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.
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.
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.
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?
I met Mary Bennett my first quarter at UCLA, when we both snuck into an encounter group for depressed Sproul Hall residents. (Neither of us were depressed enough, according to their survey – we must have hidden it well.)
Ten minutes into group, we cured our depression by deciding to be roommates. I did take the precaution of checking out her LP collection first. When I discovered that – like me – she owned Mason Williams’ obscure first album, it was a done deal. I’ve never regretted it.
Mary met future husband Jack Denove before I met John but they married five years later. Apparently they weren’t quite as impulsive. Since Mary and Jack went to Loyola Law School and J was in law school at USC, they were one of the first couples we socialized with. Mary and I served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and John eventually joined their law firm – now Bennett, Cheong, Denove and Rowell.
I didn’t know Karen Stuart well but I liked her. John worked for her husband, Tony Stuart, before joining Mary and Jack. In this instance, my first instinct was correct. I shouldn’t have let Karen read my book without doing a rewrite. Since writers generally get only one shot – one read – I should have made sure it was as good as it could be. This is Not My Beautiful Wife, the novel in question (title taken from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime) wasn’t ready. Karen was kind and gave me useful notes, but this once in a lifetime opportunity was over.
Maybe one of these days I’ll pick it up and try again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is another one of those splendid spring days Sandy and I shared, when not a whole lot happened. I probably wouldn’t recall it at all, if I hadn’t written it down (and I think the beach photos posted here might’ve been taken today). I can’t imagine what we found so hilarious about “Rockin’ Robin” – we were probably punchy after a day in the sun and surf with our best friend. As usual, my perennial fear made it into the mix – “I bored her” – but Sandy’s mother was sweet and reassuring. We were both barely fifteen years old. It was a good time to be young in a city like Santa Cruz.
For whatever reason, my family didn’t go to the beach a lot, at least not that I remember. Our family outings – rare on Sundays, a working day for my Lutheran pastor father – more often than not took us to Mt. Cross (a Lutheran Bible camp in the mountains) or a local tour of model homes. We weren’t looking to buy – we lived in the parsonage, which was owned by the church – but we loved to pretend we were moving into our own house. My sisters and I competed over who got the best imaginary bedroom.
I haven’t been to Santa Cruz in decades but I’m sure – like the rest of the Silicon Valley – it’s nothing like the Santa Cruz I remember. I invite anyone who reads this and has been there recently to share their impressions about how it’s changed – what it’s like today.
In late February 1969, my clinical depression escalated. (See November 30, 1968) My part-time job at California Book couldn’t save me but it staunched the bleeding. It forced me to adhere to a schedule. I only worked 16 hours a week, but it was my first job and I took it seriously. It didn’t infringe on my social life since I no longer had one. I didn’t miss it.
The major symptom of my despair was a total lack of interest in anything. Anhedonia is the technical term. It means “an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable … including the motivation or desire to engage in activities.” It took enormous effort to shower. If I also washed my hair, I was too spent to go to school. Not so long ago I could do both – wash my hair and attend school – but not anymore.
I knew I wasn’t living up to the curse of my so-called potential. My parents were disappointed, although they never said so. It was nothing compared to how much I loathed myself.
The last thing I needed was more time in bed to think. That kind of self-centered contemplation was like swimming through quicksand – there was no way out, only down. The answer was activity, to get out of bed and out of the house. I knew what to do, but I lacked the energy – and the desire – to do it.
Writing about my year of depression is about as much fun as living it. I do it because so many people get stuck in something similar. In the thick of it, I felt alone and empty. It might’ve helped to know I wasn’t. If you’re depressed and read this, remember – you’re not alone or empty either. Things get better. Hang on.
From today’s vantage point, life looks simple in ‘64 but it didn’t feel that way then. I obsessed over what other people thought of me (which they didn’t, much). Subtle shifts in friendship sent me reeling. I stewed about my performance in school. I wanted to be number one in everything but I was afraid to be best at anything.
My need to be number one began in ‘53, when my parents shattered my fragile 2-year-old psyche by bringing my sister Janet home. I got their message loud and clear. If I’d been a better baby – cuter, smarter, more entertaining – they wouldn’t have needed another baby. I ran outside and bawled my eyes out.
They flat-out refused to return her. Over time, I discovered she – and later Joyce – had some good points. Little sisters were easy to trick. Gradually both of them became fun to talk to. In fact, it was easier to talk to them than anyone else in the world.
Because we knew which buttons to push, emotions ran high. They could cut me to the bone, infuriate and inspire me, rouse my jealousy and my compassion. On balance, we shared more laughter than tears.
I trust them with my deepest secrets, my darkest self. When I fail and feel all is lost, my sisters raise me from the dead. They’ve got my back when I need them most. They love me when I don’t deserve it, believe in me when I give up. They’re the wind beneath my wings, my bridge over troubled waters. They light up my life. You get the gist.
Maybe all things considered, what my sisters give me is bigger than the narcissistic wound Janet inflicted. Maybe gains always come with pain. Maybe I should stop whining about what happened 63 years ago.
The invitation for this party (reproduced above) explains it all. I wore the dress I actually wore to real proms in the sixties when I thought it was the most beautiful gown I’d ever seen. The style failed to age as well as I hoped – the dresses worn by most of the other female guests fared better (but I still got to be Prom Queen, an opportunity denied me in real life)
In this case, the photos are worth a thousand words so here are some of my favorites.
This event was an anomaly, the farthest thing from a typical day in my life. My prior attempt to model a dress I made in 7th grade home economics came to a humiliating halt when I discovered I neglected to leave arm and neck holes in my garment. (How did this happen? When I failed to spot where I’d made a mistake, my teacher smirked and urged me to “model it for the class.” It was a lesson I never forgot.)
How did I come to model chinchilla coats and wraps? JoAnn aspired to be a model and her father raised chinchillas. In 1969 it was not politically incorrect to wear fur or raise animals to become fur. Almost six feet tall and gorgeous, JoAnn was the show-stopper. I tagged along because at 5’9” I was one of her taller friends.
Somebody else did my make-up and hair. Never – not before or since – has my hair looked anything like it did that night. Given my life has been one long bad hair day, I’ve got no right to complain – but still. Let’s just say my up-do hasn’t stood the test of time.
Much like my other insane early aspirations – trapeze artist, ballerina and cowgirl spring to mind – I daydreamed about a thrilling career as a model. I suspect a lot of girls did the same because superstars like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton made it look so gosh-darn cool. My one night modeling furs at the Hyatt House was as close as I ever came.
I was far too quick to judge; I grossly underestimated the power of Nice’n’Easy. Under sunlight – any normal light, really – my hair blazed. You’d need to be blind not to notice and both of my parents were sighted. “You took out all the pretty darkness,” my mother lamented. My Wilcox cohorts assured me it was a vast improvement (not so hard, after 15 bad hair years).
This was my first foray into the new world of multi-hued hair – a world I’d return to often. Addicts claim their first hit of cocaine is the one they chase for the rest of their lives. Likewise, my first rinse of permanent hair dye was the sweetest. Drugs or alcohol would’ve been redundant. Pounding down neighborhood streets on our secret mission was intoxicating enough.
Due to the aerobic work-out we got from running all over town, our endorphins probably maxed out. Stir in the promise implicit in every Clairol commercial – by changing your hair color, you can change your life!- and we became unstoppable, the world was ours for the taking. If that’s not 20th century alchemy, what is?
As far as my parents were concerned, it wasn’t my finest hour. It wasn’t the worst, either. Still, even now – fifty years later to the day – bursts of our laughter and the pounding of our hearts echoes in my memory. We had so much fun it hurt – in an oddly pleasant way.
I remember it so clearly but I can’t recapture the feelings – the roller coaster highs and lows, intense moods and flooding emotions that were part and parcel of being fifteen. I couldn’t live at that fevered pitch forever – but I wouldn’t say no to another taste. After all these years, I’m chasing that fifteen-years-old high.
This is a party I’d like to throw again. As the invite explains, the concept was excavate your most repulsive fashion mistakes from the dark recesses of your closet and wear them to this party. I had no shortage of strong contenders for the honor in 1979. Today, I’ve got far more – a bottomless stash of trash.
How did I collect so much crap? By not throwing anything away. Like my mother before me, I save for rainy days because “you never know when this torn pair of plaid knickers might come in handy. Maybe they’ll come back in fashion. What if it’s the perfect costume for a theme party? It might fit my daughter, if I give birth to a daughter. I could cut it in squares and make a quilt.” Any reason will suffice to hang onto a purple polyester pantsuit I’ve never worn – but maybe someday. If I lose ten pounds.
If the world runs out of polyester, I’ll be sitting on a gold mine. It could happen.
The other cause of my cluttered closet of fashion disasters is – as I’ve discussed in prior diary-blogs – sometimes I forget who I am. I’ve bought tennis outfits that would flatter me on the court – only to recall, too late, I don’t play tennis, never have, never will. I’ve purchased jodhpurs without a horse, sky high heels as stable and comfy as strolling on stilts.
I don’t wear heels. Why, then, did I whip out my Visa and buy two pairs, one black, one taupe?
In all probability, the tipping points were magic words like FINAL SALE, DEEP DISCOUNT, BARGAIN, LAST CHANCE.
I buried these ridiculous outfits deep in my closet for decades. The time has come to expose these shameful secrets. Next week, I’ll open a fashion victim gallery featuring sartorial disasters starting with my own faux pas but hopefully incorporating contributions from others. I can’t be the only one with this problem!
It’s easy to participate. Model your worst, shoot a selfie, email to me. You might be too late to save yourself, but at least you can serve as a warning to others.
With any luck, the abominations “coming out of my closet” will inspire me to go where I’ve never gone before. My new mantra is TOSS IT NOW. So what if it still bears original price tags? Ebay buyers don’t want lime green jackets with gigantic shoulder pads – and, trust me, that look won’t be back in vogue in my lifetime (I can only hope).
But just in case –
 My mother suffered a Depression era childhood – that’s her excuse. I did not.