if i knew then

March 25, 1996


March 25, 1996

 

Jack Denove, Bob Tessler, Oscar, Bill Atherton, John Rowell, Rob Huddy
Jack Denove, Bob Tessler, Oscar, Bill Atherton, John Rowell, Rob Huddy

“Braveheart” won Best Picture in 1996 and Mel Gibson was named Best Director. Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) and Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) took top acting honors, Kevin Spacey (Usual Suspects) and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) won Supporting Honors. I was pleased Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects) won for Best Original Screenplay and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility won Best Adapted screenplay).

Ed Cutter, Mary Kennedy, Terry McDonnell, Judith Russell, Joyce, Roberta Gundersen, foreground Anne Kurrasch
Ed Cutter, Mary Kennedy, Terry McDonnell, Judith Russell, Joyce, Roberta Gundersen, foreground Anne Kurrasch

Due to subsequent events and political correctness, at least two of the 1996 winners probably wouldn’t take home Oscars if the vote was cast today. For me, this raises the complicated issue of how to separate art from the artist. Does a performance become unworthy, is a painting flawed, if the performer or painter is somebody I deem immoral? On the other hand, should we – as a society – elevate and reward criminals?

Stephanie, Joyce, Mary Bennett Denove
Stephanie, Joyce, Mary Bennett Denove

Do we need to reevaluate and possibly demote great artists of the past? Wasn’t Edgar Allen Poe a drug addict and possible pederast? I doubt he’s the only legend with skeletons in his closet.

Bobbi Goldin, Bill Atherton, me
Bobbi Goldin, Bill Atherton, me

I don’t have an answer; just posing the question.

Oscar Party 1996 - 2

Best Oscar Party Hostess & Host 1996
Best Oscar Party Hostess & Host 1996

 

 

March 23, 1973

March 23, 1973 Plan B

Leaving Melnitz Hall
Leaving Melnitz Hall

I knew what I did not want to do – don a cap and gown and endure an excruciating graduation ceremony. My own Jr. High and high school extravaganzas were torture. What about those magical moments, watching my own children graduate? Don’t you just want to smile all over? Uh, no.

S's High School Graduation
S’s High School Graduation

Slow-roasting in bleachers without shade, surrounded by delirious parents straining to spot their spawn in a sea of black-robes several zip codes to the south – made home schooling appear an attractive option. For the record, the only things I dread more than rituals like graduation are parades and colonoscopies.

A at his graduation
A at his college graduation

Flash forward to my son CD, valedictorian for his UCLA film and television class. Two surprises awaited me, one pleasant and one not so much. The good news was, only film and TV students participated, making it more like a party than spectacle. Lulled into a false sense of security, I thought, “this is almost a perfect day.”

CD's graduation UCLA
CD’s graduation UCLA

CD took the microphone. He singled out his wife and his father – 100% USC Trojan, undergrad and law school. He thanked them for their inspiration. No mention of his mother and fellow UCLA film and TV alum. You know, the one who introduced him to Melnitz hall and UCLA’s campus.

CD and classmates at UCLA graduation

Amazingly, I recovered from this ego-shattering blow as well as a carrot that caused me to barf at the reception. Something deep and primal superseded my lifelong distaste for graduations, parades and vomit.  So what if CD forgot to thank me? I could not have been any prouder of him. I still am.

March 11, 1966

 

March 11, 1966 The unfortunate armless Cindy vanished in the mists of time but I vividly recall the doll I dubbed Beckie. I don’t know what her manufacturer called her. I fell in love with her photo in a Sears (or something similar?) Christmas catalog and wanted her so much I could taste it. That year, I snuck a peek at my presents before Christmas Eve – the suspense of whether or not she was under the tree was unbearable. She was. Bliss.

Am I holding Cindy? Maybe. This doll appears in several very young photos. With my mother and Janet.
Am I holding Cindy? Maybe. This doll appears in several very young photos. With my mother and Janet.

When I left for college, my parents asked what to do with my dolls. Desperate to appear sophisticated, I said, “I don’t care. Give them away.”

So, they did.

I regret that. In later life, I collected dolls to recapture the childhood I treated so carelessly. Twinning my #5 Titian ponytail Barbie was a cinch. I still have Fuddy.

FUDDY
FUDDY

However, Beckie is MIA. I’ve scanned vintage Sears catalogs, doll collector reference books, eBay listings. I haven’t even figured out what her name was or who manufactured her.

Fuddy and I hanging out together a few years ago.
Fuddy and I hanging out together a few years ago.

My Missing Doll poster might be my last chance.

Hence, my poster.  So, here’s my Missing Doll description. She was (I presume still is) a vinyl baby-toddler doll. Her rooted black hair sports a Pebbles Flintstone style topknot. I think she was a sitting doll and wore a red and white checked outfit. I think she had a happy, smiling expression.

Missing Doll Poster

Has anybody seen my doll?

 

 

 

March 8, 1973

March 8, 1973

All my dreams...What looked like my lucky break was actually a crash course in how quickly “All my dreams are coming true!” can dissolve into no one’s returning my phone calls. Sadly, this was far from my last experience with emotional whiplash, careers version.

My teacher and mentor, Bill Froug
My teacher and mentor, Bill Froug

Still, Froug was right when he advised me to celebrate. Why not bask in the potential something amazing just might happen? So what if it doesn’t, this time?  The near-miss zone is nothing to be ashamed of. Most people never get that close. Nobody gets there by accident. Somebody noticed you and said, “the kid’s got talent.” If they didn’t believe it, they wouldn’t waste their time. The least you can do is believe in yourself.

The least you can do is believe in yourself

Legend has it, the average overnight success endures twenty to fifty rejections before they’re rewarded with that first life-changing YES. What are you waiting for? The faster you rack up the no’s, the sooner your dreams come true.

What are you waiting for?

The script that earned me this near-miss – “Intimate Changes,” not the greatest title – never got produced, but it won me introductions to agents, producers and network execs, all pivotal in my later career.  What felt like loss was only life unfolding more slowly than I preferred.

 

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.

 

January 7, 1984

January 7, 1984

Dad, Mom, Dolly and Jani - I must have taken the picture
Dad, Mom, Dolly and Jani – I must have taken the picture
Mom, Dolly & Dad
Mom, Dolly & Dad

Looking back, our end-of-the-evening ennui seems inexplicable – it sounds like a pretty darn good day – but in 1984, J and I tended to focus on what we didn’t have– rather than what we did.  Now that we’re older and wiser, we’re more inclined to gratitude. The days we took for granted look golden in the rear-view mirror.

Irene Miracle
Irene Miracle

I’d give anything to see my parents off on another cruise. After retirement, my father served as chaplain for many voyages. J and I took a few ourselves – one of them with my parents and extended family to celebrate their 66thwedding anniversary.

On voyage with grandparents
On voyage with grandparents

In 1984, CD had just turned seven and S wasn’t even a year old. I’d just begun to make it as a film and TV writer and we didn’t have household help. Sometimes, the pressure felt overwhelming. Today, the difficulties of raising small children and juggling a career seem insignificant. I’d welcome the chance to savor those moments of their childhood again.

J and I with CD, S and my parents around this time.
J and I with CD, S and my parents around this time.

I can’t justify the angst, today. We had it good. I need to remember this when I’m tempted to dwell on my daily disappointments. We’re alive and well. We still have it good.

 

December 11, 1967

December 11, 1967

 These conversations may not sound “deep” today (or was the word “heavy”?)  I’m glad I wrote them down – otherwise, I’d have no idea what my sisters and I talked about as kids. Do you remember childhood topics of conversation with your friends? Your siblings? Your parents? Do you ever wish you’d written it down?

Janet and I in 1967
Janet and I in 1967

I have zero independent recall of the vast majority of days described in my diary. They sound vaguely familiar – like something I might’ve overheard or said – but it’s my diary telling me what happened, not any real recollection.

Possibly our Christmas tree expedition - not sure
Possibly our Christmas tree expedition – not sure

Oddly, I do remember this conversation with my father – it started with my short story and evolved into a discussion of coming of age. I can see him on the floor, repairing that cupboard in our Del Monte kitchen. He made such an effort to meet me on my own turf. He listened to my Beatles records, listened to the Doors. Being young and selfish, I didn’t respond with reciprocal interest in his world. I wish I had; he had more to teach me than I could ever teach him. That said, his purpose was never to indoctrinate – he wanted to know me.

My Family
My Family

I should have written a lot more down.

 

November 7, 1972

November 7, 1972

1972 Campaign Buttons

I’m writing this on November 4, so I don’t know how yesterday’s midterms will end despite dawn-to-dusk polls on cable news.  Forty-six years ago, I was oblivious to any polls regarding the outcome of the ’72 election.  It was widely assumed Nixon would prevail, in part due to the perfectly timed Paris Peace Treaty and the fact many Democrats deemed McGovern too far left.

TIME OCTOBER 2, 1972
TIME OCTOBER 2, 1972

Although our country was polarized (two words – Viet Nam), it was still possible to disagree politically without rupturing relationships irreparably.  I pinballed from Republican to Democrat and back and none of my friendships died over those divides in the 70s, 80s or 90s. In fairness, I wasn’t all that passionate about politics. I liked to argue, play the devil’s advocate. Violence was never threatened. To my knowledge, no one considered me an enemy, let alone an enemy of the people. We could agree to disagree.

1972 election

I don’t consider myself vitriolic, but I can be, when provoked. All my life, I’ve taken things too personally. Now I take politics too personally. In the interest of treating others like I want them to treat me, I try to dial down the judgments I lay on people because of their beliefs. It’s harder than it should be.

All my life I have taken things too personally
All my life I have taken things too personally

My three-year relationship with Luke had crashed months earlier but we weren’t through missing each other so we were trying to figure out how to be “friends.” That election night, we were the only two people in Dickson Hall, the Art building at UCLA (since remodeled).

Trying to put the pieces back together to be friends
Trying to put the pieces back together to be friends

He was a grad student. I was a self-centered 21-year-old who didn’t want to love anyone. I believed the person who loved the most, lost. As if love was a battle and what mattered was winning or losing.

Today, I know things like love and honor are far more important than victory or defeat. To win without honor is to lose everything that matters. To live without love isn’t living at all.  But I’m an aging baby boomer hippie. What do I know?

What do I know?
What do I know?

 

 

August 30, 1980

August 30, 1980

Sailing


Art, CD & J sailing
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?

Castaic Lake

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.

Skipper Art

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.

J sailing

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.

Kathleen enjoying sailing

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.)

Cd sailing

August 24, 1967

August 24, 1967

 matt3

Once you see the cracks in the fantasy façade, it’s impossible to pretend they’re not there. At sixteen, I prided myself on being a cynic and eagerly traded wonder for the worldly superiority of seeing through everything.

Our family, circa 1967
Our family, circa 1967

The enchantment came back when I took my children to Disneyland. I suspect most parents feel the same way.

J and our kids at Disneyland - I'm evidently taking the picture.
J and our kids at Disneyland – I’m evidently taking the picture.

According to this entry, I liked the Matterhorn. The way I remember it, the first time I rode it with my father, I howled, “Daddy, make it stop!” My final ride on a roller coaster – Space Mountain, at the urging of my sister Joyce who assured me it was a metaphysical experience, not remotely terrifying – ended in hysterics. I staggered off, simultaneously laughing and crying, dimly aware of nearby teens asking, “What’s the matter with you, lady?”

My turn to be in the picture.
My turn to be in the picture.

Apparently, on thrill rides, I easily suspend disbelief.

animated-disney-image-0159

 

 

Skip to toolbar