Monday, September 26, 2011

College Daze

Here's another excerpt from my book on growing up in the '60s.  I'm actually close to finishing this bad boy.  Anyway, travel back to UCLA in the turbulent spring 1969.

I met someone in my “History of Documentary Films” class. To this day I have no idea why I took it. Three hours a week of Eskimos freezing to death in 1910 or Nazi propaganda films.

But I met Honoria Feldman. She had the most beautiful olive skin, the most gorgeous blue eyes, and the worst name of any girl I ever dated. In a desperate attempt to stay awake during these interminable exposes of 1937 Russian smelt fishermen I would mutter snarky comments to my friends within earshot. Think: live Mystery Science Theater 3000. Honoria overheard, found me amusing, and that’s pretty much how most of my relationships began.

I asked her out to a movie we could stay awake for and she accepted. Honoria was in a sorority so I picked her up at the house. Wow. I had never been in a sorority house before. Sure not like its frat equivalent. There was a lovely main foyer with a chandelier. A chandelier for godsakes! Everything was clean. Everything was painted. There was no smell of vomit anywhere. I wanted to pledge.

Honoria and I went out for about a month. Things might’ve worked out much better had it not been for the class itself. After the great George Stevens directed Gunga Din and Woman Of The Year, he made a documentary set in the deep South called All My Babies. Honoria and I were watching it. I had my arm around her. A midwife is seen entering some filthy shack. Ho hum ho hum. And then, in the most graphic detail you can possibly imagine, in this absolute squalor, we see a mother give birth. The blood, the ooze, the umbilical cord. This made the abortion scene in Alfie seem suitable for Hannah Montana. As we fled the auditorium, both nauseated, all Honoria could say was “I’m never having babies, NEVER having babies!” and “if you even come near me with that thing I’m CUTTING IT OFF!”

Have you noticed a pattern in the women I dated? Strong-willed and no sex. Honoria had maybe the most rigid personality of all. Early on I casually asked, “Do you go by any nicknames? Honey or something?” “No!” she exclaimed, “My name is Honoria!”

Ohhhhh-kay…

(Years later, when I was writing for MASH, we needed a name for Charles Winchester’s sister. Honoria Winchester was born. Honoria is pronounced “Ha-NOR-ee-a” by the way. But Hawkeye had some fun at Charles’ expense by pronouncing it “Hana-rhea”. This is why you don’t want to go out with writers if you take yourself too seriously.)

Honoria was very big on Feminist causes. That was fine but I did get a little tired of hearing how I, by inference, was holding down an entire species. One major contribution our generation made was in the area of women’s rights. No longer was a woman expected to just be Suzy Homemaker. She could enter the workforce. And not just because she knew shorthand or could serve a highball at 30,000 feet. For the first time, women joined the executive ranks, not to mention the police force, military, and Teamsters. Today, half of law and medical school students are women. 60% of married couples have two incomes. And women are finally beginning to earn the respect they deserve in the workplace, although it’s a slow process. Men are learning not to treat them merely as sexual objects one lawsuit at a time. That said, it’s not like I ever asked Honoria to iron a shirt.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

George C. Stoney did "All My Babies." George Stevens did two documentaries about nazis.

Michael said...

Ken, I think I caught you! The only one I can remember who mispronounced the name of Winchester's sister was our beloved Col. Flagg. MAYBE Hawkeye did it too, but that's the only one I can remember ....

Ken Levine said...

Hawkeye did mispronounce it. Trust me.

AlaskaRay said...

Did you see the premier of Pan Am last night? It was better than I expected, but still set back women's equality issues about 20 years. I think they needed a character named Hana-rhea.

Ray

Ed Blonski said...

I don't remember Hawkeye misprouncing it, but I'm sure you are write ... er, right.

But Flagg ALSO mispronounced in in "Rally 'Round the Flagg."

And I thought the "H" was silent. But again, you wrote it, so I'm sure you are correct.

Nathan said...

I'm surprised no one has asked the obvious, but has Honoria Feldman ever contacted you to express any opinion on being immortalized? Or do you think that Honoria Feldman had less frivolous things to do than watch M*A*S*H, so she's completely unaware that you used her name. Or possibly Honoria Feldman saw the episode(s) and thought Honoria is a perfectly ordinary name and didn't make the connection.

Possibly Honoria Feldman will Google "Honoria Feldman" and the fact that Honoria Feldman is mentioned so many times in this post and comments will move your blog to the top of of the hit list and get her to contact you.

Hope I've been a help.

:)

Ken Levine said...

Honoria's last name has been changed to protect the innocent.

No, she's never contacted me. I can't say for sure she even remembers me ... except maybe when a James Brown song comes on the radio.

RCP said...

I'm a bit surprised that by college age, Honoria wasn't more aware of the birthing process. I'm one to talk: When I asked my mom where babies came from, she told me that a mommy's belly button opens up like a hatch and there's the baby. I'm not going to tell you how old I was before discovering this wasn't the case.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Nathan: there's knowing about the birthing process and then there's seeing it in its full graphic glory. Back then, you didn't have fathers in the delivery room and you certainly didn't have fathers filming deliveries and showing them to the family.

Around that same time, a friend of mine went out on a high school date. The guy asked her to press a pair of trousers - and then offered her $2 for her trouble.

wg

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Oops. That was for RCP.

wg

Ken Levine said...

It's one thing to know about it and another to see it in the most graphic manner under the grossest condition. It would turn anyone off.

Breadbaker said...

Ken:

I wanted you to know what a class organization you work for. On Saturday, I went to the Ellis Pavilion for the memorial service for Rick Kaminski, a/k/a Rick the Peanut Man. It was also a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kitsap County. Very nice crowd. The M's supplied the room and piles and piles of refreshments. I didn't even mind being outbid on a vintage Seattle Rainiers uniform shirt by a guy who had come all the way from Peoria, Arizona (where Rick attended spring training and did his peanut throwing shtick) to pay his respects.

A beautiful event for a beautiful guy. Seattle will miss him. But I really appreciated the M's effort there.

Uncle Lar (Lujack) Fan said...

Back in 1969 when my daughter was born, I was escorted to a waiting room where I was allowed to smoke, pace, smoke, read, smoke...can't recall if there was a TV in the room...and smoke. When her daughter was born, I was asked if I wanted to be in the room. I believe my response was ARE YOU EFFEN CRAZY????

I did see the name Honoria just last week but can't remember where. That's only the 2nd time I've ever heard/seen that name, and I'm at least as old as Ken...about 38.

When you were a DJ, Ken, did you ever dedicate "Having My Baby" to Honoria?

RCP said...

Wendy and Ken: Yes - I can see how knowing about and actually witnessing childbirth would be two different things.

My older sister was born in 1950; my younger sister in 1966 - interesting how both were raised with quite different expectations due in large part to the women's movement.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Pan Am set women's equality back. I think it gives just a glimpse of what we had to go through back then. How limited our options were and how you should grab whatever brass ring was hanging within your reach. Pan Am stewardess had to have a college degree and be bilingual. In that decade where else were they to use their degree? Was it fair? Hell no. Did a lot of them fly just to find a husband? Sure. But it opens up a big discussion with our sons & daughters about how women had such limited options.

Its all in the perspective.

Pam aka SisterZip

benson said...

I remember back in the early 80's, some friends (not close friends, just getting to know each other) had us over after their son was born. And the new father brought out the Polaroids of the birth. Yep, the Full Sharon! You don't quite know where to look.

Paul Duca said...

Ken, I got your note about having one last reservation for the Sitcom Room, with the header "I accidentally stole my own idea" I dropped you a line, but your robot spat it back to me. Here ii is::





Better than your accidentally stealing Greenbaum and Fritzell's idea of a fake attack of appendicitis to thwart a battle-crazed general.



Sorry I can't use the last reservation. But if you ever have the option, I would like to audit the classroom sessions.


P.S. That isn't your actual address at the bottom of the letter...is it?

P.P.S. Another great trip down your memory lane.

Cap'n Bob said...

I remember a GI delivering a package to Charles saying Honoria like it rhymed with gonorrhea. I always loved that joke and I'm glad to have the story behind it.

Michael said...

Then I didn't catch you! But Flagg did too, and I always want him to get credit there.

HogsAteMySister said...

I forgot “Hana-rhea”!

Har.

We need more Hawkeye.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have a Friday question for you, Ken. I was mulling over the history of the Internet today for a talk I'm giving later this week, and it occurred to me that I think the first Internet joke I ever heard on a sitcom was on your show ALMOST PERFECT, when Kim asks Rob how he meets women and he answers, in shame, "On the Internet." I'm fairly sure it was one of the first two or three episodes. which would put it at ~September 1995 (that year Amazon was founded, the UK's Tesco started accepting online grocery orders, CompuServe was still riding high, and, a a month or two before that joke aired, Netscape went public, kicking off the dot-com boom).

So: were you the first to crack Internet jokes on TV? If you weren't, you must have been very close to it.

wg

Doktor Frank Doe said...

The "Sex object" thing works for me.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

Too bad before Honoria broke up with you, you weren't able to persuade her to give you an "Honorarium"...

Dr Jerkberg said...

Wendy: There is a Simpsons episode from 1993, "Homer Goes to College" that have several Internet jokes.

And I suspect that there is a Married with Children that's a few years older, I vague recall Marcy saying something about some modem that is measured in baud.

Pat Reeder said...

Ken, here's an unintended side effect of the women's liberation movement: it's made sex so cheap, young women are practically givin' it away:

http://tinyurl.com/3pbjfn7

Too late for guys our age, alas. And it really makes it hard out here for a pimp.

Pat Reeder said...

BTW, this is off the subject, but it might make a good post for you. Would like to hear your comments. Some British "experts" have ranked the 100 greatest film comedies of all time.

http://tinyurl.com/6y3f3n8

No "Safety Last," "Sons of the Desert," "Steamboat Bill Jr.," "City Lights," "The Gold Rush," "Modern Times," "Bringing Up Baby," "The Philadelphia Story," "The Bank Dick," "The In-Laws" (original), Altman's "MASH" or anything at all by Albert Brooks. But "Sister Act," "Mean Girls" and "Dodge Ball" made it. "The General" is there, but ranked behind "Clerks," while "Animal House" is ranked below "Kingpin" and "Happy Gilmore."

Idiots.

Jim said...

I spent several days on the campus of Univ. of Calif. at Berkeley in 1969 and 1970 during the Vietnam protests and when Ronald Reagan was Calif. Gov. I was a 22-year old CHP officer and I remember thinking during "riots" that the Berkeley kids were right and the government was wrong. Quit the CHP in 1976. Now I might be considered one of those left-wing liberals.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you've seen this, but the Guardian named Frasier the top TV spin-off, actually better than Cheers. You're number-one in the UK!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/sep/27/tv-spin-offs

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Dr Jerkberg: Thanks. Although we could argue about whether a modem joke in the late 1980s qualifies as an Internet joke - that was probably about bulletin board systems, which back then were unlikely to be connected to the Internet.

I think public awareness of the Internet was minimal until 1988, when the Internet worm finally got it onto the front pages for the first time by shutting down this obscure network connecting research institutions. (And, yes, the papers had to explain it like that!)

wg

tijuanagringo said...

Hey I was at ucla that year it was quite a time yes and I took film classes too