Posts Tagged ‘ Trust ’



Proudly I am solely me.

My search for understanding

is a never-ending spree.

The gift I treasure most is

the wisdom that belongs to thee.

If your thoughts are only dubious,

that’s enough to stir up

a ruckus in my tuchis.

Sure, I’m somewhat of a

gullible fool who

failed in school.

Through life, dyslexia

has been my anchor.

No way can I take reading

comprehension to the banker.

Yet I’ve always felt free

to think as I please,

soliciting knowledge from

you modern day Socrates.

Even when reliability

turns to dust, I trust.

For me, believing in the

worthiness of others is a must.

Writing essays, poetry and human

interest stories about people

such as thee, has proved

to be my fait accompli.

Despite society’s judgemental rule,

a learning disorder has always

been my inspirational tool.

It’s a stubborn confidence

I have found. At times

I’ve run it into the ground.

Listening to the rantings of others,

you might discover thoughts so profound.

Naturally, there’s no guarantee that

such philosophies will astound.

If it happened to me,

it could happen to thee!


 — Boots LeBaron —





Like the owl, the hyena, and

especially the office jackal,

they are out to get us! Comparing

these predatory creatures to people,

they are society’s bullies, workplace

maneuverers who feed on fellow employees.

Even brilliant CEOs have to defend themselves

against management subordinates who are

who are determined to devour their

executive bosses. Using disparaging

tactics, propaganda is the weapon

that keeps them on top of the

corporate and blue-collar heap.

They break hearts. They plagiarize.

Some are so brilliant, so creative,

they lure the naive, unsuspecting leaders

and fellow employees into a steel trap from

which there is no escape. These human

jackals exist because they are so

cunning. Many hide behind purity,

integrity, compassion. Even religion.

Some carnivores actually reward followers

who help carry out unscrupulous assaults

on others. So guys and gals who expect

to earn an honest buck at whatever

job level you are working, you’d

better beware that there are political

hyenas and other hungry predators who,

despite their hypocritical smiley faces,

see you as nothing more than tidbits. You

could wind up as carnage scattered across

that untamed concrete jungle you identify as

your World of Opportunity. Thank God,

that’s your problem. Not mine!


— Boots LeBaron —







     In 1989, then Mayor Katy Geissert told me about a 78-year-old Naval veteran whose American flag autographed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen from a convalescent home. At the time, I was working as a free-lancer writing everything from human interest stories and essays to light poetry.

     Katy was serving as the first female mayor for the city of Torrance, Calif. What began as a brief interview with retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis, stretched into days. I saw his credentials, believed his words, and wrote this story. It was carried on the front pages of a few newspapers, including The Daily Breeze, a Copley paper. Although I didn’t work

at The Breeze, I was there when his wife, Maureen, brought him into the newsroom on a wheelchair. In full uniform, he struggled to his feet and stood proudly for a photo that made the front page of The Breeze.

     Although I edited the feature slightly, meet the crusty old U.S. war veteran whose wife said she “rescued” him from the convalescent facility where she had cared for him, married him, and finally brought him home where he recalled his wartime adventures.

     Believe it or not, here’s the story he told me during a surprisingly long interview which I wrote about the ancient warrior:


     Birth is a gift. Life is an adventure. Death is a tragedy that even the courageous might welcome with open arms.

     “Many times,” retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis admitted wishing “the sun would never come up, at least for me.” Not while serving his country during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but over the decade he was being shuffled from one hospital to another, winding up at society’s last stop: a convalescent home in Torrance, California.

     When a bomb explosion blew him off the bridge of a cargo ship as it headed down the Saigon River in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Cmdr. Ellis suffered a serious head injury.

     “I was in a coma for months,” he told me. “When I finally came to, I couldn’t talk, think, and my legs were paralyzed. The surgeons must have left a couple of loose wires in my head.

     “When I was younger, I felt that a man who’d commit suicide has gotta be a coward. I was wrong,” said he sat in a wheelchair with his caretaker-wife, Maureen, 48, at his side.

     What I had anticipated to be a brief interview stretched into hours. Although dates escaped him, the stories he’d recall was far more than a old seaman’s yarn. For Ellis, with memory fading and a body that was anything but shipshape, hell appeared hard for him to forget.

     I first learned about the commander from Torrance mayor Kathy Geissert who told me about an elderly man in a convalescent home where his American flag which was personally autographed for him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen.  

     The second eldest in a family of 5 sisters and 4 brothers, Ellis grew up on a fruit farm in Garfield, Arkansas. In 1928, right out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy. Following his discharge, he remained in the Naval Reserve and went on to college studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

     The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was called back into active duty. Eight months later, serving aboard the USS Edgar Allen Poe during the invasion of Guadalcanal, a bomb struck the ship, rupturing steam pipes in the engine room severely scalding the young engineer.

     Months later, he was aboard another ship that was sunk by German torpedoes in the North Atlantic. “This was early in the war before they started using convoys,” he said. “We floated around for four days before a Dutch trawler picked us up.”

     He described the feeling of watching your ship sink as “helpless, sad and depressing. Your ship is your home. Down with it goes all your personal belongings, your letters, uniforms, pictures of loved ones, and some of your shipmates.”

     Ellis vividly remembered the nine invasions he participated in during The Big War: Guadalcanal, North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Naples, Normandy, Toulon (a seaport in southeast France), Marseilles and Okinawa.

     After the death of his younger brother, Harold, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany, Ellis described himself as “bitter.”

     That, combined with experiencing the loss of shipmates with the sinking of the USS Poe, caused Ellis to volunteer “to make the first wave of any invasion the military cared to send me to.”

     In 1943, off the western coast of Italy, Lt. Com. Ellis was aboard another troop carrier, the USS Georgian. “They had bombed us pretty heavy and we lay dead in the water,” he recalled. The Germans boarded the ship, captured five officers, including Ellis, and transported them to a prisoner-of-war camp in Czechoslovakia.

     “Every morning the Germans would come by and say, ‘You goddamned Yanks, this is the day you’re going to get it!’ One day they loaded us into wooden boxcars. We were jammed together. There was no velvet seats in those cars. We knew we were headed for the gas chambers.”

     As the train sped along the tracks, Ellis and a chief petty officer, Felix Bond, broke a hole in the side of the boxcar and jumped off “in the middle of nowhere. My arms, knees and face were badly scraped up and Bond broke his leg.”

     The two men hid in the brush during the day and, using the stars to navigate, traveled at night. “We didn’t want to go west. That led to Germany. If we were captured we knew we’d be murdered.”

     A distant light led them to a small farmhouse where a Czech

couple and their teen-age daughter lived. “The girl spoke almost fluent English. They had no love for Hitler so they hid us in the stable, fed and doctored us as best they could. They were scared but very brave. They knew they’d be killed if they were caught harboring allies.”

     Although Bond was too injured to travel, Ellis somehow had to get to Prague, which was about 10 miles from the farm. He claimed he had to locate the underground by reciting the code word, “Mickey Mouse.” The problem was how could a 200-pound Yank, who didn’t know a word of Czech, find that needle in the haystack?

     “The woman shaved my head. She cut off her long hair and glued it to my head. They gave me an old dress, a hat and a walking stick. Oh, and two shoes that didn’t match. I was some sight.

     “They put me on the road and pointed me to Prague. I hitched a ride part way on a horse-drawn wagon. But most of the way I walked. I spent hours on the streets. My feet were killing me. I find somebody and whisper ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Most of them thought I was a crazy old lady.”

     Finally, he said, a man responded with another code name which Ellis no longer remembers. “He took me into a cellar, dressed me in a French uniform and got me to the French border.”

     When he made it back to England, he volunteered to participate in “commando-type missions to help evacuate Jewish and Slav refugees across the English Channel.” Months later, Ellis found himself on another mission aboard the SS Benjamin Contie, a troop carrier which was wired with high explosives.

     On June 6, 1944, the Contie was part of the first wave to hit Ohama Beach during the massive allied invasion of Normandy. He claimed it was the sixth invasion he participated in.

     “We pulled up so close to shore we scraped bottom; unloaded our troops, blew out our hull, turning the ship into a permanent bunker,” he recalled. “There were four other ships in that invasion just like us.”

     Two battleships, the USS Texas and USS Arkansas, were firing their big guns from a distance so close to the Contie “the concussion would knock some of us down. I lost my helmet and my right eardrum because of those damned 16-inchers.”

     He recalled a grisly memory aboard the Contie during the invasion: As an Army sergeant was supervising the debarkation of troops, a cable snapped, decapitating him. “He body took a few steps then fell forward into the arms of two soldiers.

     “A soldier picked up the head. I’ll never forget. The G said, ‘Look, he’s trying to say something.’ I looked. The eyes were open. The mouth was moving. I said, ‘Let him talk. Maybe he’s talking to God.'”

     Listening to the old commander, I was convinced that he was telling what he remembered was the truth. Hard to believe, it was not a yarn designed for Hollywood and John Wayne.

     But his adventures continued.

     Expecting to be transported to a hospital ship on the second day of the invasion, Ellis climbed onto a British minesweeper. In less than ten minutes, the sweeper was struck by a bomb, split in two and sunk. He was knocked overboard. Soon an amphibious landing craft plucked him out of the ocean and carried him into the thick of the invasion.

     That same day, he said, a jeep driving past him hit a landmine and Ellis suffered serious injuries, losing part of his stomach and chalking up a second Purple Heart for his war chest. After spending time in an English hospital, he traveled aboard the Queen Mary, which had been converted into a hospital shop, to New York where he was discharged from the Navy and re-enlisted in the Merchant Marines.

     As a Maritime commander, he returned to the wars. Following the invasion of Sicily, he transported Gen. George S. Patton and his Third Army troops on a few occasions. During that period, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to meet her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a hospital in Warm Springs, Georgia.

     “He was very sick,” recalled Ellis. “But he was sitting up in bed puffing on that long-cigarette holder. That’s when he shook my hand. The president, said Ellis, tried to write a brief tribute

on presidential stationary. His handwriting was illegible, prompting his wife to write the note. In part, it read, “…

knowing your military history, I consider you a brave man and a great credit to the United States.” Right then I told him that the real heroes are the men who never make it back. I still believe that.”

     The president managed to autograph an American flag, which he presented to Ellis. After it was displayed in Torrance, Calif. on Memorial Day 1988, the flag was stolen from the convalescent home where he was being cared for.

     On May 13, 1989, dressed in his Maritime uniform, Ellis married Maureen Buckley Kerger, who had “rescued” him from the same convalescent home where his American flag was stolen. Thus began another chapter in the life of an Arkansas farm boy who went to war so many years ago and had seen his share of hell on Earth.  


    NOTE: Tomorrow, July 4, 2015, (Independence Day), I’ll tell Ellis’ story about the day the commander refused to allow Gen. George S. Patton to bring his pit bull terrier aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II.






     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






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