Tuesday, July 04, 2017

4th of July memories

Since the 4th of July is a day to celebrate Americana and (in my case) a chance to sell some books for your summer reading, here are two brief excerpts from THE ME GENERATION… BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE ‘60s), my humorous/nostalgic/Pulitzer Prize ignored memoir of growing up during the California myth. You can get the Kindle version here. The paperback here. And the audio version (voiced by yours truly) here. It’s the perfect way to support this blog and relive happier times when we were not embarrassed to be Americans.

July 4, 1964

Fortunately, we were back home from Hemet in time for Independence Day. They still had 4th of July parades in Woodland Hills. Not exactly lavish affairs -- a few Jaycee Booster Clubs, school marching bands (playing nothing but “Stars & Stripes Forever” and “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”), anyone who owned a horse, ice cream trucks, local dignitaries (“Hey, there’s Mr. Neider from Neider’s Auto Body!”), some elementary school classes, local politicians (“We have a councilman?”), and majorettes from as far away as Reseda. The twirling batons proved to be more dangerous to crowds than today’s maple bats.

But for me the REAL reason to stake out my spot on Ventura Blvd at Shoup Avenue was that the grand marshal was always Buster Keaton. Buster was probably 150 by then but still, there he was. Mostly forgotten today but Buster Keaton was a comic genius in the era of silent films and early talkies. His flair for physical comedy was so inspired that even today I don’t think there’s a single comic who can remotely touch him. If I couldn’t still see George Washington in person at least there was Buster Keaton.

I miss those parades. If you still have one where you live, go. Wave a flag. Cheer. Just duck when the baton twirlers go by.

July 4, 1967

We got a dog that summer. A poodle-terrier. My mother named her.


That name would not have been my choice. I don’t remember why we got a dog. We never had a pet before. But I was thrilled. And Babs turned out to be a fabulous dog and companion. If someone in the house were sick, she’d sit all day at the end of his bed. I worried that our family, unaccustomed to caring for pets might not take the best care of her – and my early fears were justified.

Our house was only two blocks from the Woodland Hills Park. On the 4th of July, they would shoot off fireworks. We always invited a few people over for a barbeque and fireworks show, comfortably viewed from our backyard. A neighbor was lying on a chaise lounge. He set his martini down on the ground. Babette approached and lapped up the entire contents in mere seconds. Ten minutes later she staggered out onto the lawn and passed out for twenty-four hours. We have a dog for one month and get her completely shit-faced. Nice.

Have a safe and sane 4th of July.


ScarletNumber said...

I'm not embarrassed to be an American.

bruce said...

I love my country. I'm ashamed by my president.

On July 4, 1970, we went to see "Catch 22" in Westwood Village and then to a picnic in Malibu hosted by
Monty Hall, who was an old friend of my father's. Very much America on many levels.

VP81955 said...

As I follow the Nats while they dismantle the Mets (up 9-2, mid 8th), I'm not either. We will survive.

(If you're wondering what's happened to the lady in my avatar, Photobucket's new policy denying users access to third-party images unless you pay a hefty sum for an account -- $399.99 annually for unlimited access -- has blocked Carole's appearance, for now. Hope to find her a new photo home.)

Oh, and congrats to SAG-AFTRA and the producers/studios for reaching an agreement this morning, apparently the second time in four years an actors' strike has been averted on Independence Day.

Barry Rivadue said...

Buster Keaton has never been more revered than today among anyone who writes of film comedy history; he's always top choice in any vintage comedy screenings. DVDs of his work remain popular. Still, I'll admit not many people today would recognize his name out of hand, but for a mostly forgotten person he's very well remembered!

FFS said...

During the Rob Ford era I was embarrassed to be a Torontonian.

Liggie said...

Our dog Buddy would also sit beside a family member who was under the weather. Very loyal.

My brother and his family had a cat named Babs. She never got drunk, but she got stoned like anything on catnip. I saw her, on a catnip high, fall UP the stairs. Yes, up; she was on one step, twirled like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, and endedis no up on a higher step. Their current cat, Razzle, is unaffected by catnip, however.

Stevens said...

I am not embarrassed to be an American.

Jim said...

When you look back at all the stars of early cinema it's amazing how physical many of them were. Buster Keaton was brought up being thrown around on the stage. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (and quite a few of the lesser known comedians) started out with Fred Karno, and by all accounts his stage shows were a bit of a live version of a Keystone film. But with no retakes. You can see Harold Lloyd's strength when he's dangling beneath that clock face held on by one hand, Lupino Lane's (check You Tube if you don't know him) trademark move was to do the splits then appear to be lifting himself back up by the collar, even though his thigh muscles were doing all the work. And even Cary Grant started out as an acrobat.

So here's a sort of Friday question if you want an excuse to talk about old comedy. Are there any actors around today who still have those physical skills? The only one I can think of is Jackie Chan, who's getting on a bit I suppose. Do acting classes today teach anything other than how to say your lines while not falling over the scenery? Or does it all come down to a pretty face, winging it, CGI and stand-ins?

Anonymous said...

Buster Keaton would have been 69 at that point.
Not old by today's standards at all.
only a couple years older than Ken is today.

Buttermilk Sky said...

To Jim's post I would add W.C. Fields, who began as a comic juggler. You can see his physical skills in the early silents. Also, many of Lloyd's stunts were done after his right hand was maimed in an explosion. Look closely and you'll see the prosthesis.

People who care about movies remember Buster Keaton. People who don't can barely remember Natalie Wood.