ME AND…movie stars walking the red carpet at the Oscars

Dave left for work, I took Katie and Aaron to school – one at a time on the back of my Vespa scooter, and then I began my morning routine. Clean up the kitchen. Put away clothes and toys scattered around the family room. Start a load of laundry. Run the vacuum. I was living my dream, in sunny southern California no less! But my dream had its ho-hum moments.

A segment on the local (L.A.) news stopped me in my tracks. A reporter, sitting in the bleachers at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillon, enthused about that evening’s broadcast of the Academy Awards. Hollywood’s most glamorous night. She finished, as the camera panned over the nearly empty stands and the red carpet in front of them, by inviting viewers to join her there and watch “the stars come out for the Oscars.”

I went into a star struck trance. I dropped the toys and clothes and made phone calls to find a friend to go with me, arranged for after school care for the kids, let Dave know where I’d be and to pick up dinner and the kids on his way home, and filled a tote with drinks and snacks. Two hours later, my friend and I found places to sit in the front row of the bleachers. We had a five hour wait until the stars began arriving.

What to do? Watch the fans, of course. As people settle in, they produced am amazing variety of gourmet foods, which they happily shared. Professionals gave everything from hair cuts to manicures and massages. A comic, pretending to be a therapist, gave outrageous advice on relationships. A fan held up photographs of nominees in the best supporting actor category one by one, The audience voted by applause, whistles, and cheers for their favorites. And so on through he major nominations. In the end, the pictures of the “winners” in each category were held up. I overheard many stories of personal encounters with the stars. These usually ended with the star rated as wonderful or a real bitch. We saved each others seats for bathroom breaks.

All this came to an end when the first the stars appeared on the red carpet. My friend and I yelled their names to get them to look up at us so I could get a good picture. Soon hundreds of stars jammed the red carpet. Click. Click. Click. I was afraid I’d run out of film.

Memorable moments: The red carpet was cleared so Ray Bolger could do his Wizard of Oz scarecrow walk to “If I Only Had a Brain.” The fans in the stands, including me, went wild Dolly Parton, nominated for her song “9 to 5” glittered more than any of the other actresses. The movie business is known as the skin game. Raquel Welch and Sophia Lauren showed a good bit of it. My favorite among the leading men was Christopher Reeve. Superman! Gene Kelly also danced his way along the red carpet. “Singing in the Rain” played. The crowd sang along. His partner, of course, was a black umbrella. Everyone cheered. The greatest actor in the world, Lawrence Olivier, as was his oft stated goal, almost sneaked along the whole red carpet without being noticed, but my friend recognized him and shouted his name. Olivier looked up at us as if he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. And then gave us a great smile. Click.

This went on for two hours. As soon as the last stars entered the theater, a crew began tearing up the red carpet and carted off the big, gold Oscar statues that flanked the doors. My friend and I drove home. The Academy Awards show was half over by the time I got there. The kids were asleep on the couch in the family room. Dave on the floor. Toys and clothes right where I had dropped them that morning. I turned off the TV. Sent my family to bed. Went through my morning routine before watching the 12:30 a.m. rerun (no DVRs in those days!) of the broadcast. As I worked, I hummed to myself “I’m singin’ in the rain, Just singin’ in the rain, What a glorious felling, And I’m happy again.”

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ME And…gun play at the drive-in movie

Our choices for entertainment on Saturday night were the bar in the town of Leesville, Louisiana or going to the drive-in movie. Dave, who was training at Fort Polk, had been in the bar. We opted for the drive-in movie as the safer choice. The picture was HANG ‘EM HIGH starring Clint Eastwood. I packed a tote with pop corn and drinks from the commissary. Should be fun.

“It’s supposed to rain.” I said.

Dave shrugged, “If it gets too bad, we’ll come home.”

The drive-in movie theater had been literally carved out of a hay field. “Avenues” for the cars and spaces for them to park facing the screen had been mown, but the hay grew up every where else. When Dave parked our 1967 VW Bug in a spot, we found ourselves surrounded by hay as high as the car top, making it into a kind of private room. The phrases “passion pit” and “more action in the cars than in the movie” came to mind.

The screen was nothing more than a billboard painted white. Planks that had been nailed up here and there were weathered to silver gray. Obviously repairs. Hurricane winds must have hurled objects against the screen hard enough to break the original boards. I worried about the coming storm.

Cheers, hoots, and hollers from the crowd greeted the beginning of the movie. Dave and I opened our drinks. We munched pop corn. It started to rain. Big, fat drops. They broke the movie, now projected onto them, into a trillion glittering pieces. Very psychedelic!

A posse lynched Clint Eastwood. The audience booed as they rode away leaving him to die. Moments later, a stranger cuts him down. He wasn’t dead. Eastwood sets off to find the men in the posse. One lives in a near by town. Eastwood confronts him. Two things happened in the same instant. Shots rang out. Dave slammed me down and covered me with his body. More gun fire. The shots came from all around us.   A fight between the locals and the base guys?  My heart poundd.

After a moment, Dave sat up and laughed, “It’s okay. They’re shooting at the bad guys in the movie!”

I sat up, brushed spilled pop corn off my lap, and went back to watching the movie. A while later, Eastwood caught up with another man from the posse. I stuck my fingers in my ears. More shots. One as loud as a canon. Shards of lumber flew off the billboard. The crowd cheered, whistled, and honked their horns. There had been a lot of men in the lynch party and the billboard took many hits.

Gradually the wind picked up. The rain came down in torrents. Thunder shook the ground. Lightening flashed every few seconds. One bolt hit the projection shed. The power line hissed and sparked. The lights went out and the movie disappeared from the screen. There was a long moment of silence. Then horns honked. People rolled down their windows and shouted, “Movie! Movie! Movie!”

Dave looked at me. I nodded. He started our VW Bug and headed for the exit. The driver of the car in front of us stopped at the ticket booth and yelled, “You gonna give us our money back?”

A very long, double barrel shot gun emerged from the window of the booth. The man inside gave it the slightest flick the left. The driver in front went on his way. We rolled through without pause.

I shook my head at the juxtaposition of make believe gun play, crazy, relatively harmless gun play in the hay field, and the deadly gun (not-at-all) play that awaited Dave.  I could only hope he’d come home safely, but, metaphorically speaking, I feared a coming storm.

 

ME AND…six high powered rifles

aimed at me by men in the Secret Service.  a.k.a. the day Mickey Lolich saved my life.

Early November of 1968 found me shopping in downtown Detroit for a Christmas present for my husband, Dave, who was in Vietnam. Laden with a couple of large packages, I headed along Woodward Avenue toward Fort Street to catch the bus out to Lincoln Park.  I encountered a large crowd gathered around the fountain at the intersection of those two streets. With the water drained out, it made a great stage for visiting celebrities.  Hubert Humphrey was running for president that year and stood on one of its ledges.

Across Fort street, behind barriers, a large group of noisy, sign carrying protesters shouted, “Hell no.  We won’t go!”  and “Peace now!”  With their long hair, festooned with feathers, tie dyed shirts and dresses, and fringed jackets, they looked like wild birds.

At this point you need to know my height measured five foot nothing and I weighted about 99 pounds. I couldn’t see and, because of the shouts of the protesters, I couldn’t hear Humphrey.  I began saying excuse me, excuse me, and making my way forward.  I ended up in the front row of the crowd.

Being (proudly) a blue collar town, Detroit had sent many young men (no deferments available to them!) to Vietnam. They became infantrymen. A very large number of them died in combat. When Humphrey said he was for the war and conjoled the audience to laugh at the protesters, who were effectively disrupting his speach, the audience booed.

After Humphrey finished speaking, he stepped down from the ledge and began shaking hands.   The crowd (more of a mob by then) surged forward. Body guards formed a protective ring around him.  He worked the crowd as best he could through the wall of men.  There was a lot of pushing and shoving.

My feet came off the ground.  My head and shoulders moved forward faster  than my body and legs.  The crush of people carried me along like roiling water. I sank towaed the pavement. I could hardly breathe, let alone get my footing.  I felt like I was going to drown.  Then a huge, strong hand grab me uunder my upper arm.  A man said, “I got ya.”

I looked up to see my savior was none other than Mickey Lolich, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Just a month ago, he had pitched magnificently during the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, winning three games – including number seven to win the championship.  He had been named MVP

He stood me up inside the cordon of body guards. It was just Humphrey and me in the open space, his safe zone. He was a little distance from me. I took a moment to look around. Six Secret Service men, on top of the tall buildings that surrounded the fountain, all had their high powered rifles trained on me. I was shocked and very scared. But I stood there waiting for Humphrey to come closer.

When he saw me, a look of fear crossed his face. He recovered quickly and stuck out his hand. Because of my packages, I could not take it.  I shrugged.  He stepped closer.  Towering over me, he patted my shoulder. The man who might become one of the most powerful men in the world, was less than an arm’s length from me! I took advantage of what I knew was going to be the briefest moment with him and said very loudly, “Stop laughing at those who want peace.”

He frowned, patted my shoulder again, and said, “Thank you for coming, young lady.”

IHis body guards instantly and quite roughly pushed me to the outside of the circle. Humphrey moved on. The Secret Service men trained their rifles on someone else. Thank you for coming, young lady? I was horribly disappointed.

Humphrey lost the election to Nixon. During his campaign, Tricky Dick said he had a plan to end the war, but he couldn’t reveal it because then it would be less affective. Yeah, right.

On election day, I cast a write-in vote for Eldridge Cleaver, leader of the Black Panthers, who was the presidentual candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party.  I never had the chance to thank Mr. Lolich for saving my life.   So, thanks, Mickey!

Me And…welcome to my blog.

ME AND …

I typed the two words in the title of this blog and my computer instantly supplied meander as a possible completion. That made me smile for two reasons. First of all, “ME AND” with the addition of an ellipsis, was all I intended for the title. Secondly, meander is such a lovely, old fashioned word. It’s most often used to describe a a person walking in a manner that is not quick or direct. I was delighted by how appropriate the word meander was for my new blog.

Once a week, I intend to meander, metaphorically speaking, through my memories of historical, cultural, and personal life experiences and write some of them down here.

Just in case all this slow, aimless wandering around in my head sounds terribly boring, the title of my next blog will be “ME AND… the day I found myself in the sights of six high powered rifles held by men in the Secret Service.”

See you next Friday,