Hollywood Stories

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The Smart Money’s On The Favorite

Boxing used to be a lot more popular than it is now.  There seemed to be big fight going on all the time, especially in the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions, where there was always a scrum for the number one spot.  I never knew better boxing analysts than those 7th and 8th Graders back in 1980-1981 at LeConte Junior High.  They were old school, like little Bert Sugars (only substituting Dodgers caps and candy cigarettes for Bert’s fedoras and stogies), offering not only their insights, but also the prospect of a wager.

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Starcrossed

My time in Hollywood wasn’t one Celebrity encounter after another.  Although I went to school then and later with a couple of people who turned out to be famous, my personal experiences were of a more “jejune” variety…  that is, except for getting to see a hirsute (hairsuit?) Ed Asner  anchor one end of a tug-of-war for ABC at “The Battle of the Network Stars;” IN PERSON!

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Eighth Grade Enigma

Seeking relief from the utter domination I suffered not only at the hands of the women in my family (mother and two sisters) but also at school (for a time the only male teacher was Mr. Bishop); my friends at LeConte Junior High School offered me something that was, for that time, an underdeveloped yet definitely needed male outlet.  Though sometimes relating to other boys took some counterprogramming on my part.

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Uncle Mann

Living in Hollywood with a single mom who was trying to support herself and her three kids was hard; especially with all of the kids in school and a mother that was, by necessity, not home much of the time.  Lucky for us, and due to our close residential proximity to Hollywood Boulevard, Uncle Mann really came in handy.  Uncle Mann must have been a rich guy, after all he owned the 2 biggest, coolest theaters on the Boulevard.  I assumed he must have owned all the rest too, the ones we passed daily walking back and forth to school.

My sister worked for him; so you could say that’s how we got in good.  We spent hours on end, sometimes in a single day, fixated while Uncle Mann regaled us with Historical Dramas and Science fiction and Fantasy.

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My PT

Going into a new school in a new city, state and way of life was not without its challenges, particularly for a 12 year old.  Luckily, and almost right off the bat, I acquired the services of a motivational coach.  Seeming to perceive my need, fellow student Shawn was obviously attracted to the pathos I projected.  I was meek and scared, afraid of being picked on or beat up by some bigger kid, maybe even some messed up gang member.  Shawn showed me right away that fears, like fairy tales, can sometimes come true.

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Oscars Site

When the Oscar’s come around I always think about how different that area used to be when I lived there.  The Kodak Theater is the site of the Oscar Awards and has been for 10 or so years.   A visit back there 3 years ago was surprising for me because the only thing I remembered was the Chinese Theater (the core of which is largely the same).

It’s become a hoary cliché that New York tears itself down continually, disrespectful of its past (i.e. Penn Station), but this 2-block segment in Hollywood did the same thing; in this case maybe it was a good idea.

Boarded up building, parking lot, theater, parking lot; no wait…

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Why Can’t Guillermo Speak Spanish?

Even at a very young age I knew I wanted to be multilingual, or at least bilingual.  Having finally learned enough of my own language, by the 8th Grade I was able to take a foreign language class.  I chose Spanish, mostly because I had several friends I could practice with.  But I was already learning bits of different languages from kids around my school.  I asked around avidly because what I really wanted was to be able to curse fluently in any country in the world.

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The Greatest American Show?

One show marked the beginning of what we could call ‘modern times’ in TV entertainment.  That show is, of course, “The Greatest American Hero.”  Agent Bill Maxwell, played by Robert Culp, took the baton in the great zeitgeist relay race that marked the beginning of “military industrial complex” as entertainment.  After many years, most of my life in fact, we are still in this phase, “NCIS” and Donald Bellisario being the inheritors of the work started by Stephen J. Cannell.

Yeah, this is heavy stuff.

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Fortress Lido

My homage to Stephen King

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What To Believe In The Land Of Make-Believe

     Hollywood has always attracted talented people trying to get into the business.  It has also always attracted the B.S.er, the poser, and the conman (I was gonna say wannabee, but for some reason that sounds too harsh).  There is no six degrees of separation for these guys, it’s either two degrees, or, if they can get away with it; one. Or none.  Early on if you live there and mingle with the locals you learn you have to be able to filter out the real from the “oh-please!”

   

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LeConte 101

As I sat in an empty classroom at Hollywood High reading the LA Times story of the death of John Wayne, I anticipated my own entry into Junior High a few weeks later.  I had no idea how different going to school in Hollywood could be.  I was tagging along with my sister Laura as she embarked on an accelerated curriculum that had her attending school in the summer.  To my 11-year-old mind there was literally no difference between the attendees of Hollywood High and that of any adult walking around free and not in school.

In my mind these guys had it made.  Though I stuck close to my sis and avoided other kids/adults on the school grounds, everything and everyone seemed normal.

Junior High Babylon

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Photo from Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood Sign

My back yard, sorta.

It was really fun to get to walk around in what I considered to be my back yard, though I didn’t live up in the hills I’d head up from the entrance of Griffith Park.  I never saw any of my friends or other people from school here so it was like going on a retreat.  I heard about Peg Entwistle jumping off the ‘H.’  About James Dean filming the knife fight scene in “Rebel Without A Cause” right behind where I was standing there.  I didn’t know it but the Hillside Strangler probably did some of his work right around here.  By the time I moved to LA they had just replaced the deteriorated old ‘Hollywood’ sign with a brand new one.  These hills have alot of stories, like we all do.  But also like us, not all of them are happy.

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SuperWalk

A smoggy day, in LA town.

At first I thought getting the signatures would be the hardest part. I was 14 years old, in a gang ridden Junior High School (it wasn’t called Middle School yet, and it wasn’t Bancroft) and at 14 I already knew I loathed the idea of work. I could see the Hollywood sign from the play yard (concrete) and always dreamed of being on that hill and away from everybody. It’s funny that I envisioned the air being cleaner up there: 1982, LA, look up smog levels back then in Google and you’ll see that farcity.

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