When you haven’t submitted a blog in several weeks, something must be going on. Fortunately, it’s all good. The suspense-thriller feature film, “Altar Rock,” I co-wrote with executive producer Kristin Alexandre is in pre-production for a shoot next summer and I have been doing revisions based on notes from director Andrzej Bartkowiak (pictured below). Below is an announcement about the film in Variety. I may use the blog to do a diary on the production once the shooting script is finalized, so stay tuned if you are interested. Otherwise, please enjoy my archive blogs for now.
(UPDATE: Very sad to see Joan passed away September 4, 2014, but I stick by the re-telling of this story as I know one tough and funny broad would appreciate.)
Originally posted June 1, 2010
Remember this letter in the Los Angeles Times Calendar section for June 17, 1984:
When is NBC going to wake up and give Joan Rivers her own late night talk show? They don’t have to get rid of Johnny Carson – just put him on after David Letterman. Then Joan could have the best laughs, Johnny the last one, and we’d all be happy.
I was moved to write the letter because Johnny Carson’s show had been getting a little stale of late, and every time you had guest hosted, the energy lifted, the gossip barbs flew out like cluster bombs, and I was entertained.
And I guess my letter entertained you, because the day after it ran in the paper I got a phone call from your assistant in Las Vegas, where you were currently performing. The assistant said you saw the letter, were very grateful, and you wanted to personally invite me to attend your next nightclub show when you were in L.A.
Was I being punked? It turns out not. I got another call soon after saying I had been put on the V.I.P. guest list for your appearance at Carlos ‘n Charlie’s nightclub on Sunset Strip. Did I have any guests I wanted to bring? Well, my girlfriend, Danette, of course. We had been dating for a little more than a year, and wow, this would surely impress her.
We dressed in our finest 80’s nightclub wear; me in skinny tie and a textured jacket of multi-colors with the narrow lapels; my girlfriend with shoulder pads and the hair teased big.
When we arrived we were escorted to the front row of the club, just like the scene in Goodfellas where Ray and his main squeeze get the V.I.P. treatment. And for the next hour or so we heard you call every famous woman on the planet a ‘bitch,’ with scathing tales of venom, spite, gossip, and frankly, hilarity. Kathy Griffin owes everything in her act to you. Donald Rickles, who also knocked celebrities down to size in his act, was tame by comparison. He only called them ‘hockey pucks.’ You wielded the “B” word like a light saber. And we laughed our asses off. Or maybe we just felt compelled, since we were so conspicuous in the front row.
The show ended and, sure enough, we were invited backstage to meet you. You didn’t even wait for us to get to your dressing room. You came charging out of the room with a big smile on your face and your hand extended in generous friendship.
And that’s when it happened.
My girlfriend fired the “B” word right back at you.
“There’s the BITCH,” Danette loudly announced as you approached. I guess I forgot to mention that she was an actress, had just watched your act for an hour and a half, and probably wanted in on the fun and was playing it back to you. Don’t they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery?
But it was something you definitely didn’t expect, and you stopped cold in your tracks like a mime hitting an invisible wall. Your smile disappeared. Your extended hand drooped faster than a granny tit from an unhooked bra. There was what seemed like an eternity of awkward silence.
But you’re a professional, and it took you only a few more moments to recover, put the hand up again and address me with gratitude.
“I read you letter in the Calendar,” you said, “And you made this old broad very happy.”
I don’t remember much past that. I’m sure you looked at Danette and shook her hand and tried to say something pleasant. But the bloom was off the rose. It was obvious at this point we weren’t going to be invited to party on any further that night with you or your entourage at the Beverly Hills Jockey Club, or go for blintzes at Cantor’s Deli, or anywhere else, for that matter.
You had been bitch-blocked. You weren’t that hot on meeting us anymore.
And for that, I’m sorry. Once you got past being playfully called a ‘bitch,’ you might have found us a fun couple. We could have had a few laughs.
But I guess you didn’t have quite the sense of humor when you were given a taste of your own medicine. What’s that they say, “You can dish it out, but you can’t take it.”
So for possibly dampening your evening, and not being welcome to hang out longer, I’m sorry.
But there’s no way I’m sorry for my girlfriend calling you a ‘Bitch.”
That was classic.
I had to marry that girl.
Twenty-six years later, we’re still together, and we recently went to a Kathy Griffin concert and listened to her call every other more famous woman a ‘bitch’ for ninety minutes.
Despite the laughs, I won’t be writing a letter to the newspapers praising her anytime soon.
And as far as bitches go, you’ll always be our “Number One.”
– A. Wayne Carter
Postscript – It’s clear now that Joan River’s offstage persona was completely different from the one she used onstage or on camera. Stories abound of her humble demeanor, generosity and support for good causes and underdogs. But it’s also understandable how anyone attending her shows or watching her on the E! channel might confuse the two. Let’s not canonize her. God knows Hollywood is full of egos that need taken down by size, but it’s also a breeding ground for insecurity and damaged and fragile psyches, and she often fired indiscriminate of the potential harm to the target. She should know. But she would no doubt be gratified to see her ‘other side’ winning the media coverage, and for that, she can truly rest in peace.
As we mourn his passing, here’s an excerpt from my book, Hollywoodaholic: Confessions of a Screenwriter about my encounter with Robin Williams. A sweet man, an incredible force-of-nature talent, and completely different persona offstage than on.
April 30, 1984
I haven’t worked since I last wrote you some two months back or so, but that’s not unusual. I’ve been living off my tax returns from last year and going to meetings.
Recess, which I wrote several years ago, has come to the forefront again. I asked my manager to send a copy to director Tony Richardson (The Loved One, an Oscar for Tom Jones). He’s an eccentric British director with a taste for the bizarre. Sure enough, he liked it a great deal and invited me up to his house to meet him. He has this huge, tropical-style plantation in the Hollywood Hills complete with exotic macaws, parrots and free-flying lovebirds in an adjacent outdoor aviary. He wouldn’t let me talk about any of his work, but went on raving about my script, saying it was the funniest thing he’d read in a long time. Now this came as great relief and vindication to me because, for seven years, all I’ve heard about it from the studio people and readers and such is ‘what the hell is this?” or, ‘this is too strange and will never get made.’ (The episodic plot, including adventures in the army and on an anchovy boat, narration by a character with a 10-year-old mentality, and a theme of innocence amid worldly corruption are oddly similar to a picture that would get produced ten years later called Forrest Gump.) Suddenly, here was an Academy Award-winning director erasing layers of abundantly applied doubt. He mentioned that he’d been talking to Robin Williams and would like to give it him. I left floating on air, but keeping an inward and skeptical vigil.
The next week I’m sitting outside an office waiting to go into a meeting with a story person who works for a cream-of-the-crop management firm (Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy, Williams, etc.) about something completely different, and suddenly Robin Williams walks in the back door. My first reaction is surprise, and my second is; ‘What’s that purple-covered script he’s carrying?’ People in the office get up to greet him and I’m standing there with my head twisted around trying to see the script and going, ‘could that be…?’
It was. My body shudders with a start and he’s standing right in front of me and I reach out my hand and introduce myself, ‘Hi, I’m Wayne Carter.’ He shakes my hand, looks at me oddly, looks down at the script, then looks up again and we both freak out. He goes, with revelation, ‘You wrote this script?’. I nod and we both freak out again. Meanwhile, his manager has to come out and is wondering what the hell is going on. Robin explains he was coming by to give him this script to read and consider, and here’s the author right here.
His manager freaks out. He thinks this is some sort of conspiracy. We try to explain that it’s a total coincidence and that Tony Richardson had sent the script to Robin. Robin and the manager excuse themselves and disappear into his office for some low conversation. Robin is backing away from me going, ‘this is very interesting, very interesting.’ He means the script.
I have to go to my regular meeting with one of the manager’s assistants, only now everyone in the office is abuzz with what’s happened and I am getting all sorts of attention and feel like a celebrity. I go into the meeting, explaining the coincidence again. Five minutes later, Robin’s manager joins my meeting, with interest. He’s still trying to figure out what’s going on. He listens closely and thinks aloud that what I’m pitching now (The Man Who Had the Ability to Enjoy Life) might be something for Eddie Murphy or Joe Piscopo.
Now, you might wonder (or not) how I’m handling myself through this whole shebang. Well, the answer is, I couldn’t have been cooler. And the reason is because, truthfully, I was numb with sickness. I had woken up with a sore throat, a cloudy head and the beginnings of the flu, so by the time I hit this meeting, I had backed away from my body as if it were some distant entity, and everything was coming at me through a shrouded, invisible tunnel. Hence, a total lack of nerves.
Anyway, the upshot of the thing is that it’s being talked about now between Tony, Robin, his manager and with feelers to the studio. I’m not holding my breath. My agent and I suspect his manager will try to steer Robin away from doing something this off-center, but you never know. The point is, if Robin wants to do it, and we already got Tony, THAT’S a package, in Hollywood terms. So I’m hoping, with caution. If nothing else, I had those moments; an Academy Award-winning director enthralled with my work; and that heart-stopping coincidence in the tiring life of a screenwriter when Robin Williams walked through that front door carrying nothing but one purple script, and I flinched and thought, ‘Could that be mine?’
(Ultimately the hard-ass manager did steer Williams to another project because he thought Tony Richardson -an Academy Award-Winning director, no less – wasn’t hot enough for Robin. I understand why Williams, who offstage is terribly shy and polite, needed a hard-ass manager, because you get the idea he would say yes to everything just to be a nice guy. But I still have a few sleepless nights thinking about what his appearing in my screenplay would have meant.)
P.S. – Robin Williams used to occasionally come in to the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard and go on after the last comedian of the night and just play for 90 minutes or so. You had to find out about these appearances through some inside intel, and my best friend was a stand-up comic who appeared there. So when my parents were visiting me from Maryland one time and I got the word, I dragged my poor 60 year-old father and mom to the Comedy Store and waited until 12:30 a.m. when Williams made one of his surprise no-time-limit appearances. We didn’t get out of there until after 2 a.m. and my dad was nearly catatonic, but I just had to expose my parents to the most electrifying and funniest man on the planet besides Richard Pryor (who might’ve shocked them a bit too much).
(Summer reruns while I work on a script. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive)
I live less than 50 miles from Cape Canaveral, formerly Cape Kennedy, and formerly Cape Canaveral before that. Talk about an identity crisis.
And now it’s going through another one: What’s the mission?
This week there’s a scheduled launch of an unmanned Ares rocket, which could replace the Shuttle, now on its last scheduled flights in … well, forever. NASA has submitted several mission proposals and budgets to the government, but the government’s got its own budget problems. How can we send a spaceship to Mars when we can’t get our own Earthship in order? Why should we go back to the moon when we’ve already been there? And are we content to just send astronauts up like janitors to regularly empty the Porta Potty on the Space Station?
I find these choices and questions somewhat sad.
Fifty years ago, in 1960, I was playing with my Cape Canaveral toy set as an excitable young boy growing up in Maryland and dreaming about our great big space adventures to come. Our rival superpower, the Russians, had beaten us to space with Sputnick, and now President Kennedy was promising we would beat them to the moon within 10 years.
And, by golly, we did. In the most amazing run of technological breakthroughs, NASA team dedication, personal sacrifice, and fast track government and popular support this world has ever witnessed, we went from stranded on Earth in 1960, to stepping on the moon in 1969.
But we dreamed much bigger than that.
Our favorite prime time television cartoon at the time was The Jetsons, where a family like ours lived in a penthouse perched in the sky and traveled around in their own personal flying saucers. They also had a cool robot pet dog that fetched the newspaper. (Paper newspapers? In the future? Now that’s science fiction).
Our favorite books were science fiction treats like The Martian Chronicles and R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury, who wrote of international space travel, aliens and other worlds as if they were already here, and a natural part of our daily life experience.
We went to the movies and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, which evo-leaped us in the single tossing of a bone from raging primates to commercial passengers on celestial spaceships waltzing through the galaxy to “The Blue Danube.”
David Bowie sang about Ground Control to Major Tom in Space Oddity, and Elton John picked up on Ray Bradbury’s working stiff astronaut theme by singing as a Rocket Man, who punched a clock and did his job five days a week, but also had time to ponder why he was, “burning out my fuse up here alone.”
Star Trek, Space 1999, and Star Wars delivered us warp speed to a time where we had so distantly moved on to exploring (and fighting with) other worlds that living on Earth wasn’t even an afterthought anymore.
And beyond going to the moon … none of these things happened.
And none of them likely ever will. At least the way we’re headed now.
It was all just a fever dream fueled by huge leaps in rocket technology, hope, and great expectations.
My childhood imagination soared on those expectations.
And now, as an adult, I don’t even want us to spend one more dime to go anywhere else in the universe. I just want us to get Earth … right. I don’t want us to burn one more drop of ultra high octane rocket fuel further depleting the ozone layer and exposing the Earth to deadlier levels of radiation. I don’t want us to send one more man or woman into space unless it’s for some reason to really help us back here on Planet Earth, today. It’s not enough to live on the fantasy of what travel through the universe can deliver us anymore. We’ve got to deliver here, first.
This isn’t some tree-hugging idealist writing.
This is … merely a realist.
A realist who doesn’t think we need to completely abandon our dream of space, but just abandon the last century’s model and method of how we get there.
The next leap in evolution could be some matter-anti-matter dylithium crystal device breakthrough that beams us throughout the universe without burning fossil fuel or using any more precious resources, but it won’t be constructed from any blueprints left behind from the existing technology paradigm. It will be another great leap of imagination that re-invents the way we meet the stars.
You see, I’m still hopeful that we will explore the space beyond, and maybe even live there one day. But the realist in me now understands we must the find the way way out by better exploring the space within. That’s where we’ll find even greater answers to the questions of what’s out there. That’s where the bigger mysteries wait to spark our inspiration and be revealed. And that’s where the next phase of space exploration can begin.
Maybe Cape Canaveral will still be the harbor for this new evolution and rename itself Cape Higher-Consciousness.
I can’t wait for that play set.
– A. Wayne Carter
(Summer reruns while I work on a script. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)
I watch Bill Maher, religiously. Every week. Like church.
He speaks truth to power in a manner so cool and rational and funny, it’s refreshing and entertaining beyond shit.
No matter who the guest or panelist is, he has a way to instantly disarm them with pure reason. It’s hard to argue when someone is brandishing the cold, hard, indisputable facts.
Unless, of course, the subject of religion comes up.
Suddenly, this cool, calculated rationalist begins ranting and raving; practically foaming at the mouth about gullibility, ignorance, stupidity and the ‘fairy tales’ of the believers.
How is a raving atheist spewing contempt and intolerance for believers in Jesus or any other faith any different than an evangelical Christian on the other side spewing condemnation and intolerance for heathen non-believers?
They are really mirror images of the same basic intolerance.
Who CARES what someone else believes? Nobody really knows. Why does it bug you so much, Bill? If someone wants to believe in Jesus, Mohammed, Scientology, Leprechauns, or the magic underwear of Mormonism, what’s it to you?
Sure, if someone uses religion to incite hatred and violence and war (as so often has been done throughout history, past and current), then expose it and condemn the hypocrisy of the agenda behind it. But don’t become one of them.
CNN has a religion column and 90 percent of the people who post comments to the column appear to be atheists angrily mocking or condemning the idea of faith, God, or religion. Religious columns online provoke more responses from atheists than actual followers of one faith or the other. What does this say?
Again, methinks they doth protest too much.
I have a theory that many atheists, and probably Bill Maher included, are burned believers. Why else would they get so riled up over what someone else believes?
At some time in their lives, perhaps in the early devout Catholic upbringing of the half-Jewish Bill Maher, they fervently believed in something. Maybe it was the power of prayer. Maybe it was the saving power of grace. Or maybe it was a miracle that just didn’t come through. They lost a parent or precious loved one or even a pet; the bully unjustly got away with his crime; or their parents stopped loving each other and divorced. So they threw away prayers or faith in anything beyond belief in the random cruelty or callousness of life, and embraced pure rationalism.
And now, any time someone else brings up faith or religion, it stirs their blood and those inner emotions and triggers a deep anger at something they once might have believed in and have since lost. How DARE someone else have faith in something?
It’s just a theory.
But I would also remind atheists or non-believers attempting art that almost every great masterpiece in the world of art or music was inspired by faith in something bigger than, or beyond the ego or rationalism of the artist.
The Beatles “Let It Be”
Michelangelo’s Pieta or David or Sistine Chapel
Even a secular artist such as Paul Simon found his greatest inspiration in gospel music when he composed, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
And what would Soul Music – think Marvin Gaye, Al Green or Otis Redding – be without the ‘soul?’ Probably just lifeless, uninspired programmed crap like the Black-Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling,” who’s only inspiration appears to be greed for a dance floor remix that has a shelf life about the same as milk.
John Lennon sang “imagine no religion” in his classic, “Imagine,” but he wasn’t talking about God or faith. He meant the use of religion by men as a form of control over others. And keep in mind he wrote this song after extensive experimentation in primary therapy writing cathartic songs like, “God,” and “Mother,” where he was screaming about the loss of … well, his mother. It happened when he was young. He probably prayed to have her in his life and felt betrayed. And he got angry. And later … he protested too much.
But he must have made his own peace eventually forgiving everyone else their silly beliefs in faith or God or religion or alcohol or pills or magic underwear, because one of the last NUMBER ONE hit songs he ever had was the very positive and cheerful, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”
It’s all right. It’s all right.
Here’s a simple test to determine whether you believe in some form of God or spiritual life.
Have you ever meditated? Do you believe in the power of meditation?
We’re not talking prayers. Prayer is ASKING for something from above or beyond yourself.
Meditation is LISTENING for something beyond yourself.
If you believe in the power of meditation, then you are not an atheist.
Because meditation is going within yourself to find a silence or inner peace beyond the chatter of your own mind.
It’s letting go of the ego or mask of identity you’ve created for yourself that pretends you really are separated from anyone or anything else.
It’s going within to find that inter-connectivity.
In physics, it’s called The Unified Field Theory. Everything in the universe; solid, gas, or liquid is really just dancing particles of energy suspended in space. Everything really is just ONE thing in a field or matrix.
In metaphysics, this inter-connectivity is called the Collective Unconscious, or Universal Consciousness.
In religion, followers call it God.
Believe in that, Bill, and you just might find the inner peace and tolerance that evade holier-than-thou zealots who simply can’t “live and let live,” or “Believe what you want, and let believe.”
Believe in that, Bill, and you just might believe again.
I believe in you, Bill.
– A. Wayne Carter
Here’s a tale from my book Hollywoodaholic: Confessions of a Screenwriter, where I was taking a break in 1978 from my unrelenting quest for work as a writer in Hollywood to take a trip to Egypt with my father. Aside from providing one of the bucket list goals of my life to climb the Great Pyramid (I bribed a guard $5 to look the other way), it also produced the following account on another, less noble, experience
I had just stepped off the ferry on the east side of the Nile in Luxor, Egypt. I had also just finished the most expensive can of Seven-Up east or west of the Atlantic. The temperature was 120 degrees and I could almost feel the pool of carbonated water in my stomach slowly beginning to bubble. I cautiously made my way up the bank of the river toward the taxis and the tour buses, regretting all forms of transportation and inconvenience that had put me in this spot: Regretting getting up at four a.m.; Regretting an hour taxi ride through Cairo to the airport; Regretting an hour and a half wait before scrambling onto a plane that was overbooked; Regretting another hour in the air listening to the woman next to me scream about her ears popping; Regretting a dusty bus ride and the polluted fumes of the ferry as it chugged across the Nile. But most of all; regretting spending a dollar-fifty for a 15 cent Seven-Up that was in my stomach not five minutes before it decided to go up for air in spectacular fashion.
By the time we got to the Valley of the Kings, my “reputation” had spread throughout the tour group. Some were actual witnesses, and others got the news second hand. As we entered the cramped tomb of King Tut, I became distinctly aware that, while everyone else was pushed together, I had plenty of room. I walked over to the rail to look over the sarcophagus, an open path miraculously parting through the people. One could get used to this kind of exclusivity, and I began to identify with young Tut himself, strutting (in this case wobbling) around freely as people backed away in awe of his power. I began to realize that respect is a two-way street. With Tut, it was admiration for his royal heritage. With me, it was fear of soiled personage. Midway through the guide’s long and melodramatic lecture, I beat a hasty exit for round two.
The air in Ramses II tomb was thick with limestone powder. As the group descended further and further, eager to reach the final chamber, I stumbled along fifteen yards behind, looking anxiously back and wondering why each tomb was getting successively longer and deeper than the last – each exit becoming more of a challenge to reach before desecrating some sacred and priceless hieroglyphic. A walk became a jog, a jog became a sprint. And by the time we got to the last tomb, I knew that I could be a NCAA track star if only they lined the track with ancient hieroglyphics, heated the place to 120 degrees and sold me a can of Seven-Up for a buck fifty just prior to the race.
At the city of Thebes, I sat smoldering in the back seat of the otherwise empty taxi realizing that I had been poisoned and was dying. Not by the Seven-Up, but by a glass of water the night before at a club in Sahara City. Bottled water is a must for travelers in Cairo and I remember the empty bottle sitting next to the glass of water I had just drank, but wondering about the ice cubes.
Peddlers selling authentic ancient Egyptian coins manufactured the night before were relentless. They gathered around the taxi I was sprawled over in like flies around decaying matter, rubbing their fingers together to indicate they wanted the stuff you could rub, not the stuff you could clink. I just sat there, my eyes rolling around, my tongue hanging out, balanced precariously in the taxi and thinking how amusing it would be if I finished dying right there and just plopped over, sending them all scampering off in fear believing they had begged me to death. Of course, I knew I was trapped. Trapped in a frantic tour of every damn ruin, statue and tomb in Luxor, losing every drop of water I tried to put down, along with all my enzymes. I was the one giving out the souvenirs everywhere instead of picking them up. And salvation was all those forms of transportation away, plus one.
I sat alone in a sagging horse buggy, a limp pile of flesh, bobbing along mindlessly, trying to create sparks by rubbing my crusted lips together rapidly. If I could do that, I could ignite my leather tongue and I’d go up in flames in an instant. My fate was not that merciful. It was one more sightseeing stop. One more melodramatic lecture. One more souvenir left to mark my visit.
The Temples of Karnak were revealed to me through fingers of my right hand spread across my face awkwardly trying to keep my body from slumping over onto the road and rolling in the dried camel shit. A jovial, Nubian buggy rider rested there, staring at me along with a robed peasant and a guard. As I held myself propped there for the good part of an hour, they babbled to each other in Arabic. Probably, I thought, making bets on when I’d slip from my own fingers and roll in the dried camel shit. To their disappointment, the tour group finally returned and my comrades dispersed, and I had all those forms of transportation back to Cairo to look forward to.
The plane was an hour late. The taxi took two hours winding its way through the Cairo traffic, but I didn’t mind. I had made it back after an entire day in the scorching Sahara desert without one drop of water, Seven-Up was back to 15 cents and there wasn’t any dried camel shit in sight.
Looking back on this event some 36 years later, I realize the experience was only slightly less dignified than the treament you receive working as a screenwriter in the studio system.
Oh, and here’s one for the bucket list. Look closely at the top of this shot of the Great Pyramid. And then check out the size of the stones below to see why you need someone to show you the way up (which is a lot less scary than the way down).
The 1964 World’s Fair opened 50 years ago this week in Flushing, New York, and every family within a day’s drive (including ours) made the pilgrimage to get a taste of what other cultures were like on U.S. soil before Epcot existed, and to catch a glimpse of the future.
We saw the revolving turntable history of kitchens from the past to the future as presented by G.E. (and narrated by an actor named Ronald Reagan). We saw Disney’s first animatronic robot in the form of Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address in between friendly greetings. We dined at a restaurant in the clouds (or slightly above the smog) before the Seattle Space Needle existed. And we saw men with jet-packs strapped to their backs flying into the sky above the stage and wondered how soon it would be before we had our own. Fifty years later we’re still wondering, and they never perfected the technology beyond the insane danger of having a napalm bomb of hydrogen strapped to your body.
Let’s take a look back into what we thought was looking forward:
When you consider most cars of the time looked more like this 1960 Thunderbird, at least they got the aerodynamics down somewhat.
We thought we’d be traveling through all cites on monorails above the ground such as this one. But, today, about the only place you’re guaranteed to find monorails is Disneyland or Disney World.
Dancing fountains with light are still popular. You can find them in front of hotels in Las Vegas, and at the Shell Factory in Cape Coral, Florida. Dubai probably has them, as well. Because it’s such a rational use of water in a desert environment.
And no, we actually didn’t think people would be bigger, but I just find it hysterical that I appear to be checking out Paul Bunyan’s package, perhaps to see if size really is proportional.
Even though JFK had been dead several months, the over-sized sunglasses his widow, Jackie, always wore, were still popular, and remain in the sunglasses rotation to this day. My mom did them justice and rocked the dark hair bouffant, as well.
Standing in line hasn’t changed much, but fashions have, for better or worse. My systers in the center here are rocking the loud color print patterns of the day, which you might also recognize from Sally’s psychedelic rebellious phase on AMC’s Mad Men.
I have no idea what this exhibition was unless it was some kind of tribute to psilocybin mushrooms. Either that or it’s the Hobbit pavilion.
Cool is still cool. Even with a 15-inch blue feather stuck in your cap.
I don’t know why my dad, who was taking these slides, didn’t get a shot of the most iconic symbol of the Fair – the Uni-sphere, but I’m grateful for the shots he got of a time and a place where we knew an awesome future was awaiting us.
- A. Wayne Carter
Southern California has experienced several moderate earthquakes in the past few weeks (4.1-5.1 on the Richter scale).
During my 16 years in L.A., I experienced hundreds of earthquakes. Most of them were either pre-shocks or after-shocks measuring well below 3.0 on the Richter scale. At that intensity, you feel them on a subliminal level that seems to merge with all the other energy and events that bombard you in a city without pause.
It got to the point where, if something as dramatic as a 4.0 should happen to stir my senses, I might casually look up from the newspaper I was reading and calmly predict to my wife, within a tenth of a point, whether it was a 3.9 or a 4.1.
That’s just how Californians are about earthquakes. It just goes with the territory.
A year or so before I left California, my feelings about earthquakes changed when I was spooked and spooked badly. I was in bed about 5:30 a.m. when I woke up and it dawned on me I was in the middle of an earthquake. A big one.
The walls were vibrating and rumbling loudly. As I stepped out of the bed, the floor was sliding out from under me. Without any waking time to gather my thoughts into my usual casual attitude about such events, I felt a cold panic race through my body.
I put on a bathrobe and walked to the front door and, all that time, the earthquake still had the world around me in a full chop and blend. I stepped into the cold desert air, worrying less about falling telephone poles than my apartment building collapsing around me.
That last early-morning earthquake I went through turned out to be only a 5.5, but the feeling of being caught at such a vulnerable moment never quite left me. When the 7.1 Northridge earthquake struck California shortly after our move to Florida, my wife and I hugged each other and felt blessed that we had the sense to get out when we did.
So here we are in the land of hurricanes. They’re not a good thing, either, but at least there is a warning when one is heading your way. There’s time to prepare mentally and emotionally. That’s a big thing. A hurricane is like hearing about a rash of burglaries in your neighborhood and having time to get your defenses up, whereas an earthquake is like suddenly getting violently mugged from behind out of nowhere.
If I had to make a choice of a disaster – and we’ve all seen that every part of the country has it’s own versions from twisters to deep freeze blizzards to floods and mudslides – I’ll take a hurricane over an earthquake any day. We have time to think about what’s going to happen, how we’re going to prepare for it and what we need to save – and even what our plans might be should we need to rebuild.
And, if we happen to first hear about one at 5:30 in the morning, there’s plenty of time to make coffee and read the newspaper. “Oh, look, it’s a category 3 and should be here by… Thursday, next week.”
- A. Wayne Carter
1) Collecting Shit
When I was very young I collected coins. I don’t think I ever got past a wheat cent, or maybe a buffalo nickel. The holy grail of mildly passive coin collecting at the time was a misprinted ‘55 Lincoln cent where his image was blurred. Never got that one. I sold the collection for about $40 when I was ten.
I collected Marvel Comics almost until the age I went to college. I had issues 1-50 of most every title that came out in the sixties, including the original X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man, etc. If I still had those issues today and they were in near mint condition, the collection would be worth at least a half million. X-Men Number One alone recently sold for more than $30,000. I could’ve paid for my son’s college a few times over with my collection, or bought a nice shack on the ocean in Monterrey. But then we didn’t have comic saver bags back then and, even though I kept them in prime condition, I doubt I would’ve continued lugging the whole lot from Florida to L.A. and back again. I sold the entire lot for about $400 in 1973 and used the money to buy two large 80-lb ESS speakers, after I heard the cascading guitars of “Band on the Run” on them in a stereo store. I still use those speakers 40 years later, so it turned out to be a good investment. No regrets.
I eventually collected about 1,000 vinyl LPs, but as soon as I heard CDs, I traded them in starting in 1986 until I had about 1,000 CDs (I kept some of the best art vinyl). I never collected movies on VHS because it was a lousy medium, a pain in the ass to rewind, and you could never get a decent freeze frame. Laser discs cost $100 each and were too expensive. DVDs were perfect, so I collected about 700 of my favorite films and television shows. Now I’ve traded most of the DVDs in for Blu-rays because they’re even better. I won’t go 4K because, frankly, my 1080p eyes will never need anything better than the image I get from Blu-rays. And now, I regularly trade in my Blu-rays that I doubt I’m ever going to watch again for other Blu-rays I just want to see.
At some point, I finally realized that collecting is just a more organized form of hoarding. And I realized something even more important: It’s never really about the collecting; it’s more about the hunt. The joy of collecting was in finding that rarer ‘D’ penny, scoring that latest issue of Spiderman, picking up the Captain Fantastic LP the day of release, or having your favorite film finally come out on DVD or Blu-ray. It was the hunting and gathering that was fun, not the actual owning or putting that stuff on the shelf. Sure it’s nice to see this big library of stuff on my shelf, but, like I’ve said before, am I really going to listen to or watch it all again?
So now, it’s all just an evolving and diminishing library. If I have something I think someone else might enjoy, I pass it on. That gives as much pleasure as the original hunting and gathering. If I want to ‘briefly’ own a film or CD, I now trade in others to pay for it. I recycle. It’s all just moving through me now, not possessing me. And I also realize, I could let go of it all tomorrow. Well, except for the 3,100 songs on my iPod and iPhone. You’ll pry those songs in my earbuds from my ears when I’m dead (or I get tinnitus).
2) Putting a napkin on my lap when I eat out
I hardly see anyone do this anymore. I think it was part of a bygone era from when we watched Donna Reed with our parents. But we were trained well, because I have been doing it subconsciously ever since. Now, I’m thinking… “Fuck it.” It’s not just being lazy. Perhaps it’s a mild act of rebellion, where I don’t give a shit if I happen to spill something on a pair of pants. Or maybe I don’t have any pants worth caring that much about. A spill? Oops. Oh, well. Either wash them or toss them. How’s that for being a Rebel with a Cause? I’m sorry, mom, but you’re not around anymore to feel like you failed teaching manners in any way, and, like I said, laps seem to be open game these days. I believe I can count the times something actually dropped in my lap on one hand. With allergy season 24/7, I’m more likely to blow my nose on the napkin today than lay it across my lap.
Ann Landers just turned over in her grave.
No napkin would have stopped the glass of water my future wife threw under the table at my crotch when we were goofing around on an early date. I remember getting in a movie line afterwards to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in Westwood with my pants soaked in the front thinking, “No one’s going to think I actually pissed my pants.” If so, why would I really be standing in a movie line with this beautiful woman by my side? But as we walked further down the line and people continued to chuckle behind my back, I wondered if my reasoning had been wrong. That’s when I discovered that I had somehow also sat on an open package of brown mustard back at the deli. So it looked like I had not only pissed my pants, but shit them, as well. No wonder everyone was laughing.
A napkin on my lap wouldn’t have saved that event from occurring. And for that memory alone, and the laughs it provided, I’ll just say grace.
- A. Wayne Carter
Am I the only one who got hyperventilated and got dizzy watching The Lego Movie? It was like a Pixar movie on a Tilt-a-Whirl on methamphetamine. Which is actually an unfair comparison, because Pixar movies usually have a real heart instead of a fake one implanted at the last moment with that live action message moment. And Pixar’s stories usually unfold rather than being blasted at you like buckshot from a scattershot nuclear neon shotgun on ‘stun.’ The Lego Movie makes Toy Story look like a puppet show power point presentation.
Sure, I get the popularity of the movie. It’s like crack for kids with short attention spans. I don’t think there’s a scene that lasts more than three seconds before another chase with a thousand pieces of visual and aural stimulation bombard you incessantly into submission. I get the feeling the creators’ sensibility and inspiration was formed under ecstasy at a Rave with strobe lights flashing. The filmmakers don’t take any chances or trust that you won’t get restless unless there’s sight gags, random joke comments, recycled plot memes, first person roller coaster gyrations and explosions pummeling you every possible moment.
This film shouldn’t get three stars; it deserves six Red Bulls, because that’s what it was conceived, animated and produced on. I’m not exaggerating when I say I walked out of the theater with physical heart palpitations as if I had drunk the Red Bulls myself. That’s why the film itself is like an Adderall prescription for restless 3-10 years olds. No doubt they are pummeling their parents to take them to their nearest toy store RIGHT NOW to gobble up Lego kits they will take home to try and recreate the visceral thrill of the picture, that is… until they realize again Legos actually don’t animate themselves unless you ARE on drugs.
Okay, I’m a codger, a fuddy dud, an aging boomer. But it’s almost like our entire culture is now the movie Speed, where the bus will explode the moment it de-accelerates below 50 miles per hour.
But what all these people drinking 5-Hour Energy drinks, Red Bull, Starbucks coffee infusions, Mountain Dew and jacking themselves up on high-intensity shooter games, and Lego movies don’t realize… is that there IS a price to be paid for pushing your adrenaline glands to the max 24/7. You WILL crash and burn out. Eventually. And sooner rather than later. It may be physical when you wipe out your adrenals, or mental when you fry your synapses, but you’re headed for a fall. Maybe we’re all headed for a fall. Think of your brain like Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy trying to keep up with the chocolates coming down the conveyor belt, which keeps getting faster and faster until everything is all Fudged Up (no one gets that reference but boomers, but that’s okay).
One sign is to just look around next time you’re out and see people with the jittery legs. You know who I’m talking about. They’re sitting, but their leg is jittering like they are anxious to go somewhere, anywhere. Like the very act of trying to sit still is causing them to hyperventilate, or boil like water cooling the rods of a nuclear reactor. I see this EVERYWHERE now, and it’s obviously some manifestation of some real or manufactured pent up energy having a hard time being contained. I know people who would physically explode if they ever tried to harness or still their bodies and minds long enough to practice transcendental meditation.
I remember my psychic mother-in-law (yes, I had a licensed psychic mother-in-law) once told me that the human race was vibrating itself out of existence. Naturally, I put this observation into the category of many other wild predictions she made that seemed a bit far-fetched at the time.
Now… I’m not so sure. The idea that we can’t focus on any one task at a time; that we have to be stimulated constantly by multiple inputs at all times… is a pretty clear symptom of this phenomenon. No one can actually attend a concert, sit and just listen anymore. They have to sit, stand, listen, yell, sway, jazz hands, record with their iPhone, tweet to their friends, and save to their Facebook all at the same time. The idea of any experience being purely one thing anymore is passé. It’s not even allowed to be a real experience unless it’s somehow documented, recorded, relayed or re-copied or Instagramed ad infinitum and at the same moment.
Maybe this is the current evolution of the human race; to require so much multiple stimulation at one time to speed up the process of our internal coping mechanism and force that evolutionary leap to processing everything faster like the computers that serve us.
Or maybe we’ll discover sooner than we expect or are prepared for, that, unlike the lifeless microprocessors in our computers, the only thing you get when you speed up the processing of the living tissue, meat and blood we are ultimately made of… is hamburger.
Maybe that’s why zombies are so popular right now in the culture. It’s not because we fear them or the apocalypse; it’s because we envy them. They only have one thing on their minds at any time, all the time: your brains.
If you’re ten years old and you now set The Lego Movie as your necessary level of stimulation, then I will wave to you as you pass me by aging your nervous system at rate 100 times faster than any entertainment I ever grew up with. I may still be living in Mayberry, but you’re next stop in The Twilight Zone is Willoughby. (Google that while you read this, watch YouTube and listen to Imagine Dragons)
- A. Wayne Carter