Thursday, April 23, 2009

Famous People I once knew


On Facebook, someone asked me about the famous people I've met, and I replied in no particular order. Small fragments of stories began to appear, some are pasted here, in hopes I'll do something with them at a later date.

Some fragments I've already blogged on about, but I'll want to compare the language, to see if I have any fresh perspectives, or new leads...otherwise, it's merely archival, and maybe it should stay in draft form. Tho I don't think I ever wrote about the musicians or Scatman...

I've met Scatman Crothers, Kate Wolf, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. I've met so many of the legends. Where to even begin?

Well, it WAS the 60s...and 70s and 80s...Janis lived on Arroyo Road at Camp Barbano. She'd be getting up about the time we walked home from high school...

Grace Slick—we wandered into her house in the middle of a drug deal...there were red roses on the piano and a sunken hot tub in the living room with a blue and green shag rug. She stumbled out of the bedroom around 4 PM, in a black ecru-hemmed babydoll negligeé (I kid you not), raccoon makeup caked under her eyes, and she was quite cross with us for being in her living room. But the guys were in the kitchen having a smoke.
Scatman Crothers was at the Rio Theater in Guerneville, after his concert, we all piled into a booth at the coffeeshop and gossiped the night away. He was a great storyteller. What I remember is Scatman imitating Cab Calloway's famous song, with a Heidi heidi hei. I took notes, it appeared in The Paper with photos. All my tear sheets have melted back into the earth after the biblical rains we had in the 1990s. I have the negatives somewhere. 

I met Kate Wolf there at the Rio Theatre too. Nina Gerber was on guitar. Man, that girl can play. It was a fundraiser for something—was it for Kate's own leukemia? I don't remember. Kate kept quiet about it. I remember she sang so drearily, I was bored to tears. It was only later that I found out about the leukemia and I felt so bad for panning her performance. But it was dreary. I'd seen her around before, at the Forest Knolls Post Office, in her white Ford station wagon. She lived up on Resaca.

Never actually talked to Janis, she was pretty hung over... We were shy high school kids, so we merely said hi as we went up the road home. She never picked us up hitchhiking. But I loved her Porsche with its mural.

Stan Getz, Etta James, Dr. Maya Angelou, Irving Layton and Donald Sutherland...

Stan Getz wrote a letter to The Paper praising my Russian River Jazz Fest photography. It was a thrill watching him from backstage playing Take Five, one of my mom's favorite theater sayings. And Stan was very approachable between sets, chatted with me about my work teaching lids poetry and art. I gave him some anthologies. (Note to myself: I have to find my famous people letters and scan them).

Steven Gross who also was working for The Paper, took pix also, I secretly think he coveted my job, and he coincidentally stole my negatives of Etta James. He was quite nasty about it too. Not on my list of people to reconnect with.

Maya Angelou and her son Guy Johnson, I read with them in SF for National Poetry Association. This was long before she got famous. Guy and I exchangeds letters for a while.

I met Irving Layton and Donald Sutherland at his sister Boschka's wake. Never talked to Donnie. Irving was quite the charmer. I could see what she saw in him. That Newfie crowd got rather famous: Irving—Canada's Poet Laureate, Donald took some Oscars home—Ordinary People or Six Degrees of Separation? And there was Leonard Cohen. So I'm one degree of separation from Leonard. The wake was at Boschka's new home at Goat Rock so the events are inexorably intertwined.

I met the Bridges all at once at the Sacramento Music Circus: I think it was Guys and Dolls. We were all staying at the same motel. I wanted to know why Lloyd named Beau "Boy" as Jeff clearly was younger (closer to my age). Mr Sea Hunt himself gathered me up on his lap and roared with laughter.

Lloyd bought me a crystal star necklace. A prized possession that I lost down the back seat of a neighbor's car. I cried, and Agnes was too drunk to help—at 9 AM. Lloyd's crystal star slid down my neck, down into the void. Later, I would meet Leeta, my first boyfriend's  mother—who went to high school with Lloyd in Petaluma, so our worlds were all fairly intertwined.

Big bad Beau wouldn't let Jeff play with me in the pool. My feelings were hurt.

My mom was costuming the play. It took me a half a lifetime to figure out why Lloyd was laughing uproariously at my unconscious Beau/Boy "joke." I was pretty sure adults weren't to be trusted. Beau didn't want to have anything to do with me. I was 6, I was a girl, I couldn't swim so Jeff & I eyed each other in the shallow end, with Beau being the bossy older brother....they were so blond, they took my breath away. Even then.

Tommy Smothers used to babysit me at Gate 5 while my mom was at the Gate Playhouse theater. Dick Smothers never babysat me, he left it to Tommy who liked kids. And he was more fun to be around.

Bobby Darin was in Big Sur and my mom met him after midnight at the Esalen baths. She met lots of people: even Frank Sinatra bought her a drink once at the Cal Neva—she showed me where they sat. They drove up to Forest Knolls. Bobby showed me the chords to "If I were a Carpenter." Can you dig it? I payed badly for him on my palomino pony guitar, until my fingers bled, I was but a child. What did I know about fame?

Tom Waits, Joan Baez, Cheech Marin, Tommy Smothers and Sterling Hayden. I've met them too.

I met Tom Waits at Ruth Mankin's 50th birthday party in Sebastopol but he was afraid of being bugged by fans, so we ignored him until he began to feel like a ghost of his own choosing. I felt sorry for him so we mostly just stood at the stove and ate sweet potato fries with lime & chili powder, talking of food and inanity itself. He hennaed his hair so his sideburns were sort of an auberge-eggplant color. I taught his daughter art and calligraphy one summer at LBC...she was sufficiently spoiled to be too cool for her own good.

I was an extra a few times on Nash Bridges. Cheech Marin and Don Johnson arrived on the scene, so I guess technically, I've met them as well. I was shouting out to them and taking photos like a good brash reporter. I took fake photos with my camera. On hindsight, I wish I'd had film in my camera. They blew up the VA hospital. It was quite astounding. My blue truck was an extra too, & it got paid more than I did. Tiny little checks from Universal Studios...almost not worth cashing. But I did. In those days, every penny counted. Still does.

Extras blend into the woodwork or wind up on the proverbial cutting room floor. Neil had a longer scene with Jeff Bridges in Tucker, that was reduced to a 30-second blip. You have to slo-mo it to see him.

Oh, we met Dame Edna too... We ushered at Theater on the Square in SF and met Barry Humphreys after the show...but I've already done far too many of these Famous People quizzes.

Seamus Heaney, Kenny Rogers, Carlos Santana, Robin Williams and Eric Idle.

I went to school with Robin way before fame came along...I ran into Robin later with Eric Idle at the Greek Theater, I was working backstage, Bread & Roses Festival. He remembered me...which shocked me. Nothing like getting a slippery, steamy bear hug from a very sweaty performer after a show... Once I was madly in love with Robin when I was 17, I used to follow him all around College of Marin, as he did his silly walks in green gym shorts and a woman's bathing cap on his head with the chin strap dangling.

Eric Idle looked like a cross-eyed Siamese cat up close, but was very kind. I mean what DO you say to a Python. When Robin and Eric revved it up back stage with Big Mikie, Michael Pritchard, I about died  of laughter.

I was asked to take photos of Kenny Rogers with some friends in the Green Room at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, in Santa Rosa, after a show. He was very nice. Lotta pancake makeup. I got to see the show too. I gained a new appreciation for Kenny Rogers, not formerly on my music radar screen.

Then there was Bo Diddly. It was at the Sonoma County Fair, I was taking photos, and Bo Diddly invited me into his trailer after the show for an interview (I was dancing up front, and taking photos during the show). I expected to do a story on him. What I wasn't expecting was to be chased around the trailer by him. He had his guitar, Lucille, strapped on, and nearly had me cornered, but I ducked under her neck. Made my escape. Needless to say, I was much more cautious around Chuck Berry, who was a perfect gentleman.

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