Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My first sort-of girlfriend

In honor of today being June 15th (the significance will become apparent later) I'm posting a story from my memoir, THE ME GENERATION BY ME...GROWING UP IN THE "60S (available at a ridiculously low price and check out those reviews!  Wow!) that I revised somewhat for the SIT N' SPIN story-telling event I participated in recently.   It got good laughs and there's really only one day to post this, and you'll see why.  Enjoy (and buy my book). 

Springtime 1966. My best friend Gary saw that the Ike & Tina Turner Review was playing one-night-only at the Chatsworth Bowl.

I wasn’t a huge Ike & Tina fan and figured, how good could anybody be if they were booked into a bowling alley? But he said we had to go, and I was fine as long as I didn’t have to rent shoes.

Ho-ly shit!

Tina Turner was the sexiest woman I had ever seen. I was like that wolf in the Looney Tunes cartoons with his tongue hanging out and his eyes flying out of his head as if they were on springs. Tina writhed, she growled, she slithered, and my teenage hormones exploded. I had never seen anything like this. The truth is I never found her particularly attractive (even that night), but the raw sexuality that just oozed out of every pore knocked me on my 17-year-old ass.

I was left with an insatiable need to get a girlfriend. Actually, the need was to get laid but that couldn’t happen until you were in a committed relationship for as many months as it took to doggedly wear her down.

My “sister” Terry was on the Drill Team. Like at most schools, Taft girls fell into one of three categories. The popular girls who had boyfriends to go with to football games, the unpopular girls who felt they had no shot and always stayed home, and then that group in the middle who didn’t have boyfriends but were ever hopeful. These girls were called “the Drill Team.” Several hundred of them would march in formation during halftime shows, twirling flags and making sharp left turns, hawking their wares. (Today we’d call them “e-Harmony members.”)

So this was a rich vein of potential girlfriends to tap into and Terry was gracious enough to provide me with some introductions. The one I sparked to was Eleanor.

Eleanor was extremely cute. Huge blue eyes, a slight over-bite (which works for me), svelte figure, and a pre-Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut. She seemed perky and lively and based on Terry’s recommendation, accepted a date with me.

I took her to see the Doors and Jefferson Airplane in concert at the Birmingham High football stadium. Both groups had a hit or two and this was that brief transition period between small clubs and giant venues. Now I’d like to say that the night was electric and I just knew I was witness to the start of a musical revolution, but actually the acoustics weren’t great. Gracie Slick of the Airplane was amazing, but Jim Morrison of the Doors was on autopilot, and Eleanor didn’t shut the fuck up during the entire concert.

During “Volunteers of America” she mentioned she was a witch, all through “Back Door Man” she discussed her childhood diseases, and as “Light My Fire” was building to a stirring crescendo she revealed her real passion was shoes.

Afterwards we went to Sambo’s for dessert (yes, there was an actual coffee shop chain named “Sambo’s”). Her months in bed with mono required no further details (although I would hear them again… and again… and again). I followed up on the witch thing. “So you mean you’re like Samantha in Bewitched?” “No,” she snorted, “that show is so unrealistic.” (Really? You mean you can’t wriggle your nose and turn someone into a gerbil? Why isn’t there a disclaimer at the beginning of the show?)

It’s been awhile so I hope I can recall this correctly. Jesus blessed her by making her beautiful, but with the extra attention came people who would take advantage of or resent her. And so, as protection, since He might find himself preoccupied with other things (like seeing that the Packers covered the spread in the Super Bowl), He also blessed her by making her a witch. Her faith in Jesus was rewarded with an interest in the occult. And she now had the power to inflict curses (which she assured me she only did when absolutely necessary or during her period). I think that’s pretty much the gist. It was always my understanding that the Christian Bible strongly denounced any occult practices because they were the work of Satan, but why quibble?

She squeezed my hand as we walked to her front door and kissed me on the lips. Suddenly she went from major nutcase to delightfully eccentric.

Such are the concessions we make for a potential first girlfriend.

We started going out every Saturday night, usually to concerts. At the Teenage Fair we saw the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. This was a loud screechy psychedelic rock band that featured a continuous light show. Kaleidoscopic images would swirl around the venue (in this case, a tent) trying to create the illusion of a “righteous” acid trip. That’s the rock band I should have joined. “What instrument do you play?” “The movie projector.”

I would get my kiss on the lips goodnight. I would get to put my arm around her in the movies. And eventually we made out in my car. I was allowed to grope and pet but she always had to be fully clothed. I was never permitted to learn just how cold a witch’s tit really is.

I didn’t fare much better with her at the Drive-In either. Drive-In theatres were big in the ’60s. Gigantic parking lots with a huge movie screen. The novelty here was being able to watch movies in your car. In 1967, if someone opened a medical clinic where you could get gall bladder operations in your car, people would flock to it.

Usually B-movies were booked into Drive-Ins – cheesy horror flicks or Jerry Lewis comedies. No one cared. Everyone was groping and pawing in the back seat. I always thought it would be great if suddenly one night, that film we saw in health film with the girl getting knocked up was shown.

Drive-Ins are highly romanticized, but I never really got it. The sound was always atrocious. You would attach these clunky portable metal speakers to the driver’s side window. Everything sounded muffled and distorted. You were always going, “What did that mad professor say?”

There was usually one snack bar -- a bunker that was a half-day ride on a bicycle from wherever you parked. Someone from your car would go to the snack bar and you’d see him again at the ten-year reunion.

The spring prom was coming up and I thought, okay, finally, here’s the perfect time to really make my move. Rumor had it that lots of girls lost their virginity on prom night (not Jewish girls, but still) – it being a special occasion and more importantly, curfews were relaxed.

So I rented a tuxedo, bought her the obligatory wrist corsage, and escorted her to the elegant Taft multi-purpose room for this gala occasion. It was my first prom and I couldn’t be more underwhelmed. Overdressed classmates awkwardly milling about drinking punch or standing in a long line to get their pictures taken. Missing this is what drove Janis Ian to madness?

After the prom we drove to a secluded spot up in the hills for a little amore. At first I stabbed myself on her corsage but things improved. We were making out, she was seemingly receptive so I reached behind to unzip her dress.

And she stopped me.

She wasn’t ready to do that (at least with me). I lied and said all the right things – I really cared about her, respected her, she was the most beautiful girl in the entire world, I would pledge to a coven. No dice. But she said it was because of her, not me. And then she explained. I must say, I’ve been given the brush-off a fair amount in my life, but no rejection since Eleanor’s could even compare when it comes to originality. She said she couldn’t get involved because of her birthday. I said, “You have to be at least 16, you’re a junior in high school.” No, no. That’s not what she meant. Her birth date.

Eleanor was born on June 15, 1950. That’s the middle of the month, the middle of the year, the middle of the century. It was her lot in life to always be in the middle, always stay uncommitted.

Even at the time I thought, “Wow, that was impressive. She’s a fucking loon but that was impressive.”

We broke up after that. My birth date is February 14th. We weren’t compatible. I was meant to gun down gangsters in a Chicago garage.

(Eleanor Epilogue: After graduation she was the first person in our class to get married. I guess numerology doesn’t matter when the guy owns a motorcycle shop.)

So I was back on the market. Again.

Usually fix-ups can be awkward. Especially when the woman who taught Sex Education sets you up with her daughter. Mrs. Richman, my Health teacher from last year, took me aside one day and suggested I take out her daughter, Becky. I had never met Becky. She went to Chatsworth High. Why Mrs. Richman thought I was the perfect match, I do not know. I’m guessing I was the safest guy she could find who wasn’t gay.

So a blind date with a teacher’s daughter – how could I resist? Much to my surprise and delight, Becky was beautiful. Big green eyes and a melt-your-heart smile. She was also very sweet. I was incredibly attracted to her, but every time I even thought of making a move, there was the vision of Mrs. Richman with her Gonorrhea handout. We stopped going out after a couple of dates – as if I could afford to be choosey. But it was just too weird.

This was the first time that I was the one breaking up. Usually it was the other way around. So of course, I was clumsy at it. I really didn’t know what to say. Thinking back, I just cringe. Without going into particulars, let’s just say I lied and said my birthday was June 15, 1950.


Mike Barer said...

That was a fun book. I remember you had a signing at the Mariner team store at Safeco. Sadly, I didn't make it.

Carol said...

That's my favorite story from that book! (Which, come on people buy and read! I want Ken do do a sequel!)

Justin Russo said...

GREAT story. And Tina? She is and forever will be my #2 favorite singer (behind Ella Fitzgerald)!

Michael said...

Ken, I forgot your birthday is associated with a massacre. I am involved with The Mob Museum in Las Vegas. If you haven't checked it out, do, and let me know you're coming!

Now I have the honor of offering a quasi-correction: the wolf you're thinking of was in MGM cartoons that were directed by Tex Avery, who was one of the first great Looney Tunes directors before he left for the other studio.

John Fox said...

The first time ... not only isn't it the be-all and end-all of teen ecstasy, there is always the unexpected. My first steady girl. My car. A secluded spot. A half a bottle of Annie Green Springs Apricot Splash. The moment. Then afterwards, the first thing we hear on the radio ... a public service announcement about VD. Not supposed to get a laugh. Sure did.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

For some reason, this sort of reminds me an anecdote from Steve Martin's memoir about how he briefly dated Linda Ronstadt for a whoppin' eight whole days. Apparently up till that point, his love life consisted mostly of one-night stands and occasional flings that usually didn't last too long anyway, but hooking up with a huge star like Linda Ronstadt was overwhelming and intimidating and he was afraid to make any stupid moves, so he kind of kept cool; finally, around the eighth day of their "relationship," she could tell something was up, so she finally asked him something to the effect of, "Steve, do you often get together with women and try to not sleep with them?" And that was that. Obviously not even the same, but for reason reading, reading this reminded me of that.

So Ken, now I'm curious, have you ever worked Eleanor into a character on any show you've written for? I can imagine a situation like Hawkeye falling for a new nurse who claims to be a witch blessed by Jesus, only to have Houlihan and Burns go on another one of their holier-than-thou tirades for her blasphemy and supposed involvement with the occult.

dgwphotography said...

This is one of my favorite stories from that book, but I will always associate June 15 as the day the Mets traded away Tom Seaver. The then-14-year-old me was heartbroken.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Maybe it's the water in the San Fernando Valley...

About the same time, I asked out a seemingly sane girl from Glendale High. After the date, I walked her to the door of her parents' house and she invited me in for a cup of coffee or something. On the way to the kitchen, we passed by her room which was decorated from top to bottom with the largest collection of Nazi memorabilia I had ever seen!

Paul Duca said...

John Fox...was it at least the singing VD ad?

Kosmo13 said...

The song I would play in that era to get a Witch Girl in the mood would be "Wiccan Work It Out" by The Beatles.

BA said...

Kosmo13: My own "witch" experience was more like Zappa's Camarillo Brillo song,rancid poncho (plus BO), tarot and all. What got her in the mood? Criticizing her parents, her sisters, me...

VP81955 said...

Thankfully, Eleanor didn't go Samantha or Sabrina on you, Ken. You're too talented to be zapped.

Some of you have been wondering about my screenwriting career, and I have good news to report. My romantic comedy screenplay "Stand Tall!" is a semi-finalist at the Los Angeles CineFest...and you can vote for it by visiting Additionally, there's a link to the script if you want to see what it's all about.

thomas tucker said...

When did VD become STD? VD always sounded so much worse that it was probably a better at prevention through fear.

Lee said...

Can/will you get in touch with Eleanor and see how her life's been, maybe have her write a blog entry/incantation for you?

benson said...

Ken, that is one of the funniest stories you've written.


Reminds me of Jean Shepherd.

MikeN said...

You couldn't just tune the radio at a drive-in?

Diane D said...

That is one of the funniest and most charming posts you've ever given us. It was also my favorite story from your book, which I bought several months ago and loved. Wish I could have heard you tell the story.

VP: Congratulations and best of luck!

Artie in Sin City said...

Said it before...


Art Breyfogle
Class of '66 Cleveland High, Reseda, Ca