MADNESS


 “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.

” Dennis.”

” 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.

November 15,2017

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.

 

 

 

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PUBLISHED


PUBLISHED

SOME OF YOU may have already seen my announcement on Facebook. For those that have not, my memoir CRADLE OF CRIME- A Daughter’s Tribute, is now available on Amazon in the USA, Canada, and the UK.

I began writing my way home in 1996.

If you choose to read I’d love to hear back from you!

 

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https://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Crime-Daughters-Luellen-Smiley/dp/1537456032/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479837144&sr=1-1&keywords=cradle+of+crime

 

 

A MEMOIR HAS TO END book 2


The sunlight shatters the curtain-less bedroom window and burns into my eyes at daybreak. From this unsheltered spot I rise to see a pot of blue sky over the rooftops, and the expectant afternoon showers building up in the clouds. The sky is filled with crows, eagles, and magpies lingering overhead weightless and free-falling, beyond all of us caught behind electronics. The days  filled with desert showers that drench the soil and turn the arid dry land green and lush. For this I am thankful.  At the end of the day, I am inclined to sit in the courtyard and watch the sky manifest colors unmatched by any Dunn Edwards collection. By the time dinner is topical, I have substituted preparing food, to just snacking, This August underscores the need to sit down, to sort of bob my head to Nancy Wilson music, and do very little. I’m self publishing Cradle of Crime- My Father, Me, and the Mob.  images


Santa Fe today

Santa Fe today, Friday the 13th. Listening to soundtrack of Man & a Woman, my lyrics, my movie. The end is what I imagine mine. The day was blowing cottonwood  and white wisteria  in a blow glow of dance.  There is a certainty about my movements, different than yesterday. I declare this day of summer, sandals,pedicure, trying on my bathing suit, making a palette change, and putting on the ritz. The gloss and bronze, and maybe even going outdoors.  Shopping and going to the Lowriders Day in Santa Fe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU’LL FEEL BETTER IF YOU TALK ABOUT IT


The throw of the dice this week lands on Adventures in Livingness.  The last time I wrote a column about life beyond the book was the Malibu series.  I’m still tainted by the U-Turn out of Malibu, but as Dad always said, ‘If you fall off the horse you get back on!’  That’s what this book is all about;  just how impressionable we are as children.

 My pals who have commented after reading this material in six different memoirs are immensely important to this writer. Word press followers, you are recognized with every comment!  Pals, Baron, Blair, and Stone who took my hand into the offices of agents and editors thank you for believing in my dice!

Santa Fe. NM 3/26/2016

A photographic day for capturing the stillness of light on the rose  20160311_112156[1]buds. Winter was a lot of writing, editing, and films. I must have seen a hundred this winter. All easy paved paths to escape.  The one I’d recommend is Divided We Fall; a Polish film set during the occupation of Poland. The Director managed to weave suffering and horror with extraordinary hope and brotherhood. If you like mystery-crime dramas,  Nine Queens, an Argentinian film that rattles the roots of a cheaters.

A FEW DAYS LATER

Today is sprayed gray and white cloud cover, and tiny drops of wet snow. I call the climate of Santa Fe, a woman with PMS.  I’m listening to Nat King Cole and withering under a  hang-over after a sensational evening with Brother Marc, (the son I wanted) White Zen, his Mother, and Rudy. I’ve watched Marc grow up. Over the last seven years he’s transformed from a shy, confused young adult, into a man of the mountain; wilderness is his passion.  He drives those big snow plow machines and grooms the mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He works at night and when he takes a break he  looks at the stars.  Six-foot thin muscle, shoulder  brown curls, and eyes  shaped like two row boats filled with blue water.  He’s not only handsome, his instincts, original expression, and amusing bellowing deep voice tie this lad up in someone you love. He’s an original. You never get the question or answer you expect;  he pulls wisdom from his head and heart as easily as folding a napkin. One two three–a brand of thinking shoots out and I just look at him bewildered. Marc is a twenty-nine year old frontiersman and  has been since he was knee high on a San Francisco skateboard. The Revenant!

Easter brings people together and I’ve sensed a developing  surge to be in a group. Distanced friends come closer, family is the bread and butter of vacation, I see so many of them at La Posada, and couples are cooperating.  No one needs to hug a pillow when they go to sleep  is my motto.

My rise above familiar surroundings and comfort began the day Brussels was terror stricken and  all Belgians  became one. I checked on Twitter that day, and was touched so deeply when I read the dozens of tweets offering shelter, food, and clothes for those in need. If I were a lifestyle journalist I’d go there and write about the emotional and physical patterns that will change over time. Imagine the consciousness’ of those personally affected after experiencing a bomb exploding beside them. I’ve asked a few people how they feel about terrorism. Some are inflamed and others refuse to discuss the matter as it elicits political commentary.   Terrorism has infiltrated the shuffle of disappointment and raised the inner riot in my head to world events. The importance of conversation so we don’t feel alone is vibrating. I don’t mean in text and twitter. It is too instant to embrace.   What happened to,

         ‘You’ll feel better if you talk about it’ psychology?

 After a few weeks of submitting the book and reading rejection emails,  I realized I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.  Not taking rejections personally is like a handshake after you’ve been swindled.  I moused over to JK Rowlings and read a few rejection letters she posted after submitting a manuscript under the name of Richard Galbraith. One of the letters suggested she join a writers workshop!   Anonymous writers like actors, musicians, artists, and photographers  are caught in the storm of celebritism.  If you are unrecognized the  brick and mortar you have to break  through is an Olympian challenge.

I was writing a lengthy portrayal of Ben Siegel one day and it occurred to me that he had become a major character in my life.  He played a role that someone else should have; a noted author, or journalist, or poet.  Ben Siegel changed my history because I had to learn to love him.  Learning to love him meant erasing everything I had read or heard. It is said he was a ruthless killer, a savage, violent, and that he loved to kill. I turned to look at a photograph of my mother.  I was told that she loved Ben too. Where once I believed my mother was naïve and uninformed, I know this wasn’t the case. She knew from the beginning. Mom fit into this strangely singular and controversial group of people. I see her in the full frame of who she was. (she is on the right in MGM Ziegfeld Follies 1946)get-attachment.aspx  I like her this way because it raised my self esteem; my rebelliousness came from both parents.

While writing about Dad I questioned my prolonged interest in his choices, behavior, and his secrecy. I asked Uncle Myron who shared the same history.   Myron reaffirmed that my father was a true to the code gangster. No one ever got him to talk about what he knew or had seen.

Children feel the repression of truth as clearly as they do the pain of bruise.  The more you hide or bandage the more they seek and peek. At my root is the inclination to question the world around me, and to mend the breaks in life that molded my identity.

Along the way of the first chapter, I discovered that people like to know how it works; how we write in a state of solitude and selfishness.  A story or any work of art lives in the artist and God. Miracles do happen!

EXCERPT FROM CRADLE OF CRIME BOOK


 

Submerged in film and gangster history, assembling  photographs of my father’s movie star friends,  his gangsters’ friends, photographs of the nightclubs he frequented, I pasted these into a collage and posted it above my desk. I played Tommy Dorsey and all the big band leaders of the thirties records imagining these props would provoke memories and a sense of identity to my parents.

 Without knowing how deep I had to go or what shattering evidence would cross my path, in my heart, I felt this was crossing a spiritual bridge to my parents. The flip side was a gripping torment tied to my prying mind.  Dad’.s compulsorily privacy was in my hands now and so was voice. He was inside my head reading his lines. “Stay out of my room–out of my affairs–out of my life!”   

      “I have to break into your life to break my silence.  I want to understand you and Mommy.”

     “Don’t expect any help from me! Put your nose in another book, the Allen Smiley story isn’t for sale.”    

 No matter what I uncovered I knew it would be ambiguous and controversial. I was certain there would be no record of murder, dope peddling, or prostitution.  Even so, I could never understand the similarities we shared, unless I knew them as people.   The ethereal staging did more than provoke memories; a sense of belonging rooted me to the golden years of Hollywood.

I was completely uneducated in the craft of research. My first phone call was to the Beverly Hills Police Department. They were not very helpful after I told them who my father was. 

‘The Bugsy Siegel case is still open. We cannot release any files on your father. Call the Criminal District Office; they’ll have records of him there.’ The case was open? Sounded a bit squishy to me.  

On a stormy day when the queen palms whipped though torrential rain, flooded streets and metallic clouds hanging low like a net over the sky I was on my way to the Criminal District Office in the Hall of Justice on Spring Street. Unfamiliar to me, but somehow as I walked up the prolonged steps it was recognizable from films and television. The Courthouse, the County Jail, all that authority in an unmarked white stucco building. Not a blade of grass out of place. When I arrived at the entrance my heart was racing.  My father’s voice did not interfere with my direction but I felt his disapproval. The first person I confronted was an imposing woman with a sternness that studied me.

      “May I help you?”

      “I hope so. I apologize for the intrusion. I don’t have an appointment.”

      “What are you asking?”

      “I am looking for whatever files you have on my father.”         

     She reached for the desk drawer and passed me a form. She asked me to step aside and fill it out. 

      “My father died twelve years ago. I don’t have any other family to explain things to me.”

       “I’m not at liberty to give you any information.”

       “I know that. Can you tell me if you have files on Benjamin Siegel?”

        “You mean Bugsy?”

         “Yes.”

        “Was your father Bugsy?”

        “No, he was … his friend.” 

        “What was his name?”

        “Allen Smiley.”  She turned to her computer and entered something. She read from the screen and then removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. 

      “Your father is in the system.”

     I gave her the form with his FBI number and started to leave.

     “Here, come back. I found the criminal case numbers. The numbers are 19778, 19926, and she read out nine different cases. As I watched her write these down I thought they know things about my father that I don’t.

     “Bring these to the National Archives in Laguna Nigel.” She said.  

 Outside the clouds converged over the San Bernadino Mountains. The strain to see through reminded me of my own predicament; how to see through the fog of secrecy and ambiguity.  The following day I drove to the National Archives. I didn’t know such a place existed. A polite man took my case numbers and when he returned he was wheeling a shopping cart of files. His name was Bill Doty. 

   “So your Dad was Allen Smiley?”

    “Yes. You’ve heard of him?”

“There’s a lot written about him in Johnny Roselli’s files. I know he was very close to Johnny. We have ten-thousand pages on him.”

I looked at the brown manila files he stacked on a desk for me.

     “I’ll be here all day.”

     “We close at four o’ clock. Do you want to see the Roselli files?”

     “Not just yet–I have to read these first.” The files took me on a criss-cross chase of a man I didn’t know. The case files included testimonies, court transcripts, appeals, and newspaper articles.  

     “How’s it going?” Bill appeared.

     “This is a novel. Like reading about some one else.”    

     “Do you recognize any of the names?”

     “Oh yea.”

Even now twenty-two years later I can conjure up the exact image of that sterile polished reading room, my stomach churning, the sound of the doors opening and closing, and Bill’s footsteps on the waxed tile floor. Crunched over the stack of documents I read my father’s answers to Examining Officers questions, from an Immigration and Naturalization Agency (INS) hearing in 1962.

“ Were you closely associated with Benjamin Siegel for the three years prior to his murder?”

“The only way I could explain it, was a friendly association.”

“Friendly business association or friendly social association?” 

“Just the same type of friendly association that I have with people in every occupation of life. By the same token, I have had the occasion to have the President of Notre Dame in my home, Father Cavanaugh, Doctors, Lawyers, people of every description. I go by the golden rule. I treat people the way I like to be treated.”  

The faded black type on his three page arrest record elevated my distress; assault, bookmaking, operating without a liquor license, robbery, extortion, contempt of court, suspicion of robbery, suspicion of murder, the words blurred. Suspicion of murder? Maybe Jack was right; Dad had more involvement than a friendly association.  Every few hours I went outdoors and sat on a bench to breathe. My stomach was stiff as those fastened files. It was a feeling I’d never experienced in my life. 

 Bill circled around me as I slumped further into the past, the florescent lights blinding me. When I closed the files, and told him I’d be back in a week, Bill insisted I see the Johnny Roselli archives. There were eight shelves on either side of the aisle, and while I gazed at this galactic inventory the face of Johnny erupted. Seated in a red leather booth at La Dolca Vita, sipping red wine, his eyes

MWSnap1978 ROSELLI DEATH watery pools filled with the density of his life.

     “Have you read Ed Becker’s book, All American Mafioso?” Bill asked. He randomly pulled a file from the rack. 

     “No.”

     “You should; your Dad is in it.  Look at this history so few people know about. The government hired Roselli to assassinate Castro! You have to read these files.”