Thursday, January 26, 2017


MY LOS ANGELES 1963-64 — David Zarkin biographical
Leaving Spokane in 1963 in my 1953 Ford I arrived in Los Angeles in August’s incredible heat where I immediately called Uncle Gordon who suggested I stay at the YMCA in downtown.  While I was trying to sleep in the creepy Y, a thief broke into my Ford and stole my Coast Guard uniforms, but the police recovered them.  Meanwhile, I moved into a motel on Figueroa which was also very grim and I imagined it was the same place where pop idol Sam Cooke was murdered in 1964.
I was scheduled to start work almost immediately at United Press International in the Mirror Building on Spring Street.  (This was a job I lined up while in the Coast Guard in the Bay Area with John Madigan at UPI where I had good references from my boss Bobbi Ulrich at UPI Spokane.)
My Coast Guard buddy, John Miller of Ontario and I found a one-bedroom apartment without air conditioning in South Pasadena so I was driving the flat as a pancake Pasadena Freeway to work every morning.  John’s family was transplanted from the Midwest to work in Southland industrial jobs.
With John, I went to an organ concert at the Rialto Theater, South Pasadena, which is featured in “LaLa Land” and “The Player.”  The auction of props and sets at the closing of the Hal Roach Studios in Culver City was memorable one Saturday where Roach music director Charles Roger’s widow sat on a camp stool and showed a scrap book of Rogers career at the studio.  

UPI Summer Relief Reporter
I was summer “relief” staff at UPI in the mirror building, mostly rewriting news releases, but I also covered Clifford Odett’s funeral at Forest Lawn where Danny Kaye gave the eulogy and Zsa Zsa Gabor attended among others.  (Without the internet or a clip file, I went to the funeral totally unprepared to write anything relevant about Odett’s career.)
The UPI Hollywood International Bureau needed help writing filler features for newspapers so I succeeded writer Tom Mankiewicz, son of the movie director-writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
I was working under the direction of a student intern who assigned me to fabricate a piece on Ricky Nelson who was recently married to Mark Harmon’s sister and they were expecting their first child. Since the Nelsons did not allow interviews, I needed to make up froth about Rick and the wife shopping for strollers and diapers. 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, but she referred me to one of her instructors at USC, John Thompson, who also was the news director at NBC in Burbank, and he was hiring.  
After, interviewing with Thompson, a tall man with a gray crew cut, I got a job as one of two “editorial assistants.”  I should have asked more questions about opportunities to write news for KNBC.  The other assistant was Ken, an African American announcer from PBS Channel 28 who has a bit part in the movie “Wild in the Streets,” a cult classic.  Swept up in the “glamour” of working at NBC-TV, I thought this was a step up from UPI and two of my former classmates from the University of Washington worked in the huge building.  Carol Anderson was an assistant on the Monte Hall game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” and Skip was a page.  (Skip later got a real estate job but Carol was on track for success in TV.)
NBC/KNBC News was in a window-less warehouse where most everyone smoked.  Jack Latham was the anchor and later did cameos in some movies including “Willie Wonka.”  Some of the KNBC regulars included Elmer Peterson, Cecil Brown and Chick Hearne.  The later marinated himself in after shave and moved about briskly so he could read the sports on the air and get to his primary job, Lakers’ basketball play by play on RKO’s KHJ-TV.  I was “clerical” at NBC where I answered phones, ripped copy off the wire service machines and ran errands to LAX and Republic Pictures for CFI lab film processing.  I got my haircuts at a shop across from Warner Brothers where John Wayne was their other famous customer.  One of my best lines at NBC is that I “wanted a job where I raised and lowered the flag for news anchor George Putnam at KTTV.”
A few months after I started work at NBC, Thompson was fired by the New York suits for “financial improprieties” and a bespectacled accountant-type took charge.  A small town Spokane kid, I found Los Angeles populated by transient residents like myself where it never felt like “home.”  I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.  I burned out the engine on the Ford driving the freeways in summer for NBC so I made a fruitless attempt to buy a Falcon at a shady Hollywood dealer.
The Van Nuys singles group I joined was my social life which meant more travel on the Ventura Freeway.  With the NBC job in the valley, we moved to a singles apartment building with a pool in Glendale on a major roadway across from a Ralph’s store.  My roommate John was rarely around and I was lonely.  By 1965, I landed a job at the Idaho Statesman, Boise, where I finally became a journalist, winning an award for a series of articles on pollution.

Events You May Know in 1963-64
Madame Nu of South Vietnam gave an angry press conference in Los Angeles after the CIA assassinated the SVN president, her brother in law.

Mayor Sam Yorty, a nominal Democrat, loose cannon and pompous ass, began every interview by stating, “As I have said repeatedly” which made his quotes irrelevant.  KNBC’s Bill Brown, a former Chrysler PR writer, covered City Hall and amused us with his cynical observations.

The Baldwin Hills Dam burst and flooded the area and Glendale hills floods sent homes sliding down the hills.

Before “Hogan’s Heroes,” Bob Crane was a morning announcer on CBS’ KNX where he interviewed show biz personalities who might get him a movie or TV gig.  He also appeared as the neighbor on the Donna Reed Show and boasted that he was the only radio personality who wore pancake makeup on the air.  Bronislav Caper, the movie music composer, was a frequent guest.  

Steve Allen”s syndicated late night TV show, taped at an old movie house near Hollywood and Vine, was the hottest ticket in town.  A secretary at NBC knew one of the writers and got us tickets.  We attended the night when Allen attempted an unrehearsed rendering of “Romeo and Juliet” with a confused middle age audience member.  Allen lost his temper when Juliet didn’t respond to his cues and the bit was scrapped. 

Heartthrob George Maharis was arrested in the men’s room at Carolina Pines Jr. restaurant.

Peter Lorre died and KNBC needed footage from one of his films.  I knew about “The Raven” and lugged the entire 35mm movie from AIP to NBC. 

Roy Neal covered NASA for NBC and was reminiscent of the Duke character in Doonesbury with a cigarette holder clenched between his teeth.  He was a nice guy but a bit pompous because he was in tight with the space gurus.   I used to pick him up at the Burbank airport when he returned to LA.

Clete Roberts covered breaking news for RKO’s KHJ-TV in a trench coat, reminiscent of a Hollywood stereotype from the 1940s.

I got a press pass from NBC for a preview in the basement of a valley bank building of the Sam Fuller film noir “Shock Corridor” and it is a low budget gem from Allied Artists.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Gun Safety, Soucheray and More

MINNEAPOLIS — Last Thursday Minnesota House of Representatives Republicans introduced legislation that would turn the Land of Lakes into more of a wild west shooting range.  Rev. Nancy Nord Bence reported Sunday at a meeting of PROTECT MINNESOTA at the Mayflower Church on disturbing events in the Republican Legislature.
One dubious piece of legislation would authorize anyone, including non-residents, to carry a gun without a permit.  The other is known as the “stand your ground” law which would allow a person to shoot anyone they considered a threat with “threat” interpretated subjectively.

Save Tuesday, February 14th. That's when we'll go to the capitol to put our hard work into action!  
In the classic movie “It Happened on 5th Avenue,” an estranged couple is reunited when the wife makes “mulligatawny soup.”  The millionaire husband, played by Charlie Ruggles, is overwhelmed by the wife, played by Ann Harding.  They fondly remembered the soup from leaner times.
So I ran across the recipe in my heart healthy cookbook and am giving it a go now in the crockpot.  The main ingredients are chicken, broth, apples, onion, green pepper and carrots.

I am savoring right of center Sunday Pioneer Press columnist’s Joe Soucheray’s discomfort with Trump playing footsie with Putin.  Like me he grew up in a school where we were taught to fear the Soviet Union and the Reds.  (A seventh grade teacher, John Kale,  warned us that the radio documentary spoofing the Army McCarthy hearings was a subversive danger.)  
Soucheray compares the Ruskies to the Green Bay Packers.  What a horrible thing to say about Russia where my father was a native of Minsk, but was also anti-Russian.
Joe no doubt would prefer that Tim and Mary (Pawlenty) would soon be occupying the White House but it hasn’t come to pass (and never will).

With snow, ice and freezing temps, the 1981 film noir “Body Heat” seemed an appropriate title to chase away the winter blues last night.  Coupled with the 1944 noir “Double Indemnity,” both provided a wonderful take on the state of civilization as we know it.  In “DI,” Fred MacMurray is fixated on Barbara Stanwyck’s ankle bracelet while in “BH” the object of William Hurt’s lust is shown in explicit bedroom interludes with the femme fatale played by Kathleen Turner.  
This is an updated take on the biblical Adam and Eve Garden of Eden yarn for adult viewing.  Greed and lust send our erstwhile heroes down the swirling vortex of hell and damnation, but getting there is half the fun. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Hawaii 1991, "Last Five Years"

Preparing for a tropical getaway, so I am playing this 1988 CD I bought in Oahu in 1991 when I was with the Uhlers Ski Club.  Time to get back there.  Photo with my Yashica SLR, 3M film.

Something different was added to Silver Sneakers aerobics today at the YMCA when instructor Sarah provided Edith Piaff singing “LaViene Rose.”  On a day when I thought rigor morits had set in, this was enough to help me forget that it’s only 9 degrees outside today.

Growing up in New York in 1965, Arty Dorman saw a summer production of “The Music Man” with Anita Bryant as Marian and Gig Young as Professor Harold Hill.  Given that Gig was gay and Anita was homophobic, that was indeed a strange bit of casting.  Arty spoke Sunday at the Or Emet Jewish Humanist Congregation meeting in St. Paul.  He recommends the play “The Humans” which won a 2016 Tony Award.  Dorman expanded his love of theater to become the lead Twin Cities critic for


Like the popular movie “La La Land,” the characters in the movie “Last Five Years” have difficulty navigating careers and maintaining romance.  The setting is New York City in this musical with Jeremy Jordan (“Smash”) playing a writer and Anna Kendrick as an actress.  This is one of the more interesting movies on Netflix.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


This past weekend I was reminded of Eve Arden’s sarcastic wit when Decades did a weekend of “Our Miss Brooks,” the story of the erstwhile bachelorette I knew as a youth listening every week on KXLY radio.  Her matrimonial efforts were lost on biology teacher Mr. Boynton, played on radio by Jeff Chandler and then on TV by Robert Roxwell.
Richard Crenna’s airhead Walter Denton trades barbs with Gale Gordon’s Osgood Conklin, the principal and father of Harriet, Denton’s girlfriend.  Crenna was fodder for Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat” and was paired with blonde bombshell Cleo Moore in “Over Exposed” on the big screen. 

Get paranoid with the British TV series “Black Mirror” where cookies are implanted and people disappear with the touch of a remote control.  The “Christmas Story” episode features a bird wall clock identical to the one a friend in Edina owns.

That dancing on the stars number in “LaLa Land” was first done in  the 1952 comedy “Lovely to Look At,” a remake of RKO’s “Roberta” which is better.  Marge and Gower Champion danced on the stars as do Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.