…That month (Jan. – July 2011)

Poodledog plant peril panics population!

For anyone who’s ever been bitten by scourge of poison oak, this isn’t funny. Seems “poodledog plant” is blooming widely in the Golden State after unusually heavy seasonal rains in winter and spring, and a few years of brushfire. This little petaled hazard leaves a nasty afterburn for anyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with it. Since there are few states as outdoor-oriented as this one, that’ll mean a pandemic of itchy hikers. According to the L.A. Times,

A species of plant that thrives in areas scorched by wildfire, the lavender-flowered Turricula parryi packs a bite. Skin contact can cause rashes, blisters, swelling and general irritation…

The plant appears only periodically and is frequently mistaken for lupine, which also has purple flowers. Fields of poodle-dog wend between the blackened skeletons of burnt trees and throughout much of the 250 square miles that were razed by the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history (the Station Fire in 2009)…

Trekkers should wear long pants and sleeved-shirts, according to authorities, which pretty much answers the mystery of why wildfire crews dress that way in California’s summer heat. And only balm for rash left by this hostile little bloomer is application of cold cream. Posts the Altadena Blog:

The poodledog has highly-irritating glandular hairs to discourage herbivores.  The sticky hairs – which can dislodge easily – can be passed on to hikers who touch it or brush up against it, causing an itching dermititis that can last for two weeks.  Even shaking the plant and inhaling close to it can cause a serious reaction.

Actually, that inhaled “serious reaction” sounds nearly fatal. And as someone who suffered a bout of plant-caused dermatitis last year, I can tell you cold cream is only temporary balm. I don’t know if it was this toxic greenery or regular old poison oak, but after cutting backyard weeds, my calf had a three-inch diameter patch of skin-dissolving inflammation that took many, many weeks to fade. One thing that seemed to work – although painful: rubbing alcohol. Just soak it before bedtime and it will slowly, slowly heal over. I still have a flush patch.

It’s name derives from its appearance after parching in summer – droopy, brown stems topped by leafy tufts, shaped a bit like a clipped poodle. Cuidado!

~ O ~

Viva la statehood, dude!

I don’t want to harp on this – but at some point, North and South Dakota split along geographical lines. …Like Virginia and West Virginia. …And let’s not forget the Carolinas, originally one state, named after the Neil Diamond song.

So, the idea of a 51st state of ‘South California’ isn’t so crazy. In fact, did you know Texas can split itself into four separate states without blessing of the U.S., at large? That bow to what was once a Lone Star empire is in the statehood documents. So there!

Like, y'know, we pledge allegiance, Okies

South California, the proposed 51st state to the union, a long-shot concept that would see 13 California counties secede from the Golden State, was unanimously approved by the Riverside County Board of Directors Tuesday for more discussion and debate… Even though most parties involved do not believe that a 51st state will actually blossom from the summit, most applaud (Supervisor Jeff) Stone’s success in bringing to light his concerns with Sacramento politics and how it affects Riverside and counties like it.

According to Stone, we Southlanders don’t have much in common or even hold much truck with them fancy-pants liberals up in San Francisco. Part of our new state would be Orange County, the big red dot in the Golden State – so conservative Michelle Bachmann seems a dope-smokin’ Mother Jones staff writer down Anaheim way. That is the home of John Wayne International Airport, you pencil-necked little Commie asshole.

Stone’s right. Northern California probably would be glad to be rid of us. In fact, they’re thinking of going that way themselves.

Jeff Stone

Their secession plans call for universal subscriptions to The Nation and biography of Noam Chomsky mandatory in all public school curricula. That’s what we need – a tight little enclave of political correctness so green and astringently multicultural it’s forever in danger of imploding within its own moral superiority.

Me? I’m pulling for “San Fernando Valley: Fifty-Second or Fight”. That’s right, a state within a subdivided state, hopefully with me at the helm. Burbankia! Or the Republic of Van Nuys. I’m a’likin’ it!

~ O ~

Boy, am I glad that’s over. And I’m not even Irish…

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed back to the United Kingdom on Sunday after a nonstop weekend that included a few chukkers of polo, time with Hollywood’s own version of royalty and several events that raised millions of dollars for charity.

One of the places they stopped this morning (7/10), before heading back to London and their newly married lives there, was Los Angeles’ Skid Row. If ever there was a venue unaccustomed to a royal visit, it’s that one, so good for them. The children whom they appeared to genuinely charm will talk about this one for awhile.


In that brief, rather unpleasant time when my hayseed tribe rose up and assumed control of American consciousness via the thankfully short-lived craze of CB radios, drug-store truckers yakking on their two-bit ego boosters called her ‘Apple Betty’. She was in on the trend for all of the 14 minutes it lasted, and somehow it didn’t besmudge image of then-First Lady Betty Ford one bit. She was charming, one of our most attractive White House matriarchs, and definitely the only one once a Martha Graham dancer.

She outlived her husband by four and a half years, and during Gerald Ford’s last arrival at the Capital in late 2006, she was there beside his flag-draped coffin – the last time I remember seeing her.

Mrs. Ford died today at 93. In addition to White House service when her husband took reins of the country following resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, she’s remembered as having survived cancer, and very public treatment for addiction to pills and alcohol. She subsequently opened the now-legendary Betty Ford Clinic in Palm Springs, which has dried out some top-flight celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Mitchum , as well as thousands of others, less well-known, but suffering as deeply.

She was class, kids. Betty will be missed… and remembered.

If you can’t trust the PTA, who the hell can you trust?

Three Diamond Bar women have been arrested for cheating victims they met at Parent-Teacher Association meetings throughout L.A. county.

In what police call a classic Ponzi scheme, the trio promised returns of up to 100 percent (there’s your red flag, right there) selling shares of AltaDena Dairy’s exclusive concession at Disneyland. Taken into custody were Maricela Torres, 41, and Juliana Menefee, 50, after a six-month fraud investigation by L.A. Sheriff’s Commercial Crimes Bureau. A third suspect, Eva Perez, 51, already is serving an 11-year sentence.

And on a sad note:

(Victims) mostly they were hard-working people who mortgaged their homes to participate in what they thought was a legitimate business, Parker said.

~ O ~

Meltdown-related muffling of July 4 celebration has become routine for us now. Many cities can’t afford insurance bonds to cover stuff like parades and especially fireworks. That’s price of living in a country looted from the top.

Are we happy yet?

Added to gloom this year are string of natural disasters – particularly drought – that’s made pyrotechnics quite perilous. 

…The skies could be darkest over Texas, which has suffered the driest eight-month period since record-keeping began in 1895, according to the state climatologist. Officials in 233 of the state’s 254 counties have banned fires as record dry conditions, high temperatures and high winds have helped wildfires torch almost 3.2 million acres this year. [Reuters]

About the only ‘bang’ we hear these days is sound of our expectations hitting rock bottom. At any rate, have a happy, safe and sane Fourth. Despite cutbacks and official cold feet, it’s still our biggest holiday next to Christmas.

~ June ~

Weddin’ bell blues down Monaco way…

Well, they didn’t pass up the chance to mark their nuptials as traditional “June bride” revelry – barely. Extravagant two-day ceremonies to hitch up Prince Albert of Monaco and a gorgeous South African athlete will kick off today and conclude Friday, which, of course is July 1. Whew! But now there’s talk bride and swimmer Charlene Wittstock of South Africa has second thoughts after being confronted with some facts about Albert, who’s getting married – for the first time – at age 53. The two have gone on publicity offense to scotch that… uh… nonsense? The sunny place for shady characters Albert calls home could use publicity/tourism boost such an extravaganza probably will spark; festivities hopefully will catch some heat from that almost-overbearingly humongous WilliKate hook-up two months ago.

Monaco has seen nothing as extravagant since Grace Kelly, a blue-eyed Hollywood beauty said ”oui” to Prince Albert’s father, Prince Rainier III, in 1956, ushering in an unprecedented era of glamour that ended only with her 1982 death.

Trouble in le paradise? Albert and betrothed

Bald, seemingly sedate Albert is far cry from the radiant star of “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief” – some of which was filmed on the winding corniche highway where Grace would meet her end about 30 years later. But he’s evidently quite the roue’, fathering two illegitimate children – six-year-old Alexandre, with a former Air France air hostess and Jazmin, 19, after assignation with an American estate agent. Rumor has it Miss Wittstock hit the roof over reports yet another woman is about to come forward to claim Albert is a blueblood in the haystack.

If there are fireworks over the Riviera tonight, we’ll know they’re half out of the woods. If there are fireworks in the tabloids… how do you say… it’s off?

~ O ~

There goes the excuses, excuses ball game…

Racism, once defined by oppression and violence in the West, now seems keyed by silly metaphor.

When Serena Williams was scheduled for play on Court 2 at Wimbledon last week, she huffed and puffed that racism was factor in that choice of venue. The Queen watches at Centre Court; all the top players play Centre – at least at some point in the tournament. She was joined in broiling outrage by some in America’s sport press, notably Greg Couch of Sporting News:

But the All England Club at Wimbledon is known for its snootiness. They still want players in white, and are stuck in a time when tennis was exclusive. Whatever their real intentions and reasons, the club looks like a walking stereotype when it deals with the Williams sisters.

Doubt there’ll be much more of that talk, though. Both Williams sisters lost in the fourth round of play yesterday, and are headed home. Maybe that Centre Court really is for the elite of the game. Y’know? The sisters, from Los Angeles, once dominated women’s tennis, but their records have slowed over the years. Here’s strategy for their opponents: The Williams’ advantages are powerful physiques that can blast a ball like a bullet across the net; their major disadvantages are powerful physiques that become dead weight in extended volley. All their oppenents need do is keep the play alive, and not try to put them away. Small and thin is advantage to jumping around a court for extended sets. Big and powerful tuckers out earlier.

Both sisters have a lot of game in them, though. And we can be sure they’ll bounce back for more championships. They’re a joy to watch. But one thing of which we could us a lot less is empty grousing about nonexistent victimhood. And they could be better losers. When the sisters go down, often they explain it as “I had a bad day.” Nope. You got beat. Serena lost yesterday in straight sets to Marion Bartoli, who’s hauling some bulk of her own.

That’s the way the ball bounces… We need to stop making it more – or less – than it is.

~ O ~

Not a key move, Kia…

Don’t really know where to go with this one: An ad for Kia automobiles is drawing a lot of flack because it seems to engage pedophilia in a particularly seedy way. It shows a comic-strip illustration of a male teacher addressing a child, and then in opposite panel, evidently shows what the teacher actually imagines the interchange to be: His buff self all but seducing a luridly drawn, eroticized teenager.

Here’s the amazing facet: This thing won some advertising award. In an amazing case of “what the fuck were they thinking?” the ad got from drawing board to ad directors, to clients, to amazed – and furious – consumers. Who could’ve passed on this stupid crap?

It’s appeared on a lot of cyber sites inviting commenter reactions and even votes whether this is just about the most repellant shit to come out of Madison Avenue in a long, long time. As someone trying to raise a soon-to-be third-grader, I can tell you: It is. It’s sick and aberrant, and if there’s justice, its brainless creator is so fired. Some reactions are “who cares”? Or blather idiotically about our “Victorian hang-ups”, as if such silly bullshit even applies. Here’s what we do: We leave children out of our sexual ugliness. For as long as possible.

Kia, as client here: YOU SUCK!


A friend of mine once saw Peter Falk having breakfast at a nice, inexpensive little diner on Alameda in Toluca Lake, just down the road from Universal Studios. This was back in the day when he and compatriots John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara closed down bars all over Hollywood, or were written up at headquarters for D&D. Or just plain showed up early at Paty’s for a couple easy-overs and toast – shirt half open, hair standing straight up.

That’s fine with me. He deserved his off-time. Falk, who died today at 83, created a genuine American icon – Det. Frank Colombo. (I had to poke around a bit to come up with his first name.) The television cop, who solved the most intricate of murders committed by the most arrogant of stuffed shirts, amazed us and whetted our yearning for righteous vengeance against these lethal assholes.

Falk also had a long, fruitful film career. In the last few years, he’s battled Alzheimers, and our guttersnipe paparazzi lowered themselves even deeper in the gutter by photographing him publicly in its throes. May they rot in hell.

And, yes, Colombo’s dependable trenchcoat hangs in the Smithsonian, along with an enormous collection of other scraps of Americana, fondly remembered, genuinely treasured.

Boys of summer bummer…

Well, summer is here. Los Angeles still enjoys marine layer in our mornings, but that burns off before lunch and temperature ratchets up. The broil reminds us, in case we ever could forget, that we live in a desert irrigated by ruthlessly pirated water, dreamchild of California’s political warlords.

And first day of the new season brings more bad news for the bad-luck Dodgers. Despite setting record this weekend of “worst start through 72 games in franchise history”, their real troubles are off the field. Major League Baseball has scotched a television deal with Fox network, since MLB claims most of the dough would end up settling financial chaos of owner Frank McCourt – instead of getting showered on his struggling team. The Dodgers have gone downhill for sometime now, the team’s place as divorce token clawed by McCourt and his wife starving it of money to attract class players.

By now, most fans want McCourt recessed.

And the case looks more and more lame against a suspect in the near-fatal beating of a Giants fan at Dodger Stadium on opening day. Giovanni Ramirez has been sent back to prison for 10 months on parole violation, and cops hope that time margin will help them find physical evidence lacking in their case against him. Despite our regression internationally to dungeons and dragons of injustice, proof of guilt is still required in civilian courts, even in cases as notorious as this one.

At least… for now it is.

~ O ~

 No surprise package, here…

Even though it’s becoming clear whatever economic tranquility we’ve enjoyed is due merely to yet another speculation bubble, and it’s going flat. And while California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has nixed a state budget he says we simply can’t afford…

Big news is Anthony Weiner’s wiener… again. Doomsday can WAIT!

The media can’t get enough of this salacious tale, especially now that stripper/porn star Ginger Lee has exposed more than her derriere: Seems Weiner has been ‘sexting’ her about his ‘package’. And we don’t mean what he picks up at the liquor store or finds under his Xmas tree. Evidently this so mortified the (again) stripper/porn star that she’s gone public with it to generate yet another flurry in yet another news cycle. Are we to be spared nothing?

Package deal: Lee, left, and Allred

But that’s not her worst offense. It’s hiring stuffed-blouse loudmouth Gloria Allred to push her case in what’s likely to be a giganticus lawsuit. This hypocritical ambulance-chaser is a fixture here in L.A. I know some women who approached her with a legitimate sex-harassment labor case – and she turned down representing them. They weren’t celebrities. Every time I see Allred launch into one of her sanctimonious sermons, I remember that and my skin crawls.

~ O ~

 More like a February-December romance…

Playboy founder and Viagra poster boy Hugh Hefner won’t be marrying Crystal Harris, after all. In case you religiously avoid all mention of this flesh merchant and his wares, and are unaware of this, Hef intended to get hitched to Ms. Harris, a woman 60 years his junior.

Evidently, she threw her bikinis and baby-doll negligees in an overnight bag and vacated the Playboy Mansion this weekend.

Crystal: Robbin' the cradle

Both have Tweeted about this vast American tragedy. Between the air kisses and muffled spite, we gather there was a fight, and she dropped him like an ancient, mummified potato. They still have oodles of respect for each other, blah, blah, blah.

Nuptials between Hefner and Harris were to be this Saturday, and by all accounts, both were happy with the deal earlier in the day. Then it all went sour. My guess: Hefner finally told her he was 85; all that time she thought the wrinkles were water chapping from shower fixation.

This would’ve been only the third time wedding bells have rung for Hefner. One romance that flitted very close to the altar was late-’60s engagement to Barbi Benton. Remember her? She went on to “Hee Haw” and other milestones of performance. From what I gather about her, he should’ve tied the knot. Very down to earth, they say. Well, as down to earth as an ex-Playboy model (though never a Playmate) and “Fantasy Island” star can be. Real name: Barbi Klein.


Crotchacappaccino? One effective way to get out of criminal charges: Die suddenly. Eric Arthur Efaw, who was accused of planting a camera in a unisex bathroom of a Florida Starbucks was discovered dead in a motel Sunday. This kind of stuff has been going on since home video got ‘home’ as a prefix. There are even underground tapes of spy cams looking up women’s skirts as they walk the street, now that dirty old men are high tech. According to an account in CNN: The device was originally found May 31 by a Starbucks manager who removed it from under the sink of the unisex bathroom. Detectives from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the device and traced it to Efaw by getting images of his license plate after he left the camera on as he walked to his car.Efaw was charged with misdemeanor voyeurism and released Thursday on $10,000 bond. He admitted to placing the camera in the restroom and said he had done so six to seven times in the past two months, police said.Cause of death has yet to be determined. Left floating in the air is speculation the embarrassed barista took his own life. Not only was he a booty pirate, he was a dumb one; ePeepers should never hand cops their license plates. Jot that down. Wonder if he categorized his subjects’ attributes as small, medium  and large – or tall, grande and venti…

My kind of porn-star art…

Some folks have all fun. Here I am slaving away in the autumn of my years, walking dreary streets of downtown L.A. There, traffic cops lie in wait for pedestrians to misstep onto off-limits pavement so they can boost city coffers by issuing hefty walking tickets. Next, what? Breathing tickets? Grrr.

Meanwhile, there’s news ex-porn star Sasha Grey filmed an “art” movie on our side of the Hollywood Hills, in the “Chemosphere” house overlooking my home base, North Hollywood. The house evidently was inspired by UFO reports, and is one of those places in which I’d love to party – and hate to live. Many of her more engorged film work was shot in the structure, supported by a single pole. I suppose that’s more than we can say of Ms. Grey’s career, so far. Porn films shot in the San Fernando Valley aren’t notable because this is, of course, world capital of cinema genitale.

Anyway, the movie is “Sasha Grey” (wow!) and was screened at the Venice Biennale, which I assume is one of about a billion international film festivals. They all host movies about lost souls navigating lost neighborhoods from Bengal to Bogota – and which will end up on the Sundance Channel for no one to ever see. But… I may just tune into Ms. Grey’s hejira.

Can’t wait.

~ O ~

Rock has become whale song of the new millennium, in case you haven’t noticed. Either new music is being written by the same self-congratulatory mush-head, or the form has gone stale. There are a lot of Disney-show tunes on the air now, with lyrics that sound like an encounter group for spoiled, whiney feminists in the ’70s. For too long, hip-hop has stagnated as number-one genre, fueled in part by sales to hyperdramatic and very dumb white teenagers who think street thuggery is height of sexual telegraphy. Of course, their alternative is … what? Dork ‘n roll? Who told last-phase X-ers and Millennials they could wear pegged geek trousers and polo shirts on stage? You freak it up or you stay home – that’s what my generation always believed.

But if you’ve been near a radio in the past couple of months, you’ve heard something that sounds classic and fresh, all at once. A British singer named Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” single and the album from which it springs have been numero uno on charts here and overseas for weeks this spring. She has a voice like pouring molasses and this soul-tinged lament is pure gold.

Unfortunately, laryngitis has caused her to cancel the rest of her American tour. That’s a shame. An account on her Facebook page by my old friend Cintra Wilson made me want to put on my high-heeled shoes and buy a ticket for her show:

Freaky to witness how fast a natur…al talent matures when the artist has never lived in a pre-internet world — these British soul toddlers are barely in hard-soled shoes before they’ve already assimilated Motown on a preconscious level. At 21 they’re already turning out mid-career Dusty Springfield, Burt Bacharach level shite like they’re 46 and world-weary and Grammy-laden. They make it all look so post-striving. Damn, kids, where do you take it from there?

Unless something new gets added – down…


He didn’t end up pinning himself to one of his ‘bucket kits’, but Jack Kevorkian’s death this week is sure to spark a lot of watercooler chatter about ethics of euthanasia. There may be more controversial topics than the right of a person to end his or her own life, but I can’t think of one. At least Kevorkian was up-front about helping people escape this early clime. The world didn’t call him “Dr. Death” for nothing.

When a person has a disease that cannot be cured, do you think doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life by some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it? A 2007 Gallup poll showed that 71 percent of Americans think they should.

Kevorkian died in a Detroit-area hospital at age 83. He was either pioneer bio-ethicist, or monster, depending to whom you refer. With help of a homemade rig of knockout drug and toxins, he assisted dozens of suicides for people who couldn’t go on living. For his trouble, he was jailed, lauded, condemned and argued about. Arguments are likely to go on, even though he may have come down on the right side of history: Several states have OK’d physician-assisted euthanasia. RIP, Dr. D.

~ O ~

They’re dropping like horseflies…

James Arness, who’ll be remembered by my generation as Marshal Matt Dillon of Dodge City, died yesterday at the incredibly durable age of 88. Long after we forget names of real-life marshals of the Old West cow town, like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, we’ll fondly reminisce about Dillon (not the actor, fool), Miss Kitty, Doc, Festus, and, for the older among us, Dennis Weaver’s gimping Chester. All have joined ghost riders in the sky…

That pretty much leaves James Garner as  last of the great TV cowboys of the ’50s, and his anti-heroic “Maverick” certainly was the best. By the way, Arness’ younger brother, Peter Graves, died just last year. Although he’ll be recalled as Jim Phelps of the IMF unit, or even Capt. Oeuvre in that hilarious “Airplane” scene, he spent a spell on the ranch in Saturday morning’s “Fury” – one of the foremost ambiguously gay shows on air at the time. It was a bunch of guys, including a suspicious geezer, and a big black stud.

Horse… this was the ’50s, y’know.

June brides, cry into your pillows with envy… At least, if you live outside oil-rich Persian Gulf states.

In those parts, where diamonds drip like dew from petals of the desert flower that blooms in oases, nobody gets hitched without bling involved.

Big-time, NBA-style bling, too, my lovely dove. And nothing gets pinned or hung without sparkly feng shui considerations.

While some people purchase sets and they are completely satisfied, other customers ask for alterations so that the jewelry is a better fit for their body.  A lady’s body shape actually makes a lot of difference with regards to what type of jewelry to wear. The measurements and the proportions of the body and the jewelry have to work together to create a beautiful appearance. Think of jewelry selection as the same way that you dress. The jewelry should be in harmony with the design of the person.

While considering body type, we should note this morsel of wisdom from “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”: …We all lose our charms in the end.

~ May ~

Censorship in name of phony outrage has to be one of the most irritating insipidities in postmodern life.

Take the seal of Los Angeles County… A few years ago, it was decided to replace oil derricks with the seal’s rainbow mound – a child’s drawing of “real estate” – and in the mound’s original spot to plunk a multicultural Spanish mission. The goddess of bounty, or fertility, whatever, in the center would be bumped in favor of a Native American earth mother. Impetus for all this rearrangement was to make the seal more reflective of Los Angeles’ varied and incredibly whiney cultures. The goddess smacks too horribly of Western Civilization and the mound originally was topped with - gasp! – a Christian cross!

Much in the same way purged comrades were airbrushed from photos and ideological landmarks razed in Soviet Russia, fabricated “demands” of multiculturalism hold that everything we are and were must be eradicated or ground into tasteless mush if found to be infected with honkie virus. Cultural identity is your boon if you’re anything but Northern European gentile stock; feel free to celebrate yourself and your “heritage” no matter its humble, jerkwater nature. Anyone with skin tone lighter than iced tea is “racist” for doing so, however. We’re left to celebrate others’ goatherd cultures, or, as most of us do, ignore the bullshit.

But oil drilling and refining put California on the map as American state. That such operations are seen as polluters is attitude of now, not reality of then. It’s tedious jabber mostly of folks who must think their own cars and carbon footprints leave behind only buttercups and delirious Disney wildlife. And Spanish Christian missionaries were the first Europeans in this corner of the world. Although Native Americans were already here, the city and county of Los Angeles was invention of awful Euro culture, not paleolithic hunter-gatherers whose grass huts are long gone… For better or worse. We drive, we walk on asphalt and we do not fish from log boats, hunt bear with spears or crap downstream in creeks.

Multiculturalism is excuse to deny and obscure history that actually occurred in favor of never-never fantasy of lost paradise and endless contemporary grudge. Usually, it censors on pretext of keeping chronically offended groups from further “pain”. Since caterwauling about hurt cultural feelings draws extravagant media attention and indulgence, preventing such boo-boo is mission impossible. We have become in our modern age super-sensitive, vulnerable to near-mortal wounds by mere metaphor – words turned into sticks and stones that break symbolic bones.

In truth, we’ve always been multicultural. Our country isn’t a people or even a geography. It’s a piece of paper constraining government in its natural drive to chop us to bits and control what we think.

So it’s cheery a judge has ruled a pastor’s invocation at a Memorial Day event this weekend actually can contain the words “Jesus Christ”. I’m as contemptuous of Mideastern fairy tales as the next philistine, but we’re waaay out of balance. Our phony, theatrical shows of “tolerance” are nothing but enshrined and very discriminating intolerance.

Somehow, though, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this…

~ O ~

Harmon convergence. This really is apropos of nothing – a little 100-degrees of separation from a minute slice of my childhood. …Insignificant component wrapped in disregarded memory surrounded by blurry vision.

My first baseball glove, when I was about eight, was a Wilson Harmon Killebrew, his autograph branded into the orange leather. At the time, I had no idea who he was; I just liked shape and feel of the damn thing. It was a beauty and over time, with a good number of balls caught, it took on that super-comfortable, snap-shut like a clam “seasoning” to which well-made ball gloves magically respond.

About a decade ago, when I was cleaning out my parents’ house to put up for sale, I found the glove again in the archive my mom kept of every significant artifact from my and my brother’s childhoods. This very personal museum was as astounding as it was eerily disquieting in its obsessive detail. The glove, however, still smelled like summer and childhood weightlessness. Worries then were confined to affording new bike tires and exchanging comic books I hadn’t yet read.

Ah… paradise.

Killebrew died this morning (May 17) of complications from cancer. He was a Hall of Famer, bounded into MLB in 1959 and left 22 seasons later, one of the most prolific home-run hitters in the game. Head of his old club said, “No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization and millions of fans across Twins Territory than Harmon Killebrew.”

Since he was such an ancillary fixture of my long-ago childhood, I was surprised to learn he was only 74, an age that no longer seems so remote and aged as it once did.

Back in my hometown, I dumped off the glove at Goodwill. Still has some playing time left in it, I bet. I saw one on Vintage Sports for about $25; that’s $17 more than my dad paid for mine a billion years ago.

~ O ~

Just from product it produces, I deduce Hollywood is so far from American Main Street it might as well be computer-generating car crashes and stripping naked young actresses on the far side of a black hole across the universe from earth.

Nobody pointed out this vast cultural divide better than Steve Lopez and his skewering of pompously ridiculous “Crash” a few years ago. For him, the much-lauded piece of shit “felt like an artless, dated and manipulative morality tale on the evils of the sprawling metropolis, shot with a long lens from behind the bars of a gated seaside community.”  And that’s really the key. Hollywood movie people are like all wealthy, arrogant assholes everywhere. They’re absolutely convinced they can construct much better reality for us little people than we can ourselves, in communal arrangement of democracy, so their sanctimonious critique of our piggish evil is perceptive and more honest than we ever can hope to appreciate. Their model, of course, is inhumanly egalitarian nightmare they themselves don’t nor ever would deign to live in. High above the fray, confident in their multicultural and anti-racist awareness (such passionately held convictions cost them nothing, after all), they peer from their balconies in the hills and wonder how we toiling, backward bugs stay alive, much less reproduce.

So it is with great satisfaction I see “Outsourced” has been scrubbed after a season of microscopic ratings on NBC. This orgy of hilarity took place in an American company’s Indian call center. In a nation with 10 percent unemployment, in which just about every one of us average Joes and Janes either is or knows someone out of work, what genius thought this shit-for-brains concept would tickle our funny bones? Sending American jobs overseas is laff riot! What – don’t think so? You nativist, isolationist hayseed, you!

Little peasants will watch whatever is dished out to them. …Or not.

~ O ~

Want a sweet idea?

Spring break for adults.

No… no… not twentysomething “adults”. They’ve already got that, if they’re in college. And if they’re not, somehow they manage to find out where college females bag rays and bragging rights to wild oats sowed.

No. I’m talking about us. Adults. Y’know. Semi-geezers who need a springtime boost as much as callow youth blooming with fitness and genital mania. Y’know, them… The obnoxious jackasses we envy so, so deeply.

We could have our break, say, now – mid-May – a month after the kids have gone home. Ixtapa won’t be cluttered up with loud young guys piss-drunk on Dos Equis and so charmingly fond of that “HOO-HOO” primate mating bellow. From South Carolina to Rosarito, coeds will be gone – packed up their jokari and Sara Gruen, put on their flip-flops, pulled printed T-shirts over their… ravishing… girlishness…

Maybe they can stay….

Then we “veterans” pop out. We’re ready to play. We won’t drink as much as the kids, so bar owners won’t throw out red carpets. But when we do spend, we’ll spend a lot. We have credit cards yet undiced. And we know what we like.

And we just… hang out. We’ll get bored before too long. But it’ll give us a chance to relax and contemplate the depth of it all – even if it’s just the depth of various cleavages we encounter.

Once, back in the day, I was trying real hard to impress a girl at Cabo San Lucas. She was absolute perfection frosted in cocoa butter and I was young enough to do something really moronic to get her attention. As I rounded second base, hot-footing to third, she shot me down with news she was leaving that evening. Flying back to ski in Aspen. Ski. From sunburn to frostbite. Then she planned to scuba off the coast of Spain before heading back to Northwestern to finish up before starting medical school in the fall.

If she’d thrown in sexcapades from her life as a globe-trotting supermodel and part-time secret agent, I couldn’t have been hit harder with the underachiever stick.

Now, I wouldn’t give a damn. Nothing would be as important as my own enjoyment of my own enjoyment. After all, I wasn’t put there in the sand to be anything more than charmingly stupid.

We need 10 days to two weeks off – right now – across the board. This would be, of course, in addition to our regular, personal vacation and holidays. We keep all that; after all, there are some occasions we want air between ourselves and that rest of humanity checking out AARP and reeking of Ben-Gay.

…We’ll live longer, if that’s a plus to anyone but us.

~ O ~

Ultimate power in media is expressed by setting up proper conditions to strip naked before the world beautiful, young models or actresses.

This occurred to me when I saw a quite overheated John Travolta movie in the late-’90s, “The General’s Daughter”. It was a serious examination of chronic perfidy within America’s military and rape-lust of American men, especially soldiers, who, in their soulless evil, defend these shores from foes who’d otherwise fry us in highrises. In other words, it’s typical Hollywood sack of shit – driving agenda of obsolete, bonehead politics and valid as a three-dollar bill imprinted with Bernie Madoff’s bust in powdered wig. At one point, the titular figure voluntarily splays herself under Ol’ Glory, stark nekkid, in the middle of a stateside military base, and only a couple of people notice something rather odd about the flag pole that evening.

The scene (and just about every performance except Travolta’s) made as much sense as lining a garbage can in cherry wood paneling. Despite the movie’s political gas-bagging, I think heavy-breathing filmmakers impelled this nonsense; regardless, they can write it off to demands of low-brow, sex-fiend audiences out there in the dark.

Nudity and pokey-doke also are overused wildly by theater directors brimming with their own artistique. Here’s hoping I don’t plumb too revealingly my puritanical hang-ups, but unless they enliven made-for-purpose erotic material, sex and nudity should be kept to a minimum – if only because their nature to dominate attention shatters continuity required for effective drama. Once I see tits or ass, I don’t give a damn about characters’ response to tragedy and overwhelming crises buffeting their running-time existence. All I’m thinking about is nice package, disappointing package, overpackaged.

Publishers’ salacious prick-tease is just as egregious, but more uncomfortably persistent, since it’ll haunt for awhile our magazine racks that reek enough from fashionable-cologne sniff-strips.

Here’s one, from Sunday’s New York Magazine, which I actually was beginning to like since it dumped bitter vampire/critic John Simon. It runs a story on essential worthlessness of college degrees. That’s a subject not new to me. When I returned to my hometown for some family burials a decade ago, I heard about a childhood friend – not exactly a Rhodes Scholar – who became an electrical lineman straight out of high school and had retired in his late 40s! Not only was he younger than I, he was a grandfather already. Talk about feeling I’d missed the bus!

But… here’s where the story goes haywire… the article is headlined “The University Has No Clothes”. And the only reason to title it that is to pop in an illustration of seven very attractive, painfully multicultural folks in their birthday suits. That’s it. It boggles the mind how NYM art directors would’ve accompanied a story called “My Degree Ain’t Fer Shit”, which is how I felt when I heard Chuck O’Malley is sipping mai tais on a beach or nodding off in a hammock in some faraway backyard while I peter out my life in a stinking, fuckin’ day job!

So OF COURSE I’m running a chunk o’ the pic! One other thing: The Asian gal and the blond on the right are hottest. Being heterosexual, I’ll leave naming best buff XY to others…

~ April ~

 …Your old man took her diamonds, and tiaras by the score

Thank goodness that’s over. Just about every woman I know has been geared up for the Royal Wedding today. Some even got up to watch it live on the telly – BBC America’s coverage began at MIDNIGHT here on the Left Coast. Many of them weren’t even interested in the couple, but hanker for the pageantry. We miss that in the Colonies, you know. …The pomp, the circumstance.

Looking at it all on CNN, I realize we know very little about these two folks, except that William is balding prematurely and Kate is one slim slice of Toffee Cheesecake. Mmmm. Anyway, all the XXs on this side of the pond finally got to see what she would wear to get hitched in Westminster. For me, I liked the cut of the bride’s sister Pippa, hauling the gown train in a dress that looked like it was a slap-dash paint job from a redneck chop shop. Barely there barely covers it; in fact, Pippa barely covered it. Mmmm!

I remember 30 years ago, when Diana went through the rigamarole, a long-stemmed rose I was seeing at the time commented that the Princess-to-be looked kinda… vacant. “I can’t remember anyone getting so much attention who looks so devoid of personality,” she commented. There was nothing vacant about this long-ago passion, though. And it wasn’t her personality folks noticed first. It was the legs. Ahh… the persistence of memory.

~ O ~

Eons ago, I had a drink with a guy who claimed that eons before that, he’d had a drink with Lisa Guiraut.

Name isn’t familiar?

How about Leila? That was her performance name. …Her stage name, back in the days when she was undeniably the most beautiful belly dancer ever to grace a movie screen.

Lisa Guiraut, born Lisa Nelson in London, was an airline stewardess and just another stunning English rose before beginning her performance career in San Francisco. She appeared in several films in the ’60s, notably “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Khartoum”, but her most famous film work is her wondrous danse du ventre in the James Bond film, “From Russia With Love”. That was in the gypsy camp – where her sensuous serpentine self inadvertently distracts everyone from noticing they’re under attack by Iron Curtain gunmen and a very chilling Robert Shaw.

For a much better and more detailed bio, go to IMDb, where Lisa contributes her own. It’s in charming headline style (“Off to London. Palace Guardsmen broke silence: ‘Va-va-voom!'”). Retiring from belly dance to become a bar owner in the jet-set fleshpot of Marjorca, it’s rumored that Peter Sellers once proposed to her there.

How swingin’ ’60s is that!

Not sure what brings her to mind now. But everytime the movie is on television, I watch for her to show up; makes everything… kinda… nice.

Some time ago, I lived awhile with a belly dancer. And she was pretty sure an Egyptian guy once proposed something to her; he kept pushing big denominations her way as she sat at a bistro bar after a performance. Aside from the money, there was a language problem; although she looked very authentic in costume, she was a Mexican-American from San Jose.

Her stage name was Fadia, and despite being a traditionalist and abjuring a jewel in her navel, she did so on request. It was blue tanzanite and she kept it fixed with carpet tape – which didn’t a bit diminish its mezmerizing quality, jiggling with every movement. Also, it was her birthstone, which… fits. For some reason, it was a big favorite when she performed at bar mitzvahs; I should notify The Forward of this phenomenon.

In the ’63 Bond film, Lisa’s looks like a rhinestone. Or perhaps Sellers or some rich sheik gave her a real diamond.

I hope Lisa is doing fine.

~ March ~

Roses are red,
violets are not,
There’s more to this poem
that I forgot

Elizabeth Taylor had violet eyes, or so they say. Or purple. Or red. I’ve had red eyes, too. I call it a hangover. We call Taylor a star because she defined the term and had a great run from the mid-’50s to mid-’60s – “Raintree County” to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, her acting tour de force. Sprinkled around that span were other great movies: “Place in the Sun”, “Father of the Bride”, “Secret Ceremony”, and the overlooked “X, Y and Zee,” with another actress dead this year, Susannah York. My own favorite is over-the-top horror of “Night Watch”; the scene in which Liz takes a chef’s knife to Billie Whitelaw must be witnessed at least once in a lifetime.

Almost 20 years ago, I did a staged reading for a screenplay Carrie Fisher wrote and Francis Ford Coppola was trying to finance. It was done at a North Beach theatrical basement and pot cavern a few steps from Coppola’s Zoetrope headquarters. Literally: It was a cellar. All we needed were some roots and a tornado and we could’ve hidden a body down there.

…Doesn’t have to make sense.

To tell the truth, I can see why the project never made celluloid. The script was very funny, as was Fisher herself, about semi-true adventures of an unemployed house-husband who ends up deep-stroking all the housewives in his neighborhood. There were lots of sexy women involved in this project, which made it even more worthwhile. But it was too close to “Mr. Mom” to get a green light; at least, that’s my call.

After the reading, Fisher’s father – infamous Eddie Fisher – came up and shook my hand. He was so short a jockey standing beside him would’ve seemed as big as a rhino. Also, he was very friendly, genuinely nice.

So… I once shook the hand of a guy who BAGGED LIZ TAYLOR!

I know what you’re thinking: “Man… I’ve read some moving Liz Taylor memorials… but this one…!” Please. Don’t thank me. It’s… simply what I do.

It was quite a month in terms of historic casualties, matter of fact. A few weeks ago, we lost Frank Buckles, the last American doughboy and one of the last veterans of The Great War anywhere. Britain lost its last WWI soldier two years ago, and the remaining poilu of France died the year before that. It’s too bad they couldn’t have stretched to 2014; they would be superstars in what’s sure to be a World War I revival on the centennial of that God-awful conflict. If we think of it at all, we think of machine guns, gas masks and trenches – but those were horrors of the Western Front. In the East, there was ugly “total war”, with its attendant atrocities against civilians that would so mark the second round of that vast European civil suicide. Capping it was the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 million worldwide, and 600,000 here in the U.S.

We whine when we get hay fever.

By the way, “doughboy”, came from doughnuts served our troops at the YMCA – the early 20th century version of the USO. Thousands of American women went to France, nursing the wounded, covering the dead, and serving coffee and doughnuts – all for about five million American men under arms.

Buckles was the last of them.

And the very first National Spelling Bee winner, Frank Neuhauser, is dead at 97. He correctly spelled “gladolus”… er… “gladiolus” to win in 1925. That was seven years before Taylor was born. My father was only five. My mom a little older. She was born Dec. 11, 1918, exactly one month after the armistice ended Europe’s hell on earth. I’ll bet Neuhauser, right at the end, could’ve spelled “situla” – ancient term for the bucket he kicked. Mom was a hardscrabble gal from West Texas, born in a plague year, and she booted a plain ol’ pail.

Meanwhile, nobody can keep down Forrest Lunsway. He got hitched last week, down here in SoCal, at the spry age of 100. His bride was just a spring chicken at 93. You rock, Forrest. Rock on, Mrs. Lunsway.


Update: Brainless? Eat some!

Fox News (I know… just seeing the words is creepy)… Anyway, Fox News is reporting, ironically, that brains make mighty fine eatin’. As if Fox News doesn’t already eat our brains.

“Think of them as beautiful, soft scrambled eggs,” (Chef Richard Knight) suggests. That’s how he uses them in his Pork Brain Terrine. There’s seasoned ground pork, he says, sweet, tart cherries and then, “the sexy creaminess of brain in the center. Lovely.”

Y’know… I’d put a lot more trust in this genius if he’d stayed away from that tired, old “scrambled eggs” analogy. Too much Megyn Kelly viewing has scrambled my eggs quite enough, thank you.

I love the part of this story where Mr. Chef says he sells most of his brains to ex-pats and Americans up for new adventures, and that widely traveled oil company folk are the most receptive to cerebral consumption. The oil industry is consuming our bank accounts, it might as well chow down on our brains; oil companies are quite adept at this sort of thing, oh, don’tcha know?

Look. You’re from merry old England, Mr. Chef. You probably don’t know there’s an item in every goddam American food store called “head cheese”, it’s brains, and it makes a wonderful layer in deep-dish meat pies. (One of my own favorite ingredients in these is popcorn – from an old San Francisco firehouse recipe.) Europeans come to this country expecting American diets are relegated to hot dogs and cold cereal. Wake up, genius.

I’d culturally pummel you some more, but I just got back from the Pakistani deli down the street and I have to finish my meghaz falafel.

~ O ~

Well, there’s always radio… One bright spot this week: Crazy idiot Glenn Beck may be out the door over at Fox News, the network that so prizes crazy idiots. His ratings are down 33 percent! It’s that rectangular slab over there on the wall, Glenn. It’s called a door. And it’s your destiny.

~ February ~

In the West, there’s something I call “Valentine Weather”, because it marks February and late winter. It’s comprised of partly cloudy skies that show patches of blue, alternating sun with dull overcast in pattens that actually can be seen from heights as checkerboard landscape. Clouds themselves are fat and puff far into the atmosphere, black-bottomed and always threatening rain that often falls. Out here, skies get all stirred up by unsettled weather as this part of the country moves, somewhat jarringly, toward spring.

This year, here in Southern California, we have something new – chilly weather. Oh… we get cool temperature in winter. But this year, it’s been a long, sustained cold front descending on us. Wet, too.

I know, you folks in the Ice Belt look at our – brrrr! – 40-degree thermometers and laugh, or scoff at our wieniehood.

But for us, it’s FREEZING.

~ O ~

If someday, they write the saga of Tiki bars in California, they’ll have to note comeback of bamboo and alcohol ambience got a shot in the arm – and maybe down the gullet – right here in North Hollywood.

A local news story notes opening of Tiki No right here in the land of pointless drive-by shootings – an update to Joan Didion’s “senseless-killing neighborhood” of Echo Park a generation ago.

“We needed something that was fun and lively,” the bar owner said via phone of his latest venture, which is named after its NoHo neighborhood. The well-known events planner and bar owner scrapped the dark lounge design of Match, the bar that previously occupied 4657 Lankershim Blvd., in favor of a tropical trading post.

Tiki bars, once the rage in those halcyon days when men shipped out for exotic shores and women back home divorced the bastards and attacked like bottlenose sharks what finances they left behind, are enjoying resurgence across the U.S. Seems people just can’t resist the siren call of a mai tais, rattan and hula music.

And would someone tell the geniuses in San Francisco that the Tiki bar scene is still alive and well in Baghdad by the Bay? The best of the best is Trad’r Sams waaay out on Geary – where the Pacific’s salt can be whiffed strongly. Any bar that has the theme to “Have Gun, Will Travel” on a massive jukebox is my kinda place.

~ January ~

An irresistable element of all spy shows of ’60s television was immersion in dual-purpose cosmos. Cigarette lighters were cameras – or flamethrowers. Briefcases were radios, bombs or fired bullets to protect The Free World. Nothing was as it seemed. This obsession with outfitting anything mundane with surreptitious darkside was perfect for a schizoid era shattered by the Kennedy assassination and facing onslaught of social campaigns righteous and ridiculous.

I remember, in “Honey West,” a martini olive was, in reality, a surveillance bug – the pimento was the microphone and the toothpick served as antenna. Really!

Honey was a private detective who specialized in electronic eavesdropping and undercover work. The “undercover” part edged as close to bedsheets as producer Aaron Spelling could go in that faraway time when networks kept bikinis off the air for fear America would be offended or go crazy in sex fever.

Honey was played by Anne Francis, who had a kind of leering class about her. She could be brassy, but never loud… suggestive, but never vulgar. Francis was something of an icon to Baby Boomer adolescent males. She was the underdressed ingenue in the mid-’50s sci-fi classic “Forbidden Planet”, Glenn Ford’s wife in the proto-rocker “Blackboard Jungle” and was all-but edited out of “Funny Girl” as Fanny Brice’s gal pal because Barbara Streisand realized nobody was looking at her when Francis was onscreen.

Francis, who died Sunday at 80, had a long, long career; for anyone who doubts she could act, watch her hold her own with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan in “Bad Day at Black Rock”. But it was “Honey West” that really sticks, even though the ABC series only lasted a season. Honey was always in danger, always getting tied up and manhandled – that same soft sadism Spelling would dish out to his  “Charlie’s Angels” a decade later. The character originated in a much more-salacious series of pulp novels beginning in the late ’50s, and the TV show was spun off Spelling’s first production effort, “Burke’s Law”. It carried the flavor of that wink-wink comic thriller, and Francis was perfect in the role.

Maybe it wasn’t the character that was so memorable. Maybe it was Anne herself. Nobody looked better with a pet ocelot.

THAT MONTH (Oct. – Dec. 2010), click here