Posts Tagged ‘ SHOWBIZ ’

PERSONALIZED OSCARS TO BEAT PREJUDICE!?

THE WILD AND WOOLLY HUMAN RACE

 

     DIVERSITY has many faces. They come in

different colors, creeds, genders, logic, ethnicity,

religions, prejudices, levels of narcissism and

variances of naivety. As the Academy of Motion

Picture Arts and Sciences proved with its Oscar

show on Sunday, we are an unpredictable species.

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

goofy. We tote these eccentricities wherever we go:

Showbiz, Wall Street, politics, the workplace,

into personal relationships, even sports. While

watching the Oscars and listening to comic Chris

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

sound, occurred to me: Why not create a dozen

golden statuettes each individually honoring white,

black, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay and

lesbian artists and technicians? Sure it’s a

logistical challenge. But the film industry has

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

did a quick sketch of what these golden statuettes

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

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

celebrity industry from going bonkers.

 

Boots LeBaron

JUST WHO IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!

THE HUMAN RACE

WHO ARE WE?

Lovers can be friends.

Friends can be enemies.

Enemies can be teachers.

Teachers can be preachers.

Preachers can be hypocrites.

Hypocrites can be gigolos.

Gigolos can be heart breakers.

Heart breakers can be liars.

Liars can be users.

Users can be abusers.

Abusers can be cowards.

Cowards can be heroes.

Heroes can be brutes.

Brutes can be romanticists.

Romanticists can be manipulators.

Manipulators can be politicians.

Politicians can be swindlers.

Swindlers can be believers.

Believers can be dreamers.

Dreamers can be schemers.

Schemers can be tycoons.

Tycoons can be ignoramuses.

Ignoramuses can be patsies.

Patsies can be voters.

Voters can be celebrities.

Celebrities can be impostors.

Impostors can be charmers.

Charmers can be shysters.

Shysters can be lovers.

Boots LeBaron

EXPERIENCING SELF PITY? USE HUMOR AS YOUR WEAPON

PUTTING A FACE ON THE HUMAN RACE

EXPERIENCING SELF PITY? TRY TAP-DANCING

IT AWAY ON THE STAGE OF LIFE!

We are all starring in The Theater of the

Absurd. Look into the mirror. See yourself?

Even at your saddest moment of

wretchedness, study the character gawking

back at you. Notice the bloodshot eyes, the

twitch, the frown etched in deep furrows.

Pretty pathetic, huh? Now look deeper. There’s

a gladiator hiding behind that gloomy

facade. I don’t care how you’ve failed

or how your spirit was damaged. Give your

memory sack a good shake and there’ll be

an assortment of memorable moments spilling

out. Guaranteed, you’re gonna find something

to howl, growl or smile about. I know, I know.

You’re uncomfortable. But don’t hide. You’re

tap-dancing under the glare of the spotlight,

sharing the stage with billions whose tragedies

would dwarf the grief you’re experiencing.

You’re suffering an ego attack. Maybe a broken

heart? Everybody gets them. So stop fretting!

Even in the midst of catastrophic sadness,

there is humor. When my childhood friend,

Dick (Bumbo) Channon died at 52, I had his mother

and sister laughing. I dropped a handful of

bubble gum into his open casket. Memories are

made of happiness. Fun, never dies easy.

When my Irish pal, Frank Francis O’Leary

recently kicked the bucket, I wrote a

story turning the portly aerospace

physicist into a leprechaun stuck in a

tree. Death might be an emotional disaster for

many, but beyond those woe-be-gone tears lurks

the soul of truth that’s ready to spring forth

and bite you on the buttocks, infecting your

solemnness with happy memories. Truth harbors

a helluva sense of humor. You just gotta remember

the good times. So, if you want to temporarily

overcome those doldrums, here’s my suggestion:

Go into the bathroom and lock the door. As I

suggested earlier, find the mirror. You’re all

alone, right? Now bend over and give yourself

a kick in the ass. If you’re not double-

jointed, pull down your pants or panties and

“moon” the mirror. That act, I suspect, will give

you good reason to rise above self pity. You might even

realize what a pathetic looking asshole you are.

Remember: Laughter beats tears.


— Boots LeBaron —

HITTING AN ABUSIVE BOSS WITH TRUTH WAS A SOUL SAVER

THE HUMAN RACE

OFFICE OGRES  DESERVE TO SUFFER  EXASPERATION, TOO!

 

Even bosses are not immune to exasperation.

Subjected to bullying from abusive bosses,

guys and gals who vent their own wrath against

such higher-ups,should think twice before

they perform  the honcho pounce .

For any working stiff,  uncompromising honesty

could result in political suicide.  Here’s my story:

Although I had a family to support and bills

to pay, I had no alternative than to leave a bitemark

on an office executive’s conscience. When my boss

invited me into his Century City office, closed

the door, sat me down across from him  and asked,

“What do you think of me?” my guard was down.

The corporate vice-president had taken

me to lunch several times and had confessed 

his personal woes.  So innocently I crawled into his

ring, dropped my dukes, and naively asked if he wanted

the truth? When he shot me smile and shrugged

disarmingly, looking more like Jimmy Stewart than

Godzilla, I gave him a dose of honesty:

“You are a sonuvabitch, Jake.

You mistreat employees. Throw tantrums.

Slam your office door so hard that pictures

fall off the wall. You phone your secretary at

five sharp every afternoon. For fear of losing

her job, she can’t leave even three minutes early.

You have her bring in Starbucks in the morning,

lie to clients about your availability.

On her own time, you have her pick up your

laundry and buy gifts for your wife.”

Although he didn’t bat an eyelash, the veins in his

neck looked like they were going to explode.

Jonathan didn’t speak to me for several weeks.

Finally, he fired me. A few days later, I was told,

the president of the company sent him a memo

telling him that he couldn’t attend a showbiz

conference in New Orleans because he was needed

to make a new business presentation. In a tizzy fit,

Jake marched into the president’s office,

 tore up  the memo, and tossed the shreds into the

secretary’s face. “Tell the boss,” he snapped, “this is what

 I think of his memo!” When the supreme commander

returned that afternoon,  Jake, his irreplaceable

vice president, offered: “I’ll give you four weeks

to replace me.” Almost instantly, he fired

Jake, which wasn’t his real name,

and rehired me. The object of this true

 story is: In any business environment,

think before you reveal a painful truth to any

workplace superior who is capable of

suffocating you professionally. If the ogre is leading

with his chin like Jake did, you have

a couple of options: Think defensively, be creative and

polish your self-assertive candor. Only then will you be capable of

delivering a verbal punch that might knock some

ruthless, intimidating, egotistical

taskmaster on his egotistical butt .  Always keep

in mind that stark truth may  land 

you in the unemployment line.

Like my actor-stuntman dad used to say,

“Never telegraph a punch unless

you’re sure you can knock your

opponent out of the ring.”

Quite often, such  has

no clout in the workplace.

Yet, if intrepidity — strength of

mind to carry on in spite of danger,

that kind of fearlessness reveals that

you’re mentally fit to tangle with any

fire-breathing dragon who thinks

he’s invincible.  But equip yourself

before going into battle.  Remember,

no matter how sharp your tongue,

come equipped with integrity

and the heart of a warrior.

As the bumper sticker warns,

SHIT HAPPENS!

— Boots LeBaron —

MY DAD BERT LeBARON: A MOVIE STUNTMAN WITHOUT A FACE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

  THIS  STUNTMAN HAD A LOVE AFFAIR WITH HOLLYWOOD

imageStuntman Bert LeBaron, with arms spread in flight,

was about to knock out a machine-gun nest manned

by prison guards in the 1947 Burt Lancaster classic

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

photo of my airborne dad without giving the Hall of

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

in Hollywood back then. Although today their names

are entombed with crew members in end-credits, stunt

people are still ignored by the motion picture and

television academies. Since more than 50 stuntmen

and women have died for Hollywood over the years,

don’t you think the survivors deserve Academy

recognition? At least for valor? What pisses me off

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

taking credit for “gigs” performed by athletes like

my old man. And now, digital animation is replacing

the acts of such stalwart guys and gals. After

35 years of proudly calling himself an actor-

stuntman, Bert LeBaron, who would never qualify as

another Laurence Olivier or Tom Hanks, developed

a heart problem that put him out of action physically

and financially. (His last stunt was doubling actor

William Bendix in a TV sitcom) When the film capital

of the world showed no compassion, he tried selling

encyclopedias. When that failed, he couldn’t even

support himself peddling newspapers on the streets of

Hollywood. Having nowhere to turn, he stepped into a

handball court at the Hollywood YMCA where he was renting

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

heart playing the game he loved more than women. He

died in 1956. I call Bert and his unheralded comrades

“stuntmen without faces.” I loved that womanizing rogue

whom my mother shed twice in divorce courts. My father

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

in the midst of his mind. Nevertheless, stuntmen and

women deserve to step up to the podium and accept a

golden statuette for their sensational athletic feats.

So tell the actors who, for the sake of publicity

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

crime is they continue to take credit for stuntwork

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

that’s a felony punishable by truth.

 

Boots LeBaron

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

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.)

ODE TO BERT LEBARON, HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN

THE HUMAN RACE  

 

ODE TO MY DAD, A SWASHBUCKLING ACTOR-STUNTMAN


     

 

Buried under piles of paper, I had just found the eulogy I had written for my dad, Bert LeBaron, who had died under mysterious circumstances on a handball court at the Hollywood Y.M.C.A. on March 3, 1956. At his memorial service, Rev. John C. Donnell had read these words before a packed house inside a musty chapel at Callanan mortuary in Hollywood, California:

 

     By instinct I hold back the tears, for I am a man of twenty-three years. And a man should be strong physically and emotionally. That’s what he taught me and that’s what I believe.

     He was my dad. He’s dead now, but his lessons are beginning to come to life. We all make mistakes. But today we remember his good deeds.

     It’s hard to be a poor man and a proud one, too, but he was both.

     A man’s body broken down into the chemical elements is worth 98 cents, but his soul, personality, and experiences with life can’t be bought at any price.

     He had been poor, rich, strong, young, and old. He had seen war, death, life, happiness and misery. He had loved and had been loved. He was truly a man in every sense of the word.

     His friends respected him for himself, not for his material position in life. I loved him for the irrefutable love and respect he gave me. He was warm and understanding. I felt secure in his presence.

     My dad was in the motion picture business for over 35 years. It was his life and he loved it. He was part of Hollywood and Hollywood was part of him. He was always waiting for the “big break” that never came. “Things are quiet now, but wait till next month!” he’d say.

     He was a great athlete, active in sports all of his life. His reflexes and coordination were beyond reproach. I know, because a week before his death, he beat me at handball. He died at the game.

     An adventurous soul and an aged shell cannot survive together in this life. If there is a life beyond death, he will have his young body and will be unburdened once again… I’m grateful to have had a father like Bert LeBaron, Hollywood stuntman.  

 

                          Signed: Boots

CONVERSATION WITH A DEAD MAN

IN THE MIDST OF SHOOTING STARS

A semi-autobiographical memoir

by

Boots LeBaron

                  CHAPTER ONE                  

     It was close to noon on a Monday in late August. Miserably hot. After a half hour of climbing around Enduring Faith searching in vain for my father’s grave, toting a paper sack containing a fifth of Wild Turkey, my shirt was soaked with sweat and clung to my back like a blanket of leeches.

A groundskeeper named Joe told me that I was on the wrong mountain and steered me to Sheltering Hills, another grass-covered mound a couple of hundred yards down Memorial Drive. He said I’d find my dad right behind the statue of the Virgin Mary.

Joe was right. There he was. Plot number 640. A bronze plaque covered with pine needles and weeds inscribed: Bert LeBaron, 1900 – 1956.

Even in the sweltering noonday heat, Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills was a serene setting dotted with 30-foot pine trees and lots of monuments guarded by cherubs and winged angels with their tiny hands and pudgy fingers. Behind us were power lines which nullified some of the pious landscape, hinting that not all things, even in the midst of death, are sacred.

After setting the bag of Kentucky’s finest straight bourbon on the grass, I pulled out an H. Upmann, bit off an end and puffed it into life. I hate cigars. But this was a special occasion.

I needed to talk to my father. One on one. I sought forgiveness. I wanted to unload a heavy bag of anguish I had been lugging around ever since he committed suicide. Since H. Upmann was his favorite cigar, I thought, why not pamper the old fart?

I took a seat on the grass beside the plaque, popped open the bottle of 101-proof rotgut he could guzzle like Dr. Pepper and took a swig. Cascading down my gullet, it burnt and made me quiver.

Since his suicide on March 3, 1956, I had talked to him on many occasions. It had always been a one-way conversation. Almost like praying or searching my own conscience for an answer. This was the first time I had visited his grave since the funeral.

I had an eerie feeling that, after all these years, this might be the time he’d break the silence and talk to me rather than just listen.

After taking another pull on the H. Upmann, I blew a thick ring of smoke into the still air. It hovered for several seconds before disintegrating. Rather than take another puff, I began the conversation with the man who gave me life.

You’ve got a pretty good view of the Virgin Mary’s ass, dad. I guess you still appreciate a cute buttock staring you in the face, huh?   With the rolling hills, shady trees and clear blue skies brushed with those long, narrow clouds, Forest Lawn isn’t a bad place to be dead and buried.”

I stuffed the H. Upmann in my mouth, pulled a handkerchief from a pocket, and brushed the dirt off the plaque.

“Judging from the way they maintained this marker, Forest Lawn and its perpetual care program sucks. Once they plant you, they forget you. I guess that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Especially you! This is Hollywood, right?.

“You used to say, ‘When I die, just cremate me, then flush me down the toilet.’ We should have done that. Instead, mom and I scraped together twelve-hundred and fifty dollars for this plot and your casket.

“The funeral director at Callanan Mortuary talked us into spending an additional forty-seven bucks on a pin-striped suit. It was like buying a wedding dress. The bride wears it once, puts it in a box and forgets about it.

“Why we had you on display, I’ll never know. Lying in state in that dark, musty Callanan waiting room off Western Avenue was a hell of a way for a guy like you to shuffle off to the brimstone pit.

“Other than that ancient Bulova with the scratched crystal on your wrist, the only other item that belonged to you was the St. Christopher medal you always wore on a gold chain around your neck. Your surrogate father, Jake (the Snake) Morelli, gave that to you when you turned sixteen. I knew you were buried with it because I felt around under your shirt while you were in the casket.

“When I kissed your forehead, it felt like cold clay to my lips. Your body smelled like damp cardboard. To dispel the scent of death, the mortician should have doused you with cologne, or used some familiar odors like garlic, vinegar or even tobacco.

“Those once-powerful hands that rested across your chest were nothing but gray hunks of flesh with thick naked fingers sprouting from them.

“Only once can I recall seeing those fists in action. We were on Pico Boulevard driving home from the beach when this guy in a Pontiac runs a red light at Robertson and slams into your blue Hudson coupe.

“Spitting mad, he storms out of his car, surveys the damage to his front left fender, then marches over to your window and yells, ‘Hey, stupid! You just fucked up my brand new car!’

“You come charging out of the Hudson like a stung Ferdinand the bull. Do you remember this, dad? He grabs you. You punch him. The two of you start wrestling on the asphalt. It’s broad daylight. Traffic’s backing up on Pico. Not a cop in sight. And here I am, a kid with a ringside seat, scared to death that this big old bruiser was going to punch your lights out.

“You take his head and repeatedly bang his face against the hood of the Pontiac. There’s blood everywhere. His blood. Finally, after the guy’s half bled to death, you drag him over to the car and twist his jaw so he’s looking directly at me.

“‘See that boy?'” you say. “‘He’s my son. Nobody swears in front of my son. Now, cocksucker, apologize!'”

Cocksucker? Chalk up a new word in my growing vocabulary.   “The guy blubbered some kind of an apology and you let him go. He stumbled back to his Pontiac and sped away.

“Except for his blood on your shirt and hands, you didn’t have a scratch or bruise. And there was just a tiny ding on your right-front bumper. Both you and that old Hudson were built like General Sherman tanks.”

Before time and the fast lane made a mess of him, my father was a muscular six-foot mass of flesh and bone with wavy black hair and a matching well-groomed mustache. His sleek athletic frame and chiseled features were covered with a taut layer of olive-complected skin which he pampered year-around with oils mixed with small portions of vinegar cider and drops of iodine.

He wasn’t movie-star handsome. But he had this aura about him. When he walked into a restaurant or any room filled with strangers, people took notice.

Who is this man? Is he an athlete? Is he some actor? Is he a hood? Is he a rooster looking for a hen house? Is he a somebody? Is he a nobody? He was all of those. And certainly, he was a nobody.

After observing him spout dialogue in movies like “Battle Cry,” “Westward the Women,” “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or even in “The Mysterious Dr. Satan,” a weekly kid’s serial where he’s done in by a death-dealing robot, there’s no doubt that if the Academy handed out statuettes for playing B-movie-type thugs, he would be a nominee. Yet he was a Hall of Fame stuntman with tremendous athletic skills and an impressive list of screen credits that date back to the days of Francis X. Bushman, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Laurence Olivier.

I took another swallow. This time the Wild Turkey didn’t scorch my larynx as it headed south. I leaned close to the plaque and stared into the face of the man who collected so many ex-wives, fiancees and girlfriends their names were lost in the mist of his mind.

It was as if Cupid had stuck him in the butt with a mystical arrow that caused him to fall passionately in love with every woman he ever conned or seduced.

That included my mother Thelma Anna Gangloff-LeBaron who had married and divorced him twice.

I remember her teary eyed, hiking up my short pants and straightening my Peter Pan collar, preparing me for a day at the Crenshaw Nursery School in Los Angeles, describing my father as “that sonuvabitch of a godamned bastard!” Since she never swore, that outburst we confidentially used, quite often with humor, throughout her life when describing my father.

Although my mother’s description of my dad pretty much nailed it, I loved him dearly.   And I think she did too!

Gallivanting around, chasing other women, disappearing for days, pawning her jewelry, coming home with lipstick marks tattooed across his drunken face, he had broken her heart a million times.      Speaking German so I couldn’t understand, my wisp of a grandmother (all five feet of her) Anna Roeder-Gangloff captured the essence of the man. “Waere er in einem Bordell gestorben, haette de Leichenbeschauver es einen natuerlichen Tot genawnnt.”

Translated: “Had he died in a whorehouse, the coroner would have called it a natural death.” No matter how hard Grannie tried, like most women whose lives he touched, she couldn’t hate him.

My mother was an attractive woman. Long-legged and shapely with an angelic face framed in brown hair.

She spoke intelligently with a sweet tongue that not always communicated her deepest feelings. But heartbreak, love, compassion and even rage poured silently from a pair of powder-blue eyes which could conceal nothing.

A graduate of Dilworth Hall, an exclusive preparatory school for women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Thelma grew up as the socialite daughter of Dr. Charles L. Gangloff, who never charged the poor and boasted the largest practice in Western Pennsylvania.    Behind the doors of their elegant 14-room home at 161 Virginia Avenue on Mt. Washington, a suburb overlooking the City of Pittsburgh, the beloved Doc Charlie, hid his chauvinistic attitude.   My mother grew up during a period in America when women were obligated to kowtow to anything that sported a mustache, smoked a cigar and came with a penis. Considered the weaker sex, women were put on earth to breed, raise children, darn socks, mend crotches — things like that. They were not meant to vote or hold down a man’s job.

Soft spoken yet fiercely independent, Thelma grew up in the lap of luxury. She felt no need to march with the Suffragettes pounding a drum, rattling a tambourine, decrying equal rights for women under the Constitution. .

So homemaking was never on her agenda. But she was adventurous and even rebellious. At the age of 15 she was the first female in her neighborhood to learn to drive an automobile. At 16, she was playing golf, doing cartwheels exposing her bare ankles and calves, and standing on her hands in the surf along the Atlantic City boardwalk. Unladylike things.

At 17, with other girls from Dilworth Hall, she was participating in which she described as midnight makeouts with suitors in the cemetery. Less than two decades after Orville and Wilbur Wright made their maiden voyage at Kitty Hawk, Thelma, decked out in goggles, a leather aviator’s hat and flowing scarf, sat in the open cockpit aboard a Curtiss Aeroplane as it performed loop-the-loops a thousand feet above The City of Pittsburgh.

My father’s life was not so rosy. At the age of 13, he ran away from poverty, hopped a freight in Madison, Wisconsin, and wound up in Philadelphia. That’s when he literally bumped into the man I would call Uncle Jake. He was a frail-looking wiseguy with a sinister reputation. Bert was being chased along the sidewalk by an A&P grocery-store clerk after stealing cans of food when Jake collared him. A few months earlier, the mobster had lost his pregnant wife in a freak trolley car accident.

Jake paid for the stolen merchandise, brought my dad home and cared for him like he was his own son. Despite a close relationship with Johnny Torrio, a Chicago mobster, Uncle Jake was a devout Catholic.

When my father left the mob back in the mid-twenties, he came to Hollywood determined to become a picture star. He figured, if George Raft, a hood from Hell’s Kitchen, could make the big time, why couldn’t Bert LeBaron, a thug from Philadelphia?

In Hollywood, his new found friends — all struggling actors — believed that his wealthy parents went down with the Titanic in 1912, leaving him on Easy Street with a sizable inheritance.

Of course, that was a lie. Truth is, he was living on dirty money furnished by the mob. Bert LeBaron — if that was his real name — was to bullshit what Picasso was to cubism.

I was only a few years old when my father began telling me that my fraternal grandfather, Jean-Henri-Clement LeBaron, was a half-ass French poet who was shot to death trying to rob a bank in Marseille.

My paternal grandmother Sophia Maria Raphael came from Montorio, a tiny Italian village in northern Italy. She gave birth to my father out of wedlock in Catania, a coastal town in Sicily. After bringing him to America when he was an infant, she died of consumption.

He’d tell those stories over and over again. He’d tell them using Italian and French dialects. He’d make funny faces and gesture wildly. Pretending to be his father robbing a bank, he’d turn his hand into a gun and fire it at himself.

Bam! He’d clutch his chest and melodramatically slump over Hollywood-dead with his eyes wide open. There were a million reasons why we shouldn’t have believed him. But we did.

Whenever he’d fire that gun, it’d startle me and make me laugh. Sometimes, just to piss off my mother, he’d tumble onto the carpet with a thud that would rattle the knickknacks in the tiny one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mother and grandmother.

My mother hated him telling those tales. The thought of having a two-bit bank robber for a father-in-law rubbed her the wrong way. After all, she was the only child of the late Doc Gangloff who once turned down a citizen’s committee that wanted him to run for mayor of Pittsburgh.

Yet she believed him. And so did I.

I prefer to believe that my real uncle was a psychiatrist named Sherby Krieger. Raised in Kansas City, MO, he, his three sisters and a brother, were Jewish. Their parents were Polish immigrants.

The only time I remember Sherby visiting our house on Holt Street, he was wearing Army khakis. He was a captain in the medical corps. The only photographs I remember him showing my parents were taken on the site of a Nazi concentration camp in Poland. There were mounds of decomposing bodies bulldozed into deep trenches. I still picture the frail arms, legs and skeletal heads piled upon each other.

It could have been Auschwitz where some 4 million men, women and children, mostly Jews, were murdered.   I was just a little kid. Yet I still carry those horrifying images in my mind. .

Maybe that’s why my mother and father never revealed my true ancestry.  Maybe they wanted to protect me from the harsh truth behind the anti-Semitic brutality that even today provokes such vindictive acts of ignorance and bigotry.

I do remember overhearing my parents talking about my dad taking the brunt for his immigrant family, boldly walking down the middle of the street while neighbors threw stones at him. I don’t know why he alone took the punishment for his family. But it made him tough. Like racism, anti-Semitism and any form of racism is the epitome of ignorance.

Whether he was a Jew, Italian, French, African or Irish, I don’t give a damn. I’ve survived. I harbor no prejudice. I’m convinced that no man is created equal. We only think we are.

Though I had a hooligan for a father, and a mother who skipped through life like Little Red Riding hood en route to Grandma’s house, I wouldn’t trade my imperfect childhood for any other. Nor would I trade my parents for any prim-and-proper types.

I took another slug of Turkey, swallowed hard, and touched the plaque like I would touch my father’s shoulder. I heard a voice that was heavy with emotion. It was my voice.

“What troubles me to this day, dad, is when the chest pains began and there was no way you could handle the physical demands of stunt work, the film industry just looked the other way.

“That old Hollywood slut sure got her money’s worth out of you. She didn’t give a damn that you had spent most of your life kneeling at her altar, kissing her ass for show business.

“Even Uncle Jake and his hoodlum cronies would have demonstrated more compassion.

“Stripped of your pride and dignity, you never bellyached. Only once during those dark days can I recall seeing you, sitting alone on that rickety stool in mom’s narrow kitchen, your face buried in those powerful hands, weeping uncontrollably.

“When I put my arm around your shoulder and asked what’s wrong, you shook your head and said, ‘Nothing. Nothing at all.’

“That lie was so transparent, it was almost laughable. Hollywood shattered your spirit. Because of a diseased heart, you could no longer do the work you took so much pride in.

“You certainly weren’t in demand as an actor. When you tried selling encyclopedias, you failed miserably. You couldn’t even land a job selling newspapers on Hollywood Boulevard.

“One of my greatest regrets was when you came to me asking for a twenty dollar loan. When I turned you down, you just looked at me with those dark eyes, smiled pleasantly, hopped into that Oldsmobile you had won in a poker game and drove off into the night.

“If I could just relive that moment. You were always my friend. My confidant. God, dad, I’m sorry.

“I was twenty-three. Still green behind the ears. Far more insensitive about life and death than I am now. Just got out of the Air Force; was attending college on the GI-Bill; chasing around; working at The Times as a copy boy.

“I had a twenty-dollar bill right there in my wallet. I could have given you the money. Easy.

“Instead, I lied. I said that mom warned me not to give you any money. With my hands on your shoulders, I chastised you for never paying alimony or child support when I was a kid.

“It still breaks my heart every time I think about it.

“Two weeks later, you left your will in a locker at the Hollywood YMCA leaving me with a mountain of gambling debts and outstanding loans to sharks.

“Then you stepped onto a handball court and proceeded to do just what the doctors warned you not to do: Played a fatal game at the sport you loved almost more than women. It was a classic suicide, dad.

“You left a lot of people in the lurch.

“Although I wasn’t responsible for your debts, I started paying them off until mom’s attorney told me to stop.

“Remember Manny Russio, that hairy little ape with the tattoo of a watch on his wrist? He comes by the apartment and tells us what a prince you were and how sorry he was that you popped your heart on the handball court that way.

“Then he pulls out some markers with your signature. Manny didn’t give a damn about you. He just wanted us to pay off your loans.

“I can’t tell you how many Manny Russio types we encountered. Maybe a half dozen. All you needed to hook those scumbags was the promise of a quick pay back with ridiculously high interest rates.

“When I visited that stark, bare-walled room you were living in at the Hollywood Y, I just stood there with the door shut swearing at the walls, crying my ass off.

“What’s twenty bucks between a father and a son? Everything.

“The only belongings I took from that room were a Roi-Tan cigar box that contained a chunk of shrapnel that was dug out of your leg during your World War II stint in the Merchant Marines, a tiny plastic figure of Jesus Christ, a couple of IOUs and some phony birth certificates from your hoodlum days in Philadelphia.

“I also brought home a coffee cup given to you by John Wayne for your stunt work in The Conqueror. Other than your DNA, that was the sum of my inheritance.”

I tipped the bottle for one last nip, then raised it in a toast:

“You always carried a pint of this stuff in the glove compartment of your Hudson. Called it your snake-bite kit because there were so many snakes in Hollywood.

“So drink up, dad.” I emptied the bottle onto the grass around the plaque. “You might like to know, the snakes in Glitter Gulch are still as venomous as ever.

“A few days after your funeral, I met Nanette Contrel, your casting-director girlfriend. Mom, bless her heart, gave me her phone number and asked me to go help the ‘poor dear’ because she must be hurting. Curiosity drove me up to her Franklin Avenue apartment.

“When she opened the door, I was awestruck. Nanette was a tall, gorgeous redhead. Much younger than you. I stood there in the hallway wondering how such an attractive woman could fall for a dissipated old lecher like you? And why you never taught me how to get around women like you did.

“Here I was with simmering hormones and bubbling testosterone. If she hadn’t been your fiancee, or whatever you want to call her, I’d have asked her out before you could cluck cock-a-doodle-doo.

“I remember standing beside Nanette getting a whiff of that jasmine, honeysuckle or whatever she was drenched in, looking out the window. A bright moon reflected across tall buildings that night turning Hollywood into a graveyard of tombstones.

“‘You loved him, didn’t you?’ I asked her.

“For a couple of seconds she searched my face with a seductive set of sorrowful eyes. ‘Yes,’ she sobbed. ‘Very much.’

“She draped her arms around my neck and clung to me like a frightened child might embrace a Teddy bear on a stormy night. I could feel the warmth of her tears.

“We were stuck together like two pieces of Scotch tape. With her body pressed against mine, I became intimately aware of her anatomy. It was an awkward moment.

“Right then and there, dad, I wanted to kiss your fiancee. I wanted to take her to the floor, unbutton the buttons, unzip the zippers, and let Mother Nature take over.

“Instead, I looked into those misty eyes and told her, “I’m glad my dad had your love.” I left that place smelling of Nanette Contrel. I thought about calling her but never did. Never saw her again.

“You were some cocksman, dad. You seemed to have this uncanny ability to make feminine hearts go pitapat. When you said, ‘I love you,’ they believed it because you believed it.

“It wasn’t your penis doing the talking. It was more like your penis was attached to your heart.”

I looked into my father’s eyes. “I mean this, dad: Every kid should have been so lucky to have a character like you for an old man.”

I smothered the cigar on the plaque.

“No doubt about it, you had your mad-dog days. You could have helped support us. But you were attentive. You were always there. You told me things; I told you things. We shared secrets.

“You took me everywhere — to the movies, the beach, the mountains. Taught me how to swim; how to throw a punch. Even introduced me to your friends — I guess they were hookers — you identified as Shady Ladies. You convinced me that bad guys aren’t all bad and good guys aren’t all good. I still believe that.

“Although you never told me that you loved me, from the time I was small, you’d hug me to death and bury that coarseness and fragrance in my neck, tickling me with your stubble until I’d squirm with delight.”

I set the empty bottle on the bronze plaque, got to my feet and smiled down at my father.

That’s it, pal. I’m not coming back. Not ever. I also want you to know that I’ve written a memoir that’s as close to the truth as I could remember it  . It’s about a lost kid, a child actor, growing up in your town — Hollywood.  And you are like the co-star whom mom described as a “sonuvabitch of a Godamned bastard!”   Despite your flaws, she loved you, dad.  And so do I.

     So let’s begin with the day I was born.

 

Boots LeBaron

CONVERSION WITH A DEAD MAN

Bootslebaronsworld.com

 

 

 

CHAPTER OF MY MEMOIR

For those who have been reading

my blog over the past few years:

STAY TUNED. Sunday, (January 18 ,2015)

I’m releasing “Conversation With a Dead Man”,

 the first chapter of my nearly-

completed Semi-autobiographical memoir

I’ve been working on for several years.

The working title of the book is

“IN THE MIDST OF SHOOTING STARS.”

I’d like to hear what you think.

 

Boots LeBaron

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