Who Doesn’t Love a Sale?

I must admit that when I stumble into an unannounced 75% Off Sale at Dillard’s in Prescott, AZ that I cannot resist the urge to shop a little.  It was last year – at the end of winter that I found the Italian wool car coat and the long sleeve, travel guide orange shirt.

It was only this year when I wore that orange shirt that I began to appreciate how much much of bargain the comfortable, linen/cotton blend truly was.  So I decided to wear it out to dinner.

Guess Who’s Shirt is Coming to Dinner!

I do a lot of pro bono photography and videography work for local Yavapai College.  It’s my way of contributing to Yavapai County.  And in so doing, I have become quite fond of the people with whom I work there.  So when I was invited to dinner with a few of my foundation and marketing friends, I was thrilled to go.

It’s funny how you go through life relatively self-absorbed and believing that the rest of the world sees you just the way that you see yourself.  What an illusion that is on many levels!  But even believing that this is illusion, I was surprised when I arrived at dinner to a chorus of voices saying:

“OMG — we were WRONG — he isn’t wearing black!  Bill, that color looks good on you, you should wear more color!”

I made a perfunctory joke like:

“Everything else was clean!”

I thought that my stale attempt at humor would put an end to attentions focused in my direction and I was therefore surprised when the subject resurfaced an hour later at the dinner table:

HOSTESS (Melinda)

“That really is a good color for you!  How come you don’t wear more color?”


We always thought that he wore black because it made him look thinner!”


“It’s not working!”

Ignoring the sage wisdom that I received from aging producer Leo Taub at my first job at the ‘Old Actor’s Home’ in LA:

“Someday – when you are older, you will learn that it is enough just to say that you like it!”

I proceeded to concoct (what I thought to be) a clever response:

“I can’t imagine a professional photographer not wearing black!”

Turning to my friend, Kim, I continued to be passive/aggressive:

“If I wore a shirt like yours at a portrait session, you would see a candy cane in the subjects eyes!  The eyes will reflect whatever is in front of them and it will appear on the image.  Everyone laughs when I cover myself up in black!  I have even seen portraits where the photographer appears in the subject eyes picking his nose!  Furthermore, this orange shirt in some cases would reflect back into the image and skew the white balance!”

As I noticed Melinda’s eyes start to glaze, I thought to myself,

“I seems like they are reluctantly buying this B.S.!”

I Don’t Need No Stinking Advice!

The next day I had a portrait session scheduled with Kristy!  I felt the pangs of guilt over going too far in my technical explanation of wardrobe at dinner.  So I took the orange shirt out of the dryer and decided to wear it during Kristy’s photo session, thereby ignoring my own tutorial.  ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

When I was developing the images, I saw it.  ‘What is that interesting quality in her eyes?’  I zoomed in closer … closer.

Yep — no mistaking that orange linen shirt:

Two orange sleeves of the photographer’s shirt

I could perhaps strive harder to remember that the three most common words of advice given to actors as they attempt to become successful in Hollywood are:

“Just be yourself!”



It’s been almost a year since Samara asked me to photograph her intimate Malibu Beach wedding.  I don’t often have the urge to head out West, but at times like these, braving the traffic is worth it!  Congratulations Troy and Samara!

Wedding Photographer Blues

I at once chuckle and flinch when I see someone else’s wedding images of the bridal party where some of the people are looking in the direction of a guest with a point-and-click camera and the rest who aren’t blinking or adjusting themselves are looking in the general direction of the wedding photographer with quizzical expressions.  Professional photographers have a number of ways to preclude this from happening, which I will not bore you with now.

I don’t usually shoot weddings — I really can’t say why — I love them.  I must be getting lazy.  Mostly I enjoy photographing people who hate to be photographed.  The late master, Monte Zucker taught me how to be at ease in most shooting situations, so I love being able to delight someone who mistakenly thought that the only way to get a great image was for me to sneak up and shoot before being noticed.


Portrait Anxiety

When creating a portrait, often family members, friends or partners will insist on being present.  Most professional photographers that I know will impart the sage wisdom of the auto mechanic’s creed to the client prior to the session:

I doesn’t matter — the loved one is going to contribute to creating the image with the best of intentions if not the worst of results.


An Evening of Outdoor Photography with Kolten

But last night, I had a great time with Kolten, his family and the family dog.  Kolten wanted to create some images for his high school graduation announcements.

I had talked with Kolten prior to the shoot and asked him what he wanted to do.  He hesitated, so I prompted him:

  • “Is there, for example a special place within 50 miles where you really feel like yourself?
  • Or are there special things that have deep meaning for you that you would like to be in the images?
  • And what time of day would appeal to you?”

Kolten said he would think about it and then contacted me a couple of days later with the specifics:

“I would like to be photographed at night on a street or alley – you know, something urban.  I’ll bring three changes of clothes.  May I bring an animal?”

I loved it!  I knew that I would be shooting in pitch black, freezing December Prescott AZ conditions.  I would most-likely need at least three radio-controlled strobes – probably shooting in manual mode.  So I staged the equipment prior to the shoot so that Kolten would not have to wait around in 32F weather (not that he would mind).

With my sister assisting, we made some fun images including this one:


We were nearing the end of the session and as we walked chatting to the third shooting location, we passed through an arched portico into an inner courtyard of a re-purposed church that is said by some to be haunted.

Think of Something Happy !!

I asked Kolten, “If you don’t mind, I would like to do something with this passageway … are you up for it?”

I positioned the strobes, got the tripod situated at the entrance of the portico and asked him to ‘make peace with’ the iron gate.  I was just about to shoot when I heard someone call advice from inside the courtyard that I recognized as his Mother’s voice:

“Think of something happy!!”

My heart sank a little, but I took the shot below anyway:


As Kolten heard his Mom’s prescription, his shoulders collapsed, his smile waned and he bent at the waist as if he had been cold-cocked.  I rarely see the principles about which I am writing so quickly demonstrated – although I have seen much worse!

I walked through the portico and pretended to chide the perpetrator:

“When I was his age, most things that I thought made me happy turned out to be failed experiments that led to shame on some level.  If you don’t mind, my I try?”

I thought of Jesh De Rox and the Beloved Movement of experiential photography:

“Kolten, did you have to do anything to get that Letterman’s Jacket other than just show up?”

“Well, Yeah!”

“So there was some play or decision that you made on the field that makes you feel proud?”


Walking back to the camera I offered, “That’s the guy we are photographing!”


The Swagger of a Letterman


I like the difference in the  images so much that it makes me think of something happy!



Technical Details:

ISO 400

f 5.6

1/180 Focal Length 35mm

Main Light: Canon Speed light, guide number 160, 1/8 power, light modifier by Bruce Dorn/FJ Westcott, distance to subject ~ 6ft

Backlight: Quantum Q Flash, 150 Ws Light Modifier by Quantum Instruments, 1/16 power, distance to subject ~9ft

Accent Light:  Metz Strobe, guide number ~150, 1/2 power, oblique angle, distance to subject ~25ft.

Radio slaves by PocketWizard



In the Middle of a Perfect Day

After having a great lunch in lovely, historic downtown Clarkdale, AZ,  four of us left the restaurant and headed for the car to make the winding trip home to Prescott through Jerome.

Our spirits were high — and got higher when we saw our energetic waitress follow us through the front door seemingly to come after us.  (Most men on seeing this immediately believe that the waitress has suddenly realized the caliber of person she has just served and has decided to speed after him to learn his many hard-earned secrets!)

Things Turn Toward the South

Our spirits were mildly dashed when she raised up an object and innocently asked,

“Did one of you drop this?”

“Did one of you drop this?”

A Swift Resolution

Our obvious answer was delivered in unison:


I Guess We All Get Older!

Further Signs of the Aging (Maturation) Process

I guess that I first became aware of what men go through as they age many years ago on the job in a large engineering firm.  Joe, an engineering manager was an overly-wonderful man who showed his age before he spent his years.  He knew this, and used to pull out a picture of himself taken in Italy during World War II in his white Navy uniform.

Looking at the picture, it would appear that in his youth, Joe was vibrant–with a luster of confidence bordering on bravado.  Now, he was portly, balding and over-worked to the point of exhaustion.  He would often repeat:

“I am still that guy in the Navy uniform.  I don’t feel any different now than I did then!  My friends say to me,

‘Joe, what happened to you?  You used to look like a Greek god!  Now you look like that guy who married Jackie Kennedy!'”

Sisterly Advice

I can see now how easy it would be to forget that at some point in time, a man maturing will appear more like an uncle than a perspective lover, because I now feel the same way that Joe did.

Fortunately, while I was in the perspective lover/uncle transition period, my younger sister whispered in my ear as I was joking with a check-out girl at a pharmacy:

“… psst …Billy, you’re not 25 anymore!  You are INVISIBLE to this girl!  Don’t be a perv!”

I could develop a complex by taking some of my sister’s advice, but in this case, I heeded her sage wisdom and have attempted to control the urge to be cute with waitresses and baristas.  In the long run, it seems to bring peace of mind.

” …. And Just Where Did You Meet Her?”

There are, in my opinion, two great ways to distinguish a professional photographer on an assignment from an amateur (or as we joke, a faux-tographer).

Flash-on-camera = faux-tographer

No assistant = faux-tographer

Most of the professional photographers that I know are eager to teach photography or mentor their assistants.  I wish that I had found my mentors, Monte Zucker, Hanson Fong and Lisa Evans earlier in life.  But there it is!

So, at a recent event that I was covering at the local senior center, I went out-of-my-way to offer the assistant’s gig to the daughter of a good friend who is interested in all things media.  She is a natural at lighting.  I guess that I could have done the job alone, but I thought the experience would be valuable for her.

I can’t tell you how many times that I was asked:

“And just WHERE did you meet HER?”

My recent assistant — “…. and just WHERE did you meet HER?”

Of course, I presume that the comments were inspired by her engaging personality, youth, beauty, lighting techniques and nothing more.  The comments most certainly did not reflect on me in any way!

But, (that being uttered), I guess we all get older!

“You Mean It’s Not ‘All About Me’?”

Somehow, Brian Wilson‘s lyrics make more sense to me as I get older.  Whenever I start to monopolize a conversation, I begin to hear some of those lyrics plus some other quotes from my working days.  A couple of favorites come to mind:

“Well, I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut when I started to brag about my car ….”

Brian Wilson, Don’t Worry, Baby


“So … that’s your take on it — is it, Bill?”

-Unnamed executive

Weed-Whackers Unite!

“Captain, there be weeds here!”

But, I guess it still doesn’t stop me from pontificating at times.  And this morning, I found myself wondering if I should’ve kept my mouth shut when I started to talk about … weed-whacking.

I love my friend, Susan.  Her husband, Mike and I can have a conversation about just about anything — including weed-whacking!

You see, here in Arizona after the monsoon season is in full swing, we take our weed-whacking a bit seriously.  Suddenly, the streets are lined with wildflowers and weeds.  And just as suddenly last week, all conversations  turned to the disposition of weeds:

My neighbor:

“Well, I’d better go borrow-back my weed-whacker from the fire station … I should really  get rid of these weeds before they go to seed.  I may be a little late already!”

Mike (anticipatory expression waning):

“Oh, you only have an electric weed-whacker?  I need to borrow a gas-powered one.”

Sears Salesman:

“Oh, you have the bump-fed electric one?  And it works for you???”

My other neighbor:

(The whirring of a powerful weed-whacker 50 yards in the distance).


Before moving to Arizona, I had no idea that there were so many choices and decisions concerning this whacking business.  I am just a simple city-boy.  To get the job done right, one must consider a number of inter-related options, including but not limited to:

  • Electric, Battery or Gasoline-Powered;
  • String Gauge;
  • Bump or automatic string feed;
  • etc, etc etc.


A Case of Whacker-Envy

I have to admit that after hearing the familiar whirring sound next door earlier this week, I had looked on the resulting absence of weeds with envy.  And, I was further humbled when I compared my neighbor’s whacker to my own.

His was clearly bigger — much bigger!  Just look at that fat red string — clearly more stout than my consumer-grade blue!  And his results were equally more handsome!

A Bit of Perspective?

All of what I have just told you,  I was sharing with Mike when Susan without solicitation and unexpectedly interjected under her breath into the conversation the quote in the title of this blog entry:

“Just listen to  what your life has come to!”

Of course, an emergency room nurse might well take that point of view with impunity, I consoled myself.

Upon Some Cogent Reflection

And  — who knows — I might think longer and deeper about the implications and merits of Susan’s observations on the state of my life … but I really need to whack my weeds before they go to seed!

‘Susan’ at Breakfast


Now, some months later, I must be an experienced [weed] whacker, because I am so confident that I cannot hesitate to volunteer to help out anywhere.  Here, three whackers survey their recent accomplishments with pride:

Weed whackers surveying their ample accomplishments

(I wish that I could say more about the boots being an Arizona fashion statement, but no need to reenforce the obvious).

Traveling with My Sainted Mother

At 85, it’s getting harder to get Mother out of the house without curb-to-curb service.  She’s pretty spry, but I am learning that as we get older, the specter of a fall  is never too far.

I like to stop at Banning on the way from California to Arizona to get something at Starbucks.  I think that store is one of my favorites in the chain; the space is inviting and the baristas aren’t texting like they do in LA.

This is true, if you can make it into the store, which is ‘guarded’ by a sloping curb that runs from the handicap parking to the back door.  Stepping up to the back door is easy if you know what foot will hit the edge of the curb first, as the height for each foot will be different.  Add to that the sprinkler runoff from the manicured landscaping and the motor oil from the adjacent parking space and you have a brew for a possible disaster.

I let go of Mother for an instant to open the door for her – turned around to help her up the curb just in time to see her hurling toward me like Supergirl.  She hit the curb with her shins before I could do anything about it.

She recounts the incident as an aside at a breakfast chat during a week that I spent introducing her to Arizona country living:

Drinks Taste Better When They Are Complimentary (I Reckon)

I guess she was lucky to end up with skinned knees and some lost pride.  Starbucks was magnanimous and sent mother 5 coupons for complimentary beverages to assuage any lingering misgivings that she may have had about returning, which were enough to treat her family — if she didn’t get a drink for herself.

For the rest of the visit, she preferred to have me make her tea at home.


It wasn’t all skinned shins and tea.  Mother found time to play with the dog:

and to do her imitation of Debbie Reynolds‘ role with Albert Brooks in the 1996 feature film, Mother.

“Sheriff John” Rovick (1919 – 2012)

“Sheriff John” Rovick (1919-2012)

I wasn’t aware that my late father and “Sheriff John” Rovick were friends until years after Dad’s hunting accident, which claimed his right eye and probably contributed to his early death at the age of 53.  Sheriff John hosted a noontime show for children during the ‘golden age’ of television — ask any Baby Boomer from Los Angeles!  I found out after-the-fact that  Sheriff John was with my dad on a duck-hunting trip when a load of buckshot shot by a careless hunter from a nearby hunting party peppered my dad in the face and chest with a careless and errant blast.

Dad never really recovered.  One day, in a youthful, innocent and somewhat obtuse way, I mused with my father,

“Gee, Daddy, Just think: if you had moved one step to the left, you may not have lost your eye!”

Without a beat of hesitation, he looked down at me with a mixture of impatience and love and said,

“And if I had moved one step to the right, I might have lost both of them!”

Independently, my brother and I loved Sheriff John (it seemed) almost as much as our Dad — or maybe even more, if you believe the story that my mother recently told me:

Mother’s Recapitulation

I continue to be surprised and thrilled that my mother lets me record her memories.  At 86, she tells me she is no longer concerned about how she looks in front of a camera.  I think that I will try to break out the camera with her more often.

If I tried, I could easily think myself into sadness when I consider that there are only so many of her stories that I may yet hear, but instead, I will just follow Sheriff John’s musical credo, which is “laugh, and be happy.”

RIP John Rovick

I found this tribute to Sheriff John.  You might enjoy it.

Monte Zucker

In my opinion, the late  Monte Zucker‘s name should never be far from the mind of any professional portrait photographer.  Monte’s photographic gravitas is like the reputations of  so many inspirational people whose fame and respect only grow larger when they are gone.

I have often talked and joked about Monte’s approach to posing people for portraits — he knew what he wanted.  But the pose,  while resulting in a classic portrait that looks completely natural, often feels really unnatural to the subject.  It’s counter-intuitive.

So Monte would sometimes take matters into his own hands.  He would put his camera down, approach the subject, grasp the neck and render a quick adjustment that resembled the work of an impatient chiropractor.

Joe Bruch

Of this technique, my friend and fellow Monte disciple, Master Photographer Joe Bruch recounts that after Monte administered the first ‘adjustment,’ the subject would most likely proactively assume the perfect pose should Monte begin to approach for the second time.  (I would have opted for the adjustment).

Rod Menzies

Anyway, when director and acting coach Rod Menzies contacted me and asked if I could to do a favor for his friend and acupuncturist, Edward Jwa of the Toluca Wholeness Center, I jumped at the chance.  Edward and his partner, Daniel Cho are well-respected in the Korean Community, but felt that a short video of their new Toluca Lake, California clinic produced in English could interest perspective Western clients who were perhaps unfamiliar with and might benefit from acupuncture and herbology.

At one point while making the video of Edward of Daniel as they were consulting in their office space, I felt Monte’s memory urging me to correct Daniel’s head position.  After unsuccessfully verbalizing the correction, I decided to come forward from behind the Canon camera. I quickly approached Daniel and made the necessary ‘Monte Adjustment,’ as shown in the video clip below.

Now, the astute observer may notice that magic was in-the-air immediately after the adjustment, because  my ‘chiropractic posing’ diploma mystically (and tastefully) appears, thereby appropriately augmenting the Toluca Wholeness Center’s waiting room wall:

Have I Ever Really ‘Seen’ My Mother?

When I have pointed a camera at my mother – ever – she would respond by turning on a dime and running into another room snarling, “Oh, Billy!”

This visit to Los Angeles was the exception.  She let me put a camera on her and opened up like I don’t remember.  I began to get an idea of her persona. In fact, after viewing the clips and stories that I am about to share with you, I am beginning to think that my Mother was not the combination of cook and maid that I had expected her to be in my youth, but rather that she was actually quite a bon vivant — certainly much more of a person than my limited view of her has allowed.

And after finding the snapshot below in my late father’s archives of my mother, younger than I am now, I suspect that I may not have ever ‘seen’ my mother as she is or was.

“Billy, Why Don’t You Come Over for Breakfast?”

“I love to cook,” Mother says.  “Your sister doesn’t want me to cook for her, and since they laid me off, I have more-than-enough time on my hands.”

Life After the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) Hospital

The MPTF Hospital (affectionately, ‘The Old Actor’s Home’)

The MPTF Hospital laid my mother off at age 84 after 35 years of service.  She called me one Thursday night to say that the Personnel Dept. had asked her to come-in to discuss her separation package.  I listened patiently as she said,

“Billy, they can’t lay me off, can they?  There’s just so much to do, and these young kids they have working with me don’t care about the job; they make mistakes constantly and seem only to want to text their boyfriends.  I find so many medical samples mis-labeled all the time and I have to correct them.  And besides, I have a meeting with the pathologist tomorrow to discuss a rush job for him, so I can’t take the time go to Personnel!  What do you think?”

Having lived through some lay-offs of my own, I, with some filial hesitation informed my Mother,

“Mother, you’re already gone!  Your supervisor was probably asked to reduce a full-time-equavalent (FTE) — and you’re it!.  Maybe you can negotiate some time to cross-train someone who will be staying.  But you are history!”

Still incredulous, she said,

“What am I going to do with all that time on my hands?”

Just about everyone in my my family has worked at MPTF at one time or another.  It was my first job.  While still in a college pre-med program, they gave me a summer job in housekeeping.  That work just kept piling-up with every new day! I think at least one of my sisters and brother worked there.

Now, Mother invites me over when I am in town, and I could be mistaken, but she seems to be  less anxious for me to leave.

“Come over on Tuesday — I’ll make you waffles the way your brother likes them — with bacon in them.  Better not tell him; he’ll be jealous.”

(So, I immediately emailed my brother the following picture:)

“Don’t tell your brother that I made you waffles!”

As suggested by the above image,  Mother would not sit down with me at the table that she had meticulously set, but instead kept handing me waffles through the kitchen portal while never stopping talking.

At one point,  she sat down on the cobbler’s chair that she keeps in the kitchen and continued to reminisce about her life.

I stopped her before she got too far and said, “Hold that thought, I’m going to get my tripod.”

Continuing Life’s Recapitulation

I ran to the car, came back,  set it up and started to record her stories, very surprised that she did not object.  I have heard some of the stories before, but each time is like the first time.

“At 65 I wouldn’t have put up with this for a minute.  But at 85 ….”

She was feeling that my sister was taking her for granted, but instead of complaining, she started to reminisce about the way she had done likewise to her mother.  Seeing her filled with emotion before my eyes, I did not stop to make fine exposure adjustments, but instead started to record (I’ll know better next time):

Navigating Early-television Hollywood

Bill Leyden, Jr.

Bill Leyden, Jr.

This rogue is my late father.

(Headshots like this are usually touched-up.  But that is the way he looked.  In fact, his hair looked like that when he woke up!)

An early death probably cut short a career that had already peaked.  But there wasn’t anyone in Hollywood that he did not know.  The peak preceded a tragic personal loss.  He never fully recovered from a hunting accident that occurred in the early 60s in which he lost one of his eyes.  It made him self-conscious that the glass eye never quite matched the other.  The aftermath of the injury also gave him constant pain.  And with 20/10 vision (pilot’s eyes), he was particularly saddened by the loss.

On day, with my juvenile take on things, I said to him,

“Daddy, if you had just been one step to the left, the buckshot might have missed your  eye.”

With no hesitation, he said to me, “Or if I had been one step to the right, I may have lost both of them!”

Mother often talks about their forays in Hollywood.  And I listen eagerly, watching attentively as her moods reflect upon one other and then dissipate —  often  several times during the same sentence.

“Well , What Did You Think of Clark?”

Clark Gable

Clark Gable

I love to hear stories about the Hollywood of the 1950s and 1960s.  The air was dirty, but life seemed cleaner.  My faded recollection is that you could leave the family car running outside all night (don’t ask me why one would do that) and it would still be there in the morning!

It has been my experience that kids that grew up around movie and television stars are probably more impressed by the stars on a general’s uniform than the stars on the screen, whereas a ‘military brat’ is more likely to be star-struck.

Mother, by virtue of her relationship to Dad, fell into the former group.  She would not be prone to gush over a movie star, and would at times be oblivious to one’s fame even if she had been conversing with one, as the following clip regarding  Clark Gable would seem to suggest:

“Not TullyTelly!”

Telly Savalas

Telly Savalas

I’ll have to remember to ask why Mother says that Telly Savalas was such a ‘sweetheart,’ considering that he chided her gently for mispronouncing his name.

“Agnes Moorehead – She Was Striking, Absolutely Striking!”

Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead is probably best-remembered as Samantha’s moody, red-haired mother on the television sitcom, “Bewitched.”  She was much more than that.  Here Mother gives an insight to the late Ms. Moorehead that I would not have expected:

Did Mother Just Say Nick Cravat Asked Her Out?

Burt Lancaster and Nick Cravat in “The Crimson Pirate” (1959)

OK, you can think what you want of me, but one of my favorite movies as a kid was “The Crimson Pirate,” starring Burt Lancaster, Nick Cravat and Eva Bartok.   Now that I have broached this subject, I might as well come clean and admit that  Steve Reeves in “Hercules Unchained” would have my brother and I in front of the TV set — guaranteed.  (Mother also claims to have had a date with Steve Reeves — he took her on the bus to Muscle Beach).

In fact, any swashbuckling adventure or feature with a character named “Machiste” would usually have my brother and I on the edge of our seats. There, I’ve said it!

Anyway, I was thrilled that Nick Cravat gave to my mother for me an autographed copy of “The Crimson Pirate.”  Not knowing anything about their acquaintance, I asked her about him:

“—-trying to look classy….”

Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles

Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles

I am not sure if I would want to come-in late to a Don “Mr. Warmth” Rickles performance; it would be a sure-fire way to be a target for quips, as Mother was soon to find out:

“…Betty White – Boy, Was She Young!”

Betty White

Betty White

Since Mother had mentioned meeting Telly Savalas at the late Dennis James’ house, I was curious if she knew Betty White.

Two days after mother had sat willingly in front of my camera for the first time ever, I was still in disbelief that she had opened up while being recorded.  I had previewed some of the footage and was unhappy with my technical performance, but let it go.  I picked up the phone to call,

“Mother, I loved listening to your stories, would you be willing to sit with me again before I leave town, maybe Friday morning?”

“Yes, I guess so.  But I know I will freeze if there is anyone else at home but you.  So come early.  What stories do you want to hear?”

“I’m not going to telegraph them — I would prefer to hear them fresh!”


On Friday, I thought that Mother might have second thoughts about being in front of the camera, but she didn’t hesitate to start talking about the past again, but not before over my feigned objections she offered to make me an omelet.

“I’ll make you a cheese omelet; that will be simple — with ham, spinach, pepper, onion and salsa!”

(That’s the kind of thing that I would never do on my own; I don’t have the patience to cut up all that stuff).

“Bill Leyden’s Wife …. That’s Nobody!”

She started right-in remembering the night club days.  Here, forgetting about the omelet on the stove, she fondly remembers Milton “Uncle Miltie” Berle and also a snide put-down by a fellow party-goer.

I rather like this snippet because at the end it shows one of my favorite Mother-stereotypes — no matter where Mother goes, she jogs!  Here she forgets that there is an omelet on the stove and jogs over (she would have done that if she had not forgotten).  I have seen her jog in the Petrified Forest in Arizona in 100 degree heat!

I continued our visit by asking her to tell several stories about which my sister had coached me two days earlier.

Lucille Ball’s Ride

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball had not yet become a recluse in the early 60s.  This story about my dad mistakenly being given her car by a valet is a scream.  I remember as a boy walking into a school bazaar in Hollywood and seeing Lucille Ball sitting at a carnival-style make up booth.  Nobody was in the booth.  I walked up; she bade me sit down, and proceeded to turn me into a bandito complete with sombrero.

‘Sick’ in Florida

My sister loves this story; it must touch for her some inner-rebel.  She advised me, “get Mother to tell you about the time she called-in sick and went to Florida for a weekend of water skiing.  She didn’t realize that her boss was vacationing at the same location in Florida!”

Just-a Dancin’ Machine

Jimmy Stewart, Dance Instructor

I am sorry, but the thought of my mother doing certain things does not set well with my stomach.  I can’t help it.  I think any detail further than those shown in the following clip of her learning how to do “The Twist” is unnecessary and probably undignified.  Let it be enough to say, that I am glad that Jimmy Stewart was the one who had to see my mother learn how to do “The Twist.”  For me, watching this clip just about crosses-the-line; the vision of my mother ‘twisting’ at any age is almost more than I can bear.  But, it’s not about me, after all, is it?

“Mother, Don’t Move the Chair — Just Get Up and Move Out-of-Frame.”

Planning a ‘Dissolve’

I wanted to do a cheap editing dissolve at the end of the first day’s recording, so I asked Mother, “Just look at the Canon Logo on the camera for a moment, then, when you are ready and without moving the chair, get up and get out of here!”

Anticipating a Broken Heart

The above clip is most likely my pre-sorrow manifesting itself before we will no longer have the waffles and the sharing of memories.  I will remember this expression that she made that seemed at-once proud, content and grief-ridden.  When that time comes, the kitchen will have never felt so empty.