Posts Tagged ‘ Death ’

BOTSWANA: A PARADISE FAR FROM THE HUMAN JUNGLE

THE HUMAN RACE

BOTSWANA: A HALF-A-WORLD-AWAY

 

I sit on the veranda

a half-a-world-away

watching the golden sun

in its last breath of day

filter through silhouetted leaves

of the ebony and acacia trees,

then quickly fall beneath

the silent Chobe River

leaving nothing but stars

guarding Venus

and her lantern moon.

And not too soon,

I marvel at the distance

I’ve traveled to get

where thoughts run free,

a half-a-world-away

from what is home to me.

To reach this

untamed place,

was such a human race.

After an eternity of soaring

on man-made wings,

I found this hideaway

where elephants

rule as kings.

IMG_1973

Where lions make love

for hours on end,

where pythons

coil, constrict and bend.

Giant Tuskers trumpet

and hippos bellow

in this

wild-animal bordello.

Leopards hunt,

warthogs grunt.

Zebra,  giraffe,

Cape buffalo,

they all play host

on this fertile land  

that has no coast.  

As eagles work the breeze,

scores of vultures

perch high

on limbs of trees.

Mosquitoes sting.

Myriad birds sing

in glorious cacophony.

They hoot and caw and chirp

in their inimitable

high-pitched harmony.

Crickets

tuned just right

play their

Stradivarius legs

throughout the night.

For those who must return

to their civilized encampment,

where plastic reigns

and torment gains,

Botswana is

enchantment.

A visit

permits a glimpse

at secrets we’ve been

blind to.

A moment just to ponder

was well worth

the wander.

Flying half way

round the world

aboard a 747,

proved to me,

at least:

It takes time

to get to heaven.

 

Boots LeBaron

 

(Overlooking the Chobe River,

a tributary of the Zambezi River

in southern Africa’s Botswana)

 

POACHERS KILL THOUSANDS OF ELEPHANTS FOR IVORY TUSKS

THE HUMAN RACE

WOULD YOU KILL DUMBO OR MAGILLA THE GORILLA FOR CASH?

     What if poachers in Africa and other countries of the world killed Dumbo, Ruby the Rhino, Tony the Tiger, Smokey the Bear, Simba the Lion King, Magilla the Gorilla, or Peter Potamus the hippopotamus?

     Of course, they’re all mostly cartoon characters. But what if they were real-life animals? If Dumbo, Walt Disney’s adorable little elephant, and the others were slaughtered for cash and body parts? Wouldn’t that  piss you off?

     Let’s focus on Dumbo. Imagine that today he was a full-grown mountain bull with massive ivory tusks roaming the jungles of Africa’s plush Botswana or the tundra in Northern Kenya. He’s the same precious little rascal with the big heart we all remember as kids. He’s just grown up.

     Now picture this: Animal assassins armed with automatic weapons and poison-tipped spears are stalking him, earning as much as $2,500 a kill. They hack off his massive tusks and leave his rotting carcass for the vultures and other predators. Loads of ivory tusks are shipped to China and other Asian countries where they are carved into small ornamental knick-knacks, jewelry, priceless chess pieces, and religious symbols earning fortunes for their remorseless marketers. Are you going to buy one?

     Since premeditated murder of innocent animals for profit is a sin, how can those who worship various Supreme Beings explain why they are making fortunes selling or buying religious artifacts made from the tusks of endangered pachyderms or horns of rhinoceroses?

      If they were knowledgeable and truly cared about the brutal massacring of such innocent animals, why in hell would God-fearing customers purchase such religious items carved from elephant tusks? I guess you can chalk it up to a classic case of ignorance, pomposity or an unsavory act of spiritual apathy.    

     By now, an adult Dumbo would have his own breed of babies and leave behind a grieving widow — for elephants do grieve just like humans. Experts on the subject report that in Africa alone, about 30,000 these magnificent mammoths are slaughtered annually.     

     The reason I used Dumbo as a metaphor is to make this point: How many of you know of feller named Sato? Not many, I’ll wager. The renowned 6-ton pachyderm who roamed Tsavo East National Park in Kenya was killed by poachers on May 30, 2014. Some reports say he “died a painful death” caused by poison-tipped arrows or spears. Another news story reported that he died suffering eight bullet wounds fired from automatic weapons.

     Since you might not know who Sato was, I substituted Dumbo’s name. The information I gleaned from a variety of sources: CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning News, National Geographic and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

     Paula Kahumbu, a Kenya-based wildlife conservationist for Wildlife Direct, said that Sato was a celebrity in his own right; that he was highly respected not only as a “magnificent pachyderm but as major tourist attraction.”

     A National Geographic story quoted Kahumbu saying, “All the killers wanted was his tusks so somebody far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”

     The question to those who have never witnessed such an atrocity is: How deeply would you care if you learned that an elephant named Sato was slaughtered for his tusks? After all, Sato was only one of an estimated 100,000 elephants ruthlessly assassinated across Africa in recent years. decades. If Sato’s mutilated carcass turned out to be an adult Dumbo, once revered by children as well as adults, wouldn’t that leave an emptiness in your soul, a painful feeling of remorse in the pit of your conscious? I hope so.

     I realize that our violent society breeds its own stalkers, killers, drive-by shooters as well as domestic and foreign terrorists like ISIS. So who is truly concerned about some big old thick-skinned pachyderm named Sato in an African reserve tens of thousands of miles from our shoreline.

     After all, there are an estimated 690,000 African elephants alive today. That’s a lot of Dumbos compared to 5 million such giants roaming free back in the 1930s and 1940s. Now their severed tusks, each with a monumental price tag, are shipped to places like China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam. Foreign criminal organizations with sophisticated weaponry kill viciously, reported CBS-TV.    A horrendous incident reported in a 2012, an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down inside a national park in Cameroon, a republic stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad in West Africa.  

     In recent years, says one report, “dozens” of rangers were killed fighting to protect wildlife from poachers in Africa. Is waging such a war against those who kill animals for profit so horrifying when humanity is hard at work killing its own kind by the millions? For God sakes, we’re even decapitating the heads and burning people alive to make a political point; stoning women to death because they refuse to obey the demands of the ruthless males who dominate their lives.

     Since we’re talking about cartoon animals, let me ask one last question: If you were a poacher, how much would you charge to kill an adult Dumbo for his valuable tusks and his sturdy legs used occasionally for coffee tables, Ruby the Rhinoceros whose horns are made into dagger handles or ground into power used for medicinal purposes as well as an aphrodisiac, Peter Potamus the hippopotamus for his cute ears and big toothies, Maguilla the Gorilla using his powerful hands and feet for trophies, Tony the Tiger for use as a throw rug which includes his handsome head and sharp fangs, Simba the Lion King for his mane and mandibles, Smokey the Bear for his huge paws and claws?

     I feel so helpless writing this story. Helpless!! All I can say is: Think of these defenseless animals being killed by poachers. For their sake, please don’t buy ivory!

 

     — Boots LeBaron —

SOUTH AFRICAN WITCHDOCTOR KNEW HIS BONES

THE HUMAN RACE

 

MEMORIES GROWING UP AS WHITE KID WITH BLACK ZULU TRIBAL PALS

 

Copeland, a tall, raw-boned Nyasa tribesman and witch doctor, poked the fire with a stick, sending a cloud of sparks spiraling into the night sky above South Africa.

John Ormsby Lawder, 12, was the only white person in the midst of the black tribesmen squatting around the bright fire watching and listening to the incantations of the fearsome-looking, bone-rattling Copeland.

Born in Durban, a seaport city on the Indian Ocean, the youngster spoke fluent Zulu, hunted in the bush with a catapulp, palled with black kids and never could figure why they got to herd the cows while he had to go to school.

Since his father, Edward, was called into the British Royal Navy in 1939, serving as a commander until the end of World War II, his mother, Therese, whom he called “mum,” was left to raise three feisty sons and operate a 600-acre sugar farm where the only workers were black tribes people.

John, who became a physician specializing in nutrition and preventive medicine, readily admitted that the witch doctor “made a greater impact on my life than anyone else. He was like a surrogate father. I was a wild little devil. I didn’t like school. My mother relied on Copeland to discipline me and my brothers. We not only respected him, we feared him.” He laughed.

“Copeland would squat at that fire, staring into it with those blood red eyes. He wore a necklace ringed with animal teeth and bones. In a pouch, he carried a set of bones, which he’d toss on the ground. He marked his patients with charcoal. He was some sight, he was. A very important man, highly respected by different tribes.”

From the time he was a boy until he reached manhood, John watched Copeland work his tribal witchcraft, using herbs, symbols and influencing thoughts.

“He appeared to cure people,” John said. “Even as a boy, he made me more conscious that perhaps there’s another area of healing that reaches beyond the strict science of medicine as we understand it.”

Copeland, who called John “Baas John,” also impressed him with his clairvoyant abilities. “During the war, he’d toss those bones and never failed to predict when my father was coming home from convoy duty.”

John remembered many occasions when Copeland told him that “Bass John” would die in a foreign land. “He said that some day I would become a medical doctor … like he was a witch doctor. Here I was with a grade-10 education, destined to be a sugar farmer like my father. It didn’t make any sense.”

But all of the above came to pass. John arrived in Canada in 1956, got his medical degree from the University of British Columbia, had a successful practice going in Torrance, California, where, as Copeland predicted, he died  “in a foreign land.”

 John Lawder was my friend and doctor.  Sorry to say, I never met Copeland, a fearsome witch doctor who’d give some religious scholars a run for their faith.  I would have loved to have interviewed old Copeland.

     — Boots LeBaron–

DESPITE THE ODDS, WOMEN REFUSE TO SURRENDER!

THE HUMAN RACE

HER MESSAGE:  “THE GOOD OLD BOY’S CLUB BE DAMNED!

     It wasn’t God who had women hanged or burned at the stake for witchcraft in the American colonies. It was Man.

     Decades before the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials, Mary Sanford, a 39-year-old mother of five, was condemned to death by colonists in Hartford, Connecticut. Her male prosecutors said she “deserved to die.” Their charge: “Consorting with Satan and using supernatural powers against unnamed others.”

     Unable to argue against God, the Devil and the holy scriptures, the free-spirited Mary was hung for celebrating her individuality as a human being. She was guilty of dancing around the flames of a bonfire and drinking wine. Whoop-de-do!

     Did she waltz with the Devil? Fly on a broomstick? Cast wicked spells on others? Cuss? Refuse to cater to the whims of her spineless hubby? Hell no!

     More than three centuries have past since the American Colonies version of Ye Good Ol’ Boys Club used the name of God laced with hysteria and based on dogmatic biblical babble to squelch the inherent rights of women fighting for their identity in a suppressive society.

     Today’s Mary Sanfords have found courage through independence, strength through sacrifice, wisdom through anguish, and the bond of sisterhood through freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to do what they damn well please.

     Yet women are still seeking equal rights in a world where man dominates in many instances with chauvinistic assertiveness.

                        — Boots LeBaron

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER… NOT EVEN MOVIE STARS!

THE HUMAN RACE

CEMETERY GUARD’S  CANDID VIEW OF GRAVESIDE HUMANITY

 

     At 72 years old, Cliff Walden was my favorite philosophic cemetery guard. Four days a week, he’d put on his blue uniform, kiss his wife, Evelyn goodbye, and head for the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles County where he worked as a uniformed attendant.

     For more than 15 years Cliff had seen “what dying does to the survivors. It does more than make them cry. It makes then dress up. It gives them sad faces. It makes them walk slow, like they are carrying a bunch of bowling balls. I see very few of them laughing and kidding around.”

     Cliff had seen more than his share of somber processions of “fancy limos, jalopies, hearses, mourners, flowers, caskets. Once I did see bunches of balloons. Different colors. There was a lot of young people having a good time. I wondered what was going on. Maybe they inherited a lot of money. I don’t know.

     “I don’t get in anybody’s way, but you do see a lot of sad folks. I feel for them. But being in my profession, you’re kind of emotionally removed from it all. The only time I ever get a knot in my throat is when they bury a child. Evelyn and me lost our little boy in ’41.

     “We do have some famous people here. We have Betty Grable’s ashes. You know who she was, don’t you? The world War II pinup girl all the GIs were in love with? Every time I pass her crypt, I think: Wouldn’t it be nice if they fastened a pair of pretty legs out of marble and attached it to the front of that crypt?

     “Then we have Gypsy Rose Lee’s ashes. Hoot Gibson and his wife, they’re buried right here. He was an old cowboy movie star. Yeah, we have a lot of famous ones.”

     Cliff and his wife had been married for 52 years. He remembered the day they met in their hometown Decatur, Illinois. “It was September 13, 1936. Me and a friend pulled up in front of Evelyn’s house in this old Plymouth and honked the horn. I told my friend, ‘If one of them’s wearing glasses, I’m grabbing the other.’

Sure enough, one was wearing glasses, so I grabbed Evelyn. How was I to know that she was hiding her glasses in her pocketbook?”

     That same evening, Cliff won a bet. “I bet my friend that I would kiss my blind date less than 20 minutes after we first met. I won that bet hands down!” he laughed. “I was the first and last boy she ever kissed. Evelyn was a very naive and innocent girl in those days. Of course, I changed all that!”

     They were married two months after that first kiss.

     What did he learn about life working at a cemetery?

     “Sooner or later, everybody dies,” he said with a shrug. “That includes you, me, Betty Grable, even the president of the United States.

     “That’s life!” Cliff concluded with a second shrug.

     — Boots LeBaron

LIFE’S MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

THE HUMAN RACE

WHAT IF?

What if the Supreme Being was an abused woman?

What if Charles Darwin had just been kidding about evolution?

What if political campaigns were conducted with integrity?

What if Viagra was a placebo?

What if Armageddon was coming next week?

What if all religious leaders took vows of poverty?

What if intelligent design was scientific fact?

What if St. Peter had to install metal detectors?

What if there was no life after death?

What if God had His own Facebook on the Internet?

What if Shakespeare was a plagiarist?

What if Purgatory wasn’t such a hellhole after all?

What if Man was a failed extraterrestrial test-tube experiment?

What if atheists leased offices in Vatican City?

What if humanity ran out of water?

What if gays outnumbered heterosexuals?

What if Pablo Picasso had decided to be a bail bondsman?

What if euthanasia was a legal alternative to convalescent homes?

What if anti-pollution activists controlled oil-drilling rigs?

What if President Barack Obama was white?

What if political photo-ops were outlawed?

What if sharks could be found only in the sea?

What if all the poverty stricken could dine free at Denny’s?

What if Adam and Eve refused to sample the forbidden fruit?

What if pork-barrel spending was strictly a hog’s nightmare?

What if dock workers didn’t cuss?

What if prescription drugs were cost friendly?

What if Jesus Christ appeared as an anchorman on TV?

What if jurors came void of preconceived notions?

What if Hooter’s was a sanctuary for endangered owls?

What if using religion to win votes was a felony?

What if there was no McDonald’s?

What if pomposity was a crime punishable by water-boarding?

What if lobbyists couldn’t buy votes on Capitol Hill?

What if Babe Ruth or Jackie Robinson were playing baseball today?

What if women earned salaries equal to their male counterparts?

What if there was a pill to cure greed?

What if all racial bigots woke up with black or brown faces?

What if The Pope would help curb overpopulation?

What if 72 virgins was basically a heavenly marketing ploy?

What if terrorism wasn’t empowered by religious extremism?

What if slumlords had to live in their own squalor?

What if Chanel No. 5 was a 99 Cents Only Store item?

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

 

RUTHIE WAS ONE OF MANY COURAGEOUS U.S.A. WOMEN.

Ruth Shannon celebrates her birthday on April 1st.

 

RUTH CHANNON WAS ONE OF MANY U.S. WOMEN WHO SHOWED

TRUE COURAGE AND INTEGRITY DURING ‘THE BIG WAR.’

 

     Not long after Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world, obliterate Judaism, slaughter millions of Jews, invade Poland, Czechoslovakia, occupy Austria, bomb the hell out of Britain using der Furor’s powerful Luftwaffe air force, the Japanese launched its December 7, 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

     They struck with carrier-based planes sinking or damaging 19 ships, killing or injuring 2,200 American servicemen, and destroying 188 planes with negligible losses to the Japanese.

Not only did that devastating attack on Pearl get the U.S. into World War II, it revealed a dormant spirit within the men and women of our nation. It was a wake-up call that made us realize that now was the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country. It was a time for great sacrifice, a time to fight an enemy that’s threatening the freedom of what we continue to call the land of the free and the home of the brave.

     And for those reasons, I’d like you to meet Ruth Channon who was one thousands of American women to change their lifestyles by giving up their comfortable world as housewives, moms, administrators and clerks to support their nation which must go to war against a well-trained, goose-stepping enemy known as the Axis.

     At that moment in history, hundreds of thousands of men left the workplace and joined the U.S. armed forces. At the same time, millions of women from all walks of life and levels of society, forfeited personal and professional comforts to take over the jobs men  vacated.

     So Ruth Channon, an ambitious young woman, gave up her dreams to become what she whimsically and proudly calls herself, “Ruthie the Riveter.” What makes Ruthie unique is her positive attitude,her sense of being a woman, and the fact that the mother of my late childhood friend, Bumbo, turns 100 years old on Wednesday (April 1, 2015).

     For at least two years, Ruthie worked as a riveter at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Culver City, Calif.  During the war, her mother would baby-sit with Bumbo and his sister Sheila while Ruth riveted away helping build fighter planes and bombers to battle a powerful enemy that would make Darth Vader look like a kindergartener.

     When I asked Ruthie if by chance she worked on a bomber that actor Clark Gable served on as a tail gunner, she had no idea. As the story went, when German field marshal Hermann Goering learned at Gable, a well-known motion picture star, had enlisted in the American Air Corps and was a tail gunner, the notorious field marshal had offered $5,000 to kill him.

     When Gable learned of the price that was put on his head, he was quoted as saying, “Tell Goering that, ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn!'” Of course, that line was taken from the 1939 Civil War epic, “Gone With the Wind” when Gable as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!” “Gone With the Wind,” is considered one of the most famous films in Hollywood history.

     But back to Ruth Channon and reality: In their own way, close to 19,000,000 women went to war replacing their male counterparts who became U.S. warriors. In 1942, the original Rosie the Riveter was discovered. Her name was Rosie Ronavita. She was a welder building planes for Convair in San Diego. To land such a riveting job, the government would explain to female applicants, “If you can use an electric mixer, you surely can operate drill.”

     Working for less money than her male replacement, women were proud to become active members of the war effort. When posters showing a sturdy female with the slogan, “We Can Do It!” became quite popular. And the significance of Rosie the Riveter became as popular as the Uncle Sam recruiting poster pointing under the slogan, “We Want You!”

     When I asked Ruthie about her going to work, leaving her two young children at home, she explained that as a single parent, her mother would baby sit with her young son, my childhood pal Bumbo, and her daughter, Sheila.

     Was doing a man’s job difficult? “Not really,” she said. “I was young and strong.” Ruthie was also one of the best looking mothers residing on Crescent Heights Boulevard. She was a young mom, with raven hair, dark brown eyes and Pocahontas cheekbones.

     Was working with a riveting guy on fighter planes and bombers exhausting? “Only when I got home at night. But my kids made everything alright.”

     Near the end of the war, Ruthie married an ex-GI named Saul Channon. Lucky for Bumbo and Sheila, he adopted them.

     Saul Channon looked like an husky leprechaun. Actually, he was a Russian Jew and the son of a rabbi. I can’t remember him without a cigar sticking out the side of his mouth.

     Mr. Channon never talked about the hell he went through as an infantryman with the 45th Armored Division; never mentioned the wounds he suffered during a firefight in Messina, Italy, in 1944. They were severe enough to buy him a ticket home. I loved the guy.

     For a long time after his return to civilian life, he remained traumatized like the combat infantrymen who return from the Middle East today. Ruthie told me, a thump in the night would send the former sergeant diving under the bed. Even action scenes in a movie, like “Return to Bataan” would cause Saul to hit the deck in a movie theatre, taking cover behind rows of seats.

     To get the trembling ex-GI back onto his seat, Ruthie said she would have to remind him that it was only a movie they were watching in a darkened theatre.

     “Most of the time it worked,” she said. “What Saul went through, made me realize how important it was for me and all those other women, to do our duty. Although Saul is dead, I still talk to him. He was a great father and husband. I’ll never stop loving him.”

     Happy birthday, Ruth Channon. Happy one hundred years of adventures in this troubled world.

   — Boots LeBaron —

        4-01-2015

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526

ACTOR BOB MITCHUM WAS MY FAVORITE WISEGUY

THE HUMAN RACE

BOB MITCHUM, WITH AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM, GAVE ME AN AUDIENCE.

     On numerous occasions, life had sent actor Robert Mitchum to the principal’s office. Some of you might not even recognize his name. He died in 1997. Nevertheless, I’d like you two to meet. Not because he was a Hollywood legend. But because he wore his soul like a bullet-proof vest over his barrel chest.

     After nearly four decades as a movie star, he didn’t need to talk about himself. Certainly he had been busted for smoking pot in 1948 and wound up in jail. Certainly he was a rogue. Certainly, in the eyes of many, he was dinosaurian. Certainly he had an attitude problem that intimidated and even alienated many studio executives. Certainly.

     Several years before he died in his late 70s suffering from complications caused by emphysema and lung cancer, I spent a few evenings with him in St. George, Utah where he was starring as a killer in a mediocre ABC-TV docu-drama titled, “Casa Grande.”

     My first glimpse: He was sitting on a director’s chair talking to members of the film crew, complaining about a showerhead he had installed in the Montecito, California home he shared with his wife, Dorothy, the woman he married in 1940.

     “I had this little guy install the shower,” he said. “I told him I want it two-inches above my head. The sonuvabitch put it two-inches above his head. Damn midget!”  

     Everybody laughed.

     Robert Charles Duran Mitchum was still smoking and drinking when I met him. He was anything but vain. He was gruff.

      Hollywood was not his playground. Yet, that’s where he made his living. I liked the cynicism, the humor and the wisdom of this tough guy. See if you like him too:

     QUESTION: Do you still get the same kind of enjoyment you had when you were starting out in this business?

     MITCHUM: For eight hours a day, yeah. After that, it begins to drag my ass.

     QUESTION: Charles Laughton, who directed you in “Night of the Hunter,” [where you played a psychopathic killer] said you could very well become one of the world’s great actors. Is there any kind of role you haven’t done and would like to do?

     MITCHUM: Sesame seed.

     QUESTION: What is sesame seed?

     MITCHUM: It’s a roll. Very seldom do actors use the word ‘role.’ Acting is a job.

     QUESTION: You’re getting old.

     MITCHUM: True.

     QUESTION: You’re sitting out here on location. It’s midnight. The dust is blowing in your face. Is there anything else you would rather have done with your life?

     MITCHUM: I can’t think of anything. No. I haven’t been exposed to many things.

     QUESTION: How do you feel about the convict character you play in this movie?

     MITCHUM: Unfortunately, it runs all through the picture.

     QUESTION: You don’t act like an actor.

     MITCHUM: When I get paid for it, I do.

     QUESTION: What was your first movie?

     MITCHUM: ‘Hoppy Serves a Writ’ in 1942. It was a Hopalong Cassidy film with William Boyd. I got on a horse. Got thrown off. Played a heavy. Had dialogue. Fell off a forty-foot rock. Got shot. And went home dragging my ass, ninety dollars richer, with all the horse manure I could carry.

     QUESTION: You started in acting as a teen-ager. How have you changed over the years?

     MITCHUM: I got older.

     QUESTION: You had to get better, too! Right?

     MITCHUM: Not necessarily. It depends on the opportunities; the variances in parts.

     QUESTION: Maybe you got worse.

     MITCHUM: There you go.

     QUESTION: Why did you become an actor?

     MITCHUM: It was better than what I was doing.

     QUESTION: What were you doing?

     MITCHUM: Working in a womens’ shoe store on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

     QUESTION: How long?

     MITCHUM: Three weeks. I got fired for checking beaver.

     QUESTION: How true was that story about you escaping from a chain gang in Savannah, Georgia?

     MITCHUM: I have sixteen biographies. Take your pick. It’s not important.

     QUESTION: You describe Howard Hawks, Charles Laughton, John Ford, John Houston as great directors. What makes a great director?

     MITCHUM: Oh, I think a comprehensive overview.

     QUESTION: I knew a guy, Adrian Thornsbury, a one-time Golden Gloves boxing champion from Kentucky, who claims he got in a scuffle with you over a girl in Long Beach (California) when you were just starting out in acting.

     MITCHUM: Yeah, I remember. I was maybe nineteen; trying to impress his girlfriend. He called me a theater queen. I called him an Adrian. He beat the crap out of me.

     QUESTION: Since you were born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, how did you wind up in Hollywood?

     MITCHUM: I came out in a private plane. My health was delicate. My family took me out of private school. I was emaciated from dancing lessons. They had an airplane built for me and flew me out on the Southern Pacific Railroad.”

     QUESTION: Are you good at business?

     MITCHUM: Do you think I would be sitting here at midnight in the middle of a sand storm doing this TV crap if I was good at business? One time in Kenya (east Africa) I was working with Carroll Baker in a John Huston movie. The Massai tribesmen horrified Carroll. But she had her publicity man get a picture of her posing with all the brothers; then put out a story that tribal chiefs offered a hundred black cattle in a trade for her.

     That represented a fortune in cows. Through an interpreter, I got together with a chief and we actually bartered for her. The sonuvabitch whittled me down to one fucking cow. He probably knew she wasn’t a real blonde.”

     QUESTION: Do you do any of your own stunts?

     MITCHUM: I ended up under a pile of stuntmen once. One of them said, ‘Hey, we get paid to do this.’ That’s when I realized I was doing them out of a job.

     QUESTION: Ever get knocked out?

     MITCHUM: Raymond Burr banged my head against a post one time in “His Kind of Woman.” I went out. When I came to, the director said, ‘That didn’t look real. Do it again.’ I had a lump on the side of my head the size of a grapefruit.

     QUESTION: Is it true that John Wayne was really physical when he staged fights?

     MITCHUM: Nah. He had some pretty good doubles. One of them was Charlie Horvath. He could take your jaw and twist it right off. Really, right off! In those close-ups, Duke would just mock fight. But if he fell sideways standing at the bar, which he did on occasions, he would clean out the whole joint like a row of dominoes. I tried to lift him over my shoulder a couple of times but he had those big football legs. He might throw up on your back, but he’d give you no help.   

     QUESTION: Who taught you to fight?

     MITCHUM: Tommy Loughran. Fought [Jack] Dempsey. He was a light heavyweight, actually. It was on the banks of the Indian River in Delaware. A church camp. I was 13.

     QUESTION: How did you learn to ride a horse?

     MITCHUM: A wrangler named Cliff Parkinson taught me. Cliff was an all-around rodeo cowboy. He was supposed to be a pretty good bronc rider. He said, ‘Just get on and pretend you can ride, kid.’

     My last glimpse of Robert Mitchum: He was alone sitting in his trailer drinking Budweiser and smoking Pall Mall cigarettes.    What I found behind those legendary hooded eyelids and deadly-calm green eyes was a man who didn’t like to be alone; an intelligent, well-read, cynical wit whose view of the human race was skeptical. His search was for simple honesty in a sea of greed, insincerity and not much loyalty. Because of his celebrity status, there were a lot of industry people and strangers he came in contact with that he didn’t trust.

     Since he was still a recognizable icon, Hollywood continued to embrace him. After all, he had starred in more than 120 movies including some great ones like “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison,” “The Enemy Below, “Cape Fear,” “The Sundowners,” “Not As a Stranger” and “The Longest Day.”

     I left that old Hollywood dinosaur alone in his trailer realizing that I genuinely respected the man behind the actor.

Boots LeBaron

(NOTE TO PEOPLE WHO READ MY BLOG:  IN A DAY OR TWO, I’M RUNNING

A  STORY ABOUT  ADRIAN THORNSBURY,  A TRULY TOUGH GUY WHOM

MITCHUM TAUNTED, REFERRING TO THORNSBURY’S “SISSY” FIRST

NAME.  SO “THE THEATER QUEEN” TOOK ON ADRIAN.   MITCHUM’S BIG

MISTAKE.)

A PRE ST. PATRICK’S DAY MEETING WITH A LEPRECHAUN.

THE HUMAN RACE

TOODLEOO TO MY OLD PAL FRANK O’LEARY (1927-2015)

 

Not too long ago,

I was walking down the street

when I heard the

 rustling of leaves

coming from high in

a maple tree.

When I looked up, there was

Francis Arichibald O’Leary with

that waggish face beaming down

at me. He was clinging to a spindly

branch that barely supported

his portly Leprechaun frame.

“Top of the mornin’, chappy!” he

called, tipping his topper.

“And the rest of the day to yerself,”

I said after a moment of hesitation.

For up to that point in my life,

I had been a reasonably logical guy

able to distinguish fantasy from reality.

At an early age, I came to believe that

elves, mermaids, gremlins, pixies,

brownies, even gnomes, were all

figments of our imagination,

conjured up to make human existence

more entertaining — dramatic.

Yet, there clung Francis with a

cluster of shamrocks sticking out of

his hatband, winking down at me

with a set of impish green eyes

magnified by bifocals.

Since I had met my share of leprechauns,

as sure as St. Patrick drove all the

snakes from Ireland, I’d never met one

who was more whimsical than Francis whose

coattail was caught in the branches.

“Before you forsake me,” he pleaded, “would

you be up to doin’ a kind deed?”

I shot him a skeptical glance.

“Wouldn’t you agree:  it’d be unmerciful

to leave a body stuck up in a tree on

such a fine kite-flying day?” he asked

“How’d you get up there?” I said.

“Would you believe I was tryin’ to get

closer to heaven?” he snorted.

“If I help you down, will

you give me an interview?”

“Yer pullin’ me leg,” he howled.

“Maybe you’re right,” I said.   As I  began to

walk away,” he hollered at my back:

“Unless yer interested in talkin’ to the

descendent of Ireland’s King Timothy O’Leary.”

He pressed a thumb to his chest.  “This is me!”

The minute I helped him down, he pushed

out his double chin and explained with a

cockeyed grin, “Timothy O’Leary was not

really a king.  He was more like the

chief of a clan in County Cork.  But King

Leary did exist.  And his same blood

trickles through my veins and those of

my sons, Shawn, Kevin and Bryan.

They are all sturdy lads.”

“And where on the Emerald Isle do you

hail from?” I asked.

“Sad to say, I’ve never been to

Ireland.  My father, Timothy raised

 nine of us on an estate in Cambridge,

Mass. where he was a groundskeeper.”

“Are you truly a leprechaun?” I asked.

“Not only am I the largest leprechaun in the world,

I’m the only one with an engineering degree; one

who works with rainbows, pots of gold, taxes,

and has an adorable wife named Allie who teaches

college calculus. Think of me as an overgrown elf with

supernatural powers. That’s me!”

That spiel was the beginning of a friendship

that lasted many years.

Before we parted, I asked, using tax lingo,

“Don’t I get three promissory wishes, Francis?”

“Brace yourself,” he said taking a deep breath.

“May the road rise up to meet ya. There’s

one… May the wind be always at yer back…

And here’s me favorite: May you be in heaven

ten minutes before the devil knows yer dead!”

With that, Francis vanished in a puff of smoke.”

He was such a happy, unpredictable soul.

Passing away on Valentine’s Day

was so befitting the one time U.S. Marine,

aerospace physicist who dabbled in programs

 ranging from the  Atlas ICBM propulsion

system, analysing military ground support systems,

to kibitzing beach city politicians who for years

tolerated his magnificent blarney.

Right now, I’ll wager he’s gettin’ ready

to celebrate St. Patrick’s day,

dancing a jig in some cloud in the sky

far above the maple tree. That

performance, spiced with a touch

of pure O’Learyism will generate

enough razzmatazz to cause old

St. Peter to open wide his gates.

And leave the many friends he left

behind with heartfelt memories.

Toodleoo, old pal.

In Irish, that means good-bye.

 

— Boots LeBaron —

 

Love from Boots, JoAnne, and family.

THIS GLADIATOR HAS BATTLED LIFE’S TRUE SCOUNDRELS

THE HUMAN RACE

FOR FOUR UNPRECEDENTED DECADES, REV. JOHN R. CALHOUN

HAS SERVED ONE CHURCH     


     My favorite gladiator isn’t Russell Crowe (Maximus), Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) or Brad Pitt (Achilles). It’s Rev. John R. Calhoun. All 5-foot-7-inches of him. The villains he’s crossed sabers with over the past half century as a minister and religious scholar, are death, degradation, greed, violence, drug addiction, loneliness, hypocrisy, racism and heartbreak.

     Let’s see Hollywood top that.

     On Sunday (March 15, 2015) he will be named minister emeritus of the Manhattan Beach Community Church where he had served as senior minister for 40 years. (He retired in 2010) During that period he married and baptized a flock of kids. Including those belonging to my wife, JoAnne, and I.

     As a religious scholar, he also coped with the risque cartoons I drew of him. (as illustrated)  So John Robinson Calhoun maintained a sense of humor about himself and the world he lives in.

     Since his battles on behalf of others are for God’s eyes only, nobody knows precisely how many knock-down-drag-outs he’s won or lost during his long tenure as the senior minister of the Manhattan Beach Community Church.  

     As one who identifies himself as spiritual, and facetiously as a heathen, I interviewed this caring son of a congregational minister from Billingham, Washington a number of years ago.

     Here are his words:

     “Life is hard. It’s difficult, complex, intricate. You have to be awful brave to get through it because there are so many disillusionments, disappointments — things that are really hurtful.

     “Tragedy comes to all of us. God doesn’t single out people to punish. When your expectations, hopes and dreams are dashed, you have to keep on keepin’ on.

     “We live in a very violent world. It would be nice if this was a kinder and gentler place without war, crime or greed. God is not responsible for the man-made problems.  

     “My heroes aren’t athletes, movie stars, politicians or corporate icons. My heroes are average people who deal with a wide variety of tough issues. I know their stories. They are the bravest.

     “You’d be surprised at the grief I’ve seen. The first rule of being a minister is to be able to share intimate thoughts, to keep a confidence, to be forgiving, not judgmental. I’ve tried to be that way.

     “In every life there are tragedies that seem to have no logical answer. Life is a mystery. It’s unpredictable. We all search for reasons for our personal problems. On this side of Heaven, we may never know the answer. Maybe on the other side more light will be shed on the subject.

     “I believe strongly in the long run; that the final outcomes belong to God. I try to take God more seriously than myself.

     “Years ago I attended a memorial service in Maine for a fundamentalist friend who had fallen into a river and drowned.  People at the service blamed his death on ‘the will of God” or said that ‘God needed him more.’

     “I think my friend was just careless.

     “There are many things that people attribute to God that aren’t attributable to God. The world is as it is. There are difficulties and adversities we can’t control.     

     “God’s agenda and our agenda sometimes don’t coincide. But if we put our shoulder to God’s agenda, good things can happen.

     “Like everyone else, I’ve experienced good times and bad times. What helps me keep the faith is I have very low expectations. I don’t think God is going to solve our problems. We are quite capable of working out most of our dilemmas.

     “When people disappoint you, it’s all right to be aggravated. You can love people but you don’t have to like everybody. Those who have aggravated me, I can see the tragedies in their lives that make them upset with life. Many times when they hurt others, they do so because they are sad and disillusioned with their own lives. If they take out their frustrations on me, I don’t take it personally. There’s an old Arab proverb: ‘The dogs may bark but the caravan continues on.’

     “I try not to be judgmental. We all fall short of our expectations. For the elderly — and I guess I now fall in that category — life becomes more harsh, more difficult to deal with.     “In spite of everything, we must maintain a sense of humor. You can’t take life too personally. Now that I’m 78 (he said recently), I’ve found that old age is highly overrated. It’s not the Promised Land.

     “You don’t need to take yourself so seriously. As a minister, I’ve always seen myself as just part of the gang. We all fall short of our expectations and must face our own woes.

     “Culture and society has changed — not all for the good. Life has become more impersonal than personal. Yet life is filled with small victories. We’re all in the same boat rowing up stream against the current.”

     Over the years, I’ve peeked into the conscious of John Calhoun. At times I’ve found pride, loneliness, humility, a liberal bent and a passion to make others laugh. He comes with a philosophic intellectualism that’s fueled by a sense of Godliness.

     It allows him to comprehend his own inadequacies as a mortal and battle relentlessly for anybody he can help.

     Yeah, active or retired, old John R. Calhoun is still my favorite gladiator.

Boots LeBaron —

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