Posts Tagged ‘ Death ’

CONFRONTING YOUR OWN YOU??? OUCH!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

FACING YOUR REALITY THE HARD WAY!

 

Don’t tell a person how to live.

Every man and woman has

their own regrets to bear.

Their own insecurities.

Triumphs. Blunders. Failures.

You can tell a person

that he or she can find

happiness despite sadness.

It ain’t easy!

But it can be accomplished.

To find a sense of humor

about your pathetic self,

look into the mirror. There’s

truth behind those sulking eyes.

On a wretched day, hard-core

humility can throw pomposity and

denial out the window. Painful truth

plays a vital part in discovering

who you are and where you stand

in life’s intense spotlight.

Why shouldn’t reality hurt?

Nobody knows precisely

who and why we are we.

It’s like handling your own

confession: The old “forgive-

me-for-I-have-sinned” routine.

In that looking glass,

the real you is staring at you

alone, winking slyly, making

your conscience twitch.

Don’t be afraid. Wink back.

 

Boots LeBaron

(THE HUMAN RACE written by Boots is an

inspirational self-help book containing

philosophies interspersed with humor for

those who are in search of themselves)

CIVILIZATION NEEDS A KICK IN THE ASS!

THE HUMAN RACE

CAN HUMANITY CURE IT’S BOO-BOOS?

To breathe the air

and smell the flowers.

Toil the soil.

Touch heaven’s showers.

 

Watch the night

turn into day.

See our children

hard at play.

 

Allow the breeze

to caress our soul.

Sip fresh water

from Nature’s bowl.

 

With wars and

destitution everywhere,

this life on Earth,

it just ain’t fair.

 

If our moral obligation

is to cure humanity’s woes,

why are so many countries

inundated with such pathos?

 

– Boots LeBaron –

 

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available on

Kindle and on Amazon in paperback)

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)

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)

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.

 

 

 

COFFEE’S PROMISING WHIPPERSNAPPERS

THE HUMAN RACE

THE EVOLUTION OF A CUP OF JAVA 

When I started drinking coffee in

the late 1940s, a panhandler might have

asked, “Hey, Bub, can you spare a dime

for a cup of java?” Today he’d say,

“Hey, dude, can you spare a fiver for

a Black Forest espresso smothered in

cherries and chocolate?” Or maybe a

less expensive Mocha Latte? There was

no decaf when I was a young man sampling

life in Los Angeles. You’d hit a diner

and take a stool at the counter. A waitress

with a cigarette dangling from her lips

would coo, “What’ll it be Sweetie?”

All you had to say was, “Coffee.”

If, as she poured, an ash from her Camel

flittered into your brew, no problem.

You’d add a couple of lumps of sugar,

cream, stir with a metal spoon, and

gulp it down. Ash and all. Like

clockwork she’d sashay along the

the counter refilling cups. No extra

charge. You’d add a nickel or a

Mercury-head dime to the damages. Except in

ritzy joints like the Hollywood Brown Derby

where movie moguls penciled thoughts on white

linen tablecloths, even loose pennies would

qualify as a reasonable gratuity. To order

a brew at a Coffee Bean or Starbucks today,

it’d help to have an analytical mind. You

stand in line watching servers mixing

concoctions like an Iced Blended Tea

Latte and wonder: Who are these

erudite whippersnappers? They’re

everything imaginable: Future chemists,

psychoanalysts, artists, bartenders,

actors, CEOs, even college professors.

 — Boots LeBaron —

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

Amazon in Kindle and paperback. With humor,  inspirational

essays and stories about real people, it focuses on life,

death, the workplace, Showbiz, God and broken hearts.

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

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)

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