Ten Things

For a while some twenty years ago, there was this meme going around that maintained you might not be as boring as you think you are.

I’d like to believe that, but I don’t.

About as far as I can go is to acknowledge that I probably have some experiences that aren’t common to everybody.  (And many of these no one would want to share!)

Anyway, the idea was to list ten things that you’ve done that you think others might not have.

In my well-over-half-a-century, I’ve made tons of mistakes that others are smart enough to avoid, and otherwise bumbled my way through life, but here and there were moments that seem unique, if not to me, so much, as to the time, the place, and maybe the people.

Here are the first ten I could think of:

1: This one is disturbingly apropos to yesterday’s news. 1969, I was eighteen, and nearly arrested doing illegal location shot over the low fence in a fabulous Beverly Hills garden. I was with some other USC students. They were in the film school, which I wasn’t, but we’d met through the Tolkien Society and they knew I made costumes by hand, and also wrote.

They were making a fantasy film, with of course a budget of $0.00. I pointed out that many Beverly Hills mansions had low fences and gigantic gardens that couldn’t even be seen from the mansions. We found a beautiful tiled terrace that did for a royal palace, hopped the fence, and shot our scenes.

We were hopping  back over the fence to leave when a security guard drove up, and threatened us, demanded IDs. I remember him staring at my driver’s license for the longest time, as he looked sweaty and weird. Looking back, I suspect he was thinking, Now what? He didn’t even have a radio in his car.

We showed him our camera, and the script, but he was weirded out by the swords and costumes. The film students explained in detail what they were doing, mentioned professorial names at USC, etc etc.

Well, it turned out we oblivious  lawng-haired student/nerd/hippie/Tolkien freaks in our fantasy costumes had picked a weekend a few days after the Tate/LaBianca murders to work on our project in the Hollywood Hills. None of us watched the news, so we had no idea about any of it, meanwhile the LAPD and related security types knew only that they were looking for hippies . . .

2: In the department of What Was I Thinking? I changed my report card at age six. (I used white crayon as a kind of early white-out, and found a pen in my mother’s desk that matched the ink on the card, and I practiced the teacher’s check marks to get them to look just like hers. Oh, and I gave myself an A minus or two, just so they wouldn’t be suspicious…) Naturally when sent to the principal’s office I lied like a rug until she patiently broke me down, but the upshot was that I was able to prove to my fellow first graders that the big kids in the fourth grade had lied like politicians, and the principal did not, in fact, have a spanking machine in her closet.

3: When I worked in Hollywood, I knew who shot JR before the big show.

Now, I didn’t actually watch TV–didn’t even have one during the entirely of the seventies– but I read all the Lorimar scripts that went through for every one of their shows and films (most of which I thought were awful), and that day it seemed odd that the writer himself brought it down and stood there while I copied it—he, of course, didn’t know that I am an extremely fast speed reader. Curious as to why the writer felt he needed to personally watch me make the copies, I read the pages before I turned them face down.

So when I handed it back I said, “Interesting choice of murderer,” (I was being polite), he gave me this strained look.

Ten minutes later the producer calls me up and almost threatens to have me eviscerated. “At this point, Miz Smith [he drew out my name like the sound of a knife blade being honed], the only three people in the world who know that information are the writer, me, and you.  My wife doesn’t even know.  The writer’s wife doesn’t even know.” In other words: we know where you live. And oh, did I mention that in those long ago days everyone whispered that Lorimar was backed by the Mafia?

Of course I kept the secret–none of my friends even watched that show.

4: Just before I quit Hollywood after bumping up against the glass ceiling for women one too many times, I tried to talk the P that B into buying this script that I’d seen go through—as I said, I I read everything, even submissions—by a total unknown, instead of the one they’d just bought, that I knew would be a stinker. (Of course no one listened to me. I’m just a stoopid female flunky, what could I possibly know? The films? The one I tried to talk them into reading? Romancing the Stone. The stinkeroo?  The Last Starfighter.)

5. Held in my hands a hand-written copy of a papal bull from Innocent III

6: Wrote to, and got an answer back from, JRR Tolkien (just a few lines, but still. There’s a famous signature, right at the bottom.)

7: Practiced saber on the roof of Clark Gable’s old dressing room with a later-director and SFX editor every day for several months (until we got snitched on and had to stop). I should add that the pic to the right is not us, just something I found off the net.

8: Gave myself a tour of the back building and garden of Skull and Bones. (It was research for a book, and the gate was off the latch, so why not?)

9: Attended a ball in the rose marble ballroom of a palace that had also entertained the bigwigs of the Congress of Vienna (wearing a gown I’d designed and made myself on a 100 year old treadle sewing machine).

10. Was present at premier of the punk movie The Decline of Western Civilization, part I —and just escaped getting caught in the subsequent riot–I knew the scrunjy back alleys of Hollywood Blvd, because I lived just a few blocks away.

So there is my list, none of which will ever earn me fame or fortune, and a couple of which were, um, at best, stupid. But hey, experience.

Have you any unique experiences to share?




Ten Things — 27 Comments

  1. Those are amazing! Some I knew about, but others no. How terrifying for the security guard to see you guys right after the murders: for all he knew, you’d just hacked someone to death. Fortunately not. And how super enterprising of you to go film that scene that way!

    And the who-shot-JR thing! I’m laughing at the thought of you so blithely saying, “Interesting choice of murderer.” Such power you had, without realizing it! And then to be threatened for something you didn’t even care about.

    What is Skull and Bones?

  2. Those are amazing! And exciting, too!

    Thanks for sharing.

    (I’d be afraid to share some of my more interesting events on the internet, LOL.)

  3. That was absolutely wonderful, Sherwood, and thank you for sharing that with us. I found it very enjoyable.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever had such unique experiences as you have, but then again, I have but a few years behind me… There was the time I walked the Horns of Hattin just as a wildfire began, allowing me to experience a rather authentic re-enactment of the condition of the battle. Also, recently David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel came to where I teach, and for some reason out of all the staff I was deputized to coordinate with his security, which was interesting.

  4. Great list! It’s good in its own right and as reflection fodder for some things I’ve done (or been present for) which don’t seem all that remarkable to me but are uncommon, even so. (I can’t put them here without wrecking my pseudonym.)

    • Understood. But hey, getting one to reflect on one’s own past was the purpose here.

  5. I have no opinion about whether we are less boring than we think ourselves to be. But I am firmly convinced that other people are paying less attention to us than we fear they are.

    I can’t think of ten things I’ve done that most people haven’t.

    But probably not very many people (who didn’t work there) have gone up between the inner and outer domes at the Griffith Observatory. (I did not ascend very far though.)