He loved it! She didn’t! A recommended flick meets a tough reviewer

Written during my free time during what looks like the last months of the Covid-19 zombie apocalypse. Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha.

Uncredited photo of Honolulu at sunset. Living on Oahu is expensive, especially around Waikiki. The pandemic hit the 50th state’s tourism industry hard. Too bad the Honolulu Star-Bulletin didn’t keep on a fearless reporter.

A dozen years ago, my friend Krys worked as a photojournalist at our 15k-circulation weekly newspaper on Oahu. She is a professional writer, photographer and graphic artist with a degree. She has pluck; once she was assigned to take photos from a Black Hawk out of Wheeler Army Airfield. Her body disagreed with the E-ticket bird ride, so she quietly puked into her shirt instead messing up the helicopter while completing her photography mission. She was outsourced to our paper because the newspaper in Hawaii that sold the advertising in our paper didn’t keep her on after the weekly went digital. It gave her colleagues pink slips, too.

The pandemic severely impacted Hawaii’s economy; no tourists, no jobs and no money. Photo by KITV Island News 4

She recently wrote me she was job seeking and working a service job at a chain sushi restaurant. After being laid off from her reporter gig, she still had another part-time job working at a bowling alley. That got the kybosh when the pandemic hit. She took on other work where she could to survive and pay veterinarian expenses. She is kind to animals and a cat & dog lady in training with mewling/yipping mouths to feed. Krys didn’t get Covid-19, but she did suffer economically and had to somehow make ends meet. Honolulu ain’t cheap. For a photojournalist of her caliber, it’s just plumb wrong.

She’s also one of the most dour friends I have. She wears her discomfort and displeasure with life openly, something I ain’t programmed to do. It’s unhealthy to keep it bottled in, I’m told.

“And remember, a writer writes … always.”

Billy Crystal, “Throw Momma from the Train”

Actor Lance Hendriksen publicity still.

The reason I’m friends with her after many years is because we have many demons in common. Writers are afflicted by the need to spin a yarn. Sometimes we need a kick in the creative mojo to awaken the sleeping giant. It’s hard to be creative after a day of pumping out newspaper copy AP Style; it’s even harder when a writer has no job. All the pearls before Cleopatra mean nothing if a writer can’t make a living. In an interview with actor Lance Henriksen, he was asked why he took so many shitty roles in forgettable wastes of greenlights. Henriksen replied that if an actor was doing something else, that person wasn’t acting. The same applies to writers.

I first saw an enormous billboard for “Ready Player One” when it was in theaters. It was on the side of the Bijlmer Arena Pathé cineplex in Amsterdam, but I then dismissed it as a teen flick. I later found it on Netflix during the pandemic as I exhausted movies and tv shows of interest. When I finally noticed it was by Steven Spielberg, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is not a review. Movie critics tell you what movies are about, i.e., the general plot and what they thought about performances; moviegoers describe how it made them feel and what memories were evoked. RP1 is chockfull of retro references that appeal to older audiences while introducing them to younger demographics. That worked with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” in “Thor: Ragnarok.” What I describe is mostly in the opening scenes. Most of the reviews I read are Spoiler City, including Krys’s linked below.

The movie begins with Van Halen’s “Jump!” The first big rock concert I attended at age 18 was VH was on their first tour in Raleigh, NC, with comrades from my Fort Bragg unit; I’d see two more tours in Germany and California as VH released their later albums. The music stings in RP1 are well-placed, as were the old movie references in the dialog and cool visuals; in the previous story, I referenced Jack Burton in “Big Trouble in Little China” and sure ‘n begora, there is his semi, the Porkchop Express. RP1 has Monty Python’s Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and a tripod from the 1953 “War of the Worlds.” There’s Batman, Robocop, Freddy Krueger, Marvin the Martian, Hello Kitty, and so many other Easter Eggs.

“People come to the Oasis for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be; tall, beautiful, scary, a different sex, a different species, live action, cartoon; it’s all your call.”

RP1 protagonist Wade Owen Watts

Spielberg saturated it with nostalgia. It was also a romance palatable to a guy like me with plenty of well-choreographed action sequences that are so detailed and visually pleasing you wear out the pause button stopping to see the eggs. I felt as satisfied by RP1 as when I saw “Star Wars” opening night at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where the stars made their footprints in concrete. It’s one of the few times I ditched school to wait 12 hours in line for opening night and the only time I attended a premier when the actors walked the red carpet at the first showing. I saw the first “Avengers” in a packed Munich theater as the Germans roared in approval and that resonated, too. RP1 hit all of the same notes for me. Cinema satisfaction.

This was the scene opening night in Hollywood for “Star Wars.” I’m somewhere to the left in that sea of humanity. This photo was likely taken hours before the film premiered. Courtesy of Photofest. Star Wars opening engagement at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California

Toward the end, there’s a great scene with famous Japanese robots duking it out paired with the familiar ominous music from the old Toho Studio films. For me, that music knocked it out of the Tokyo baseball park. I immediately recognized it. It evokes that monster movie feeling of guys in rubber suits stomping on model cities. No CGI back in the Toho days.

RP1 has one F-bomb line in reaction to a famous horror movie character. You don’t have to had watched that franchise to get the joke–I never saw any of ’em. I read that Spielberg could include one judicious “fuck” without changing the rating to R. Well played gag, ’tis.

I tried to share RP1 with the baroness, but she’s uninterested. Her focus is on cooking shows. She has tons of cookbooks and lots of Pampered Chef geegaws, and I look forward to the day she uses any of them. To be fair, the baroness is almost as good a cook as Lisa Douglas from “Green Acres.”

The Bumbler, my Dr. Who-esque traveling companion a couple stories ago, enjoyed it. She’s also a big Van Halen fan, so when she watched it she enjoyed RP1 from the get-go. She reciprocated by introducing me to “The Kominsky Method” and “The Santa Clarita Diet.”

It’s a feel-good movie for most, like “The Princess Bride.” But would Krys think? We’d worked together, so she’s read some of my other work, both professional and blog stuff, and I know she’s a tough critic. She had a brutally frank review one of my recent stories. I asked her for her take on RP1. I guaranteed her she’d like it based on her love of Japanese animation or I’d reimburse her for the movie, popcorn, a large soda and a box of candy, plus expenses. I was certain it would cheer her up, distract her from her demons. Unless she was into retro TV, movies, classic rock–and a ’70’s disco scene–she wouldn’t get some of the references. But what about the romantic plot? Would she like that?

Direct from the 50th star on the flag is Krys’s review. She’ll speak for herself. Be warned if you haven’t seen RP1: spoilers abound. Her review is best read by those who’ve already seen it.

Freddie Kruger takes on Aech, one of the five heroes in RP1. Frame from “Ready Player One”

Okay, so she didn’t like it enough to watch it twice. She could’ve watched on a bigger screen than a tablet to do it justice. I owe her $20, methinks. She can collect after she says that she read this sentence.

On the bright side, it motivated her to write a detailed movie review without Ferengi overtones. I don’t have to agree with all of her points to recognize a fulsome review. Be sure to comment while you’re there. Somebody hire this reporter!

The Lady in Green: A love story

Written in my off-time during the waning days of the Covid-19 zombie apocalypse. These stories are true to the best of my recollection.

“Lady in Green Dress” by Augustus Leopold Egg

I first met the Lady in Green when she was fresh off the boat. She was in her mid-30s and engaged to a divorced, retired LAPD lieutenant much older than her. She’d never married before. The more we got to know each other by writing and performing comedy scripts together, the closer our bond grew. She was brilliant and beautiful, true, but it was who she was that mattered to me. We developed a secretive, smoldering kind of love, slow and restricted by the promise she’d already made.

She was USC film school alumnus and cousin to one of America’s best know comedians; she told me her father co-wrote the screenplay for that cousin’s first big movie. She studied abroad while a student and spoke fluent Spanish. She was president of the official “I Love Lucy” fan club. And she threw an annual Academy Awards watch party. TLIG was the perfect collaborator for me during the island golden age mentioned in my last story. She was already a comedy writer.

This was at the same time I shared a lair with The Diffuser and The Bumbler, OGs of our band of superheroes. TLIG and I got involved with the island’s nonprofit community theater, performing plays, dinner theater, fundraisers and old-time radio shows in the studio or nightclubs before live audiences. All of the talent had day jobs; our sound effects guy was a county sheriff’s deputy; the leading lady after TLIG was director of the island museum; the leading man after yours truly was the city clerk; a recurring character playing an elderly aunt was a high school student; and the list went on. We were eventually put in charge of the community theater because no one beside TLIG and I were willing to take the time to make it work. The island was starved for entertainment other than bar bands, although we had two famous classic rockers and some very talented musicians in the community who liked to jam at a few of the clubs. We had one movie theater with one screen playing one film per week. This was before Netflix and related services took off–hell, people were still chanting the Blockbuster VHS mantra: “Be kind. Rewind.” We weren’t going to get rich performing community service. Nevertheless, we productively teamed up for about five years and wrote some very funny material for a receptive audience.

Morry Amsterdam and Rose Marie flank Dick Van Dyke in this publicity still. They played comedy writers for a show based on Carl Reiner’s work as a comedy writer for “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour.” TLIG and I used the same process as Reiner’s characters.

We created scripts like the comedy writing team portrayed in 1961-1965 “The Dick Van Dyke Show” by floating ideas and acting them out. I laughed harder writing with TLIG than with anyone else in my life. We made a solid team; we also made a pact that we wouldn’t let each other grow old alone. It reminds me of the final on-screen lines by Desmond Llewelyn as Q in “The World is Not Enough” before Llewelyn died in a real world auto accident:

“Now pay attention, 007,” Q said. “I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed.”

“And the second?” Bond asked.

“Always have an escape plan.”

If she was in a sparky mood or wanted to thank you, TLIG said “pop.” There were variations on it, but her special expressions always had “pops” in them. She could banter with and disarm anyone who challenged her using her grace, intelligence and sharp wit. The most scandalous thing I ever heard about her was that she tried a clove cigarette on New Year’s Eve.

She sometimes turned to me for comforting words to soothe whatever troubled her in life, to tell me things she wouldn’t tell her island friends. Her relative Emily once visited the island and performed in one of our broadcasts; we’ve corresponded over the past couple of years and she is a lifelong friend who TLIG confided in over long distance.

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. When it happened, I was sidelined with a fever at a no-tell motel in sulfurous Blythe, California, where I’d stopped for the night before riding on toward Wyoming. Peter the Swede, my wingman, bailed right before the trip, so I was riding alone. That morning, I was sick as a dog. As I pulled on my leathers, I got a call.

“Hans, you’ve got to turn on the news,” she said in a trembling voice. “There’s some serious shit happening.” She later told me she called me first, not the man she was engaged to.

Lancelot and Guinevere by Donato Giancola.

She had a suspicion that her cop fiancé might someday turn to the dark side and had me memorize a secret code to drop everything and come to her rescue, regardless of where I was on the planet. Seriously. It was all a hopeless romantic such as myself could wish for … a beautiful damsel in distress. It made me Lancelot to her Guinevere, and as I recollect, that affair went south.

The retired LAPD guy seemed to be nice. He worked as a harbor patrolman, cruising around the bay on the swing shift. At TLIG’s request, I brought him supper when she was away on business. The baroness still bags on me to this day about the silverware I loaned him but never retrieved. It’s not like it was solid silver.

A few nights per week we’d meet, usually at her place, to come up with jokes and choose music and sound effects for our Friday night radio show or whatever performance we’d volunteered to do. We laughed our asses off. She always served me champagne; TLIG adored champagne. I drank more of the bubbly with her than with anyone else, including one marathon session that ended at sunrise. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

The future baroness and I were in the infancy of our dating then. We hadn’t gotten serious yet. She came to see me, TLIG, The Diffuser and a Brit named Murray the Wanker at a comedy club where we practiced standup for tourists and barfly islanders. Sometimes when she’s amused, the baroness has a tittering staccato laugh–I just heard it now in the background as I type while she watches one of Gordon Ramsay’s shows–which TLIG imitated to everyone’s amusement … except Baroness Alba vonBeavis. The baroness came to the show already resenting TLIG, one of a few of my female friends she didn’t cotton to, and she was uptight at my roommate, the beautiful Bumbler, for reasons I didn’t understand. She couldn’t fathom my keen interest in TLIG. What did Hans see in her beside her making him laugh, any damned way? What made her so different? So special? Was it her looks? Ironically, both Bumbler and TLIG privately told me they thought former movie star Alba was beautiful. All three of ’em are enchanting. It was Hera, Athena and Aphrodite in competition again.

TLIG did a variety of impressions of notable island residents. Her most hilarious impression was of one of our talents who bagged groceries by day at one-quarter impulse engines. He was well intentioned but so lackluster at delivering his lines that we assigned him the nonspeaking role of Death in our comedic dinner theater production of “A Christmas Carol,” a part with him touching a cast member in the audience who takes a cellphone call during the show, making him keel over into his minestrone; he performed sight gag flawlessly.

That particular Christmas dinner theater was also the first time the baroness appeared before a live audience since she recorded a 1970s Tony Randall sitcom as a child star She was nervous and flubbed a couple of lines opening night. No calling “Cut!” or “Line!” in the theater. The rest of us were regular USDA Prime hams and didn’t flinch or break character. My older brother, Number One, an experienced stage actor, visited the island to play the narrator. He held a giant prop Dickens book hiding the script to feed us lines if we got stuck and ad-libbed a rescue for the baroness. The audience in that Italian restaurant never noticed the flubs.

All comedy is local. Doing stand-up was developing into a low-paid gig, but on the night the spell took place, they paid us in vodka. Island comedy is a tough way to make a living for such a small rock in the Pacific. The club owner, a veteran comic of television and the comedy circuit, was abusive to the local audience for its “Rocky Horror Picture Show” recitations of her jokes after her 19 minutes of material was repeated over and over. She dissed them back in words that chased the tourists out, too. Fortunately for us, she didn’t perform that night and the audience kept buying we wannabe comedians even more rocket fuel. It was on that night TLIG made a surprising move that permanently changed our professional relationship into a secretive romance.

A embroidered example of the Peter Pan hat worn by Murray the Wanker in his standup bit. Y’all can figure out the definition of wanker. Its a Carlin-level naughty word in the UK and Peg Bundy’s maiden name in the US, which was a lot funnier to the Brits than their cousins across the pond. Photo by whoever was trying to sell this vintage hat online … maybe Adrian?

Our comedy quartet was on stage about two of four hours, doing our bits and later taking scene settings from the audience to ad lib it from there. Gay Englishman Murray the Wanker, so named after tricking a young Disneyland employee into embroidering “Wanker” in scrip on a cheap, green felt, souvenir Peter Pan hat, did a good job starting us off with his routine. I did my schtick, followed by TLIG and Diffuser. By the time the third hour chimed at 11 p.m., we were as plastered as the audience. We switched to a “Whose Line is it, Anyway” format with all of us on stage.

“Who’s next?” TLIG asked the audience. “Somebody give us the next setup!” She had a lovely tremor when she spoke that was enchanting and extroverted, and at that moment, a bit slurred. The baroness shouted out her idea for the next skit. TLIG didn’t think it was funny and immediately dismissed the suggestion.

“Oh, just ignore her,” TLIG laughed, making a dismissive hand gesture and a few verbal jabs at the idea. The audience was in stitches.

“Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”

Peter Falk in “The Princess Bride”

It was difficult to see the reactions of the audience under the stage lights, but it is certain Alba’s reaction was negative. TLIG took someone else’s idea and we kept going as long as the audience kept laughing. Around midnight, thoroughly intoxicated, we wrapped up to walk home. Some of the audience, including the baroness, lingered inside to chat as our quartet headed for the door. TLIG grabbed my arm, holding me back to let Diffuser and Murray the Wanker exit ahead of us. As soon as they were outside, she pushed me out of the herd of drunk walkers, shoved me against the wall and gave me the most epic kiss of my life. It was a deep, passionate, wet, vodka-infused kiss like none other. She kissed me like Princess Buttercup kissed Westley and I returned it. It made our knees weak and we clung to each other as we kissed to keep from losing our balance. We embraced for an eternity–12 seconds–when we heard the baroness approaching and snapped out of it. TLIG wiped the lipstick ala Jack Burton on my face with her sleeve, smearing it even more, and we both acted nonchalant. At least as nonchalant as we could considering how deep we were in our cups.

The baroness doesn’t know this story. I recently told it after 25 years to Bumbler and Diffuser. Bumbler didn’t know about TLIG and I, but Diffuser did.

“It wasn’t very secret whenever I saw you two together,” Diffuser said quietly, pouring more sake into our little cups. “I knew you two were in love.”

Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright) kiss in this still from “The Princess Bride.”

We worked on scripts a few nights following the kiss. She referred to our rendezvous as a “caper.” Non, nous ne regrettons rien. We had the usual laughs and champagne before the conversation got sobering. It was her impending marriage and my developing relationship with the baroness that cooled our ardor without diminishing our Arthurian romance. It ached to not be ourselves. So many ifs. Plans to stay in touch. And the secret code. Besides, we still had our escape plan for down the road. We heard the chimes at midnight and knew her fiancé was off shift. We finished our champagne.

“You’d better go before he comes in and finds you on top of me,” she sighed, smiling.

I realized then I was in love with her. Still am.

Her intended suspected something was up between us. Nosy neighbors told him we were spending a lot of evenings together. TLIG said he snooped her notes, music, emails and photos between us. That’s what cops do–suspect suspects. TLIG asked me to write him a note declaring we weren’t “playing hide the zucchini” behind his back. Our romance unfulfilled was similar to that of Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov. I wrote the note with her scripting and the wedding proceeded.

Our romantic destiny was akin to that of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow/Scarlett Johansson and Bruce Banner/Hulk/Mark Ruffalo shown here in “Avengers: Age Of Ultron.” Photo by Jay Maidment, Marvel

The baroness and I attended the nuptials. TLIG was stunning in her sleek white bridal gown. She made the rounds of the guests, putting her hand on my shoulder as she spoke at my table, giving me a final squeeze, a smile and a wink.

“Remember the code,” she whispered, moving on to the next guests. The newlyweds left the island soon after.

Two years later I was working in Columbia, South Carolina, having left the island to do my part as a retread soldier after 9/11, when her husband called me out of the blue. I wondered how he got my new mobile number. I asked what I could do for him.

“It isn’t that kind of call,” he said darkly. He rattled off a list of accusations about TLIG and I, using a lot of colorful metaphors. He threatened dire consequences if I ever contacted her again. Seems he’d forgotten that he got the girl at the end of the movie, not me. I was a continent away and off the island for a year. We’d been exchanging homemade CDs of songs to express ourselves and fairly tame emails. Maybe he was pushing her for details about our plan not to be alone if we ended up that way. I listened in stunned silence as he ranted for 10 minutes. I had no opportunity to respond.

“Fuck off,” he growled to end the call. We never spoke again.

For TLIG’s sake, I rarely communicated with her after that. The last time we corresponded was all in Spanish–as if a cop from L.A. couldn’t figure that out. We didn’t write affections in the letters and I had to use a translator app to fully read her perfect Spanish. Mi español es muy malo. We remembered him reading her private correspondence before the wedding. I stood down and awaited her signal. A few years later, Alba became the baroness. Ten years passed, then another decade in radio silence. In 2018, TLIG appeared on “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” She didn’t make much money on the show, but she was as charming and witty as I remembered her. Time had been kind to her and she was in no danger, it seemed. I looked her up on LinkedIn and saw that she’d created a television production company, a perfect fit for the ideas I was cooking up for the baroness’ return to TV. I wrote a team list of industry friends to get the ball rolling. A production company! We’d all get rich! More important to me was that I’d get to be with her again.

In July 2020 I returned from years overseas and immediately went to visit TLIG. Since then, I stop by to see her several times a month, usually when I have an assignment out her way. I bring her flowers and champagne. The baroness doesn’t know I see her or how I feel about her. She’s with her screenwriter father, a Vietnam veteran I salute and respect when I come to talk to his daughter. I’m completely frank when I discuss our relationship.

But its not what you may think.

Around Christmas 2019 when I was working in Europe, I was searching for more about TLIG’s production company when a link about her came up. It was an old funeral service announcement by her church. TLIG abruptly died alone in her apartment shortly after appearing on “Millionaire.” She’d been dead for more than a year.

This stock photo will eventually be replaced after TLIG gets her grave marker.

I was heartbroken. I wrote the Catholic cemetery to find her final resting place next to her father, who died in 2007. It took me a long time to find her exact location. To date, the grave marker hasn’t been replaced due to some red tape about it being a military marker. Through TLIG’s confidant Emily, I learned more details about how she lived and died. She divorced the cop after about five years and was starting up a new venture when she passed. I offered whatever help I could to cut the red tape for TLIG’s aunt to get the marker issue straightened out. If her marker gets a photo like many of her neighbors, I suggest the one of her surrounded by white doves, taken when she was in college. I visit her shared grave, dish the latest gossip and news, tell her my sorrows, pour her a libation, give her a single red rose like Rudolph Valentino’s mystery lady and always promise to look her up when I get to the other side. When I visit, it’s on the same motorcycle I used to give her tours around the island. As for her father, I may have met him once at her wedding. I call him sir and respectfully perform military courtesies after I address TLIG. Always be polite when speaking to a ghost.

Long before she died, she said in jest that she wanted her friends to energetically remember and mourn for her, to make a fuss. As you wish, Buttercup. After learning of her death, I wrote the coded message on her still active LinkedIn page. It’s the only time I wrote it out. True to her love of retro television, it referenced an episode of “Gomer Pyle.” The code words were deliberately confusing, but she was serious and I understood them in dead earnest.

Kindly toast The Lady in Green the next time you offer libations.


The band played on: A last gathering of superheroes

The superheroes of 1999’s “Mystery Men.” Publicity still by Universal Studios.

Written during my off time in the waning days of the orange sphincter’s Covid-19 zombie apocalypse. For those who asked, I took the top photo at a mountaintop vineyard near Vicenza, Italy. Uncredited photos in my tales are mine. Much obliged to the kind folks who read my copy. These true stories are to the best of my recollection; after the overture and character development, the story you’re about to read happened in April.

Overture

When I was in college and a Reserve Army sergeant in my mid-20s, I got orders to go to Korea as part of a detachment. I was taking 18 units that semester and advised my professors I had to leave for a few weeks. All were cool about it and most gave me a pass since it was Army business. I still had to take finals. For my science class, I offered to do an experiment in the host nation.

“Are you a scientist?” my science professor inquired.

I put my hands on my hips, cocked my head to the side and paused for dramatic effect, and countered in my NCO command voice: “Define scientist. Please.”

He liked my response and settled for some freaky-looking Korean preserved ginseng roots.

Korean ginseng always reminds me of aliens in formaldehyde.

How does one define superhero? The original three of us had varied martial skills. Our band formed 25 years ago and, admittedly, was more “Mystery Men” than Marvel. Our tongue-in-cheek superhero names came in part from our skills and were intended to be humorous. It was rare when any of us sprang into action. We found ourselves splitting rent on a roomy two-story, three bedroom, two and a quarter bath condo that beat the crap out of our individual studio apartments described in The Diffuser story. We created our own superhero lair on the island.

This was before the turn of the century, before the baroness (AKA “The Pocket” for her diminutive size enabling her to squeeze into places the rest of us couldn’t, such as rescuing kittens from a crawl space under the condo where a snake and Black Widows liked to hang out) entered the picture.

The Diffuser

Diffuser was the biggest, strongest and hands-down best warrior with decades of training in the mode of Bruce Lee (Bumbler and I scrapped without elegant moves, although next to him we were the red shirt guys on Star Trek). He wistfully recalled a recent pandemic incident when tourists were just returning to the island.

“It’s what I’m trained for,” he said ruefully. “A tourist was waiting with his son and small dog at the end of Front Street while his wife was shopping when he accidentally stepped on the dog’s paw. The dog yelped but was otherwise unharmed.”

Then Karen, an older tourist sans mask, got very close and repeatedly asked the dog “Are you okay?”

The lady who needs no introduction.

Dad told Karen his dog was fine and asked her to step back. He had to keep repeating himself before she looked up at him.

“I’m talking to the dog,” she snapped.

The back and forth got loud enough to attract a crowd when another tourist aggressively intervened on Karen’s behalf. Situation elevated. Diffuser cased the potential combatants and crowd. The dad was wearing a tight-fitted Minion t-shirt matching his kid’s that revealed his higher level of physical fitness. The dude worked out; the new mask-hole didn’t.

“The new guy got right in the dad’s face, poking his finger in his chest,” Diffuser said. “Then Minion kid, quiet up until this point, perked up. ‘Uh-oh, that’s it!’ the boy cried. ‘Now you’re gonna get it. My dad’s gonna kick your ass!’ Apparently, the kid has seen his dad fight before.”

Like an old fire horse at the sound of the alarm, The Diffuser tensed up, adrenalin building, bursting to move in. However, he was carrying his own toddler and couldn’t decide how to engage. Should he break up the two men one-handed Jackie Chan style while protecting his boy? He was fast enough. Real fights are seldom like the movies, and he couldn’t risk his child in a meaningless battle. Fatherhood outshouted his Klingon Korean warrior voice. Fortunately for the new guy about to get his ass kicked, a dozen fellow tourists broke them apart and marched them separately back down the mole to catch their boat.

The Bumbler

Diffuser’s sister, The Bumbler, was a vivacious, fiercely independent, smart, single mom with a good vocabulary, no one’s dummy. Her secret name was because she thought she was clumsy in a way that tripped up crime. She could find pressure points on the body that were briefly excruciating–she once immobilized me when she pirouetted her toes into my back; I stifled a cry of pain before it faded and an a North Shore wave of endorphins kicked in. Agony and ecstasy. She was capable of defending herself from cads and scoundrels as well as using Jedi mind control to keep two bachelors and her 2-year-old from wrecking the condo. I recall many a hopeful suitor trying to get Diffuser and me to dish; they got bupkis out of us, especially moi, because I was under her Jedi spell. It was like Penny living across the hall from Leonard. I didn’t even get mad when Bumbler accidentally knocked over my Harley. She was an exceptional mother to Sophibee, raising her alone and putting her through college.

The Kramden

Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in this “The Honeymooners” publicity shot.

My secret name, The Kramden, was tagged because I had one good punch or roundhouse kick “to the moon” per customer. I was more into street kendo than fisticuffs and presumed I was a badass swordsman until my younger brother, Number 4, whopped me using Filipino escrima sticks. I learned the hard way that Number 4 was so good at escrima that he’d been featured in “Men’s Health” smiling beside a guy with a bleeding scalp wound. I smacked mechanical speed bags at German fests that measured one’s punch and I’d reluctantly been in a few inter-service brawls on the seedy (now gentrified) 500 block of Hay Street, Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg. My punching power wasn’t shabby, but I was kinda like the ship Excalibur in “Babylon 5” that had a powerful one-punch weapon that fizzled out for a spell after each use. I was no Iron Fist. I once rushed to the sound of a screaming woman wearing just my OD Army t-shirt, dog tags and tighty-whities, practice sword in hand. A man and woman were on the grass struggling in dark shadows behind some cars. I rolled the guy off of her and thrust the daito to the man’s throat, shouting something really cheesy like “Unhand her!” before I realized it was the couple across the street having a violent, late night domestic dispute. They looked up at me in astonishment, a crazy soldier in his underwear, dogtags dangling, armed with a hardwood sword. “Oh, it’s you guys,” I grumbled, lowering my weapon. “Knock it off and get counseling.”

This is the 500 block red light district of Hay Street in Fayetteville, NC, back in the day. Note the military haircuts. My comrades and I would start at the Seven Dwarfs, have a few beers and be back in the barracks in time for Saturday Night Live so long as we didn’t have too much fun. We got into a couple of scraps with testosterone-pumped drunks, including one notable brawl that brought the MPs. Photo by Fayetteville Observer

Bumbler left the island in 2004 to start a career over-town (an expression on the island for the mainland) and I road off to Fort Jackson to begin an adventure I’m still trekking, just in the nick of time before I was about to put my stripes back on, times what they were after 9/11. Diffuser remains on the island and continues the good works.

Year of the Boar, Aloha Arnold-style. “This has been a Filmways presentation darling.”

The Bumbler and I are both Year of the Boar, so I knew when she was approaching one of those stressful landmark birthdays. I decided to get the original band back together. The last time I saw her was years before on the Big Island for Diffuser’s wedding. I called her out of the blue in January 2021 (because of an ongoing story I’ll recount after it concludes involving “Thelma & Baroness Alba Louise” driving across rural red states), asking how she wanted to celebrate her April birthday.

“The Jimi Hendrix Experience in Seattle by train,” she replied after a moment, adding she’d never been to Seattle nor taken Amtrak other than short commutes.

“Done.”

My kind of travel: Amtrak’s Coastal Starlight

Amtrak just happened to have a two-for-one coach special during January. Spending 24 hours in coach up the West Coast is rough even with the generous legroom, reclining chairs and footrests, so I splurged for the aptly-named “roomette” on the return trip, which, like television studio sets, is a lot smaller than it looks like on TV. I’d forgotten how uncomfortable those bunks are. Still, we wouldn’t need masks in our rolling closet. Transportation secured, I booked a nice hotel on Lake Union within walking distance of Pike’s Place. Next, I got my coronavirus shots at the VA. Now came the tricky part. I brought Diffuser into the plan and got him to bring in their older sister from Las Vegas—I  didn’t know Bumbler and her sister had a falling out, making sis a wild card. I arranged for Bumbler’s daughter Sophibee to meet the train as it stopped in San Jose for a quick hug and birthday greeting.

So far, so good.

No plan survives first contact. Sophibee nearly blew my cover when she called her mom to say she couldn’t be at the Amtrak stop after all, leading Bumbler to call me to ask how she knew about the train. I confessed only Sophibee’s role; Bumbler’s siblings were still a secret.

Bumbler joined me aboard the Pacific Surfliner and we changed trains in Santa Barbara for the Coastal Starlight. With an hour to kill, we ducked into a local pub for a cold IPA and continued that tack on the train, plus a bottle of good Irish whiskey served neat that was polished off by the time we arrived at the hotel. It was going to be one of those weekends.

On her birthday, she picked out a breakfast place, the Portage Bay Café at South Union Lake, which we liked so much we took all of our breakfasts there instead of the food included with our room, plus they get a rare vonBeavis plug.

“Table for four,” I whispered, leaning in. “Outside, please.”

“Four outside?” the hostess asked loudly over the din, loud enough for Bumbler to hear.

“Why’d you request for a table for four?” Bumbler asked.

“Um, because, ah … Two Chippendale dudes are going to give you a strip dance on this cold and rainy morning,” I ginned up, scanning the room to see if her siblings were on time and inside the café. “The dancers are due in the next half-hour.”

Her eyes grew big as she made a whiskey-tango-foxtrot face.

“You did what!” she gasped, dreading the notion.

“So, is it two or four,” the hostess repeated.

“Four, please,” I said decisively in my Army voice, showing my thumb and three fingers like a German in the same pose struck for my science professor.

We followed our charming Columbian waitress, Sophia, to an outside table that came with southwestern blankets, complimentary hand warmer packets, a space heater under the table and mugs of hot water with a slice of lemon. We were comfortable despite the cold and protected somewhat from the rain (I swear we saw a few snowflakes!). I tipped off Sophia about the family reunion on Bumbler’s birthday and she ramped up her customer service. She answered texts from Diffuser on my phone about how to find the place and helped keep the maskirovka going. We finished breakfast and got refills of hot drinks, yet the siblings still hadn’t arrived and my Chippendale ruse was falling apart.

“You didn’t really order strippers, did you?” she said flatly, looking at the additional place settings. It was more declaration than question.

I changed the script.

“No, I didn’t hire strippers,” I admitted, resuming my poker face. “But how do you feel about clowns with big shoes and balloons? You know, a clown-o-gram.”

She groaned, uncertain if I was on the level. I let that one simmer over her latte before she was confident I was full of merde and asked for the last time who would be coming to join us. I disclosed they were people she knew living on the island with the caveat that while true, it was deliberately misleading. Suddenly, she caught an uncertain glimpse of her siblings a block away. Unbeknownst to us, they flew in the night before and were a few doors down on the same floor of the same hotel. I collected them out of the rain. Bumbler cried tears of joy as they exchanged hugs. She was back with her family. She and her sister were good again. She glowed with happiness.

It’s expensive, but if you’re in the Space Needle or the Eiffel Tower with someone special, I suggest a glass of champagne. Carpe drink’em.

We walked everywhere except for a few Ubers to get out of the rain. We compared fitness trackers on our phones to find we averaged eight miles per day. My favorite part of the trip was a particularly unnerving Uber ride hurtling up and down hilly Seattle in a heavy rain, which compelled Bumbler to take my hand as she contemplated mortality. Whatever she wanted to do was what we all were happy to do, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the very cool Museum of Pop Culture. Over the weekend, we rode the Ferris wheel twice, sipped champagne (not to be confused with sparking wine, mind you, and pinkies up) atop the Space Needle (the monorail was broken, adding to our step counts), took in the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, explored Pike’s Place, enjoyed a leisurely cruise on Lake Union and more. For this birthday, she was queen and we were her loving subjects. For one wunderbar weekend, she was my superhero companion again.

The Amtrak roomette for the southbound Starlight was much better than coach without masking. I love and support rail travel. I’ve used trains, including sleepers, across Europe, especially Deutsche Bahn. I’m happy Amtrak is finally getting an overdue boost in funding. Rail is old school chillin’ travel and I prefer Amtrak when I could fly for much less time and expense. I’m already planning the next train adventure. [Housekeeping note to Amtrak–sleeping on that hard, narrow, upper Amtrak roomette berth was like Bumbler’s toes in the back!]

We changed trains in Santa Barbara and had one last IPA before boarding the Surfliner. At her station, she stepped off and I stood in the doorway. We clasped hands and felt 25 years younger. The conductor hollered “All ‘board!”, her hand slipped from mine and my train rolled off into the sunset over the Pacific.

Tales of the Baroness, Part V: “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Written in my off hours whilst working from home during the COVID-19 zombie apocalypse. The following is the fifth in a series of stories about the baroness. These stories are true as she remembers them.

This 1960s style of dress is what the baroness wore on her show, perhaps even shorter.

By the time she was six, Baroness Alba vonBeavis was famous enough to attract many fans (to this day she still gets fan letters and autograph requests–an autographed photo of her on eBay ranges from a few bucks to hundreds, depending on the show and scene) … and a few obsessed creeps. She feels that the usual wardrobe dress was too short for a six year old.

“Two girls in my neighborhood asked me to go with them to a man’s house. They said he had candy,” she said. “When I got there and went inside, they both left me there by myself and closed the door behind them. I was in there alone with a middle-aged man.”

Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling explores Buffalo Bill’s house in “Silence of the Lambs.” As a child actors, Jodie and the baroness worked together at CBS.

The scene as described by the baroness is reminiscent of character Buffalo Bill’s house in “Silence of the Lambs;” shades drawn, dimly lit, musty and dank-smelling. There was a man in the front room with bowls of candy awaiting the next Gretel. Her deflectors had already gone up before he asked her to remove her clothing.

“As he walked toward me, I opened the front door and ran away. I told my mother about what had happened, and she called the police,” she said. “The LAPD checked it out and took him in. They said he was a known child molester.”

A few years later, as her brother became popular through teenie magazines such as “Tiger Beat,” the siblings added a German Shepherd to the family for protection following death threats. One of the kooks wasn’t just writing letters in the days before the internet; he stalked them until the LAPD pulled him over to find rope, duct tape and other kidnapping accessories in the trunk of his car.

Popstar brother of the baroness, henceforth to be referred to as the Earl, as in the Earl of Lemongrab from “Adventure Time.”

The date of the following is unclear, but it was in the early 1970s: the baroness went on an audition at the old Twentieth Century Fox Studios in Century City, Los Angeles, while her brother waited outside. Her mom was with her, inside an office on the second floor, when a single-engine airplane crashed into the building, hitting the floor below them. A fire ensued. “The pilot had suffered a massive heart attack and died,” the baroness recalls. The crash happened when most of the employees in the building were at lunch, and the pilot was the only fatality. Her brother (from this point on I’ll refer to her infamous brother as the Earl)  witnessed the crash and freaked out, thinking his mother and sister were on the first floor. It could’ve been a tragic story instead of a near miss.

Edward James Olmos as Roberto Gonzales, S.H.I.E.L.D. leader and damn fine actor.

I’ve never been one to gush over celebrities, and I’ve met a few over the years. One I did meet, do respect and had a brief conversation with in Honolulu is Edward James Olmos. I respect him for his theatrical chops and civic-minded philanthropic works in Los Angeles. Olmos was in town for Hawaii’s first sci-fi autograph show. He’d recently done a season of “Agents of Shield” after the successful run of “Battlestar Galactica.” I volunteered to work the event and got to meet a few of the stars, including offering dining suggestions to Gates “Dr. Crusher” McFadden, whom Olmos good-naturedly razzed while she was on stage.  After controlling the line of fans for Olmos, Erin “Wilma Deering” Gray of “Buck Rogers” and Avenger Samuel Thomas “Falcon” Wilson, Olmos took a selfie with me–I don’t do selfies, but he took my phone and grinned as we both shook out our long hair. The only other selfie ever taken of yours truly was by a dental hygienist in Sindelfingen, Germany. 

This is the modest little concession stand in our island’s 1930s theater where the baroness spotted Billy Zane a few feet in ahead of us. Photo by Patrick von Sychowski, Celluloid Junkie.

Celebrities frequented our small tourist city. Regulars included Barbara Streisand, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. To their credit, they just act like every other tourist and the locals don’t bother them much. If I was asked a question, I’d answer it, but I never asked for autographs or photos. I just treat them like everyone else.

One I didn’t gush over, not because of any dislike of him or his work, is Billy Zane. Around 1999, the baroness and I were standing in the concession line at our island’s only theater, a handsome, round, 1930s art deco building with a big Page organ that plays before the movie on Fridays, Saturdays and for the annual silent film festival. The baroness was getting her popcorn fix (I literally smell the burnt microwave popcorn nuked by the baroness as I write this. She belongs in Popcorn Anonymous) when the following took place:

“You see him?” whispered the baroness, nodding at a man about five customers in front of us. “That’s Billy Zane.”

The character actor you can trust in, Burt Mustin, circa 1961, in an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

I glanced up the line and didn’t place him. I’d have recognized the late character actor Burt Mustin before Billy Zane, who was at the peak of his career then. Despite his many credits, his name was unfamiliar to me. If she’d said he was the traveling actor in “Tombstone” or the bad guy in “Titanic,”  I would’ve recognized him.

“Who?” I whispered back, still searching.

“Billy Zane,” she repeated a little louder. I didn’t see anyone I recognized. He’d shaved his head and was wearing a tweed ivy cap. He was blending.

“Who?” I asked again.

“Billy Zane.” She was now loud enough for the line to hear.

“Who?” I was sounding like an owl and it annoyed the baroness enough to raise her voice to repeat his name a fourth time. By now he was watching us, bemused. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

Billy Zane (not to be confused with Burt Mustin). At the time of our encounter, “Titanic” was still the top grossing film of all time.

“Billy Zane! Billy Zane!” she shouted, pointing at him. “He was only in the top grossing movie of all time!” When the baroness uses what we soldiers call a command voice, everyone stands-to.

“I’ve never heard of the dude!” I shouted back.

Zane stared at us a moment as other’s from our small town recognized him. He pulled his cap a little lower and turned back for his movie snacks. After the film, which I think was “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” Zane made a point of coming up to me to ask directions back to his hotel. He didn’t need to. It’s quite hard to get lost in a town as small as ours, plus his hotel had his last name for its first name (no relation, but he probably chose it for that reason). I was mildly embarrassed and politely gave him directions, and that was the end of our encounter.

As her child stardom fades farther back in the mists of time, the baroness is occasionally asked to appear on television. She was flying to London for an A&E documentary, but forgot her passport and called me in desperation from Munich International (a very nice airport that doesn’t rip off travelers, by the way) to race at warp speed through the snow from our home in the Bavarian Alps. I arrived in my slippers after putting petal to the metal on the Autobahn. It was only due to her flight being delayed by bad weather that she made it to Heathrow in time for the interview.

She did another interview about her stardom on Waikiki Beach around 2014. WGN Chicago was visiting Hawaii and somehow tracked her down. It certainly wasn’t her agent on Oahu, who has earned 15 percent of zilch for her efforts, although the baroness auditioned for “Lost” a time or two. It was one of her most relaxed interviews, done without a hint of danger beyond the gnarly traffic of the H-1. A diligent search of YouTube will reveal it.

A good farewell picture to close out this tale. That’s 11 year old Paul Petersen with the cast of “The Donna Reed Show.” Petersen founded a group called “A Minor Consideration” to look out for child actors.

There’s one more interview of note that the baroness declined. Out of the blue in 2005, she received a call at work from Fox “News” to be interviewed on Bill O’Reilly’s show. She paused before asking “How did you get my number?”

Her number had been passed to Billo’s producers by former child star Paul Petersen, best known as a pre-Tiger Beat heartthrob and as character Jeff Stone on “The Donna Reed Show.”

“Hell, no! I can’t stand that guy,” she declared, then she slammed down the phone.

Automobile adventures with Alba and the baroness talks politics with Howard Stern and Susan “Cindy Brady” Olsen–yeah, that Brady Buncher–in the next installment. Plus she talks about Hollywood friends Allison “Nellie” Arngrim and Melissa “Laura” Gilbert from “Little House on the Prairie” and a day out with Brooke Shields. 

Tales of the Baroness, Part Four: Adventures in Ireland

By Baron Hans vonBeavis
Man of a thousand stories

Written in my off hours whilst working from home during the COVID-19 zombie apocalypse. The following is the fourth in a series of stories about the baroness. These stories are true as she remembers them.

The baroness has always had an affinity for Ireland. She claims a very Norwegian lineage and her heredity test revealed no Irish blood. Curiously, it revealed no Norwegian blood, either, and 1 percent Kurdish, despite a century of empirical evidence showing her descendants on both sides came from towns a few miles apart in northern Norway.

Caisleán Uí Bhriain, or O’Brien’s Castle, is a 14th Century ruin on the highest point of Inis Oirr. During Tedfest IV, a giant teacup was placed on the castle wall in honor of Pauline McLynn’s character Mrs. Doyle.

I’m a list-writing planner and knew Ireland had recently banned smoking in bars and restaurants. In 2009, I arranged a 2010 visit to attend Tedfest IV on Inis Oirr (Innisheer), one of the small, rocky islands off the coast of Galway. Tedfest is an ongoing celebration of the late 90s British Channel 4 TV series “Father Ted.” The show has brilliant comedy writing and timing. I got the scripts to inspire my work, which I’ll detail later in a tragic love story I’ll call “The Lady in Green.”

The cast of "Father Ted." Truly some great comedy writing.Tedfest IV turned out to be another Frye Festival. It bilked a few hundred rubes like me with promises of events that turned out to be as cheesy as the $65 ham & cheese sandwich ripoff at Disneyworld. One of the featured events was a Chinese luncheon at the wreck of the MV Plassey, the ship featured in the opening credits of Father Ted. The lunch consisted of cheap-ass ramen; drinks were extra. The best thing about Tedfest IV was making many new Irish and international friends with a common bond. We were the only Americans present. Everyone was dressed as characters from the show; those dressed as priests and nuns were referred to as Father or Sister.

The MV Plassey rests on the shore of Inis Oirr (Inisheer) Island after a powerful storm threw it high aground. It wrecked on March 8, 1960. The ship is rapidly deteriorating.

While still on the island, the baroness and I clambered aboard the rusted hulk to explore. It has many jagged metal edges from years of being pounded by the surf on the rocky shoreline. Since our visit, the ship was again lifted and moved further inland by another fierce storm. It’s days are numbered. I’ve studied passenger shipwrecks since I was in college, being a member then of the Titanic Historical Society. A commercial ship, the Plassey carried cargo instead of people. Still, it reminded me of the wreck of the La Jenelle outside of Port Hueneme, California. By the time we disembarked, we were covered in orange rust.

A more recent photo of the Plassey, probably taken in 2016.

Through my early planning, we’d flown from Munich to Dublin to Galway and were booked for one euro each for a bus back to Dublin. But then a Festivus Miracle occurred. Much like the baroness’ birthday card detailed in Chapter 3 of her stories, I reached out months ahead to Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara for an audience. Late in the planning, the Queen of Ireland offered to join us for dinner in Glengarriff, a lovely town in southwest Ireland. I had to rent a car and, for the first time in my life, drive on the left side of the road. I drove on the wrong side twice, briefly, even though the car had a big red warning sign on the driver’s visor reminding tourists how to drive in Ireland.

The baroness got her audience with her favorite actress due to her working for O’Hara’s brother, producer Charles B. Fitzsimons. During a visit to his office when he was interviewing child actors for parts, the baroness saw a photo of O’Hara on his wall.

A publicity still of Maureen O’Hara, circa 1950.

“Maureen O’Hara is my favorite actress,” the 8 year old baroness said. “Do you know her?”

“I should,” Fitzsimons replied with a smile. “She’s my sister.”

The baroness got the part and others, and is friends to this day with Fitzsimon’s son.

It took us a full day to drive to Glengarriff along Ireland’s western coast and we made it easily without benefit of a GPS. Fortunately, the hotel we’d booked housed the restaurant O’Hara suggested, so we simply freshened up and ordered a couple of pints while we waited.

There was a stir in the restaurant by the staff and guests at her entrance. O’Hara was 90 in 2010, and walked with a cane. I went to the door and offered her my arm, escorting her to our table. Although she looked great and much younger than her years, her assistant insisted we take no photos. I’d already filled my Nikon’s memory card with 500 photos from the previous days in Ireland, plus I didn’t want to make any waves. This dinner was for the baroness, not me.

The queen and the baroness had a grand conversation as O’Hara regaled us with stories about her many movies with John Wayne and other actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age. She told a story about costarring with Rex Harrison in the 1947 film “The Foxes of Harrow,” describing Harrison as crude and unpleasant to work with. As she told it:

“I hear you don’t like the English,” Harrison said during a stroll between takes.

“I like the English. I don’t like you,” she replied.

O’Hara whispers to John Wayne in the closing scene of “The Quiet Man.” Whatever she said was a secret between her and Wayne.

She spoke at length about the baroness’ favorite film, “The Quiet Man,” filmed in Cong. At the end of the film, she whispers something into Wayne’s ear that made him smile. To her dying day, she kept it a secret.

Natalie Wood is hugged by O’Hara in the Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.”

There were only two awkward moments, both involving me. The first was during a discussion of the Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,”  also filmed in 1947. Natalie Wood was the child star in that one (I later met her sister, Lana, who played Plenty O’Toole in the James Bond flick “Diamonds are Forever.”)

“You worked with Natalie Wood in Miracle,” I commented.

The queen became rigid, and with full Hollywood diva engaged, she snapped: “I did nothing of the sort. She worked with me!” I begged her forgiveness and she relented.

The other moment was when her American assistant began dissing President Barack Obama and singing the praises of rightwing clown Glenn Beck, then on Pravda … er, Fox. The baroness became most concerned, squeezing my leg hard under the table, for she and I both loathe that Vicks Vaporub waste of skin as well as the other Fox propagandists. I’m outspoken when it comes to how awful Fox is.

“So what do you think? Isn’t he marvelous?” the assistant asked, leaning into me like Judge Reinhold in the close-talker episode of Seinfeld. “He speaks for America.”

“Don’t do it!” mouthed the baroness, squeezing harder.

Although the American Forces Network ran his feltercarb where I was stationed, I pretended that I’d never heard of the guy and the moment passed. Before O’Hara passed, there was controversy that ended up in court over the assistant’s handling of her affairs.

The queen autographed photos for us and the baroness’ DVD of The Quiet Man. She chose one of her sexy publicity stills for me and a more demure one for the baroness.

One final anecdote about Father Ted and the 2015 trip to Ireland when we visited Cong, ticking another box on the baroness’ bucket list. On that visit, I didn’t have to drive. Instead, “Sister” Niamh, whom we’d met at Tedfest, drove us to the estate used for the opening credits and exterior shots of the show. Homeowner Cheryl McCormack showed us around, served high tea and let us use props from the show to take photos. For the record, Baroness vonBeavis’ favorite episode of Ted is “Speed 3,” while mine is “Are you right there, Father Ted?”

A side note about AFN and Fox: for years I’ve been tilting at windmills to get AFN to stop broadcasting so much Fox Propaganda … er, “news.” If one digs hard enough, he/she will find acerbic pleas on Crooks and Liars written by yours truly to cut back or eliminate that drivel. The last time I checked, Fox had the most “news” time on AFN radio and television. I recall it being 50 percent, with other shows from real networks making up the rest. American service members don’t need the likes of fathead and BFF to the orange sphincter, Hannity the Manatee, indoctrinating young warriors to his 1984 thinkspeak misinformation. And I’m still waiting for that jerk of all trades to fulfill his promise to be waterboarded to prove it ain’t torture.

(In part five, the young baroness escapes a child molester and an airplane crash, receives death threats against her and her popstar brother, schools me in front of a star of the biggest grossing film of all time, and does a Chicago TV interview in Waikiki.)

The only beatdown for ‘The Diffuser’

Written during my off time whist working at home during the Covid-19 zombie apocalypse. These true stories are to the best of my recollection.

Gong Yoo as “The Lonely, Shining Goblin,” 2016. The Diffuser’s hero kit looked less Korean and more like Antonio Banderas’ “Zorro.”

“The Diffuser” was the greatest warrior of our secret band of heroes. Skilletto, aka Uncle Skilletto, isn’t really my uncle. The baroness and I call him that because Sophibee, the daughter of his superhero sister, “The Bumbler,” lived with us for a spell when we were roommates during Sophibee’s terrible twos. Whenever Sophibee wanted his attention, she’d holler “Uncle Skilletto! Uncle Skilletto!”  More about Skilleto’s secret identity another time, plus I’ll write more about Bumbler in a future story; today’s tale is about Skilletto and his mom.

About 25 years ago, Skilletto and I had apartments in what many on our island called the ghetto. It was inexpensive housing in an expensive California city, with a racially diverse mixture of citizens, and Mexican and European immigrants. The folks in town, even the poor ones who didn’t live in that large complex, looked down on our hillside community. A mutual acquaintance who, before going to jail for embezzling money from the tourist hotel he worked at, asked us if we wanted to be roommates in the pricey condo he rented. The dude was low on funds, in divorce proceedings shortly after his soon-to-be ex had their baby … seems he was doinking his cousin, an attractive woman I dated once before that news broke; the gene pool on the island is quite shallow and there aren’t a lot of eligible partners to choose from.

Skilletto is a mixture of German-American and pure Korean, conceived after his father, an avid martial artist, was stationed with the Air Force during a tour of duty in the ROK. His mother was a classical Korean dancer. I think the two met at a church function.

A natural storyteller, Toastmaster, stand-up comic and athlete, Skilletto  coaches girls varsity basketball at the only high school on the island. He works as a city parks and recreation leader, a suitable job for his talents. Prior to that, he earned an income for about 20 years as a popular massage therapist in a chiropractor’s office. He’d tell us horror stories about his job, from clients with poor hygiene to clients who asked him for a happy ending. He is handsome and was much sought after in our small city, being very physically fit and a formidable mixed martial artist with assorted belts.

As his students reached 21 and hit the clubs, Skilletto’s life got awkward as his former students hit on him. This is Alexia Fast as Sandy and Tom Cruise as Reacher in “Jack Reacher.” Photo from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

For a catch like him, it got awkward when his former students got old enough to legally drink and came on to him in the local clubs. He was in his mid-20s and I my early 30s when we met and became epic friends, so much so that he was best man at my wedding and I flew halfway around the world to attend his marriage on the Big Island.

A painting of his mother from her dancing days hung over the fireplace. She was young and very beautiful when she posed for the portrait. Uncle Skilletto got his good looks from her.  Bumbler, a single mom, had more of her dad’s features; she was frequently chatted up by the town’s hopeful menfolk. She and I flirted a bit, but she was hung-up for too long on Sophibee’s dickhead father, a violent loser who got kicked out of Marine Corps basic for being … well, a dickhead. That dude ruined more hook-up chances Bumbler had with some righteous guys. Eventually she got a good job on the mainland and works as an aesthetician, with clients such as Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.

For the record, they have an older, full Korean half-sister who  worked for years in Las Vegas as an escort. She is a very sweet lady and is worth a full story another time.

Once, when Skilletto was waiting outside a seafood restaurant overlooking the harbor for the owner of the clinic where he did massage, a local wisenheimer started verbally jabbing at him, trying to get him to demonstrate martial arts moves Skilletto posted on YouTube showing him leaping skyward to kick an apple skewered at the end of an uplifted sword. We’ll call him Stinky.

A martial artist kicks an apple from the end of a sword. Skilletto performed the same feat for the students at the high school where he coached boys junior and girls varsity basketball.

“Can you kick that hanging plant?” Stinky asked. “Huh? Can you, can you?”

Dressed for dinner, Skilletto ignored him.

“Can you kick as high as that lamp post?” Stinky persisted. “Can you kick me in the head?”

“Stinky, I’m not going to kick anyone tonight,” Skilletto sighed. “I’m just waiting for Dr. Adam. Go find someone else to bother.”

Stinky backed off, continuing to tell arriving guests about how high Skilletto could kick. Our hero kept his eyes on the seagulls circling over the harbor, paying Stinky no heed.

“This is Skilletto, and he can kick your head off.”

This went on for a few minutes until Stinky finally got under Skilletto’s thick hide when he said: “This is Skilletto, Dr. Adam’s minion, and he can kick your head off!” Stinky said.

At that point, Skilletto gave the dude serious stink eye and said “Yeah, I can kick you in the head.”

Stinky stood down.

Skilletto tells a story about a time when he incurred the wrath of his otherwise gentle, Bible-thumping mother. While she normally didn’t cuss, there was one time when she was giving her son advice on marriage.

“Don’t marry blondie,” she said, heavily accented. “Marry Korean girl, not White girl. Blondie no good for you.”

“But mom, you married a White guy!” he argued.

“I fucked up!”

There’s shock value when one isn’t known to swear. That is the only story he ever told about his mother dropping an F-bomb. He was even more surprised to learn just how good she was at Korean martial arts when he came home from high school and she chastised him for some minor offense. She was standing at the sink, washing dishes, when he blurted out: “Mom, that’s bullshit!”

This woman in a traditional Korean hanbok is reminiscent of the painting above the hearth.

She stiffened. The plates clattered into the sink. She slowly turned and assumed an attack position. With sound effects worthy of Bruce Lee, she came at him with punches, jabs and roundhouse kicks. Skilletto was already an accomplished tournament black belt then, and he blocked, blocked and blocked, slowly retreating from the kitchen; after all, a good young man never hits his mother. Once in the hall, he turned and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind him.

“Heeeyah!” mom cried as she took the door off of its hinges with one mighty kick.

Skilletto fell back from the door into the tub and covered up, accepting the rain of blows until his mother was satisfied she’d made her point.

This was the only “fight” he ever lost.

(In the next Diffuser adventure, the hero tells horror stories about his experiences as a massage therapist, when we were attacked by a Chinese warrior princess, and how he watched, bemused, as my mouth wrote checks my skills couldn’t pay.)

Tales of the Baroness, Part Three

By Baron Hans vonBeavis
Man of a thousand stories

Written in my off hours whilst working from home during the COVID-19 zombie apocalypse. The following is the third in a series of stories about the baroness. These stories are true as she remembers them.

As a child, the baroness didn’t go to school like most kids. Growing up on the CBS Studio City (she calls it CBS Radford) lot in the southeastern San Fernando Valley, California, she attended elementary school classes between takes. Being overly smart and preconscious, she questioned her teachers about a variety of subjects.

Since she started at four years of age when she did her first movie, she’d learned camera left, camera right, which is backwards to we mortals. For her, left was right and visa versa. To this day, I channel my previous life as a soldier when I ask her to move to the right, she moves to the left, and the NCO in me says: “Your other right.”

When she was studying math at an early age, she had a problem that frustrated her and approached the teacher.

“I don’t get this problem. Why do I have to learn math, anyway,” the baroness asked with royal innocence.

“Because someday you’ll have to balance your checkbook,” the teacher answered.

“I’m a movie star,” she said after a pause. “Why would I have to balance a checkbook when I have an accountant?”

Little did she know at that tender age that Hollywood loves most actors for 15 minutes before it turns its back on them, and that she would, indeed, need to balance her own checkbook. Many years later, a fan sent her a coffee cup with a drawing of a bored waiter with a pained expression and the caption “An actor’s life for me.” Kinda sums it up.

This is the downtown set at CBS Studio Center where the baroness and Tracie Savage were rehearsing a scene in a taxi when Brian Keith passed by on his way to the commissary. Photo by Rob of robonlocation.com.

This is the downtown set at CBS Studio Center where the baroness and Tracie Savage were rehearsing a taxicab scene when Brian Keith passed by on his way to the studio commissary. The baroness frequently visited Anissa Jones and Johnny Whitaker on the “Family Affair” set . Photo by Rob of robonlocation.com.

Her imperious nature and attitude of certainty were developed early. She was five or six, rehearsing a scene on an outdoor street set, when actor Brian Keith walked by and said howdy. He was filming his own show on a nearby CBS sound stage and was on a break between takes. Child actors Anissa Jones and Johnny Whitaker on his show were friends with the baroness; years later, Johnny was our house guest and performed the part of a gumshoe in a live broadcast of our OG radio program. Our small radio troupe was performing at a nightclub once favored by the likes of John Wayne. Being radio, everyone changed voices to play multiple parts, to include the baroness playing the part of a thug named Frenchy in a low, gravely voice that made the audience guffaw. It was a visual thing, being that she’s quite petite. After that, Johnny and the rest of us successfully played it for laughs. Great show.

“Hey kiddo, how ya doin’?” Keith asked in a friendly tone. He was a famously nice guy.

Instead of simply responding in kind, she was ticked that he’d broken her concentration.

“Mr. Keith, I am rehearsing,” she declared.

Her fellow actors and the crew were shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear her speak to a big star of movies and television like that.

Keith took it all in stride. He raised his hands in surrender.

“No, no, she’s right,” he said gently. “She’s rehearsing.” With that, he continued on his way.

A publicity still of Brian Keith as Uncle Bill, Anissa Jones as Buffy, and Johnny Whitaker as Jody from the show “Family Affair.” Anyone who ever was a soldier should know Jody cadences.

The baroness’ (ahem, cough-cough) interesting way of looking at life continued. Decades later, when she was approaching her quinquagenarian moment in life, we flew to Los Angeles from Honolulu to attend a memorial service for a friend, a retired L.A. County Sheriff’s Department sergeant. Coincidentally, she’d been asked to sign autographs at “The Hollywood Show,” an event beginning the next day at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. That particular autograph signing show is the only time I ever accompanied her to one of those. I call it my “honey wagon” husband audition.

No, not that kind of honey wagon.

The event featured a bunch of actors who had performed in James Bond movies and science fiction productions. The late Robert Conrad was the featured actor.

Fans seeking autographed photos and selfies visited her table, chatted with her, then moved on to their next celebrity. I’m not one who seeks out autographs, but I did get to meet a few of them.

Half a year before that, I began circulating birthday cards around the world to her friends and family. By the time her birthday arrived, the cards were laden with good wishes in multiple languages.

Tracie Savage from a scene with the baroness, circa 1971.  She was with the baroness when Brian Keith walked up to say howdy. Tracie is better known for her work as a Los Angeles news reporter.

The evening of her birthday was a Saturday. During the day, I met some of the actor and/or producer friend’s of the baroness, and chatted with many more actors, especially from sci-fi, during the day. I invited some of them to help celebrate her birthday in the hotel bar. One of them she knew well was Max “Jethro Bodine” Baer, who was signing autographs earlier along with Donna “Ellie Mae Clampett” Douglas. Another (whom she didn’t know but who I thought was pretty cool) was Richard “Jaws” Kiel, who I met that day at breakfast before the ballroom doors opened. Giant Kiel was cruising about in a mobility chair at that point in his life. Both he and Baer were briefly at the gathering, stopping by on their way to dinner. Other guests included Alba’s TV family cast members; Tracie Savage, a fellow child star turned reporter who testified in the O.J. Simpson trial; a few lovely ladies from various Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton James Bond movies–I’m pretty sure the lovely Carolin Munro was one of the guests, as she introduced herself as the helicopter pilot shooting at Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me;” a gossip reporter; twin sisters Erin and Diane Murphy who both played Tabitha on “Bewitched;” her buddy Victoria Meyerink, a sweet former child star Elvis sang to in “Speedway;” and other lifelong former child star friends. The bar tab was astronomical, but it was her birthday and an opportunity to celebrate it with her TV and movie friends.

The King croons to Victoria Meyerink in the film “Speedway.” Victoria was dubbed “America’s Pint-sized Sweetheart” back in the day.

There’s a photo of the baroness with Melissa Gilbert of “Little House on the Prairie” fame, taken at Alba’s sweet 16 birthday party, that shows them reacting to something off-camera. Judging from their facial expressions, Alba and Melissa didn’t approve of whatever was happening. History was about to repeat itself.

At the Kodak moment during the birthday party when she opened her gifts and cards, she found the cards I’d painstakingly sent around the globe for dozens of autographs. The baroness made a similar face to the one from her 16th birthday, looked at me, and in front of the assembled guests her takeaway was:

“You told everyone I’m 50!”

Yes, I had. But just before that, the beautiful Tina Cole arrived at the party, sashayed into the center of it, looked around and hollered: “Where’s the birthday girl? She’s turning 50!”

(In part four, Baroness vonBeavis visits “Craggy Island” for Tedfest, boards the MV Plassey shipwreck, dines with Her Hollywood Highness Maureen O’Hara in Glengarriff, and takes high tea in the “Parochial House” used for the TV show “Father Ted.)

Brother number 3, the ammosexual

An ammosexual as drawn by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times.

Written during my off time whist working at home during the Covid-19 zombie apocalypse. 

Jungle Jim, the third of my father’s sons and next after me in the line of royal ascension, will admit to your face that he’s an asshole. At least he’s honest about that.

For the record, I have five brothers. Had, I should say. The oldest, a half-brother from my mom’s first marriage, lived and died violently. Number 4, the best of us in terms of being a decent person, father and martial artist, died of cancer shortly after he’d just risen to a corner office with the City of Los Angeles. The numeric sequence is based on my father’s five sons.

Like George Foreman’s poor kids, all of us were given the same first name; four of us have the same middle initial, which led to some interesting problems before the world went digital. For example, the pre-internet TRW credit report had me married to #4’s wife, the criminal record of #5 and the street address of #3. None of us call each other by our first name; Hans is my middle name. Only my third grade teacher, who is worth a story himself for being the wrong kind of person to teach young kids, and the government, insisted on calling me by my first name. To their dying days, our parents never explained why we had the same name, opting instead to tell a joke.

A truck driver protesting in Washington, D.C. Horn honking could be heard during the Rose Garden presser. The protest wasn’t about loving the orange guy, as he said, but were part of an ongoing nationwide protest about how little they’re paid during Covid-19, among other issues. Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Pool

(The orange sphincter was on the tube as I began writing this over the weekend.  I kept stopping to swear at him as he riffed on reopening trade, schools, etc. I had no words other than cursing for how stupid he sounds. As he struggled to read his prepared remarks, truckers near the Rose Garden were honking for what orangy claimed to be “love”  for him. But it wasn’t a cheap theatrical stunt of cultish support. Instead, big surprise; it turns out douchebag was just telling another lie. The truckers were protesting a lack of federal assistance as their income for shipping goods across America plummets. The disruption continued through the presser as a line of speakers paid homage with the usual stomach-churning obligatory praise to dumbass as swayed like a bored 5 year old off to stage left, the only one NOT wearing a mask. If it weren’t for the whisky and soda, I’d have flung objects at the telly. The baroness came into the room to see who I was swearing at during the orange sphincter’s cabinet meeting yesterday, May 19. As retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore would say, he is stuck on stupid.)

Number 3 is a red-hatted gun nut. If he bothered to vote, it was for Herr Twitler. He’s an incurious, racist, high school graduate (allegedly) who never traveled abroad to my knowledge, although he may have gone to Mexico once, who makes his own bullets and likes to share rightwing hate memes on Facebook. And since we aren’t FB buddies, he sends that crap directly to me. I don’t respond directly. During a heated political discussing in his home during the Clinton administration, he threw me out, calling me a commie and other names because I espoused progressive solutions to gun control. I’ve always found that to be interesting, as I was still in the Army and am the only one of us who served the country in uniform.

The Nel-Spot 007  Co2 powered marking gun, once used by farmers and surveyors. Like my Army TA-50 on display at the Panzer Museum in Munster, Germany (that’s field equipment for you non-soldiers), it is considered vintage.

Back then, I was classified as sharpshooter on the M-16. I was never an expert shot, but I did qualify as expert with grenades from years of experience throwing rocks. Plus, if you’ve ever handled a grenade, you want to throw it as accurately and as far away from yourself as possible. Unlike the fake president, I have respect for grenades. If I had one now, my television would be in grave danger. I used to practice kendo and was okay using edged weapons. On my motorcycle adventures and to this day, I only carry a legal, utilitarian buck knife, never a firearm. In the early days of paintball, I got the original weapon, a Nelson spot marker with oil-based paint that ruined my ripstop jungle fatigues and beret. Unlike #3, I’ve never owned nor felt the need to own a gun, let alone an arsenal.

My replies to my ammosexual younger brother, a former city waste disposal truck driver who can’t drive any more and was lucky not to be fired after a couple of DUIs, were textbook references to the Dunning-Kruger Effect or quotes from wiser men than moi. He couldn’t get the bat off of his shoulder when I replied like that. I reckon it’s because he couldn’t understand what the hell I was trying to tell him–that he’s too stupid to realize that he’s too stupid, thus the way he acts and votes.

Ivar the Boneless, not Jungle Jim the Ammosexual, as seen in the show “Vikings.” A quick note about #4 and Vikings: he introduced me to the show while I visited him in the hospital as he was dying from cancer. Another story for another time.

Any attempt to reason with him about sensible gun laws is wasted oxygen. He was a NRA member for a time, but he’s too cheap to give them welfare. Appealing to him with reason was like trying to get Ivar the Boneless to listen. Being brothers is less important than being a member of Cheeto Mussolini’s cult. Because of his viewpoint, it’s like I lost another brother.

 

That saddens me more than he’ll ever know.

 

News I use and other media

Written in my off hours whilst working from home during the COVID-19 zombie apocalypse.

My name is Hans, and I’m a newsaholic.

Actor William Conrad during his radio days, circa 1952. I’ll write more about the baroness’ interaction with him when she appeared on his TV show “Cannon.”

Decades ago I got my first transistor AM radio. Sometimes I’d listen to music, but mostly I kept it tuned to Los Angeles news radio station KNX 1070. On Sunday evenings, KNX broadcast old radio shows such as The Shadow; Fibber McGee & Molly; Gunsmoke (the baroness has a story about working with William Conrad, the star of that show); Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar; and more, introducing me to pre-television entertainment my parents and grandparents listened to. That red and white brick of a radio fired my imagination. It was the news that hooked me. A few years later, I bought a radio that had shortwave frequencies beyond AM and FM.

My dad, an aerospace engineer, worked on the Saturn V engine, and later on the F-14 Tomcat. When I was in elementary school, the rockets were tested five miles away, rattling the earth and sending a huge plume of fire deflected into the sky.

My mom was a local newspaper reporter and my first writing mentor. We had a small library with a bookmobile in our Southern California town, and she encouraged my siblings and I to get library cards. I still have my embossed, original card, which the baroness thinks is just more packrat junk, like my Eastern Airlines salt and pepper packets in commemoration of the first time I flew on an airliner from Los Angeles to Army basic training at Fort Lost in the Woods, MO.  I read a handful of comic books, especially Marvel, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were introducing many of the characters of what young’uns know today as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I didn’t get much of my aerospace engineer dad’s math and mechanical capability, a story for another time about growing up with the Saturn V engine.

For online reading, I surf Google News for the daily headlines; some of them I subscribe to or otherwise financially support; I read The Guardian, BBC, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. I like the Washington Post most for political reporting. I also read ThinkPress, Salon, Quartz, For blogs, I’m a big fan of Tengrain’s humorous take on the news at Mock, Paper, Scissors; I know more about baby goats from reading his copy than I ever did, and his palate cleansers are a salve for concentrated news intake. Crooks and Liars is a site I contribute ameros to when John Amato asks for donations, and I particularly admire the writing of Karoli Kuns. I was an early fan of News Hounds because I cannot abide by Fox (and now that upstart rightwing nutjob sycophant OAN) propaganda, but I don’t know how Ellen and her team endure that incessant toxic waste.

I’ll read the New York Times despite its own style. The formality of its style is quaint to the point of distraction. I use the AP Stylebook for work.

I used to regularly read The Huffington Post, but scaled way back a couple of years ago when they got into a side-boob fetish. There’s no shortage of websites with that kind of content. I was just looking for news. These days, I’ll read news links to HP, but I don’t go directly to the site anymore.

For TV news, I watch mostly CNN International at my office (currently my dining room table as I work from home) and avoid other departments’ televisions with Fox or OAN blaring. CNN International has very repetitive vignettes and commercials between segments (the commercials for African telecommunications company Glo are the best, using a mix of humor and examples of Wakanda-esque tech to pitch its products), so I’ll switch over to the BBC. Being overseas, our English language programming is limited, but we do get channels from New York, Chicago and Miami. No California or Hawaii channels, sad to say.

“Adventure Time, c’mon, grab your friends. We’re going to very distant lands with Jake the Dog and Finn the Human. The fun never ends; it’s Adventure Time!”

If I oversaturate on news, there’s another NYC channel for older views where I get my “Sanford and Son” fix, plus staying up way too late, too often, to watch “Adventure Time” on the Cartoon Network (thanks a lot, Netflix, for only having the first six seasons, minus season four, and making me wait until 0:45 a.m. for what you don’t offer overseas).

I follow wire services, too. I read Associated Press, Reuters and similar sources.

Alec Baldwin is Putin us on with his Russian maggot hat.

During the Covid-19 time, I’ve avoided writing about politics and instead tell other stories such as this one and the ones about Baroness Alba vonBeavis. Tengrain, Karoli and others already do a good job for political wonks, and don’t have the time to write a daily blog with my work writing. I compare writing about what I wish versus my job to Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Custom House observation about creativity withering if writers don’t write. I’ll close with a paragraph from Hawthorne.

“Meanwhile, there I was, a Surveyor of the Revenue and, so far as I have been able to understand, as good a Surveyor as need be. A man of thought, fancy, and sensibility (had he ten times the Surveyor’s proportion of those qualities), may, at any time, be a man of affairs, if he will only choose to give himself the trouble. My fellow-officers, and the merchants and sea-captains with whom my official duties brought me into any manner of connection, viewed me in no other light, and probably knew me in no other character. None of them, I presume, had ever read a page of my inditing, or would have cared a fig the more for me if they had read them all; nor would it have mended the matter, in the least, had those same unprofitable pages been written with a pen like that of Burns or of Chaucer, each of whom was a Custom-House officer in his day, as well as I. It is a good lesson–though it may often be a hard one–for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world’s dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized and to find how utterly devoid of significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at. I know not that I especially needed the lesson, either in the way of warning or rebuke; but at any rate, I learned it thoroughly: nor, it gives me pleasure to reflect, did the truth, as it came home to my perception, ever cost me a pang, or require to be thrown off in a sigh. In the way of literary talk, it is true, the Naval Officer–an excellent fellow, who came into the office with me, and went out only a little later–would often engage me in a discussion about one or the other of his favourite topics, Napoleon or Shakespeare. The Collector’s junior clerk, too a young gentleman who, it was whispered occasionally covered a sheet of Uncle Sam’s letter paper with what (at the distance of a few yards) looked very much like poetry–used now and then to speak to me of books, as matters with which I might possibly be conversant. This was my all of lettered intercourse; and it was quite sufficient for my necessities.”

 

 

Tales of the Baroness, Part Two

 


By Baron Hans vonBeavis
Man of a thousand stories

Written in my off hours whilst working from home during the COVID-19 zombie apocalypse. The following is the second in a series of stories about the baroness. These stories are true as she remembers them.

MommieDearestBook

Baroness Alba vonBeavis has many Hollywood anecdotes and adventures from her time as a child star. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s declared she’s going to write an autobiography, then vacillates between telling the truth and dropping names or not. She fears the autobiography will turn out like “Mommy Dearest.” Fortunately for me, she never reads my work, so I’m telling some of her stories here until I get caught. The following is a couple of them …

The baroness got a nice New York Times review performing in a western with a legend of Hollywood’s golden years, an Oscar winner who was in a bit of a slump before he got back firmly in the film industry saddle with some epic movies. Years later, he invited her backstage following a speaking event in Texas. The star remembered her and some specific scenes they’d done together. The baroness recalls that he saved her from injury or worse when they were rehearsing a scene in which she had to leap on to the caboose of a moving train from the platform–she made the jump but missed the handrail, wind-milling backwards and about to fall between train and tracks. He caught her in his arms, something many a lady wished for during his long career. One more thing about that film worth noting is a William Tell scene where the bad guy shoots a cup off of her head using a blank round and an electrically detonated cup made of breakaway glass. It damaged her hearing, which has deteriorated exponentially over her life.

the-road-to-hollywoodAt the time she became famous, Baroness Alba vonBeavis’ mother was an ingénue who submitted to the casting couch as a means to her success. The baroness was gaining traction as a child actress on many popular TV shows and a few movies like the aforementioned western, giving her mother access to movie stars and producers. She had some famous and influential boyfriends whom, according to the baroness, mommy believed was the way to stardom. And I mean really bigtime names. She even got a starring role title in a movie where she had no lines and her character was killed in the first few minutes of the film (that film also was the first on-camera role for the baroness, who wasn’t credited, had no lines and her character was gakked at the same time as her mom bought her cinematic bullet). Mom did get a few bigger role, such as a low-budget 1970s drive-in horror flick, where she appears in the nip. Now in her mid-80s, she was quite a looker back in the day.

One of mom’s on again-off-again boyfriends was Burt Reynolds. I can’t speak to whether or not Reynolds actually had feelings for her mom, as their relationship took place somewhere between Dinah Shore and Loni Anderson, but she thought he was a pathway to Hollywood success. During that time, mom combed Alba’s every script for find a part for herself.

Burt

Burt Reynold’s infamous pose for the April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan.

The baroness is a hugger. At the height of her mom’s relationship with Reynolds, she approached Reynolds from behind as he sat on the sofa and gave him a hug, resting her chin on the top of his head. Reynold’s didn’t mind and accepted the little girl’s embrace. It wasn’t until later that she discovered what she calls “shoe polish” all over her neck and chin. Whatever Reynolds was using to cover his bald spot had been smudged onto her.

At some point, mommy dearest figured out that Reynolds wasn’t really into her and bravely sent the baroness over to his house to return whatever gifts he’d given them, along with his boyfriend pink slip. His butler received the gifts and that was the end of it.

Alba’s French Joke

432px-Tour_Eiffel_Wikimedia_Commons_(cropped)The baroness has always loved the French language. I took her to Paris, her first time, around 2008. Ever since then, she says “Tour Eiffel” like a Parisian. Unlike her friend and peer Brooke Shields (Shields’ mother encouraged their friendship when both were tweens, arguing Brooke needed to have Hollywood friends who were normal, drug-free kids), who earned a degree in Romance Languages , she never put in the dedicated scholastic effort necessary to actually speak fluent French, but she did learn enough phrases to get by. When she was a teen, she took a conversational French class. The teacher told a joke–in English–that she’s repeated over the years whenever she gets the opportunity. Here it is:

poodle“A little American mutt was walking through a park in Paris where he met two fru-fru French poodles. The first poodle said ‘My name is Fifi–that’s spelled F-I-F_I.’ The second poodle said ‘My name is Mimi–that’s spelled M-I-M-I.’

‘Hello, ladies,’ the mutt said. ‘My name is Fido. That’s P-H-Y-D-E-U-X.'”

(In part three, the baroness debates a teacher about a child star needing to learn math, lectures actor Brian Keith on the set of her show, and has a surprising response to a birthday card at a party in Los Angeles that included her TV family, Bond girls and Cmdr. Bond’s nemesis character Jaws, a witness from the OJ Simpson trail, Jethro Bodine and the biggest bar tab I’ve ever paid.)