I find it difficult to believe in “till death do us part.” The phrase was a part of my marriage vows, but 16 years later the marriage was over and I was nowhere near old age and so far had no deadly diseases. After I’d mourned the death of my marriage for about a year and realized that joint custody of my two children meant I had more freedom than I’d had in a long time, I decided it was time to explore the LA singles scene.
Bonnie, a younger single friend who was a guy magnet (blond and petite, what do you expect?) persuaded me to go to a local spot with lots of singles and live music. The 19th Hole was at the golf course but it was quite a swinging place after 8 p.m., and the crowd was mostly 35 and older. One of my first lessons: Just because he isn’t wearing a ring doesn’t mean he’s single. Lesson two: Everybody looks better and younger in dim lighting and after a couple of drinks. It works both ways; I’ll always remember a very young man, about 21, who was enchanted with me. I wasn’t ready to rob the cradle but was very flattered with the attention.
Dancing to live rock n’ roll made me feel very young again, almost as if I didn’t have children. There were some very good dancers among the patrons, and I considered myself a talented, enthusiastic dancer with lots of stamina. The music was too loud for intelligent conversation for the most part, unless you leaned in closely, waited for a band break or went outside.
The atmosphere was smoky; it was a few years before California banned smoking. Non-smokers were used to being in the minority. When I got home, I’d hang my stinky clothes outside and put baby powder on my hair to absorb the odor. Washing my hair was a complicated operation if I wanted a good night’s sleep.
Not far from the 19th Hole was a bar/restaurant with a thriving business and their Happy Hour featured tasty free appetizers. The lighting and lower noise level made it easier to make contact, whether you wanted a friend, a lover or to hear what the opposite sex had to say. Many of the same people showed up every Friday evening and the age range varied from 21 to 75 or so, an amazing combination. Occasionally, after 9 p.m., they would even have live music.
Although I loved dancing, a good conversation and lots of laughter were main attractions for me at this popular place. Besides observing the crowded scene, I made new friends and had many talks over politics, religion, books, relationships, etc. I met Dick Griffith, a charming former New York ad man (shades of TV’s current “Mad Men”) who had been a technical advisor in Africa for the ABC-TV series American Sportsman. A white-haired older gentleman, he loved to wear a loose colorful jacket that featured wild African animals and a wristwatch with a silver elephant surrounding the watch face. He amused his friends with his African adventures and the variety of famous and infamous people he’d known over the years.
Several years later I edited two books for Dick: Adam’s Horn, an adventure story set in Africa about the time of Idi Amin, and In the Hearts of Famous Hunters: a series of his personal interviews with hunters like Roy Rogers, astronaut Wally Schirra, ace jet pilot Chuck Yeager and LA Times publisher Otis Chandler. When Dick’s book was published, we had a book party at this restaurant, and actor Robert Stack, one of the famous hunters interviewed, came to celebrate. I got to hug Stack and even had a photo taken, but never saw it. One of Dick’s friends liked to call the actor Old Novocaine Lips since Stack usually looked so serious on TV or in movies. For this occasion, however, the actor managed a few grins.
Helping Dick edit his books was the seed that resulted in my many years of editing books of all kinds, something I still love to do.