Here is a post from my History Los Angeles blog,  Links to stories about artist Janet Bennett, who says she designed the mosaic walls at Los Angeles International Airport in 1960, and I believe her; about the past and future of a Hollywood restaurant; about one of Hollywood’s first female executive producers; and some Really Cool Vintage Photos, like this from the 1880s (it’s Santa Monica, and that is a roller coaster).

Santa_Monica_roller_coaster, 2/13/14, 9:46 AM, 8C, 6778×7364 (147+1610), 100%, bent 6 stops, 1/25 s, R95.5, G76.3, B90.8

Just got comment cards back from my last talk on Baby Boomer Holiday Trivia (with pictures):

“Outstanding presentation in every way.”
“Wonderfully nostalgic!”
“Excellent & fun talk”

So nice to hear!

I gave a slide show (Power Point) presentation with pictures of aluminum Christmas trees, Shiny Brite ornaments, the Hollywood Santa Claus Lane Parade, Gene Autry’s album covers and Rudolph’s creator, Robert May, the original Chipmunks (not that cute), Slinky creator and family, Ginny, Barbie and the Bild Lili doll, and more. And I have stories–funny, sad, and true stories–about all of those things.

So if you’re in the Southern California area and need a speaker, drop me an email via the contact page and we can talk!


Fer yer eddificashun, from my other blog:

A hundred years ago, lots of men and women made money by plugging songs. They were known as song pluggers.


Yup; even George Gershwin did it in his early years, before his songwriting efforts took off like Seabiscuit at the starting bell. So what’s a song plugger?

Someone who, in the days before radio, stood on street corners or outside of stores, or even rose at the end of a Vaudeville show or movie, to belt out a tune that was for sale nearby. “For sale” meant as sheet music, to be played on piano. Remember, no radio, no recordings, very few records. The idea was to get that song to a customer’s ears. If they liked it, they’d hurry to Woolworth’s or a music store and plunk down a nickel for the 12 inch by 15 inch pamphlet of notes, and learn to play/sing it themselves. This was advertising before 1925, and a little bit after.

Easy work, if you’ve got a pair of lungs and a bit of nerve. Not sure how well it paid. Gershwin supposedly made $15 a week, as a 16-year-old kid. The profession  evolved into a pitchman-type of thing, but has mostly disappeared.

Today, we have jobs that people a hundred years ago could not have envisioned. Even fifty years ago. I’m not talking about the latest flavor of astrophysicist or network administrator; that high-tech and scientific jobs would get more specialized and complex IS predictable. But who could’ve foreseen, for example, that ordinary, middle-class folks would be hiring coaches to help them deal with life?

Life coach is a career path. It’s rather competitive now (so was song-plugging), but ever since Tony Robbins became famous and started pulling in bazillions o’ bucks for pumping up the rich and famous to perfect their craft/swing/tone and become more rich and famous, coaching has become a respectable way to make a living.

I know writers who pay to meet with coaches each week or two and be encouraged to set goals, make outlines, take x number of actions towards achieving said goals, or maybe just be gently chided for not fulfilling the promises of the previous meeting. Sometimes this graduates into buying packages of weekly online sessions or empowering weekends with a particular coach and other supplicants.

I also know mild, sweet people in the coaching business. They don’t rant and scream; they honestly want to help all their clients and make a living doing so. I see training programs for coaches offered. It’s a business, I fear, that is fast reaching the coach-client saturation point.

But it is a business no one saw coming.

Another example of a profession no one could have foreseen: Mata Amritanandamayi, the religious figure that gives hugs. Tens of millions have received her hugs; her entourage is apparently fifty strong. She works hard; hugging up to 15,000 people a day. Is there any precedence for such a career?

Is this a one-shot op? Maybe not. There’s a 7-year-old child traveling the USA giving hugs to policemen, supported by a GoFundMe account.


It seems that someone at Kohl’s assumes I am too overwhelmed by their incredible selection to figure out for myself how to keep track of the clothes I want to buy. How thoughtful of them to provide these guides:

Can I ask something naive?
What is attractive about this picture?  Or, in what alternate universe is this attractive?

This photo ad came up on my email. It’s for a not-so-cheap health club; I assume it’s aimed at men and women in their 20s and 30s. Maybe 40s. I would assume that Equinox and its ad agency feels the male and female bodies in the center of the photo are attractive to such potential customers.

So, male first:

In fact, let’s spend a short paragraph on the male to the far left. Do his six-pack abs look sprayed-on to you?

But the guy in the center … What is splattered across his chest to start with? And face? Mud? Blood? And while his arms and trunk show muscle tone, is it not verging on way-too-thin to be healthy? And the belt, so low, perhaps about to fall. Is this considered erotic? Because to me, an old lady, it looks pathetic. Like the guy is oblivious to his pants falling off.

Now the woman: compared to the men, she’s overdressed! So I assume this photo is aimed at those who like the male form.

Now the phones obscuring every face, and the magenta glare reflecting off every forehead. What is the point of all that?

How does anything in this photo contribute or uphold the phrase, “Commit to something?”

Commit to starvation? To enjoying a trance of oblivion instead of taking photos?

And what is the giant eye overhead supposed to mean?

And the phrase “Experience Equinox” cannot possibly mean that one would experience anything like what these people are undergoing and snapping at a gym.

This picture might be a good prompt for a creative writing group, but how does it pull me or anyone into an Equinox Fitness Club?

Don’t get it. Not sure I want to. Ads like this make me glad to be old; I don’t think I’d enjoy this performance scene even if I were 25.

Yesterday, laundering sheets and pillowcase, jammies and socks: when I opened the dryer, all of the socks (four pairs) came out together. Each one of a pair touching each other. Perfectly matched.

This has never happened before. I take it as a sign of miraculous synchronicity to come. That or aliens playing with the space-time continuum again.

Have you ever, after engaging in a conversation with someone, sudden choked on the growing realization that the person you’re talking to is not completely sane?

It’s always a shock, because we just don’t expect to be face to face with crazy, especially if it’s someone we know.

The worst instance was a telephone conversation at work, decades ago. OK, not face to face … thankfully. A salesman I knew, someone I’d gone to lunch with, called me and began to talk about his sister. How she’d been the victim of a crime, a brutal, sexual attack. His voice broke; he cried, apologized, and then went into the details. Graphic, gory details, until I cried, “Stop! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for you, but I can’t listen to this!”

By then, a friend had come over because he could tell by my face that I was hearing something awful. It took a few moments to realize what had just happened. Then it took a few hours to sink in. I’d never heard the term “mind fuck” before, but add a scoop of blood-drenched shock and that’s what I was served up. I felt like a fool, because I’d let the man talk.

My friend called the boss, and we called the police. They didn’t treat me like a fool, thank goodness. The guy never came near me again; we learned from his boss (eventually) that mine was not the first complaint.

Like I said, that was the worst instance.

I’ve been creeped out by strangers who sat next to me, pointed out their former co-workers there, on the dance floor, and told me how they dreamed of getting a gun to punish them for the way they behaved. That happened twice, when I was young and went to dance clubs. What weird karma is that?

I was getting to know a friend who told me about her childhood in the south. Fun times, great conversation. Six months later I brought up an anecdote from that talk because it seemed appropriate. She stared at me like I was nuts. She’d never been to the south. She grew up in Arizona. Her partner, a long-time friend, told me later that such things happened to him too. She had alternate personalities that came out at times to tell stories about their lives.

A fellow writer, who was finally getting her magnum opus published, moved because of one neighbor who stalked her, stole her mail, and frightened her. Her friends heard about these incidents as they happened, every few weeks. Then the former neighbor showed up at her new place. She called the police, who referred her to a private detective. The detective made her a hat of sensors and wires to deflect the stalker’s probes.

At some point, you blink and realize there is no stalker, no stolen mail, no detective. What do you do then?

A smart, clever woman called to tell me she would no longer join our group at a restaurant because she’d heard us all talking about her, condemning her. It went round the table, those hissing rebukes. I tried to calm her, tell her that hadn’t happened. No one condemned her, but she wouldn’t believe me. A year or so later she was hospitalized with dementia and she died the first day of this year.

Last night I listened to an elderly woman, a casual acquaintance, who has been telling everyone for months about her computer viruses and problems, and who has blown off every suggestion that made sense. She told me about the sneaky hackers passing themselves off as Paypal investigators, about Microsoft ripping her off, about the bank lady telling her to take her accounts elsewhere because my friend keeps closing and opening new accounts as she’s hacked. The FBI is investigating, she’s been told. Has she called the police about this identity theft? No, because the FBI is handling it. She was told that. She never said by whom. Meanwhile, she’s cancelling all her plans for the weekend because the computer people may call her then and keep her on the phone for hours.

What do you do? When you’ve been listening to a woman talk for 45 minutes and never answer a direct question, but go round and round about these bad people who pass themselves off as good people, what?

We like to believe that the folks we know or meet see the same world we do, more or less. We seek common ground and build on it. When the person across from you begins to sink into quicksand, when their moaning and groaning crosses a line into paranoia, when their stories become confused and there’s no logic to the drama that keeps growing and expanding, it’s a threat, in a way. Crazy is close, it’s just across the table on on the other end of the phone.It’s grabbed hold of someone I know. How long has this been going on?

I no longer feel like a fool when someone fools me. It’s not about me at all. I also don’t often cut and run, unless the person speaking is a total stranger and getting away seems imperative..

I guess the answer to “What do you do?” is you listen and try to think of a way to help.


Once upon a time, there was a young man who believed strongly in law and order. When he saw injustice, he wanted to right it – by force if necessary. Men must behave rightly. The innocent must be protected.

This man went to law school, and then got into politics. Soon he was the state Attorney General. As such, he focused on putting certain gangsters out of business. Since they were a threat to the innocent, he had no problem using illegal means like wire taps on their phones to get evidence against the bad guys. Our hero just made sure his name stayed off of any orders about that.

World War II brought new threats. The Attorney General helped craft the order that interred the Japanese, in order to protect the innocent. On a national stage, he argued forcefully for it and saw it passed. Thousands of American citizens and non-citizens lost nearly everything they owned and were imprisoned in desolate locations for the duration of the war.

Soon the man was governor. Then a Republican president tapped him for the Supreme Court. Not just that; the president wanted him to lead the court!

Yes, boys and girls, that is how Earl Warren became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

And what did this protective, harsh man do, once on the court? You know the answer.

He struck down segregation in schools.

He told the police they could no longer hold and question suspects without letting them talk to an attorney.

President Eisenhower liked to say that he’d only made two mistakes while in the Oval Office, and both of them were sitting on the Supreme Court.

I’m not sure how Earl Warren viewed his path in life, from conservative icon to liberal hero, because I have not read his autobiography. I tried once; he is not an engaging writer. Verbose, but dull. I’ll try again, one of these days.

I know how I view the transition he made. Once on the court, he realized he had to make decisions for everyone, not just the people he wanted to protect. He had to interpret the Constitution and accept that it applied to all, even if he didn’t like it.

I can’t express how much I admire Earl Warren’s courage. It’s easy to fight for justice for those you love. Warren learned to fight for justice for everyone, whether he loved them or despised them. His goodness, at peril for so long, caught up to him.

Foreign influences on our elections?

dimensions-travelerForget the Russians! The bigger worry is … did time travelers from the future interfere in our voting process?

Politics and science fiction do, occasionally, intersect, but you have to be quick to catch that.

First, the background:

For liberals and Democrats like me, the last couple of months have been filled with dread. Not because the other guys won; that happens regularly. After nearly 45 years of voting, I’ve learn to live with disappointment. Most of us do not doubt the patriotism or righteous intentions of the other party’s candidates, even though we rabidly disagree on many issues.

This time is different. To me, this is a train wreck, a bad joke that seemed impossible to manifest, a nightmare from which we can’t awake.

I have friends and family members who are Republicans, and who could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. And I know at least one who did. Let me say up front that I still love you; I just think you’ve been taken in by a dangerous cad who will treat you badly and discard you.

But he’s been sworn in! The dangerous cad has taken over the family manse and fortune!

We now live with him as President. Dread is done because the future is here.

Second, the SF spin:

Were time travelers from the future hiding in the crowds on January 20, there to prevent the inauguration? A Pacific Standard piece described that and I love that idea. I read elsewhere: “New research has shown that every ten minutes someone claiming to be from the future sent back to save humanity is admitted to a hospital somewhere in the US.”

And of course, there’s this video from Steven Colbert and Scott Bakula, doing Quantum Leap on a young Donald:

This time travel idea was broached as early as last March, but the UK has put a new spin on it: Donald Trump himself is “a thrill-junkie time traveller” (sic) (it’s British), here to save us from nuclear war, according to several papers. The quoted phrase is from the Daily Star.

Or maybe Hillary Clinton was the time traveler! That from a Tweet by Jomny Sun, who said future people forgot about sexism when they selected her and sent her back. You can imagine how well that went over.

My theory:

If there were time travelers involved, they were there to ensure that Trump took office.


Think of Donald Trump as medicine. Horrible, vile-tasting medicine, or like chemo that will save you if it doesn’t kill you first.

Women's_March_Washington,_DC_USA_33suffragettes-marching-on-pennsylvania-avenue-washington-dc-march-3rd-AE43DPI can imagine Many Good Things coming from his presidency.

We’ve seen one already: the Women’s March. A million strong, marching in every major city. One conservative asked me, “What good did that do?”

Fortunately, I can point to several marches that lit fires and changed the world. The Los Angeles Times just wrote about the Suffrage movement marches and President Woodrow Wilson, 100 years ago. And there are many others; Selma, for instance.

Unless a time traveler stops by to enlighten me (and you’ll be the first to hear) the good done by Sunday’s march will not be known for years, till we can point back to it and say, “That’s when it started.”

From my liberal standpoint, I can think of other Good Things that may happen during a Trump presidency:

  • Republicans lose control of Congress and their most extreme representatives and doctrines are rejected.
  • Climate change speeds up, scares us badly, and that spurs us to take decisive action, And it will take scares. We are appallingly lazy about clinging to our conveniences and one-use plastics, myself included.
  • The economy gets mucked up, pushing us to re-examine rules set in place back in the 1930s, and adding a few more.
  • The wealth of the 1% becomes a target. Instead of being coddled and obeyed, the super-rich are taxed and forced to pony up their share to improve our society, infrastructure, and economy. Good: Greed is not fulfilling; it is the exact opposite.

A final point, aimed at those clever, Ayn Rand-loving entrepreneurs that thought Trump was winking and speaking (in code) directly to them: Maybe we’ll all learn that sexist, racist, bullying speech isn’t something to be cheered, tolerated, or winked at. It may actually be a clue that the person speaking is, by golly, a sexist, a racist, and a bully.