“Wicked” is the perfect play for female friends (or sisters) to see together. I hadn’t read the novel the first time I saw it, so I knew nothing about the plot. If anything, I didn’t expect to enjoy it because it was a musical and songs rarely grab me the first time I hear them.
What an amazing surprise! It hooked me from the first number, “No One Mourns the Wicked.” I’m not an Oz freak – haven’t read any of the books – but the humor, the sly references to the film, and the complex relationship between the female leads had me spellbound. It features one of the most spectacular act breaks I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d written it.
The Pantages – built in 1929 and art deco to the max – is the perfect venue. No matter what is playing there, its ambience feels primed for “Wicked.” Lori was a relatively new friend; Gail and I go back 48 years. Like any friendship of that duration, we’ve had our ups and downs. No wonder I’m always crying by the time they get to these lyrics from “For Good.”
And just to clear the air, I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for
Should anyone doubt my Nerd credentials, read no further than the above diary entry. In fact, I’d argue knotting grass to make insect beds raises the bar on Dorkiness. Surely, I had a few worthier – at the very least, cooler – hobbies.
What did pre-digital loners like myself do for entertainment in 1965? I pasted green stamps into books for my mother. Played “Kick the Can” and “Monopoly” with the neighborhood kids. I tottered around on the pair of stilts my father built for me. I pored over the Sears catalog – its arrival was a major event in our house. We always placed an order, forgetting that the merchandise never looked as classy in our living room as it did in the catalog.
When the new catalog arrived, I claimed the old one. I named the prettiest models, carefully mulling the perfect moniker for each. I bought my first “A Name for Baby” book around then – the start of a lifelong obsession. And then, I wrote stories about the people I named.
Of course, I became a writer. What other profession gives you god-like powers in your fictional universe plus carte blanche to name a cast of thousands?
I knew that I bragged too much – “I had to tell people…I got into Kessler’s poetry class.” For sure, I boasted to the pages of my diary. I doubt anyone ever paid me a compliment I didn’t promptly record, verbatim. I’m probably bragging right now, by reprinting this particular diary entry. (“Look how great I used to be!”) That said, if I’m ever going to correct my character flaw of vanity – or is it pride? – I need to own it, so here goes – I’m conceited.
It’s not very Norwegian. My parents raised me not to “sing my own praises.” (On the other hand, there is that parable about not hiding your light under a bushel but I’m not sure that exonerates me.) I always dislike myself after I “toot my own horn” – just not enough to stop doing it.
Obviously, my braggadocio stems from a pervasive sense of inadequacy. Einstein didn’t announce he was a genius. Garbo didn’t brag that she was a famous movie star. Brilliant, talented people don’t need to tell the world how smart and exceptional they are. It’s obvious. It’s equally obvious when they are not. And no amount of self-promotion can turn mediocrity into greatness.
This wasn’t the only time Sandy and I boarded the wrong bus, which makes the bonehead move even more humiliating. The “best friends again” reference at the end of this entry suggests Sandy and I settled some temporary tiff. Usually, the problem was something dumb and juvenile like me getting jealous that Sandy was better friends with someone else than me.
“The Exorcist” was far in the future; consequently, Ouija boards did not have the satanic reputation they’d later acquire. We didn’t play with the Ouija a lot. It spooked us. We were obsessed with the future, though. How would our lives turn out? Would the guy we currently crushed on call?
Personally, I still prefer to get a jump on the future if possible. I seek out internet spoilers. I read the end of novels before I get to the middle. My children hate this and beg me not to tell them what happens. They don’t want to ruin “the surprise”.
Occasionally, my son CD appeared as an extra when his aunt Janet worked as an AD (Assistant Director). She was the 2ndAD on “Rocky IV.”
The original idea for the scene CD appeared in was for twelve “extra” kids to surround the two child actors playing Rocky Jr. and his buddy as they all view Rocky’s fight. Due to budget constraints, all the extras except CD were cut. CD got bumped from extra to the day player SAG rate (where you speak) because the scene between the three kids was lifeless until Stallone threw CD some lines. This made CD an “actor” who still gets occasional residuals from “Rocky IV.” Despite the Oscar worthy brilliance of CD’s performance, to this day it remains – sadly – unrecognized by the Academy.
I wasn’t on set that day, J acted as CD’s guardian. A father and son day. What could be better?
Although Janet worked with Stallone on several projects, my path never crossed his – a little unusual, since I’ve met more than my share of movie stars – Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Halle Berry, Robert Duvall and George Clooney, among others. By “met”, I mean I said hello. None of these “meetings” led to soul-searching conversation, a lunch date or an invite to a wild weekend at Hearst Castle. (To be clear – Hearst Castle’s Hollywood heyday ended decades before my birth – but I wish I’d been around. What a blast!)
It always amazes me that at 5’9” in bare feet, I tower above most leading men. Trust me, with notable exceptions (hello Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery), actors are rarely the tallest kids in their class.
My point is, movie stars lookso much bigger on screen. Many (hello, Halle Berry) are more beautiful than most of the human race. They’re stars (and I’m not) because the camera loves them – and, yeah, they can act. That said, I take comfort in the miniscule height differential. It reminds me we’re all equal, all mortal, earthbound humans. Their outer golden glow doesn’t mean they’re any happier than the rest of us, deep inside. But they might be. I don’t know. We never got that tight.
Thirty-eight years flew by and we never went sailing with Art – or anyone else – again. How do our good intentions – our genuine desires – get so easily buried under our daily routine?
Most people – myself included – have at least a vague idea about what might make us happy but most things I think I want – my fantasy about shopping for a medieval chateau in France, for example – rarely top my To Do list.
Okay, that example is over-the-top, particularly since I don’t speak a word of French, so I’ll scale it down to “we should go sailing more often.” Current reality suggests that goal is as impossible to realize as a castle in France.
In part, that’s due to the Protestant work ethic – in the words of John Lennon, “a man must work to earn his day of leisure.” Until I make significant progress toward my grandiose goals, I don’t deserve to reward myself.
My second handicap is the fact I’m spectacularly disorganized. Every weekend, I promise myself I’ll stay home and order my life so that next weekend I’ll have nothing but free time to do whatever I please. Unfortunately, like Gatsby’s green light, my dream of a perfectly organized life “year by year recedes before me. It eluded me then but that’s no matter. Tomorrow, I will run faster, stretch my arms farther, and one fine morning – so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Thank you, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m pretty sure I’d die happy if I wrote something that beautiful.)
Written down in black and white, the details of these days seem like the textbook definition of dorky, but all these years later I remember the experience – and the feelings, the rush of euphoria that came with finding a friend I connected with – as beautiful and perfect, just like the diary says.
If I try to insert the names of other friends – even close friends – instead of Sandy, it simply doesn’t work. I never could have shared these goofy adventures – let alone laughed as hard as we did – with anybody but Sandy. Her wild, quirky imagination met mine. She could be as deep as she could be silly. As complicated as “where the woodbine twineth” or as simple as “Nature Night”. I have no idea what made it so much fun to spy on little kids in her neighborhood – it never would’ve occurred to me with any of my other friends but she could find intrigue anywhere, make an adventure out of anything.
In my diary entries, I worry obsessively about being boring but in retrospect there was some projection going on. While I very well might be boring as hell, the truth is I am – and always have been – easily bored (which, according to some, means deep down I’m as boring as I always feared, but isn’t it all subjective?). Boredom was never an issue with Sandy. She had a knack for making anything interesting.
Almost thirty years later, I can answer that question with some authority. Yes, I was definitely losing interest in movies, a trend that would continue. Today, IMHO, the most innovative, exciting and inspirational writing can be seen on cable television or a streaming service. In 1989, I couldn’t imagine the myriad entertainment options we take for granted now. To illustrate just how different things were, check out our eighties pride and joy – the gigantic rear-projection television that consumed half the family room. The yellow velveteen sofa is another eighties winner.
A couple people who were there that night – Ed Cutter and Jake Jacobson to name two – have died. I lost touch with JoAnn Hill and even with the full resources of the internet, I haven’t been able to find her due to the sheer volume of JoAnn Hills.
My adorable little blond boy in the white faux tuxedo jacket is in his thirties now, living in his own condo and too busy with his job and girlfriend to see us more than every other weekend. The other day he laughingly told me I couldn’t guilt him anymore. We’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?
Enjoy these pictures and take lots of photos of your life as you know it now. Before you know it, everything will change and you’ll want to remember how it used to be. In the immortal words of the great Paul Simon in “Bookends”:
The person I claim to be is a complete fabrication. Three words of the entry explain how and why this could happen. “I drink more.” A lot more. After a few drinks, my self-consciousness disappears and a wittier, friendlier me emerges. I don’t care what people say or think – at least not until the next morning when I wake with a headache and a list of apologies I need to make for things I shouldn’t have said.
When I stopped drinking this extroverted version of me ran dry. I reverted to an introvert. Introverts get a bad rap. People with a rich interior life and no apparent exterior life make boring movie heroes and heroines. They’re not easy to get close to but they do have a few things in common with extroverts.
Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone feels under-appreciated. Nobody’s life runs exactly as planned and few, if any, see all of their dreams come true. That does not doom humans to unhappiness. That depends entirely on what you believe you need to be happy.
I’ve got enough. I don’t need a Malibu beach house or a private jet. If I die with exactly what I’ve got right now, it’s more than enough. I believe that leaves me happier than some who never have enough.
This entry captures my skewed priorities during my senior year (aka known as my Great Depression). Getting accepted at UCLA was momentous (and kind of crucial, since I neglected to apply to any other institution of higher learning). It was truly life changing.
That said, my obsessive focus was on pinpointing where I stood in my relationship with X – talk about an absurd waste of time! A mollusk could’ve deduced I was nowhere – the same place I’d been for almost two years.
It’s a peculiar kind of hell, pretending to be satisfied being “just friends” with somebody you’re madly in love with. To level the “just friends” playing field, I invented a boyfriend to compete with his living girlfriend. When he tortured me by rhapsodizing about how much he loved her, I could retaliate with my make-believe relationship with the non-existent Pericles. (I gave him a more normal name which is not to imply he was one iota more believable.)
To render an already pitiful situation more pathetic, I repeatedly pulled my fictional punches. Instead of touting my relationship with Pericles as a love affair for the ages, at the slightest hint X might be interested in me again, I kicked poor Pericles to the curb. My brilliant reasoning went, “X secretly wants to come back to me but he’s afraid he’ll be rejected for Pericles! Play it smart. Tell him you dumped Pericles so you’re fully available to him.”
Yeah, that’ll work every time – somewhere other than the planet earth. Suffice to say, my Herculean efforts to recapture X’s heart failed miserably. When I left Santa Clara (as it turned out, for good – and in June, not September) I never expected to see or hear from X again – but at least I had UCLA in my future. And that’s what actually mattered.