March, 2014:

WEIRD DATES — LA STYLE

Most writers love what they do, it’s the marketing that can be a drag.  But since I write a bi-weekly blog, I can publicize the books and stories I’ve written once in a while–they’re all available on Amazon. All of them are based on my life, even though I’ve changed the character names for the most part. Being single can be daunting when you’re looking for good men.   It’s such a popular topic that the Los Angeles Times is publishing a true story every week in their special Saturday section.

Below are two excerpts from my dating adventures chronicled in a Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

For more details, check out–    http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noticed a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

BUGS IN TRIPOLI’S GRAND HOTEL?

Exotic and temperate Tripoli was certainly appealing, but all places have their drawbacks. Those of us who lived there remember the sandstorms and locust infestations, but I had genuinely forgotten about the roaches, perhaps because my mother patiently got rid of them in our villa.

The Grand Hotel faces Tripoli's harbor

The Grand Hotel faces Tripoli’s harbor

 

I am posting another portion of Terence Sharkey’s entertaining memoir, Love, Life and Moving Pictures. In this part of his saga about making the British film, “The Black Tent,” he describes how his quest for romance with Rosemarie at the Grand Hotel meant he would have to be in charge of pest control. As Terence relates:

We reached the corridor to her room. Rosemarie took my hand and drowned me in her enormous blue eyes. “Will you be my Night?”

“What?” I could hear my heart thumping. Had I misheard?

 Rosemarie said, “Will you be my knight–you know the shining armor bit – with the cockroaches? I put the waste bin out but I can’t bear picking them up, and they run so.”

 Despite its five-star rating, the Grand Hotel, like its equally luxurious competitor the Uaddan, was overrun with cockroaches. The nightly slaughter of the creatures took place in bedroom and bathroom alike, where they would explode like rotten chestnuts when hit with the heel of a shoe. I had devised a way to avoid this messy execution by lining the waste bin with a towel into which the scrambling beasts would be put, to be collected next morning.

 We went into her room. As the lights went on, the creatures scampered for the walls or any shadow that was available. Rosemarie gave a shriek. These were like no local theatre or palace-of-vaudeville beatles back home, with which as an actor I was familiar. The Empire certainly hadn’t set on these gigantiques. The dull brown creatures were all about two inches long, as big as my thumb and when not dashing for cover would climb walls with antennae waving and even fly a short distance. It was a losing battle and having captured a dozen or so we gave up.

 While Rosemarie took a shower, I remained there (on the bed) contemplating a country where the best hotels had cockroaches and whose balconies were home to marauding cats who haunted the verandah of the outdoor dining room.

 (Cut to romance scene…you’ll have to buy the Ebook to read it)

Terence continues:

I understand that a new Grand Hotel, bigger and even more opulent, was built in 1983, inspired by the original building’s façade and owing much of its design to its predecessor’s Moorish arched windows.

I wonder, if I were to return, would there still be cockroaches in the bedroom and would there still be a teenage blonde in the bathroom

 

TRIPOLI’S GRAND HOTEL–PERFECT FOR FILM CREWS

In the 1950s Tripoli was an ideal setting for adventure movies–World War II battles had been fought in the Sahara desert and the U.S. Marines were involved in an 1805 battle with the Barbary Pirates in Tripoli Harbor. John Wayne made two movies in Libya: one with Maureen O’Hara and one with Sophia Loren, and they had stayed in the Grand Hotel. The British thought it was the perfect location for “The Black Tent’  and booked the cast and crew into the Grand Hotel. One of the noted stars of that film was Donald Pleasence, who had a long film, TV, and stage career.

British actor and author Terence Sharkey was only 16 when he flew to Tripoli in 1955 to be a member of the cast of “The Black Tent” and chronicled his adventures in Love, Life & Moving Pictures, which is for sale on Amazon. I’ve already used some of his material in my blog, and asked him to contribute more from his book. He found romance at the Grand Hotel, but I’ll let him tell his own story.

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in "The Black Tent"

Terence Sharkey & Donald Sinden, actors in “The Black Tent”

The Thomas Cook archive in Cambridgeshire is enormous as you would expect of the world’s oldest travel company. Great shelves bulging under travel posters, tickets, hotel labels and brochures from almost 175 years of trading. Enticements to Victorians from London to a week at the Pyramids for thirty dollars, all inclusive.  Or the 1853 World’s Fair at Bryant Park, NYC,  for even less. But the ephemera had beaten the archivist; she shook her head. “There’s not much here. The place you search for was demolished thirty years ago.” Thus I learned of the fate of the palatial Grand Hotel Tripoli, which had been my base in 1955. (It was rebuilt in 1983.) We were an English film company and the Sahara was the location for a war drama, so popular with moviegoers in the decade following WWII.

A few days after my arrival, an aircraft from London had crashed on arrival at Idris, Tripoli’s primitive airport, killing fifteen and injuring many of the forty-nine on board. The Grand Hotel had held a warm place in my memory over many years, not least because of the romance that had developed between myself a young woman survivor. We were both teenagers and anxious to explore the world that had so far lain outside our experience.

A few days after Rosemarie’s arrival, the Underwater Fishermen of Tripoli had organized a function in the hotel ballroom and our star, a young Italian actress playing my mother, would be presenting prizes. There was to be another celebration. Producer Bill MacQuitty and a Libyan policeman had earlier that week scuba-dived in the harbor for a WW2 unexploded shell and had removed it to deeper, safer water.

I had come down early to the ball and the band was still setting up as Rosemarie appeared. At the top of the grand marble staircase she paused and looked around. She spotted me and waved and I waited on the bottom step as she glided down towards me. Her entrance had not escaped the Arab drummer who struck a drum roll as she descended with a great crash of cymbals when she reached the bottom. She blushed delightedly.

Unit-Wardrobe, in the form of Alice, hearing that her luggage had been destroyed, had made clothes for Rosemarie on her arrival and now had worked her generous magic again. A halter neck of gold lame crossed the top of an intense white full length slim-fitting silk gown, scarcely concealing her bosom.  The silken sheen followed her body, over curving hips to where it descended to the floor. Around her slim waist a wide gold lamé belt draped to where a low frontal strategic knot drew the eye as it  fell as a wide glistening tie to her knees. Fastened to the back like butterfly wings, two silk pieces in iridescent blue served to cover her bandaged arm and were clipped to a gold bracelet at each wrist, fluttering and shimmering as she walked. The ensemble needed no traditional gilded Cleopatra headdress. Rosemarie’s golden hair tumbled around her neck and a neat black rope wound into her curls. The gold glinted on her slim wrists and her perfume assailed my nostrils. She was quite simply, stunning.

The evening swept by with Arabic music influenced by the West. The air was full of familiar dance music, but still redolent of the East with tarabaki drums, piccolo and cymbals a constant reminder of Tripoli’s world around us. Robed Arab sheiks in square-cloth chequered headdresses bound with gold rope gyrated beside Rosemarie, giving an odd authenticity to her Queen of the Nile appearance, the whole totally enchanting. The Libyan music was augmented by a hillbilly band from the U.S. base at Wheelus Field and the appearance at one point of a bejewelled Eastern belly-dancer undulating to  “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”  was an unforgettable mark of east meeting west.

 

 

 

 

 

INTO THE PAST–AUTOGRAPHS & MEMORIES

I save things from the past; somewhere, deep inside, I must have known they would interest me when I grew older. Or perhaps they helped me make sense of my gypsy life. They were fodder for my writing, if nothing else. I recently ran across my Autographs Book, which was popular in the 1950s. They were small: about 6 inches by 4 inches and filled with small sheets of colored paper. The front of the brown fake leather cover has already come off, but the autographs, many in now faded pencil have lasted.

Autographs

Inside, I wrote that Viki Williams, my name at 11 years old, lived at 1460B 5th Avenue in Ft. Knox, Kentucky from 1954-55 and my 7th grade teacher was Mrs. Wright. Cindy Brackett, who lived a few houses away in this area of typical two-story Army brick houses for officers, was my first signature. She and I had something in common besides our ages: our mothers had both given birth to little boys about the same time. We were still occasionally playing with dolls, but live babies were much more fun. I remember taking my brother, whom I gleefully nicknamed Doodles, in his stroller down to Cindy’s house. We fed “our” little boys together.

My Baby Brother
My Baby Brother

 

Cindy wrote that I was “the sweetest girl” she knew, along with typical poems like, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I know a bulldog that looks just like you!” In those simpler times, it was largely assumed that girls would get married and have babies shortly after high school or college and several autographs had the poem, “When you get married and have twins, don’t come running to me for safety pins.” (no disposable diapers in those days!)

I had a crush on a boy who played baseball, Ward Morton. Our first date was for a movie on the post, and my dad insisted it had to be a double date. Ward brought a friend and I brought a friend, and we all paid our own way, probably no more than 25 cents. In the summer of 1955, things must have heated up—Ward signed my book very simply, “I love you, Viki.” And he listed his Ft. Knox address! He sent me postcards when his family went to the family home in Wisconsin for vacation. Young love doesn’t last long in the Army; a few months later my family flew off to Tripoli, Libya, for a few years.

In 8th through 10th grade at Wheelus Air Force Base, we were so much more sophisticated! My friends wrote longer messages in the book to remind me how we had had fun together or to tease me, like Steve Gaynor, that I pronounced donkey as “dunkey.” William Maguire said I was a “real swell gal,” and Tom Henderson hoped we’d be within shouting distance when our parents were transferred to the Washington, D.C. area. I found autographs from Tanya Thomas, who reminded me of a hayride, Kay Ray, Sue Wisdom (who remembered us taking algebra together), Gail Carlson (who said “yours until Lassie marries Rin Tin Tin”) and Marla Bush among others. Karen Gamel recalled our climbing the wall around our villa one evening to spy on the British general’s party next door.

I had gotten to know a few Italian teenagers in Tripoli and they signed my book in Italian. I couldn’t read it then or now, but Enzo, who was half British, penned, “Ti voglio tanto, tanto, tanto bene…remember me.” Sounds romantic! I wonder how his life’s turned out. Stefano, Enzo’s good friend, wrote a message in German, which I can barely translate– something about being a good friend. As a footnote, Stefano visited my parents when they were stationed in Germany in the 1960s, and Enzo got my address and wrote me a few times when I was in college. The Internet has connected many old friends and classmates, but it’s not quite the same as looking at a friend’s written message and signature.

CREEPY CRAWLERS OF SPRING

Despite the crazy weather all over the world, in the Northern Hemisphere it’s Spring, for the most part. In California we’ve already had a couple of heat waves, and in the heat the crickets hear the alarm to awaken and begin their nightly, and sometimes daily, mating sounds, better known as chirping.

When I think of insects, I consider them pests, even though I know they have a rightful place in the balance of Nature. Last year,  a cricket  made a home under my kitchen sink and behind my dishwasher for weeks. Chirp, chirp, chirp… The “natural” insecticide didn’t work and I refused to spray the poison, so I lived with it until a leak was fixed and the creepy creature expired for lack of water. This year I haven’t seen any yet — maybe they’ll forget where their secret path leads to the second floor. My fairly new carpet is a lovely brownish-pink and last fall I noticed the crickets blended in so well I couldn’t tell I had a cricket until I saw movement.

Locusts, on the other hand, are considered both a plague and a food! According to Jewish Kosher law, certain locusts are an acceptable food; they are considered delicacies and eaten in various countries. Author Jules Verne described them as “shrimps of the air.” Imagine eating roasted locusts or salted and smoked locusts! Crunch, crunch….yum, yum….

I’ve written about the locust invasion in Tripoli while I was there, but I don’t remember the event as vividly as some. I wasn’t outside surrounded by these large “bugs,” for one thing, although I remember Libyan men along the harbor picking them off walls to save for a feast afterward. I think guys in general are much more interested in creepy-crawlers.

Male & Female Locusts Having Fun!

Art Arrowsmith, a member of the Wheelus High School basketball team, was out on the court with the team one day before the locust onslaught. They were practicing for an upcoming league game.

“I went in for a lay-up and as my eyes followed the ball into the basket, my gaze naturally went to the sky, drawn by movement above. Whoa! There were millions of large flies, or so I thought initially, streaming across my vision. A second look and I realized the flies were really locusts! Shortly after, our coach ended the practice. The locusts arrived in clouds that were immeasurable, but one would guess they covered miles. Soon, they were settling and crawling, hopping and clinging to all things available. Crunching through them was unavoidable.”

Art said he didn’t hear them while they were flying, only when they were feeding.

Ron Curtis, an English fellow whose family was stationed in Tripoli in the 50s, related his experience:  “The first time I got caught in a locust storm I was about 100 yards from home. I saw this black cloud in the distance, which was an odd sight for summer.  Within seconds I was being battered by thousands of locusts (trust me, they hit hard and hurt).  They seemed to stick to my hair, my clothes and my skin.  There were so many it was difficult to see, and I got completely disoriented.  Within seconds it was over and the ground was littered with thousands of the insects.  The Libyans came out with baskets and scooped them up.  I learned later that they roasted and ate them.”

Ron Himebaugh, who attended 3rd grade at Wheelus, remembers flies. “The entire outside wall of our house was covered from time to time with FLIES!”  For someone who was so young in Tripoli, Ron has a variety of memories: finding a Roman coin in his yard (he lived off base), “dust so bad I could hardly breathe, and the smell of Suk el Giuma.”

My mother was a diligent, tireless housekeeper who was up to all the challenges of living overseas.  I vaguely remember her fighting roaches in our villa. We had a small yard with a swing set and my little brother Darby, about four at the time, enjoyed playing in the dirt. He ended up with worms!

And that’s the end of my Buggy Tale!

THE WILD PART OF LA

Los Angeles is an amazing area to live in. I’ve been here since 1965, but am always surprised about the natural aspects of Los Angeles. Many of our visitors don’t realize the scope of life here. We have a population of nearly 13 million. Interestingly, our statistics indicate that we only have 7,500 people per square mile, while New York City has 27,500 and Chicago has 11,800 folks per square mile. Of course our land area just in the metropolitan LA area is 4,850 square miles and that doesn’t include some of the outlying areas.

Being surrounded by mountains and lots of open space, Southern California is alive with wild animals (and I don’t mean young “cool cats,” etc., in Hollywood). Black bears come down from the mountains, especially in spring, for visits.  They take a break in pools and hot tubs, break into refrigerators and freezers in garages, and easily discover when trash day is scheduled so they can steal food. If we two-legged animals spot them, chances are they’ll head for a tree when pursued. Animal control agents might use tranquilizer guns before they drive these fuzzy creatures back into the mountains. It doesn’t stop the bears; one of them that was relocated 50 miles away came back again the next year. The neighbors in the area he preferred even had a nickname for him — Meatball — since he preferred Costco frozen meatballs. He finally had to be relocated to the San Diego County Sanctuary. Before that he had become quite the media star.

 

The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away.
The view through Malibu Canyon to the Pacific Ocean, a few miles away. Photo by Heidi Giraud

Mountain lions are prevalent and most parks and hiking trails will have  signs warning people to make themselves look bigger with arms extended, for instance, when encountering one. An unlucky biker was a target and died from a mountain lion attack a few years ago. These critters are very resourceful – one of them negotiated the flood channels (formally known as rivers) near Santa Monica and ended up in a small shopping center one morning; a male mountain lion found his way across five freeways to make his home in the spacious Griffith Park.  He was tagged P-22 and was in the news the past few days. He was videoed strolling along streets in the Hollywood Hills about 5 a.m. Was he looking for food or a mate? Nobody had a chance to interview him!

Coyotes are everywhere. Out in Malibu Lake in the Santa Monica Mountains, you can expect to see coyotes strolling around and perhaps peering through your glass patio door. Any residential areas near the mountains will enjoy coyote song during the night—their howling choruses remind me of a scary movie or a Stephen King book! Residents keep their cats and little dogs inside if they don’t want them to become a meal. Mule deer wander the hills as do raccoons and rattlesnakes. I had a brief encounter with a raccoon a few blocks from my apartment. He may have come from the nearby flood channel, which is blocked off from humans (who still insist on trying to ride the river when there’s a major rain storm, despite the danger).

The skies are full of hawks of various types and owls. When I do see hawks making lazy circles in the sky, I am reminded of the song from the musical “Oklahoma.” I had no idea wild owls could have such a wide wing span or look so imposing until I saw one on a mountain road devouring a recent kill. Sometimes, we can spot a flock of exotic parrots in the San Fernando Valley. There are 13 species of wild parrots in LA. Apparently they were once pets and were let go for one reason or another. During the 1961 fire in Bel Air (Nixon had a home there, which burned), firemen let pet parrots go because there was no time to save them. Others may have come from the Busch Gardens Park in Van Nuys, which was closed down in the late 1970s as the Anheuser-Busch brewery grew. The bird sanctuary was the last to go, but no one seems to know how so many parrots got away. Perhaps it was too much trouble to find them homes.

Seagulls, which prey on beachgoers for food, also fly in from the nearby ocean to see what tasty morsels can be had inland. While having a nice meal at Gladstone’s off Pacific Coast Highway on the beach, I’ve had a roll snatched out of my hand by a seagull that swooped by.

MESSAGES FROM BEYOND

Last year I posted some fascinating advice/wisdom about life that had been received by some good friends back in the 1990s. Because this wonderful information still pertains, I’m going to share some more of it.

Rob invited and received these “transmissions”  through the mysteries of the universe (in the same vein: where do inspiring dreams or artistic creations come from?). Rob got them, probably a hundred or more, at various times, when he was at his computer working on his normal business. Similar to channeling a spirit or group of spirits who aren’t present in this physical life, which many psychic types perform, Rob would type these 7-10 page messages out on his keyboard. His normal typing speed couldn’t match his flying fingers, but Rob wasn’t in a normal state of mind. There were no mistakes and he had no idea what he was typing. The messages were formatted into proper paragraphs with correct margins. The first time he would see or read what he’d written was when the spirits had departed, he had come back to himself, and his wife Ann had printed out the philosophical messages.

 My daughter, Heidi Giraud's original painting

My daughter, Heidi Giraud’s original painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spirits transmitting the information called themselves St. Germain. The quotes below are just a small part of it all. At one point years ago, the idea was for me to organize and edit them into a book. My blog is the next best thing since the messages remain intriguing. Many of the words are deliberately and frequently misspelled in various areas to convey an unusual layer of meanings. These “double-entendres” are not sexual but spiritual and require a broad mind and imagination.

When you accept your situation, you move forward into endless opportunities and endless levels of real eye ties (realities) and dream escapes. If you choose to worry, to fear, to live as a shame-filled and guilt-ridden judgmental life force, then you go in circles. Your motion in this repetitive energy pattern is not accelerated, but kept in check. You do not grow as quickly, you do not allow other energies to enter your field as easily, you are not as aware of potential opportunities as you could be…you fall into dies ease and ill news (disease and illness) more readily…you are fight ion (fighting) your pure energy.

You must learn to understand that each moment that you have on this planet should be directed toward moving forward without reservations. You do not have to dwell on what was, or what is, but rather, on what you would like to be, to have, to dream, to create and imagine.

Why waste these precious moments on worry? Why mire your energy in the endless circle of deep recession. It is your actions that dictate change. It is change, which dictates your course, and your course that WILL bring you home. What holds you down is fear. What stops a dream is control. What prevents you from having what you want is impatience. You suffer while you are here because you believe that that is what you deserve. You have illness and face death with fear because you believe that this is all there is and that nothing lies beyond what you cannot see. How WRONG you are, how limited your perception, how mired your soul’s energy is.

 

WHEELUS AFB WAS ONCE A RACETRACK

I’m sharing some more interesting information I received from Terence Sharkey about Libya. What makes his piece even more interesting to me is the fact that I edited a memoir last year – The Gods Who Fell From the African Sky by Dick Mawson – that related Mawson’s adventures on the racing circuits (another name for racetracks)  in Rhodesia and South Africa. I didn’t know Tripoli had its own racecourse long before I lived there.

***

Before World War II part of Dictator Mussolini’s grand scheme for the Italian protectorate of Libya had been his motor racing circuit. When built in 1933, it was said to be the fastest in the world and its eight and a quarter mile circuit round the centuries old salt lake at Mellaha attracted the world’s drivers. Its start/finish line was dominated by a tall white control tower and the vast 10,000-seater grandstand with cantilevered roof of reinforced concrete was the first of its kind.

 

Race track before Wheelus AFB was built.

Race track before Wheelus AFB was built.

Sadly, as sport does, its popularity attracted crooks too. The $3 million  fraud (2014 US values) is retold in  Wheelus USAF? (a chapter in Terence’s book: Love, Life and Moving Pictures). The USAF base that had arisen from its Italian/German/British airfield  at the beginning of the war had been sited on the home straights of the circuit and many traces of its glorious racing days (1933-40) could still be seen in the old asphalt when I visited in 1955. Track that had echoed to the screeching Michelins and Dunlops of the Buggattis and Maserattis now supported the more sedate aircraft-starting trolley-accumulators and the coffee wagon from the base exchange.

I was visiting the base with one of the survivors of a BOAC DC4 Argonaut aircraft crash at nearby Idris International Airport. We were there to thank Wheelus helicopter pilots who had speedily rallied the previous week to ferry the injured to Wheelus facilities.

Wheelus’ activities kept cropping up in our film location activities. (Terence was a young British actor) Not just the F-86 Saberjets that would scream across the desert skies ruining our sound (“those****ing Yanks!”) as we began yet another retake.  The Wheelus hillbilly band came to the Grand Hotel where the film unit’s ball was held.  The 1950s saw Arabic music influenced by the West and the air was full of familiar dance music but still redolent of the East with tarabaki drums, piccolo and cymbals a constant reminder of Tripoli’s world around us. The appearance at one point of a bejewelled Eastern belly dancer undulating to  the Wheelus band’s “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” was an unforgettable mark of East meeting West.

I only spent a few weeks in Tripoli but there’s no doubt that the time I visited Wheelus Air Force Base is warmly remembered as a welcome contrast to the arid desert around. The personnel and families had made the sands their own. Maybe it’s in the genes from those wagon train pioneering days, but any people who can make a golf course without grass and stage tournaments on it, get my vote.

 

WORKING IN HOLLYWOOD IN 1960s

It’s time for Oscar, the golden sexless man given to winners of the Academy Awards. As a perennial movie fan, I can’t resist watching the annual drama, the entertainment, the gorgeous gowns.  Over the years I’ve walked around the various locations where they’ve held the celebrations.  The current place, the Dolby Theater, is in a fairly new shopping/entertainment complex  at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland, about 20 minutes from where I live. It’s an appropriate location–close to the footprints of stars in front of the Chinese Theater and across the street from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. The standout “Hollywood” touch is the elephant sculptures in the primary courtyard of the complex, inspired by the D.W. Griffith Babylon scene in his movie “Intolerance.” The modern interpretation is not as busy as this old “still” from the movie. The atmosphere this year should be crisp and clean since Los Angeles has been inundated with heavy rain for the past three days.

Elephants in Griffith's Intolerance film

Elephants in a photo of Griffith’s Babylon set in his Intolerance film

Hollywood has changed a great deal since the 1960s when I arrived in Los Angeles and had a job with AT&T as a service rep, a great job in those days. Service Reps were always female then because of the nature of the job. Women are still known as the gender more talented at multi-tasking, although the current reps are also men. It was fast-paced telephone work—taking orders for new telephones, transferring service, handling complaints about bills, and collecting bills.  We reps were always tempted to say,“This is the last voice you will hear on your telephone,” when we called to collect overdue bills.   

Being located on Gower Street between Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards in Hollywood was one of the best parts of the job. It was a different world, especially to me, the newbie. Although the area was primarily residential with small Spanish style homes and a few apartment buildings, the famous Studio Club, essentially a dormitory where aspiring actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, and Sharon Tate had stayed while looking for movie work, was a couple of blocks away. Up the street was Columbia Studios with its giant warehouse-size buildings. Most of us spotted various stars from time to time. I saw Dean Martin ride coolly down Gower on a motorcycle, and on another day I caught sight of the Monkees singing group coming out of an exclusive boutique.

When we weren’t brown-bagging it, we “girls” went to lunch at places where a star might eat. I liked French food and a few friends introduced me to Le Petit Café on Vine Street. It was a tiny hideaway run by a charming, handsome Frenchman, and the food was scrumptious. One day, Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show), who was seated with his friend Carol Burnett, treated us all to a few operatic bars of a song. Years later, I was introduced to him at the Beverly Hills Country Club where I was the editor of their magazine. Nabors, a very congenial Southerner who’d suffered a bout of poor health at that time, was wearing a bright lemon-colored sports coat. I told him about my first personal “concert.”

At Knight’s, a local coffee shop, I spotted the handsome Latin actor, Fernando Lamas, husband of Esther Williams, surrounded by his entourage. Feeling flush financially, a few of us had lunch once at the famous Brown Derby Hollywood. We were seated in a booth next to Cornel Wilde and the effervescent Mitzi Gaynor.

The phone company business office was on the second floor of a large two-story building–I believe it’s now a film company. We serviced most of the residential and business phone service in Hollywood, including the Sunset Strip, homes in the Hollywood Hills, and renowned restaurants on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row.  We never knew who’d be on the phone when we picked up: the son of Peter Lorre (Maltese Falcon) who sounded like his father; Tiny Tim, who called continually; or Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., the dapper detective on TV’s “77 Sunset Strip.”

On the first floor was the public office, and the reps who worked downstairs always had amusing tales. People came in for phone service or to pay delinquent bills dressed in all sorts of outrageous outfits: men or women in trench coats, naked underneath; or women dressed in tight one-piece outfits that laced up the side, revealing bare skin from armpit to ankle. One of my friends came back from lunch one day to report she had seen an entire family (parents and two kids) walking down Hollywood Boulevard totally naked!

 

 

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