August, 2013:

MARCH ON WASHINGTON – 50 YEARS AGO

Movie Stars Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier at March on Washington

Fifty years goes by in a flash. When you’re young, you don’t think that far ahead, or at least I didn’t. I lived my life day by day and was usually up for adventure. I’ve lived in California since 1965, and 50 years ago this state was only an exciting possibility because Disneyland was here. I had no idea when I was in the midst of very famous movie stars and other notables during the March on Washington that I would end up in California within two years. In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve realized how fortunate I was to be in the midst of this remarkable time in history.

The March was scheduled for Saturday, August 28, 1963, and several of my bosses from the airport’s Operations department would be on duty. Many celebrities involved in the March would be landing at Butler Aviation,  the private terminal of the airport. The fellows I worked for asked if I wanted to see movie stars, and I jumped at the chance to blend in with the celebrities, and I invited my good friend Harriet. In the early 60s, especially around Washington, women got dressed up for events and even shopping; it was a more formal time and T-shirts and jeans were not appropriate attire. Harriet and I knew exactly what to wear—high heels, stockings, and a dress. I don’t know if we wore hats; usually hats were for church.

California, where most of the famous folks were coming from, had been declared the home of “fruits and nuts.” As an Easterner, I was ignorant about almost everything but the term “Hollywood” and knowing somewhere out there was the magical Disneyland.  Harriet and I probably took along our white gloves, which were the ultimate extra touch when dressed up. I recall my three-inch-high beige heels, but I don’t remember the dress I wore. It was probably a sheath of some kind that looked business-like.

Harriet and I were very excited about the day, but had no idea what to expect as we climbed the stairs to the second floor lounge at the Butler Aviation terminal. It was full of people milling around, most of them casually dressed. I gawked as I saw a fully bearded Paul Newman, fresh from filming the comedy, What a Way to Go; he played an obsessed painter married to Shirley MacLaine. In the middle of the room was the handsome Sidney Poitier talking to Dianne Carroll.

One wall of the lounge was almost entirely glass and looked out upon the airfield. I walked toward the window to see if any planes with more stars would be landing. As I stood there in my heels, I felt tall and imposing—about 5’10” in my “spikes.”  Two diminutive black men walked over and stood on either side of me, neither of them taller than my breasts. On one side was the multi-talented actor-singer Sammy Davis, Jr.; on the other was renowned author James Baldwin. I tried to act nonchalant as they talked. I was probably too nervous to eavesdrop.

Not long afterward, someone announced a private plane from Southern California was landing and would soon be taxiing to the Butler Aviation gate. All of us were encouraged to go downstairs and outside to greet them. Harriet and I followed along and wondered who the new arrivals would be. While we were waiting, I overheard some cynic say, “Here come more of the fruits and nuts of Hollywood.”

Within minutes a small passenger plane taxied toward us, engine still roaring. I put my hands over my ears and looked up into the smiling face of Moses himself—Charlton Heston. “Loud, isn’t it?” he intoned with that unmistakable, powerful  voice. I beamed at him and nodded my head.

As he turned away, Harriet leaned in. “Can you believe that was Charlton Heston?” She was grinning with excitement.

The plane’s engines quit and the door opened. Men and women began to descend the stairs and I noticed how differently they were dressed—tanned women were wearing loose clothing with flashy jewelry; men were in white shoes and colorful shirts. Out the airplane door sauntered someone I knew from television: handsome James Garner. Photographers and reporters were there to cover the story and the dark-haired Garner didn’t disappoint. Right away he waved and played to the crowd, starting some fascinating repartee I no longer remember. But I couldn’t forget his charming easy smile.

A few years later when I moved to California and became part of that laid-back  lifestyle and sunny climate, I would remember my historical hint of things to come, courtesy of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I saw an older James Garner in person at a shopping center: he was asleep in an overstuffed chair, probably waiting for his wife.

WORKING AT WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT – 1963

“How’d you like to see some movie stars?” a retired Navy pilot asked me on a summer day in 1963, shortly before Martin Luther King’s March on Washington event. It was the summer before my senior year of college, and I was working for Operations at what was then Washington National Airport on the Potomac River in the District of Columbia.

I was the only female among six retired Navy and Air Force officers, all former pilots, and our offices were on the field level of the airport. Even though the men had done their twenty years in the service and were drawing their retirement pay, they were only in their forties. They had opted to keep working by getting a government job, which kept them in the same place for a change.

The fellows in Operations, who were all cocky and full of charm and humor, would make sure takeoffs and landings were going smoothly. They were in charge of monitoring aborted flight departures or problems with arrivals because of engine trouble or whatever else might go wrong and did. Potential mishaps, depending upon the severity, were labeled either “Standby at the station” if it was mild—as with a plane coming in with less than all engines operating—or “Standby on the field” if it looked more serious—faulty landing gear, for instance. These competent but seemingly relaxed men were privy to what was going on around the airport in general.

As a lowly clerk-typist, GS-3, I was responsible for answering phones and typing whatever documents needed typing—monthly reports of the flights in and out of the airport, for instance. Our oak-paneled offices were nicely appointed and were historic, having been used by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his long presidency, and on our wall there was a photo of him sitting in this office. I enjoyed the job because my flirtatious but well-mannered bosses were fun to work for; there was never a dull moment if they were around. I was their built-in audience and they let me in on their little jokes. One of the them, who resembled old-time movie actor Robert Taylor, would request that I bring him his coffee just like his women—“hot, dark and sweet.”  A former Navy pilot, whose crewcut was getting sparse on top, claimed his hair was guilty of mutiny—they were all deserting the ship.

I was only dimly aware of the growing civil rights movement, which was beginning to heat up at that time. I attended William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and we had no African-American students. Although integration within Virginia schools was mandatory, it had yet to become widespread.  In 1963 Viet Nam action consisted of American military “advisors” and was very much an unknown factor; it was August 1964 before the US began a substantial military build-up, which escalated into a war.

Washington National Airport was a hub of activity in those casual days before extensive security checks and terrorism. Getting on and off planes was easy; no one cared what a traveler had in his luggage. If my bosses, who seldom stayed around the office except to have coffee or tell me a joke, spotted anyone famous in the airport, they’d tell me, especially if there was time for me to go sneak a peek. Renowned Spanish painter, Salvador Dali, with his distinctive long curling mustache, was once spotted in time for me to look him over. One of my bosses was very excited when he caught sight of NBC  television news anchor Chet Huntley, who had probably flown on the Eastern Airlines Shuttle—their gate was close to our office. I enjoyed my peek at the handsome, bushy brown-haired Huntley, who was based in New York City; his co-anchor, David Brinkley reported from Washington. Their famous Huntley-Brinkley Report was a highly popular news program of that day and broadcast from 1956 to 1970, when Huntley retired.

None of these celebrities compared to the mix of stars who were coming for the March on Washington, a massive protest for jobs and civil rights headed by Dr. Martin Luther King and his supporters.  Since then I’ve learned much about that milestone and about King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. At that time, all I knew was that King’s celebrity supporters would all be gathering at the private aviation terminal, not far from the main terminal. My bosses didn’t know who would be there, but they’d be delighted to drive me and a friend to the Butler Aviation Terminal. We just had to act like we belonged there.

To be continued…

Summer clerk-typist Washington National Airport Operations Office

MOVIES THAT HAVE BEEN PART OF MY LIFE

My love for movies has made them a significant part of my life. I still remember which ones I saw at various times in my life, especially the ones from my younger years. They were marks of passage in my life. In the past 30 years I’ve seen so many films on a DVD, on TV or HBO that they’ve become a blur. If I discuss a good film with my daughter or a friend these days, more frequently I’ll comment, “Remember that movie with…darn, what’s his or her name? I had it on the tip of my tongue. It was that story about…”

My mother took me to my first movie, “King Kong,” showing in Danville, Virginia, when I was about four, as I recall. It made enough impression that I’ve always remembered a scene of the giant gorilla picking up a train full of passengers. As I age, I wonder how true the memory is since the film was originally made in 1933, ten years before I was born.

In 1955 or so, when I was eleven, I saw “Gone with the Wind” for the first time (I forget how many times since!) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky; it cost about 25 cents. I had already read the book by Margaret Mitchell. I also recall a few Western serials that used to show on Saturday afternoons before the regular movie.

There was a movie theater at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya. The only film I remember seeing was the groundbreaking, scintillating Elvis Presley movie “Jailhouse Rock” attended by most American teenagers in Tripoli during the momentous year of 1957.

In Northern Virginia in 1959, during my last year of high school, I went into Washington D.C. with friends to see “Ben Hur” with its exciting Roman chariot race on a very large screen. Little did I know that a few years later I would meet Ben Hur (Charlton Heston), a story I will tell again on my blog next week. My first summer break from college at William & Mary, in 1961, I couldn’t get enough of the musical, “West Side Story” and saw it four times: tickets were purchased by my various dates. No wonder I can still sing most of those songs!

In Williamsburg, Virginia, during my college years in the early 1960s, I saw lots of movies: “The Cranes are Flying,” a melancholy Russian film with subtitles, and the Disney flick, “101 Dalmations” stand out.

Poster from the original movie

Poster from the original movie 

 

Working in Heidelberg, Germany in 1964-65, the American military movie theaters in Mannheim and Heidelberg usually showed current movies, like “Cleopatra,” (I cried when Liz Taylor died in the film) and “Help,” the Beatles film. But I also remember seeing “To Kill a Mockingbird” with my soon-to-be husband. Since it had been released in 1962, perhaps they were showing it again because it was such a classic.

I ended up as a young married in California, the entertainment capital of the world, in the summer of 1965, and I’ve seen thousands of movies since. A few that stand out in the early years are: “The Graduate,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and “Patton.” Two of them were viewed from a car at the drive-in with my husband. “The Graduate” was playing in Beverly Hills: standing room only for most viewers since it was just out and very popular. Our friend Floyd stood at the back and his distinctive laugh rang out many times.

In my early days of marriage, my husband and I decided to be daring and picked a couple of naughty movies, easy enough to find such a theater in L.A. We saw Linda Lovelace in “Deep Throat” and another stimulating one called “The Devil in Miss Jones.” There’s a movie about Lovelace’s life due out soon.

I will end this trip down Memory Lane by recalling the movies I saw from my hospital bed after giving birth at Kaiser Hospital in Panorama City. After   11 hours of labor that produced Heidi in 1969, I didn’t see a movie but watched the TV series, “Big Valley” with Barbara Stanwyck and Linda Evans from my hospital bed and in-between nursing. When Hansi came along (it only took him 5 hours to arrive) in 1972, I saw “Kansas City Bomber” with Raquel Welch. Nothing like watching sexy, beautiful actresses to remind you that giving birth ruins your figure!

 

 

PRESIDENTS AND BUTLERS IN THE MOVIES

I’ve been around for more than fifty years and looking back into the 1960s is an intriguing exercise lately. I lived in the Northern Virginia-Washington D.C. area off and on for much of the early ‘60s, and when I saw the film “The Butler” this weekend, it reminded me of how much history I had witnessed and read about.

“The Butler” (directed by Lee Daniels) is based on the true story of an African-American who served as a butler in the White House from Presidents Eisenhower through Reagan. It encompasses the struggles of the Civil Rights movement, the protests against the Viet Nam war, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and ends about the time of the sanctions being proposed against South Africa’s own civil rights challenges with apartheid.

 

US White House

US White House

Although time constraints prevented any in-depth explanations of US battles with equal rights, the film hit the high points. It was very entertaining as well as emotionally enlightening. Forest Whitaker, an Oscar winner for his portrayal of Uganda’s dictator, Idi Amin, in “The Last King of Scotland,” magnificently played the butler in this film and Oprah Winfrey, the consummate actor, was his wife, Gloria.

I was fascinated with the choice of actors for the presidential roles and how the scenes captured some facets of  each president’s personality. I had come in contact with several of these presidents and had read a great deal about most of them. The multi-talented Robin Williams was the balding President Eisenhower in 1954 when the butler begins his White House service. He was portrayed as a commanding but very balanced and sympathetic  individual, and there’s also a scene with Vice President Richard Nixon (actor John Cusack) talking to the butlers about their low pay. There’s a hint of the kind of conniving, insecure president he became. I remembered shaking Nixon’s hand in 1956 during his visit to Libya while he was vice president.

President John Kennedy was played by the handsome James Marsden. Scenes portrayed him becoming a converted enthusiast for civil rights and included a scene of First Lady Jackie Kennedy in her pink suit splattered with blood after the assassination. I recalled the summer of 1963 when JFK arranged meetings with government officials for the education of college students working in Washington. I saw him in person when he greeted us students at the White House. I had also seen him in the Senate in 1959 before he even ran for office. I’ve written blogs about these events.

President Lyndon Johnson (Liev Shreiber) added a bit of “bathroom” humor to the film. LBJ was not a modest man and could be fairly crude (I was told by a former Secret Service agent who guarded LBJ that he would think nothing of squatting on the ground in front of newsmen on his Texas ranch when he had to do his “business”). There was a movie scene of Johnson sitting on the “throne” with the door open as he talked political strategy with his aides. I had seen LBJ in the Senate, when he was Majority Leader, the same time I saw Kennedy in 1959.

Nixon was portrayed again when he was President and fighting to keep from resigning. He was passionately telling the butler in this scene that he essentially would never give up.

The film skipped Presidents Ford and Carter, except for film clips, and ended with Ronald Reagan, played by British actor Alan Rickman. It’s difficult to duplicate Reagan’s distinctive accent, but Rickman got the self-assurance right. I kept thinking about my recent visit to the Reagan Library here in Southern California.

During my years around Washington, I had a couple of tours of the White House. They duplicated some areas in the film but nothing very distinctive. The detail that stood out in the movie was the portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, very appropriate for this movie. Of course that brought back strong memories of the wonderful Lincoln exhibit in the Reagan Library I visited just weeks ago.

COLLEGE DAYS IN THE 1960s

August is here and I wonder where the year went.  The kids in my apartment building started school this week; one young lady who has been here since she was a toddler is now in 9th grade. Seeing children grow up is a constant reminder how we are all getting older!

The College of William and Mary has sent me information about investing in my alma mater since next year will mark 50 years since I graduated. There is an April celebration in Williamsburg, Virginia, to mark the occasion and I hope to attend.   Can it really be that long ago? My dad was stationed at the Pentagon in 1960 and the family lived in Northern Virginia;  William and Mary was only about 150 miles south. My dad drove us all down to drop me off: Mom, Tupper, Darb and me, of course, on that momentous day in September, as I recall. Military fathers such as mine didn’t waste time on sentimental goodbyes; I doubt if my family stayed for more than a couple of hours.

I no longer remember how I carried my clothes, sheets, pillows, blankets, but I imagine they all fit into a metal military trunk, probably with family name and address stenciled on with white paint and left over from our last post in Tripoli, Libya. Military brat indications were usually pretty visible. My dad had insisted in taking me to an Army Quartermaster store somewhere in the Northern Virginia area, and I received very durable white military sheet sets to carry me through my college years. I still remember my college laundry number W-199 in black ink on all of them. Being thrifty and practical, Dad also bought me a military double-breasted pea coat in the drab Army color. It was meant to last forever but I felt like I was on the lowest rung of the fashion ladder. My mother, fortunately, was a talented seamstress and I had some wonderful skirts, blouses, vests plus a couple of party dresses, to take along.

Freshman year at William & Mary–me and a friendly dog

There was an overflow of freshmen female students, so quite a few of us were housed in Ludwell, an apartment complex off campus. Williamsburg is a small town and was much smaller then. Students weren’t allowed to have cars, with very few exceptions; we walked or rode a bike. At Ludwell we had our own school bus, which we named the Green Machine, to take us back and forth to campus. The two-story apartment buildings were situated around a circular road and surrounded by woods. To get to 8 a.m. classes, and there were lots of those freshman year, the bus had to pick us up fairly early. There were plenty of bus honks and warning shouts throughout all the apartments when we heard the noisy old bus approach.

Five girls could fit into a cozy one-bedroom, one-bath apartment. We even had a kitchen, a very unique advantage in those simpler times. But since eating at the college cafeteria was part of the enrollment package freshman year, the kitchen was seldom used, except by a huge black water bug I can’t forget. I was the fifth roommate so I got the dining room area and the other four split the living room and bedroom. We were assigned alphabetically to the apartments according to our surname. All five of us claimed “W.” And I’m still friends with Diana W, now a “G,” as I am!

Being away from home and responsible for myself was heady fare, especially for a girl raised in a strict military family. Williamsburg was a lovely little town, a mix of 18th century restored homes and businesses among the buildings of the second oldest college in the U.S. I had picked the best “atmosphere” I could imagine for my educational experience. Cars weren’t allowed on the main drag – the Duke of Gloucester Street that began in front of William & Mary’s historic Christopher Wren Building and ended some blocks later at the first Capitol.

This photo was taken in restored Williamsburg on one of the many walks good friend Sandy Heagy and I took freshman year. Sandy has passed on to the Great Beyond but I still have dozens of letters from many years of correspondence. I wonder how many of us will congregate in Williamsburg to remember our great adventures in learning this April?

 

 

AMERICAN BASEBALL CARDS IN LIBYA

The world grows smaller every day with the Internet, satellites and other means of communication. After World War II, the US and other countries realized, like it or not, the world was connected, as English author John Donne said way back in a 1624 sermon: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

Wars, ironically, have brought people together, and as the US became more powerful, we sent our military with many of their families all over the world. It was surprising when we discovered people in these various foreign countries knew something about America from our movies and even from our sports teams.

Pete Remmert, who lived in Tripoli from 1958-1962, told me a fascinating story about his encounter and a friendship with a Libyan boy while his family lived in a nice area near the beach, a bit west of the center of town.

“I was eight years old in 1958. Before we acquired (Wheelus) base housing, we lived in Giorgimpopoli and occasionally when I walked alone in the streets of the neighborhood, I would run into a group of Libyan boys (a few years older than Pete) who sometimes liked to play a little rough. One of these boys didn’t like the way his companions were giving me a hard time, and he pulled me aside and offered me, in very good English, a deal I couldn’t refuse. He told me that he collected American baseball cards, the rectangular ones that came in packs of bubblegum.”

CHAD LANGDON in Libyan dress. Too bad it's not clear

American CHAD LANGDON in Libyan dress. Too bad it’s not a very clear photo

For those old enough to remember, I looked up some of the stars of that era on baseball cards. Though I’m not a typical baseball fan, I still remember a few of them.  Stars like Don Drysdale (I saw him play as a Los Angeles Dodger), Mickey Mantle (a Yankee great), Whitey Ford, John Roseboro, and Carl Yastrzemski, are a few examples.

Although he didn’t remember the boy’s name, Pete commented, “He was a couple of years older than me, of slender build and bald as an eagle. He wore typical Libyan clothing: white robes with a multicolored shawl-type wrap during the colder months. He usually wore a ‘beanie’ type maroon-colored cap but on occasion he would wear a fez. I was always impressed with his command of the English language and his knowledge of contemporary American baseball players was vastly superior to any of the American kids I knew. He also introduced me to those yummy dates that we pulled off the date palms and ate like candy.”

Pete continued, “I told him that I was only interested in the gum and that he was welcome to have the cards. From that moment on, he swore that he would be my personal bodyguard. Well, one afternoon he made good on his promise. A group of older kids decided to rough me up a bit, and my young friend immediately took off his cap, bent over at a ninety-degree angle and, like a battering ram, plowed into one of the kids. The boys scattered and never gave me any trouble again.”

MEL BROOKS – A COMIC GENIUS

Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft in one of Brooks’ movies

Mel Brooks has accomplished a great deal in his long and illustrious career in entertainment, and in recent months has been honored for all the humor he has brought into the world. He received an AFI (American Film Institute) Lifetime Achievement Award and he was the subject of a public television documentary after being designated an American Master.  I watched those TV specials and enjoyed them even more because I had met Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. My daughter Heidi accuses me of being star-struck. I will admit to some part of that description, but I think I’ve just been fortunate and been in the right place at the right time.

One of my favorite encounters happened during my position as editor/writer of the Beverly Hills Country Club Magazine, about 1995. I was in Santa Monica, right on the ocean, to interview Robert Pritikin, the owner/president of the Pritikin Longevity Center, a forward-looking proponent of health through proper diet and exercise.

The Pritikin Institute, no longer in Santa Monica, was quite a place—there were accommodations for seven-day or longer visits for a choice of health regimens. The facility had exercise rooms, easy access to the beach, and a very large dining room that offered a buffet of healthy and delicious food. After a tour of the place by the owner and an interview, he invited me to enjoy the dinner buffet. He was apologetic that he had commitments and couldn’t share the meal, but he encouraged me to partake since it was early evening by that time.

I gladly accepted, filled my plate with some tasty-looking items and found a table with a woman who was eating alone. The dining room area was quite spacious and the huge window at the western end faced the ocean. I ate as I talked to my tablemate, a very cordial woman. I don’t remember the food, eating made no impression, especially when I noticed an interesting older couple walk by us with their trays to sit down at a nearby table.

“I think that’s Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft,” I said excitedly to my dinner companion. My announcement didn’t seem to make any impression on her.

Deciding not to disturb the famous couple right away since they were eating, I finished my meal.

After anxiously waiting until an appropriate time, I finally decided to approach. I was a fan, I reasoned, and they both looked approachable. I had recently seen Mel Brooks’ comic film, “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.” I had always liked his zany sense of humor, from silly and ridiculous to the sublime. And I had always admired Anne Bancroft, never forgetting her film roles as Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate,” and when she played Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s amazing teacher in “The Miracle Worker.”

As I walked over to their table I felt I could have been a sleuth: they were both very casually dressed. Mel had on a baseball cap, and they were both in jeans and sports shoes. I don’t think anyone else had noticed them. When I nervously introduced myself as the editor of the magazine doing a story on the Pritikin Institute, they immediately gave me a welcoming smile.

I felt a bit like a blubbering idiot telling Mel how much I loved his movies and had seen “Spaceballs,” his most recent Robin Hood movie and almost all the rest. I quickly added a small comment for Anne and wished I were more calm.

It’s ironic how I can interview almost anyone calmly but when I’m a fan, I get nervous and tongue-tied. We humans are full of contradictions!

Mel and Anne couldn’t have been nicer and began praising the healthy and tasty menu at the Pritikin Institute. They lived in the neighborhood and came for dinner often. They recommended me doing the same if I had the chance.

I didn’t overstay my welcome and thanked them both for their time. During my fairly long drive home along Pacific Coast Highway, I was grinning from ear to ear. I couldn’t wait to share my story.

When I later saw “The Producers” on stage and at the movies, I remembered my brief visit with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft (who died in 2005). What a privilege to meet and chat with this happy couple whose marriage lasted 40 years.

Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks

WHEELUS AFB TV DEBUT

My starring role as Louise

Last week’s blog story about Pete Remmert’s guitar talents on the Wheelus AFB TV station brings to mind my few moments of fleeting fame on TV long ago. Perhaps a few hundred people actually saw the program broadcast from the Wheelus Air Force Base TV station, just outside Tripoli, Libya.

Since Hollywood didn’t come knocking on my door with a contract, I chose a writing career instead.  No big script or book deals or a big budget movie, yet…alas. Although I did make some attempts to get my screenplay about Sir Francis Drake  produced then ended up writing an historical fiction novel about him.

My starring role on TV was to portray the fictional “Louise” while Joe, a talented pianist and airman played the song of that name. Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer is known for singing the song at least 50 years ago. Two of the lines are:

Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise.

Birds in the trees seem to twitter Louise.

Joe (I can no longer remember his last name) had a half-hour TV program, which featured him playing piano.  It was broadcast in the evening to every home with a TV set at Wheelus Air Base. I don’t remember if I even knew when or how often, but I did save the photos taken for the special occasion. My family had not brought a TV to Libya so Mom and Dad did not catch my debut.

Keeping his program unique was probably a challenge for Joe. One day he came up with the bright idea to play famous songs named for women: “Marie,” “Charmaine” and “Louise,” for instance, and have a girl in the background who represented the particular song.

He would play five songs. He already knew two Italian girls to feature, but he needed three more females to represent all the songs he had in mind. Apparently reasoning that the high school physical education program would provide him with the best choices, he came out to the Wheelus tennis courts one morning. The male mind is always intriguing! Maybe it was our grace hitting a tennis ball or perhaps what our legs looked like in shorts that influenced his choices?

I had never considered myself a talented tennis player, although I did improve over the years. I was still in the hitting-the-ball-too-high stage, lucky to make it over the net. My legs, however, were shapely.

Joe picked me, Judy Jones, and Vicki Scola and we all agreed to face the cameras. I was supposed to be a French Louise and had to find a beret and a scarf since my portrayal was a variation of the famous French Apache dance (based on Parisian gang culture and named for the US Indian tribe). I’ve still got the now tattered beret and the orange scarf.

I don’t recall that we did much if any rehearsing since we simply had to sit or stand, as the case may be, and look sexy. When Joe played each song, the camera panned from his playing to the appropriate girl and the painted background scene behind each of us.

No lingering fears of cameras linger; I don’t think I was nervous. One of the young Italian girls apparently did get the jitters; her underarm perspiration shows on her pretty dress.

Was that my “15 minutes of fame?” Fame is so ephemeral.

Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.
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