HE COPED WITH COUNT DRACULA, STEVE McQUEEN, ERROL FLYNN, JAMES DEAN, ETC.

THE HUMAN RACE

 BARBER AL’S TEACHERS WERE HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS

      My late friend Alfredo (Al) Rios Hernandez had been cutting my hair since I was a freshman at Los Angeles High School. That adds up to more than 60 years. In those days, he was a tall string bean with jet black hair pushing 20; I was a juvenile delinquent with a flattop and a ducktail. I had so much hair in those days, my widow’s peak almost touched the bridge of my nose.    

     Years later when I visited his small one-man shop next-door to Greenblatt’s Delicatessen on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, I registered my usual complaint to his customers. “See what Al’s done to my hairline!” I’d say, displaying the widow’s peak that was retreating to the back of my head.

     “Know what happened to some of his other regulars?” I’d ask, then reel off: James Dean, Errol Flynn, Bela Lugosi, Louis L’Amour, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, John Carradine, Steve McQueen, Cliff Edwards (the voice of Jiminy Cricket)…  

     “They’re all dead!” Bela and Boris

     Some customers would laugh; others would turn back to reading the newspaper or thumbing through “Playboy.” Since Al was not a name dropper, many were unaware of the famous heads he’s trimmed.    In the spring of 1953, he found himself staring into the hypnotic peepers of the man who, as Count Dracula, frayed the nerve-endings of millions of moviegoers — Bela Lugosi.

     “He came in smoking this long, expensive, green cigar and just sat down at my chair,” he said. “I knew it was expensive because it had such a great aroma.

      “He looked up at me with those X-ray eyes — God, I’ll never forget those eyes — and told me to leave it a little bit full at the temples.”

     In those days, the Laurel Barber Shop, located across the street from the once famous Hollywood haunt, Schwab’s drugstore, was a bustling, three-man, $1.50-a-haircut shop. Lugosi was the first movie star Alfredo worked on or, for that matter, talked to. So it was a big moment.

     During the haircut, Lugosi leaned over the arm of the chair and spat green tobacco juice on the floor, then, went back to puffing on his cigar as if nothing had happened.

     Restraining his anger, a speechless Al glared down at the Hollywood Count disgustfully and gave the movie vamp a dose of his own medicine — a double whammy.  

     “What did you want me to do,” hissed Lugosi, “swallow it?” Steve, the porter who was shining Lugosi’s shoes at the time, wiped up the green gunk with a towel.

     “I didn’t like him spitting on the floor,” confessed Al, “but Bela was a bona fide movie star. I didn’t want to lose him as a customer.”

     So Count Dracula, a 50-cent tipper, returned many times to the scene of the perfect crime. “He always came in smoking a cigar, and never failed to spit green tobacco juice on the floor. I never thought of buying a spittoon because his spitting routine never seemed to bother anybody but me.”

     Alfredo remembered finishing that first haircut, holding the mirror in front of Lugosi, wondering if there’d be a reflection.

     Lugosi died in 1956 and, as the story goes, was laid out in his Dracula costume at the Utter McKinley Funeral Parlor in Hollywood.

     Boris Karloff, an old friend, walked up to the open casket, leaned over and said in that eloquent melodramatic voice: “Come now, Bela — you know you’re not dead!” For a moment, the people in the waiting room watched in silence. When Lugosi didn’t stir, everybody broke into hysterical laughter.   

     Al described his customers, and that includes Lugosi and Karloff, as “my friends, my teachers. When I went into this business, I couldn’t speak proper English … or even Spanish.

     “Mr. Karloff had a great grasp of the English language. I’d listen to the way he pronounced words and would repeat them in my mind over and over again. I learned a lot from him.”

     He was the only customer Al ever addressed as “mister.” “He was a real gentleman,” said Al, “very soft spoken, always wore a coat and tie and had wavy hair.”

     As a youngster in South Central Los Angeles, Al grew up watching movies starring Lugosi, Karloff and Lorre. “They scared hell out of us kids,” he said, “so when they showed up at my barber shop, I was pretty apprehensive.”

     The first time he cut Peter Lorre’s hair was just before he began filming the Jules Verne adventure, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”   The 1954 movie starred James Mason and Kirk Douglas.    

     “Sometimes Peter would come in for a butch. Sometimes he’d have me shave his entire head.”   In ‘20,000 Leagues,” Al recalled, he had a standard haircut.

     “When I see him in one of his old movies, produced after 1954, I think to myself, ‘Hey, I cut that hair!'”

     James Dean, he said, “was very withdrawn, almost shy. He’d curl up in the chair and say very little. Not long before he crashed and died in that silver Porsche, I remember him talking about how great it was speeding around in that car.

     “He had a good head of hair. I used to leave about three or four inches and comb it up from the forehead into a kind of pompadour. In ’55, he died in that car with my haircut.”  

     Steve McQueen, said Al, “Was pretty outgoing. What surprised me was he stuttered. He had his favorite car, too — a Lotus sports car; had it painted a special shade of green. He smoked in the barber chair. Smoking did him in.”    

     Western novelist Louis L’Amour Alfredo described as “a big burly, down-to-earth man. He showed me that you don’t have to have a college education to be smart. He didn’t go to college but he was a prolific writer. Whenever he talked, even if it was about the weather, it was like he was telling a story.”

     Al catered to an impressive number of show business customers. Ever since Lugosi, his policy had always been: “Never talk about show business — unless they bring up the subject. I figure actors, writers, directors come in here to get away from all that BS. To relax. And I’ve never asked one of them for an autograph.”

     Every workday, Al would put on a suit and tie, drive to work from East Los Angeles, then change into his barber clothes. Back in the 80s, he was husky 6-footer with thinning white hair and a small, well-trimmed handlebar mustache. He always parked in back of his shop and carried his keys on a heavy chain.

     At quitting time one evening, after he had changed back to his suit and tie and was about to get into his car, a robber threatened him with a knife, demanding his wallet and car keys. “I hit him a good one with my chain. Knocked him down. He looked up at me and said, ‘Now why did you go and do that?’ Then he ran away. That was the only time anyone ever tried to rob me.”

     Al took crap from nobody. I was sitting in his shop waiting for a haircut when a well-known character actor arrived 45 minutes late. The actor blamed the tardiness on his wife.

     “This is the second time you missed an appointment,” said Al. “Find another barber.” That scene was performed right in front of me and another customer. It was very entertaining. The actor looked at the audience, shrugged hopelessly, and exited stage left. Established actors, he found, “aren’t the least bit picayunish about their hair styles.” It’s usually the “young, struggling actors” who are the nitpickers.  

     Errol Flynn, he said, was anything but a nitpicker. Whenever Flynn dropped by Al’s place, he was “usually pretty stewed. Old Errol never told me how he wanted his hair styled. He’d just plop down in the chair and let me snip away. He had a great head of hair — used to tip a dollar.”

     Flynn, he recalled, talked about women as if they were beautiful flowers. “He was like a bumble bee whose main challenge was to pollinate all the flowers in the garden. Believe me, he worked at it. It seems like every time he’d come in for a haircut, he had a new paternity suit going on.”

     Another regular was Joe Pine, one of the first controversial radio and TV talk-show hosts in Los Angeles. “One time he came in, sat down on the chair holding a thirty-eight pistol on his lap under the cloth and warned me: ‘If two guys show up looking for me, duck!’

     “I truly liked Joe. He was a former Marine. Lost a leg in the war. On his talk shows, he was paid to be a bad mouth; made a lot of enemies. I went ahead and gave him a haircut. Lucky for me, the two guys never did show.”  

     During his long career, Al proved to himself, at least, that cutting hair requires talent, wisdom, knowledge and in some situations, chutzpah!

     “Many people in this business picture themselves as great artists,” he said. “They invent fancy titles for themselves and work in swanky places they call studios or salons. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, they’re all barbers … just like me.”

Boots LeBaron

Boots’ new book, “THE HUMAN RACE,” is now available on

Amazon in Kindle and paperback. It contains humorous and

inspirational views of life, death, Showbiz, the workplace,

love, courage, religion and everything in between.

  http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1397433413&sr=8-1&keywords=boots+lebaron#reader_1494218526

LAPD BOMB SQUAD LOOKS AT LIFE AND DEATH

Whenever Harry Lathrop or his partners go to work, everybody in their right mind scatters.  That’s because they’re members of LAPD’s elite Bomb Squad unit.

If you received a buzzing package delivered to your doorstep, wouldn’t you do like a guy in the San Fernando Valley did:  Call the cops?  When the bomb squad arrived with all its sophisticated gear, what did they find?  A vibrator — a gift from the victim’s girlfriend.  It had turned itself on in transit.

Is that funny?  In retrospect:  Hell yes!  But on an emergency call:  Hell no!

When Harry or the two dozen men and women who work the Hazardous Devices/Materials Section for the Los Angeles Police Department respond to a call, it’s always a potentially explosive situation.  As we shared a booth at the Corner Bakery Cafe in Manhattan Beach, Harry impressed me as a knowledgeable professional, an unpretentious lawman with a serious sense of humor.  With his short-cropped butch, Popeye forearms and ball bearing shoulders, the husky 200 pounder was just as intimidating as Clint Eastwood’s fictionalized Dirty (“Make my day!”) Harry.

The only difference was that Harry Lathrop was a real cop with more than 30 years on the force.  Eastwood was prettier, taller, richer and a far better actor than the man in blue seated across from me.

More than a decade earlier, he had gone through a special F.B.I. training program at the Redstone Military Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to qualify as a bomb squad technician.

Before that, he was one of the original members of the LAPD’s Bomb K-9 unit at Los Angeles International Airport.

Of course, he wasn’t wearing the 80-pound bomb suit that makes him and partners like Tony Doyen look like spooky aliens from another galaxy.  If he wore his EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) outfit into the cafe, he guaranteed:  “The place would clear out real fast.”

What follows is a question-and-answer conversation we had, bearing in mind that Harry didn’t want me to reveal any company secrets.

Screwing around with a bomb… for God sakes, you could be blown to smithereens!  How do you handle that emotionally?

“For law enforcement people and fire fighters, that’s part of the job,” he told me.  “You don’t need a PhD to be a bomb technician.  But you must have the knowledge and the common sense to cope with a variety of devices.”

Have you disarmed many bombs?

“We don’t say ‘disarm,'” he said.  “It’s ‘render safe.'”

How many bombs have you personally rendered safe?

“I never counted.”

A bunch?

“A few.  In Los Angeles, we run about 900 calls a year.  You might get four or five calls in a day; then you could go for weeks with no calls.”

What’s it like to roll on call?

“Usually, when you arrive, the street coppers have already evacuated everybody.  You don’t always know what you’re going to find.”

Harry told me about “rendering safe” a huge homemade bomb, a situation he described as “ugly.”  He said that he had to “make it go away.”  Since the case was pending litigation, I can’t use the story but I can quote him as saying:

“I put on my 80-pound business suit and went in with what we call an equipment disrupter.  I’ve gotta be careful talking about this.”

Was it like in the movies where seconds before the bomb is to explode, George Clooney or Matt Damon have gotta figure which of the colored wires to snip?

“Oh, no, no!”  We both laughed.  “That’s all Hollywood crap.  No, we put on our protective gear and go in with our disrupters.  Depending on what kind of device you’re trying to render safe, you choose specific rounds for a target.”

A beach cities minister told me about discovering a large, suspicious looking, gift-wrapped package left at the entrance to the church where he was about to perform a wedding ceremony.

After evacuating the bride, groom, and about 75 guests, a bomb squad officer, dressed in heavy protective gear, tested the package for explosives.  The box, said the minister, contained “horse droppings,” compliments of the bride’s hostile ex-husband who was later arrested.

On every job, you’re gambling with your life, aren’t you?

“We don’t even think about that nonsense.  The focus is:  ‘What do I need to do to make this thing safe?'”

Has your unit ever lost anybody?

“In 1986 we lost two men.  Ron Ball and Arleigh McCree, a counter-terrorism specialist.  They were in a murder suspect’s garage in Hollywood when two pipe bombs exploded.”

Does your wife ever worry about you?

“No.  We talked prior to my joining the unit.  She said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, go for it.’

“She knows that we’re well trained; have good equipment.  She knows I wouldn’t do anything stupid,” he smiled, adding, “I expect to enjoy my retirement.”

Who are the culprits who plant these bombs?

“They can be anyone from kids to home-grown terrorists.

Do you understand fear?

“For me, it’s knowing that I’ll have to pay taxes again this year,” he joked, then grew serious.  “Fear is an individual phobia.  What scares me might not scare somebody else.  In this line of work, you don’t allow those things to come into play.  You focus on your job.  It’s something you’re trained to do.”

How do you cope with facing death?

“I don’t think about that.  We concentrate on situations we have to deal with.  I think about the street coppers.  They see more than their share.  They’re the guys who have it rough.  They’re the ones doing the real work.  Not me!”

When you’re not wearing your Darth Vader paraphernalia, what do you do during the day?  Play checkers?  Watch soap operas?

“You’d be surprised.  We do our own kind of forensics.  We

train continually.  We dissect all the bombs we’ve rendered safe.  We’re constantly learning, refining techniques.  We practice getting into suits and handling explosive devices.”

So it’s not like selling real estate or working at Macy’s?

“Not quite.”

How long does it take to get into a bomb suit?

“A couple of minutes.  You can’t do it alone.  Your partners have to help.  You’re wearing a big thick cumbersome piece of bulky armor.  You can maneuver in it, but your movement is limited.  Each technician has a suit that’s individually fitted.”

Is there a bomb squad tailor?

“No.  Our suits come in small, medium and large.”

Is your suit something like what the astronauts wear?

“We’re more like Sir Lancelot.”

“Have you seen ‘The Hurt Locker’?” asked Harry, referring to the low-budget film which won six Oscars in 2010.  “It’s a good movie.  Very entertaining with a lot of Hollywood.  But the bomb suits are very accurate.  Right on.”

Hollywood, he said, “adds a lot of fuel to make big incendiary fireballs.  In real life, most explosions aren’t that spectacular.”

When you go on a call, how do people react?

“Usually, everybody’s been evacuated.  So we don’t have to deal with the public.  We just show up.  Make things safe.  Then leave.  But we take everything serious.  We always assume that we’re going to find something very ugly, very nasty.  You never know what you’re dealing with until you do your diagnostics.  It’s either, ‘OK, this is nothing!’ or ‘This is something and we’ve got to make it go away — safely.'”

Tony, Harry’s bomb-squad partner, recalled an explosive incident that occurred at 2010’s 82nd Academy Awards’ ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

As K-9 bomb-sniffing dogs “swept” the theater for hazardous devices, one canine “pooped” on the famous red carpet, then did it again on the kitchen floor of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.

Can you give me one suspenseful incident that happened to you?

“There was a pipe bomb with exposed wires in South Central Los Angeles.  I’m wearing a new bomb suit which my partner helped me get into.  Looking at those loose wires, I’m thinking:  ‘Wow, if those wires touch, this thing could go!’

“As I’m bending over the bomb, my face shield — it’s pretty heavy — falls on the wires.  Nothing happens.  The bomb was fake.  I knew that my partner was very capable, a really good guy; he wasn’t trying to do me in,” said Harry whimsically.

Why did you ever become a cop, Harry?

“I joined the department right out of Torrance High School.  After a while I realized:  Law enforcement is a pretty cool job.”

Many bomb squad units like LAPD’s Hazardous Devices/Materials Section — and there are literally hundreds across the country — are equipped to handle a diversity of emergencies.

Besides EOD suits, technicians carry their own tool box, work with water canons or bomb disrupters that can shoot a powerful stream of water or fire varying projectiles at a specific target rendering it safe without disturbing the contents.  They also operate disrupter robots that can lift packages and climb obstacles, X-ray machines and work with bomb-sniffing dogs.

When we talked, LAPD’s latest bomb-fighting toy — created by LAPD technicians — was a rumbling 39,000-pound radio-controlled vehicle named The Batcat.  It was like an armor-plated Tyrannosaurus rex with huge tires and an extension that reached 50 feet.  Its forklift arms could pick up a SUV containing an explosive device, drive to a safe distance and deposit it into a high-impact chamber.  There it could go BOOM without harming citizens or the stalwart bomb squad guys and gals who had to cope with such hazardous devices.  The mammoth unmanned remote ground vehicle was being touted as LAPD’s futuristic defense weapon.  Since LAPD now has its Batcat, what do you call the vehicle that carries all your bomb squad equipment? I asked Harry.

“A truck,” he replied.

 With all the years working first as a regular street cop and now as a bomb technician, what have you learned about yourself?

“I should have stayed in school.  Maybe I could have become a neurosurgeon.”

Boots LeBaron

(Note:  There are more stories like this in THE HUMAN RACE BY BOOTS LEBARON, my newly-released book on Amazon through CreateSpace.  It consists of interviews with people ranging from astronauts to actors to strippers, plus essays and light poetry.  Take a look by clicking on the link provided below.)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392610985&sr=8-1&keywords=BOOTS+LEBARON

HOW I REMEMBER THE BEATLES ‘KICK-OFF’ IN 1964. The Human Race

There was a bear standing in the midst of Mrs. Olson’s petunia patch snapping pictures of The Beatles.

When I ordered him to get behind the ropes with the rest of the news media covering the rock stars who were kicking off a national concert tour with a “Meet the Beatles” charity fund raiser on the grounds of an estate in Brentwood, California, the burly newsman with the Nikons strapped to his shoulders snarled.

“You lay a hand on me and I’ll cram this camera through your teeth and down your ass!”

The year was 1964.  The home belonged to Capitol Records president Alan J. Livingston’s mother-in-law.  The cantankerous bear was Ernie Schworck, a veteran news photographer for United Press International.

As the newly appointed manager of the press department for Capitol, I knew that a single UPI wire photo could wind up in newspapers and magazines throughout the world.  But I wasn’t about to take crap from some gray bearded, barrel-chested gorilla who refused to budge from Mrs. Olson’s petunia garden.

“One way or the other,” I said, “you’re coming out of that garden!”

“The only way you’re going to get me out is to carry me out!”

“That can be arranged!” I said, knowing I had 6 LAPD riot squad officers seated in the garage waiting for trouble, and about 20 Burns guards patrolling the perimeter of the estate.

“When you haul me away,” he threatened, “I guarantee that will upstage your news coverage with these Beatles.”

“You asked for it,” I said, and turned to my assistant, Ron Tepper.  “I don’t care how you do it, get this guy out of the garden and back behind the ropes with the rest of the press.”

I was being facetious.  Ron, who knew more about the music industry than I would ever know, was small in stature.  It was like I had pitted Woody Allen against Hulk Hogan.

It was the first day I had met The Beatles; the first time I ran across Schworck, and the only time I had helped organize a Beatles party.  On that same day in August 1964, following my conflict with Schworck, the ABC Television news crew pulled me into the house to talk to their anchorman who was on the phone.

Having just tangled with the bear, now I was listening to a belligerent voice on the other end of the line: “Who’s this?”

As the TV crew surrounded me, I answered, “Who’s this?”

“Baxter Ward,” said the voice.  “I want you to let my crew past the ropes.”

“Sorry, Baxter.  We have a crush of news people out here.  Nobody gets beyond the ropes.”

“Listen, you PR prick,” he barked.  “You want me to pull my crew off the coverage?”

“Go to hell, asshole!” I said harshly as his crew was stifling laughter.  Nobody, especially some recently appointed “PR prick” from a record company who must rely on news coverage, had ever told Mr. Ward to go to hell, much less call him an asshole.  Before I hung up, I could detect nothing but breathing on the other end of the line.

A decade later, Baxter Ward, famed for his hardcore narcissism, went into politics and was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  He served through 1980 and died in 2002.

Ernie Schworck became a “friend.”  Besides spending 30 years with UPI, in 1963 he went into hock to publish the first magazine covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Scooping Life magazine and UPI, he sold more than 3,000,000 copies, made a bundle, and wound up in the publishing business.

Last time we talked was in 2011.  Schworck was 84, still sporting a beard, using a cain to walk, carrying around 270 pounds of flesh.  He was living in a white castle on a hill in Quail Valley, California.  He died that same year.

Back to The Beatles bash:  The “invitation only” fund raiser for the Hemophilia Foundation was attended by dozens of Hollywood celebrities and their offspring.  The kids posed for pictures with The Beatles who were seated on high stools only a few yards from the roped-off news media.

After three physicians turned down my invitation, Dr. Frank Weiser, an old high school buddy and his wife, posing as a nurse, showed up to handle medical emergencies.

Other than a few teen-agers hyperventilating, the only incident I can recall was when a lady balancing on a folding chair took a spectacular tumble.  Standing on a chair next to her was Hedda Hopper, an internationally syndicated Hollywood columnist and celebrity in her own right.

Barefooted, balancing on their tiptoes, the two ladies stood behind a mob of TV cameramen and photogs intent on getting a better view of the bug-named legends.  Had the internationally famous Hedda, wearing her signature wide-brimmed summer hat, taken the fall, that would have been a big sidebar story.  But nobody died or was seriously injured.

Hedda, who had attended lavish wingdings throughout her career, wrote me a note saying The Beatle bash was the most exciting party she had ever attended.

A few months after Brown Meggs, a marketing executive at Capitol, predicted in a memo that “all the press people at Las Vegas and the Garden Party should come away identifying LeBaron and Tepper with The Beatles forevermore,” I was fired.  A couple of weeks later I was publicizing the Universal City Studio Tours where busses were being replaced by trams.

On two occasions I met briefly with the group:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr.  In Las Vegas, Lennon was the only Beatle I had a decent conversation with.  Since he thought up popsters’ name, The Beatles, I asked him why?

“It’s us.  We could have called ourselves The Grasshoppers, The Shoes.  It’s just a name.  Look at us.  It seems to fit.”  He laughed.  Lennon shot to death by some lunatic in 1980.  Very sad.

In February 2012, McCartney had a star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  During our fleeting acquaintance in the midst of confusion, if I remember correctly, the Fab Four were pleasant blokes.  Especially John Lennon.

Before Capitol signed them, they had been turned down by every major record company in the United States.  Then, in 1964, a song titled “I Want To Hold Your Hand” introduced them to America and Beatle mania followed.

What impressed me more than meeting The Beatles was the chaos and emotional bedlam that surrounded the pop-culture icons.  Because of the intensity of screaming fans, consisting mostly of teen-age girls and wanton adult females, nobody at the concerts I attended could understand a word The Beatles were singing.

I brought my wife to witness the hysteria at the Forest Hills gig in New York.  Like mythical gods, the four Brits dropped from the sky in a helicopter.

The stage was surrounded by a human barricade of cops and security guards.  As The Beatles performed, fans ran down the aisles throwing their bodies at the cordon of sentries in hopes of just touching the dudes from Liverpool.

After a half century of working on both sides of the journalist wall, I can only say that the epitomy of life for me, at least, was never based on schmoozing with high profile celebrities.

Yet sometimes I wonder whatever happened to those young whippersnappers who called themselves The Beatles?

Boots LeBaron

(Note:  This story is in THE HUMAN RACE BY BOOTS LEBARON, my newly-released book on Amazon through CreateSpace.  It consists of interviews with people ranging from astronauts to actors to strippers, plus essays and light poetry.  Take a look by clicking on the link at the top of the page or on one of links provided below.)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?ie=UTF8&qid=1391396437&sr=8-1&keywords=boots+lebaron

https://www.createspace.com/4533294

SIMPLICITY VS BRILLIANCE: IT’S A STANDOFF!

THE HUMAN RACE

SIMPLICITY VS BRILLIANCE: IT’S A STANDOFF!

Time is the ultimate equalizer of humanity. If we are granted a reasonable amount of it, the result is a clearness of vision that shows us where we stand in this sound-bite, Twitter-distorted civilization that suffers from a severe case of multiple stupiditus.
Only with the passage of time do we learn that brilliance and simplicity are two distinct gifts that intrinsically can’t be measured.
Brilliance doesn’t necessarily contribute to the betterment of mankind. Simplicity certainly isn’t always a virtue. Yet they stand as opposing forces. Sometimes, both fail to reveal that in the scheme of things, one is just as significant as the other.
Like genius, simplicity is a gift to be cherished and nurtured. If a simple man or woman are fortunate enough to grow through a lifetime of complexities, surmounting the daily challenges shall never cease.
Each of us are granted our very own window in time to venture forth, to evolve into the person we now are, packing far more knowledge than what we began with.
No matter how brilliant or simple we might be, the climb is always painfully difficult. Because of the myriad paths we take, the struggle will inevitably lead to a clear view of how far we’ve come and the ultimate luxury of perceiving our very own destiny.
Let that final destination not be a dungeon chiseled out of the bowels of degradation, but a mighty stone edifice that’s built with the sweat and personal sacrifice reflecting a wisdom that belongs to you and you alone.

— Boots LeBaron —

50 YEARS AGO, THE DAY U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS ASSASSINATED

THE HUMAN RACE

HOW PEOPLE IN BEVERLY HILLS REACTED 50 YEARS AGO, THE DAY U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS ASSASSINATED.

(A NOTE WRITTEN BY BOOTS LeBARON TO HIS THREE-YEAR-OLD SON BRANDON ON THE DAY J.F.K. WAS ASSASSINATED)

Dear Brandy: ​It’s 2:55 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.   ​Although it’s the kind of day that makes life worth living — a beautiful blue-sky day in Beverly Hills — a horrifying thing happened in Dallas, Texas just a few hours ago.  John F. Kennedy, President of our country, was killed while traveling in his motorcade in downtown Dallas. ​Just thinking about him, I have a lump in my throat.  I feel like I’ve lost a friend.  We’ve lost a President who not only had the potential to be a great leader, but had a presence on television that made you love him.  Who knows what history holds, but to me and your mom he was the caring, good-guy President. ​Ironically, here I sit in an office at Rogers & Cowan, a large theatrical PR firm in Beverly Hills, writing a story about Cliff Edwards, who was the voice of the famous Walt Disney insect, Jiminy Cricket.  I had interviewed him in his small bungalow on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.  He lay in bed the entire interview.  ​Empty booze bottles were scattered all over the place.  An oil painting of Mickey Mouse, signed by Walt Disney, hung over the mantel.  The pathetic old guy has outlived a vital young leader.  ​I guess that’s show business.    ​The devastating news was brought to me by Paul Bloch, a 24-year-old publicist who works at R&C.  There was a faint smile on his lips when he stuck his head into the room and told Vic Heutschy, another publicist, and I that President Kennedy had been shot.  At first we thought he was making a bad joke.  I remember saying, “Who you kidding, Paul?”  He wasn’t. ​Instantly, I left my Remington — I’m head feature writer at R&C (Actually, I’m the only feature writer) — and walked through the offices.  It’s interesting how people react to tragedy.  Paul had a smile on his lips, but I’m sure he wasn’t smiling inside.   ​When I worked on the police-beat for the Times, covering everything from suicides to homicides, I discovered that every person copes with tragedy differently.  Everybody has their own emotional time clock, and it clangs in different ways. ​As I walked through R&C, alarms were going off right and left.  For example:  Erma Bergstrom, a white-haired secretary in her 60s, continued working with dry eyes, while a young secretary who worked at a desk next to Erma was a pitiful mess.  Her mascara was running, her eyes were bloodshot, and there were tears running down her cheeks.  Trying to blot them with a soiled hanky, she was weeping pathetically.   ​Two other secretaries, Myla Page and Greta Liebowitz, sat in the boss’s (Warren Cowan) office quietly discussing the assassination.  There were no tears, no frowns, no sighs.  It was if they were talking about a movie.  An hour later, Myla’s alarm triggered.  Her lips were quivering, tears were streaming down her face, her nose was pink from blowing.   ​In Teme Brenner’s office (another R&C principal), publicists Dick Israel and Dan Jenkins were sitting in a cloud of despair.  I listened as they discussed the shooting.  It sounded so clinical.  ​Jenkins said that the assassin was probably mentally deranged.  Dick suggested that the Mafia might be the culprits.  After a minute of listening to that bullshit, I got out of there. ​Vic Heutschy, a talented publicist I’ve known since our L.A. High School days, had his own theories:   ​(1)  A professional hit man hired by a foreign country.     (2) A Southerner who’s opposed to the President’s Civil Rights efforts.     (3)  Some “glory nut” who’s out for the notoriety.   ​There’s a lot of sickos in this world, Brandy. ​When I suggested another possibility, an assassin hired by a political party, Vic saw that as preposterous.  Who am I to argue with a UCLA grad? ​Myla just walked by wearing dark glasses covering a set of puffy eyes.       At lunchtime, Paul Block told me he had lost his appetite, so Vic and I left without him.  We walked down Beverly Drive and along Wilshire Boulevard.  We stopped by a brokerage firm to check the stock market.  He had invested in Cinerama Inc.     (more)   Then we visited BOAC where your mother works at the front desk as a ticket agent.  She was all chocked up. Your mom and I had an argument this morning.  I was angry as hell at her.  But after the news about Kennedy, the anger vanished.   ​Funny, I can’t even remember what we were fighting about. ​Vic and I walked across the street to a restaurant.  It was so crowded we went to Blum’s.  There we bumped into Paul.  Apparently his appetite returned because he had an awful lot to eat.   ​Maybe that was his time mechanism registering. ​The streets of Beverly Hills appeared less crowded than usual at lunchtime.  There were very few pedestrians smiling.  One well-dressed middle-age guy was red faced and laughing.  Who knows why? ​After lunch, I left Vic and Paul and walked up Canon Drive to Dr. Hoffman’s office.  He’s a cardiologist.  Two week ago he put me on a diet and told me to start working out.  I lost ten pounds.  I’m down to my fighting weight: 190.   ​When I entered his office, the reception room was filled with older people.  I was the only person under 50.  As the doctor was examining me, he told me he was angry and depressed.  If he knew he could contact all of his patients, he would has closed the office. ​After checking me over, he told me that I’ll live and not to come back.  I stopped at the pharmacy and asked the price of a fancy pack of licorice.  The pharmacist told me have one on him, “no charge.” ​ On the way back to Rogers & Cowan two ladies walked by.  One was wearing a gray fur stole.  Her hands covering her face, she was wracked with sobs.  Trying to comfort her, her companion guided her along the sidewalk.  A lot of people loved John F. Kennedy. ​I was feeling pretty good when I got back to the office.  But when I opened the door, I was hit by gloom.  Mechanisms were triggering right and left.  That was 4:45 p.m. ​Vic, Paul and I talked about Kennedy’s successor.  Not that I am an authority on politics, I said that I was afraid that if Sen. Barry Goldwater became president, we would be in World War III.  I’d probably vote for Nixon ahead of Goldwater or Rockefeller.  Vic agreed about Goldwater.  And if I remember our conversation, he wasn’t impressed with Rockefeller either.  Rockefeller is a mushmouth.  He just doesn’t impress me.  He certainly doesn’t have the appeal that Kennedy had. ​Vice-president Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on the plane and I heard his speech on TV after he landed in Washington D.C.  It was brief and ended with: “I will do the best that I can do.  I ask your help and God’s.”  Nobody in the office was overly optimistic about the future of our country with Johnson at the reins. ​Anyway, Brandy, tomorrow is Saturday and we are going to buy you your first bed.  You’ve been sleeping in a crib for almost three years. ​It’s now 5 p.m.  British Overseas Airways Corp. (BOAC), where your mom works, locked its doors about 1 p.m. today.  But JoAnne   will probably have to work until 5:30 p.m.  Then we’ll pick you up at nursery school and maybe go for dinner at the El Cholo.  How will that be?

​Your Dad, ​Boots

(The J.F.K. story is one of many featured in Boots LeBaron’s new book, THE HUMAN RACE.  The book, available on Amazon/Kindle and contains humorous and inspirational views of life, death, courage, the workplace, spirituality, love, heartbreak and Hollywood as told through interviews, essays and light poetry)

The Beginning of Who’s End?

Remember, this is only the beginning

of the end of your life.  Make a note

of that.  You’ve got miles to go.  There

will be more ruts in the road.  Enjoy

the ride.  Heartbreak is not your final

curtain.  Like triumph and tragedy, it’s

fuel for building inner strength.  The

spirit of your being is anything but

mechanical.  You’re not going to run

out of knowledge, exasperation or fun.

Life is an unpredictable journey.  Despite

the consequences, you might discover that

there’s lots to live for.  Like all of us

floundering souls, the end is inevitable.

Just the thought of it proves that life

is a precious yet wretched keepsake.

Everybody squanders some of it.  By so

doing, we are recipients of the coveted

Pain Equals Wise trophy.  When you think

about it:  The process of getting wise

can be a delightful pain in the ass.

But it’s worth the trip.

Boots LeBaron

Boots New Book The Human Race is available now at Amazon/Kindle! Click the link and go check it out!

Boots has just published his new book The Human Race by Boots LeBaron.  Its available now on Amazon and in the Kindle Select Library.

Boots has just published his new book The Human Race by Boots LeBaron. Its available now on Amazon and in the Kindle Select Library.

http://www.amazon.com/HUMAN-RACE-BOOTS-LEBARON-ebook/dp/B00FECDGD2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1383000404&sr=1-1

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