Celebrity Encounters

JFK – 100th birthday today

John F. Kennedy

I can’t imagine comparing President John F. Kennedy with President Trump. Many of us still remember President Kennedy’s immortal words from his inaugural address in 1961 to the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Richard Reeves, senior lecturer at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, commented in today’s LA Times: Kennedy was “not the greatest president but he was a hell of a politician–candid if not honest, a man who saw greatness and sometimes even touched it.

I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia that January and only saw news reports of the momentous event. Televising important  events was not as common then, but ironically, it was President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963, which changed TV’s place in history. I was still at William and Mary during that tragedy and remember watching as much as possible as events unfolded on a small TV in my college dormitory lobby.

I was lucky enough to see JFK twice in person. In the summer of 1963, he had initiated a special program for college students working for the government, a sort of introduction to how government works. Kennedy gave an inspiring speech to us on the back lawn at the White House, emphasizing how valuable a career in government could be. “Jump in the stream, it isn’t so cold,” was a remark I wrote in my diary (I still have it!). After the speech, we college kids were tramping around the play area for Caroline and John-John, the Kennedy kids.

US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

During the summer of 1959, before my senior year at Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia, I had had my first Kennedy sighting in the U.S. Senate. I had no idea at that time who he was.

My friend, Barbara, and I took the bus into Washington, D.C. and decided to see Congress in action. Since she had a boyfriend working as a U.S. Senate page, it was easy to get passes. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. Her boyfriend had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

After getting the passes, we got seats in the Visitor’s Gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate while lounging in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I don’t believe I was paying attention to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there watching it all.

Both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, young-looking man with a nice head of chestnut hair at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying the scene. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

SYNCHRONICITY & CHRISTMAS FILMS

I’ve always noticed the synchronicity in life. Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer. But I believe if you observe and have a good memory, you’ll notice how lives and incidents connect, especially because of the Internet. Isn’t that really what Life is all about?

I enjoy several sitcoms on TV, especially a fairly new one — “Fresh Off the Boat” about a Taiwanese family that relocates from Chinatown in Washington, D.C. to Orlando, FLA. in the mid 1990s.  A very recent episode was about the Huang family being excited about going to the Christmas movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — JINGLE ALL THE WAY. It brought back memories of being behind the scenes while that movie was being filmed.

At that time I was writing a weekly column for the Los Angeles Daily News called “People and Places,” and I’d been asked to the 20th Century Fox set to interview Jake Lloyd, the then seven-year-old actor who was playing Schwarzenegger’s son in the movie.  Schwarzenegger was still an actor but was soon to become Governor of California. I was not introduced to Schwarzenegger but got to watch him filming the first scene of the movie. Ironically, that scene was filmed last.

Original movie poster

Jake Lloyd’s story is a mystical one of premonitions. He knew he wanted to make a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was two years old and living in Colorado. Here’s what the precocious youngster told me about seeing a drive-in movie: “When I was two my parents went to see Terminator. I was asleep in the back seat so they decided to stay for Terminator II. All of a sudden they looked back, and my eyes were an inch wide.”

From then on, his mother Lisa related, Jake was entranced with Schwarzenegger. Although he couldn’t properly pronounce the superstar’s formidable surname, Jake would walk around their Colorado home declaring he would be in a movie with his hero. He would make up stories and try to imitate Schwarzenegger.

When the Lloyds planned to move to California so that Lisa could finish her college education, Jake asked his mother, “Isn’t Hollywood in California?”

Despite their skepticism, the Lloyds decided to give in to young Jake’s ambitions regarding moviemaking. They had photos taken and sent them to agents. An agent with her own talent agency near the Lloyd’s new home liked what she saw and took Jake on. In no time she’d booked him for three commercials.

It didn’t take long to acquire experience. Jake appeared in a Ford and a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial and starred in Unhook The Stars, a movie with Marisa Tomei and Gena Rowlands; he also got a reoccurring role in TV’s E.R.

Jake Lloyd grown up

Jake’s dream became a reality in 1996 when he auditioned and won the part of Schwarzenegger’s son. Jake said that he was speechless when he first met his hero. He remembered Schwarzenegger asking, “How you doing, Jake?” After working with the star for three months, Jake said, “Now we’re really good friends.”

It’s been years since I did that interview but little Jake was hard to forget. He was an unspoiled kid interested in everything about the movie business. While I was there, he took me into the living room set and up some stairs to the catwalk to look down on the set. It was the last day of filming. Since movies are seldom put together sequentially, they were just then filming the very first scene.

After his first film, Jake went on to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas’ famous film, The Phantom Menace. Apparently, Jake became discouraged with his film career (he’s now twenty-seven), and he’s since moved to the Midwest. I wonder if he had any visions about what career he would pursue when he got older. I followed up on his current career and found conflicting reports: he’d had trouble with drugs, and even one that claimed he’d died. He was a delightful little boy with great parents — that’s what I’ll always remember.

A HOLLYWOOD JOB

Back in the 1960s, my first job in LA was as a typist in the secretarial pool for the Los Angeles Times. When it failed to lead to something more demanding and interesting, I began looking for another job. I didn’t get a college degree to go nowhere in the working world. I was hired as a service representative for AT&T, known then as “Ma Bell.” Life goes in circles. AT&T was a very powerful company in the 1950s and 60s: it was THE phone company. To insure it wouldn’t become a monopoly with too much power, it was split up. Didn’t take many years before the company regained its strength. It’s probably stronger than ever now with the word monopoly being used again.

Service Reps, as we were called, 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. As we reps prepared for our Denial Prevention Calls, the DPC, we joked that we would inform the delinquent customer: “This is the last voice you will hear on your telephone.”

Capitol Records building on Hollywood Boulevard in the 1960s

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.

Hollywood Studio Club for Women

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 everyone in the restaurant to a few operatic bars of a song. He had a beautiful operatic voice. 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 think I told him about my first personal “concert.”

At Knight’s, a local coffee shop on Vine Street, 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 (not the LA original in the shape of a derby hat). 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 also took care of Fairfax Avenue, home to lots of retired folks pinching their pennies. They had a reputation for calling to quibble over a few cents for the “message units” charged on their bills. We often heard, “It’s not the money, it’s the principle.” Most of the time, we just adjusted the bill, and the adjustment could be less than ten cents. We never knew who’d be on the phone when we picked up: the son of Peter Lorre (“The Maltese Falcon”) who sounded like his father, 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!

Hollywood (about 20 minutes from where I currently live) is still a zany town but more beautiful and expensive. Jimmy Kimmel does his night show on Hollywood Boulevard, not far from Capitol Records.

STAR WARS CONNECTION

STAR WARS - PHANTOM MENACE

STAR WARS – PHANTOM MENACE

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally out and predicted to bring in billions in ticket sales. I can’t claim to be a fanatic Star Wars fan, but I’ve got my own connection to Star Wars–I interviewed Jake Lloyd who played the nine-year-old  Anakin Starwalker in George Lucas’ Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999.

I interviewed Jake Lloyd, who is now 26, while he was making his first film, Jingle All the Way in 1996, with Arnold Schwarzenegger before he became Governor of California.  I have fond memories of the film  because I was invited to visit the 20th Century Fox set for this movie. I was writing a weekly column for the Los Angeles Daily News called “People and Places,” and I’d been asked to the set to interview Jake Lloyd, the then seven-year-old actor who was playing Swarzenegger’s son in the movie.

Original movie poster

Original movie poster

Jake Lloyd’s story is a mystical one of premonitions, believe it or not. He knew he wanted to make a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was two years old and living in Colorado. Here’s what the precocious youngster told me about seeing a drive-in movie: “When I was two my parents went to see Terminator. I was asleep in the back seat so they decided to stay for Terminator II. All of a sudden they look back, and my eyes were an inch wide.”

From then on, his mother Lisa related, Jake was entranced with Schwarzenegger. Although he couldn’t properly pronounce the superstar’s formidable surname, Jake would walk around their Colorado home declaring he would be in a movie with his hero. He would make up stories and try to imitate Schwarzenegger.

When the Lloyds planned to move to California so that Lisa could finish her college education, Jake asked his mother, “Isn’t Hollywood in California?”

Despite their skepticism, the Lloyds decided to give in to young Jake’s ambitions regarding moviemaking. They had photos taken and sent them to agents. An agent with her own talent agency near the Lloyd’s new home liked what she saw and took Jake on. In no time she’d booked him for three commercials.

It didn’t take long to acquire experience. Jake appeared in a Ford and a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial and starred in Unhook The Stars, a movie with Marisa Tomei and Gena Rowlands; he also got a reoccurring role in TV’s E.R.

Jake Lloyd

Jake Lloyd

Jake’s dream became a reality in 1996 when he auditioned and won the part of Schwarzenegger’s son. Jake said that he was speechless when he first met his hero. He remembered Schwarzenegger asking, “How you doing, Jake?” After working with the star for three months, Jake said, “Now we’re really good friends.”

It’s been years since I did that interview but little Jake was hard to forget. He was an unspoiled kid interested in everything about the movie business. While I was there, he took me into the living room set and up some stairs to the catwalk to look down on the set. It was the last day of filming. Since movies are seldom put together sequentially, they were just then filming the very first scene.

After his first film, Jake went on to play in The Phantom Menace. Apparently, Jake became discouraged with his film career and he moved to the Midwest. I wonder if he had any visions about what career he would pursue when he got older.

SYNCHRONICITY WITH THE FAMOUS

I love “accidental” encounters with interesting people of all types; they don’t have to be famous or notorious. Because I enjoy it so much, I’m sure I probably attract it. A couple of years ago I attended a fundraiser luncheon for a local private Catholic high school and sat next to Catherine O’Hara, an actress who had been in several of Christopher Guest’s movies, like “Best in Show,” which I had really enjoyed, as well as in “Home Alone” and “Frankenweenie,” and is very active in show biz. Since we were next to each other for a couple of hours we discovered we had things in common–liberal views, enjoying people, and movies, to name a few. Afterwards, I saw her in a TV documentary and expressing her opinions on the last page of Vanity Fair magazine, a publication I’ve subscribed to for years.

Airplanes are an ideal place to meet people. I have had some very entertaining conversations with seatmates. On the flight to Dallas for Thanksgiving not long ago, my seat mate volunteered that he had been raised in Puerto Rico and had worked all over the US. He and I had no trouble bonding over Stephen Sondheim songs from West Side Story—“I Want to Be in America,” for example. Soon he was telling me about his childhood in Puerto Rico, how the females in his family firmly ran the household, and the foods he liked. We laughed a lot.

On the return flight, my neighbor turned out to be an LA sportscaster on the local ABC-TV station. He was returning from a family visit in time to cover the yearly classic USC-UCLA football game. If I’d been a sports fan, I’d have known his name. We talked about how life had changed because of the Internet, and how we could use it to further our careers. It didn’t hurt that he had a great smile and was very attractive.

Ventura Boulevard in the Valley has every type of restaurant. I particularly enjoy the inexpensive Chinese food at Bamboo. Next door is a ritzy French place, Cafe Bizou. After one lunch, while waiting for the valet (shared by the two restaurants) to get my car, I spotted actress/singer Della Reese a couple of feet away: she had eaten French food. I decided to approach her and told her  I was a fan and we talked a bit. I even gave her my business card. Was she being polite or did she keep it?

Catherine O'Hara, comedian and actress

Catherine O’Hara, comedian and actress

Lunchtime can be an ideal time to spot the rich and famous and perhaps spark a conversation. I was with a friend at a place called Gaucho Grill a few years back when she spotted her lawyer. At the table right behind us, my friend’s lawyer was with TV and Broadway star Kelsey Grammar. At that time I was writing a weekly column for the Daily News newspaper and was always looking for new interview possibilities. Besides, Kelsey had met my son at a restaurant not long before and had invited him and a few other young men back to his home. I introduced myself, mentioned my son, and Kelsey couldn’t have been more gracious and down to earth. Before I had a chance to schedule the interview with him, my life changed and I ended my column.

My daughter and I love Hamburger Hamlet, which has been on Van Nuys Boulevard for many years. Last time we had a late lunch there, Heidi spotted “Mr. T,” who had been on TV’s “The A Team” and also in the famous “Rocky” movie. Our favorite waiter was telling us the most famous person he’d seen in the restaurant over the years was Marlon Brando. Brando was very overweight by then and ate a lot, the waiter said.

One of my favorite places to start a conversation is Trader Joe’s, the unique grocery store that started in Southern California. They hire sociable, highly individual people who may have tattoos or wear crazy hats; perhaps that’s just part of the SoCal lifestyle. I wonder if they take a friendliness test before they’re hired! The atmosphere must affect the customers because they’re usually quite affable as well.

A few months ago, I spotted Sally Kellerman, famous for playing “Hot Lips O’Houlihan” in the original 1970 MASH movie (Remember actor Robert Duvall’s famous quote–“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”) She and I were shopping for fruit and vegetables, and I took the opportunity to tell her how I’d enjoyed her acting. She welcomed the conversation and told me she really enjoyed singing professionally. Her distinctive low sultry voice is very much in evidence and I can imagine it would translate easily into song.  SallyK

When I was much younger, I remember being a little embarrassed by my mother, who was a friendly Southerner who loved to talk to everyone. Now I find I have been doing the same thing for years. From mothers or fathers of babies to clerks or fellow customers, I’m not afraid of making a joke or coming up with a witty comment, and these days I can sometimes embarrass my own daughter!

ENCOUNTERS WITH THE KENNEDY’S

Robert F. Kennedy and his dog Freckles

Robert F. Kennedy and his dog Freckles–I kept this magazine

When the magnetic Robert Kennedy was shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in June 1968, I was living in the San Fernando Valley. It was sad and depressing to know he was killed in Los Angeles, my new hometown. I couldn’t help but remember the times I had seen him years before in Virginia and Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s. This Life Magazine cover of June 14, 1968, (I still have my copy) makes me tear up even now. RFK was running along an Oregon beach followed by his dog Freckles. I had also seen President John Kennedy in person a couple of times–my first glimpse was when he was serving in the U.S. Senate before he ran for President.

I had first seen Robert Kennedy when I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and RFK was campaign manager for his brother John Kennedy’s election as president of the U.S. At that time I wasn’t very political and was probably influenced for the most part by my dad, who was a Republican. I didn’t realize until years later that I was really a liberal Democrat. Kennedy was talking to students at an evening event not long before the 1960 November voting.

My real thrill came a couple of years later, in 1962, when President John Kennedy created an educational Summer Seminar program for college students working for the government in offices in the Washington D.C. area.  We were going to learn something about the inner workings of government, which was to take place several times during the summer at Constitution Hall, an auditorium near the Washington Mall that sat 4,000 people. Student workers were bussed from various offices around town to spend a couple of hours listening to important members of government. I was picked up where I was working at Washington National Airport. On the day of the last seminar in August, all of the student workers saw and heard  both President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The President invited us to the White House lawn for his farewell speech about the program. According to my dairy for 1961-62,  7,923 college students were employed that summer, but I doubt there were that many attending that morning even though it was quite crowded. I remembered some of his inspirational words: “Jump in the stream (of government service). It isn’t so cold. Government work is challenging and rewarding.”

As I left the lawn in high heels that sunk into the thick grass, I got a good look at young Caroline Kennedy’s play area, which included a playhouse, and the nearby tennis courts. All the students at the White House were bussed the short distance to Constitution Hall for another part of our farewell “government education.” We would hear Robert Kennedy speak about the Justice Department and government investigations. I noted that it was very interesting, but didn’t specify why in my diary! But I did comment that “Bobby is quite popular–a rather magnetic personality and good looking. He was sunburned and his  blue eyes stood out. He got a standing ovation.”

When the speeches were over, a friend and I walked back to our busses and passed by Robert Kennedy’s limo with him in it. Here’s what I wrote: “People crowded around, including me, to look, touch and shake hands. I was wondering how long it might take for the car to pull out. I stood near the wall of the driveway so that when he came by and looked my way, I was only two feet away. I waved and he waved back.”   Needless to say, I was thrilled and never forgot that moment.

 

MY CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS

In the 1990s I got to mingle with a few celebrities on a couple of magazines I helped co-create, write and edit. One of them, Westlife Magazine, featured Bob Hope for our initial cover. Alas, Hope was recovering from prostate surgery . The closest I got to him for an interview was visiting Ward Grant, his longtime publicist in his Burbank office, which was an obvious testament to Hope’s many movies with its framed giant blowups of movie stills going back to the 1930s.

In the mid 1990s, Beverly Hills Country Club, a posh tennis club, decided they needed a magazine featuring their members. My boss was an enterprising Iranian who spoke English but was not fluent in writing English. For our first cover, I interviewed Barbara Eden in her home along Mulholland Drive. Delightful and personable, she wore a cropped top and low riding pants, showing off her still fabulous figure and revealing the belly button that had been blocked out on “I Dream of Jeannie,” her famous TV series. Yes, the cover was “photo-shopped.” I wrote over 90% of the material in the magazine and enjoyed all of it.

World-Class Magazine cover of Barbara Eden

World-Class Magazine cover of Barbara Eden

Appropriately for a sports club magazine, I did stories on members, Rafer Johnson, the Olympics decathlon champion from the 1960s, and 1940s tennis champion Jack Kramer, who had remained active in the sports world promoting tennis and then golf. My first tennis racket was a Jack Kramer and I told him so. Both of these athletes were gentlemen and easy to chat with.

The 90s included a few years of writing a weekly column, People and Places, and local play reviews for the Daily News, a major newspaper that still exists. I must have seen and reviewed about 200 plays, performed by a range of talent of all ages. I was a positive reviewer; it was essentially community theater and equity waiver. I recall a production of “Mr. Roberts,” starring Harry Belafonte’s son-in-law. The still very attractive Belafonte was there and I was thrilled to shake his hand as he told me he loved community theater. Although I was sorely tempted (Remember those famous lines: “Day O, day O?”), I did not hum any calypso songs!

One of my weekly columns focused on Jake Lloyd, a seven-year-old starring in his first movie, “Jingle All the Way,” with Arnold Swarzenegger (before he became the California Governator). Jake was charming, easy to interview, and full of a little boy’s energy. On the huge sound stage at 20th Century Fox, he led me up to a sort of catwalk on the upper levels of the living room set, where I could have an overview and see where the cameras and lights were positioned. They were filming the last scene of the movie that day. As filming is erratic and scenes are not filmed in order, the last scene of filming would be the actual first scene of the movie. Jake went on to play Anakin Skywalker in a Star Wars movie, “The Phantom Menace.”

I left journalism when I had the opportunity to take time off and concentrate on writing my adventure/romance novel, Melaynie’s Masquerade, which I self-published. My historical fiction novel and several shorter books are all available on Amazon. http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

MALIBU – STAR-STUDDED VISITS

Watching the recent Academy Awards reminded me of the film and television stars I’ve seen over the years. There’s no place quite like Malibu for star sightings. For years I lived a Santa Monica Mountain canyon’s length away from Malibu, about a twenty-minute drive. Malibu’s name derives from the Chumash Indian language since they were the original inhabitants of the oceanside community a few hundred years ago. The curving canyon roads that lead to the ocean are bordered with expensive homes and typical California greenery, which means anything money can buy and the availability of water. All of the beauty and luxury is highly susceptible to the wildfires that occur every few years. Beauty comes at a price.

Having lots of disposable money is a requirement for living in Malibu, but those of us on budgets can at least visit for the day. Besides restaurants, shops, beaches and the famed Malibu Colony (a gated residential area that borders the ocean), there are the perks, if you’re not blind or oblivious, of seeing favorite actors or TV personalities.

Crosscreek Shopping Center, my preference for meandering and sometimes shopping, is probably the ideal place for sightings. Ali McGraw once designed the interior of a popular restaurant, which is currently Taverna Tony’s, a Greek spot. Not many years ago Mel Gibson was frequenting the bar there, and the tabloids reported the results.

I’ve been visiting that area since the 1970s when one of the shopping center’s main Spanish-style buildings was opened. My husband at the time was the LA County Engineer for the area, so we were asked to the opening night festivities featuring music, food and dancing. I enjoyed talking to actor Charlie Martin Smith, whose wife was opening a dance studio there. I had seen his recent movies, “Never Cry Wolf,” and “Middle Age Crazy.”

Almost every time I went there in the ensuing years to browse bookstores, art galleries and to eat lunch, I spotted someone of movie or television fame. A girlfriend and I talked to Helen Hunt in the 1990s, complimenting her on the TV series, “Mad About You.” I recalled my experience after I watched her in an excellent 2012 movie, “The Sessions.”

Sitting outside an ice cream shop, I noticed a very welcoming and smiling Dick Van Dyke. I’ve regretted not saying hi ever since, especially since I knew his son Barry, who was active in my community of Agoura Hills.

A popular Italian restaurant attracts many celebrities. One afternoon Geena Davis, in a baseball cap and sweats, and leading her large poodle, sat with some of her friends at an adjacent table. She was a vivacious conversationalist from what I overheard, and the dog was well-behaved. I’m a fan of her current role as a neurosurgeon on “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC-TV.

Geena Davis dressed up

Geena Davis dressed up

Near that restaurant is a large grassy area with swings for children. I’ve seen TV host and comic Howie Mandell swing his kids, and Director Ron Howard, in his trademark baseball cap, walk by with a child on his shoulders.

My most exciting close encounter was with Shirley MacLaine on a late Sunday afternoon. My friend Carolyn and I were having lunch in an essentially empty restaurant when Shirley walked in with a young stocky blond man and took a table fairly close-by. She had on sunglasses and gave off an air of not wanting to be bothered. I surmised her companion was probably a personal assistant.

Since I was a fan of Shirley’s film work, not to mention all her books, I was yearning to go up and say something like, “I come from Virginia too!” Much more conservative than me, Carolyn strongly discouraged any action, so I had to content myself stealing a few glances. Shirley and the young man left the restaurant before we paid.

As we walked out, we decided to visit a favorite eclectic women’s boutique, Indiana Joan’s, which was right next door. There was Shirley again, this time buying some costume jewelry. I resisted my urges. Some time later, after browsing several more shops, Carolyn and I headed for the car. As we were walking through the small parking lot, here came Shirley and her companion again. He was carrying her dry cleaning and their car wasn’t far from ours.

Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine

 

HALLOWEEN FUN – LA STYLE

Halloween festivities seem to be a peculiarly American holiday, and it becomes more rambunctious and extravagant every year. From kids in simple costumes trick-a-treating  in neighborhoods, it’s grown to large events in shopping centers, parades, and special haunted houses, especially in Los Angeles. There’s Knott’s Scary Farm, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Universal Studios Horror Nights, a costume ball at LA County Art Museum, and the famous and probably largest street party in the world in West Hollywood from 6-11 p.m. My daughter Heidi attended a few years ago.

I was reminded of these festivities by finding my photo of Vincent Price, renowned for his scary roles — The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Wax, The Masque of the Red Death, etc. Although he died in 1993, any movie fan will remember his distinctive cultured voice, despite being born in St. Louis, Missouri! I met him when I was a guest at a realtors’ convention in Las Vegas back in the mid 1970s. My mother-in-law had invited me to join her and  her brother-in-law; it was a good excuse to celebrate in Vegas. I had my photo taken with the charming Vincent and remember asking him why he had a lapel pin on his jacket  in the shape of a coat hangar (can’t be seen in the photo). He laughed and said it was because he didn’t have any “hangups!”

Me and Vincent Price. Looks like I'm doing publicity.

Me and Vincent Price. Looks like I’m doing publicity glad-handing!

Back in the 1960s, when I was working as a service representative at AT&T (known as Pacific Bell then), we always celebrated Halloween. We had about 10 sections of side-by-side desks in our large office in Hollywood on Gower Street, a couple of blocks from Columbia Studios. Each section, including the supervisor, would choose their own section costume. We were inventive as you can see in these old photos.

Halloween at the PacBell Phone Co office

Cave Women for Halloween at the PacBell Phone Co office – I’m third from the left

Another Halloween at the Phone Company

Another Halloween at the Phone Company-I’m third from the left again. We are space creatures, probably Star Trek inspired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When my kids were growing up, we were fortunate to live in a suburban house between the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills,  a safe place to raise kids and an easy place for trick-or-treating. Now that I’m more in the city in an area of apartment buildings, I don’t see normal trick-or-treating.  Kids who don’t live in housing tracts will dress up for their schools, and also go with parents to shopping centers to get free candy.

 

Hansi as a Frontier Cowboy

Son Hansi as a Frontier Cowboy

Heidi as a version of American Indian

Daughter Heidi as a version of American Indian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heidi & Zombie - West Hollywood Halloween

Heidi & Zombie – West Hollywood Halloween Carnival

 

HallowHeidi-#3

 

 

The Devil and another fellow

The Devil and another fellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because Los Angeles is the Entertainment Capital of the World, there’s nothing that matches the zany and outrageous Gay West Hollywood Halloween Parade and Carnival. Thousands of participants of all sexual persuasions meander down a mile-long stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard on Halloween night. Some come just to gawk; others join in the fun with costumes seen nowhere else. There’s entertainment, bands, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. My daughter Heidi and a few friends dressed up a few years ago, but Heidi seemed to be the only one who got revelers to show off in photos.

FAMOUS FOLKS PART 2

In Southern California you never know whom you might see or even chat with. In the past few years I’ve seen Diane Keaton at the Getty Museum and had a long chat at a local Trader Joe’s with the original Hot Lips Houlihan from the MASH film—Sally Kellerman.

In early 1980, when I was the editor of the Acorn newspaper in Agoura, I met actor Strother Martin, who, with his wife Helen, was active in the community and a member of the Agoura-Las Virgenes Chamber of Commerce. He didn’t come to our weekly meetings since he had a busy film career, but he did share his talent with us at our Christmas party at the Calabasas Inn. I took this photo of Strother reading part of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. He had a beautiful voice, far from the “prairie scum” accent he used for roles such as the prison warden in “Cool Hand Luke” where he so famously said, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

 

Strother Martin

Strother Martin reading “A Christmas Carol”

I got to know him a little when I did an interview with him at his home in Thousand Oaks. He was getting ready to fly to New York to host the “Saturday Night Live” TV program. He gave me a photo from a recent film he’d done with John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn, “Rooster Cogburn.” I still have it. Within a few months, however, Strother died of a heart attack. Many members of the Chamber of Commerce attended his August funeral at Forest Lawn, including me. I was invited back to the Martin home after the funeral. Jimmy Carter was President then and he called Helen Martin personally to convey his sympathies. I’m currently editing Madelyn Roberts’ biography of the actor: Strother Martin, A Hero’s Journey Fulfilled.

 I met champion heavyweight boxer Jerry Quarry in a local restaurant bar, at that time called New Orleans West. The bar/lounge was a gathering place for many singles in Westlake Village. Since the place bordered Westlake Lake, some residents of the nearby Island (Mickey Rooney had once lived there) would travel via electric party boats and dock them below the restaurant.

 

Boxer Jerry Quarry

Boxer Jerry Quarry

In the 1980s when I met Jerry, his boxing career was over but people in the bar remembered him and enjoyed his company. I got to know him and eventually interviewed him for a local publication. Nicknamed the Bellflower Bomber during his career, he had been successful, winning 53 fights out of 66. He was a California boy from Bakersfield and had been the most popular fighter in “Ring” magazine from 1968-71. He had even fought the famous Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier.

Quarry, a local resident, was past his prime when I knew him, but he was friendly and liked to have a good time. Not long after he began to suffer from the effects of dementia caused by getting hit in the head too often during his boxing career. He was only 53 when he died in 1999. He’s included with other famous boxers in the World Boxing Hall of Fame in New York.

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