May 10, 1971

May 10, 1971

In real estate, the most important factor is location, location, location. To what degree does location affect every other aspect of our lives? Would you be the same person if you grew up in a different place? (I don’t think so.) Can you change who you are right now by changing your location?

My former roommate Miya
My former roommate Miya

In AA, it’s called a geographic when alcoholics attempt to control their alcohol intake by moving someplace new and starting over. It’s considered ineffective, as far as controlling and enjoying your drinking goes. That said, taking my own geographic – moving from Santa Clara to LA – exerted a profound effect on my psyche. It shocked me out of my self-absorbed stupor. So many new ideas, places, and people flew at me simultaneously, I didn’t have time to brood.

Talking to Miya
Talking to Miya

According to Mary, my first roommate at UCLA, my problem was I was never happy where I was, I always wanted to be someplace else. At the time I thought she was full of it but in retrospect she showed extraordinary insight. I hadn’t been at UCLA two years before I needed to escape, which led to an ill-advised intercampus visitation at UCSB.

At my parents house in San Diego with my dog Inga around this time
At my parents house in San Diego with my dog Inga around this time

As soon as I unpacked, I was lost and frantic to return to LA and my friends. Things got worse as I hurtled toward another bout of clinical depression or a nervous breakdown, take your pick. On my weekend visit to LA on the weekend of May 10, I was under the erroneous impression my time at Santa Barbara had “damaged” me. I hadn’t realized it didn’t matter where I was, I carried my alienation inside. Attempts to “fix” myself by changing my location were futile since I brought the old me along.

I hadn’t realized it didn’t matter where I was, I carried my alienation inside
I hadn’t realized it didn’t matter where I was, I carried my alienation inside

To put it in the immortal words of Paul Revere and the Raiders in their song “Kicks”

“Don’t you see no matter what you do You’ll never get away from you”





December 15, 1971


Michael Wasserman, fellow winner of the first Jim Morrison Memorial grant for his Film Project 1.
Michael Wasserman, fellow winner of the first Jim Morrison Memorial grant for his Film Project 1.


This was so unexpected it was hard to believe. The debacle of my last film (at UCSB – see diary blog May 28 1971 link) seared itself on my psyche and lowered my expectations to the point where merely passing would’ve felt like a triumph.

At my screening, when the first ripple of laughter landed it was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard. I loved it. To my surprise, what I considered huge success was just as disorienting as massive failure. For the first time, I leaned toward taking film production instead of film writing.

In other words, I forgot who I was – again. What saved me was enrolling in a camera class with Michael. One session of brain-numbing technical talk restored me to sanity. Production people rise at the crack of dawn and work long days – 16 hours isn’t unusual – all of it on site (as opposed to at home, where I can write in my pj’s.) Production people are surrounded by other people and forced to endure production meetings.


I couldn’t design a worse job for me if I tried (except maybe military service). I was constitutionally incapable of surviving a week, much less making it my career. To clarify, production is fantastic for people like my sister Janet. She thrives on it. She’d probably be miserable in the solitary confinement film writing requires. No value judgment is implied, neither one is “better” than the other. It depends on who you are.

Janet with Ben Vereen on the set of one of the early shows she worked on, "VEGAS".
Janet with Greg Morris on the set of one of the early shows she worked on, “VEGAS”.

Free-lance film writing is not unlike eternal college. The typical time period allotted to write a script roughly corresponds to quarters and the reaction of buyers/producers is like getting a grade. Ninety-five percent of the work is done in solitude, on my own hours, at home.

At UCLA, I discovered a genuine talent for college (this assertion based on graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa). Clearly, film writing was my ticket and I lived happily ever after.

You didn’t buy that, did you? I’m kidding. That would make for a truly boring story. Escalating conflict, big problems and hard decisions keep things interesting – and I was blessed with an endless supply, enough to fill many years of diary blogs.

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.


May 28, 1971

This was one of the worst days of my life. To set it up a little, I was at UC Santa Barbara for one quarter of intercampus visitation and this was the day I showed the film I made for one of the classes  I took there.
May 28, 1971

Sad Kathy

First, I take full responsibility for this debacle. For some bizarre reason, I believed that if I made a complicated incomprehensible film that nobody could understand, the audience would be awed by my superior intellect and love me. If you doubt how pretentious and wrong-headed my film was, allow me to dazzle you with its full title – JOURNEY: A RITUAL IN FIVE PARTS.

Movie Clapboard

So why do I consider this disaster one of the luckiest breaks of my life? First, I made the film in Santa Barbara, where no one from the UCLA  Film Department would stumble upon it and it could die in peace. If I hadn’t launched this colossal misfire in Santa Barbara, I almost certainly would have made a similar film for my Project 1 at UCLA – which, at the time, was basically a thesis film worth 8 units of credit on which your entire  career in the film department depended. The humiliation in Santa Barbara saved me a far greater humiliation.

Second, and more important, I learned in a visceral punch-to-the-gut way that obscure  pretentious films are not the way to an audience’s heart. (Why didn’t I know this already? I must’ve been absent that day.) My value system changed, as is reflected in my subsequent writing career. I finally understood the most important aspects of any film, story or book are to be entertaining, clear and accessible.

And, when I made my Project 1 three months later at UCLA, it was one of four films that was awarded the Jim Morrison Memorial Grant.