Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Double dating with Frank Sinatra

Here's another excerpt from the book I'm writing about growing up in the 60s. Note: After the AMERICAN IDOL finale I will post a review of the entire season.

But for now, let's stagger back to September, 1965...
...Meanwhile, willowy 19 year old actress Mia Farrow began dating a “real” senior – Frank Sinatra. He was 49 at the time. It would have been great to double date with them. Maybe go to the Friday night Taft football game, and grab a pizza at Shakey’s. You know what else Frank would like? A popular activity among popular kids was TP'ing someone’s home. That meant showering the house in streams of toilet paper. I can just imagine Frank tossing a roll, saying this house looked vaguely familiar and then realizing, “Hey, this is where the kidnappers held my son!”

School rivalries were big in the San Fernando Valley, especially in the fall when football reined supreme. Taft had two rivals – Canoga Park High and Birmingham High. Canoga was our nearest competitor. They had an older stucco campus and a much rougher crowd. The rivalry would have been bigger had we not been afraid to go to the Canoga games.

So we needed another rival more our socio-economic level. Birmingham High in Encino fit the bill. Good football programs and instead of knife fights you just had Jews taunting each other that their temples had inferior lecture series.

The fall semester was also basketball season. Having suffered through basketball boot camp in the spring I intended to get my just rewards and actually “play” the damn game. I was assigned to the “B” team, which is essentially junior varsity. And I was terrible. Only if there was twelve seconds to go in the game and we were leading by at least 65 points would the coach send me into the game, and usually with instructions to just stand underneath the basket and let myself get fouled. After maybe three games I was cut from the team. But the coach had a proposition. How would I like to become the varsity manager? I would collect the balls after practice. That seemed very demeaning to me, insulting even. Until I learned it would satisfy my P.E. requirement. Sold. I was team manager for three years. And for the next two springs I was manager of the varsity gymnastics team (same coach) where my chief responsibility was to hand out chalk. Not many people can say they lettered in two varsity sports and never once took a shower.

One very big perk of being a manager during basketball season was that I got to be the P.A. announcer at home games. Since I always wanted to be a sportscaster this was just my dish. But I was fired from that too when I caused a major incident during the big Taft-Chatsworth game. I thought I saw a Chatsworth player signal a ref so I said, “And Chatsworth wants a time out.” The ref heard that and charged a time out to them. Well, the signal was apparently for something else (Ooops. My bad.) and the Chatsworth coach went ballistic. This resulted in a technical for our team. Now our coach was livid. In short order everyone was screaming at everyone else. Chatsworth made the technical and eventually won the game… by one point. (Ooops. Reeeeeally my bad.) I spent the rest of the games icing ankles.

Thus concludes the section on my vaunted athletic career in high school. Or any other time in my life .

AMERICAN IDOL season finale review tomorrow. Hint: I hate Kara's songwriting almost as much as I hate her judging.

16 comments:

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I finally found someone who topped my gig at Burbank High School for a P.E. credit: announcer for the girls modern dance troupe. Tights, sweaty girls...and me.

Heaven, or what?

Debby G said...

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. I love the line about temple lecture series!

I graduated from Chatsworth High in 1980. Our school colors were orange, yellow, and white. Even our football players looked gay.

I had a part-time job chalking the field on Friday afternoons. I was also a yell-leader one year. We cheered for just about any sports team. During wrestling meets, we used to chant, "Get excited! Get get excited!" Yeah, everyone in the school colors looked gay.

Willy B. Good said...

Ken
I can already picture Ryan Murphy creating a hit Fox musical comedy series about your illustrious high school sporting achievements. Cheers.

Joe said...

Mia Farrow dating a man 30 years her senior.

Ironic, innit?

Tom Quigley said...

God, Ken -- I hope when your're doing Dodgers' games this year, you don't announce at some point "And Torre's signalling for a pitching change" when all he's doing is scratching his package or something...

Soon Yi said...

Joe said...

Mia Farrow dating a man 30 years her senior.

Ironic, innit?
Personally, I don't see anything ironic in it at all.

Anonymous said...

As the father of a Birmingham High (the frequent city football champion) student of not very long ago, I can tell you it's been awhile since students sat around and parsed the Torah. Nowadays Canoga Park is afraid to come over here.

jbryant said...

More possible irony: In ANNIE HALL, Annie tells Alvy about a dream she had in which Sinatra tries to smother her with a pillow. Sinatra is also on Isaac's list of things that make life worth living in MANHATTAN. Both of those are pre-Woody/Mia projects, of course.

John said...

When you stop and think about it, Soon-Yi Sinatra would have been a really silly name it the relationship had endured.

AlaskaRay said...

I went to Cleveland HS the same time you were at Taft (I even went to your senior prom because my girlfriend when to Taft). I'm sure we would have been your main rival if our team ever could have won a ball game.

Ray

WV begall: a Jewish donut with attitude.

Tim Ahern said...

I lived in a northern area of Canoga Park where I could have gone to Canoga or Chatsworth. All the guys in the block went to Chatsworth, I went to Canoga. I couldn’t tell my parents it was because I had a crush on Barbara Raymond, whose brothers went to Canoga. Imagine my surprise in September when I learned that over the summer, her family had moved into Taft territory. And we weren’t THAT scary at Canoga ’65-’67.

Anonymous said...

The house Frank Sinatra Jr. was held during his kidnapping is still standing on the west side of Mason Ave. a few houses south of Roscoe Blvd. If you want to go and TP it, let me know!

Jan said...

Football REINED supreme?

Anonymous said...

I graduated Chatsworth High in 1980 as well. I don't remember a Debby G. I think she's actually from Birmingham High. The football players were in fact gay. Especially Ken Hoffman, who threw white mice during the graduation ceremony so the girls would scream.

Oh, and by the way, the statute of limitations has expired, so I can tell about the plot to explode a smoke bomb at graduation.

This was planned by some honors students who later went to Harvard, Stanford and CalTech. They were going to use smoke bombs from TJ, wired to a switch and 8 C-cell batteries. The switch was going to be under the chair of one of the honors students. He was going to flip the switch and ka-blooey during Shawn B's graduation speech. Shawn later went to Yale and he was gay too. The plan didn't work because security caught some of the conspirators poking around the football field one midnight just before graduation. It would never have worked anyway due to some technical issues. Hoffman's mice were more effective.

ginghamrose said...

I believe I lived in the house on Mason Avenue when I was about 7 or 8 years old. Can you tell me the address and/or do you have any pictures of it?

Jim Ryel said...

Ken, I hate to tell you but Birmingham High School is in Van Nuys. Victory Bl. is the boundary and BHS is on the other side.
I got out of Canoga with the W'69 class. If you were afraid then, try it now.
You sure seem to change jobs a lot.