Song

(above photo:  My Mother and I,  1958, when I was 16.  We lived on Wilshire Blvd. Just west of the Beverly Hills City Limits sign on Wilshire.)

Although I’ve changed from Z to A during my 74 years, there hasn’t been any change in my taste in music since I was first cognizant that music existed.  Not totally true.  When I was a teenage in the 1950’s, I listened to more popular music than I do now.  But, popular music then was much different than it is now.

I was raised by a single mother.  My Mother’s musical taste was formed in the big band era.  She had a large record collection, and since I heard so much of the big bands, I liked that music, too, more than I did the popular music of the 1950’s.

However, my taste varied somewhat from that of my Mother.   I never went for the popular groups or the popular female singers of the 1950’s, but I loved Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Chris Conner.  We both liked Billy Eckstine, whom I met years later.  When I met him I was in an office belonging to Redd Foxx, when he came in.  I called my Mother immediately to tell her I had just met Billy Eckstine.  I was so excited to share this experience with her because he was one of the few common interests we had as I was growing up

However, I always liked classical or semi-classical music more than popular, which my Mother didn’t share eventhough she studied piano for 10 years.  When she was growing up parents often thought it a social advantage to have a daughter who could play the piano, so many girls were forced to learn to play even though they had no musical talent.  That was my Mother.

In my 20’s, I visited many of the jazz clubs in Los Angeles, and met many musicians.  However, I always had a hard time talking to musicians, because even though I liked music, I didn’t have much knowledge of it, and didn’t know how to talk about it.  I also discovered that the jazz musicians I met could talk about nothing else.

I also love jass pianists like Erroll Gardner & Oscar Peterson.

https://youtu.be/DAjIwTqyDZE?list=FLg6Rzlt8HlY0BX8JhSa43aAI met Dizzy Gillaspe twice, once in San Francisco, where he took me for coffee,  and once in L.A., but we had little in common.  When he asked me out for coffee, I hardly knew who he was.  If I had been aware of what a great legend he already was, I probably would have been too shy to talk with him.  Only later did I learn that he was best friends with Charlie Parker, whom I like more than any other jazz musician.

The best of Dizzie.

To cut to the chase.  I will say what I like best at this time, on this day, of my life, which is turning out longer than I ever expected:  thank God.  All my favorite music is on my site on Youtube

Presently I love the music of John Corigliano and ,

 https://youtu.be/Mc_-OlC1JQs?list=FLg6Rzlt8HlY0BX8JhSa43aA

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The Screen Star

In response to the Post Daily Prompt:  ScreenXAAB1367

Back in Los Angeles, in 1956 or 57, one afternoon after school, when I was 14, I was peddling my bike going east on Pico Boulevard at about 5 miles an hour, at the most, to get to my Flamenco dance class, which was near La brea.  A man in a big convertible started driving slowly beside me.  I was in the right-hand lane and he was in the middle lane, which is suppose to be for fast traffic.  The man looked over and smiled at me and I smiled back.  He kept looking over and smiling at me for what seemed like a long time to me, but it was only a minute or two, maybe   This mustached-man wore glasses, a funny-looking cap and had a cigar in one hand as he steered his car with the other.  He was going as slow as I was on my bike and the cars behind him were starting  to form a traffic jam.  Angry people began to honk their horns.  He ignored them. He just kept smiling at me and ahead intermittently.  A car finally passed him in the far left lane,  while giving him a quick nasty look to see who in this big car was being such a nuisance.  When this driver saw who it was driving the car with a benign smile on his face, his face lit up and he yelled with his head out the window “Hi, Groucho.”   This little episode ended after about 1/2 mile when Groucho Marx sped up in front of me and turned right off Pico into Hillcrest Country Club.  He waved good bye to me.

I always thought this as my Groucho Marx incident.

If I Could Turn Back Time–My Lost College Years

In response to the Daily Blogging Prompt: If I could turn back time.  If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?

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I wish I could go back and start college all over again.  I would do it very differently.  First of all I wouldn’t take classes that wouldn’t help me in any way to earn a living.  One can learn literature and philosophy from reading books on the subjects that one finds interesting.  I can’t remember gaining much of anything for sitting through 3 months of lectures on Aristotle.  If I were starting college now, I would major in a foreign language.  If I had known a foreign language, my entire work-life would have been different, probably more lucrative, and undoubtedly more interesting.  I had secretarial skills, so if I had combined that with knowledge of a foreign language, I could have done much better.  I met a girl once, who majored in French in college.  She was a secretary for a French bank in San Francisco and made very good money.

In college, I never thought of earning a living as the end result.  For me the end result was just to be a well-educated and more interesting person.  If you are of that frame of mine, you probably will always have trouble earning a living, unless you are really innovative or lucky.

XAAB0262 - CopyBack when I went to college in the 60’s and 70’s, it was pretty near free.  I think if it were costing me an arm and a leg as it does now, I probably would have taken it more seriously. Even though the colleges I went to were almost free, I still had to work my way through them.  Kids I knew who had parents flipping the bills, took college even less seriously than I did.

I would also study much harder.  In college if a class were too difficult, I would drop it.  That’s how immature I was back then.

What I want is to go through college with the same maturity that I now have as an old woman.  Talk about living a fantasy.

Me Still XAAB0239 - Copy

Post Daily Prompt: My Teenage Idol–Bernstein

In response to the Post Daily Prompt:  Teenage Idol

I’m from the Elvis Presley generation, but he just wasn’t my type, besides I never could stand rock n’roll music.  I liked classical from the very beginning.

In my Junior High School, girls put photos of who they idolized on top of their notebooks under plastic for a cover.

As the cover of my notebook, I had the Time Magazine cover that had Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) on it.  I thought he was the most divine man I had ever seen.  I was raised without a father, so I always went for older men who were also intellectuals, because I was intellectual.

Leonard Bernstein
A young, gorgeous Lenny.  I can remember when he looked like this, leading a gigantic orchestra.   “36-year-old composer Leonard Bernstein, holding musical score with lighted auditorium behind him. He has written two symphonies, a song cycle, jazzy ballet Fancy Free, two Broadway shows (on the Town, Wonderful Town) and is preparing a musical of Candide.”  (Photo by Gordon Parks//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

 

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The Elderly Bernstein,  still divine in my book.

Lenny wrote the music for Westside Story, still my all-time favorite musical.

Post Daily Prompt: Modern Family

In response to the Daily Prompt: Modern Families: “If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking? ”

(Featured Photo:  Mother and Father with Actor Dan Daily at Ciro’s Night Club in Los Angeles: 1952)

My Mother died in 1983.  Parents divorced when I was a child and she raised me, with the help of my maternal grandmother.   If Mother came back, I think she would be surprised not shocked.  There wasn’t that much that would shock her.  She was the one who was always shocking me.

bullet   Mother died before the Internet and personal computer.  I think she would have loved both.  She worked as a secretary,  mostly in the film industry (She was friends with Cary Grant.), and was a very good typist, and was not adverse to technology.  The internet would have given her more personal contact with other people.  I’m afraid however that she would be fodder for predators.  Mother was lonely and had no judge of people.

bullet   She would be surprised at how happy I could be living so far away from home in Los Angeles.  Or, how happy anyone might be who didn’t live in Southern California.

bullet   I think she would like my current apartment, especially my big color TV set.  Maybe all the electronic equipment would have shocked her a little: 2 printers, 2 computers, mobile phone (which she would have loved), and the fax machine that I still have, but have to get rid of.

bullet   I don’t think she could have coped with New York City, because she lived in another world which had little to do with reality (Cary Grant wanted to give her LSD because he thought it would help bring her closer to living in reality, but mother was too afraid.  She was scared to death of delving too deeply into her mind).

bullet   Mother died soon after Reagan became President.  That shocked her that a movie actor became President.  I think she would be really shocked to find out how popular and revered he turned out to be, or even that he got re-elected for a second term.  She didn’t expect that at all.

bullet   If anything shocked her at all, I think it would be the social acceptance of homosexuals and transgenders that has happened in the last 30 years.  Bill Clinton would have shocked her.

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Mother in the 1940’s

 

When I Had to Swim So As Not to Sink

In response to the Post Daily Blog:  Sink or Swim..”Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?”

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The closest I can remember to being in a “sink or swim” situation was when I was 16.  I had just finished the 11th grade in high school.  I lived with my Mother in a fairly decent apartment on Wilshire Blvd., between Beverly Glen Blvd. and Comstock Avenue, just west of the Beverly Hills Limits sign.  I came from a  middle-class background, not one of extreme poverty.  Mother worked as a secretary, mostly in the film industry, but had a hard time keeping a job, because she was so emotionally unstable.

I rather knew my Mother was mentally ill, but she wasn’t so bad that it was obvious to everyone else.  Somehow she kept plugging along.  If I told about her to anyone, they thought I was just a complaining teenager.  She knew how to put up a front of sanity, and I often appeared more troubled than she, because I had an introverted personality while my mother was very extroverted. In some ways Mother was nice to me, but in the most important ways she wasn’t.  She wasn’t kind.

Then it happened.  Mother had a total breakdown.  At 2:00 a.m. the police came to our apartment and took my Mother away to jail in downtown L.A.  She had physically attacked my  maternal grandmother with intent to kill.

I felt a great weight had been lifted off of me.  I was left alone in our apartment, which I loved.  I felt liberated.  It was if I had been knocked over the head with hammer for the last two years of my life, and the hitting had stopped, and I could stop for once trying to avoid my Mother.

However, I couldn’t continue living alone in this apartment.  Grandmother, who lived alone in a small apartment in West Los Angeles, wouldn’t hear of it, besides it would be unaffordable for me to live alone.  Finishing high school and going to college was very important to me.  I just couldn’t live with Grandmother again, although she had raised me until I was 12 when I had moved in finally with Mother.  Mother wanted a girl friend not a daughter, and at 12 I could be that.  Grandmother drove me crazy–only figuratively, not literally as she did my Mother.  I had a father, who was remarried and lived in Monterey Park, which is east of L.A.  It never entered my mind to call him. Every family member I did my best to avoid.

In jail, Mother was allowed one phone call, which she made very good use of.  Even insane, Mother wasn’t stupid.  She phoned an attorney, whom she had known intermittently for many years.  She had met him when they both worked at MGM in Culver City during the early 1950’s.  I figure she had probably had a brief affair with him, as all her affairs were brief, but they had remained in touch.  This Attorney, Al, now had his own private practice in Beverly Hills.  He came to her aid.  At a hearing, he told her story about her lifelong conflict with her mother, and convinced the judge that she was mentally ill.  The State committed her to Camarillo State Hospital.  Her diagnosis was paranoia-schizophrenia.  I could have told these people that all along.

The only problem left was where was I going to live.  Al, the Attorney, was also friends with a young couple, with one 4 year-old daughter, who had a lovely home on Sunset Blvd. in Bel-Air. He told them about my situation, and they agreed to let me come and live with them.  The plan was that I would do minor household chores in return for room and board, but there would be no exchange of money involved.  This plan was great for me, because my mother had been receiving $100/mo child support from my father.  Al, the attorney, by this time, had notified my father, and father agreed to send his child support money to me directly.  Therefore, I had my own income, which made the people I was to live with very happy.  For them this was the ideal situation, as it was for me.  Not having to take money from them gave me some independence.

I loved independence.  It was all I ever wanted.  I saw my new situation as a bridge from home to being completely on my own.  At this time, this young, attractive couple also had a 21-year-old unemployed actor who lived with them with the same kind of arrangement–room and board, but no money exchanged.  However, the actor also kept a room in Hollywood and wasn’t at the house except for a couple of days a week.  They accepted me into their home sight unseen.  Their house had two rooms off the kitchen that were designed to be servants’ quarters.  I had one room and the actor had the other.

The man of the house was a freelance film/TV writer.  This was the age of the TV western, which was his specialty.  The big beautiful home on Sunset made these people appear much wealthier than they really were.  They really had to pinch their pennies to get along.  They only had the house because they had gotten a great deal on it.  The wife supplemented her husband’s income by flipping houses.  The situation was ideal for me, because this home was in the same school district as where I lived before, and I wouldn’t have to change schools, something I dreaded doing.  I only had one more semester to graduate.

This is where the “sink or swim” situation comes into play.  I was worried to death, when I entered their home, that I would say something untoward to make them reject me.

I knew that I wasn’t the typical 16-year-old young girl that everyone thought I was, and expected me to be, but I knew how to act like one.  I had just been through too much and was much more aware of the ways of the world than most young girls in the environment in which I lived.  In some ways I was very mature for my age, but at the same time I was very emotionally immature from years of emotional abuse from Mother.

Also, I just had a very unsettling experience.  I had become friends with this man at Holmby Hills Park, which wasn’t far from our apartment on Wilshire.  This man was a teacher at my school.  We talked very well together a couple of times.  He told me all about his army experiences, and things you would only tell a friend.  Most of my friends were adults.  In some ways I was so mature and experienced, I found it hard to fit in with kids my own age.  One afternoon, I was talking to this man, who must have been 30.  I didn’t know about what when he acted very shocked and upset.  I couldn’t remember for the life of me what I had been talking about that he felt was so outrageous.  He never talked to me again after that.    Now I was scared to death that the same thing would happen all over again with these people.  I was terrified of saying the wrong thing, or talking about something that I shouldn’t be talking about, and they wouldn’t want me to stay with them, and I didn’t have any other plausible alternatives.

As soon as I entered my new home, this new couple in my life sat down with me for a preliminary conversation.  One of the main things they conveyed to me was that they didn’t want me to talk about my past, my current troubles, or myself.  They weren’t interested in all that kind of stuff.  They believed one shouldn’t talk about the past.  Just let it go.  All that mattered was the present.  I was so relieved.  I felt I was starting a new life, and I wanted to forget my past, anyway.  I no longer had to worry about saying the wrong thing.  I just wouldn’t say anything at all, and that seemed to be what they wanted.

I started summer school in two days on Monday.  During high school, I always attended summer school for extra credit enabling me to graduate from high school a semester early.  I got home from school about 1:00 p.m., would go into the woman’s bedroom, to let her know I was home in case she wanted me to do anything around the house.  Mostly, she just wanted someone to talk to.  She had the habit of spending most of the day in bed.  She acted as if that was just one of her little quirks.  It became apparent to me that my main household task was just letting her talk to me, not doing any house cleaning, which is what I had expected in the beginning.   Her husband worked at home in the den, writing his scripts.   He wanted his wife to have someone to keep her company, so that she wouldn’t bother him while he worked, which she sometimes did.

That turned out to be my biggest chore in this house:  listening to her talk about herself, which was mainly self-aggrandizement.  Their philosophy about not talking about the past, but only present time, didn’t seem to apply to them, only to me.  I patiently listened and didn’t say anything unless asked a question, which I would answer swiftly and politely.  Both she and her husband spoke to me as they thought would be the right way of speaking to a 16-year old.   I was used to being around adults who treated me like another adult, but they talked down to me as though I were a child.  I didn’t care for that, but I just accepted it, because I was scared to complain about anything.  I  conformed to their expectations of  how a young girl should think and act.  It was if I had been assigned a part to play, and I was playing it.  I disagreed with much of what they said, but I never contradicted them, because I was too afraid that if I did they wouldn’t want me to continue living with them, and that was all that mattered to me.

Once the school year started, I began to make friends with children my own age.  I found my own group of kids whom I really liked and who accepted me as one of them.

After 3 months in my new home,  the lady of the house told me they were very happy with me and wanted to continue our arrangement.  I was so happy and relieved to hear this, because I had been so worried that something would go wrong.  I loved this beautiful hillside home and, so far, felt happier there than I had ever been before.  Whatever the problems, it was far better than living alone with my mentally-ill mother.   All my worries about this situation not working out ended.  I lived with them for one year.  It’s  very difficult to live in a home that’s not your own; especially if you are never allowed to be yourself.

This was the only situation I could think of that I would consider “sink or swim.”

 

 

 

A Short Sartorial History

In Response to the Post Daily Prompt:  New Sensations

I have quite a satorial history, which, to everyone’s relief,  I will try to condense.

I began in my early teens being obsessed with sweatshirts and jeans.  I was a tomboy and dressed like one.  By 16 I graduated to the total opposite of being very fashion conscious and loving high-fashioned clothes.  This I believe was mainly brought about by a change in environment.  When I began high school, we moved from a modest apartment in West Los Angeles, to a much nicer apartment within walking distance to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, which I often walked down.  I was no longer a tomboy, although I still rode a bicycle and loved sports, especially tennis, which I played all my life.

me18
Myself at 18 in 1960 wearing my much prized Rudy Gernreich red-knit bathing suit.

My First Job

My first full-time job, at 18, was for a high-fashion dress designer, who had a small studio in West Los Angeles, where she created and employed about 5 seamstresses, and one young man who cut the patterns.  I did the office work and modeled her clothing for perspective wholesale clients and fashion critics–a very small operation.  I loved the cloths she made and bought some myself that I could afford, wholesale, of course.

I learned from this job how really good clothes were made.  She used mostly cotton, but it was the best cotton, and all her clothes had hidden seams (the parts were sewn double and then turned inside out so the seams didn’t show.  Very chic.  This job made me conscious of the fashion industry and who was who.   However, being a very over-sensitive kid, still, I didn’t get along so well with this highly temperamental woman designer, who was extremely neurotic herself, and I quit this job after 3 months.   Not long after I left, the government closed her down for not paying her taxes.

I never had another job in the fashion industry.  It no longer interested me, except as a consumer  My taste in cloths didn’t change much for about 15 years.  Mainly, I no longer thought dressing in well-made, high-end clothes, that I really couldn’t afford, was important for my self-image.

XAAB1367

Cut to Present Time.

Now I wear mostly jeans and sweatshirts.  However, I do decorate my sweatshirts with my own painted designs, and some of my jeans, too.

Presently, I paint my own designs on cloth, cut them out and sew them on my shirts.  I paint using acrylic mixed with fabric medium.  They don’t wash off with this technique.  I also knit, which I began doing back in the 1980’s.  About 10 years ago, I began knitting ponchos.  About 10 years ago, I also started making jewelry, which I still do–incorporating my knitting with the jewelry.  I’ve also taken two classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan: A sewing class and a jewelry making class.

XAAB1330A Full Circle

Now at 73, I’m back to where I began:  sweatshirts and jeans.  I love hoodies.  However, now I see a hoodie and I think of how it would look as a background for a design.  I like them over-sized.  For at least the last 20 years, I’ve seldom worn anything other than sneakers on my feet.  I wrote a post on another blog entitled the Ubiquious Hoodie.

 

 

A Pictorial History

gayle at 27
My favorite paint suit when I was in my 20’s.  Always loved the paint suit.  I hate unhealthy high heels and never wore ones any higher than these.  I would never have sacrificed health for fashion, and detest that.
Meat27
Age 27.  This was my favorite dress at this time.  It was in a blue velveteen.  I always like this style.
MeSF
At 39 in San Francisco, wearing a sweater I knitted myself.  Always loved  jeans.
hoodief
Enter a caption
hoodief
At age 70, wearing a hoodie in which I decorated with painted fabric square painted on front.