There are all kinds of stories in myths and legends surrounding stepmothers being wicked and all that. My stepmother was nothing like that. Matter of fact, at least in my opinion, she was fabulous. She was smart, beautiful, wealthy, shrewd, loving, and generous --- and it was her generosity that, in the end, did her in. If she had any failings in the stepmother area it was that she never had any kids of her own and knew nothing about raising kids, nor did she particularly want to know --- she herself having many years of singlehood and never being interested in being married before she met my dad. The thing is, when my older brother, myself, and my younger brother were sprung on her all that stuff did not matter much because we had long since passed through the toddler stage with my older brother actually just touching into his teens.
I was quite young when my mother died. No sooner had my mother been laid to rest than my father, who had been on a non-stop binge since her death, possibly before, hastily left the care of my two brothers in the hands of others, with each being sent their separate ways to relatives or guardians. Then, without even waiting to see if his haze-fueled plans would be remotely successful he basically disappeared into the hinterlands for several years heavy into alcohol. My older brother went to live with my grandmother's brother and his family in some small town in the lower reaches of the mountains near Fresno, California. My younger brother went to live with my father's father's brother's son and his wife down along the California-Mexican border. Me, I had been farmed out to a couple before my mother even died. They took me to India staying at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, India for a few months, the visit for me personally ending with somewhat startling results. On return, the couple, thinking I had lost my mind because of a somewhat skewed perspective of things I was exhibiting, dumped me off totally unannounced at my grandmother's on my father's side in Pennsylvania --- a grandmother I had never met nor ever even heard of. From there I was returned to the west coast to be with my grandmother on my mother's side while arrangements were being made for me to live with a couple that owned a flower shop.
In the meantime, that so-called skewed perspective on things, a term actually coined from my grandmother's observations after my return, set into motion a series of concerns, thus her contacting my uncle, with him then traveling from Santa Fe at her request, one of the first of several trips. Searching for solutions, my uncle knowing I had been to India but not knowing I had met with a prominent Indian holy man, somehow intuitively took me to see one of the prominent Eastern religious figures in California at the time, Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship near San Diego --- without, at least at that point in my life, any positive results.
My older brother and younger brother must have been somewhat more satisfied with the outcome of whatever arrangements had been made for them. I, on the otherhand, for reasons I am unable to recall, ran away from the flowershop couple on at least two occasions. The last time ending with me missing enough days of school that someone came to see why I was no longer attending. The couple told the school they had not seen me for several days and did not know where I was. The school inturn called my grandmother, the emergency contact listed on their paperwork. My grandmother came looking for me and eventually, months later and well into the summer, located me in my old hometown of Redondo Beach, California, staying with an only recently discharged World War II ex-Marine taxi driver that had fought his way up through all the islands in all the major battles in the Pacific from Guadalcanal northward.
My grandmother, except possibly for the taxi driver and I having breakfast almost every morning at the Happy Hour Cafe owned by the South Bay's infamous Fifie Malouf, usually after having picked up non gratis one or two female stragglers wending their way back after a long night of plying their trade, and maybe him visiting a "friend" once in awhile in the afternoon in one of Fifie's apartments while I waited in the cafe, quickly assessed him as being an otherwise honorable man, thanked him for overseeing my well-being, then took me back with her. I stayed with my grandmother, bouncing back and forth between her and my uncle for awhile, even starting school, when, for unknown reasons, I was taken to live with my younger brother in a no sidewalk mostly dirt-street town somewhere east of San Diego near the Mexican border. After a passage of time, of which I don't remember how long, but looking back probably not much more than a month or two, several at the most, out of the blue and totally unannounced, my father showed up all dapper looking and handsome driving probably one of the very first brand-new post-war Pontiac Streamliner fastback sedans off the assembly line, telling my brother and me he wanted to take us to Los Angeles for a few days to meet someone. That someone turned out to be the person that would eventually become my stepmother.
Apparently my older brother had already been to our soon-to-be stepmother's place, met her, and there seemed to be enough quasi-OK-ness, at least on her side, to go ahead and meet my younger brother and myself. Fifteen or twenty minutes before our first meeting occurred I had been left in a library-like area of her rather extensive home. Waiting apprehensively almost to the point of being sick because of not knowing what to expect, in order to pass time and redirect my thoughts from the butterflies in my stomach I began glancing over the various books she had neatly stacked on the shelves. In the process I came across a book that caught my eye published in 1943 titled The Lady and the Tigers, about one of my favorite subjects, The Flying Tigers. I pulled the book off the shelf and began thumbing through it hoping to find some pictures of P-40 Warhawks. In a couple of minutes, intrigued with what I saw, I sat down and started reading it.
When my soon-to-be stepmother came into the room, apologizing for being late and well aware of my penchant for running away, she was all impressed that under my own volition I was sitting there quietly reading. When she asked what book I was so engrossed in and I showed her, she said, speaking of the author of the book, Olga Greenlaw, "Oh, I know her, she lives just up on the other side of Sunset Boulevard."
With that she crossed over to a desk centered in the room located in distance not far from the far wall. On the other side of the desk, the chair side, she pulled opened the second or third drawer on the lower right removing an envelope from a folder. In the envelope, as I was soon to learn, was a black and white 5X7 glossy photograph of Olga Greenlaw. After showing me the photograph she put it back in the envelope placing the envelope in the back of the book between the back hard cover and the last page. I must have looked at that photograph a million times and especially so when I reached 15 or 16 years of age. Its a wonder, the teenager that I was then, I didn't go blind imagining what was at the end of her legs and what and where they ran up to.(see)
Not only the photograph, but several days after visiting my soon-to-be stepmother for the very first time, just as I was leaving, not only did she give me her copy of The Lady and the Tigers to take home, she also handed me a second book that I had shown a nearly equal interest in, a book that dealt heavily into the Curtis Wright P-40 as well, only just not aimed specifically toward the Flying Tigers.
The book was Robert L. Scott's Damned to Glory. Scott was a World War II double ace flying P-40s first for the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group (A.V.G.), then continuing on with them when they morphed over into the Army Air Force. I know I don't mention a lot about Damned to Glory throughout most of my works, always it seems going on and on about The Lady and the Tigers, but that's because most of what I write about when it comes to P-40s has to do with the Flying Tigers. See:
ROBERT L. SCOTT, JR.
Before my stepmother and dad got married, every year she would go on weeks-long elaborate vacations, alternating them yearly between three locations. One year she would go to Hawaii, the next Mexico, and the third as she would say, Alaska, but of which was really actually, Canada's northwest territory. I know, because one day I overheard her say the reason she continued to go back was because years before she "had fallen in love with a member of the Royal Canadian Northwest Mounted Police," commonly known as a Mountie and known to me specifically because of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.
When my stepmother married my dad she no longer vacationed like she did before for reasons unknown to me. I learned of her past elaborate vacationing through a Chinese man I met who washed dishes and cleaned up around in one of the bars she owned. He and I had become friends, he teaching me about meditation, Buddhism, and Kuan Yin, a sort of female Buddha who he said, had saved his life during the war. He absolutely loved my stepmother and couldn't speak highly enough about her. Once, when he learned she was going to Hawaii he told her he had a niece there he had never seen and wondered if she might deliver a special present to her. My stepmother told him, "Better yet why don't you do it yourself." With that she took him with her in her entourage for two or three weeks all expenses paid and no loss in pay.
She herself mentioned one of those vacations to me when the two of us first met although at the time I didn't put it together as being part of any regular vacationing routine. After she noticed my interest in the Flying Tigers she told me that she had been on vacation in Mexico and while there had gone down to Mexico City. In Mexico City she had dinner with Dr. Margaret Chung, said by my stepmother as being a "former physician to Chennault's Flying Tigers" along with at that same dinner, two movie actresses, Virginia Hill and Sophie Tucker --- all of which was confirmed to me by her much later in my life.
I did, however, at the time remember Virginia Hill, and not because she was said to have been a movie star but because of an incident that happened a few years later as presented on the Johnny Roselli page. The "Chennault" my stepmother mentioned was of course, Gen. Claire Chennault the head of the Flying Tigers from its very inception and throughout the war. Dr. Margaret Chung was a Chinese-American doctor said by many to be not only a major recruiter for the Flying Tigers of World War II fame from the very beginning, but also among other things, the attending physician to Chennault's secretive air transportation wing called Civil Air Transport that had within its ranks many former Flying Tigers.
DR. MARGARET CHUNG
From the very first I liked being around my soon-to-be stepmother --- which I'm shortening here to be called stepmother --- and of which, those several days to a week or so we had together I have nothing but fond memories. We went to the zoo in Griffth Park, the observatory, and walked through Fern Dell. She took us to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and to the Brown Derby that I still remember looked like a hat. We went up and down Angels Flight, ate taquitos at Olvera Street and rode a Pacific Electric redcar to the beach in Santa Monica just for the heck of it.
All the time my stepmother and I were together, at least while the two of us were out in public, we were always accompanied by a fairly good-sized well dressed man in a suit who typically stayed at a distance, never really joining the two of us per se.' According to my stepmother the man was her driver, a role of which he fulfilled on a number of occasions. If he wasn't driving he was always close by or nearby and very seldom if ever said a word. During one of the days I was visiting my stepmother's, on my own volition I began exploring around the house and grounds when I stumbled onto a sort of servants quarters kitchen-like area where a variety of, I guess, working staff had gathered, basically just hanging out. When I came in the place suddenly went silent, with several people scattering as though they should have been doing something elsewhere, leaving half filled coffee mugs and partly smoked cigarettes behind.
The driver, who was sitting at a table with his suit jacket hanging over the back of the chair and a cigarette dangling from his mouth, wasn't able to just get up and leave so quickly, mostly because he was in the process of cleaning a pistol. The pistol was in several parts on the table together with a few small, round long handled twisted wire brushes and what appeared to be an olive-drab squeeze tin of oil. He made no effort to speed up what he was doing, but did kick one of the chairs out as though he wanted me to sit down. Then without a word, in a mimicking like motioned as though taking a drink from a bottle and pointing to the fridge, a woman washing cups and stuff took a coke from the fridge, opened it and sat the bottle in front of me. With that I pulled my chair closer to the table to look at the pistol as the driver finished cleaning the parts and began putting the gun back together. After the pistol was assembled, without putting the clip in it, he pulled the sliding mechanism back a few times dry firing it, then inserted the clip and slipped the pistol into a leather shoulder holster he had strapped around his chest. With that he stood up, put his jacket on over the gun and holster, adjusting everything so it looked like it wasn't there and said, "Lets go find your mom, son." The driver's pistol? A World War II .45 caliber U.S. Army issued Colt-built M1911A1 automatic.(see)
A few paragraphs back I wrote that before my dad and stepmother got married, every year she would go on weeks-long elaborate vacations, alternating them yearly between three locations. One year she would go to Hawaii, the next Mexico, and the third as she would say, Alaska, but of which was really actually, Canada's northwest territory. I only had a vague general idea of the layout up there, knowing about the rugged territory, year around snow in some places, steep mountains, and thick forests. I also knew of Dawson, Skagway and a few places primarily because of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. The very same day I was exploring around the house and grounds of my stepmother's place and came across her driver cleaning his pistol in the servants quarters I also came across a combination garage-workshop large enough to hold four or five cars, although at the time there were only two cars parked inside. One was a brand new late model Cadillac Fleetwood. The other car was an early model 1940s wooden Ford station wagon, albeit like no station wagon I had ever seen.
(please click image)
My stepmother's driver told me she ordered the woodie specifically from the Ford Motor Company because she liked going back and forth to Alaska and the Northwest Territory in Canada. She got a hair up her ass one day (his words, not mine) thinking it would be great to drive all the way up there. Being told she would probably need a four wheel drive vehicle she asked around and discovered Ford had some kind of a four wheel drive conversion deal with an outfit called Marmon Harrington. You ordered your woodie from the Ford factory and they would ship it down to the Marmon-Herrington plant in Indianapolis, where all of the conversion work was done. So that's what she did:
"The vehicle was stripped of its body, drivetrain, and in the case of a light-duty vehicle, the transverse front leaf spring, wishbone and front axle. Crossmembers were added to the frame to support the added weight of the four-wheel-drive transfer case as well as the installation of a beefy Warner four-speed transmission with an 11-inch clutch. The front drive axle was more or less a modified Ford rear axle with the ring-and-pinion housing offset to line up with the output shaft from the transfer case and constant velocity joints added at the axle ends to allow the wheels to steer. When the work was finished, the buyer would pay a steep premium for his new rough-terrain capability as the Marmon-Herrington conversion nearly doubled the price of a Ford wagon."
1940 Marmon-Herrington 4x4 Ford Woodie
The driver said once the car was delivered and she came into look at it she said the car was too beautiful to drive all over a bunch of rocks and mountains and changed her mind. For the most part the car just sat and far as he knew she had never driven it or rode in it. He did agree with her assessment that the car was beautiful. I open up the door and sat in it on the drivers side and after that I always knew I would have to have my own woodie. What happened to her 4X4 woodie I have never been able to clarify. Years later I was told it was discovered to be just plain gone.
As for the driver's comment that the station wagon just sat there and far as he knew my stepmother had never driven it or rode in it --- well all that was soon to change --- at least ONE time during the short period of time I was there. That evening my-soon-to-be stepmother and I were having dinner together and she asked what I had done that afternoon. I regaled her with all the stories of my explorations, meeting the driver and some of the help, seeing his pistol and the wooden Ford station wagon and how much I loved it. She was a little aghast at the pistol comment and me knowing about it, but seeing I was cool with the whole thing kind of pleased her. The station wagon though had her a little perplexed, having totally forgot she even owned it. After convincing her going for a ride in the wagon would really be something worth doing she decided the two of us should go down to the garage and take a look at it, which we did.
Within minutes of turning on the lights a number of people came running in, including the driver, all wondering what was going on. None of them had ever seen my stepmother in or at the garage before, and after she explained what she and my big plans were, everyone was pretty much in agreement that it sounded like a great idea. The driver said he could have the wagon ready to go by morning, so anytime we wanted it after that it was ours.
The next morning around 11:00 the driver pulled the wagon around front per my stepmother's request. She got in on the passenger side front, I got in the back, and the driver remained behind the wheel. He asked where to and laughing she said, "Just drive, my man, just drive. The Boulevard, the Hills, the Palisades." So off we went, with a whole bunch of people turning out along the porch and driveway like we going on some voyage to Europe in the Queen Mary or something.
And what a day it was. My stepmother was one of those people you meet every once in awhile that you can't figure out how they ever got to be who they were. As I looked back in later years it seems she popped out into the world already full grown having never gone through a childhood. No matter how I looked at her I could never see her as a little girl, like her whole life she was always a full grown adult. And it showed too in our station wagon trip as she seemed to capture something she never had. I don't think she ever had so much fun. Plus, I think the two of us bonded that day probably more so and better than any mother and son could ever have, as though she suddenly discovered being a mother. That being a woman was bigger than what she was. To this day I think she married my father because of me.
The weather that day was absolutely perfect. We went down Hollywood Boulevard, drove up over parts of Mulholland Drive eventually dropping down to Malibu returning through Pacific Palisades. We used Lincoln Boulevard to PCH then pulled into the coolest place ever, Patmar's.
Although woodies were still being made in those days and not all that unusual to see during that era, still the sight of my stepmother's primo pre-war four wheel drive woodie drew a lot of attention, especially by some of the car buffs that frequented Patmar's, even to a point that a small crowd gathered. It was easy to see my stepmother wasn't used to interacting a whole lot with the hoi polloi, finding it a little uneasy, although I must say, making the best of it. Things changed though for the positive when some of the aviators and test pilots from nearby aircraft factories recognized her and and began to take over and make a big fuss over her, more or less separating her from the masses. She handed out VIP cards with her initials on them to some, plus did the same for several flight attendants, i.e., stewardesses in those days, hoping I guess, to change their line of work in some fashion.
With the time apparently being over for my younger brother and me being with and getting to know my soon-to-be stepmother, he and I along with a nanny were put on a train and sent home.
Months passed. Then one day my younger brother and I were returned to the train station, my younger brother taken by the couple he was living with near San Diego, me by my grandmother who I had gone to live with in the mountain resorts east of Los Angeles. At the L.A. Union Station we were met by the same nanny we traveled with before. The three of us boarded a train, ending up in Reno, Nevada where we were met by my dad and older brother. My dad and stepmother married in Reno that weekend and shortly thereafter we moved into her behind-the-walls compound in Los Angeles. Initially, for the first few months anyway, albeit extended, living like one happy family.
What I mean by extended is that my stepmother hired people to do everything. She did the same in the process of overseeing us kids. It worked out great for me because as soon as she noticed I had a certain propensity toward art she had talked my Uncle, who lived in the Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico, area and a well established artist in his own right, and who had been going back and forth per my grandmother's request, to stay on the west coast and have me protege under him. My younger brother had a nanny, but for my older brother, any attempt on my stepmother's part to make things right did not work out so well. Bottom line he hated her and made her life as miserable as possible. He remembered our real mother and our family and would not accept our stepmother in any role --- plus she interfered with his relationship with our father. He wanted him exclusively and did not like the fact that she took basically all my dad's time. In the end my brother got so belligerent and hard to handle they decided to put him in the Mckinley School for Boys in Van Nuys and later in the California Military Academy in Baldwin Hills. For me, being as I was his younger brother and not being able to fully grasp the bigger picture, I was a little perplexed by it all. However, when I went to see him on occasion I thought it was kind of cool, little uniforms and all, everything neat and tidy. Besides, in my own life things were flowering. My uncle, although classically school trained in the arts, was a bohemian through-and-through and I followed him around like a little puppy dog basking in his intellect, philosophy, and creativity --- always under the distant watchful eye of my stepmother and, of course, floated by baskets full of her money.
"Like so many young boys growing up during my era I loved cowboy-western movies and the actors that showed up in them. As well, right up there with westerns were Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, Leonardo Da Vinci, astronomy, the cosmos, rockets to the Moon and Mars, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, along with a myriad superheroes, especially the 'mortal' type such as the Spirit and Captain Midnight. But still it remained, the cowboy western movie stars and heroes such as the Durango Kid, Lash LaRue, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, their horses Champion and Trigger, and their sidekicks Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine were the ones that in the end interacted in my life in real life."(see)
In the process of her newly found motherhood, and primarily for me, because of the above, she noticed my younger brother and myself, along with a bunch of other neighborhood kids, spent an inordinate amount of time "playing cowboys" --- with cowboy hats, capguns, holsters, boots, etc., and in doing so we often ended up in the street. Using her logic, she thought, what could be better than having their own real ranch to play on, especially so, not in the street. She also felt a full-on ranch situation might just be the thing to alleviate some of the problems, real or imagined, my older brother continued to conjure up. So that's what she did, she bought a ranch.
Not unlike my brother, my grandmother hated my stepmother too --- or at the very least, disliked her immensely. I don't think I ever saw her even once during the years my dad and stepmother were married. In later years she painted a word picture of who she was and what she did for a living in a not so flattering way. So too, it ate away at my grandmother because my dad knew my stepmother while my mother was still alive and how they seemed to get awfully close so quickly following my mother's death. When she told me the story on how the two of them met I suppose one could cast aspersions on who she was and what she did (for a living), although much to my grandmother's chagrin, I never did.
According to my grandmother, and elaborated on many years later by my stepmother, my stepmother and my dad met on the evening of Monday July 19, 1937 long after he married my mother, but before I was born. On that evening a mob affiliated gambler named George Lester "Les" Bruneman was walking arm and arm with two young women along the waterfront business district in Redondo Beach just past the north entrance to the Horseshoe Pier when at least one bullet ripped through his back from several shots fired by two contract hit men. My dad, who had been in a minor disagreement of some sort with my mother that evening, had walked down to the waterfront and only just entered one of the establishments along El Paseo, possibly the Wagon Wheel or Taxi Cafe, when he heard the shots ring out. Stepping back outside he saw two women, quickly joined by a third who got out of the passenger side of a car that had stopped briefly along El Paseo, half carrying, half dragging the bleeding Bruneman north along El Paseo, eventually taking refuge in the lobby of the Fox Theater at the north end of the street.
As my dad was catching up with the women struggling to carry the wounded man he could overhear the newly arrived third woman desperately trying to convince the other two into just leaving Burneman, but was successful in talking only one of them into doing so, she backtracking down El Paseo disappearing in the crowd. As the second woman kneeled down with Bruneman in the lobby the third woman, seeing her pleas were more-or-less falling on deaf ears, began backing off, but before she could clear the theater foyer police arrived and began holding nearby people as potential witnesses, of which my father and the third woman were amongst those held.
The woman told my dad under no circumstances could she afford to get caught up in the situation and would he please claim that the two of them were together. My dad told the police they were together, told them he was a resident of Redondo Beach and saw nothing. The police glanced at his ID and at the woman, and even though there was a clear difference between his working class attire and her being dressed to the nines, they never questioned the woman and just let them go. The woman took my dad's arm and they strolled back down El Paseo looking all the same as a couple. When they got some distance away from the theater the woman motioned to a car that had slowly been following behind them to the curb. A male driver came around and opened the door for her. She thanked my dad for the help, handing him a card and telling him the two women were "hostesses" she provided for Bruneman at his bar, the Surf Club. She also told my dad, in so many words, that in appreciation for his help she could arrange for some fun times if he was interested. My dad told her he was a happily married man with a nearly three year old son with hope for a second one soon and no longer indulged.
With a slight expression of questionable disbelief barely brushing across her face, raising one eybrow, she responded with, "Quaint." Nearly ten years later that same woman became my stepmother.
My stepmother was always a woman of mystery. Nobody seemed to know anything about her really. Until she married my dad and took his last name she had at least three aliases and just as many passports. During the war and postwar years she was a regular at heady celebrity nightspots like Ciro's, the Tracadero, Coconut Grove, while before the war, the Clover Club on the Sunset Strip, hobnobbing on a first name basis with a slew of Hollywood bigshots. The same was true with influential California politicians as well as Los Angeles area mob figures such as Jack Dragna and Johnny Roselli.
Several years into their marriage my dad and stepmother went on an extended trip to Mexico and South America because of what my stepmother viewed as an increasingly unfriendly business environment. The rational behind that decision grew, and continued to grow, following the arrest on May 19, 1948 of woman by the name of Brenda Allen. Allen's arrest, because of operating in a closely similar economic sphere as my stepmother, sent what I would call chills down my stepmother's spine. In my stepmother's view, from the time of Allen's initial arrest to her conviction (without a jury) and sentence to serve time in the State Institution for Women at Tehachapi in September, 1948, was way too harsh and moved way to quickly. Even when a police officer, by her own testimony before the grand jury stated that as a witness she swore falsely against Allen under oath during the trial, a motion for a new trial was denied, the judgment and the order were allowed to stand. Allen filed an application for probation which was granted on condition that she serve one year in the county jail in addition to five years probation. In May, 1949 she commenced to serve her time. Less than four months later, Friday, September 2, 1949, Allen was released from jail on order of the California Supreme Court based solely on the fact that the police officer had purjured her testimony.
If all the Allen stuff wasn't enough in itself, in the second week of June, 1949 the Los Angeles Daily News began a series of hard-hitting articles on the Los Angeles Police Department that revealed an apparent long term legacy of corruption clear up to the highest levels. The potential backtracking along the trail of that alleged corruption to the sources of the corruption put the handwriting on the wall for my stepmother. By the end of the year, with the powers that be smitten by Allen being sprung by the California Supreme Court and searching for new targets to strike down, my stepmother and father left the country on what I was told was an extended vacation. It was then things began to change for me as well as my brothers.
During the two-year period my dad and stepmother were gone their marriage deteriorated to such a point it ended. Before they left, sometime before the summer of 1950, me being under the guardianship of my uncle had waned to such a low level that what was left just came to a screeching halt. Our de facto family had dissolved and my uncle was on his back to the Taos, Santa Fe area. With me not being offered the opportunity to go with him, or at least not being invited to do so or allowed to do so as the case may be, a series of other arrangements were hastily floated or put into place.
When my stepmother, now my or soon-to-be-ex-stepmother, got back to the states her source of income was greatly diminished and her contacts either gone or ignoring her. As she was searching around for a way to financially reestablish herself she ran into a longtime friend by the name of Pancho Barnes who had only recently fallen on hardtimes herself.
Barnes had built and owned what eventually came to known throughout World War II and for several years afterwards as the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base that featured a motel, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar which catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends. The ranch became famous for it's all night parties and high-flying lifestyle of her guests.
In 1952, just as my stepmother was returning, following a change of command at the air base, friction between Pancho and the base commander began to increase because of the number of flights in and out of the Club's landing strip and what the commander called an encroachment into the base's airspace. When the government attempted to buy her property allegedly to expand the air base runways and Pancho refused, a series of unproven allegations surfaced that the Happy Bottom Riding Club was, among other things, a brothel. The Air Force slapped an off limits on the ranch, effectively banning servicemen from going to the club. Falling on hard times and basically deserted when the government moved to appropriate the ranch, Pancho sued. Then, on November 13, 1953, shortly after she beat the government and won the lawsuit, the ranch, under very, very suspicious circumstances, burnt to the ground, some even say, although it was never proven, from a possible strike from the air.(see)
My ex-stepmother stepped into the picture when the Air Force placed the off limits decree on the Club. She had a California liquor licence and owned several bars in Los Angeles. Pancho, as a friend from their old Laguna Beach days, in a casual conversation with my ex-stepmother, who supplied hostesses for the club on and off over time, suggested she open a facility similar to Pancho's now, or soon to be, defunct Club --- only far enough from the air base that they could not mess with it, but still close enough that it was easily accessible --- AND with NO known or on the surface affliation or ties with Pancho. So she did, opening the closest bar in those days to the air base south gate, somewhat east and south of Pancho's old place, duplicating almost all of the same amenities and wide open services except for an airstrip. The following is what I have written about it at the source so cited:
"Even though she and my dad were no longer married I spent a good part of every summer while I was in high school on one property or the other she owned in the Mojave, most usually the one not far from Piute Butte. The short time I was there during the summer prior to high school, following the Tehachapi quake but before going to my uncle's in Santa Fe, she had only just bought the property or was in the process of buying it. At that time it was pretty much a run down former attempt at a dude ranch. One year later, during my first full summer there, what she called a 'ranch' --- even though as a ranch it was a little on the sparse side in what I would call standard ranch fare --- had been completely rebuilt and refurbished with a rather long fully stocked bar, food service facilities, swimming pool, dance hall, live entertainment, along with rodeos and boxing matches on the weekends. It also had at least two dozen one-armed-bandit slot machines in a secret hidden room, plus like I like to say, a flock of ever present hostesses --- several of whom took me under their wing and one or two that may have been slightly more friendly than they should have been considering my young age, the youngest at the time at the very least being six years older than me."(source)
At the exact same time my stepmother was in the process of setting up the replacement establishment for Pancho Barnes' recently or about to be shuttered facility I was just on the verge of entering high school. During the summer before high school, right after I heard my stepmother had returned from South America, I ran away from the home of the foster couple I was living with, ending up at her ranch totally unannounced. In that she and my father had only just divorced, she wasn't sure if he would be totally receptive to the idea of me being there. Unable to reach him she contacted my dad's brother, my uncle, who said he was willing to take me until things could be worked out. In that my uncle lived in New Mexico and I was on my stepmother's ranch in the high desert of California and she felt time was at an essence, she arranged for me to be flown to Santa Fe. She had a pilot she knew fly into a close-by one-time, albeit long abandoned military airfield called Victory Field and pick me up. The pilot, a former P-47 Thunderbolt jockey was flying a two seat North American AT-6. It was the first time I had ever been off the ground and into the air in any kind of a World War II aircraft, so for me the trip to my uncle's was not only highly memorable, it was as well white-knuckle exciting.
Once my ex-stepmother came to the desert and stayed for awhile, as with Pancho Barnes, things began falling apart. There were fires in which she lost buildings, businesses, homes, money, fur coats, jewelry, and antique guns --- of which one almost lost was a genuine Colt Walker that I scrounged around and eventually pulled out of some of burnt down remains.
My stepmother went from a beautiful woman with class and suave to an old lady with missing teeth living in dump full of goats and dogs, her once perfect hair with never a strand out of place to straw, her feet once emaculately manicured and oiled to gnarly with dried heels filled with open cracks, her wealth and once powerful friends gone.
On November 13, 1953 Pancho Barnes' place burnt down, totally destroyed by fire. In 1958 or 1959 my ex-stepmother's place burnt down, totally destroyed by fire. On January 22, 1962 Willie Martello's El Rey Club burnt down, totally destroyed by fire.
THE 1847 COLT WALKER
Because she had fallen on hard times and I felt she could use a large influx of cash I convinced her that selling her Colt, a very rare and expensive firearm, would be a good idea. I told her that I had just the buyer for it, the cowboy-western author Louis L'Amour. The 1847 .44-caliber Colt Walker was the largest, heaviest black-powder revolver Colt ever produced, known for their firepower and shooting distance --- and they found their way into L'Amour's novels often.
L'Amour was a friend of my uncle's and it just so happend that a few years before L'Amour and I had discussed the pistol at length one day while my uncle and I were visiting him. During our conversation he expressed an interest in seeing it. I took the Colt to show L'Amour, then returned it to the care of my stepmother after giving him all the contact information. After that I never saw either of them again. There is no record that any financial transaction cumulated between my stepmother and L'Amour regarding the pistol. When my stepmother died the Colt was not found among her effects, nor, to my knowledge, has it ever surfaced to this day.
Probably the most infamous desert rat to have ever tread the sands of the Mojave Desert, Walt Bickel, once said, "The desert does funny things to you." Such seems to have been the case with Pancho Barnes and my ex-stepmother. My stepmother died in 1985. It had been ten years since I saw her last.
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
In the main text above I mention briefly that not long after my mother died and following at least two failed attempts with me being placed with other foster couples, I was sent to live with my younger brother. At the time he was living with a foster couple in a no sidewalk mostly dirt-street rural area some distance east of San Diego, almost right on top of the Mexican border.
After a few days settling in and getting to know the couple and my younger brother again it wasn't long before I began catching glimpses of, then seeing more on a regular basis, a very old mysterious looking Mexican man who lived next door, an old man that at first I figured was either the parent or grandparent of the people that lived in the main house on the property. If he was or wasn't, he never seemed to spend any amount of time in the main house or with the people in it, whiling away most of his time in and around a ramshackle weathered old shed in the backyard all day long and often late into the night, lots of times just sitting in front of dug-in-the-ground rock-ringed fire pit.
Besides being quite obviously old, appearance-wise, the man had what I thought was really cool looking long silver-gray white hair, marked here and there with dark streaks, invariably pulled back into a ponytail. His deeply grooved face was nearly always unshaved, but nothing anything like a full-beard.
He invariably wore an unwashed looking pullover string-tied white shirt with no buttons, baggy white pants with the bottom back of the cuffs heavily frayed along the edges because of always dragging in the dirt, along with a well worn pair of beat-up sandals. However, what struck me the most about him was that the pupil portion of one of his eyes was completely glazed over with a gray-white scum. Although initially very scary the first I ever saw him up close, having never seen anything like that to that point of my life, I learned as I grew older that the old man really had no more than what is called a cataract, a clouding of the lens inside the eye. The couple had told me to stay away from the old man because he was what they called a curandero. Now, at the time I didn't know what a curandero was nor did I particularly care, but the moment they told me to stay away from him, the more I wanted to be around him. I started watching him more thoroughly, albeit from a distance at first. Then closer and closer. Pretty soon he was asking me to get him something or hand him something or bring him water from the spigot.
After weeks had gone by, I began participating in an almost magic-like meditative ritual I had seen him do before, but before he was able to do whatever he was going to do the man of the couple I was living with came upon us. He was furious. I thought the man was going to kill the curandero and put me into chains the rest of my life. Instead he dragged me back to the house, called my dad and began yelling at the top of his lungs how screwed up I was, as though I had fallen under some spell of the curandero. My dad told the man of the couple not to worry, he would send my godfather down to take me to my grandmother's in the mountains for a few days or forever if that was what the man wanted.
After being locked in my room for a couple of days my godfather showed up driving his spotless 1938 Dodge humpback panel truck, taking me away with no goodbyes or chance to see the curandero or my younger brother, ending up being left with my grandmother in the mountain resorts east of Los Angeles where she and my grandfather lived.
As for my stepmother's compound as it was called, it was located in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. She owned or least maintained several houses within a few blocks of each other in the West Adams area, of which the main one, hers, was behind the high fences of an up-scale gated community called Berkeley Square, number 10 to be exact. Erle P. Halliburton, who founded what eventually became Halliburton Oil, owned two houses in Berkeley Square, living in one on the across the street side from my stepmother's in number 19. His youngest son, David J. Halliburton, who I met when I was around ten years old because of my stepmother living in Number 10 Berkeley Square was to eventually play an abstract role in my life years later.
I didn't live with my stepmother at number 10 per se', but at the compound along with my two brothers and where the art studio of my uncle was located. The compound was also just across the street from the two-story launch site of my infamous Da Vinci like manned flight wherein I jumped off the roof with a winged glider that I had designed and built myself with some assist from my uncle. The results of that flight, described below, is from the source so cited:
"Initially the flight played out fairly well, picking up wind under the wings and maintaining the same two-story height advantage for some distance. Halfway across busy Arlington Street though, the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way. Other than a few bruises and a wrecked machine, nothing was broken, although as it turned out, my dad wasn't nearly as proud of me as intended. I never forgot the thrill of that flight and carried that thrill and Leonardo's dreams into my adulthood."(source)
The idea of manned-flight didn't end for me the day I crashed the glider into the neighbor's house across the street. Matter of fact, as a grown man, after hearing of a powerful 'devil wind' that blows downslope in the High Sierras given the name 'Washoe Zephyr' by Mark Twain and others, wherein the wind was able to lift a full grown mule off of 7900 foot high Mount Davidson --- up and behind Virginia City, Nevada --- and carry it 5 miles across the valley setting it down unhurt, I had to see it. Seeing the 'devil wind' at full force ended for me in a second attempt at manned-flight. See:
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
NUMBER 10 BERKELEY SQUARE
Even though I actually lived at the compound with my uncle and brothers I was still over at number 10 on-and-off on occasion. In those days, school-wise, I was somewhere around the fourth grade and attended 24th Street Elementary School a few blocks from the compound. The physical location of the 24th Street Elementary School itself actually bordered right up against Berkeley Square although you couldn't just 'cut through' because of all of the walls and gates. Sometimes my best friend Martin Petrosky, who lived three or four houses down the street from the compound, and I, disobeying strict orders from my uncle to come straight back after school, would circle around to see if my stepmother was home. In the process I was there enough to get to know the goings on in the Square and some of the people who lived there. The following if from the David Halliburton site linked below:
"David Halliburton was basically born at Berkeley Square, the family having moved in just weeks if not days before his birth. When I first met him I was around maybe eight or nine years old, he being at least twelve years older, making him at the time around 20 --- and no doubt the reason he didn't recognize me the day we met on his marlin boat. How I crossed paths with him at Berkeley Square came about because my stepmother had who she called a 'namesake niece' visiting her for a several weeks during the summer staying at number 10. Because my stepmother insisted on her own personal privacy almost at all costs, plus she didn't want her niece around all of us hooligans and the shenanigans at the compound, she set her up in the fully equipped, albeit long unused, old servants quarters attached to the garage.
"My stepmother's niece was around 16 years old, looked much older, very busty and quite beautiful. My stepmother put her in charge of watching over my younger brother and myself a few times which put me in and out of Berkeley Square more often than I otherwise would have. In any case, somewhere in there David Halliburton took notice of my stepmother's niece and started hanging around now and then. I don't know what happened if anything, but it wasn't long after he showed up that my brother and I was shoved out of the picture. It was even less time than that my stepmother had her niece return to wherever she came from and as far as I know that was the end of it. Years later, in my role in the scheme of things, a mere sander of wood, I never mentioned the connection to either Halliburton or the skipper."
DAVID J. HALLIBURTON
NUMBER 10 BERKELEY SQUARE
THE WANDERLING'S GODFATHER:
Before any need arose to send my older brother off to Mckinley or the California Military Academy, in the same way my uncle had been brought in to oversee me, my father brought in a person to oversee my older brother. That person was a man my dad had long ago named as godfather for my brothers and myself.
My godfather had basically saved my father and real mother from going without food and being without a home during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He gave them a place to stay and my father a job --- something my dad never forgot. Inturn my dad named him as godfather over my two brothers and myself. To most people, myself included, my godfather was like a second grandfather and family members and friends alike always called him "Pop." He was also one of the few people other than my dad who had the ablility to "control" my older brother after our mother died.
In the years prior to the war my godfather, who was actually a carpenter by trade, reportedly had very strong connections to Los Angeles mayor Frank Shaw and especially so his brother Joe Shaw, some even saying he was related to them and in the process received some kind of financial compensation for a variety of endeavors he carried out for them. Historian Dr Kevin Starr, in his book THE DREAM ENDURES: California Enters the 1940s (1997), writing about Shaw's mayoral regime in Los Angeles, tells how by 1937 he and his brother Joe either participated in or let happen (with substantial kick-backs together with a number of police on the take) a network of brothels, gambling houses, and clip joints, all of it run by well-organized syndicates with reportedly an estimated six hundred brothels, three hundred gambling houses, eighteen hundred bookie joints, and twenty three thousand slot machines. When the mayor was recalled and his brother went down so did any money, power, or protection my godfather may have had. After that he sort of spiraled downward. As much as everyone in our immediate family loved him and as much as my father had interceded in trying to help him, over the years he continually turned toward the bottle, becoming a heavy drinker and an even heavier gambler. When he wasn't passed out or on the verge of passing out he was constantly playing the horses and betting on boxing matches or other sporting events, most often through a bookie and usually with money he didn't have. Because of same, one of mobster Mickey Cohen's so-called seven dwarfs stopped my godfather on the street one day threatening his life right in front of my older brother telling him that if he did not come through with a large amount of cash he owed he would "end up in Santa Monica bay swimming with the sharks." My stepmother was aware of my godfather's gambling habit but did not realize it had got so out of hand. She also felt it was way out of line for someone as high up on the food chain as one of the seven dwarfs to be running errands for Cohen, let alone threatening someone's life in front of a young boy. Thinking it might somehow be personal she contacted Jack Dragna, the Los Angeles don, and asked him to request Cohen, who my stepmother did not know, to lay off, she would take care of any debts incurred. Cohen agreed if my stepmother paid the money to him personally. Which she did. Through mutual agreement Cohen cut off our godfather's credit line, my stepmother sent him packing and then sent my older brother off to the military academy.
The whole of the above paragraph, in reference to my godfather, I have cited in an article on the venerated Indian holy man Swami Ramdas. After using the paragraph as in quotes at the end I added the following which sort of ties up a few loose ends unmentioned:
"Jack Dragna, who was connected to the Chicago mob and Mickey Cohen, who was connected more closely to the New York side of things, did not get along appreciably well. To ensure that Cohen got the message that Dragna did not want any additional or continuing problems regarding the incident, he had mob heavyweight Johnny Roselli join my stepmother for the payoff of my godfather's debt. Cohen sent flowers to my stepmother the next day. My stepmother had a friend, or at least a close business associate named Brenda Allen, who was the top 'madam' in Los Angeles at the time. Cohen knew that Allen and my stepmother were close. He told Allen he felt slighted that my stepmother would be compelled to show up with Roselli, although he thought that in her doing so, it most likely was not of her own making."
LARRY DARRELL, THE HOLY MAN, AND SWAMI RAMDAS
DEATH OF A COP
My brother's stay at the military academy lasted only to the end of the following school year. It seems early in the year 1946 a Los Angeles police officer had been shot and killed on the streets of Chinatown during a gambling raid. When the news of the officer's death eventually filtered down to my stepmother, for reasons not known to me even to this day, she somehow felt responsible for ensuring his widow or the woman he was closely associated with and her young son were properly cared for. Somewhere along the way my stepmother learned the woman, who wanted to leave the city, had previously inherited a rundown dilapidated piece of property in Idaho that had been at onetime a working ranch. My stepmother hired a crew to fix up the place, make it livable with reliable running water and even paid to have the electricity extended to reach the ranch as it had not yet got that far. Then she sent the woman, her young son, and if not with the two of them initially, within a short time, my older brother, for whatever reason, to live there.
Regarding the police officer who was slain, the following, in my own words, is an extrapolation of events recalled to the best of my ability some years after the fact after having been initially researched from official sources:
The policeman killed in the line of duty during the 1946 Chinatown gambling raid was assisting members of the Los Angeles Police Department's Vice Squad. As the primary contingent of the Vice Squad rushed the front of the building, the policeman, as assigned, had positioned himself along with several other officers toward the rear of the building in order to assist in stopping or apprehending any fleeing suspects. A gun battle erupted between those on the inside and those on the outside when one or more of the men providing security for the illicit gambling discovered any potential escape route through the back had been blocked. The gunmen on the inside fired a significant number of rounds through the rear entrance just as officers entered. A random slug from the volley unleashed by the assailants struck the policeman in the abdomen puncturing his kidney, the officer dying in the hospital from his wound the following day.
Witnesses as well as ballistics connected a specific gun to one of the shooters, the gunman being convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to one to 10 years.
Personally I hold the belief that my stepmother was on the other side of the law on this one. Her concern for the slain police officer may have stemmed from the fact he may have been on her payroll --- or not --- and that he tried or did warn her of the impending raid. As I look back at it all now as a grown adult with a much wider perspective, there is also a chance my stepmother had some sort of a wider connection back to the police officer, possibly even inter connection, financially or otherwise, with the Chinatown gambling den so alluded to such as anti-raid bribes or maybe as an owner of the building, or providing hostesses, backing high stake players, or any number of things.
So too, in sort of a sidebar here, the whole raid could have been a set up. While it is true Chinese gambling ran outside the law it also operated outside the mob's purview. L.A.s official illicit gambling trade was run by two major warring mob factions. Bugsy Siegel and his lieutenant Mickey Cohen on one side with Jack Dragna and Johnny Roselli on the other, with both sides often overlapping, sometimes ending in adverse consequences. The Chinese ran their own. My stepmother's involvement in any of the three, if at all, wink, wink, is not known.
PICKING UP AND DROPPING OFF LITTLE BAGS OF MONEY
Even though my older brother and stepmother did not get along very well it was just the opposite for she and I. True, I didn't spend a lot of time with her one-on-one very often, but every once in awhile just the two of us would go on errands together where she would pick up little bags of money here and there and sometimes drop off little bags of money here and there. Sometimes just the driver went in wherever we went and my stepmother and I stayed in the backseat, other times the two of them went in and I waited. On occasion she would drive herself and when she did I usually accompanied her. Typically when she drove herself we ended up in the office of some off the books high class night club or a mansion in a place like Bel Air. My job wasn't to question, just watch, and at all times, before, during, and after, keep my mouth shut. (see)
On one occasion my stepmother had attended some event in Pasadena, of which for reasons unknown to me, she had me catch up with her the next day. She stayed the night in Pasadena because the event ran late and the next day she was having lunch at the home of a friend who lived in Burbank. I don't remember every tiny little detail, but the same day she was having lunch I was spending the day at the Boys' Club of Hollywood. Under my stepmother's request, in the process of going to Burbank to pick her up, her driver came by and picked me up too. Now, while I say I don't recall all of the tiny details, there are a couple of things I continue to remember that still stand out quite well to this day. First, to get to Burbank we took the Arroyo Seco Parkway, which in those days was a first-of-its-kind virtually empty unused proto-type freeway. No sooner had we got on the Parkway in my stepmother's brand new 1947 Cadillac Fleetwood than he asked how would I like to go 100 miles per hour. I had gone that fast or more in a plane and a train, but never a car. Then the driver added, "If you promise not to say a word to your mom, I'm on it." As I nodded in approval the driver floorboarded the Caddy and the next thing I knew if we weren't going a 100 MPH we were going close to it, and did so for almost the full length of the Arroyo Seco Parkway. The second thing I remember is the person my stepmother had lunch with that day in Burbank, a woman by the name of Polly Adler. I never met Adler that day or any other time, however I did see her up close while sitting in the car as she and my stepmother walked toward the car.
Some days later my stepmother asked if I would like to ride with her up to Santa Barbara, just the two of us, sans bodyguard. I jumped at the chance. Not only could we spend the day together but Santa Barbara was the last place I had seen my mother alive before she died and I always wanted to go back. When I told her yes she replied by saying, "Don't expect to be going anything like a 100 miles per hour."
When we arrived in Santa Barbara we went to visit a man she knew in a hospital. She said he was a longtime friend and was recuperating after having been in the army. I am not sure what the nature of the business with the man was, but I remember he was introduced as Johnny. Years later I found out "Johnny" was Johnny Roselli, and while it is true he had been in the army, having gone in on December 4, 1942 at age 37, he only served until he was arrested on federal charges March 19, 1943. On December 30, 1943 he was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. On Aug. 13, 1947, after serving roughly three and a half years Roselli was paroled. So when my stepmother and I saw him in the hospital he may have been recuperating alright, but not from the army, but prison.
For the record, sometime in early 1948, but before summer, Cadillac came out with a whole new revamped line of cars, the whole line it was said, based on the twin tail, twin fuselage P-38 Lightning --- rendering the old ones in some owners eyes, obsolete. No sooner had the new Fleetwoods with the new design come off the assembly line than my stepmother bought one. It was the exact same color and car model, Cadillac Fleetwood, as her 1947 model, so sometimes, except for the timing of the use of either car in what I tell unfolds, Fleetwoods so mentioned, could be either the 1947 or 1948 version. I have selected the use of the 1947 version for going 100 mph with her driver primarily because of the timing of my stepmother's meeting with Roselli.
JOHNNY ROSELLI IN UNIFORM CIRCA 1943
THE MOB RETURNS A FAVOR
When I turned 21 I bought my first brand new car. Since I was 21 and had a brand new car I decided to go to Las Vegas for the first time on my own. On the way I stopped by my now ex-stepmother's hovel in the desert to see how she was and slip her a few bucks like I often did since I graduated from high school and got a job. When she learned I was going to Vegas she asked if I remembered our trip to Santa Barbara and the man in the hospital. When I told her yes she scribbled a few things on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and told me to look him up and give him the note. She told me his name was Johnny Roselli and most likely at the Desert Inn.
After I arrived in Vegas I found someone who pointed out Roselli. When I started to go up to his table a man with folded arms stepped in front of me blocking me from going any further. I told him I had a note I was asked to deliver to Mr. Roselli. The man took the envelope and told me to wait. Roselli opened the envelope, looked at the note then told the man who had stopped me to have me come to his booth. The man frisked me then let me by. I told Roselli who I was, that we had met once before and that my stepmother had asked me to deliver the note to him. He motioned me to sit down, asked how my mother was doing. I filled him in as best I could, telling him I do what I can for her, it is just that she is unwilling to accept any help. Roselli asked where I was staying. When I told him he picked up a phone on the table, dialed a number, told them he was Johnny Roselli, talked a few more minutes, then hung up. He told me he had "comped" my room for me, moved me up to a suite, and that during my stay, except for gambling, everything was on the house. He said if there was any problem tell them to call him. Then he told me to make sure I looked him up before I left as he wanted to return something to my mother. Just as I was getting up he made one last comment saying "Ride any trains lately?" I just pointed at him and we both laughed.(see)
When I went back to the Desert Inn I didn't see Roselli but there was a large manilla envelope waiting for me with one of my stepmother's old aliases written on it. On the way home I stopped by her place and gave her the envelope. When she opened it inside was $5000 in cash.
A few years later I was back seeing Roselli once again on my stepmother's behalf. Seems she had 35 fully operable vintage slot machines, albeit illegal in California, stashed away in storage unbeknownst to anyone. She had them set up at one time behind a false wall in the bar/dancehall on the ranch she used to own out in the desert. When the dancehall and bar burned down anybody that knew about them thought they were destroyed. Instead she had secreted them away days before the fire. Now, years later, what she was hoping for was a quick sale possibly with the help of someone like Roselli who had connections in the gaming industry. She asked me to meet with him to see if he could line up a quick buyer no questions asked. The whole story is covered fairly well in a footnoted section called The Fourth Meeting on the Johnny Roselli page as well as Footnote  on this page.
There is a very interesting sideline to all of this Johnny Roselli stuff that I was unwilling to share with him or bring up during our meeting in Las Vegas.
On April 1, 1939, almost twenty years to the day before Roselli and I met in Las Vegas, the then 33 year old Roselli married an up-and-coming 22 year old Hollywood actress named June Lang with 20 or more movies under her belt. Roselli, who was well known in Hollywood circles had passed himself off as an aspiring film producer, when in reality he was a major mover in the mob. Reports are that Lang was madly in love with Roselli BUT, like many on the periphery or slightly out of the loop, had no idea he was a mobster.
My real mother, who I seldom talk about, and sister, from their pre-teens to their very early teens, danced with a traveling vaudeville troup that primarily followed the Pantages Circuit and billed as the DOUGLAS DANCERS, doing such performances or scenes as Nine Tiny Tots In Fairyland and others as listed below. It was during that period June Lang was working as a dancer at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles and somewhere in there for circumstances unknown to me my mother and June Lang crossed paths. I am not privy to the depth or extent of any friendship or relationship that may have developed between the two, only that my grandmother, who seemed to have a photographic memory when it came to June Lang, over the years remembered her fondly and spoke as though she and my mother were close, at least during their childhood dancing years. My mother was three or four years older than Lang. Lang at the time had been passing herself off as being three or four years older than she actually was so she may have made friendship with my mother as a cover.
The Sunday Oregonian dated July 18, 1920, in the newspaper's Sunday 'Dramatic Section,' makes mention of the Douglas Dancers appearing at the Pantages in Portland. The photograph with the article shows ten young female performers of which the two youngest in the photo are thought to be my mother and aunt, with the girl seated on the far left my mom and the girl on the right leaning on her chin with her hands my aunt.
The Douglas Dancers were under the auspices of Hamilton Douglas Jr and his wife, an accomplished dancer in her own right. (see)
The text in the article accompanying the photograph reads:
"The second feature will be the Douglas dancers, presented by Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Douglas Jr. This is an offering that will be of particular interest to the little folk. There are four scenes in the offering, 'Artists in Miniature,' 'Shipwrecked Mariners,' 'The Enchanted Forest,' and 'A Lotus in Fairyland.' The production has been gorgeously staged and the scenery in each setting is exceptionally rich. The company has 10 people and the various dances are most artistically arranged."
Please note the full text of the page and photograph as it appears at The Sunday Oregonian link above is expandable.
It seems like during the time I was being overseen by my uncle under the ever watchful eye of my stepmother and her then unending supply of money, there wasn't anything we didn't do or anyplace we didn't go as long as she deemed it in some respects, educational --- and I didn't miss any school. The only time I DID miss any amount of school in our travels involved the Kensington Stone, a mysterious rock slab found buried a hundred years ago in the middle of Minnesota and covered top to bottom with an ancient script carved into its surface that when translated stated a group of Norsemen were in America 130 years before Columbus. When it first came up that I (we, my uncle and I) had to see the Stone it was on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. It was being exhibited there from February 17, 1948 through to February 25, 1949, after which it was going to be returned to its owners in Alexandria, Minnesota, and replaced at the Smithsonian by a plaster cast. Concerned that it might not be put back on public display where I could see it in real life when it was returned to Minnesota my uncle convinced my stepmother he and I should go to DC and see it. Which we did.
I took the week off before the regularly scheduled school year Christmas vacation started, returning home the day before Christmas. We went by train using the southern route through Yuma, El Paso, New Orleans, then to Atlanta and on up to Washington. The whole upper tier of the U.S., and especially so the upper midwest, was covered in the worst snow anybody had ever seen, some places so deep locomotives and whole trains were completely buried with tracks covered for hundreds of miles with so much snow they couldn't even be plowed. A good part of the remaining rail service was shifted toward the southern part of the country and I remember we were caught up in it all both coming and going. No sooner had I returned and finished what was left of my vacation and started school than on January 8-11, 1949, all of downtown Los Angeles was hit with snow. The hills all around the civic center, the Hollywood Hills where the sign is, even Griffith Observatory. The storm was so bad that on January 11 the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down and declared its one and only district-wide Snow Day. It was bad enough the rest of the country was zapped by snow, but Los Angeles? I remember being totally amazed by it all as well as my uncle saying the last time it snowed like that in L.A. he had just met Albert Einstein.
A few years before the above snow event, when I was around seven years old, I was put on a passenger train in Pennsylvania headed toward Chicago. In Chicago I changed trains, boarding the premier all Pullman first class passenger train to Los Angeles, the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief. Toward midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, a powerful Baldwin built 4-8-4 Northern with 80 inch drive wheels and clocking out at over 90 miles per hour, hit a marked 55 mph speed limit curve, with the locomotive, bearing the Santa Fe Identification #3774, derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for nearly the length of two football fields before coming to a stop.
I WAS ASLEEP IN ONE OF SANTA FE CHIEF PULLMAN CARS JULY 3, 1944
(photo from Chris Baird Collection)
The wreck killed the fireman and three passengers and injuring 113 passengers along with 13 train employees, among them the severely injured engineer. Although I was unhurt, the person or people I was traveling with was among the injured and taken, with me along with them, to either Williams or Flagstaff. Because of the nature of their injuries, whoever I was traveling with was held-up under doctors care for several days, leaving me without direct adult supervision. My grandmother, who had been contacted by the railroad, called my uncle in Santa Fe. He inturn contacted a nearby Native American tribal spiritual elder he knew to oversee me until he could catch up with me. See:
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
All the next day and into the next night following the crash found me basically just sitting in a train station in Williams waiting to be met by my uncle. While waiting, a man sitting on a bench close by asked if I would like to look at one of his grandson's comic books. When I nodded yes he handed me a comic book called Blue Bolt, in of which had a story called The Goose Shoot, a story I was so utterly fascinated by that I read it over-and-over without hardly ever stopping or setting it down. The man, after seeing how much I appreciated both the book and the story, simply gave it to me. My uncle recounted I continued to read it again and again all the way back to California and months afterwards. The following pretty much sums up the Goose Shoot story and why I was so spellbound by it:
"On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed."
A few years later when my uncle discovered in some roundabout way that he actually knew Harry Ramsey, the artist who did the drawings used in the Goose Shoot, my uncle, knowing how much I loved the story decided to put into place a situation where Ramsey and I could actually meet.
Long before that meeting and a very, very long time before I was ever born or even thought of, my uncle-to-be, just out of high school, began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and the Art Student's League in New York City. A year or two before the start of the Great Depression and barely into his 20s he decided to follow an important and well established artist he met and studied under named John Sloan to New Mexico. Sloan traveled to New Mexico each year for a few months to paint and relax. On their second or third trip, when Sloan returned to New York, my uncle stayed, having fallen in love with Santa Fe, the culture and the desert southwest.
However, before my uncle made a decision to just stay in Santa Fe he would return each year with Sloan. In doing so, each time he returned he was just as much if not more so still a destitute artist who had not much more choices than to continue to travel in similar or like struggling artist type circles.
A few years before, when America entered World War I, Ramsey was 40 years old. With the maximum age for enlisting being 36 he went to Italy and enlisted with the Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in service of the Red Cross, continuing with the Red Cross in Italy, France, and Great Britain, not returning to the U.S. until 1920. During the first few years after his return he struggled to reestablish himself as an artist.
Sometime just before 1926 my uncle moved to New Mexico on a permanent basis. Around that same time, i.e., just before 1926, Ramsey found himself edging far enough up the financial ladder that he was able to afford his own art studio on East 59th Street. However, during those first few years prior to that 1926 period --- that is, between 1920 and 1925 --- both my uncle and Ramsey, if not actually financially down-and-out, were still hand-to-mouth painting-to-painting struggling artists, and as such, after becoming acquainted, identified with each other's plight, becoming friends.
In 1948, as mentioned previously, I took the whole week off before the school year's regularly scheduled Christmas break, traveling with my uncle to Washington D.C. and not returning home until the day before Christmas. The trip east was a two-part excursion. First, to see the Kensington Stone, which was on display at the time at the Smithsonian Institution, and secondly to meet with Harry Ramsey, the artist that drew the Goose Shoot.
We arrived in D.C. sometime during the early or mid-part of the week just prior to Christmas. The Sunday after I arrived, December 19, 1948, New York City was blanketed with 19.6 inches of snow. Sometime after our arrival but prior to our departure my uncle and I met with Ramsey, spending a good part of a day or so and on into the evening. How or when Ramsey arrived or made it to D.C. from New York or Philadelphia I don't recall, if I ever knew, only that he emphasized several times how happy he was that he missed the brunt of the storm that hit New York.
During our time together my uncle and Ramsey did most of the talking while I basically just listened. Some of it was interesting, some of it was boring. One of the things that came up was Ramsey's Red Cross service during the war. My uncle knowing there were a number of artists and writers that served with the Red Cross during World War I, he asked Ramsey if he knew any of the Literary Ambulance Drivers of the day. Although at the time I was just a kid I do remember they had a tendency to go on-and-on about Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. If they ever mentioned William Somerset Maugham, who was also an ambulance driver and whose main character in his book The Razor's Edge played such a major role in my life, I don't recall.
What I do recall and recall very strongly even up to this day is Ramsey's comments regarding himself being the artist for the Goose Shoot story. Because I was going to see Ramsey I took my copy of BLUE BOLT No. 6 that had the story of the Goose Shoot in it. I was very disappointed with some of the stuff he told me, very pleased with others. What I was mostly disappointed with was a seeming distance he had with the story, to him it was just another assignment while all those years I had read much more into it. What I wasn't disappointed with, and what has intrigued me the most to this day, was his comments about the German bomber he drew. What he told me was totally unsolicited and came about only as we were going through the story page by page. At the time we were talking I didn't know the difference between one German bomber and the next, and for the most part still don't to this day. What was most intriguing for me was that when he was creating the drawings for the story neither did he. One day at lunch or over coffee or drinks, and still struggling with his dilemma to complete the story, he mentioned his bomber problem to a fellow artist who just happened to be a cartoonist drawing comics day-to-day for the same publishing company.
The next day his fellow artist went through his morgue and came up with a series of three or four pencil sketches he drew dated August 1943 of a huge six engine plane with a German insignia on the fuselage he saw flying by his high perch window one day in the sky over New York. Since nobody was excessively over interested in drawings done by some low level cartoonist, he just stuck them away in his morgue. With a few minor changes Ramsey used the same low level cartoonist's drawings for his own bomber inspiration.
The interesting part of Ramsey's illustration of the Goose Shoot story is that most of the planes the P-40s engaged in real life that day were tri-motor Ju-52 Junkers while Ramsey, in his four page story drew the planes as having six-engines. Please notice however, in the last panel of the Goose Shoot story below, even though he didn't draw the German planes as tri-motors but with six motors, he still called them Junkers.
So, the bottom line or the take away here is, although Ramsey himself did not see the bomber personally in flight over New York City his fellow cartoonist did. The fellow cartoonist sketched what he saw from his high perch loft window and when Ramsey mentioned the need for some sort of inspiration to draw German bombers for his Goose Shoot story, the fellow artist gave him his sketches. Sketches he said that he had done from actual observation of a similar or like craft over New York clearly marked on the side of the fuselage with German insignia.
"Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier."
A BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
The ranch my stepmother bought was located in the high desert of the Mojave, encompassing a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten acres set aside in one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had my stepmother bought the ranch than my brothers and I, basically all city born and raised, moved in, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses, mend fences like ranch owners were always doing on TV, and shovel horse manure like has to be done in real life. We also did other real important things too like hop freight trains that stopped for water at a tower along the tracks near the ranch as well as shoot guns, not so much at each other, however.(see)
The ranch house had a number of guns, some on the walls and above the doors such as a lever action 30-30 Winchester, a shotgun or two, a couple of .22 rifles, and a pride of my stepmother's, a very rare antique 1847 black powder percussion revolver called a Colt Walker which was usually kept in a case. Every once in a while I would take the 4.5 pound Colt from the case and run around playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers Disintegrator in the other. In that the Colt was a black powder revolver and since nobody knew how to load it and everybody was afraid to, it was never loaded, although in later years the Colt was sent to a gunsmith for some reason or the other and while there the gunsmith let me fire three rounds through it.
No sooner had we moved onto the ranch than my dad, who along with my stepmother remained living in the city, started to look around at tractors and such. Instead he decided on a four wheel drive World War II jeep to tool around in. Even though none of us kids were old enough to drive legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove all over the place.
My dad actually bought the Jeep after answering an ad similar to the one below. The ad offered surplus Jeeps for $278.00. After looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda.
I still remember as a boy showing up with my dad and brothers. The whole place turned out to be a huge labyrinth of buildings, cranes, railroad tracks, and narrow between the structures roadways. On the docks were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires.
Other than learning a new word and having it added to my vocabulary, i.e., cosmoline, except for one thing, I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep, how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. The thing is, my dad brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli.
During the heat of the summer my dad didn't want to drive down California's central valley on Highway 99 or cross over the Sierras to use the 395, although once to either highway it would have been the most direct to the ranch. Instead he chose to drive down the California coastline on Highway 1 --- and what a trip it was no matter what highway we would have used. A jeep, no top, my dad and three kids, no real back seats and all before seat belt days. At first the jeep wouldn't go over 45 miles an hour. When we stopped for gas for the first time and with my dad complaining, the attendant, who had been in the Army and knew about jeeps said it was because of a "governor," a device or some such thing the Army put on vehicles to ensure they weren't driven too fast. The attendant took a screwdriver, fiddled with a few things, and the next thing we knew the jeep could do over 60! A couple of days later after camping along the way we were back at the ranch.
For us, we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing sonic booms.
WORLD WAR II SURPLUS JEEPS
NEW, STILL IN A BOX FOR $50.00
JEEP IN A BOX
THE BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
THE JEEP, NEVADA, AND THE RED-HAIRED GIANTS
Bruneman survived the Redondo Beach shooting. Three months later, on Monday, October 24, 1937 he wasn't so lucky having eight bullets pumped into him by two other mob assailants, Leo "Lips" Moceri and Frank Bompensiro while sitting and having a few drinks in the Roost Cafe located at 2700 Temple Street, Los Angeles. Within seconds of hitting the floor they ensured the job was completed by throwing several more rounds in him. A couple of bullets that passed through Bruneman tore into the legs of a woman that was with him, a 24-year-old nurse named Alice Ingram he met in the hospital from the first shooting.
The woman that slipped away in the dark following that first shooting never surfaced publicly, however the second woman, Patricia Eatone, a hostess at Bruneman's Surf Club, who was detained by the police as a witness, showed up five years later working at Brittingham's Radio Center Restaurant in Columbia Square, a popular hangout for one Elizabeth Short. The end of August, 1942 Eatone married CBS radio announcer Hugh Brundage.
John Buntin in his most excellent book on the era, L.A. NOIR: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City (2009) says it best about Brenda Allen when he writes:
"Allen was Hollywood's most prosperous madam, in part because she was so cautious. Rather than take on the risks that came with running a 'bawdy house,' Allen relied on a telephone exchange service to communicate with clients who were vetted with the utmost care. She prided herself on serving the cr'me de la cr'me of Los Angeles. By 1948, she had 114 'pleasure girls' in her harem."
Following all the uproar over her and the trial Brenda Allen was a lady who only wanted to disappear, taking on nothing but a low profile after her release from jail --- with just a couple of blips now and then like her divorce from Robert H. Cash in 1961 --- after which she totally dropped out of sight. There are reports she passed away in 1998.
Reference article on Allen's Friday, September 2, 1949 release from jail: (click)
During the two years my dad and stepmother were gone things really changed, and not all of the change transpired quickly or smoothly in one year blocks. Most of it had to do with financing, which either began to erode, became sporadic at best, or just plain stopped while the two of them were gone. My stepmother's longtime trusted bookkeeper began to renege on payments for our upkeep such as mortgages, rent, utility bills, and day to day expenditures, then began siphoning off the money --- if not more --- for himself. My older brother came back from Idaho to live with our grandmother in the mountains east of L.A. before she moved back to Redondo Beach. My uncle, who I had been with almost exclusively for four years straight, found himself in such a position that he eventually had to return to his old stomping grounds in Santa Fe and much to his dismay, not being able to take me with him.
Unlike my older brother and myself my younger brother had been overseen by a nanny or a series of nannies most of the time my dad and stepmother were together. However, just as the two of them were leaving for South America, with no one specifically in the picture to oversee him, a woman who had at onetime worked for my stepmother asked --- or at least consented in some fashion --- to have him come live with her. She had been an entertainer with the USO during World War II, billing herself as Pauline Page and Her All Girl Band.(see) Near the end of the war she became associated with Brenda Allen and Fifie Malouf as well as my stepmother, and then, eventually, after meeting my father, falling madly in love with him. Seeing it was not going to work she married a former sergeant she met while touring with the USO who had never stopped pursuing her. They bought one of those look-alike every other house had a reverse floorplan tract homes that sprang up all over in former stoop-labor farmland south of Los Angeles while he went to work for one of the aircraft factories and she stayed home wearing an apron and no underpants.
With my father, stepmother, brothers and grandmother all gone I was left basically hanging. Without many options, and after some heavy negotiating by my uncle, Aunt Pauline --- as we were told to call her --- took me in as well. The thing is, all good intentions notwithstanding, for me the arrangement didn't work out so hot, with me ending up running away on more than one occasion.(see)
Within hours if not minutes of my stepmother's departure, seeing there was a good chance I was going to end up living with Pauline, and always thinking of me in a good light and the best for me as she viewed it, she handed an envelope to my uncle to give to me with strict instructions that even though it was OK for me to see the contents I was not show it or give it to anybody else except to the person it was addressed --- in other words, keep Pauline out of it.
"The envelope was addressed to a man named Russ Miller, the owner of the Normandie Club, one of six legal poker casinos in the city, with those six being practically the only legal poker clubs in the whole state. I knew enough about gambling places to know that no 12 or 13 year old kid was just going up to the front door and walk right in."
THE NORMANDIE CLUB
On a page I have on the net called Fifie Malouf I write about an 'old man' that tended the oil derricks not far from where I lived after I moved back to Redondo Beach and started high school. I spent a good portion of every summer on one of my stepmother's ranches, but, even so, I remember at least once, possibly more, on the Fourth of July the 'old man' would take me and a bunch of neighborhood kids to the top of one of the old out of service wooden oil derricks scattered along the city line to watch the fireworks being shot off in the surrounding communities. He lived in a combination caretakers shack, repair shop near the wells. What I didn't tell was that the 'old man' was an avid gun collector and master gunsmith. During my last year in high school the Colt had been caught in a fire on one of my stepmother's ranches when the main house caught fire and burnt to the ground. She let me take the Colt to the 'old man' to return it to a good condition and ensure it was in working order. I don't know in it's lifetime when the Colt was fired last or if it was ever fired, however the 'old man,' after making sure it was in good working order by test firing it in a jig, loaded it up and fired off a few rounds by hand. Then he handed the Colt to me and I finished the last three.
Edging into the late 1950s my stepmother, or ex-stepmother as the case may be, she and my father having long since divorced, had fallen on hard times. Her flow of money that once went into owning a slew of apartments, houses, and bars in Los Angeles as well as vast ownership of large tracts of ranchland gone. Except for retaining and living on 88 acres of sparse Mojave desert land that rose up off the valley floor into even more sparse foothill-like mountain-desert land, she was indigent. In those years I would drop by to see her and leave a few bucks whenever I could. Each time with her always politely refusing, even though when I was a kid she had unselfishly and without question lavished thousands upon thousands of dollars on my brothers and me as we were growing up. In the end I always just put it in some indiscriminant spot on the table or some such place when it was time for me to leave.
The property she owned and lived on was overrun by goats, about 2000 she guessed, that she was supposedly raising for some Argentine goat buyer. He had unloaded several truckloads of goats in some sort of a deal with my stepmother and never came back. In the meantime they had pretty much gone about repropagating themselves ad infinitum. She herself lived in a small trailer crudely fenced off to keep the goats out. In the meantime the goats had just about eaten and destroyed almost anything and everything they could reach. The onetime property main house had been completely gutted, the goats having broken every window, knocked down every door and tore apart every piece of furniture, even eating most if not all of the electrical wiring.
When I would go see her, even though the gate was locked and I would honk the horn until she came down and opened it, because of the goats I always left my car on the outside of the fence and walked in.
Typically when I visited I would bring a few six packs of ice cold Lucky Lager beer and on hot summer evenings around sunset through moonrise and beyond we would kick back on what was left of the porch of the main house looking out over the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert stretching out below us and watching the ever turning slow grind of the circumpolar stars wending their endless track around the north star, drinking beers, laughing, crying, and BS'ing about the old days way into the early morning hours.
One day going to see my stepmother I drove up to the gate and as usual honked the horn. After several repeated long blasts with no sign of any goats or my stepmother, a scraggy looking old guy with no teeth carrying a lever action 30-30 and accompanied by a just as scraggy looking old dog WITH teeth, came down out of the rocks to the gate asking me what the hell I wanted. I told him who I was and who I was looking for. He said, "She don't live her no more, she moved into town." Then cocking the rifle said, "Now, get the hell off'n my property before I fill you and that fancy car of yurn full of holes." With that I got in my fancy car, a low-slung two seater British sports car that I had bought brand new, with louvers all along the hood held down with a leather belt, and left.
Driving away from the gate I was glad I wouldn't be going up to that property again. Every time I did I was afraid I was going to punch a hole in the crankcase or some such thing because of the rocks and how rough the road was compared to how low my car was to the ground. They used to say the suspension on the type sportscar I owned was so stiffly sprung that you could drive over a dime and tell if it was facing heads or tails --- so you can pretty much figure what it must have been like driving up a rough-hewn desert trail.
Quickly putting into place a hasty departure after a micro-second looking down the barrel of the old man's cocked lever action 30-30 I began scrounging around in the general outlying area as to my stepmother's whereabouts. Several inquiries later with a handful of bartenders, ne'er-do-wells, sleeping it off cowboys, left over bar patrons, and a few working women I figured would know her, and of whom I talked to anyway even after I found out where my stepmother was, I was eventually able to track her down. Seems that an arrangement for the sale of some items of worth that unknown to me or anybody she had mysteriously stashed away in storage since just before her ranch burned down --- and that a few months before she requested I approach a certain go between for a potential buyer --- paid off big time, at least considering the level she was operating at in those days. She was able to get a favorable price for the items, move into a place nearer town, and, no longer needing the 88 acres, sold it throwing in all the goats. She wasn't totally on top of the heap for sure, but at least she was no longer under it for awhile. The items? Thirty-five illegal slot machines. The go between I approached on behalf of my stepmother for the sale? A big-time mob heavyweight, who, in my life, I had met at least three times previously prior to the negotiation for the sale of the slot machines. See:
JOHNNY ROSELLI, SLOT MACHINES, AND THE FBI
Above I mention I made several inquiries searching for my stepmother by talking to a handful of bartenders, ne'er-do-wells, sleeping it off cowboys, left over bar patrons, and a few working women. It just so happened that during that quest, sometime around one in the morning, just as I was about to leave my umpteenth out in the middle of the desert isolated biker-type honkytonk bar, after talking to just such a group of ladies --- with no luck regarding my stepmother --- some prick of a guy with a couple of even prickier buddies stepped in front of me as I was leaving wanting to know if I was the pussy that owned the stupid little car out front. Before I had a chance to say anything, a woman I hadn't talked to or noticed even, who had been sitting in the dark at the end of the bar edged between me and them saying I was with her, but if it was pussy they were interested in... With that, they just turned and left. She nodded her head toward the door and some guy followed them our returning in about five minutes. I thanked her and after checking the status of my car ensuring the three men hadn't trashed in in some fashion and of which unknown to the me the man who followed them out made sure they didn't, and, even though it had slipped past closing time, the woman and I sat in the empty bar in a booth and talked over coffee.
She knew my stepmother, plus we even had a couple of a mutual acquaintances, Brenda Allen, saying she had worked for her at one time, and Pauline Page, who used to work for Fifie Malouf. After a reminder from the woman, in an odd sort of way I remembered we actually knew each other as well. That's why she stepped between me and the man earlier. We had met maybe ten years before at an infamous bar-casino-brothel in Searchlight, Nevada called the El Rey Club. After her reminder I easily recalled the circumstances. I was a teenager then, during the summer just before I was going to start my second year in high school. We both laughed how I couldn't take my teenage eyes off --- as I remember --- her well-shaped voluptuous breasts and cleavage, she even offering me a better look if I wanted. Then, after pretending to unbutton her blouse a little saying she was still waiting, we started talking about the serious stuff, of which I really remembered and is pretty much summed up in the following as found on the El Rey page:
"(When my stepmother) saw me chit-chatting with the lady she didn't seem very happy, asking the woman just what exactly the two of us were talking about and why. With that the woman, the two of them seemingly knowing each other in an adversarial fashion, got up and said, 'Fuck you Queenie, you don't mean shit around here!' while at the same time throwing the contents of a half empty glass of ice water in her direction, albeit totally missing. When it appeared the woman was about to lunge toward my stepmother following the water mishap, Martello, seeing my stepmother was pulling a nickel plated .25 semi-automatic Baby Browning out of her purse and with me ducking for cover, maintained the distance between the two by slightly nudging my stepmother around before she got close enough for contact, saying he would take care of it. With that, Martello hustled us both out of the club. He had a driver take the two of us and our pilot, who had been playing blackjack in the casino, back to the airport about two miles south of town. Waiting on the tarmac was the twin engine Beechcraft Queen Air we flew up in, the plane and pilot provided us by Pancho Barnes. However, instead of leaving like I thought we would, we just waited."
THE EL REY CLUB: RESORT, CASINO, BROTHEL
PALM SIZE NICKEL PLATED .25 SEMI-AUTOMATIC BABY BROWNING
(click image for source)
As found in the footnote, my dad and stepmother had gone to Mexico and South America for a couple of years and in the meantime they parsed me and brothers out to the care of others. My older brother went to live with my grandmother and my younger brother went to live with a couple of which the woman of the couple was somehow known to my stepmother. My Uncle, who had basically had charge of me since I was eight years old was going back to Santa Fe and after some negotiating was able to convince the couple that took my younger brother to take me as well. It didn't work out with me running away on more than one occasion. My uncle contacted my stepmother who told my uncle to put me into some kind of boys home until she got back, but not a disciplinary one like they had put my older brother in at one time, but an educational one. In the process my uncle checked out the Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson and took me with him.
The school for boys idea didn't take hold and I ended up back with the couple after promising my uncle I would behave until other solutions were found or my stepmother returned. Typically, under almost any normal circumstances I would never go against a promise I made with my uncle, but, with "the stepmother back loophole" bargained into the promise, as soon as I found out she had returned it wasn't long before I was on the lam again.
What happened to me immediately after I ran away from the foster couple is pretty much summed up in the paragraph in quotes below from the source so cited. Basically, without anyone's knowledge, I took a Greyhound bus north to the Mojave Desert searching down and eventually locating my then just divorced-from-my-father stepmother, or ex-stepmother as the case may have been, at her newly acquired ranch in the Mojave following her return from a two year sojourn to Mexico and South America:
"Although impressed that I ran away just to be with her she thought it best to get in touch with my dad and see what she should do next. Unwilling to talk with my grandmother she called the woman of the foster couple I ran away from, who she knew and was friends with, hoping to find out if I should be returned to them or to locate my father, telling the woman that I was in good care and everything was OK. The woman of the couple, Aunt Pauline, told my stepmother to 'keep the fucking little asshole, I don't give a shit what happens to him.' Then she added, 'Don't forget his prick of a little brother, either.' My stepmother, taking into consideration there were no subtle or hidden messages in her response, being quite clear as well as taking her at her word, contacted my uncle to see if he had any idea where my dad was. He didn't, but told my stepmother if she could find no other solution and she could get me to Santa Fe he would deal with situation until everything could be hammered out. With that, having no success locating my dad for whatever reason, rather than sticking me on some grungy multi-day cross desert bus ride to my uncle's and not knowing for sure if I wouldn't just get off somewhere on the way, she arranged for the same former World War II P-47 pilot that flew my uncle and me to Sacramento a few years before to fly me to Santa Fe, ensuring, she hoped, I would be less likely to get out mid-trip."(source)
THE WANDERLING: OF OLGA GREENLAW, FIREHAIR, AND
A BUNCH OF OTHER EARLY INFATUATION EXPERIENCES!
On my page regarding the Flying Tigers, linked previously in the main text above as well as below, in a footnote sub-titled OLGA GREENLAW, PROCLIVITIES ET AL? wherein I discuss a number of things that involve the onetime Flying Tiger pilot turned World War II Marine flying ace Colonel Greg Boyington shortly after the war, the following shows up:
"Several days later my stepmother, who really didn't know one way or the other what she had or didn't have, others taking care of such things, went by both addresses to see what, if anything was going on, finding each of the houses empty. She had only just gone into the second house to look around when, unbeknownst to her, Boyington parked outside. My stepmother's bodyguard (also her driver), seeing Boyington coming toward the house after suspiciously looking around and not knowing who he was or why he was there, stepped behind him as soon as he entered the door sticking the barrel of his fully loaded .45 automatic in the small of Boyington's back."
All these years later, for whatever reason, every time I see or think of the 1962 movie Walk On The Wild Side with the immaculately dressed actor Richard Rust playing the role of the velvet gloved enforcer Oliver I can't help but being reminded of my stepmother's bodyguard. Clicking the graphic below will take you to a short film segment of a Turner Classic Movie video from Walk On The Wild Side that at the one minute and thirty second mark shows what and how Oliver subsequently fulfills his expected duties:
(please click image)
THE FLYING TIGERS
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
My Stepmother died in December 1985 at age 81. Late in the year 1984, almost exactly one year to-the-day before she died, after not seeing or hearing from her for a whole decade my stepmother contacted me out of the blue through my younger brother. After she and I went about apologizing to each other for being so remiss in not seeing each other for so many years she told me she called because her long time former ranch foreman Leo was in desperate need to contact me. Leo told me he had a badge or medal of some kind that came into his possession years before that had been taken by a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer from a German submariner who had escaped from a POW camp in Arizona. He heard through old contacts there was going to be a reunion of sorts of former camp POWs and he felt there was a good chance the submariner was going to attend. Leo told me he himself was too old, sick and weak to travel, but knew, since I was aware of the full extent of the story, would I, for him, be willing to return the medal to the ex-POW --- and if he wasn't there to seek out someone who could get it back to him or his heirs.
For more in-depth follow up on the medal, the POW, et al, please see the following two links and more specifically so Footnote  of the first link:
GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
- WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Good biography. Lots of Maugham graphics, from early childhood to late adult.
- W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHY
- MAUGHAM IN INDIA
- LITERARY AMBULANCE DRIVERS
Everybody knows Hemingway drove an ambulance during WWI, nobody knows Maugham did.
- THE ART COLLECTION OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE:
In regards to Pancho's place being a target for "a possible strike from the air," there is an article that was published on April 23, 1953, page 33 of the New York edition of the New York Times with a headline that reads: "Threats to Bomb Ranch Charged to Air General." To view the complete article requires a purchase of the article from the Times through their Order Reprints service. However, prior to any purchase of that specific article the Order Reprints page offers the following thumbnail sketch of the article which includes the headline and the first paragraph:
Threats to Bomb Ranch Charged to Air General
Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES APRIL 23, 1953
LOS ANGELES, April 22 -- Alleged threats by Brig. Gen. Joseph Stanley Holtoner, commanding officer of the Edwards Air Force Base, to bomb her resort ranch were related to Federal Judge James M. Carter today by Miss Florence Pancho Barnes, also known as a flier. She asks $300,000 damages for injury to her resort business.
I have however, for my readers, been able to retrieve a complete and unabridged United Press version that appears for all practical purposes, at least information-wise, to be basically the same as the Times article, albeit as it appeared in the Lubbock Evening Journal, Lubbock, Texas, Thursday, April 23, 1953, page 3, and presented here for educational purposes at no charge:
THREAT TO BOMB RANCH CHARGED
General Accused By Woman
LOS ANGELES. April 23 'UP' Florence Pancho Barnes, pioneer aviatrix, charged in federal court Wednesday that Air Force Brig. Gen. Joseph S. Holtoner threatened to bomb her out of her Mojave Destert dude ranch. Miss Barnes accused Holtoner of making the threats because of efforts to serve a subpoena in connection with her S300.000 civil suit for damages against him. Holtoner is commanding genera] of Edwards Air Force Base near Muroc, Calif., which adjoins Miss Barnes' dude ranch. "He said he'd bomb my place; burn it up with napalm bombs," Miss Barnes told Federal Judge James M. Carter. "I'd like Congress to answer for him," the round-faced aviatrix said. "They made him an officer but they didn't make him a gentleman." Mrs. Barnes appeared in court as her own attorney after her civil suit was transferred from state to federal court at the request of the U. S. attorney's office which is handling the general's defense. In her action. Miss Barnes accused the general of instituting a boycott against her as part of the government's effort to condemn the ranch she valued at $1,500,000 for only $180,000. She charged the alleged boycott in which service personnel were warned to stay away from her ranch was ruining her business.
Notice Pancho tells the Federal Judge, in court, that the good general had told her in no uncertain terms, "he'd bomb my place; burn it up with napalm bombs." Then what happens, the place burns down under mysterious circumstances with witnesses reporting they heard not only loud explosions but saw whole walls blown out. I'm with Pancho on this one, and as far as her place being a brothel, Pancho was no madam. That was left for others to do.
OLGA GREENLAW, AGE 31, HIAPHONG HARBOR
THE CAB FORWARDS
Across the ranch from the entrance gate, the full length of the fence on the far end of the property edged right up along the Southern Pacific Railroad's mainline. A short distance north up along the tracks from that far corner was a major watering stop and siding that the freight locomotives, both northbound and southbound, invariably stopped at to take on water or get out of the way of the streamliners. Not a whole lot of time passed between the time we arrived on the ranch and we started showing up along the siding and watering stop to watch the giant 4-8-8-2 steam locomotives called cab forwards take on water.
On one of those days my older brother and cousin climbed into an empty gondola car unobserved, and in a classic Sullivan brothers "Hey, fellas, wait for me!" moments, my little brother and I climbed in as well. The train started to move and right away it was going so fast there was nothing we could do but stay in the gondola. An hour or so later we were in the switch yards in Mojave. We had only just pulled into the switch yard than we were "discovered." After a bunch of hem-hawing back-and-forth between a bunch of low level railroad crew members afraid of being busted we were put on a southbound train, with me and my older brother riding up front in a cab forward, my younger brother and cousin in the caboose, all of us getting off at the water stop near the ranch.
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
The quote that this footnote is so referenced to from above, can be found on any number of my pages located here and there around the web. The paragraph showed-up probably for the first time in its original format on my Roy Rogers and Andy Devine page linked below, most likely derived in some fashion from my so-called Profile page, also linked below. Although the quote itself may not show up on every one of the pages on the list, there are all kinds of cowboys, superheroes, etc., et al, in one form or the other, that have had some sort of a connection or impact in my life, be it major or minor, positive or negative and in their own way relate back to the full gist of the quote in some manner. Good hunting:
FLYING CAPTAIN MARVEL
ZEN AND THE ART OF FLYING MEN
In relation to picking up and dropping off little bags of money here and there, when my stepmother decided to take a two-year sojourn to Mexico and South America, unbeknownst to the foster couple I was sent to live with, my stepmother arranged for me to get a part-time job after school and on the weekends working in the kitchen and food service area of a card club in Gardena, the same town I lived in with the foster couple.
One Saturday late in the afternoon or early evening several months after I started working there I was in the back of the club when four or five rough looking suit types, rather than coming in the front, came through the back entrance headed toward the casino offices. As I looked up one of the men said, "What are you lookin' at fuckface?" I diverted my eyes downward, but as soon as I did he stopped the group and came over to me tipping my head up to get a closer look, all the while squeezing my jaw and chin really tight. Another of the men, seeing how tight I was being squeezed, put his arm between the two of us, stretching the distance between the man and me causing the man to loosen his grip. In a much nicer, softer tone the other man said, "Hey kid, remember me?" And sure enough I did. Matter of fact, after looking at the men more closely I recognized two or three of them. By then the owner was there with a couple of other guys wanting to know what was going on.
It seems the heavyweights were coming in the backdoor to catch the owner off guard, possibly even planning on using the art of friendly persuasion inflicted through some sort of bodily harm. The interlude with me stopped them just long enough for the owner to confront them with witnesses. Whatever the problem was it was all diffused and before anything could happen, nothing happened --- or at least delayed to another day. Nobody was shot anyway.
It was either during one of the aforementioned times my stepmother was picking up little bags of money here and there or dropping off little bags of money here and there that I saw or came across two or three of the men in the group that came into the Normandie Club that evening --- and why or how a couple of the men recognized me. I was a great deal younger than 12 years old when the above events happened, so for my stepmother to have a young boy with her under such circumstances was so atypical that I was easily remembered. Those types of dealings were done in an all adult world, kids just didn't exist. If a kid did exist at that level it had to be for a special reason. In my case if it was to diffuse the eventuality of a potential toxic situation or being groomed for later participation in similar type activities I didn't know nor never learned. In later years, now for example, I do have a tendency to lean toward the groomed for later participation in similar type activities aspect of it all. Below is a quote from interactions I participated in in later years as found at the source so cited, that pretty much substantiates that view:
"My stepmother and I had a long and special relationship from the very beginning, she having from very early on taken me under her wing and into her confidence. Until everything she had came crashing down and she lost everything, I think she was grooming me for a very special high position in whatever she did, as she always made it a point for people to know me and who I was, and that I was a person, even though a kid, was someone that could be trusted. When she said that the slot machines should be dealt with on the sly I knew exactly what she meant --- and she knew I knew."
JOHNNY ROSELLI, SLOT MACHINES, AND THE FBI
JOHNNY ROSELLI, SLOT MACHINES, AND THE FBI