Saturday, July 16, 2011
"Goddesses" Summer 2011 Journal
On June 28, I departed for a week and a half long working vacation that commenced in the beautiful seaside town of Leucadia, a part of Encinitas, California, where my parents had lived and learned ceramics during the late 1940s. My mom who was a groupie of sorts, met my father when the Mart Kenny (big) band played a concert near her hometown of North Hatley, Quebec. She asked for my father's autograph; he asked for her phone number and the next day they spent the afternoon together in Montreal. They were married in 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, after only a three week courtship. (Quite commonly done during war time, but not recommended as a rule.) As the story goes, one freezing snowy night when my father met my mother outside of a Toronto hotel following a gig in a swing band where he performed as a sax player, he declared, "This is the last time I'll spent a winter in this goddamn country!!" And he meant it. So they packed up the car and embarked on a three week road trip across two countries until they landed in Southern California. Family members on my mother's side (specifically, her uncle George Auger who built cabin motels in Encinitas in the 1930s...they are still standing, and her brother Val and his family) had already transplanted to the sunny southern coast so it seemed like a natural transition for my parents. As a proud Canadian who believes that springtime in Southern Ontario rivals any other part of the globe as one of the most picturesque, and as one who has also endured more than her share of icy cold winters, I can clearly appreciate my father's sentiments. The reprieve from the cool and grey rainy start to summer was a welcome change. Since returning home to sweltering heat (not that I'm complaining, mind you), it seems like the wet and cold June we experienced is a lifetime away.
The primary focus of my trip, apart from spending time with family and friends, was to take the opportunity to meet some of the ladies who will be featured in "Goddesses". The interview process was completed last winter, but I felt it was important to attempt to spend face time with some of the people I hadn't yet met. They say you can't know a person until you've walked a mile in her moccasins, and although I haven't even baby-stepped in the shoes of the women who are front and centre in my story, I hoped to catch the essence of the women profiled.
I’ve often said that one of the most significant benefits of having worked on the two book projects for the past five years are the friends I have made and greatly value. Julia St. Vincent (who has become one of my closest friends) and I kicked off the first night with a great country music show in Del Mar, and sat at the outdoor venue on the gorgeous late June evening totally dazzled by the Charlie Daniels band - followed by Travis Tritt. It was a perfect night and a great mood setter for an action packed sojourn. (Coincidentally, we met Tritt's keyboard player backstage. After some verbal sparring and sharing a few amusing stories, the party broke up, but it was one of those wonderful encounters suspended in space.) On Wednesday, I took in some morning beach time at Stone Steps in Encinitas; went for an oceanside walk in the afternoon, and had dinner in Carlsbad accompanied by Julia's handsome and very well behaved canine Mr. P. Good times. The next day I set off for Riverside to visit Rhonda Jo Petty.
Rhonda lives on a spread in the desert that is equipped with a swimming pool, horses stables, sea creatures (including her transient turtle friend) and a tennis court - she is also one of the most earthy and genuine people to have agreed to participate in my project. For a few hours I sat in her colourful, spanish decor kitchen sipping lemonade, and sifted through various snapshots of her life as a woman, a mother and an adult film star. It was easy to realize where she has been, and how much she appreciates her life and her family today. During my trip I had the opportunity to meet both of her children, Brock and McKensie. They seemed like terrific young people who are very proud of their mother (Brock even filmed a documentary for school about his mother and her former career) and the feeling is definitely mutual.
The next day I found myself situated at a homey B&B (Elaine’s) in gorgeous old Hollywood and remained there for four days. The owners Elaine and her husband are terrific people who made me feel welcome (allowed me to place many telephone calls back to Canada) and granted me privacy to work if I felt inclined, and/or keep to my schedule. During my stay in old Hollywood, I hooked up with my friend Chris (we always have great chats and tasty wine) and met a new friend from British Columbia, Janet, who recently launched an online magazine http://risingmag.com/ that features indie music with a focus on the independence and originality of each artist. Strangers in a foreign land: "Janet and Jill from Canada."
On Friday, I lunched with ladies Jane Hamilton/Veronica Hart, Georgina Spelvin and Penny Antine, at Penny's home in North Hollywood. Penny had prepared a delicious chicken salad (Jane brought a decadent cake), and as we gathered around the table, I had to pinch myself that I was privy to the long time friendship enjoyed, and mutual admiration that these three women so lovingly displayed. Penny's home is warm and open, and I was captivated by the amazing photographs that have remarkably captured some of the finest and candid moments of her subjects; every single snapshot contains a sense of intimacy and innocence. One of the highlights of our get together was having a good laugh as Georgina Spelvin hilariously recreated the domestic activities of the recent home invasion of two racoons who had decided to make her bathroom their new living quarters.
During my time in Los Angeles, I also connected with my cousin Val and his longtime friends - it's always great to spend time. It was fantastic sitting in their backyard under the stars and eating Thai take-out. Ummm. (Thanks so much, Val, and also, for putting up with my rental car woes that had a happy ending. Love you.) I also shared meals with Joel and Kenji, both friends and talented photographers who have offered to help me with the book's front and back covers. I dined with another friend and adult film historian Bill Margold whose business card reads: "God Created Man, Bill Margold Created Himself." For readers unfamiliar with Bill, it's an appropriate bit of tongue-in-cheek humour that makes complete sense once you get to know him. The trio have graciously loaned me photos to peruse which I now have stockpiled here at home.
Amber Lynn set aside time to join us for dinner at the Silver Spoon before she headed out to fulfill her duties at a club where she is currently headlining as a dancer. Although Amber doesn't quite resemble herself (facially) anymore, she is well-toned and still has her signature curvaceous figure. It was interesting to have to chance to speak with her in person in a relaxed environment, and steal a glimpse into her present world.
Carly Mills (the daughter of Barbara Caron Mills who passed last December) welcomed me into her cool and eclectic Venice Beach home (formerly owned by her parents), with vibrant walls that are adorned with her mother's evocative paintings. (Carly, who is a talented artist and musician in her own right, earns her living as a jewelry designer.) We chatted for a while and she showed me Barbara’s outstanding portfolio of photographs taken when she modeled in the late 1960s/early '70s – a feast for the eyes. From there, I drove a few miles down the road to Santa Monica where I had lunch with the beautiful (inside and out) Kay Parker. Kay is even lovelier in person. As she espoused her spiritual beliefs and life goals with passion, intellect and grace, I sat across from her transfixed and completely at ease. She then brought me to her favourite place to walk, the Santa Monica bluffs, where we strolled past luscious rose gardens and delectable dusty greens to look out over at the beach umbrella tops. I felt grateful in the glow of our time shared.
On July 4th (my first celebration of the American holiday) after having breakfast with my cousin at Norm's in West Hollywood (incidentally, we sat next to Justin Timberlake and his buddy), we drove to Murietta, where I briefly reunited with my his family and grandchildren. It seemed impossible that 13 years had passed since I'd last seen them all - a happy and healthy bunch. By late afternoon, I had returned to my favourite Encinitas beach (sanctuary) and that evening, Julia and I and Mr. P.were on the receiving end of a superb display of fireworks over the ocean - launched from Camp Pendelton. People and their children were lined up like sardines along the walkway (and one very inebriated woman stumbled aimlessly back and forth down the beach - neither one of us, mind you) as I attempted to savor the memory on my (cell phone) camera. Not good planning. It was already past twilight, so instead, the experience is safely stored… somewhere in my brain.
Two days before my return home we drove back to L.A. (while popping in to catch up with my godmother Norma in Tustin along the way) to participate in a special event for Bob Chinn, who recently released his first novel, "Flesh of the Lotus" and is currently working on six sequels and an autobiography. We met Bob and his sweet friend Rosella at Dear John's (one of his favourite haunts) for dinner and drinks on Thursday evening. On Friday, we seamlessly navigated our way through typical rush hour traffic (thanks to Julia and the invention of the “droid” GPS) to downtown L.A. where the event was held and hosted by Tyson Cornell at Rarebirdlit. Admittedly, the venue was a bit warm and also noise challenged at various points throughout the evening, but it was a real treat to experience the rare public appearances of both Bob Chinn (who introduced his book with some amusing anecdotes from the past) and Julia St. Vincent (whose compelling documentary "Exhausted", the brainchild for "Boogie Nights", was screened for the first time in 30 years since its 1981 release) who were both in good form.
I was able to catch an earlier than scheduled flight home on Saturday morning, and since my return, I have been assimilating the many activities of my southern Cali journey. Time and distance are excellent perspective tools: I am happy to have ventured outside of my own zone and have hopefully gained a deeper and truer understanding of the unique qualities that define “my women”. But, it definitely feels good to be home again in the company of Hud, Bunny and my family. Thank you, everybody.