I have heard many conflicting anecdotes about my father. Can I believe them all? May I? Please? Because never before has conflict been so delightful, so life-affirming, so marvelous.
For instance, there were the stories of drinking. Much drinking. There was a time when hotel guests would leave their boots outside their doors to be cleaned. I’ve left my room service trays – without a morsel to implicate all the carbohydrates I’d ordered – left outside my door. It’s my right as a visitor to Las Vegas.
But some people, during the 1940’s on their visits to Catalina Island, leave empty liquor bottles.
And some people meet ladies who were not my mother in Catalina (even though it would be a decade before such a happy chance would occur)
Father has had his ears pierced. During the war. On his ship. Old school – with a needle and thread. Could this better than getting a tattoo and risk a decades-later visit to Dr. Tattoff?
My father wore a zoot suit.
I have mentioned many times before that he was a disc jockey. Perhaps I will mention it many times more – it is a splendid fact. But also splendid is the fact that he played Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and was told by Management to please cut that out – the song was in poor taste (20 years after it was written!) and the viewership of San Bernardino must be sheltered.
Not long ago I purchased at a flea market a whimsical menu/flyer from a venue called ‘The Colony Club’, located in Gardena, CA. Dating from the late ‘40’s the menu advertises, even proclaims, ‘Burlesque As You Like It’ in addition to a ‘Famous Battle of the Burlesque Queens every Tues. Nite’. Years earlier, when I was assembling my parents’ scrapbook, I came across a group photo of my father with some friends, out on the town:
And looking at the cover, I made the wonderful connection:
I don’t judge, but do recall the ‘empty liquor bottles’ comment above.
Yet, some comparisons beg to be made. In fact, I can barely see above the piles of supplications. I have all these memories and memoirs which have the tiniest blush of dissoluteness and yet there are the other things. Things from home. Things of the home. Things in the home. Like these:
Seven Emmys for work done on the Wide World of Sports’ Olympics Coverage (before channel 7 gave up the rights – BOO KNBC) and on variety specials for such varied souls as Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper. Seven gilded women in their plexiglass cage; their figures arched with pride, holding aloft an atom crisscrossed with ribbon-like orbits. In a group photo with other winners from the Wide World crew, he wore a ruffled tuxedo shirt. Such are the hazards of leading the visual life in the 1970’s. And yes, those are pictures of the Infant Aubrey in the background.
There are other rewards for jobs well done: a thank you letter from Joan Crawford. A medallion from Ms. Andrews. A cigarette lighter from Jerry Lewis, given from one expectant father to a brand new father. A gold watch from Diana Ross.
I remember trips to the library, getting lost in the rows of books – towering over me like forests full of stories: some that were of this world, some that were not. Father would then take us to the adjacent playground, swathed in the sunset’s colors and shadows and the threatening twilight. And then he would make us dinner (tacos or lasagna please!!!!)
There were fishing trips, long before the days of ‘catch and release’. Father spent the evening before making sandwiches that were stacked like cord wood, for a day of fishing with two children is wearying and hungry work. I remember the thrill of feeling a taut line, fighting and pulling. There was the first sight of silver, the mysterious life curling in the spectral, watery darkness. There was the transistor radio playing, I particularly remember, The Four Tops. And always there was father, commandeering our fishing poles, the bait, the hooks, lunch. Would a former DJ rebel against such moderate outings? Not this one.
There are other gentle, genteel things of the home: gardening, restoring (along with Boyfriend and I) his 1956 Willys pick-up,
collecting and organizing family mementos before carefully filing them away in what must be a minimum of 15 notebooks.
So what wrought the change from riotous to responsible? Was it fashioned out of maturity? Marriage? Was it just the cunning and subtle passage of time? A person could argue that such a change is just the natural progression of adulthood, hypnotic and subtle. However, this person, this writer, confirms that there is no change. Because I know for a fact that my father is as capable of cooking massive vats of spaghetti and meatballs as he is of playing at a Vegas blackjack table for lengths of time that are positively James Bondian. Complexities are constantly being added…one does not forget, simply to make room for new feelings and experiences.
I therefore believe that when considering both present and precedent, all historical striations can happily co-exist. A person never loses his memories. They remain: the heart’s blood, the building blocks that create the ideal individual, a father of many depths and myriad distances. Everything, from The Colony Club to the Emmys, has made their own contribution and as Elizabeth Tudor said (and Psalms 118:23 too, if you insist – but Aubrey has always been an historian at heart), on being told that she was finally Queen, “it is marvelous in our eyes.”
I love you, dad.
Happy Father’s Day.