The Capitol Records Building

Alan Mercer is a genius.  You’ve probably noticed.  (He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  We’ve been friends for a long time.)  This photo is the latest example of his remarkable work, blending whimsey, history, and hardcore glamor—a freeze-frame from an action-adventure fantasy anchored by an historic photo of me recording in Studio B of the iconic Capitol Records building.  This is just the kind of stuff I love to read and write about.  Settle in for a moment.  This is more than a blog post.  It’s a short history lesson.

Construction was begun on the Capitol Records Building in 1955, when I was a fledgling starlet at Universal International Studios.  The shape of the building, of course, mimicked a stack of 45 rpm records—the overwhelming music delivery of choice in that day.  In April of 1956, one month after my son, Perry, was born, I was recording the music track for Untamed Youth in historic Studio B.  The picture in the glow of those searchlights was taken of me singing Oobala Baby.  The night I recorded I was visited by music biz royalty: Dean Martin, Ray Anthony (husband, Perry’s daddy) and Frank Sinatra.  For them it was a unique experience: they were hearing rock and roll music being made. In its day, the Capitol Building housed recording studios, rehearsal halls, echo chambers, and executive offices.  Then and now, it is the one of the most iconic places in L.A.  Whenever I drive the Hollywood Freeway, I see it and I can see myself at the mic, hovering in the searchlights.


Well, would ya?

Hot afternoon at the beach.  Humid.  I’m lying on my chaise lounge on the patio.  The flowered canopy of the lounge is over my head blocking the hot sun.  I’m looking at  my rubber tree and palm trees in the garden downstairs, and the eucalyptus trees across the street.  Crows are quarreling nearby and I hear the zooop-zooop of hummingbirds jockeying for position in the rubber tree.  One’s mind may wander in the heat of the day to, um, inappropriate speculation.

What man, I wonder, would truthfully admit that he’d go to bed with a 91 year-old woman?  When I was young, I preferred to keep company with older men.  Men my own age held little interest for me.  Conversation was halting and the love making clumsy and unsatisfying.  Older men were considerate, mostly gentle, and grateful.

My question on this sultry afternoon, however, is where is the man who would tempt the fates for a nonagenarian tumble?  And you don’t have to be 90-plus to wander into that fantasy, right ladies?  Are you out there boys?  All of us are listening.

When I performed my nightclub act, there was a moment halfway through the show when the music vamped behind me and I spoke directly to the audience.  One night, I leaned toward an elderly couple at ringside and asked the man, “Tell me, honey, if I could grant you two wishes, what would the other one be?”  And so help me, without a moment’s hesitation, the white haired gent chirped loud and clear, “To live through the first one!”  It cracked up the house, including me.  When I get right down to it, that’s my sentiment too.  If I get lucky enough to find a youngish, skillful, and motivated stud, just let me live through it.


77 Minutes

What if you had 77 minutes to live? What if you were at the mercy of some crazed teenager armed with a weapon of war? And when the crazy began killing everyone around you, and everyone was screaming and crying, and you were frantically smearing yourself with your best friend’s blood so the shooter would think you were already dead, would that be okay? Would you pray for the police to break down the door and save you as the clock on the classroom wall ticked off 77 minutes? It is a long wait for salvation when it never comes. And what if you were a classroom of 4th graders waiting for rescue by a timid gaggle of fat cops? And how long is 77 minutes if you’re a cop sworn to protect, yet you’re cowering in a hallway within earshot of the slaughter? Would you cover your ears to block out the screams of the children? Too many questions for those who love guns. Too many tears for the rest of us.


It Takes a Woman

I greatly admire Cassidy Hutchinson. Not only is she honest, articulate, and smart, but she is brave. Yes, it takes a woman. Her testimony before the Jan6 committee galvanized the nation by describing the corrupt actions of Trump and his insurrectionists, giving us a clear picture of how close we were to losing our democracy. We always knew Trump, McCarthy, Giuliani, and the rest were liars bent on overthrow. Her appearance made it certain. In political scandals, someone needs to serve up the ugly truth. Cassidy takes her place in history along side John Dean as one willing to tell the truth, no matter the personal pain and danger. Now for the justice. Will our Justice Dept locate their balls and indict Trump and his fellow thugs? It’s by no means a sure thing, but if there’s no punishment for fomenting an armed rebellion, then we are truly doomed.


The Worst Thing

Yesterday the worst thing happened. The overturning of Roe v Wade was the worst thing for women—the loss of control over our own health, the bullying of women by a male controlled authoritarian state, and the not-so-subtle hard right turn of American culture back to the dark ages. In January of 1931—the month before I was born—a law went into effect which would send women to prison for aborting a fetus. If you were a woman coming of age then, the consequences of that law were in plain view. The screams in the night, the bloody toilets, the nondescript packages furtively tossed into an incinerator were all signs of the times. And they were symbolic of America’s concern for the equality of women. For me, the memory of those dark years lingers, when a woman’s only hope of ending a pregnancy was in some back alley abattoir, or at the tip of a coat hanger.

Women, this must not be allowed to stand. Against all odds we must resist, speak out, and, if necessary, fight. Men will not look beyond their power lust to give you a break. Take matters into your own hands. Cross your legs. Refuse to fuck. Do not allow another ninety years of darkness.


John Dean Reboot

John W. Dean has endured decades of insults.  His role in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent prison sentence have chipped away at his reputation.  The CNN documentary series on Watergate has served to allow John to at last get his story out his way.  The revelations of his testimony before the Watergate select committee brought the full impact of Richard Nixon’s involvement and complicity with the Watergate break-in and coverup front and center to the American people.  Dean’s actions required courage.  He went toe-to-toe with a corrupt POTUS and his henchmen.  He helped bring them to justice, then served his time for his own sins and paid the price with the loss of his law license.  It’s time for a John Dean rehab.  The corruption of Nixon led directly to the malfeasance and nepotism of Trump.  Without the testimony of John Dean, Nixon’s crimes would’ve never come to light, and we would have missed the signposts to Trump’s evil.  Let’s pay attention now and get Trump indicted, convicted, and jailed.  And let’s give John Dean credit for pointing the way.


The Shield Maiden at the Capitol

◦ Caroline Edwards, the Capitol Police officer who testified at the opening Jan6 congressional hearing, is a shield maiden if there ever was one. Her bravery, loyalty, and dedication are beyond dispute. She fought the mob, was knocked unconscious, regained consciousness, and waded back into the fight. She fought hand-to-hand for three hours. Think about that. I saw courage in combat in Vietnam and I know it when I see it. Officer Edwards and all the brave officers who held back the Trump insurrection for as long as they could, should have the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Caroline Edwards has taught us a valuable lesson in the defense of our democracy in its darkest hours.

◦ mvd

Memorial Day 2022

Memorial Day 2022

I won’t tell you that Memorial Day is more than hot dogs and beach balls. And I won’t tell you it’s more than a long weekend or the kickoff of summer. Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day after the Civil War as a day to decorate the graves of Union soldiers. It evolved into a day to decorate the graves of all our war dead. I still remember it as Decoration Day. But you should know that it’s a day to honor those who gave their lives for our country.

This is a time of great sadness in the world. Thousands are dying in Ukraine—citizen soldiers with their backs against the wall, fighting a bumbling but cruel Russian force. There’s fear of invasion by the Russians among Ukraine’s neighbors as well. The powder keg of global politics is waiting for a spark. If it ignites, there will by many more graves to decorate. Here at home we appear to be at war with ourselves. Nut cases easily get their hands on war weapons to sacrifice innocent men, women, and children to some twisted agenda of bigotry and hate.

I saw enough of war when I went to Vietnam. I naively thought humanity might learn its lesson from that fiasco. But no, we as a species love war. But bullets don’t know if they’re fired in anger at an enemy invader or a child. Bullets only know meat and how to destroy it.

I’m determined to have a happy Memorial Day, and I want the same for you. Here’s to a cold beer and suntan lotion. Just remember. Honor. Show respect for lives lost.


Not just predictable. Inevitable

When 19 children and 2 teachers were gunned down by an 18 year-old wielding an AR-15 assault rifle, it was inevitable.  The cowardice of lawmakers in Washington and the criminal indifference of state politicians made the massacres at the Robb Elementary School, the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, and all the rest of the tragic mass shootings in our country INEVITABLE.  Politicians and lobbyists who cling to power by refusing to face down the gun lobby have blood on their hands once again.  There is no reason for mass killings to take place as they do in our country.  The hypocritical reverence for the Second Amendment as an excuse for any nut case to purchase an assault rifle, a military weapon designed to kill human beings as efficiently as possible, is one thing only: greed on the part of gun manufacturers and gun dealers.  (The Second Amendment was only in the Constitution because our young country had no standing army.  Ensuring that citizens had a firearm was wise back then, just in case the Brits came back for seconds.  Its usefulness has expired.)  But we as a nation cannot bring ourselves to do anything about the spreading epidemic of guns—particularly assault weapons.  Draconian abortion laws can be made to prosecute, harass, and harangue women—even send them to jail if they abort their pregnancies.  The same greed head lawmakers in Washington and the states proudly prevent women from obtaining healthcare during pregnancies because they claim to be “pro life.” But where is pro life when the killer throws open the classroom door and starts firing?  Where was pro-life when an 18 year-old ego on the half shell bought not one but two AR-15s and wrote on social media, “I’m going to shoot up an elementary school?”

Changing the archaic mindset about gun possession is hard, there’s no denying it.  But how hard is it if YOU are the next unlucky parent giving DNA to identify the mangled body of your child?  How hard is it to select a coffin small enough for that youngster’s remains?  Can you even imagine such an ordeal?  Certainly Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, or Sen. Ted Cruz have not taken time to imagine that.  They only see money, votes, and power.  And for those three things they will happily sell you, your children, your family—even their own families down the river—with a smile.

Yesterday, Beto O’Rourke confronted them up close and personal at a fundraiser.  As Beto rebuked them for their inaction and callous disregard for the lives of their constituents, you could see the fear in their eyes.  When someone confronted them publicly for their evil passivity and groveling submission to the NRA, their discomfort was palpable.  It was a teaching moment for Abbott, et al.  The fear they felt when Beto called out their contempt for their citizens, is only a trifle compared to what those children and teachers must have felt staring down the muzzle of an AR-15.  Imagine that, Abbott.  Would you shield those children for as long as you could?  Or would you run?  Maybe cry?  Would you beg for your life? 

We need action now.  We need our A game.  We need to set agendas in a hurry.  The right-wing power structure is yellow-bellied and steeped in blood.  God turned His face away from Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, as He did last week in Buffalo.  It is only a matter of time before it happens again.  It could be days.  Or even hours. 


We know the enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu

It’s time to fight.  The women of America need to emulate the bravery of the Ukrainian people.  Just as surely as the Russians are committing genocide and war crimes by illegally invading the Ukrainian’s territory, so too is our fascist far right—the GOP, the woman-haters, the religious hypocrites—invading the territory of our bodies to create a scenario for femicide.  No woman will carry a pregnancy she does not want to full term.  The efforts of the anti-woman right wing will not eliminate abortion, they will only eliminate SAFE abortion.  Thousands of women will die from self-induced or back alley abortions.  And their deaths will be received by the hateful Republicans with a shrug and a smirk—Oh, well. Told you so.

With a bill in the Louisiana Legislature criminalizing abortion as a homicide, and so-called trigger laws in 26 states outlawing abortion the moment Roe v Wade is overturned, we are all plunged into a desperate battle for women’s freedom.  Men should not make the mistake of ignoring the ground swell of protest that is coming.  State legislatures, Congress, and the Supreme Court should not believe they are immune.  As women, we must be prepared to bring the fight to them.  The determination of the Ukrainians fought off tanks and troops, and made the Russian military look like a bunch of wankers.  We need that determination to protest loud and long, write letters and editorials, speak out, and VOTE.  Vote the lying, venal bastards out of office, and then shame them before the nation.