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JULY 2017
Howdy! I’ve got phonophobia. Duke Wayne said, “When you get on a horse, 100 things can happen, 99 of which are bad.” Same goes for answering the phone. If I’m lucky, it’s only a fellow Ol’ Coot callin’ to tell me all about his or her latest ailment. (When you tell folks you’re sick, 80% don’t give diddly squat, 20% are glad.) The rest of the gabfest is purely one-upsmanship: comparing symptoms, suggesting nostrums, and, “Boy, do I have the doctor for you!”

In ‘64-‘65 I lived in the Big Apple. On a morning cab jaunt, the driver asked me, “Where to?” He had a Caribbean accent, a pleasant lilt. “To my Shrink,” I said. “Hey, Mon, No, no, NO! On my day off I’ll pick you up, drive uptown, and you won’ need no stinkin’ shrinks.” I’m from L.A. I tried it all…from Flower Power to Zen Buddhism. What could I lose? Back then, we didn’t actually have freedom of religion. Voodoo was verboten. Sir Cabbie drove us to Harlem. I gave him some money, not too much, and we visited a variety of side-street shops. Back at my apartment, he unloaded the contents of several brown bags into my biggest pot, added water, turned on the stove, stirred and stirred. Boil, boil, cauldron, bubble. The concoction cooled. He poured me a glassful. Before I downed it, he put a hand on my head, closed his eyes, and moaned a Haitian incantation. Yow! I felt a surge. In my fridge the voodoo juice lasted for a long spell. Don’t know if it was the voodoo, the shrink, or life in the big city. I do know it was one of the best years in my life. Heck, I was in a hit play in New York, our bowling team won the Broadway Show League championship, and I met my two wives, Antonia Christina, and Babs. Love ‘em both, and, I hope, vice versa. I hope I gave the Calypso cabbie a huge tip! 

Rosemary Rice.Back to the infernal ring of the Ameche. Sometimes, the news is bad. At my age, I attend almost no weddings, and too many funerals. My life is a necropolis. I no longer smoke cigars, my buddies ain’t havin’ anymore babies. Alas and alack! A beautiful rose fell from the vine. Rosemary Rice. She was only 87, a mere sprig on the tree of life. Remember her on “I Remember Mama?” (CBS-TV, ‘49-‘56.) Her proudest achievements lay in the world of children’s entertainment: writing, narrating, singing in nine albums for Columbia Records, six more for RCA. She recorded many, many books on tape. Possessing a warm voice, charm, talent, Rosemary Rice was one of the all-time great children’s artists. Along the way of her Grand Adventure, she picked up three Clios, a Grammy, an Emmy, Three Peabodys, and The Pulitzer Prize. Babs and I sure were tickled pal-ing around with Rosie at Old-Time radio conventions in Newark, Brockton, Cincinnati and Elmira. Once in Newark, Rosie played Claire Trevor, Chuck McCann drawled John Wayne, and I handled a team o’ hosses as Andy Devine in a rousing radio re-creation of “Stagecoach”. “Yeee Hawww! Giddyup! Here come the Native Americans!” Ah, Rosemary Rice. When I pour rice crispies into my breakfast bowl, I add a dash of rosemary for remembrance.

Alex Karras.Alex Karras, pro-footballer cum actor, died back in 2012. He had dementia. Helmets protect the skull, not the brain. He’s the guy who cold-cocked a hoss with a right cross in “Blazing Saddles”, reliving the legend of Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams.
Big Boy Williams. Big, as he was known, could be one ornery sum buck. The story goes, he got a mite ticked-off at his polo pony. Probably lost a chukker. So Pow! it was, right on the kisser. Ker-plop went the pony. Big worked on “Dodge City”. One night on location he knocked on Victor Jory’s hotel door. “Yeah?” “It’s me, Big.” “Yeah?” “The boys wanted me to come up and invite you down for a drink.” “Can’t, Biggie.” “Why not?” “Gotta lotta lines to learn for tomorrow.” “Aw, just one drink, Vic?” “Nope, sorry.” “But we all want ya down there.” “Nope, go away.” “Vic, I’m acomin’ in to collect ya.” “You sound drunk. Beat it.” “Here I come!” And Big broke the door down. Big mistake. Jory was a former circus strong man. Big charged, fists clenched. Jory calmly picked up a chair with one hand and Pow-Kerplop! Big dropped, just like his pony.

Jock Mahoney.My wife Babs was a student of Jocko Mahoney at FIWI (Film Institute Workshop, Inc.) He taught stuntwork. He taught Babs to tuck ‘n’ roll during earthquakes. Years later, Babs and I attended a memorial for Jocko at the Sportsmen’s Lodge—SRO—my favorite moment: Jocko’s lovely widow Autumn spoke. When folks asked Jocko how he summoned the nerve to perform his death defying stunts, Jocko said, “I just step out.” “When it came time for Jocko to die,” Autumn said, “he just stepped out.”