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The summer I dropped out of college I lived with Dad for six months. I’d saved enough to get my own apartment. Calling on a few childhood friends to get together, brought Diane. When I told her I was looking for an apartment, she suggested we roommate a two bedroom. Diane was at USC and my father had complete trust and admiration for her, he loved the idea. When Diane told her Mother, she recalled the story to me on the phone.
She said, “You know her father’s a gangster, you won’t be safe!”
Diane responded, “I’ll be safer with him around!” Her mother conceded.
We found a place on Clark Avenue right off Melrose. Diane brought the living room furniture, a daisy darling sofa and the apartment was transformed. She was in charge of the utilities and made perfect notations on paper of my half. I loved her for that, because she knew I would ignore them! She was teaching me, and cautioned me a few days ahead of the bill date. In my mind, we were opposites that complemented one another. Although, I can’t recall what I taught Diane.
We stayed a year, I moved into Westwood and she got married. Over the last thirty or is it forty years, we find each other. I feel like I’m twenty-five when we’re together. She has a down to earth practical connection to life, where I use abstraction and risk. Those are the ones who make up, our cradle of our friends.
My Cradle of Friends rock my fear,confusion, attitude, confidence, and spirit. Thank you for sharing the storm. I will bring my light back because of you.
- The exhilaration and expectations of stepping out of one grid, of eighty thousand people in Santa Fe, NM to one million people in Los Angeles is something I didn’t really think out, it was more like, I’m going home, to Tara.
Santa Fe slow as a rippling stream manifests when I’m at a yellow light, and I think the driver behind me is going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t get through before it turns red. How serious, overly stimulated, exhausted and determined the Angels of Angeles evolved. Either you are so rich you don’t have time to say hello, or you are struggling with loneliness and can’t wait to say hello. When I lived here in the eighties and early nineties, the vibe felt in social arenas; Hollywood, technology, the arts, and real estate were promising ventures of investment. People in the know were opening shops in ungentrified neighborhoods, warehouse space was scraping the horizon downtown, real estate was affordable, and technology wasn’t the flag we saluted, it was more like we’re in real time paradise.
Century City, very close to my front door, is a memory. My father lived on Century Park East in the last few years of his life. He didn’t like it because it was all concrete, newly built, it didn’t have a history. Now when I drive into the satellite of HIGH RISES, mall music, billboards, shops, and cafes, I know what he means. It is changed, rushing executives, employees, shoppers, a pace that makes one slower feel extradited.
Then the parking, you will need a ticket to park, a parking pass, or you will have to circle the block four times before you find a parking space. The line outside the restaurant is too long, or not long enough, the business of dining here is a mouthful of expectation. The business owner of a shop sells me what I did not come in to buy, and the sales pitch is like a Hollywood script, and I’ don’t know the language. The wait for the Doctor is two months, and that’s if he takes your insurance, which I found out in California has very few Medicare physicians. If someone does speak to you, you can’t hear them because there is so much construction noise, pulsating bass music in surround sound, you find yourself shouting.
Flip the coin. The day after I landed a woman walked up to me and said, ” Oh, you just moved in, I’m Barbara, I’m at 1203 welcome to the neighborhood.”
We walked together with her little Boo dog. She asked questions, and I answered because she was that kind of person you want to talk to, she soothes, applauds, and comforts all in tune with your admissions. The next few days as I awaited my furniture, she glided by, and we continued our life stories, some from the past, some of the moment. My first friend materialized, like a new moon in a new city.
IN LA, because of the immeasurable density, people are always close by, not a foot between us. It’s the life here, it’s not the LA I remember, but it is home. So, like family, I am learning to accept and stay individual.
I understand how to harmonize with tragedy. Tomorrow I may be Loulou, but tonight I am all adult. The crashing of my life is cushioned and softened by music. Thank you, Puccini. Photo of my Malibu residency, it just seems to fit the opera. Or it could be Stairway to Heaven? I can’t write any more now, the music has modified my sadness so I’m going to say goodnight and pray for South Carolina and all my fellow Americans in the path of more disaster then me.
RELOCATION isn’t just about the physical exertion of packing, and unpacking, I’m learning this as I swirl onto the 10 Freeway in a cavernous flow of luxury automobiles headed west from downtown LA. Self-doubt is not an option driving the freeway, you have to be a lioness or a cougar, imagine me more like an indoor cat going outside for the first time. On the 4th of July my transport from Santa Fe, NM to the city of Angels, ended in the late afternoon as I pulled up in front of a new place to call home. Fireworks beginning, palm trees rippling, dogs barking, and sirens escalating, all a safe distance from my front door. Noise in Santa Fe is Church Bells, bad-ass guys on motorcycles and an occasional siren. First step to ‘when in LA,’ block out the noise or turn up your head set-by the way everyone is strapped to a headphone. I noticed this phenomena on the few trips I’d made to LA while deciding if I should move back after twenty-five years.
As I entered the 1940s period bungalow for the first time all was very familiar. Thirty five years ago I lived in the same compound. Mine was across the common garden area, but the floor plan is the same with a built-in vanity, windows on every wall but one, fireplace, and a small kitchen. It’s like a doll house, four-hundred square feet. The landlord delivered a newness to it with freshly painted walls, polished wood floors, and a spotless kitchen and bathroom. I set my luggage down, took a shower and bounced.
I headed for Westwood Village, where I spent years eight through thirteen. I remember the Dog House, Mario’s, Fedway, Capezio, Bullocks and Desmonds where I worked one summer in Women’s Apparel. The best of all was Ships. My gang used to go there for breakfast in our pajamas to celebrate one of our birthdays. The Village is so close to my defining history, why I ended up there and why I left. We lived on Hilgard in what was then called the The Hilgard House, a microcosm of modern living in a new hi-rise with a pool. It was like living with a family; unguarded neighbors that knew my name, a Fred McMurray type Building Manager, a few famous actress’s, and me, one of four or five blossoming teenagers.
I drove past the renovated building now condominiums renting for seventeen times what I expect my mother paid in 1962. The neighborhood hasn’t been gentrified! It is still a quaint collection of Mediterranean and Mission style homes and four-flex’s.
I stopped in front of the second Hamburger Hamlet location, now Skylight. It took about five minutes to decide I’m going to love this first experience in Los Angeles. On the 4th the restaurant was empty, the room exposed and free of human camouflage. The brick walls remained, giving off some whiff of history and the rest of the room was finished in youthful coziness. Coming from Santa Fe, a city of minor extravagances, the two mirrored lit up bars, stacked with more choices of liquor than what I know existed is my focal point.
” Hi, how you doing? Do you know what you’d like to drink?”
” Well looking at the selection, what do you suggest?”
” What do you like?”
” Wine, white wine by the glass.”
They don’t have as many wines as they do Bourbons, so I ordered Sonoma Cutrer and a seafood pasta dish.
” I grew up here, right here in the village.”
“No way, that’s cool. I’ve met a few guests who lived here a long time ago and they tell me stories.”
” What happened to Westwood? Last time I was here, around the late nineties, it was really depreciated and unkept. It looks better now, but not completed you know?”
” Yeah, Westwood went through some really hard times. We opened this a few years ago, and now more restaurants are coming in.”
” So you’re busy during the week?”
” Oh yeah, we get a lot of businessmen, and some students, you should come back and check it out”
” I will, it has an openness about it, room to move.”
I was the only customer until the staff’s friends showed up to have a party of their own. The high-kickers in mini shorts, and skimpy tops, they were cute, like cut-outs from a magazine. I’d been on the road all day, and skipped the meals, so when the seafood pasta arrived, not only was the dish plentiful, it was deliciously fresh and spicy.
After dinner, I strolled along Westwood Boulevard, in a cube of surrealism, the homeless man hunched over his life remains in garbage bags, a Security Guard in front of an abandoned storefront, students striding along as their phones lead them, What happened to Westwood? Why are the store displays bland and conventional, street art, vendors and performers absent? The unmistakable sense of abandonment piqued my curiosity so I drove around the neighborhood, simmering in the memories of my gang. What a utopian place to go through puberty; the College boys spilled out after classes and we waited to see them, on Saturdays we’d meet at the UCLA cafeteria and test our flirting finesse. We spread out on skateboards along Weyburn and Westwood Boulevard flexing our budding egos and breasts. They are the flagship years of my life, maybe that’s why I came home, to flex my bruised ego and budding independence.
When I laid my body down on a blanket, with fireworks as my backdrop, it was like a celebratory musical overture to a new beginning. The painfully hard wood floor slapped the idiocy of not bringing foam or a sleeping bag. I’ll buy a bed tomorrow and my furniture will arrive Friday. The first night faraway from my La Posada de Santa Fe Hotel family, friends, my old Discovery SUV, my house, my cat, and my best friend who initiated the change is not in my head! To be continued.
I feel like a butterfly wing, trying to fly without my twin. Hang on, we have to fly solo. The world feels harsher, the obstacles immense, one wing is better than none.
One winged flight with breath of fright, just a step I have to take to the next destination.
In a week of famous iconic people who’ve committed suicide, my heart breaks and my mind asks, why is everyone shocked? Chronic depression, anxiety, and loss of a life view are not particularly inviting topics of conversation. I know, the last two years of my life these disturbing emotions tried to get a noose around my neck… NO WAY. Enemies cannot win, whether they are in your head your heart or at your doorstep.
The answer is to get involved in someone’s mental decay, agony, and hopelessness is a risk most people are not willing to take. I suggest the simplest of remedies; accessibility by way of phone calls and drop-ins.
Suicides have increased thirty-percent since 1999 and according to Suicide Statistics one hundred and twenty-three each day.
Who do you know that needs attention?
I don’t know at what age reasoning and understanding took over daydreaming, was it in my thirties? No, fifties. No sixties, no; this week. The time of change without my someone to guide me, map out the course, and hold my hand when I take the wrong turn is here.
In a few weeks, I’m leaving Santa Fe, heading west, to Los Angeles, my home that hasn’t been home for twenty five years. This leap of change came about after I decided to leave Santa Fe, where to go was easy, back home for a refresher course in metropolitan living. Some time soon I’ll write about Santa Fe, the land of entrapment. I looked it up on google, its not a tin-pan myth, the force of gravity here is like a wave you can’t swim at your own pace. Nature in New Mexico is the ruler, mankind just passes through. To describe it should be left a mystery. If you feel the draw to Santa Fe, do it, there is a reason.
I wonder if I left a mark. If someone years from now will remember Gallery LouLou, or the Wild West Vacation Home, or just where Rudy and Loulou live. It doesn’t matter does it? I remember.
Packing is also unpacking; everything I did, bought, wrote, or wore is in the house, so as I pack up what to take, I leave behind the collapsed friendships, fortunes of moments inked in my head, like letters that play the past. Four years ago I was ready to leave, maybe longer, a force much more powerful than I, said, no, not yet. Just as the dice lined up, the tables turned against me. I thought I’d lose everything. A year and a half later I’m a few days away from the road trip to Westwood, where I was raised.
When I arrived in Santa Fe in 2007, I felt powerful, focused and determined. Now as I close the door, I feel humbled, like a wild animal whose been fed just enough to keep going. That has not been one of my strongest points as I am constantly pulling out new canvases to caress, and forget to say, thank you for the meal.
The door to relocation propelled me to trade in my car for a convertible coup, sell or give away and now I’m taping up the boxes of Santa Fe memories to take with me to the next adventure in livingness. To be continued.
Flushed from frolicking in Taos, with a man I’ve just met. He’s salt of the earth, strapped with degrees, awards, and maverick adventures as a wrestler, a horseman, ski instructor, rafting guide, and something else I can’t recall. An Irish and Scottish face, blue-black hair and unblinking blue eyes that have a life of their own. My smile returned, in response to his teasing, and playful sonnets on sex. We talked breathlessly, responding almost without thinking, the words hopscotched over our private, complicated, infuriating personal lives. His motives unclear, as are mine.
Doused in his manliness, aroused my womanliness until I returned to my bedroom, turned on the news and watched the report on the Texas Chapel massacre My heart descended, it felt like the climax of all the recent massacres exploding in that church. The clues are examined, the crime scene is sealed off, the investigation launched, but what are we really seeking? Some motive to reveal itself; gun control, mental illness, terrorism, political attack, family revenge? Once discovered then the news fades into another catastrophe. What can we do? What is happening to young men who have been expelled from society, taken to violence, and are willing to die.
“YOU NEED A LITTLE MADNESS IN YOUR LIFE.” ZORBA THE GREEK
November 10, 2017
Is it my aging, the world struggling, the politics punishing, the climate destroying, or is it because all of the above feels personal. Every day is a recovery from the disasters, deaths and destruction of the previous day. I can’t decide if my thinking process is changing or the world really is bubbling over the edge of horror. Today the fires in Sonoma hit a personal note; I went to Sonoma State University and lived two years wandering the hills, rivers, towns, farms, and vineyards. I have to remember all the places I lived in: a dorm in Cotati, then Rio Nido along side the Russian River, it was too far to hitch to Sonoma so I moved to Petaluma, then I spent a few months in a hippie house in Glen Ellen and then… I dropped out of college and moved to Mill Valley. Northern California shocked the Beverly Hills plushness off my shoulder and I smothered myself in the outdoors. I used to walk or bike everywhere, I don’t know how I managed without a car. Did you?
My heart and mind turn to the images on the TV news: twenty two fires burning, five hundred unaccounted for and now forty dead.
My family home burnt down in the Bel Air fire on November 5,1961. It rearranged my life as suddenly as it happened, and I discovered growing up wasn’t so bad.
I need a movie to watch that resonates life’s invasive tragedy and triumph; Zorba the Greek. As a young girl that movie moved me in a way so unfamiliar. The writer and Zorba the teacher, the French debutante unzipped, and the widow, whose life was taken because of unreturned passion. Last night, Zorba came to me and said, “You need a little madness in your life.” I listened, and found myself at El Farol on the dance floor. Tuesday Blues Jam used to be a weekly routine. It’s been two years since I went on my own. Dance is always alive in me, moving really fast to great music.
I sat down at the newly restored bar, and looked around, a few familiar faces, and then I looked at the man next to me. He smiled informally, the way someone does when they recognize you. I hadn’t seen Dancing Dennis in years.
” Hi,” he said in a sort of chuckle.
” Do I know you?” I asked.
” Oh Dennis! I didn’t recognize you. You’ve lost weight or something, you look so different.” He chuckled and let me talk.
“How are you? How funny to run into you, I haven’t been here in years.” Dennis and I met on the dance floor at El Farol, and I asked him to marry me! I guess that’s why he just listens to me, he knows I’m a grab bag of surprises. I thanked him for reading my book and writing a beautiful review and then he said,
” I liked your hair short but I like this too. “I don’t recall what I said, but I remember feeling at ease sitting next to him, and trying to recall who he reminded me of, I thought it was Michael Caine, but today I remember, its Oscar Werner, when he played the Captain in Ship of Fools. When the band started I jumped, without even asking Dennis, and darted for the dance floor before it got crowed. I took off like a wild bird and let my Zorba dance. I knew Dennis and I would dance later but I needed to let my madness out.
When I returned to my seat, he looked left out, and so we talked about the past times we danced, and moments later, without any discussion of our personal lives, we danced, and danced and danced. I asked the band to play “Honky Tonk Woman,” and the floor regaled with dancers. Every time I looked at Dennis he was smiling or laughing.
Today I am in a religious mood, not in the sense of Jewish or Catholic, just feeling like I am waiting for God to stop the tragedy.
CRADLE OF CRIME-A Daughter’s Tribute is a historical memoir that frames my father’s association with the American Jewish Mafia, and more specifically his devotion to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. It has taken twenty years to publish this book. After hundreds of agent rejections, I threw the dice on self-publishing. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I am writing my second book, CRADLE OF FRIENDS.
SOMETIMES I AM COMPELLED TO SHARE.. I recieved this email yesterday. When you read it visualize the story.
In 1947 I was just a 15-year-old kid. My dad had a club house box at Santa Anita where we became friends with Fred Astaire who had a box near ours. When Hollywood Park’s season was in progress, my dad didn’t have a box there so he’d sit in Fred’s finish line box.
One day my dad took me to Hollywood Park and found that Fred had only one seat available, so Fred took me back a few boxes to George Raft’s box where there was an empty seat (each box had only 4 seats). Raft introduced me to his other 2 guests as “Ben” and “Al.” I had no idea who they were ! They treated me well, and during the day “Al” bought me a hamburger, hot dogs, and chewing gum, and even let me pick horses in a couple of races for him to bet on ! He couldn’t have been nicer to me !!
I’m now 85, but I’ve never forgotten what a friend “Al” was to me !! I found out who “Al” and “Ben” were only after their pictures appeared in the newspaper after “Ben” was shot !!
Facebook offers a donate application. Click on that and key in Texas or Houston. I chose Houston Food Bank. Red Cross and Salvation Army are available.
The multifarious odyssey of learning the language of a gangster’s daughter began in 1966. While completely uninformed of organized crime, my father was active in the Los Angeles rackets; gambling, extortion and horseracing. Though I had been exposed to reports my father had a gangster connection, I denied any truth to these comments. My teenage years were spent in much the same way as my father; hiding my activities, lying, and avoiding truth.
I’ve had bar chats with Sam; many Santa Fe locals claim friendship; he’s our Santa Fe Shepard for independent thinking, accessibility, dust-bowl prolific honesty and still a flush hand of rugged classic looks. The last time I saw him, he was sitting next to me at Geronimo, writing in his little notebook and eating steak. He put his fork down when I said ‘Hi Sam.’ He talked about his novel (Inside Man), his Kentucky ranch, and showed me his new cell phone. When he held it, it was like a man holding a gun for the first time. Nothing about him was robotic, on cue, or predictable. When he gave me his phone number and said ‘Call anytime,’ I resisted throwing myself into his arms; now I wish I had.
When Shepard & Dark opened in town for three days, I was out the door within hours. I figured the movie theater would be packed, so I brought earplugs. I take my films too seriously and refuse to be interrupted with slurping and munching. Into the first scene, my concentration was bulletproof; I would have protested if anyone said a word.
Beginning with the footage; incredible home-made movies and photographs of early Sam. You will see him as a youngster on the ranch where he is raised, and Sam leaving home as he kicked his way through puberty. Then we see that chiseled frame of masculine sensitivity as a young playwright in Greenwich Village where you meet Johnny Dark. The dialog between the two men and the dramatization of their adventures through home movies and collected letters they exchanged over a forty-year period broke my heart. I felt the pain inside of Sam as if we were best friends.
It is as honest and genuine a continuum of conversation between two men that I’ve ever witnessed. The subjects: their father’s, destiny, fate, women, writing, dogs, tragedy, and loss. It is a wrap of cinematography, humor, philosophy and a pool-of-tears-ending.
Yes, there is a dusting of emotions on Jessica Lange.
Several lines I recall, in particular, to paraphrase Sam:
We can change our lives, our work, our wardrobes, our women, but we never really change. Our essence remains constant. I’ve always felt outside the whole thing, sometimes more than others. As a writer, you have to be selfish with your time. I’m always moving, going on the road, I didn’t know that was how my life was going to turn out, but it did.
AWAKENING TO AN UNFAMILIAR REALITY. Ten years and two months I’ve nested in one place. Where once the red white and blue lights twinkled on the house and along the spruce tree, music circulated a crowd of friends and neighbors on the porch, and we danced in the street. It’s all wrapped up in a journal, words that I can read if I wish to remember. I don’t. The past crawls up my spine like a spider trying to weave me into its web.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 2012
Clarity, comfort, security, ambition and love are broken wings. I have to redesign how I think, calculate a direction that will return me to adventures in livingness.
As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner from 1937 until his death in 1947, Dad acclaimed Ben Siegel. “He was the best friend I ever had.”
Dad sat inches from Ben the night he was murdered. Why did he survive? He ducked! After convincing Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello he would not accept immunity from deportation, and five counts of claiming false citizenship, the Mob honored and protected him.
Faced with an identity meltdown ten years after Dad died I implored his friends, associates, historians, the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and the Archives of the Department of Justice, to build the branches of my family tree. Along this irreversible journey I suffered disgrace, rage, and Dad’s ghostly disapproval as I delved into the FBI files and discovered the family secrets. Most startling was not his gambling addiction, criminal activities, or imprisonment. I learned my father’s attempt at reformation was thwarted by the FBI. A vendetta by Hoover for not cooperating as an informant. I expose what I’ve learned because I’ve made the family history mine.
Incorporated within stories of discovery are government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, and criminal activities that defamed his reputation and our family. As the discoveries occur the reader is taken inside the transformation of my identity. Once liberated from Dad’s paranormal disapproval of my investigation, the book was written.
This is a startling, yet inspirational look inside the struggle of a gangster’s daughter to understand her father’s allegiance to the Mob.
Im breaking my silence again. This time it is because of the suffering I’ve endured for two and a half years, that’s why you don’t see many posts. The actions enforced by my longest and best friend on my financial, emotional, intellectual, creative, and physical being are devastating and inhumane. It is the Dragon again, she returned after five years. Thank you for all who rock my cradle. When you don’t have family, friends keep me pushing the cart. So do films, flowers, and trees.