Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Though I have made periodic trips back to LA over the past decade or so, I have not always been searching for ghosts. Those in my circle with whom I've kept in touch were the ones I spent time with, but a host of others were overlooked. This trip was different. A year of loss which began with my dear college (and waaaay beyond) chum Jenny, followed by the news of the death of my high school drama coach, gave this trip more significance to me. So, I made an effort this time to see some of those folks who were important to me back in The Day. I had lost touch with most of them years before moving from southern California, so some of these people had not been seen by my eyes in 20 or even 30 years.

What a treat it was to spend a long brunch with Kathy. Surely 20 years had passed since I had laid eyes on her, but during the high school years and beyond, she was a force in my life. One of the first kids to take me under her wing at Kennedy, she was a powerful presence in the bustling theatre dept there. She had a strong artistic sense, better than any of the rest of us, and in fact, she was the one who directed me in my first Shakespeare attempt, a Malvolio monologue. The intervening years have given her a son and a booming career in academia, where she is encouraging new generations of teens to find their special artistic voice. With my dearest Claud at our side, we gabbed for hours.

Three more ladies from that high school era popped up later in the week. Claudia arranged a surprise dinner for me at a local Italian joint, and we were joined by three gals I had not seen in roughly 30 years. Wow. We are all mid-life folks now, but more than vestiges of the old teen agers remain. Loretta (at left) is a stunning, statuesque blond whose exceptional appearance and talent gave her portrayal of Helen of Troy at Kennedy real truth. (Can you believe a high school did The Trojan Women? Joan Peterson was no slouch.)

Robin was another gal I remember vividly from that production from Troy, in which she played the doomed queen Hecuba. Robin remains special in my memory because she agreed to donate her time to appear in my directing project in college, a whacked out production of "The Bald Soprano." She reminded me over dinner that we narrowly avoided disaster during the show when another actor almost crushed her hand during the leap frog segment. I didn't even remember a leap frog segment! Boy, what I put those actors through. (Secretly, I admit now that having the four uptight characters of that Ionesco absurdist classic doing the leap frog is a spectacular idea. I wonder if I would come up with such stuff nowadays?)

Today, Robin's quirky wit remains intact, and she has emerged as a strong survivor of motherhood, cancer, and pilates.

Debi never met an experience she couldn't turn into a funny story. She remains the charming gal with the infectious laugh and, though it sounds cliche, a real zest for life. She was one of a handful of teen age girls who kidnapped me in my senior year, forcing me to breakfast at the Pancake House (or was it Denny's?), then dumping me at school to attend classes in my pajamas. I wonder what kids do to each other these days?

I reconnected with several of my undergraduate college folks as well.

Cris was present in my life from my first days at Cal State Northridge. He has a hilarious sense of humor and was a welcome aspect of any party or gathering. He could have me howling with laughter at a moment’s notice. We only worked together onstage once or twice, and I have long since forgiven him for snagging the Emcee in "Cabaret," one of my dream roles. (I later played it at Conejo Players, so all turned out well). Cris became a greater part of my artistic life when we both joined Bobbi Holtzman’s private acting workshop. (Bobbi had a huge influence on my artistic development, so large that I cannot describe it here. Perhaps another posting...). Since graduation, Cris has remained in the business, both as a performer and a writer, and he recently won an Emmy for his participation in a local PBS series.

Ronnie was responsible for my first professional gig, "Poof!" at the old Company Theatre in downtown LA. We worked together on various projects during our undergraduate years, including an updated version of "The Menaechmi," by Plautus, translated as "The Twins" and slanted toward children:

(That's Ronnie on the far left, myself on the far right)

Ronnie recently revealed that he caught my over-the-top performance as Mortimer, the Man Who Dies, in "The Fantasticks" at Valley College, while he was still in high school! Ronnie has also continued in the business, playing comic roles on stage, film and television. Remember the MAC vs PC commercial, with the PC who had a virus? That was Ronnie.

Valerie was responsible for gathering this group together for lunch this week. I have never really lost touch with Val, who took me under her wing at CSUN and always included me on social occasions. She introduced me to Sondheim, wrote the occasional song for me, and included me on a variety of yearly events. For years we had an annual Easter Brunch, but it was her Christmas Bash with a Twist which was the highlight of the season. Everyone brought gifts, which were passed out indiscriminately. After all the gifts were opened, each guest presented some kind of little performance piece which reflected the gift they brought. Then, everyone tried to guess who brought what.

Valerie also directed "Perfectly Frank," which became one of my all-time favorite performances. She is now known as "Madam V" at Louisville High in Woodland Hills, CA.

So, I reconnected with more than a half dozen souls from the distant past. I wonder if ghost hunting is always this much fun?