Posts Tagged ‘ ESSAY ’




     Beginning in the 1930s, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi

and Boris Karloff, a British character actor, terrified

moviegoers throughout the world portraying Count Dracula

and Frankenstein’s Monster. About 60 years ago, they

were followed to my late friend Alfredo (Al) Hernandez’

barbershop in Hollywood by James Dean, Errol Flynn,

novelist Louis L’Amour, Steve McQueen, John Carradine and  

Peter Lorre to get their hair snipped. “In the spring of

1953 Lugosi came in smoking a green cigar,” recalled Al.

 “He just sat down at my chair and told me to leave a little

bit full at the temples. Then he leans over and spits green

tobacco juice on the floor. l was speechless. He looked

up at me with those X-ray eyes and hissed, ‘What did you

expect me to do, swallow it?’ I didn’t like him spitting

on the floor, but he was my first movie star customer and

I didn’t want to lose him.” In 1956 Lugosi died. Al was

at the Utter McKinley mortuary where the body of the

Hollywood Count, dressed in his vampire costume, was on

display in an open casket. The room was packed with

mourners when his friend Boris Karloff walked up to the

casket, leaned over the cadaver and in that melodramatic

voice announced, “Come now, Bela, get up. You know

you’re not dead!” For a moment, the mourners watched in

silence. When Count Dracula didn’t stir, the crowd broke

into hysterical laughter. “When I went into this

business,” said Al, “I couldn’t speak proper English,

even Spanish. Mr. Karloff had a great grasp of the

English language. As I cut his hair, I’d listen to the

way he pronounced words and would repeat them over and

over again. I learned a lot from him.” He was the only

customer Al addressed as mister. “He was a real

gentleman. Soft-spoken. Always wore a coat and tie and

had wavy hair.”   Working with actors, Al’s policy was:

“Never talk about show business — unless they bring up

the subject.” James Dean, he remembered, “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withdrawn, almost shy.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. You go through life, you learn things. Actors come

in here to get away from all that BS. To  relax. I never

asked one of them for an autograph.”

            — Boots LeBaron —  


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

 Kindle and  may be purchased on  Amazon  paperback.   It contains

humorous  and inspirational views of life, death, Showbiz, the  

workplace, love, courage and everything in between)




      As you stumble through life’s dense garden collecting painful cuts and abrasions, like it or not, you will absorb knowledge. What might hurt like hell becomes an irrefutable lesson that builds wisdom. Such pain is a common denominator every human being must endure.     

    It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, brilliant, non-technical or simple-minded. You’re ripe for multiple doses of humiliation, infuriation, praise, bullying, vandalism, heartbreak, divorce, abuse.  

    You’re gonna get bonked as you walk the streets of civilization. Don’t search for wisdom. It finds you.

    So brace yourself. The experience will be etched like a tombstone on your memory banks.

    Once you the suffer the unpredictable wounds that play such a valid part in your life, only then will you enjoy the mental fortitude you’ve been hammered with.

    That’s wisdom, baby!

    No matter how famous or infamous you are, for better or worse, you must pay your dues. The distress might not always be exhilarating. But chances are, the final trophy you’ll hang on the wall is the inescapable lesson you’ve learned about life, death and everything in between.  

    Be grateful for the experience. You own it! You collected it!  You lived it!  It will always be available in that library between your ears.  Chances are, it will help enlighten your life.     Don’t let spurts of narcissism or greed distort your lifestyle because what you’ve learned on the streets, in the corporate towers, or behind locked doors, might lead to a better existence and a profound future. Not only for you. But for those who believe in you.           

— Boots LeBaron —

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

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.  The book contains stories

about people, essays and light poetry) 





Like columns of attacking Roman legions,

waves smash against the pylons

of the Manhattan Beach pier then charge

the shore with a suicidal fury.

One after another they strike.

Threatening. Magnificent.

Big invincible bruisers crashing

recklessly, angrily spewing mist

high into the air as they break.

The shore must fear the pounding.

For each giant wash kidnaps the sand,

wrenching it from its mother’s embrace.

Beyond the dark horizon a tempest is

brewing. Its rage has not yet ebbed?

You can feel it in the air.

Humanity goes through life

bracing for turbulence,

then weathering it.

The threat alone forces us to

fear, fret, worry, cower, think.

We do our damndest to batten down the

hatches. Some of us face the unknown

boldly, ignorantly, hopefully. When

tumult strikes, we must ride the waves.

Many become forever lost in the

unrelenting grip of a riptide.

Ironically, storms are like

waves, they never end.

So survivors may rest assure

that somewhere out there,

another rampage is brewing

and heading for shore.


       — Boots LeBaron

(Boots’ book, “THE HUMAN RACE,’ speaks of

life, courage, art, religion, love, war, etc.  It’s

available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon)


THE HUMAN RACE                            


Karl Malden had just finished co-starring

as Gen. Omar Bradley in “Patton,” the 1970 film

biography about the World War II exploits

of Gen. George Patton when he  explained to me

how characters in movies and novels change as the

 story unfolds.  Since I don’t have his exact quotes, I

paraphrased.  He told me that actors, directors,

writers realize that life experiences can

alter the philosophy of any person, real

or fictional. Malden might just as well

have been talking about today’s politicians.

 (In 1951 Malden won an Oscar for

Best-Supporting-Actor for a co-starring

role opposite Marlon Brando in “Streetcar

Named Desire”) He took his art seriously.

He told me: People change by experiencing

the good and bad of living. When I asked,

how did he know? he said that emulating

a real person is a significant part of the art

of acting.    “We work hard studying the

characters we must play. We’re all flexible.”

We were alone in his home when he pointed to his

large nose. “Even with this,” he said joking,

“I’ve disguised myself to study people. In

this line of work, it’s hard to hide from

the public.” Marlon Brando, he said, (In 1955

won an Oscar for Best Actor in “On the Waterfront”)

“had a two-way mirror installed in a tobacco

shop Off-Broadway to study people. He approached

characterization quite seriously. In real life,

people make mistakes; their philosophies change.

Failure to change course can lose a war, break a heart,

or turn a honest man into a criminal.  experience

alters the life of every person.”  With that, he gave

me a shove.  Behind that large dimpled nose was a

pair of handsome blue eyes.  They were smiling. 

Boots LeBaron

(Malden is not mentioned in Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE.

But Robert Mitchum is.  The book contains  a collection of interviews

with unique people interspersed with light poetry and essays about

life, death, love, courage, art, etc.  It’s available on Kindle and Amazon)






Sitting in the laundromat

watching the Speed Queen

tumble-dry your clothes

is an excruciating thing.

You could spend time gawking

at scrumptious honeys,

or occupy the boring minutes

twiddling your thumbies.

Play a game of solitaire,

if by chance you have a deck.

Waiting for clothes to dry

is one monotonous trek.

 If you’re the type of guy

who can slip into a trance,

a visit to Laundry Land might

allow your thoughts to dance.

 You could become a movie star

or perhaps a pool hall champ,

win an Oscar, be a lover,

or massage Aladdin’s lamp.

 But if you enjoy the tedious

buzz of laundromat machines,

somewhere in your ancestry

there’s mutilated genes.


Boots LeBaron

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

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.  It features

light poetry, essays and human interest stories.)


Continue reading




If total peace of mind could be

obtainable, life would be boring.

Earth dwellers have no choice but

to endure the pangs of existence.

That’s how we learn things.

And that’s why I believe in the

significance of being insignificant.

There are those I’ve traded lip

service with who have plummeted into

that bottomless abyss we all

know so well. Yet, somehow many

of us manage to find an elevator to

bring us back to whatever surprise

fate has scheduled for our future.

Everybody knows that bitterness

tastes lousy, anguish stings and

triumph is sweeter than sour.

I don’t need extreme isolation on a

mountain top to find enlightenment.

My Himalayas are everywhere. On a

crowded street corner, on a pier

overlooking the Pacific, surviving

a dull sermon, watching cloths dry

at a laundromat, trapped in a cave,

making love to a babe, doing solitaire in

The Big House, eyeballing the lantern moon,

spilling profound secrets to a pet pooch,

facing death in combat, driving home

alone, flying solo above the clouds.

Here’s a thought about the human

condition that might impress even

Confucius: We’re all a little bonkers!

Think about it. Look into the mirror.

The significance of being

insignificant is where we’re at.

Live with it!


Boots LeBaron


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

Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. It contains

human interest stories, essays and light poetry

focusing on people just like you. Read it!)




     Have you ever been jostled by a vindictive lout who obviously doesn’t want to see you succeed?

     I have.

     There’s no English word to describe those kind of rancorous individuals. But the German language nails it with a noun: Schadenfreude (shahd-n-froi-duh). Translated: “Satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.”

     Have you ever: Dropped a game winning touchdown pass? Failed to sell a work-in-progress play you’re still laboring on? Suffered a broken heart? Experienced humiliation? Lacked a formal education? Owned an ancient jalopy rather than a new Mercedes? Married a poor girl rather than one from a filthy rich family? Been a person with a blue-collar attitude?

     Proudly, my answer is “yes” to all of the above.

     And during the process, I’ve locked horns with more than my share of men and women suffering from the Schadenfreude syndrome.

     There are an abundance of them scurrying around in the workplace, politics, showbiz, sports — even in the world of blue-collar workers.

     Take a good look at them. They are jealous, greedy, insensitive, vengeful, smug in their pretentiousness, mocking and fearful of their own faltering self-esteem.

     Give them a compassionate hug. For they are the pathetic ones.

                        — Boots LeBaron

(Read Boots’ current book, THE HUMAN RACE. Buy it

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. The human

interest stories, essays and light poetry cover

     all aspects of life. Read all about it!)





Thank God for the pelicans.

There they go.

All eight of them in a perfect row.

Skimming across the ocean

like bombers on a mission.


A trailer breaks off,

gains altitude,

then dives,

retracting its wings

just before the jarring,

splashing impact.


Who designed these

magnificent feathered acrobats?

These clowns with big noses?

Suddenly, it bobs to the surface,

and floats for a moment

swallowing its meal.

Finally, with some effort,

it flaps those large,

powerful wings,

and like a

an ancient clipper ship,

lifts off.

Seeming to defy gravity

it gains altitude, circles,

then heads in the direction of its flock

which is lost in the distance.

Where does this

beautiful creature get

it’s navigational skills?

Just smart, I reckon.


Boots LeBaron





     Having lived with dyslexia since childhood, I had no idea that my lack of reading skills, my inability to spell, work with numbers, or even my artwork, had anything to do with the circuitry between my ears.

     Neither did my parents, teachers or adult co-workers.

     That brain-based learning abnormality specifically impairs a person’s ability to read and comprehend. Dyslexia has clouded my existence from pre-school through decades of adulthood. Even at this stage in life, I continue to omit or add letters or words when writing. Yet as a reporter, a writer-publicist and freelancer, I’ve published thousands of stories throughout my adulthood.

     Whenever I sketch a human figure or draw a cartoon character, I must concentrate on what side of a foot or hand to place the big toe or thumb.

     Knowing what I now know about my conceptual malfunctions (Rudolf Berlin, the German ophthalmologist, coined the term dyslexia in 1887), I wouldn’t swap my impulse center for any other set of gray cells, no matter how brilliant, conniving or ingenious they might be.      

     When neurologists and other knowledgeable researchers began delving into the auditory, visual, mental-concentration factors and creative roots of dyslectics like me, I began to feel good about my brain disorder. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. But I’m convinced that such a biological mishap is an endowment, a phenomenon capable of reaching impressive heights and depressive lows.

     Like my fellow passengers who ride the same dyslexic train, we are a massive group of unique men, women and children. Like it or not, our “short-circuitry” enables us to board a streamlined express that’s creatively and intellectually on the fast track.

     For dyslexia does not affect the intellect; nor does it relate to I.Q. But it does have to be identified, then nurtured and harnessed.

     Back when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was U.S. President (1933-45), I was a rudderless kid, a child actor, growing up in Los Angeles sharing a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my single-parent mother and grandmother.

     Granted, I was confused and floundering, unconsciously searching for my humanity. Occasionally, even as an adult, I was a target of ridicule and verbal abuse.

     So I know the sting of humiliation. It must have hurt, but I didn’t bleed, I didn’t hide. My mother, grandmother and rogue Hollywood stuntman father gave me different kinds of love. Maybe that’s why I never felt stupid, naive, illiterate, incorrigible or any of those coarse descriptions.

     Even today, I might hesitate before confessing that I ain’t well educated. That kind of attitude erupts with a tinge of pride. I’m no ignoramus. Like a lot of my brothers and sisters, I come with a different set of smarts. Many years ago at a cocktail party, Ernest Hemingway told me that he flunked high school English and that F. Scott Fitzgerald “couldn’t spell for shit.”

     That brief encounter with the man I wanted to emulate lifted my spirits. Of course, my favorite writers were also J.D. Salinger (“The Catcher In the Rye”) and Mickey Spillain who introduced Mike Hammer, a private eye in such popular books as “The Big Kill” and “My Gun Is Quick.” To my way of thinking, they were all classics and easy reads. That included several of Hemingway’s novels.    

     Now that I’m running neck-and-neck with Methuselah, I want to emphasize that dyslexics aren’t all lost souls. They are scientists, actors, magicians, CEOs, exercise consultants, blue-collar workers, artists, doctors, lawyers, felons, politicians. You name it.

     Had it not been for George Roberts a journalism teacher at Los Angeles High School in the late 40’s who introduced me to writing, I might have wound up like a few of my friends doing the convict shuffle in The Big House.

     How do I know this? I ran “makes” on them when I was a police-beat reporter for The Los Angeles Times. My first Times’ job was separating postcards on weekends while I attended Los Angeles City College on the GI-Bill. Then I worked in the circulation department, and took a drop in salary to become a copy boy working in editorial. Eventually I wound up writing TV log listings, a weekly FM radio column and interviewing TV actors.

     I had no idea that I was dyslexic. Neither did a lot of people who helped me along the way. Smokey Hale, the night managing editor at The Times, told me: “You want a real job? Leave all this Hollywood crap and I’ll get you transferred to the police beat.” Best move I ever made.

     Times reporters Jerry Hulse and Jack Smith (both became well-known columnists with best-selling books) were very supportive. Jerry was like a mentor. When I was calling in stories from “the beat” he showed me how to boil down a juicy homicide into a one-sentence pitch to the city desk. He tried to teach me how to put a story together. That took patience laced with compassion.

     When I left The Times and joined Glenn Rose & Assoc. to publicize the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, one of my unwitting teachers, thanks to Glenn, was Alan Scott, a screen writer who was credited writing screenplays for many of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals.

     His office was a tiny room off Sunset Boulevard with barren walls, a cot, a desk, a typewriter and a few books. I’d drive him to a hotel near the cliffs overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica.

     During those drives we talked mostly about writing. Gems the screenwriter and playwright offered me ranged from comedy to dramas like “So Proudly We Hale,” a World War II story starring Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake and Paulette Goddard as battle-weary nurses in the Pacific during World War II.

     Eventually, I went to work at Universal Studios. That’s when Willard Thompson, a Times editor, published my interview stories and gave me by-lines.

     Yet, my most fascinating adventure was working with a gang of hard-boiled police-beat journalists in the pressroom at LAPD’s Parker Center where I learned about life, death, human misery and crime reporting. There were no women “beat” reporters in those days. Yet I loved all those tough hombres.

     The L.A. Times was my MBA. I didn’t graduate magna cum laude but the adventure was irreplaceable. And I truly respected the news business and all the wonderful characters who covered the world.  

     Walter Lantz, an Oscar winning animator (Woody Woodpecker) and fine artist, taught me how to draw cartoons and paint with oils.

     For me, dyslexia was the ace I was dealt. It was a blessing in disguise. Because of my cerebrate wiring, I’ve performed my brand of creative sorcery that baffled well-educated others. Alone, I could come up with more substantial ideas than a conference table filled with smart asses.

     I can’t read a note of music, but I can fake it as a nightclub pianist with tips to prove it. I don’t read many novels or historic non-fiction. But I study humor, writing styles, and dabble seriously into any think piece that I can focus my eyeballs on.

     I’ve written hundreds of stories and poetic essays that have been published in newspapers and magazines. More than 800 of my free-lance columns appeared in The Daily Breeze and Los Angeles Copley newspapers. Some I illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings.     Parental love was my fortress in a silent storm where reading, writing and arithmetic were my bugaboos. I had lots of love, compliments of my mother, grandmother and actor-stuntman father who she shed twice in divorce courts. Although he never paid alimony or child support, I loved my deadbeat old man.

     Throughout life, I owe thanks to many people. That includes my wife JoAnne who not only gave me moral support for more than a half century, but somehow tolerated my idiosyncrasies. I have three grown kids, Beau, Brooke and Brandon. In different ways, they have learned to understand and even appreciate their father’s avant-garde thought-processing mechanism.

     So I have no regrets. Neither should any man, woman or child suffering from such a unique learning disability. As the years whiz by, I’ve concluded that dyslexia has been a rare gift that came in unorthodox wrappings.

     With pride, I will forever cherish my short circuitry.

— Boots LeBaron —

(THE HUMAN RACE by Boots LeBaron contains

 inspirational and humorous interviews, essays

and light poetry about life, courage, death,

women’s’ rights, business, romance & faith.

Buy it on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon)

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