Monday, July 04, 2022

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 corrupt politicians and the Supreme Court wasn't trying to destroy Democracy and Human Rights. 

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.



Anonymous said...

The number of comedians who could touch Buster Keaton ever can be counted on one hand and you'd have fingers left over.

Mike said...

In my opinion, flawed as it is, the only one who touches Maestro Keaton in films is Jacques Tati, especially for Mon Oncle...

Michael said...

And now we know where you got the name for Radar's guinea pig!

flurb said...

At least Babette was spared the noise of the fireworks, which terrorize our neighborhood pets for three weeks around the 4th!

Here's maybe a topic or FQ. As a theater actor and sometime director, much of what I've seen in tv is framed for faces talking, rather than capturing bodies in movement and in space. Talking-head blocking robs scenes of the appearance of spontaneity, dramatic tension, and some humor. On the rare occasion that something physical happens in addition to the dialogue, no matter how small, there's a sense of a world; and when the camera allows us to see how far apart characters are, presto! there's automatically dramatic tension. There are times in life when people just take a position and talk, of course, but even there the distance between them holds physical information. Of course, such blocking requires more setups for the camera, and in the old days of 24 to 30 shows a year, I can understand cranking things out quickly. But when productions like "The First Lady" and "The Gilded Age" are spending millions per episode, it would seem smart to provide such dramatic values. They emphatically do not. Is it down purely to cost, or is it the prevalence of hack direction? Do they teach such blocking in film schools? When you're directing, how do you decide much detail is enough, and how much is unnecessary?

Leighton said...

@ flurb

I'm a location manager, and I am also annoyed by the practice - in terms of commercials. A seasoned director always allows the screen to include the environment, when logical. You spend weeks finding the perfect locations, and when the final cut barely registers where the actors are, it is aggravating. The director will bitch and moan about needing this VERY specific look, then NOT SHOW IT. That being said, the higher end commercials usually make sure to flaunt their budgets in any way possible. The same also goes for streaming series, versus network.

AlaskaRay said...

I remember Babette. She even made me feel welcome. What a sweetheart.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Ventura and Shoup? Back in the early 60's that part of the valley must have been a whole lot of nothing. The west valley still had horse ranches back then.

This may be more appropriate for yesterday's blog, but I have a Buster Keaton collection on DVD. So help me, I enjoy his films more than I like Charlie Chaplin.

Happy 4th!


DanMnz said...

Purchased this book over a year ago, had to move to a new place in a rush, lost the book before got to read any of it. Then about 2 months ago I got another copy. Looking forward to reading it on vacation.

YEKIMI said...

Couple of July 4ths I can remember stuff about: Growing up in Florida, remember the stepdad taking us to watch the festivities and it being a little breezy. Flaming firework embers came screaming down from the sky into where many a car was parked resulting in burn marks on a lot of cars. He was livid because at the time we had a fairly new car and it ended up looking like a Dalmatian from all the burn marks on it. Not sure if the city or fireworks company had to pay for the new paint job or if they just said "Tough shit, deal with it yourself."
Second, I can't remember if this happened around July 4th or not. Hell, this was in Florida so it could have been any time of the year but since my parents had divorced, dad usually got us around holidays and it involved a swimming pool....Anyways, he had a Dachshund and I wanted to see it doggie paddle so I shoved it into the pool. That doggie sank like the Titanic, only faster. He had to dive into the pool to rescue it from the bottom where it was sitting with a "What the fuck just happened?" look on its face. All I know is I got paddled, my mom went nuts on him for spanking me and lawyers got involved....again.
I haven't been to a fireworks show in about 14 years [In Boston and it was a heck of a show] with Boston Pops playing and hosted by a couple of former CBS news reporters who I was so far away from that even the Hubble telescope would have had problems seeing them.
The city up north where I moved to used to shoot them off near the football stadium until it got Astroturf and then it was "Nope, you ain't melting holes in our $100,000 plastic field." they moved it to....ready for this?....the cemetery! Like that's not going to cause controversy!

Chris Bernard said...

Hi Ken, when you write can you sit down and start writing or do you have to get into a certain focus and sustain that focus?

By Ken Levine said...

This is not a political blog. Don't start political threads. Even if I agree with you I'm going to delete them.

Peter said...

Buster Keaton "mostly forgotten today"? For shame!