called “lip-synching”. We performed as a trio for the first time in the diary entry above. Prior to that, we took turns doing solos.

JANI FABARES
JANI FABARES

Three of us sat side by side while whoever was up next selected a record – Paul Peterson’s LP “Lollipops and Roses” and Shelley Fabares’ “Teen-age Triangle” were huge favorites. Occasionally we recruited our parents for an audience.  Janet did a mean Robert Preston on his iconic number “You’ve Got Trouble in River City.” Joyce and Natalie shared a knack for turning romantic numbers unexpectedly comedic. Given my total lack of rhythm, no one ever requested an encore but I was a great audience.

BEHIND THE SCENES AT OUR BACKYARD GIG
BEHIND THE SCENES AT OUR BACKYARD GIG

Our first – and last – two performances as a trio were Diana Ross’s “Ain’t No Mountain” and Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me”. (Joyce did lead lip-synch on both.) I was 21 that summer; I probably felt a little too old for silly dress-up routines.

The Sapremes! Greatest Hits!_edited-1

I wish I’d known then that you’re never too old to dress up and dance!

Luckily, the “born to lip synch record act” gene passed to the next generation. In the photos below, Joyce’s daughter and my daughter produce their own show on my coffee-table stage.

NEXT GENERATION SYNCHING
NEXT GENERATION SYNCHING
CHECK OUT THE MOVES!
CHECK OUT THE MOVES!
ENCORE!
ENCORE!

 

September 4, 1967

 

September 4, 1967

16 and COOL!

 

Old friends

 

In 1967 I was 16; I thought they sang, “How terribly strange to be seventeen” Yeah, I felt ancient, like the best years of my life were already behind me.  When I turned 17, I’d officially be in my grave.

Thank God I was mistaken about that.  As time and life would prove, I was also wrong in  my belief that I’d become a lonely old lady, wandering closed shopping malls because I had nothing better to do. I didn’t have to be Eleanor Rigby.

Statue of Eleanor Rigby in Stanley Street, Liverpool. A plaque to the right describes it as "Dedicated to All the Lonely People"
Statue of Eleanor Rigby in Stanley Street, Liverpool. A plaque to the right describes it as “Dedicated to All the Lonely People”

It’s strange to revisit this entry almost fifty years after I wrote it.  The world changed in ways I couldn’t envision and yet much remains the same. I got one prediction right.  30 years, 40 years, now 50 years into the future, Sandy and I are still friends. As proof, I offer four photos of us sharing various times and places in our lives.

 

Sandy and Kathy

 

Note - Kathy is tan and Sandra is not, proof positive this photo was captured in an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE where everything is upside down.
NOTE – KATHY IS TAN, SANDRA IS NOT, PROOF POSITIVE THIS PHOTO WAS CAPTURED IN AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE  WHERE EVERYTHING IS UPSIDE DOWN.

 

NOTE - another hideous hair day for Kathy, proof positive photo was taken in real life on the planet Earth
NOTE – ANOTHER HIDEOUS HAIR DAY FOR KATHY, PROOF POSITIVE PHOTO WAS TAKEN IN REAL LIFE ON PLANET EARTH

 

Sandra was smart enough to just say NO to shoulder pads. Kathy, not so much.
SANDRA WAS SMART ENOUGH TO JUST SAY “NO” TO SHOULDER PADS. KATHY, NOT SO MUCH.

If Sandra and I lived in the same zip code, eventually we’d share geriatric adventures in our motorized wheelchairs.  We don’t, though. We haven’t lived within easy driving distance of each other since 1969, forcing each of us – individually – to find new ways to entertain ourselves. Another way to put it – we evolved into the people we were meant to be.  I wouldn’t have predicted she’d evolve into a Christian but it’s a perfect plot twist. Good film and TV writing always serves the audience something that wasn’t even on the menu, the last thing they expected.

Another Paul Simon lyric sums up my sentiments about time’s passage perfectly.

 

Bookends

 

 

August 21, 1966

At the Beach With Sandy 1

August 21, 1966_edited-1

bubble

Be Careful

At tne Beach With Sandy 2

PLAYING SOME KIND OF FANTASY GAME
PLAYING SOME KIND OF FANTASY GAME

Sandy wasn’t a friend who’d waste a day bronzing in the sun or swimming. We were always playing some kind of fantasy game or plotting an adventure whether it was leaving different footprints in the sand or talking to the ouija board at midnight on my front lawn. If a spectral car didn’t hurtle out of the night, we’d find another way to terrify ourselves.

LEAVING DIFFERENT FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
LEAVING DIFFERENT FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

PhotoBooth S & KPhoto Booth K & S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our ouija board told us his  name was Rehsi and he was from the planet Asteron.  He wasn’t exactly a gifted, fast-tracked ouija board.  He was probably held back a few years. I don’t think he ever answered a single question correctly but being clueless didn’t keep him from making dire predictions.

Rehsi

I know some people think ouija boards are scary and demonic but for Sandy and me it was a fun spooky game. Not for an instant did I believe that we were summoning dark forces to serve the devil. Maybe I would’ve been more scared if I’d seen The Exorcist.

animated-scared-image-0012

STRANGLING EACH OTHER WAS ALWAYS FUN WHEN WE RAN OUT OF OTHER IDEAS.
STRANGLING EACH OTHER WAS ALWAYS FUN WHEN WE RAN OUT OF OTHER IDEAS.
HMMM. SANDY SEEMS MORE SERIOUS ABOUT STRANGLING ME THAN VICE VERSA.
HMMM. SANDY SEEMS MORE SERIOUS ABOUT STRANGLING ME THAN VICE VERSA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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