“Have You Seen That Girl?”

Found this frame from a storyboard I did for a music video I directed in the 1980s, in the early-ish days of MTV. The group, as I recall was called “Fishbone” – not to be mistaken with the more famous group, “Jawbone” – or perhaps the other way around. The song was “Have You Seen That Girl?”

The manager for the group saw my resume and hired me to direct and edit the video. I hadn’t made a music video before, though I had often edited to music, such as when I edited the official Tournament of Roses Parade film for a couple of years. So, I found this project both a bit familiar, but definitely moving into a new realm.

I hired a cameraman for the job, but he was totally insubordinate, and on the day of the shoot, kept ignoring my direction and doing what he wanted to do. Fortunately, as recall, I had two camera crews on this shoot, so I used one to get the shots I had storyboarded and I cut loose the rogue cameraman to show whatever the heck he wanted.

I recognized his talent and inspiration, but I was also responsible for the finished product and couldn’t afford to have him grab nothing but fantastic shots that wouldn’t cut together or to have missing pieces in the narrative. So, getting coverage with one camera and turning him free gave me the best of both. Still, he pissed me off….

Then, like most of my clients at the time, the group’s manager took total advantage of me in the editing room. I just wanted to get the job done, make a fair profit, and get back to my family, as my kids were always on my mind.

He wanted to do a stutter edit between back and forth between two shots with acceleration of the pace until it was one frame back and forth like a machine gun. Good idea, but I only had an offline non-time code editing machine that was only accurate to 2 to 3 frames per cut.

So – we spent DAYS at this job, working late into the night until I think I made about 30 cents an hour for my time on the project. But, son-of-a-bitch, I did manage to accomplish the freaking impossible.

In the end, the manager got what he wanted, shortly thereafter the group disbanded so it didn’t matter anyway, I got a nice sample reel and resume listing that never did me any good, wasted my time, missed my family, and have a really frustrating memory that I wouldn’t trade for anything because for one glorious night, I got to be the director of a rock and roll music video with cameras, lights, a whole mob of screaming guys and gals – all under my command. For one shining moment, I was cool.

Story of a Screenplay

These are the notes I took back around 1981 for improving a script I was hired to analyze called Static One. It was a movie script about people being turned into assassins against their will, written by George Bamber – a successful convention display company owner.

He made those big wooden and cardboard custom booths with all the color and fonts and graphics your see at trade shows.His company was Blue Thumb. He had a dream of being a writer and producing a script of his own, saw my resume, which included a feature length film I had directed in 1979, and hired me to help polish up his script.

Alas, the story, though representing a lot of work and a great deal of passion, had so many holes I had to report to him that I didn’t think it could be made. And this, even in the face of him being inclined to have me direct. Had to be honest.

But, as luck would have it, at that time I knew a fellow who had a much better written family script called “Brothers of the Wilderness.” I brought it to George and he said he would be willing to produce that one instead.

And so, we began pre-production on a movie that would end up being filmed over a 24 day schedule in the hills around Big Bear, California.We all lived in the same rented cabin for that month, cast and crew.

During that time, it snowed partway through so we had to re-write to accommodate. The writer got pissed at me for wanted to rewrite another scene, jumped over the couch and grabbed me by the throat trying to choke me. I didn’t respond and he eventually realized how idiotic he looked, let go, and the next morning we were all back in production.

Many more stories to tell about that, but for now I want to get back to George Bamber. We got the film completed, but it was only released to video. Not sure I even have a copy any longer. The budget was $50,000 – twice what my first movie cost.

But, at the same time George was paying those bills, his company hit some hard times, and eventually it folded, even though he had dozens of employees and a big building. I really hope t wasn’t the costs of our production that scuttled it.

Last I heard, back in the 1990s, he had become a motivational speaker and was supporting himself with gigs doing that. And as for the writer, well I gave him a wide berth and lost track of him shortly after completing the editing.

Wow – so much spews forth from just a few papers on top of a stack in a box in a stack of many stacks of boxes. So many stories – so little time.

Hope I someday get the chance to tell you about the wild ride into town crammed in a Volkswagen with no chains in order to get snow equipped, or my friend Tom (our soundman on this production) tuning out with his headphones each night to listen to the score from Das Boot, or the white knuckle ride I had one weekend driving up through dense fog on the winding mountain roads from having spend Saturday and Sunday with my family in Burbank.

No time for details now, however. Back to the boxes…

My Grandfather Said “Arf!”

My grandfather said, “Arf!” He’d come around a corner, see you coming the other way and “Arf!” After while, this pre-kindergartener started saying it back – “Arf!” “Arf!” as a mutual greeting.

For decades I thought he was just mimicking a dog, and in fact, that interpretation of what he was doing led to a whole life of making animal sounds, weird sounds, character voices and impressions of celebrities.

But decades after he died I came across an old Popeye comic from theĀ 1930s in which Popeye exclaimed “Arf!” when he was surprised by something. In fact, Popeye said this all the time! I suddenly realized my grandfather had been quoting Popeye from his youth and not greeting me but exclaiming surprise at encountering someone charging around the corner at him.

Imagine, a whole life of making sounds based on a fortuitous but erroneous interpretation! I wonder how many of the foundational ways we feel about life and about people, upon which we build entire life-guiding narratives are actually based on misconceptions and/or misinterpretations, for better or worse?

My High School Friend, Bill Krasner

Bill and I did everything together. We shared the same outlandish sense of humor, were both very creative, and when we got together it was an explosion of humor, satire, and odd & wonderful ideas.

When we wanted to start a business I asked, what kind of business it should be. Bill responded, “Let’s flip a coin – heads we’re a clothing store, tails were a zoo.”

Once when shopping in the now defunct Akron store, he stopped by a display of brass items and proclaimed, “Oh neat! An astrolabe! (pause) What’s an astrolabe?”

And upon first seeing Old Faithful when he joined us for a family road trip vacation on year, “Actually, it’s a whale trapped under three feet of solid rock.”

Bill eventually joined the navy, then took a job as a prison guard out of state. He’s now retired, but just as much the irreverent wit in our conversations on FB.

This picture? It is of Bill in a building he and I literally demolished with our bare hands. It was a workshop on the property of the home my family was renting, but had become infested with termites, which was too bad, since it was actually a lovely little L-shaped building in the corner of the property with a Crepe Myrtle in a planter in the crook of the L in a little patio area. Many house-like windows and much light. Probably a great place to putz around in during its heyday,

My parents had contacted the landlady to tell her about the termites and she agreed it should come down. I put in my bid to do the job for a hundred bucks, and split the money with Bill. It took us a year to take it down and cart off the debris using nothing but non-powered hand tools. We started by poking a hole in the roof with a crowbar, then used hand saws to cut all the way around the supporting beams until the roof came down. It was built so solidly that it took forever, even with our best efforts.

Once, I was working alone, snipping restraining wires that were strung under tension along the inside layer of tar paper that formed a barrier in the walls, and the wire snapped and swung right by my eye, putting a groove in the white, but just missing the cornea and not breaking into the humors. Close call! I was more careful after that.

So, getting back to this picture, after the building came down, there was something a patio left from the foundation, and my parents put our old couch out there, and Bill is sitting there at the end of one of our rapid-fire conversations.

Please note, he isn’t holding a cell phone in the picture, though it looks like it. But those weren’t invented in 1971/72 when this picture was taken. Rather, he’s just holding his hand up against his head, though it sure looks like clear evidence of time travel to me.

On that note, Bill and I because enamored of the notion of time travel and one time we buried a time-capsule at the base of a huge tree – a note stuffed in the shell of a military gun cartridge that was about an inch wide and six inches high.

We said in the note that if time travel had been invented in their age, come on back and see us! Then we put plastic wrap over the open end of the cartridge, held in place with a rubber band, and placed it about one foot down into the ground.

Since nobody showed up, we figured either time travel didn’t exist, or the note didn’t survive or was never found, or there was time travel but they wouldn’t or couldn’t come back to tell us.

Since then, the tree has long been cut down and that part of the yard (which is next to an alley) was paved over to make a parking lot for a small storage building the new owner of the property put on the property when he bought it from our old landlady, shortly before I left to get married.

And that, is today’s glimpse back into the past, and a little slice of our family history.

Aunt Toots

“Aunt Toots”

One of my first attempts at an artistic portrait. My folks gave me my first 35mm camera for my graduation from high school, and it was that very summer that the family gathered at my childhood home (perhaps even a graduation party) when I clicked a few portraits of family and family friends attending.

It’s not an outstanding shot by any means, but I’ve always had a knack of catching something special, something true to the inner self of the person I am photographing.

Aunt Toots was a free thinking woman with a sly sense of humor – always full of energy and loved a good party. I think you can see that in this image, which is why, to me, it transcends a simple snap shot.

For the family – Aunt Toots was my grandmother’s sister.

Tippi

Image may contain: plant, tree, dog, outdoor and nature

This is Tippi – not sure of the spelling. Not my dog, but belonging to my Uncle Bernie and Aunt Kay. Aunt Kay was my grandfather’s sister.

Why am I posting a picture of Tippi? Well my Uncle and Aunt had no children, and there’s no one left but me who actually met the friendly critter. There are no family members left to mourn his/her loss from time to time.

But I have this picture, and quite simply, I refuse to be the one who allows that little furry spirit to slip into oblivion when I’m gone.

So, now you keep a little bit of Tippi alive in your memory as well – like a corner cut from a hologram that still contains the full image, but just from one side.

Darlene and a New Beginning

It’s been a tough couple of months, but I’m finally back in the zone. We’ve been pulling all our boxes out of the carport where we keep them in storage and also plan on bringing down all the stuff we still have in storage in Big Bear.

We want to pare it all down ruthlessly – tired of being chained to all that crap (with a little good stuff mixed in). With all my parents and everyone of an older generation gone now, I’m kinda cut free from anyone who remembers my childhood.

It’s like a bubble leaving the wand – nothing else can go in it and it is no longer connected to you in a way you can change anything.

But I have all these photos, several moving boxes full that have never been looked at by me, much less scanned. And albums too. And then all the snapshots and slides I took in my early years, and all the digital photos when that came into vogue. Not to mention home movies on 8mm, Super 8, VHS, 8mm tape, and digital as well.

I honestly don’t think I even have enough time left on this planet to look at them all and give each its due. So, I’m going to try and gather the physical pictures together by person, group, or event in plastic bags – something for the family archives. And I’ll be doing the same for the digital stuff as well.

And when I skim through this material and encounter the odd shot that brings back a special memory or exemplifies someone or particularly contributes to the family history, I’ll post it here, for the kids and grandkids, for the record, and for any other friends or family to whom it might bring a smile or conjure up a recollection of their own.

So here goes….

Cousin Darline (Sklenar) Martin – Three shots I took at the house where I grew up with my mom and step dad when her family visited mine. I know I’ve posted these before, but 1971 is the first year I’ve sorted things into so that’s what you’re going to get over the next few days / weeks.

Goodbye Robert Lawrence Hillman, My Father

My step-father has just passed from complications due to Covid.

He had been moved to hospice yesterday. Today, the chaplain arranged for video calls for me and also for my daughter to see him and speak to him one final time. I had not seen him since Covid started.

He had been in the hospital 27 days before hospice. I had spoken with him on the phone three times during the ordeal, and the procedures he endured were very uncomfortable.

But today, he was in a pleasant bedroom with soft light from an off-screen window. He was not connected to any machines or devices, no restraints that he had previously had.

He was comfortably covered in sheet and blanket on a fine bed and looked finally at peace after all his travail. I was able to tell him we were all so proud of the man he was – how he always tried to do what God wanted him to do, no matter the cost to himself.

He often gave his possessions away to those who needed them more, and was the best kind of Christian, who followed the spirit of Christ of love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

He could completely disagree with people, distant or family, even when he though they were going against the Lord, and still offer compassion and fellowship, and pray that they would someday see the light, even while readily admitting is own illumination was imperfect and that there was no end to his own seeking of the truth.

I loved my father so much. He came into my life when I was seven, accepted the responsibilities of fatherhood and gave me his time, his wisdom, and his heart.

He was my scoutmaster, my chauffeur before I could drive, and even was my assistant in my business for a time in later years. In short, he was always there to support me, in painting a picture for my birthday of my favorite photograph he had taken, driving us on family vacations, organizing trips to Disneyland, the beach, or to see family friends, staying up all night to complete a homework assignment for me while I slept.

He was a fine artist, an inspired composer and pianist, and a veteran who served in Japan in the late 1950s. But most of all, he was a wonderful, loving, nurturing father who encouraged me to find my own way, and guided me to discover the path to it.

He had two small strokes about fifteen years ago that ended his piano playing and artistry, but only in his hands, not in his mind.

For the past four years, I have had the good fortune to have returned to his area where he was living, and visited him in the nursing home every week where we would share stories of his childhood and mine, speak of fond memories, go over our family photo albums, and discuss current events, both of our kin and of the world at large.

I would often bring him special meals, some made by me, but most cooked up by Teresa to share with him. Mary always wished him a greeting whenever I went to visit, and he always sent one in return.

But we shared more that just food and entertainment and news and memories. We shared our hearts, unfettered and open – a conduit filled only with love.

I shall miss him greatly, as I miss my natural father, my mother, my grandparents and all those souls who treated me so well, and whom I hold in my heart every day.

But this is my father’s day – the beginning of his great journey to be with the Lord – the moment he had spent his whole life waiting for and anticipating.

I, myself, am a spiritual agnostic, but my dad was a man of faith. And in respect for the goodness that brought out in him, I will simply wish him well in the hereafter with the words that we spoke to each other at the end of every conversation: “I love you, and God Bless”

“Mama” – a note by Mom

Found this note my mom wrote on October 20, 1962 when I was nine years old. It reads:

My son cried, “mama” in his sleep tonight in a way that broke my heart.