Posts Tagged ‘ art ’

LAVENDER ROSE SHALL NEVER DIE

Lavender Rose Shall Never Die.

By

Boots LeBaron
Husband, Father, Papa and friend to All.

 

RIP (7/10/1932-8/25/2017)  

 

Photo by Beau LeBaron May25th 2012, Rose in my Back Yard Brea CA

Lavender rose,
with the sun filterring through your frail petals,
I hate to see you go.
Bending so pitifully on that prickly stem
with your green leaves rusting yellow,
you are still worthy of great admiration.
In these last moments of existence,
you remain fragrant and memorably exquisite.
Knowing that your time has come
stings my conscience
with an indescribable melancholy.
What a void your absence will create.

 

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OLD PRO WRESTLER RELIVES THE GOOD OLD DAYS

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

DANTE  GRAPPLED WITH IMMIGRATION;

EVEN BEAT MAN MOUNTAIN DEAN ON THE MAT!

by Boots LeBaron

    More than a half century ago Leonardo Rica, a 22-year-old Italian-born immigrant accompanied by his mother and younger brother, arrived by ship in New York Harbor.

     Like millions of foreigners who come to America, their mission was to find a better life. They spoke no English, only Italian and Spanish.

     Leonardo, a ruggedly handsome, mustachioed 225 pounder who grew up in Argentina and trained as a Greco-Roman wrestler in Buenos Aires, was determined to become a professional wrestler.

     With no command of the English language, finding his way around New York City was at times difficult. “If I was in Brooklyn asking directions to 33rd Street and someone would call it, ‘toity-toid’ street, I’d be lost,” said Leonardo, laughing.

     A long time resident of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Leonardo had initially intended to compete as a wrestler in the Olympics. Instead, he began “free-style” wrestling in Argentina before coming to America.  

     His childhood hero was Argentine Rocca, a world famous “no nonsense” champion known as the Bare’footed Warrior. Rocca helped bring his young protegé Leonardo into the profession where even in those days theatrics sold tickets.

     It was a non-steroid world dominated by a collection of powerful characters using box office monikers like Gorgeous George, Man Mountain Dean, The Great Moto, The Destroyer, Killer Kowalski

The Strangler, The Syrian Assassin, Chief Blue Eagle, Mr. America, Kayo, Mister Terror, The Jumper and Gentleman Jim (who was anything but a gentleman).

     As a professional wrestler, the Italian kid from Argentina became Dante.

     “I liked that name because it sounded evil. Most of the hundred or so matches I had on the East Coast, I was the straight man.”  

     Playing the bad guy, he said, “was part of the act. If the audience booed, hissed, or even threw objects into the ring, it was a successful performance. One time, a little old lady was so mad, she climbed into the ring and hit me over the head with an umbrella.”

     For Leonardo, “that was like an Academy Award nomination. Just like today, there was eye gouging, arm twisting, body slamming, lifts and drops — all sorts of spectacular moves.”

     Of course, he noted, the “big guys” who dominate the sport today could overpower most of the pros when I wrestled.

     “In those days, we didn’t rely on steroids. My enhancement drugs came from Argentina: Beef, beef, beef and more beef.

     “We were gladiators just like they are now,” he said. “We were like a team. You helped an opponent lift you over his head. He knew how to slam you to the canvas or throw you out of the ring. And you knew how to land. I can’t tell you how many times I was thrown out of that ring. More than a dozen.

     “We didn’t have mats at ringside. So the safest way to be thrown out of the ring was to land on the audience.”

     Man Mountain Dean was one opponent he couldn’t lift or heave anywhere. He sported a black beard, wore dungarees, weighed 450 pounds and was built like a Sumo wrestler.

     “I wanted to beat him,” said Leonardo. “Believe me, I tried. But lift him onto my shoulders! Are you kidding? When he finally pinned me and the referee counted me down, he refused to get off of me. When the crowd started booing, they gave me the match. So I beat Man Mountain Dean.”

     Although he wrestled on the same card with the legendary Gorgeous George, who climbed into the ring wearing a golden cape accompanied by a corner man who played the violin, Leonardo never locked arms with the glitzy celebrity who was also known as “The Orchid Man”.

     “Before every match, George would have his hair curled. Like Argentine Rocca, women were crazy about him. He’d strut around the ring pulling bobby pins out of his hair tossing them to lady admirers. They scrambled after them like hungry sharks.”

     But Dante was developing his own fan base. “Kids would circulate in the crowd selling my autographed photos for $2. That was a lot of money in those days.” Despite only a year of professional wrestling, in 2008 he was inducted into the New York State Wrestlers Hall of Fame.

     So his promising career as grappler ended abruptly in 1954 when he was drafted into the Army. When the Korean war veteran was honorably discharged, instead of returning to wrestling, he went into the wholesale jewelry and the photo-finishing business in Yonkers, New York.

    A memory he would forever cherish was the sight of the towering Statue of Liberty that greeted his family when they arrived in New York Harbor from Argentina.

     “I’ll never forget that beautiful lady holding the torch,” said Leonardo. “If she wasn’t so big, I would have hugged her. What do you expect, I was an immigrant, born in Belvedere Marittimo, a small village about 30 kilometers south of Naples in southern Italy.  

     “I was only five when my mother (Victoria), who did without to feed and cloth me, brought me to Argentina so we could be with my father (Francisco).   My mother meant everything to me. We were very poor. As an infant, she would chew up the food and spit it into a bowl to feed me.

     “She sacrificed so much. My father was a decent man with ways of the old country. He taught me to rely on common sense. Throughout life, I have tried to do that.”

     “I was an immigrant twice,” he noted. “Once as a very young boy coming from Italy to Argentina. Again, as a young man immigrating to the America. I can identify with people from any country wanting a better life.  

     “We open the door for them,” he went on. “Finally, they have something to eat, money to raise a family. Yet, there are those who complain: ‘They are taking my job!'”

     What he would tell immigrants arriving in the U.S.A. today?

     Here’s his quick reply: “You want to live an honorable life? Welcome to America! If you are a criminal, GET OUT! Never come back. Never!

     “As for sending millions back to poverty — good people who work our fields, cut our lawns, build our highways, do so many menial tasks for so little money — punishing these innocent men, women and their children is un-American. Come on! It’s so unfair to turn them away. They come here like so many of us with hope in their hearts.  

     “I believe in amnesty. They deserve it,” said Leonardo. When we met, he had three sons, grandchildren and was divorced. He lived with his brother, Carlos, an aerospace/missile scientist, in Palos Verdes, Calif.

     He died in 2012 at the age of 83. Leonardo recalled the words written by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning

to breathe free…”

 

 

(THE HUMAN RACE, written by Boots, is an

inspirational self-help book interspersed

with stories about people, essays and light

poetry. It’s available on Kindle as well

as in paperback on Amazon)

 

PERSONALIZED OSCARS TO BEAT PREJUDICE!?

THE WILD AND WOOLLY HUMAN RACE

 

     DIVERSITY has many faces. They come in

different colors, creeds, genders, logic, ethnicity,

religions, prejudices, levels of narcissism and

variances of naivety. As the Academy of Motion

Picture Arts and Sciences proved with its Oscar

show on Sunday, we are an unpredictable species.

Each of us, in our own inimitable way, is a little

goofy. We tote these eccentricities wherever we go:

Showbiz, Wall Street, politics, the workplace,

into personal relationships, even sports. While

watching the Oscars and listening to comic Chris

Rock’s one-liners, the thought, loony as it may

sound, occurred to me: Why not create a dozen

golden statuettes each individually honoring white,

black, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay and

lesbian artists and technicians? Sure it’s a

logistical challenge. But the film industry has

a year to cope with it. To get them started, I

did a quick sketch of what these golden statuettes

might look like. Granted, it ain’t migraine proof.

But at least it’s a thought that might save the entire

celebrity industry from going bonkers.

 

Boots LeBaron

WHO LURKS BEHIND THAT FINAL DOOR?

CONTEMPLATING MORTALITY

What’s behind that final door?

Do I have the courage to open it?

Will I find a congenial St. Peter?

Or a menacing Satan ready to cuff me

and send me to the brimstone pit

without reading me the Miranda Act?

Or will there be a sorceress

with a ravishing smile sporting

a Miss Universe type sash with

OBLIVION printed across it?

I’m really not prepared

to leave this troubled World

where I’ve battled defiantly

over the past eighty-some years.

I still have unfinished symphonies

to complete before I open that portal

 to Valhalla where Odin might honor

me with a glimmering diploma for

a lifetime of writing meaningful

prose and creating soulful art.

Narcissistic as it might sound,

as a writer and artist, I’m proud of

of my work. So I’m not ready to take

that final step. My favorite Woody

Allen quote just about sums up my

feelings: “I don’t want to achieve

mortality through my work. I want

to achieve it by not dying.”

When I’ve finished my memoir

and published my illustrated book

of essays and human interest stories

that took me a half century to create,

I’ll  give ODIN a high-five and

welcome MISS  OBLIVION  with

open arms.

— Boots LeBaron —

THE MESSAGE SHE BROUGHT BACK FROM GORILLA COUNTRY

MUST HUMANS DESTROY EVERYTHING WE TOUCH?

Tarzan would have been impressed with Chris Chambers.

The petite green-eyed blonde animal activist

was exhausted and covered with mud after six-hours

climbing up the side of a steep volcanic mountain in

what is now known as Central Africa’s Republic of

the Congo. Like her five fellow safari members,

Chris’ mission was to experience up close

the kind of endangered primates that the

legendary Diane Fossey had spent a lifetime

studying and protecting. The jungle was so dense

that a guide with a machete had to hack the way.

Finally, they encountered a group of 28 gorillas

including a dominant “silverback”. “I had a feeling,”

she said joking, “that he didn’t appreciate blondes.

The British Airways customer-service agent

recalled that  “It was the most incredible experience of my

life. I feel so proud that I was with mountain

gorillas.  Just to be with them and touch them was an

amazing experience. They were so much like humans. You

look at them and wonder if they share the same kind of

thoughts that we have.” (The gorilla I drew nuzzling

Chris was based on photos she  gave me.)

“Being with those animals was so intense. 

My favorite was a young adult. When he grabbed

the strap to my backpack, we played

tug of war,” she said laughing. “He was so powerful.

I thought he was going to drag me off into the brush. 

He held on until the guide shouted, ‘No!’

Like he understood,  my playmate dropped the strap and

swaggered away.  After he left, I sat there crying

realizing that these wild animals were so much like us.”

Here’s the philosophy Chris brought back  to

civilization: “The problems we create

for ourselves seem almost ridiculous.

So Illogical!   Life can be so beautiful and simple.

Yet we’re guilty of introducing deceit,

violence and greed into the World.

Animals have just as much right as humans to exist on Earth.

Why must we destroy or tarnish everything we touch,

including our own species?”

 

— Boots LeBaron —

CAFE SERVER’S MEANINGFUL VIEW OF THE HUMAN RACE

THE HUMAN RACE

MEET THE BALLERINA OF THE KETTLE COFFEEHOUSE.

     With the grace a ballet dancer, Linda Marie Lauckhardt, balancing heavy plates of food on one arm, glided across the floor side stepping customers, and snake-hipped her way around a maze of tables to deliver her cumbersome cargo.  

     It was a performance that the statuesque green-eyed waitress repeated literally thousands of times during a career that spanned 37 years. It ended rather abruptly after thirteen years of toting culinary freight at The Kettle, a popular 24-hour restaurant/coffee shop in Manhattan Beach, Calif.  

     Linda told me that she had quit the serving profession because she couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of “being the best I can be.

     “I’m the kind of person who runs, not walks,” she said. “My body just couldn’t take the beating.” In many restaurants, she noted, “the attitude of management toward waiters and waitresses seems to be apathetic. The truth is, good waitresses are NOT easy to find.

     “I’ve never been the kind of person who’d just as soon pick up their money and run. When I clear off a table, the last thing I think about is the tip. If they don’t leave a tip, I figure they can’t afford it. When they come back, they get the same care as anyone else. When they run across an exceptional waitress, customers know.”

     Linda, in her late 40s when I interviewed her, had been serving people most of her life. When she was a 4th grader in San Pedro, she dropped out of elementary school to help support her family which included 11 brothers and sisters.

     At the age of ten, her brothers and sisters, many of them parented by different fathers, were split up and Linda began living in a series of foster homes. At 12 years old, she lied about her age to get a job working 10-hour shifts as a “steamer” in a Chinese laundry. When the owner learned she was under age, she was fired.

     From the day she was born to a waitress in a Sweetwater, Texas hotel, adversity was her nemesis. “My mother,” she said, “wasn’t the kind of mommy who’d sit you on her lap and hug you.” So when most little girls were playing house, Linda “was playing mother” in real life trying to keep her family together.

     When other little girls were playing with dolls, Linda made her doll out of a Coca Cola bottle. “We had a lot of mouths to feed and for a time we couldn’t afford the luxury of toys.”

     Perhaps that’s why for more than two decades, her advocation has been making dolls. During that time, she has made and sold more than 150 antique Jumeau French doll replicas and 400 Teddy Bears. Her home in Big Bear, Calif. where she lived with her husband, Rich, who was an avionics technician, was filled with dolls, cats, stray dogs and neighborhood children.

     She and Rich were married when she was 14 and he was 16. They had no children. When she retired, Linda was about turning her avocation into a full-time profession. Authentic Jumeau antique originals at the time, she said, sold for more than $6,000. Her replicas which she made from scratch, took three months to create. She’d pour her own porcelain molds and sew the clothes by hand. Her replicas were selling for as much as $475. Her handmade Teddy Bears were going for $50 to $75.  

     The only fantasy she rememberd as a teenager was wanting to be a singer like Ella Fitzgerald or Kaye Starr. But when there’s “mouths to feed, clothes to buy, and diapers to change, a young girl’s dreams can somehow get lost in reality.”

     Despite the difficult early years of her childhood, the girl from Sweetwater found love rather than bitterness, pride rather than self-effacement, compassion rather than anger with the human race she waited on throughout the years.

     “I loved being a waitress,” she said, then confessed, “I’ve run across my share of hateful customers. They’ve managed to slither out from under a rock somewhere determined to ruin my day. You learn to handle the bad apples. But I’ve been fortunate to have served too many caring people in life to worry about the stinkers.”

     When she approached one “stinker” while working at The Kettle, he snarled, “Get away from here; I’ll let you know when I want you!”   Early in her career as a server, working a graveyard shift at Norm’s, a long established restaurant chain in Los Angeles County, a customer screamed profanities at Linda causing her to break down crying. Then, she recalled, “He predicted: ‘You’ll never make it as a waitress because you can’t take it!'”   

     Of course, the other side of the coin is much brighter. After serving a two-dollar breakfast to a “regular” at Norm’s restaurant in Torrance, Calif., he tipped her with a jar containing $100 worth of Mercury-head dimes.

     At The Kettle, one satisfied woman customer gave her a gold-antique cameo that belonged to her dead mother. A bank president would bring her roses regularly.

     “I believe that every day, if you do something for somebody — on the job or in the streets — you’re doing something for yourself. You can never be too giving or too kind-hearted.”

     — Boots LeBaron

MY DAD BERT LeBARON: A MOVIE STUNTMAN WITHOUT A FACE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

  THIS  STUNTMAN HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOLLYWOOD

imageStuntman Bert LeBaron, with arms spread in flight,

was about to knock out a machine-gun nest manned

by prison guards in the 1947 Burt Lancaster classic

movie “BRUTE FORCE.” Esquire Magazine ran a full-page

photo of my airborne dad without giving the Hall of

Fame stuntman-actor credit. That’s the way it was

in Hollywood back then. Although today their names

are entombed with crew members in end-credits, stunt

people are still ignored by the motion picture and

television academies. Since more than 50 stuntmen

and women have died for Hollywood over the years,

don’t you think the survivors deserve Academy

recognition? At least for valor? What pisses me off

is to hear actors ooze B.S. (Don’t tell me they don’t!)

taking credit for “gigs” performed by athletes like

my old man. And now, digital animation is replacing

the acts of such stalwart guys and gals. After

35 years of proudly calling himself an actor-

stuntman, Bert LeBaron, who would never qualify as

another Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, developed

a heart problem that put him out of action physically

and financially. (His last stunt was doubling actor

William Bendix in a TV sitcom) When the film capital

of the world showed no compassion, he tried selling

encyclopedias. When that failed, he couldn’t even

support himself peddling newspapers on the streets of

Hollywood. Having nowhere to turn, he stepped into a

handball court at the Hollywood YMCA where he was renting

a room for $10 or $15 a week and purposely popped his

heart playing the game he loved more than women. He

died in 1956. I call Bert and his unheralded comrades

“stuntmen without faces.” I loved that womanizing rogue

whom my mother shed twice in divorce courts. My father

had so many ex-wives and girlfriends, they were lost

in the midst of his mind. Nevertheless, stuntmen and

women deserve to step up to the podium and accept a

golden statuette for their sensational athletic feats.

So tell the actors who, for the sake of publicity

or self-aggrandizement, to: Put A Cork In It! Their

crime is they continue to take credit for stuntwork

achieved by filmdom’s “faceless” others. In my book,

that’s a felony punishable by truth.

 

Boots LeBaron

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