Posts Tagged ‘ art ’

KUNG-FU MASTER WEIGHS REALITY WITH HOLLYWOOD.

THE HUMAN RACE

 

HOLLYWOOD VS TRUTH IS LIKE ‘YIN AND YANG,’ HE SAYS.

 

      Gerald Okamura is to Kung-Fu what Babe Ruth was to baseball, cowboy Casey Tibbs was to rodeo, Muhammad Ali was to boxing and Jim Thorpe was to football. He is a master of his art.

      When I asked the 73-year-old grandpa what he did for a living, he gazed at me with dark, unrelenting eyes accentuated by menacing eyebrows. The head was clean shaven. The well-groomed billy goat beard reached below his muscular neck.

     “I am an actor-stuntman,” he said.

     With that beard and hairless dome, I told him, he looked like one of those Shaolin priests who performed with David Carradine in “Kung-Fu,” a popular TV series in the mid-1970s.Kungfu

    “That was me,” he admitted.

    “What kind of actor are you?” I asked.

     “A lousy actor,” he said as his tight lips cracked into a smile. “For God’s sake, Gerald, you’re smiling!” I teased.

     “Those who look into this face don’t realize there’s a sense of humor behind it,” he said. “Society is too caught up in images. Though I’m a lover at heart, I guarantee that Hollywood would never cast a guy with this face to replace Brad Pitt in a romantic lead. If you asked my wife (Maude), my three daughters and four grandkids, they’ll tell you I’m a sweetheart.”

    Yet Gerald, a Japanese American born in Hilo, Hawaii, had delivered karate chops to stars ranging from Mel Gibson to James Caan. How does a Grand Master in Kung-Fu and San Soo compare Hollywood with martial arts?

     “Yin and Yang,” he explained, “is an ancient Chinese philosophy: Two different worlds representing the passive and active forces of life.”

     When I asked, “What if I yanked on your beard?”  Mr. Kung-Fu warned, “You wouldn’t want to try that.”

     When I asked the Carson, Calif. resident for a philosophic thought for a quote, he quickly replied, “Even after death, you can still change the world.”        

     Then he added with a laugh, “But don’t take me too seriously.”

— Boots LeBaron —

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406497409&sr=8-1&keywords=boots+lebaron

(Boots’ current book, “THE HUMAN RACE,” is available

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It contains

humorous, inspirational and philosophic essays,

light poetry and interviews about life, death, love,

courage, Showbiz, religion and everything in between)

FREEDOM IS THE ELUSIVE GIFT EVERYBODY CRAVES.

THE HUMAN RACE

Freedom is ignoring the consequences,

speaking truth in the midst of bellicose critics.

 Freedom is refusing to take shit from

an abusive lover or partner.

 Freedom is choosing the best path

to take when prison gates open.

 Freedom is confessing your love

for a women who might not love you.

 Freedom is buying love when

there’s absolutely no alternative.

 Freedom is having enough cash in

your pocket to feed your family.

 Freedom is the act of conquering denial.

Freedom is coping with the pain of losing a

loved one in life’s erratic parade of fate.

Freedom is to brazenly face life’s pitfalls

despite wounds to the ego you must endure

 Freedom is ignoring negative impact

with a sense of humor.

 Freedom is that feeling of elation

after you’ve said your piece.

 Freedom is forgiving but never forgetting

the act of  a back-stabbing blabbermouth.

Freedom is returning  the wrath a

 bully with your own brand of gusto.

Freedom is a gift to cherish, yet

such a pain in the ass to maintain.

 Freedom is standing bold

against any kind of indignity.

 — Boots LeBaron —

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available

on Kindle and Amazon in paperback. It consists

of human-interest stories, essays and light poetry)

THEY SHOWED COURAGE, HUMOR AND WISDOM.

THE HUMAN RACE

PEOPLE WHO’VE BEAT LIFE’S RAP!

     Picture this: A B-17 bomber returning home after a devastating combat mission. Flack has damaged part of its tail rudder. The fuselage is riddled with bullet holes. One engine is sputtering. Low on fuel, will that old bucket of bolts make it back to home base?

     For God’s sake, that’s a metaphor for me! I just turned 82! In life, I’ve taken my share of hits and survived many missions over enemy territory. Yet I’m still writing and illustrating stories and essays about young and old people just like you. The final edit of my book, “THE HUMAN RACE” is now available on Kindle and Amazon in paperback.

     Whenever I touch down on life’s tarmac, people tell me that I look great. I want to believe their bullshit. After one glance in the mirror, I know better. What my book has to offer are stories, related essays and light poetry. Those are my weapons. My mission is to introduce you to you. That is, if the two of you care to meet.

     Here’s a sampling of the many men and women you might identify with: A rogue astronaut, a heartbroken single parent, a matador, cardiologists who grapple with death, a U.S. president, a psychic who doesn’t do “flying horns,” a war vet, a topless dancer studies her neurotic male audience, a movie star who despised Hollywood, a rabbi who survived memories of the Holocaust with humor, a prosecutor for the D.A. who sent three men to death row, a divorcee who knows how to rise above her woes, a LAPD bomb squad technician speaks of fear, the Picasso of shoe repair, journalistic dinosaurs who covered crime, a philosophic janitor, The Beatles, a pari-mutuel clerk psychoanalyzes racetrack bettors, 9/11 firefighters and cops, courageous men and women all…

     The guys and gals I’ve written about  have sampled triumph, humiliation, heartbreak, poverty, love and managed to laugh in the face of adversity. I’m proud to say they trusted me with their most intimate tales. Hopefully you’ll find something in common with many them. They are my professors. I want them to be your professors, too!

     So buy the damned book on Kindle or Amazon.

     This damaged B-17 Flying Fortress isn’t the only one who insists that his book is meaningful and entertaining.

     Produced and formatted by my son Beau’s  Blue Soul Publishing, here’s some quotes that pleased this  battle-weary old Flying Fortress:

     Dr. Carolyn M. Walker, a psychologist, writes: “Boots has a genuine interest in a wide variety of people and in each individual’s unique ‘story.’ He has an ability to combine their interviews with his own life experiences to arrive at some interesting universal truths about the human struggle. He uses his journalistic skills to present these thoughts in a readable, entertaining and somehow optimistic manner.”

     Jim Norris, a historian, says: “Combining humor, history and philosophy, “THE HUMAN RACE” is a book with the kind of stories and essays you can return to again and again.”

     Fern Levine, a retired airline administrator, writes: “A beautiful anthology of poetry, prose and vignettes. The stories are captivating, sometimes funny, often sad, and always kept me wanting to turn the page for more. The author has drawn on decades of experiences, and encounters with a grab bag of goodies, with something for everyone to relate to.”

     Carlos Schiebeck, a photojournalist and combat photographer for UPI and Agencee France Presse, says: “Very interesting read. This was written by someone who has thought a lot about human nature and did interviews to prove what he understands about the human psyche. Well written.”     

     Now that kind of propaganda is the kind of fuel that keeps this beat-up old B-17 still flying high.

                        — Boots LeBaron —  

IS ATHEISM JUST ANOTHER RELIGION?

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WHO ARE WE?  WHY CAN’T HUMANITY GET ALONG?

 

     Whether you’re a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Islamist or devout Atheist, despite our differences, we are here! Together. Sharing the planet we are wrecking. Why can’t we get along?

     Why are we trying to devour one another for philosophic, spiritual, political or self-indulgent reasons? Do we have to blow each other up, shoot or stab somebody, or scorn one another to prove that we are superior; that we are playing on the right team?

     I know an Atheist who’s dead certain that there is no God. He is a cynical man who’s angry with the world in which he thrives. He’s pissed at corruption, racial prejudice, the power of religion, politics, the suppression of womens’ rights, and aggressively condemns overpopulation.

     Me too!

     He’s never been married; has no children. He is college educated. Bright. Knows Shakespeare like I know Marmaduke. And seems comfortable when isolated from a society he often rejects. Once he told me that “there has never been a day when I didn’t experience the pain of loneliness.” More than once he had confessed that his parents failed to give him love.

     Yet here is this intellectual with no God to lean on; not even a slim hope that there might be someone or something out there in the ionosphere waiting to embrace him.

     Of course, it could be one of the three Gorgon sisters with snakes for hair. They are supposed to be absolutely beautiful. But one look and you turn to stone.

     Years ago, I think I met one of them, a sultry-voiced Medusa. It was at Lane’s bar, a watering hole on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The sign out front read: Featuring Nightly: Bill Lane at the Cash Register. Lucky for me, it was so dark in that dive that I never did get a good look at that mythical babe. But at two in the morning, she sounded great.

     I don’t know what happened to Bill. Since he adored women, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had become a stone-cold tourist attraction standing rigidly on the sidewalk outside Lane’s pointing at his sign.

     Back to my old Atheist-actor friend: He played the game of life like a chameleon. He could change colors depending on the audition or social environment he found himself in. I can only appreciate the knowledge of playwriting and acting he passed on to me.

     He touched me with his art. I might envy his knowledge of theater, his curious intellect, and a mind that has absorbed such wisdom studying the thought provoking words in myriad books.

     Yet, the two of us are just as hypocritical as any guy or gal you’d care to name. Like many Earthlings, we’re still breathing. But Death is winking and beckoning.

     I’m convinced that my long-time Godless pal is no wiser about the existence of a Supreme Being than I. In other words, we have a God-given or evolutionary gift that’s locked in the depth of our individuality.

     Our brains, our uniqueness, provide us with the right to theorize about life, death and the hereafter. For a couple of old coots, truth is just around the corner.                    

                       — Boots LeBaron —

(The final edit of Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is

  now available on Kindle, in audio, and on Amazon

paperback. It contains philosophic, inspirational

 and humorous essays, light poetry and interviews

 with a fascinating cross section of humanity)

READ MY LIPS: THE MEANING OF A KISS

THE HUMAN RACE

LIPS THAT  KISS, POUT AND WHISPER SWEET-NOTHINGS

 

A kiss, even a prolonged mushy one,

is no guarantee for future bliss.

Yet it’s here, now and yummy. The

exaltation that ensues could result in

a mind-boggling journey. A tumultuous

one might, depending on the embracees,

could wind up as a lasting love affair

 or a fairy tale one-nighter. Every

person reacts differently when a lover

tickles the sensuality whispering sweet-

nothings into an ear. Who knows what

intentions lurk when two lips touch?

Even a quick peck could say either: “I like

you an awful lot” or “You fill my heart

with passion.” Who’s to know? If the

act is truthful, the heartfelt exchange

might ask, “Now what?” The answer could

take seconds, days or an eternity.

But the pleasure is worth the effort.

During the necking process, if lips

part and tongues play hide-and-seek, the

performance could rival great theater.

Such exoticism never killed nobody.

Whether the act is sincere or sheer theatrics,

kissing is a motivational treasure that

makes hearts, souls and intellects one.

It’s like a promissory note. It must be

acted upon. Soon! If locking lips isn’t

a heavenly experience, where’s the fun?

After all, it provides couples with

the intimacy of exploration. A kiss

can lead to the altar, solve loneliness,

result in untold wealth, last forever,

or wind up in the divorce court. A smooch

offers all participants that touchy-feely

sensation that tweaks emotional mechanisms as

humanity searches for the meaning of LOVE.

 

— Boots LeBaron —

 

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, contains philosophic

and humorous interviews, essays and light poetry

about life, death, love, courage, the workplace,

God and Showbiz. It’s available on Kindle or

may be purchased in paperback via Amazon.com)

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO MY ‘DEADBEAT DAD’

THE HUMAN RACE

 

I think of my father, Bert LeBaron, often.  Although he was a Hall of Fame stuntman with 35 years serving the demands of Hollywood, he died in poverty in 1956.  Financially, he never supported my mother (who shed him twice in divorce court) or me.  Yet, he was always visiting the one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles with my mother and grandmother.  I think the old scoundrel truly loved my mother.  Throughout my life, he was always there for me supporting me morally and physically.  He confided in me, revealing the dark side of his youth, running away when he was 13, winding up in Southeast Philadelphic being raised by a mobster I called Uncle Jake.  In Los Angeles, the kids in the neighborhood idolized him.  Bumbo Channon, my childhood pal, cherished a gift from my dad, a pair of stunt shoes he used in movies swordfighting with actors like Errol Flynn, Gene Kelly and even Laurence Olivier.  He took us on picnics, to the beach, to the circus where an elephant sneezed on another friend, Irv Drasnin.  My old man who died on a handball court at the Hollywood YMCA leaving me, $20,000 in gambling debts, which I didn’t have to pay.  He left a note in the locker leaving all his earthly belongings to me.  Since he was experiencing chest pains when he stepped into that handball court, and since Hollywood refused to help him, I am convinced he popped his heart on purpose.  Just like the man himself, it was a unique way to commit suicide.  He died at fifty six.  Old Bert LeBaron called himself a stuntmen-actor.  After watching him spew dialogue in many movies, I like to say, he was one of the worst actors ever to set foot in front of a camera.  I’m rambling here.  I just wanted to tell my dad, Happy Father’s Dad…  I love you dad.  And whenever I see you in action in some old TV movie I am thankful to showbiz that in my heart, you will never die.  Although you were an award-winning womanizer, thanks to the film capital of the world, you will be with me forever.   My only regret is my wife, JoAnne, kids and grandkids will never know you.  That’s it dad.  When the time is right, I’ll talk to you tonight.  Your loving son, Boots.  P.S.  I’m finishing a memoir about the two of us growing up in Hollywood.  You as a womanizing actor-stuntman, me as your kind’a lost child-actor pal who turned out alright.

 

 

 

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

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