Sunday, September 10, 2006

Recalling My Week at UPI Hollywood

Whatcha Gonna Do, Kiddie-Boos cos You got a Date with David Cassidy

Side splitting hilarious is the 1971 teen fanzine “Spec” which must be short for spectator. My friend Babs gave me this rag last night and it brought back memories of my very short stay at the UPI Hollywood Bureau in 1963 in the Los Angeles Times-Mirror Building.
UPI frankly didn’t know what to do with me so they shuffled me off to the Hollywood desk where I worked with a young woman who was a student in broadcasting at USC. One of her instructors was John Thompson who she referred me to and that bit of kindness landed me a job as a go-for editorial assistant at NBC News where Thompson was news director. (He was later fired for some improprieties; the details escape me.)
Working on the Hollywood desk got me out of firing range of Vernon Scott’s paper torpedoes.
I definitely was not up to the challenge of fabricating a piece on Ricky Nelson who was recently married to Mark Harmon’s sister and they were expecting their first born. These features were distributed by mail to newspapers worldwide. Since the Nelsons did not allow interviews, I needed to make up something benign out of thin air. I had difficulty rewriting a news release let alone make up some garbage about them shopping for strollers and diapers. As if I really cared. I did a quick count from the marriage date to when the little cherub was due and said to my coworker, “there’s our story.” She was not amused. I did not last long at Hollywood UPI, but here’s an example from the esteemed “Spec” on what was expected of me, I am sure:

“FLASHES!! Starting next September, you’ll be able to spend each and every weekend with Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy on ABC-TV! The great, grand, glorious and good news is that Bobby Sherman will have his own half hour show each Satruday....Of course darlin’ David Cassidy will continue to star in the “Partridge Family” ... you don’t have to worry about watcha gonna do, kiddie-boos, cos you got a date with David Cassidy every Friday night and Bobby Sherman every Saturday night!”

This hilarious cutline displays self-contempt by the writer and a loathing for the readers of this dreck. You couldn’t write this stone sober, but it paid the rent for some poor bugger. No way, kiddie-boos.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Boise Boy: Return of the Native

Where’’s Boise?” my friend Floyd asked as I gushed on about my triumphant return to the Capital City after leaving my job as local government reporter at The Statesman from 1964 to 1969.
“It’s in the same place it was 38 years ago,” I responded. Boise like Minneapolis is in fly-over-land underneath the clouds as the silver bird wings it’s way to Seattle or LA. Now that’s sad and more needs to be done to let the world know that Boise is a great destination and should not be overlooked. It speaks to our provincialism that too many Minnesotans don’t know Boise or think its ground zero for white supremacists. I am here to say they are full of crap.
I never leave Boise even though I live in Bloomington, MN because of the recurring dreams wherein I am on the night copy desk writing obituaries or else Gordon Peterson is breathing fire down my neck as deadline rapidly approaches for the City Council story way too late at night. You never outlive that stress and adrenaline rush. A sense of accomplishment is followed by nagging doubts about your facts or grammar.
Dick Hronek (then night editor) and Sandy Klein, managing editor, gave me a break when I was an unemployed green reporter with only eight months experience at UPI in Spokane and Los Angeles before I joined the Coast Guard. It was super on-the-job training from that great Statesman staff in the 1960s and I wish I could say that I went on to a stellar newspaper career but that would be a huge lie.
Klein held my hand as I nervously wrote my first big story for The Statesman in 1964, a steamy tale of sex and murder where handsome drifter Billy Butler strangled a college coed with her bra after meeting her on a bus. That was my page one baptism under fire as a news reporter working the weekend night desk. (For more on this case see Arthur Hart’s book, “Echoes from the Ada County Courthouse.”, p 65).
Another memory from the night desk was the short bit on police Sgt. Vern Bisterfeldt nabbing a shoplifter at Welles Department Store while he was moonlighting as a Santa Claus. An angry mom called the news desk the next day and screamed that we were destroying the Santa myth for her small children. I was only too happy to conspire on that. I will argue that Boise has changed cosmetically for better or worse but it’s still the same accepting city it was when I was an Idahoan 38 years ago.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Boise Madness Continued

It was a gray depressing day when I drove into Boise in October 1964 to start a job as a cub reporter on the night desk at the Idaho Statesman on Bannock Street across from a small park, City Hall, the Capitol Building and Ada County Court House. I bought a copy of the Statesman and searched the wantads for a boarding house. Two were advertised: Mrs. John Cook’s home and nearby John Martin and his wife had rooms for rent. As I drove up to Mrs. Cook’s I had all my worldly belongings which included an Arvin portable radio, a Smith Corona portable typewriter and a few clothes in the back seat of my 1961 Plymouth Fury two-door which coworker Jim McLaughlin would describe as a going 20 miles per hour when it was parked.
Mrs. Cook had only a basement room that I would have to share with her grandson and I didn’t want that so I moved into the basement of the Martins’ house which was probably interesting. John Martin was a 50-ish big blue collar redneck homophobic middle aged man. The Martins had both been injured on the job -- she when her knee ran into an open refrigerator door in a restaurant where she was a waitress. He when a caterpillar he was driving on a construction job tipped over and took a chunk out of his ass. He would drop his drawers in the living room and show off his half-ass which was a defining moment in my life at Martin Manor. Homophobia may have sent John scurrying from gay-friendly California in the 60s but I guessed that they were ill-equipped to compete in the job market and the cost of living was cheaper in Idaho.
They moved to Idaho with their disability settlements to enjoy a simpler life as proprietors of a boarding house. A month or so later all that would go up in smoke like what they created with the constant haze from their Marlboros.
Probably to piss off his wife, without telling her he traded in their beloved Ford Galaxie 500 convertible that the disability settlement bought on a junky old Ford station wagon and a pickup truck for reasons that only he understood.
A deep chill settled over the Martin household after that incident and I think the marriage was probably doomed. Shortly thereafter they sold the house and presumably went their separate ways. I did enjoy some adventures with the Martins including a fishing trip to Lucky Peak Reservoir on a cold November morning and shlepping around town on errands. Later I would do a hunting trip with Ken Burroughs in his Rambler Classic with a loaded gun and then a weekend fishing trip with Statesman night editor Dick Hronek and outdoor editor Walter Johnson in the scenic Idaho mountains, catching trout. I got into the Idaho scene at warp speed. One highlight of Boise Madness was fishing trips with Dave Frazier, the Statesman police reporter. Who can forget beer for breakfast?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

At Friend's Central Perk Set

Roger, me, Alan and Scott on Feb.9, 2006, a wonderful tour of the Warner Bros. lot and our tour guide was most generous in giving us access to delightful memories such as the couch in the Central Perk set from TV show Friends. Did Brad Pitt's butt ever rest here? One wonders.

Tab Hunter at Richfield book signing 2006

As I approached Tab Hunter for the book signing I did a stream of consciousness and asked if the movie "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter" was inspired by him and then asked if he knew Tony Randall and of course he did.