writing

March 26, 1982

March 26, 1982

I assume “HW” refers to the title of a screenplay project. In my diaries, I almost always refer to projects by the initials in their titles which means – after all these years – I’ve forgotten far too many, especially those that failed to come to fruition. “HW” was one of those.

Me with husband and son at Ren Faire - not single and free to hang out with cool girls
Me with husband and son at Ren Faire – not single and free to hang out with cool girls

I have no idea what Colleen Camp or Joyce Hyser was like in high school – I never got to know either one of them that well (Hyser not at all, really). I do know that in 1982 Colleen and Joyce were indisputable royalty in Hollywood’s cool crowd.  Confident gorgeous girls like them awed me – still do,

Joyce Hyser with Springsteen - can it get any cooler than this? - Joyce Hyser
Joyce Hyser with Springsteen – can it get any cooler than this? – Joyce Hyser

I’ve crossed paths with Colleen many times since then. She’s always delightful, bubbly and friendly, even though – at best – I’m on the outer periphery of people she knows. Colleen was and is a social whirlwind. She knows everyone in the industry and is renowned for her major parties. (I’m not on the guest list but that’s what I hear.)

Coleen Camp
Coleen Camp

Based on her intel about the Outsiders, it was shooting in Tulsa (I was out of the loop – see November 15, 1980).  I admired Coppola’s savvy solution – the unequal per diems – to incite tension between actors which successfully translated to the screen.

The French movie poster for the Outsiders clearly depicts tensions between the socs and the greasers.
The French movie poster for the Outsiders clearly depicts tensions between the socs and the greasers.

March 25, 1970

March 25, 1970

Janet and I in our Santa Clara neighborhood shortly after we moved there.
Janet and I in our Santa Clara neighborhood shortly after we moved there.

It’s not terribly surprising I was adamant about Santa Clara being my home considering my family left Santa Clara for San Diego a mere six months before I wrote this entry. In contrast, it astonishes me that 47 years later, I still regard Santa Clara as my home – despite the fact I never lived there again. Realistically, hasn’t LA – where I’ve lived the last 47 years – earned the right to be called home?

Yeah, objectively, no doubt about it. Emotionally, not so fast. I grew up in Santa Clara, it will forever be where I spent my childhood, it’s the backdrop for all my highly formative memories and experiences.

My sisters and I in front of our Santa Clara parsonage - the girl on the far right in the bathing suit is Alana (Lennie), a neighbor and early friend.
My sisters and I in front of our Santa Clara parsonage – the girl on the far right in the bathing suit is Alana (Lennie), a neighbor and early friend.
The three Knutsen sisters in August of 1957
The three Knutsen sisters in August of 1957

Unfortunately, the Santa Clara I regard as home ceased to exist shortly after I left. I’ve covered this in other blogs (July 18, 1969, August 26, 1969) and I’m loathe to repeat myself. Still, Santa Clara’s metamorphoses into Silicon Valley fascinates me.

Janet, Joyce and I in front of Santa Clara parsonage a little later.
Janet, Joyce and I in front of Santa Clara parsonage a little later.

Someday I’d love to write a historical novel about Santa Clara. I’d approach it as a multi-generational saga about a family who own an apricot orchard, tracing family members and the city itself as it evolves to Silicon Valley.  I’ve been warned family sagas are out of fashion but by the time I finish, they might be all the rage again.

March 23, 1976

March 23, 1976

I didn’t know Don Martin well – certainly not as well as Jon Crane, his best friend, or Christine Vanderbilt, his girlfriend. All of us lived together in the Law House at USC for six months in ’75. After John and I moved into our own apartment, Law House friends like Don and Anne Kurrasch came by to play bridge.

I don't have a single photo of Don Martin so I'm posting photos of the other people who lived in Law House and knew Don in the hopes they'll see themselves tagged and add either photos or memories of Don to this blog. From left to right above - Ned Meade, Jon Crane, James Dumas and Christine Vanderbilt
I don’t have a single photo of Don Martin so I’m posting photos of the other people who lived in Law House and knew Don in the hopes they’ll see themselves tagged and add either photos or memories of Don to this blog. From left to right above – Ned Meade, Jon Crane, James Dumas and Christine Vanderbilt

John and Don shared a semi-friendly rivalry – their regard and respect for each other was secondary to their burning desire to win – to be more successful. John could beat Don (and two or three additional opponents) at chess playing blindfolded, which impressed the hell out of me. Don’s academics were stronger. John had an edge; his parents were supporting him for three years of law school (this was renegotiated when we got married but that’s a story for another time.)

Blindfold Chess

Don’s family couldn’t afford to fund his education.  Fiercely ambitious, competitive and determined, Don worked his butt off and paid his own freight. Given his struggle to reach Law School, Don wasn’t about to slack off and blow it. Don stayed home and studied when everybody else chugged pitchers of Margaritas at El Cholo’s – although, to be fair, Don was a charter member of the “How many Tommy Burgers can you eat?” Club. He had the self-discipline to defer gratification.

John's Law House roommate, Mitch Iwinaga (left) & Ted Hannon, wife and dog with J.
John’s Law House roommate, Mitch Iwinaga (left) & Ted Hannon, wife and dog with J.
Jon Crane, Ned Steag, Ken Millikian
Jon Crane, Ned Steag, Ken Millikian

At the time of my diary entry, our circle of friends took Don’s recovery as a given – until Don died. His iron will was useless. Everything he learned about law went to waste. Would he have chosen differently if he could’ve glimpsed the future?  Of course. What about his circle of friends, John and myself included? Did his death inspire us to live better today?

Michael Arnold, who was in charge of the Law House, with girlfriend.
Michael Arnold, who was in charge of the Law House, with girlfriend.
Anne Kurrasch and Paul Samuels (obviously, a lot of these shots happen to be taken at theme parties)
Anne Kurrasch and Paul Samuels (obviously, a lot of these shots happen to be taken at theme parties)
Jim Dumas, Paul Samuels, J
Jim Dumas, Paul Samuels, J

From what I can tell, not much. We convince ourselves that what happened to Don won’t happen to us. We’ve got all the time in the world.

 

 

March 21, 1994

March 21, 1994

Roberta Gundersen, Sam, Bree Salter Rieber
Roberta Gundersen, Sam, Bree Salter Rieber

 For those of you who (like me) do not have photographic memories, here are the major winners that year.

Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson - long-time friends - enjoy chatting.
Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson – long-time friends – enjoy chatting.

Best Picture Best Director  

 

Rob Huddy and Deborah Amelon
Rob Huddy and Deborah Amelon

Best Actor

Best Actress_edited-1

Anne Kurrasch and Joyce Knutsen Salter
Anne Kurrasch and Joyce Knutsen Salter

Best Supporting ACtor

Best Supporting Actress

William Atherton thinks the program is running a little long. Bree Salter Rieber in bg, smiling at camera.
William Atherton thinks the program is running a little long. Bree Salter Rieber in bg, smiling at camera.

Best Screenplays

Bree Salter Rieber with childhood buddy Thomas Dadourian
Bree Salter Rieber with childhood buddy Thomas Dadourian

Best Foreign Film

John with future law partners Jack and Mary Denove
John with future law partners Jack and Mary Denove

 This was a fun, easy party to throw. I ask guests to dress in formal regalia, as if they were really attending the Oscars. Slightly more than half usually follow through, not a bad average at our age.

Stefanni Graham, Jazz, Mary Bennett
Stefanni Graham, Jazz, Mary Bennett

The house-cleaning, such as it is, is on me, but not the food. I let people know it’s pot luck but do not specify what type of food they should bring. For those who prefer a conventional dinner, this adds to the night’s suspense. (We might wind up with 15 desserts, 15 appetizers or nothing but wine!)

Thomas and Marva Fucci, Bobbi Goldin, Moi
Thomas and Marva Fucci, Bobbi Goldin, Moi

I issue ballots and everybody puts $2 into the kitty.  One year we upped it to $5 per person which was just enough to jack everyone’s competitive drive to an obnoxious level so the following year we brought it back down to $2 – not really enough money to come to blows over. (Neither was $5 a head but go figure.)

Anne with Dr. Patti Akopianz (Cavender)
Anne with Dr. Patti Akopianz (Cavender)

Just for the record, I have never won an Oscar pool, which seems a tad unfair since I host the party (apparently, that doesn’t make me any smarter.)

The hosts.
The hosts.
By the end of the evening, Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson appear to take their friendship to the next level. They will marry within the next couple years.
By the end of the evening, Anne Kurrasch and Jake Jacobson appear to take their friendship to the next level. They will marry within the next couple years.

March 18, 1975

March 18, 1975

My face betrays a trace of doubt here - or maybe I'm just worried I'll spill the punch all over my dress.
My face betrays a trace of doubt here – or maybe I’m just worried I’ll spill the punch all over my dress.

 There were plenty of reasons both John and I felt uncertain about the future. He was in his first year of law school, finding his place in a highly competitive environment. If anything, my future was even less assured.  At least with law school, odds are you’ll find work as a lawyer assuming you pass the bar. My MFA was in Professional Writing and there’s no guarantee you’ll make a living writing, ever. If anything, odds are you won’t.

Cutting the wedding cake

Speaking strictly for myself, I was sick of dating. I spent entirely too much time obsessing about the state of my relationships. There wasn’t a snippet of male-female behavior, subliminal messaging, or secret motivations I didn’t ponder for days. A relationship I could rely on – i.e., a husband – freed hundreds of hours previously devoted to relentless analysis about how he really felt about me, what would happen next, what he really meant when he said I’ll call you later.

J & K having a bite of cake

What about love? Isn’t that the reason to get engaged and married? We were very much in love, at least insofar as either of us understood what love meant, which is to say – not much. Realistically, we were in the grip of mad infatuation. We thought we knew each other but we didn’t really, not as we’d come to know – and love – each other over the next 42 years.

Exiting the church

IMHO, love is nothing but illusion in those starry-eyed early days when you can’t see past the glorious magic of the other. Love becomes real when you realize your partner isn’t perfect – that is to say, she or he isn’t exactly the way you want them to be all the time – and you stick around anyway. Real love requires patience, compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy. It hurts sometimes. It changes both of you.  It’s not easy – but it’s worth it.

The bride and groom

That said, if I knew then how not perfect – how difficult and sometimes painful – love and marriage would be – would my answer still be yes? Absolutely.

March 16, 1974

March 16, 1974

Janet on the set of VEGAS TV series with Ben Vereen
Janet on the set of VEGAS TV series with Greg Morris

 To develop new talent, the DGA accepts applications to their Assistant Directors Training program once a year. The lucky few who ace the test and then the interview spend the next two years as salaried AD trainees on films or TV shows.  Completing the program earns you membership in the DGA and a shot at a career in production. The odds of success are approximately 2.5 percent, I think. My math hasn’t improved since I failed the test in 74.

Janet in her office at the Practice
Janet in her office at the Practice

A few ADs transition to directing. Walter Hill was an AD trainee on Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run. However, it was his writing skill rather than his AD experience that broke him into directing. More typically, 2nd AD leads to 1st AD which leads to Production Manager, and then if you’re lucky and so-inclined to co-producer, line producer or producer. These are hard to get lucrative jobs that often require ungodly long hours. I didn’t take the test again.

Candid moment with James Spader, Candice Bergen. Jane Lynch is entering even though you can barely tell it's her. Janet's daughter Caitlin & her friend Alia were working background that day and so you can see them in the distance.
Candid moment with James Spader, Candice Bergen. Jane Lynch is entering even though you can barely tell it’s her. Janet’s daughter Caitlin & her friend Alia were working background that day and so you can see them in the distance.

My sister Janet didn’t pass the first time either but she applied again. On her second attempt, she won an interview but didn’t get selected. Undeterred, she went back for more and applied again. Her tenacity paid off – she got in. As a trainee, she worked on 9 to 5, the series Vega$, a quirky Jeff Goldblum pilot called Tenspeed & Brownshoe and various TV movies and mini-series.

Janet and fellow producers of the Practice in front row, script supervisor and friend in back row.
Janet and fellow producers of the Practice in front row, script supervisor and friend in back row.

As a 2nd Assistant Director she worked on Rocky IV where she cast my son Christopher as one of Rocky Jr’s friends… he ended up with several lines in the scene and is still earning residuals.   Currently, she’s a Co-Producer/Production Manager on the Judd Apatow Netflix original series LOVE. She also serves on the Assistant Directors Training Plan board (which has evolved since 74).

Janet and Boston Legal producers standing in front of the helicopter that ferried them over glaciers to shooting location in Nimmo Bay, Canada.
Janet and Boston Legal producers standing in front of the helicopter that ferried them over glaciers to shooting location in Nimmo Bay, Canada.

In college, her dual major was French and American Culture. Who would’ve guessed she’d wind up here?

Janet., Producer, in her Boston Legal office.
Janet., Producer, in her Boston Legal office.

Twice nominated for Primetime Emmy awards, Janet remarks, “Boston Legal didn’t win but happy to be there & nominated.”

Janet at the Emmys
Janet and husband James McCann at the Emmys

Being both director and mom, Janet is trying to convince her son, Connor, to say “Bye, Dad” to the actor (a stranger) in the upcoming scene for “Sisters.”  He’s not going for it.  She’s begging!

He's not going for it.
He’s not going for it.
Assistant directing a scene with traffic along the Angeles Crest Highway in A Smoky Mountain Christmas (TV Movie starring Dolly Parton). They are going for it.
Assistant directing a scene with traffic along the Angeles Crest Highway in A Smoky Mountain Christmas (TV Movie starring Dolly Parton). They are going for it.

 

March 14, 1970

March 14, 1970

 When I read entries like this, I regret writing some incidents down in such detail. Without a diary, my little hissy fit during an otherwise fine evening would be long forgotten. What set me off that night?

Anderson’s ribbing – which I heard as ridicule – probably felt like an assault given how thin-skinned I was. I hadn’t learned the best way to handle teasing is by mocking myself first. Most people respond better to self-deprecating humor than temper tantrums or prolonged pouts.

I'm hiding. Notice me!
I’m hiding. Notice me!

My deeper motivation for disappearing was to punish my friends for ignoring me, something friends shouldn’t do to friends. Leave it to a narcissist to grossly over-estimate the pain my absence inflicts on everyone in my orbit (because the world revolves around me). Would it make you more sympathetic to know my need to be treated like I’m special arises from low self-esteem? I’m no one until I’m reflected in someone’s admiring eyes.

"I'm just a soul whose intentions are good - Oh, Lord - please don't let me be misunderstood"
“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good – Oh, Lord – please don’t let me be misunderstood”

Eventually I outgrew this self-defeating behavior. I saw the light when I dated a histrionic guy whose need for attention drained every last drop of my respect and affection. I saw how toxic I could become, if I didn’t shape up. I never wanted to affect someone else so negatively. Unfortunately, by the time I wised up, most likely I already had – for which I’m truly sorry, if that helps.

March 11, 1978


March 11, 1978 

Anne crashed on our couch a lot before she became a high-powered entertainment lawyer.
Anne crashed on our couch a lot before she became a high-powered entertainment lawyer.

Anne Kurrasch was one of four female law students living in Law House when I moved in and met John. After he casually mentioned he thought Anne was attractive – he and Anne went out drinking and dancing as “friends” before he met me – I realized it behooved me to befriend her. I didn’t expect we’d become friends for life.

Law students J and Anne in the process of NOT studying.
Law students J and Anne in the process of NOT studying.

Prior to law school, Anne majored in economics at Stanford (nobody else I knew even got into Stanford). When I met Anne, her goal after graduation from law school was to work in a bank. I like to think I influenced her career change to entertainment law.

Anne started out as J's friend but over the years she became more mine - not that we're competing or anything.
Anne started out as J’s friend but over the years she became more mine – not that we’re competing or anything.
Anne with our first dog, a black lab named Greta.
Anne with our first dog, a black lab named Greta.

Like every other job in the entertainment industry, it took a while for Anne to break in – during which she spent most weeknights sleeping on our couch – but Anne doesn’t give up easily. Today she’s an attorney for Showtime.

She influenced me too as confirmed in this diary entry –   “influenced by her preference for single stones”. Anne knew everything about the world – perhaps it was an elective at Stanford. Things like the right watch (Omega), the right dressy evening bag (Judith Leiber) and the right car (Jaguar). While I did not acquire these things (aside from a Leiber evening bag), it was all brand new information to someone who grew up shopping sales racks. I didn’t know shoes and bags made a statement about who I was – at least they did in the late seventies and eighties.

K&A

As much as she knew about classy accessories, she was only human and, as such, suffered occasional fashion catastrophes as illustrated by the photo below. (I more or less lived there.)

Fashion catastrophes

More on Anne as the next forty years unspool.

 

 

 

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 7, 1980


March 7, 1980

My favorite bridesmaid dress - for the Mary Bennett/Jack de Nove nuptials in 1980
My favorite bridesmaid dress – for the Mary Bennett/Jack de Nove nuptials in 1980

I served as a bridesmaid six times – all after being a bride myself – and this was by far the best dress. I was far crueler to the five women who participated in my wedding (below). The lace overlay, garden party hats, puffed sleeves – any one of these might be an unpardonable fashion sin – put them all together and this is what you get.

The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r - Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett deNove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left
The dresses I forced my bridesmaids to wear (l to r – Joyce Knutsen Salter, Sandy Walker Hegwood, Janet Knusten McCann, Mary Bennett deNove, Denise Gail Williams) Picture on the left

In my defense, the year was 1975 and I’d go with five different colors again today. I doubt my bridesmaids wore their dresses again aside from the occasional costume party.

Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in emerald-green themed dresses.
Me as bridesmaid, Sam as flower girl, in themed dresses.

While it’s an honor to be asked to serve as a bridesmaid – and I don’t mind admitting I was miffed on a few occasions when I thought I’d be an integral part of the wedding party only to find myself seated on the brides’s side with the rest of her friends who didn’t rate – it’s not all fun and games.

Wedding

Engaging with the bride
Engaging with the bride
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)
My sister Joyce put me in this dress for her 1980 wedding (with Denise Gail Williams)

Standing up for your friend as she/he exchanges vows with the person they plan to spend their lives with becomes uncomfortable when you’ve got a strong intuition this union won’t survive the sniffles, forget until death do us part. I’ve been there and I’m usually right.

Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett's bridesmaid dress
Other pictures of me in Mary Bennett’s bridesmaid dress

Not always, though. No outsider can fully grasp another couple’s relationship because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. One of my cynical writing professors told me not to bother justifying why two mismatched people stay together in misery all their lives. “The same reason most relationships stick together. Inertia and fear of change.” Dramatically, he’s probably right. Realistically, he’s probably right about a lot of couples – but not all. I’ll never give up on the romantic ideal of people who promise “till death do us part” and mean it with their whole heart.


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