The Wild Life

It’s 1967. The Hart High lunch line. I just stole 10 hamburgers to sell on the hill later. I’d lean over with my right hand inside a tear in my bomber jacket to boost food from the microwaved catered food trays. Next to me is Frank Angelostro. He has a flowing Hawaiian shirt and some sweat pants since his Levi’s were stolen in gym class. He puts his stolen burgers and cheese burritos in the front of his pants. As I start to pay for a milk and a bag of Fritos, Frank suddenly screams out in pain as he leaps around like a madman while jerking his sweat pants off. I watch in horror as my best pal starts clawing at his testicles covered in molten hot cheese from an exploded burrito cover.

ITEM: Doing Sheriff work camp during the summer Angelostro, Carl Winager and myself are shoveling and raking fire zones around large white buildings at Special Devices Systems off of Placerita Canyon. An explosion about fifty feet away scares the crap out of us. It’s over before we can jump for cover. The entire side of a sixty foot warehouse is blown away. Three men in lab coats are staggering around with blood coming out of their ears. As we drop our tools to help, the Sheriff lead flunkie tells us to pick up our tools and keep cutting weeds.

ITEM: When they shut down Bermite in Saugus, they did no clean up. They just shoved everything into a wide valley in back and covered it all with a zillion tons of dirt. We took lumber from huge stacks at the old site as soon as the security man fell asleep in his trailer. We dragged the wood to three huge oak trees near the train tracks and built a connected tree house. It was the first thing I built the County tore down. The start of a tradition. After they tore it down, they left our Playboys next to the middle oak tree under a big rock. On top was a short note on a torn lunch bag. “NICE JOB KIDS!”

ITEM: After some heavy rains the Soledad wash is careening out of control all the way to the ocean 30 miles or so away. We take a military raft for ten part of the way down it before a Fire Department helicopter is hovering over us as we’re paddling like crazy past Denny’s off Sand Canyon. We turn it over and swim for our lives across from Whites Canyon. Still raining like crazy, one of the O’neal brothers and I escape. It takes me four hours to get home. As I climb through my bedroom window, my overhead light snaps on. A Sheriff is sitting on my bed drinking a Coke. My mom screams, “JUST TAKE HIM!”, as I’m led downstairs to his car.

ITEM: Working at Ace Cains cleaning trout ponds, we find five baby great horned owls in the top of a shed we’re supposed to tear down. I take one home with me. To save time, Johnny M., a proud owner of an M. 40 military truck, drives it through the shed. A 2×6 splinters and goes through his radiator. He’s so pissed he quits. I end up hitchhiking with a baby owl in my jacket biting and clawing me. Later, my step dad comes home from a drinking bout (this was just before he rolled his Half-ton Chevy Pickup off of Placerita, getting thrown through the windshield, then having the truck roll over him- TWICE, and lived!) I had a large cage built in the garage with a perch outside. Owls are nocturnal so night time is their time. The owl, Apache by name, is out on his perch. Bill comes in the garage side door because it’s pretty late. As he take his jacket off, my owl flies to his arm like I had trained him on my own. Not good. Bill Burtis tore that garage up in the dark fighting to get that owl off of him.

ITEM: Bill Burtis was a cement man. Foundations, cantilevered slabs, swimming pools, driveway, tennis courts. All sorts of stuff. He did a park for Canyon Country up Bouquet Canyon. Angelostro and I were hired to strip all the twenty foot 2×4 framing off, pull the cement double-headed nails and clean the cement off before stacking the wood. We get bored and start up a D-6 Dozer sitting near the wash. I tell Frank I can drive it no sweat. I back over one of the new slabs. Not good. We also can’t shut it off. Bill Burtis pulls up with some burgers in sacks for our lunch. He slams them into the ground and looks to the sky with his arms out, silently begging for lighting to strike us most likely.

ITEM: We’re doing a swimming pool for Clayton Moore, the original T.V. ‘LONE RANGER’. He signed an autographed picture for me I still have of him and Tonto sitting on Silver and Scout side by side. I’m about ten years old. I say, “Where’s Tonto’s name?” Moore goes back inside his house, then comes out about five minutes later. Its now signed by Tonto with an ‘X’ under Tonto spelled out in block letters. Moore tells me Tonto was taking a nap and couldn’t come out. He then pats me on the head and asks me, “So little man, who’s your favorite cowboy?” I say a loud, “Tom Mix!” He ignores me and starts talking about a driveway with Bill.

ITEM: I have Tom Mix’s Wedgewood stove. Yep. It came from his old film cutting lab off of Franklin across the street from the Magic Castle. It will go in the new barn’s kitchen. Tom Mix ended in a sad way. Homeless and broke. No one would hire him anymore. He ended up living in his big Bentley or Rolls, whatever. Anyhow, he was driving to Vegas and hit some sand sliding him off the road. A large leather bag full of silver dollars flew from the back seat and broke his neck. Yakima Canutt, my kids Great Grandfather, told me that Mix had a mean streak and could be hard on his horses. I never liked him after that. I switched to Ben Johnson. No one could out ride Ben. Even Yakima said he was the best he ever saw. And that was from a guy who had THREE World Champ all-around saddles sitting on saddle stands in his front room in North Hollywood. I’d watch the fights on Friday nights with him on occasion and he would feed these tree squirrels right out of his hand that came in through an open kitchen window. A great guy!

ITEM: I’m at Buster Keaton’s estate near Malibu. I’m supposed to pull some extra phones out of the giant home to make the monthly bill lower. As I step inside the three-story foyer with the elderly lady of the house, I happen to look down at my white T-shirt as I take my tool pouch off to ease the weight of the belt cutting into me. My shirt is alive with tiny black dots hopping all over. FLEAS! I then smell the cat urine and spot about ten cats looking down at me from beds and perches off the stairs and from landings. OH NO! A CAT LADY! I run outside and strip naked behind my truck while putting my clothes in a large plastic bag I then filled with powdered desiccant we carried just for that purpose. She watch’s me from some rose bushes the entire time.

ITEM: I’m ten miles from a security booth at Edwards Air Force Base at a large six-story high locked building made of steel. The windows are glazed. No one is around. The wind is blowing off the vast empty tarmacs around me about sixty miles an hour in snapping gusts. Lulls, then, WHAM, the wind would howl. I’m to disconnect an old pay phone booth. A bad lunch strikes and I have to go. I mean, NOW! No one around so I drop my pants between my Pac Bell truck and the side of the big building and let nature take its course. I complete my job and drive back to security to sign out. Three big black soldiers are laughing their heads off as I sit in my van awaiting the sign out sheet. These guys are just dying they’re laughing so hard. I lean out of the sun and look inside the air conditioned booth to see what they’re laughing at. It was me, on a 24 inch screen, taking a dump while reading a Ring Magazine and picking my nose. Under the eaves of the building was a telescoping security camera recording me.

ITEM: Bob Sharber and I are at an SCC box in front of the Chevron station across from the big church on Highland and Franklin Street. A guy in a monk robe, shaved head and some white finger paint on his forehead asks us if we have any matches. I give his a small box I had from the Whisky. The guy goes out into Franklin and sets himself on fire. A man in a beer truck put him out with a small fire extinguisher.

ITEM: I’m sitting in my truck across the street from the Chinese theater. A bunch of street kids are putting on a show with their dirt bikes for the long line of people waiting to see the first STAR WARS movie. The line was all the way up to Franklin. Eight kids laid down in the street as two kids stopped traffic inching its way around the block looking for parking. A kid I nicknamed Evel bunny hopped at speed over all the kids, then, bunny hopped his bicycle over the two-foot high block wall around Grahmans side parking lot.

ITEM: I’m at Penny Marshall’s house off of Out Post road. I was replacing her master bedroom phone. She never leaves her bed. She works out of it like most do an office. Jack Lalane lived two houses up from her. The guy from WKRP lived right across the street. I mention her neighbors trying for small talk. She looks above her glasses and says, “Tell me something I don’t already know!” I think for a second then it comes to me. “Well, I was at your dad’s house about a year ago repairing a system down. Your mom has so many nick knacks it took me an hour to move one table to get the pull-down ladder to the phone equipment in the ceiling!” Penny just stares at me looking annoyed. I continue a bit faster. “Well, your dad has all of his people in a big meeting and I kept interrupting him. He finally gets ticked. Outside by my truck he says an angry, “Why are you in the ceiling wrecking my meeting?” I tell him rats have chewed his phone cables. At this he blows his stack. “I just paid thirty grand to have that roof fixed. What do you have to say about that?” I think a second then say, “Well, the rats say its nice and dry up there now!” He orders me off his property. As I pick up my orange traffic cone and chock block, he stops, walks back to me and says. “Finish your job. You really pissed me off, but, you’re pretty funny. You should write for me sometime!” Penny’s dad is Carl Reiner. She laughed and told me to shut up a second. She called her dad and told him what I said. He remembered me. COOL!

ITEM: I get a ticked off customer because I won’t run any wire in a redone bungalow off of Sunset. It says on the face of the order, “No wire runs or drilling walls. Phones go at existing jacks only.” I have to call for a supervisor. Dispatch sends O’neil. A supervisor who already doesn’t like me for a bunch of valid reasons. My super was on vacation. O’neil shows up half crocked and its only one pm. Ripping the work order out of my hand, he tells me to shut my mouth and keep it shut. Up the three steps to the front door of the nicely landscaped four plex, O’neil pounds on the door five times. Three gay guys answer. The one who called to complain about me not putting phones in their bathrooms wonders who George is through the still closed screen making George even angrier.

As the largest of them steps out onto the porch, O’neil sticks the work order in the customers face and screams, “IT’S RIGHT HERE SISSY, IN BLACK AND WHITE, NO WIRE RUNS, GOT IT?” As the big guy- nude, but for a towel- starts to stammer out a reply, O’neil ends the conversation. “ARE YOU RETARDED AND DEAF. NO WIRE RUNS!” Shoving the work order back into my hand O’neil then goes across the freshly planted lawn and kicks the little green wire protector into the street on the way to his company sedan. I look at the guys and say, “Well, there you have it from management. Happy now!”

ITEM: I’m in line at the Laurel Canyon Market waiting to pay for one of their custom deli sandwiches. A man in line just ahead of me looks familiar. Its George Harrison, the Beatle. He turns and looks at me. I say, “Hey, aren’t you one of the Beach Boys?” He nods his head and says a cockney, “Yep, surfs up dude!”

ITEM: I’m talking to the real estate man who owns the building the County store is in. He has a big office under it. As we step outside his office to see where he wants me to run some new wire from the pole for additional lines, a gigantic crash is just above us and out of our line of vision on Laurel Canyon. As we turn to the sound of the crash, two blonde haired kids are sailing through the air right into oncoming traffic. Cars are rear ending and going over the curb everywhere. I couldn’t look. Later on I find out their mom had pulled out of the market parking lot and hit an oncoming car head on. The kids were in the back seat of her Jaguar with its top down and no seat belts.

ITEM: I’m at a huge house off of Mulholland, two houses from then Governor Jerry Brown. In the days when he was dating Linda Ronstadt. I can hear some classical piano music coming from the next room as a maid lets me in for phone repair in the kitchen. I glance in the room while the maid gets the woman of the house. A tiny little girl in a white lace dress is playing a grand piano with custom foot pedals. She’s sliding back and forth on her bench to reach the keys. She sees me in a framed photo’s glass and looks over her shoulder at me. Maybe six or seven. Curls like Shirley Temple. I say a low, “Any Jerry Lee Lewis?” She immediately breaks into, ‘Come on over baby, we got chicken in the barn’, in a fast riff. Her mom storms down some stairs and shouts for her to get back to work. As the little girl went back to Bach or whatever the mom tells me off all the way to the kitchen.


The wrong tool for the job is a good place to start. Once I drew an accident scene for a supervisor, I was soon the official accident investigator for Pac Bell from then on. It segued into teaching pole climbing and tool safety for awhile to new hires. I liked it. Especially the meetings and interactions with other companies while attending safety seminars… Otis Elevator man: “While repairing a stuck elevator off Wilshire, two of us were at the very top of the third shaft, using a mini electric winch to free up a jammed cable. It wasn’t working. Also, the cheap, crummy two way radios we were using, kept cutting out, or, not working at all. I kept arguing with my supervisor about the faulty communications between us and the guys working on top of the jammed car. He told me they had a big work load and to just live with it. He sends me down to our step van to get another electric winch. While I’m pulling out the winch, I hear sirens!”… It turned out, his supervisor, being in a hurry, had his head taken off in a split second, by the cable failing, then whipping back up the shaft like a steel anaconda, right into the cubicle the repairman had just been working in. For want of a good two way radio, a guy is dead. Plus, disregarding common sense… Ladders maim and kill more people then any other tool, in all trades. Ninety percent of the time, it’s the fault of the person using it. Once while I was fixing an elderly Jewish lady’s phone off Beverly Blvd., she wondered if I could use my six foot folding ladder to fix her drape loops. I get my ladder off my truck roof, set it up safely, start to fix her loops. She grabs my privates as my hands are busy. I fall off the ladder and land on my butt, the back of my head putting a nice dent in her drywall. I say to her, “What the hell was that all about?” She just shrugged her shoulders, then said, “Aw, you’ll get over it!” I didn’t write that one up. I also rode a 28′ ladder down a cement wall at a Coca-Cola distribution center iin Sylmar, just like in a cartoon. I only pinched a pinky. A small miracle. Some Coke truck drivers applauded as I jumped up, checking myself for broken bones. I had set up in a hurry and my rubber footings on the ladder were worn out. All my doing. I went down the face of the two story wall in about three seconds, then, bounced off the cement floor… I’m once again on the top of an extended 28′ ladder off of Fairfax and Hillside. A supervisor, Warren Hayes, is shouting instructions to Jeff Vaugn on the pole across the street, and to myself, balanced on the ladder top, working a two ton come-a-long winch to pull slack out of a six pair drop, attached to the balcony of a 1920’s two story house. I say down to Warren, “I don’t know Hayes, this house is pretty old, maybe we should back off!” Hayes, “Just winch it up, I’m already late for lunch!” I give it two more ratchets, then, “CRAAACCCCKKKK!” The entire top of the veranda roof, tiles and all, shoots out over my head, landing inches from Hayes feet, just below my ladder base. Jumping backwards, Hayes loses his feet, rolls backwards head over heels down the steep lawn, then, goes through some six foot high rose bushs, to land five feet farther onto the sidewalk. We kept that one quiet too… Ralphs store on 3rd street. I’m a cable flunky for senior techs, running 25 pair cable through the attic of Ralphs. I’m doing what I’m told. The attic is a good thirty foot up. I’m told in no uncertain terms, first thing on the job, “DO NOT WALK OFF THE RAFTERS!” In between the widely spaced rafters was insulation with dry wall below. Just like what happened to Chevy Chase in ‘Christmas Vacation’, happened to a supervisor. Off the attic entry you have a wood area. Anywhere past that, rafters. The ceiling is five feet over your head. It’s not well lit past your drop lights, plus, it’s hot and muggy. As the super is walking over to check our progress, he starts to wipe sweat off his face. Since he was talking to us, we were looking right at him as he stepped off the rafters, fell through the drywall, then plummeted thirty feet onto an empty cash register check out area. Luckily, he only broke his wrist… A tech nick named ‘Bullet’ since he worked so slow, always went gah gah over street hookers and hot babes. While taking his 28′ ladder off his roof rack (Not extended, its 14′) a girl roller skates past him in a skimpy out fit. With the ladder over his shoulder, he spins in a hurry to catch a look at her ass. The ladder spins with him. The end of it catches an elderly lady walking her dog down her front walk, knocking her out. The company paid a lot of dough for that one. Oh, on that same street, Hightower, just below the Hollywood Bowl, I once saw some Edison guys touch power to a strand wire between two feed poles, electrocuting about seventy pigeons that had been bugging them. The ones that didn’t fall onto all the parked cars and sidewalks, hung by their curled feet like odd upside down toys off the stand they had been roosting on, just seconds before… When guys fall into the giant meat rendering vats, they never stop the machines, EVER. They just hope no one gets parts of the guys wristwatch or shoelaces in their sausage. Ditto for guys getting wrenched into the industrial sized mulching machines for tree maintenance. Those suckers will shred a man in two seconds… Miscalculating weight causes many an accident. Once, some cable theives backed a one ton dually pickup to a cable truck left on a job overnight, put down the tailgates of both trucks, then used a sledge to knock out the blocks of wood, chocking the big steel cable reel in place. The cable reel, about seven foot high, slowely rolls onto the duallys bed, just as planned. Then, fully in the truck, it crushes the truck bed to the ground. The tires blowing, kill one of the thieves instantly. Gee, guess they didn’t notice it was sitting on a TEN TON truck bed… Big drills can lay the hurt on you, real fast. The first time I used a one inch chuck Milwaukee HOLE HOG, was almost my last. Like an idiot, I told the lead tech I was trained on the drill, so as not to look like the kid that I was. He took me around this huge mansion that once belonged to Charlie Chaplin, showing me the little yellow stickies stuck to the baseboards, letting me know where to drill. I’m using a four foot, two inch around bit, off this two handed giant drill. He turns me loose after doing the first hole for me. I do about three, no problems at all. I wake up with four guys shaking me and looking concerned. When I finally stand up, I see the blood all over my shirt, then, see where my face had slid down the white painted wall after the drill bit hit the cement subfloor, spinning me into said wall at about a hundred miles an hour. We didn’t write that one up either…

Classy Freddie Blassie

World Champion wrestler. He was the best, ‘HEEL’, or, bad guy, in the history of the business. He told me at the Califlower Ear Club, the first time I met him, nothing beat being a heel. Blassie: “I got so much pussy as a heel, I gave a lot of it to charity!” Before wrestling Italian Bruno Sammartino, a god to Italians all over the U.S., but especially at Madison Square Garden, Blassie took over the mic at a news conference: “This spaghetti eater knows nothing about wrestling. He’d never amount to a hill of beans if he didn’t have the promoter in his back pocket, always picking him weak sissies for opponents. Before he was a wrestler, he worked in a garbage dump, but got fired for eating on the job. He was on an escalator one time and they had a power failure. The thing stopped. But this pencil neck is so stupid, he waited until someone said, “You know Mr. Sammartino, you can walk down!” He’s the only person I know who moved onto a houseboat and built a basement!”… I’m putting some cable into my telephone truck in an alley, just off the beach in Venice, California. It’s a hot day and I wanted to watch the roller skaters and fortune tellers for awhile before heading back to Downtown L.A. A beach job is the best job you can get. I remember asking a supervisor my first month on the job, about how long it would take to get a transfer to Hawaii. Years later this guy would start laughing whenever he set eyes on me, be it a retirement party or a funeral, thinking of the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. Pretty soon I found out Burbank was even harder. Once Downtown and Hollywood, no garage Second level in his right mind would want you. You’d ruin his gravy train… So, back to the alley. A voice coming up behind me sounding like gravel being shaken in a coffee can, growls, “Hey, you pencil necked geek, how about a long phone cord for an old man!” Before even turning, I knew the voice was going to get anything thing he wanted from my truck. I grew up with that voice. My sister Wendy would give me an epileptic seizure, changing the channel, just as the Great Blassie, started to go off on his next opponent. Now, no remotes in the fifties. So, to guard the set, you had to block your nemisis with your body. It was that voice I heard. I turn and start laughing. He was in a tight swimsuit, wearing those flipper sandels, still a great physical specimen, shocking white hair and a fantastic tan. What made me laugh were his hands. He was holding them out in front of him like a mummy from a movie. In between his fingers were chess pieces. It was just so weird. He notices my eyes on his hands. “Hey, moron, I like an even tan. Now, how about that cord?” I had a big box full of disconnected phones that belonged to another company. I told him he could take his pick. He took the entire box. As he carried it to his apartment, I shouted, “Don’t you remember me from the Cauliflower Ear Club?” He shouted back, “You don’t have one, so fuck off retard!” As I’m leaving after lunch, Blassie is talking to some kids by my truck. He wants my phone number. “None of those pieces of crap will work!” I tell him about the control unit. To call me about it later. This begins my time spent with a god. I also became his personal phone flunkey. Hey, he made me laugh so many times, I would have shined his shoes. Turns out, Blassie was a sweet heart in real life. He gave off this aura of invicibility. Hell, everyone felt it. He made Regis Philbin. Regis was a nobody, until he booked Blassie on his fledgling T.V. show. His show went number one after Blassie tore up his script, roaring, “NO ONE TELLS BLASSIE WHAT TO SAY!”, then, tearing off Regis’s jacket arm while berating and insulting his other guests. One a pro football player. Blassie told the guy football players regularly kissed his ass so he wouldn’t pound them into the ground for fun. TO HIS FACE! No one had ever said such things on T.V. Ever. He caused full scale riots to break out when he hit the Southern circuit arenas. In those days, blacks had to stay in their own section. Blassie, coming into the ring to start his match early, to make ‘Heat’. To sell the bout. The more heat, the more money in fueds and such, so, he’s on the announcer’s mic. “I’d like to say a big hello to my fans here tonight. And not you white trash, grit eating pencil necked geeks. I’m here tonight for my Negro fans!” Bedlam. The heat is on… Leaving a match under a hail of bottles, rotten oranges, apples and even bags of shit, Blassie is followed by a large elderly woman, fighting with security to get to Freddie. Keeping an eye on her since he’s been stabbed and shot at, he slows to let her have her say, screaming fans along the tunnel watching. “Blassie, you no good, rotten stinking bastard. You filty, miserable son of a bitch!” Leaning towards her, Blassie shouts out, “For the last time MOM, go home!” Once, I told him I did Sinatra’s phones. His reply? “Sinatra will pass gas and 15 guys pass his fart around!” Heading for Japan to tour, Blassie was at the top of his game. Getting off the plane in Tokyo, the reserved Japanese press didn’t know a volcano had just landed. Asked about the Japanese champion’s rein, Blassie filled them in. “What? You call Rikidozan a champion? HE’S A BUM!” T.V. being scarce in those days, crowds of Japanese would watch shows on the sidewalk in front of the stores selling them. People would actually die of heart attacks from stunts Blassie pulled. Later on in life, he felt bad about it. He thought they were just selling the matches with stories. He never dreamed it was for real. He made fun of Yakuzas with missing digits, kicked two of their asses for blocking his cab, then, ended up partying with the mob boss… He also told me that ‘Judo’ Gene Lebell, was the most dangerous man he ever knew. Over Andre the Giant? I wondered. Blassie nodded, then told me that once Lebell got you in a arm or leg hold, it was all over. You quit or that part of your body would never be quite the same again… Freddie said the greatest day in his life, was when he was stopped by a man on the sidewalk in Santa Monica, then begged to come over to a car hurridly parked. The great Blassie said he would. At the car, an old man shouted with glee, “IT IS BLASSIE, I TOLD YOU IT WAS HIM!” Blassie yakked it up, gave an autograph, then begged off. The man’s son chased him down, then told him quietly, “That’s my father. He has advanced Alzheimers. He hasn’t spoken a word in months. He saw you and he was lke a kid again. I have to thank you so much!” Freddie Blassie, King of the Heels, started crying as he finished the story… God bless you Freddie, I think of you all the time…

Mongolian Death Worm

In scientific circles, ALLERGORHAI-HORHAI. About two foot long and shaped like a sausage, rumored to achieve even larger lengths. Said to have the ability to give an electric shock, amped enough to kill a camel and its rider. Also, emits a shrill shriek, just before its shoots out venom in a directed stream. Hmm… The real ‘Indiana Jones’, Roy Chapman Andrews, just returning from a trek in the vast Gobi desert, had found out about the creature from his head camel driver the hard way. His driver, named Tserin, should have his own book. Tserin would leave weeks ahead of Andrews’ expeditions, to prepare the tents and camps for Chapman’s large party of explorers, and, usually Roy’s first wife, Yvette. A real kick in the pants as women in the field go. More on her later. Chapman wanted to save a weeks travel by cutting across an area in the Gobi, that Tserin would not put one toe into…Chapman had to give up on that idea. Tserin told him to get another camel train master. He wasn’t going into that area because of the ‘Horhai’. In some ways, I0 find Tserin even more facinating then Chapman. Roy had some of his supplies stolen and one of his men killed on his first expedition outside of China and the protection of the Chinese army. This was in the early 1920’s. The Chinese General wouldn’t go into the Gobi, so, he suggested Tserins band of nomads. Chapman hires him to get his goods back. And, to bring back the murderers for justice. A save face deal. In less then a month, Chapman is contacted by the General that the thieves are in hand, and, at his very compound. “Come collect them and pay your reward!” Chapman always travelled with an extremely bulky and heavy, short wave radio, that took up an entire Dodge travelall car. It was worth it, countless times…So, bringing his entire expedition of nine such cars to see justice, they park outside the palace in Peking, to await the general and to watch a hotly contested polo game going on between some hard riding tribesmen. As the game came closer to the parked cars at the end of the long field, they catch a look at what Tserin and his friends are using as a ball. One of the bandit’s heads. The rest were in a pile, awaiting another game, most likely. Roy used Tserin exclusively after this incident. So, when a man like this won’t go into an area, you had best pay attention. Yvette, Roy’s wife, really wanted to see one of these Death Worms. She also wanted to bring one back alive. Roy shot all of his specimens. Not Evette. She would find the babies left by these, ‘hunts’, then nurse them along, turning them into pets. Roy would get steamed. Until her hobby saved all their lives. Taking in a baby Vulture she found in a canyon, she would set it to perch on a fifty cal. machine gun they had mounted on a car’s back seat to ward off bandits. She would feed it on this gun, twice a day from animals Roy brought back. In a dispute at a watering hole with another tribe, one of the headmen noticed the Vulture perched on the gun and ordered his men back. It was too much of a bad omen… Since the hot desert sun heated up everything, the camel riding tribes wore a long, robe-like garment called a ‘Del’. Underneath they kept all their weapons out of the sun. So, you never knew what the hell they had underneath. You knew for sure they had a long curved sword. That’s how they settled all personal disputes. After a few expeditions, tribes folk would travel long distances to Roy’s camps. They had heard of the doctors Roy usually had along for specimen study and such. Not really medical doctors, they still did amputations, and set broken bones. You can’t have enough friends in the Gobi. Some desert storms can easily bury cars up to their roofs overnight with sand. Ditto for quick sand and fine flowing sand that would overheat all the Dodge cars instantly. With over a hundred and twenty five camels in one of his trains, Tserin would pull them all out by camel power. These men took so many crates of fossils and specimens out of China and Mongolia, entire warehouses are still full of them in countless museams, all over the Eastern part of the US. NEVER OPENED. Yep, just like at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, but this is real. Chapman never did find a Death Worm, but, I did a search on the web. A large Chinese scientific team is heading out this summer, to try and find one…

A Perfect Life… Almost…

His name was Gene Tunney. At one time the Heavyweight champ of the entire world. He wasn’t like John L. Sullivan, who would walk into a bar, take off his coat and proclaim, “I can lick any man in the house!” No, Tunney wanted to be known as the thinking man’s fighter. He always carried a book to read between training sessions. In the early 1920’s, he was chosen as the first, “Fighter of the Year,” by Ring magazine. He’s also in the World Boxing Hall of Fame, and the United States Marine Corps Hall of Fame. One of his fights is legendary because of the, ‘Long Count’. In this title fight, Jack Dempsey was trying to get his title back. Dempsey had lost a decision to Tunney and wasn’t too happy about it. Dempsey had been told of the new boxing rule on going to a neutral corner if your opponent is knocked down. Old Jack loved to stand over a fallen foe, then nail him as he got up. Couldn’t do that anymore… During the fight, Dempsey knocks Gene down. Gene went down pretty badly hurt. Dempsey wouldn’t go to a neutral corner. The referee yelled and shoved Dempsey, not starting the count to ten until Jack complied. This gave Gene the time to clear his head, thus saving him the title… I’m fifteen and in the big office of Gene Tunneys son, John V. Tunney. He was a Senator or something. I was with thirty other kids on a four week bus tour of the U.S. We had all won a seat on the bus for raising money for the Y.W.C.A.’s, but, thats another story. Anyhow, Mr. Tunney, being a Senator and all, was quite busy. He was gracious, but curt. He gave us the bums rush tour of his office, pointed out some photos of him with Presidents and famous people, then offered to sign some autographs and stand for a group picture. I could never show that photo without big money paid to me I look so pathetic in my red blazer. As he’s signing for the other kids, I see a framed photo of his dad in boxing trunks, holding a boxing pose. He notices me looking at it and says a smug, “That’s my father, Heavyweight Champ of the World. He retired undefeated, never beaten in the ring!” Now, I know zip about sports. Except boxing. My Uncles took me to many an arena and boxing venue as I grew up. Also, I knew Tunney was full of baloney. Sure, his pop was undefeated as the Marine Corps champ. Married into a wealthy socialite’s family and retired undefeated as Heavyweight Champ, spending the rest of his days popular and wealthy. He had the perfect life. Except for one thing. A guy named Harry Greb. Greb also happened to be my favorite fighter of all time, so, the Senator really ticked me off with his statement. Tunney the fighter, was suppossed to fight some other boxer, but it fell through. Since they had already sold out a bunch of tickets, they needed a quick replacement. This is where my guy, Greb comes into the story. Harry Greb was a Middleweight. He never weighed over 156 pounds. He also never trained. He stayed in shape by being a sparring partner. Meaning, he boxed other pros to get them in shape. He had one law he followed. Never fight for free. If you want a look at him, check out who won the title of “World’s Dirtiest Fighter” in a survey Ring magazine took, a few years ago. Short and stocky, with slicked back hair, Greb would fight anyone, anytime. Just put the dough on the table. Since Tunney was in a fix, his manager put out some frantic phone calls to keep the venue from going broke. One of Tunney’s trainers suggested Greb. Tunney scoffed the idea off. “He’s too small. I need someone with more stature!” This trainer had just watched Greb spar with Dempsey a few weeks prior. Greb had made a monkey out of Dempsey. Dempsey was so enraged, he demanded his trainer, Kearns, to put Greb in for just one more training round so he could knock his block off. Greb made him look even worse. Since no one else could be acquired in such short time, Greb it was. Tunney knew zip about Greb. Him being a Middleweight sort of made the fight a joke. Tunney figured he would take it easy on Greb to sell the mismatch, then take him out after the fans had their moneys worth… It’s fight night. Both men are in the center of the ring getting instructions. Tunney towers over Greb. As they touch gloves, Tunney screws the pooch. He does the one thing no one would ever do to Greb if they knew the guy. Never mess up his hair. Tunney reached over playfully and mussed Grebs hair up… “DING!” It’s the start of the first round. Tunney advances and a human windmill is in his face. In the first sixty seconds of the fight, Greb breaks Tunneys nose with ten shots to the face, backs Gene into the ropes, then laces his face in the clinch while stepping on his feet. As Gene tried to break free, Greb land a tremendous shot to Gene’s balls. As Greb explained to the reporters later, “Why not, they always give you a warning!” Spinning Tunney by his elbow, Greb then took him to fist city all over the ring. By the middle rounds, Tunney was a wreck. Eyes were closing and blood streaming from his mouth, ears and the cuts all over his face. Greb wasn’t called the “Human Windmill,” for nothing. At the end of the fight, Tunney went to the hospital, Greb took his wife out for dinner and dancing. He didn’t have a mark on him… Back to the Senator. I mention the name Harry Greb and the Senator gives the signal for us to be moved along…

John Lilly

I met him after an odd set of circumstances. While working some cable cutovers off Los Feliz in Griffith Park, just across from the Train Guy’s kiddie ride train, an elderly woman limped up to my wide open cable box. You could see she was in quite a bit of pain. She wondered if I could be so kind as to call a friend of hers to give her a ride. She had twisted her ankle while on a stroll around the train area. Since I was about to go to lunch, I offered to take her home in my Pac Bell cable manintenance cherry picker (a five ton truck with an aerial basket). She got a big kick out of riding in it. I end up at her house, a gigantic parcel, half covered by a large, two story house, obviously from the 1920’s. You can tell the eras by how large the trees surrounding the homes are. Trees are a big deal to phone men. They’re a big reason we had so many cable trucks. Big trees take out a lot of big cables and poles…We became pals. One thing I loved about that house was its large, curved driveway. I could fit my big cable truck in it, no sweat, then, park at the end of her circular drive and be completely hidden from the street traffic. Even when she wasn’t home, I could take a nap in my cab, or read away in privacy. Lots of people will rat you out to the company, so, it was pretty cool. If she was home, it was even better. She had a maid who lived with her who fixed fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches, or, anything you wanted. Even better then the cook at Jack Warner’s estate. The house was a multi-generation museum of the families past. Her husband was a world famous Archealogist. He had discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu, and a bunch of other, ‘Lost cities’, in South America. She gave me some outstanding framed photos I still have on my wall, right now. On every big marble table or huge bookshelf, were artifacts from her husband’s trips. Stone bowls, carved totems, stuff like that. In one room was a weapons collection. Some of the arrows had black on the arrowheads which was some sort of toxic poison made from colorful frogs’ skin secretions. The Indians revered these amphibians. Only using them, never harming them (I read up on them. Scientists here, tried to raise them for our military. Turned out, you had to feed them their jungle diet of poisonous insects or their mucous wouldn’t be toxic. They gave up). On one such goof off day, Caroline, the old lady, had her best friend over for lunch. I was invited to entertain her with Hollywood star stories. During lunch, I’m invited to a book signing of this friend’s husband at a local book store, ‘BOOK SOUP’, across from Tower records. I knew it well. All the clerks hated my guts for hiding books I couldn’t afford in other parts of the store until I had the money for them. It was a game, sort of. They would try to catch me in the act, I would try and hide books. I also knew its location from having the biggest head on truck wreck, just past it on Sunset Boulevard, but, another story….I attend the book signing and meet the author, John Lilly. He signs my book, then, wonders if he can have a chat with me in about 15 minutes. I hang around. Turns out, he needed a phone man. His office was up the coast a ways. It was called the ‘ISALIN’ Institute. He was a big shot there. It had all these connected buildings, filled with fellow egg heads, working on paranormal stuff and things like that. I met Robert Monroe there, but, once again, another story. I end up spending some weekends up at the complex, repairing cables and trying to pick up egg head chicks. Which never happened. Anyhow, I would stay at a cheap motel on these weekends that also fed me from their coffee shop. It was fun. One evening after doing some phone moves for an added office, I’m invited by Mr. Lilly to watch an experiment he’s been working on. Inside a large, barn sized steel shed, are two pods, connected by dozens of cables and lines. Gist of it? Inside one isolation pod, floating in a solution, was a dolphin. The other one? John Lilly. They were connected to these huge, old seventies’ style computers that had the looped tapes spinning on the fronts. From the small, slit windows, a dull red light glowed. Once in position, the inhabitants were given doses of LSD. Listening to his fellow egg heads while trying to stay out of the way, the object of the experiment was for Dr. Lilly to communicate on some other plane, with the dolphin in the other pod. With just the hum of the tapes and the egg heads in the white smocks whispering to each other over their clip boards, I got bored and headed for my room down the highway…The next day, while finishing up my phone duties, I hear what had gone down. After about ten seconds, the dolphin was as bored with Lilly, as an adult would be with a newborn. Having to keep its entire history of its race in its mind, the dolphin was light years ahead of the puny mental midget in the adjoining pod…I have a lot more on this for some other time…


Yep, the very same guy they named the long, twisty road after that runs across the mountains above L.A., Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. At its very end, it becomes a dirt road, just before the Pacific Ocean. In my Facebook photo spot, there’s a picture of me standing in front of my 1946, 22 ton, twelve wheel drive, UNIT, crane. The one I’ve been ripping my hair out trying to move for the last two months. It turns out, not only is it the last one of its kind in the world, it was also bought, brand new, by William Mulholland, to do some work on the Hollywood reservoir. Afterwards, Mulholland donated it to the city of Los Angeles. The city used it for twenty five years, then sold it at auction. My pal George Sack bought it, then, after fifteen years of me pestering him about it, I traded him my one-fiftieth steel truck collection, with a mini building to house them. A friend of mine did all the research. I finally read it all…Since most of the research didn’t have that much to do with me, naturally, I blew it off. Something about a phone switchboard caught my eye while I was looking for more stuff on me, the important one. Being a phone man, I knew I had to be part of the story. Nope. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about a tiny, nameless semi-retired woman who was ten times the person I’ve ever been…Seems Mulholland built the entire water networking system that brings water from the water rich Northern part of California, down to the parched, arid, semi-desert, Southern part of the state. Mainly, Los Angeles. He tapped into the Colorado River, the Owens Valley and the Sacramento River delta to obtain the water needed for the soon to be millions of people coming into the L.A. region. He built thousands of miles of concrete aquaducts, plus, reservoirs to hold the water as it traveled south. One such dam was in a canyon called San Fransisquito. Mulholland screwed up on this one. It had a broken off rock base he wasn’t aware of. Once it was completed and full of water, it started to leak. It was dirt ram construction with a cement shell. Not good. Now, under the shadow of this dam was an entire comunity of ranches, farms, small businesses, and, hundreds of tents for all the workers still in place who had built the giant project. Also, one old woman who ran the local phone switchboard from the living room of her tiny farm house. A small, 551 switchboard. The type with the cord pairs you see in the old movies with the gal wearing the 1920’s headsets that cover your entire head. She did it as a favor, plus, it gave her a sense of being part of the community. Along with her dog and cats, she also had a small burro for a pet. It was in the middle of the night when the dam broke. The entire contents of the vast dam, headed for the Pacific Ocean, miles away, in a thirty foot wall of water. Nothing was going to stop it. A rancher who lived just above the dam heard the sound of its collapse. He called and woke up his friend the switchboard gal to warn her. Being a few miles away, she had plenty of time to get out of harms way. That water would travel at about twenty five to thirty miles an hour. She was saved…No, saving herself wasn’t in this gal’s makeup. Staying at her switchboard, she calmly called everyone she could past her to warn them, right up until the wave of water crushed her into oblivion. Like the hundreds of others in the cascade of water, her body was never found…It’s people like her her that make me appreciate just how fine the human spirit can be…

Pearl Harbor

It was a big event in my family. We’re either Circus, or U.S. Navy. I talked to a blind man who lived in the guest house of Orson Welles. He was Welles’s best friend. He was also a total drunk. It took me a couple of repair visits to realize he smashed his phone up, just to get me out to argue with him while I repaired it. If dispatch sent someone else, he had a fit. He was on the medical ship across from his ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, getting over a hernia operation, when the Japanese first wave came in. He wanted to get out of his bed when they heard the bombs hitting and all the firing started, but was unable to unhook all his tubes. He told me it was a good thing, since everyone that was able to make it to the windows were blown backwards, killed instantly by shards of glass when a string of bombs from the Jap planes hit a mine sweeper at anchor right next to them, sending part of their blasts right towards the medical ship…Now, a lot of people blame Admiral Yamamoto for the attack. Sure, he planned it and gave it the go ahead, but he was under orders. When they asked him his opinion of his own plan, he told them flat out they would have about a year to kick our asses completely, or it would be the end of them. His superiors looked at us as lazy clowns who made movies and good home appliances. They were sort of right. Yamamato knew different. He spent a lot of time in the U.S. as a young man attending our universities. He was blown away at how large our country was and our assembly line production of machinery. Especially the Ford plant. He was also a big time gambler. He would come back on board ship after leaves and his men would wonder if he had won or lost. If he had lost, he would do a handstand on a guardrail, showing he had no money left to fall out of his pockets. He had to stay on the Yamato battleship for over a year, hiding from the assasins of the Japanese Army. Killing off rival military rivals was quite acceptable in Japanese society. Just like in John Carter of Mars by Burroughs. For a surprise attack, it was really successful. Too bad they didn’t make a second sortie. They missed the MILLIONS of gallons of aviation and oil tanks sitting right out in the open. Also, they missed their primary targets. It’s the reason they pulled out and didn’t put in that second string. Our carriers were not at anchor. One of the Japanese spies had made a radio message that they were indeed there. He lied to save face. He had been out drinking and just made it up. Halsey, our carrier chief, had kept all our carriers out on a phony search for a downed flier story because he smelled a rat. One of our destroyers had fired on a submarine trying to slip into Pearl in between a tug boat and its target bouy it was towing behind it from some firing exercises. Sure, they killed over two thousand of our boys, most still in their racks. One bomb went right down the forestack of the Arizona, detonating in its’ 12 inch gun armory. It blew the entire Battleship, clear of the water, before putting it down for good. Concussion killed most of the men. They all went instantly. I guess its as good a way to go as any. Going out with your mates in a millisecond…More people were killed on the islands by spent ammo then from the bombs. The first attack was made by dive bombers. When the second wave came in, it was torpedo bombers, coming in low since Pearl was a known shallow harbor. The dive bombers had a field day. Not so the torpedo crews. They reported back on landing that the flak and return fire was so thick, you could climb out and walk on it. Doris, a black cook, and heavywight champ of the Pacific fleet, shot down two Jap planes in his underwear from a twin fifty with a dead crew laying all around it…Years later, while at Orson Welles’s house, I noticed a new person sunning themselves off the pool near the guest house. Welles informed me his navy buddy had died. He also told me one other thing. His buddy was cremated, then buried with his buddies on the U.S.S. Arizona…We don’t have those big battle wagons anymore. Most of our big ships are nuclear. All the old ships are docked as museums or scrapped long ago. Oh, we do have one left. Its still carried as an acitve ship on the line, ready for duty if needed. It’s name? The ARIZONA. It’s NEVER BEEN RETIRED!!!


Gave the best Christmas parties of ALL TIME!! Halloween a close second. EVERYONE got smashed! It was a company requirement to be able to drinks alot of booze at the drop of a hat…Their large complex was built on the former site of ‘Monkey Island’. That place folded prior to World War 2 when a couple hundred monkeys escaped and ran amok for a few weeks all over Cahuenga Blvd and Barham in the brushy hillsides. They expanded a few times, so, connected the buildings with a big bridge on the second floor. Mr. Hanna and Mr. Barbera had their offices on the second floor, right next to each other. I came into the picture after P.B.X. school. They had five old cord pair switch boards, side by side in their main lobby. They kept them long after most had been replaced all over town because they were LOYAL. Most of their switch board gals had been on the job since day one. As one retired, so would her switchboard…The main phone room had a common wall with Mr. Barbera’s office. Since I would go past his door all the time, he would start saying things to me to throw me off. I finally figured out he was just jerking me around for fun and gave it back to him. One party they gave would have to be the best I ever went to. All the illustrators were in hand made costumes they had worked on for weeks, drinking right out of blenders and running amok. Since no one really knew who was who, it was time to pull out all the stops. Security ended up locking the gates and calling cabs for about three hundred people. One gal had a Yogi bear painted on her using her giant breasts as Yogi’s eyes. There was food EVERYWHERE! Different departments had different music blasting. I got into a conga line that went up the stairs to corporate, smashing pictures off the walls from the giant paper mache heads they were wearing getting spun around and had them dancing blind. Finally, the cops show up. THEY PARTIED WITH US!!! I’ve been to HUNDREDS of big parties. None can ever top this one. My side hurt for days from laughing so hard. One gal did the best Fog Horn, Leg Horn using helium from a balloon. I heard later she made Mr. Barbera wet his pants while chasing him in costume with a giant dildo…

The Gettys get a new dog

Let’s cut to the chase. Someone in the medical team monitoring coma man noticed some movement on one of his graphs, long after I had left. They trace back this glitch to my repair visit. Who knows why it glipped. Maybe he had indigestion the same time I was there. All’s I know, is I have a bunch of pissed off professionals giving me attitude when I arrive for my ‘therapy’ time with my new pal. It ended up being a double edged sword. On the crappy side, the medical team in place wanted me to drop dead. Physical therapists by the dozen, Specialists on every subject on his condition, care givers 24/7, and me, retard of the month, getting the spotlight. I made friends with the care givers, so, that was cool. Also, on the good side, being an on call system tech to these big shots let me run wild a bunch of times. I would have them call dispatch and need me somewhere, ‘Pow’, my pager went off…It had its perks. Alas, I did all sorts of things to bring back one of those glips in the monitor, it never happened again. I would read favorite parts of books to him. Tell him funny stuff I had seen on other jobs, things like that. I was NEVER alone with him though. Maybe that played into it. Being a ‘Dedicated’ tech started to get real boring. After a couple of months, they dump me as Mr. Wizard. Not as their phone gimp though. Someone in the Getty sphere sequed me into handling a bunch of their accounts. Nothing corporate. Always residential or Condos and such. First of all, I didn’t have the qualifications to work on some of their large account systems. Second, they had plans for me in an entirely different direction. I ran into some really odd things working for this real estate company that fronted for about thirty Getty holdings I did end up being a tech for. I’ll tell some of those stories along the line…I never saw the Getty guy again. I did hear that he came out of his coma…