Maybe it’s because digital cameras didn’t exist during my days in the United States Army, that I have maintained a fondness for the snap shots which still remain in my possession today.
Taking photos had a certain romance involved with the process. There was always a wait-and-see-what-they-would-look-like flavor to it all. Nothing was instant, especially when you happen to be many thousands of miles from home, and the vendor responsible for film development can’t speak anything more than broken English.
I’m reminded of the Orson Welles words in the wine commercials, “We will sell no wine before it’s time.”
Time. It moves when it wants to. Years, far too quickly, while a child waiting for their presents to be delivered, far too slowly.
Romance should never be allowed to turn into memories, but should take forever as it occurs, and the anguish of anticipated pain measured by less than the smallest instant taken.
Waiting for the words “you will be allowed to come home” was a time span too lengthy to be measured.
As is my want, I often review, from a time seemingly long ago, a photo in which I appear too young to ever be that young. Perhaps only those of you old enough to recognize your own physical change will appreciate fully what I will relate.
It was a time when cigarettes were ten cents a pack, my brand new Ford convertible was less than twenty five hundred dollars, and I was able to buy it with five hundred bucks as a down payment, against a monthly payment of seventy dollars. That beautiful car of mine was able to go anywhere on a couple of bucks worth of twenty-five cents a gallon gasoline. It had to be that price because I was only earning seventy dollars a week. After payroll deductions, my net pay came to a total of fifty-seven dollars a week.
But some of my most cherished remembrances are just that, remembrances. No photographs. Not even the old places I can drive by and look at. It must forever remain in my mind’s eye in order to relive, recapture by the wonderment derived from the ability to reflect.
“Would you prefer color, or will black and white prints do the trick?”
Color photography for the non-professional was still some years away from being available. So today as I revisit my senior high school prom night, I see myself, all decked out in a rented tuxedo, posed along side the most beautiful girl at the prom. The orchid I presented her with is still perched, and remains in full bloom adjoining her strapless formal gown. I met Gail following the finish of a baseball game I had just pitched and won against her across-town school. She was a year younger than me, and was quite taken with my athlete star demeanor.
The photograph of the two of us is of course a still shot, but somehow it continues to have a life about it. It was an evening of romance, free from love.
Every actor, writer, director, producer, or creative source should every so often look at a time period of his or her life, and conjure what was and what wasn’t. In reflection, my prom was a romantic evening taking place at a time period, existing for no more than a single day; standing back and capturing what the truth was. And then easily describing the joy of the moment, the anticipation of Gail’s answer, whether or not she would be my date for the prom, and finally the reality of its truth as a fleeting moment.
And with reflection, often comes salvation; salvation in a form only yours to assume, if you choose to do so.
The performers I was so blessed to have experienced and worked with, first hand remain forever on the old recordings, films, and television shows. I’m free to listen to Sinatra, and view a photograph of the man taken at the time he performed in person. I was there in Las Vegas watching him on stage in complete command, while giving the audience far more than they could have possibly expected.
Las Vegas was the entertainment bargain of the ages. I doubt if there will ever be a comparable package. The best food in the world, being served twenty-four hours each day for the lowest prices imaginable.
When I first visited Las Vegas, we stayed at the old Sahara Hotel for a grand total of ten dollars a night. And it wasn’t a low-end accommodation. Appearing as an opening act in the Sahara Lounge was a rather young Don Rickles. Followed by the headliners, Louie Prima, and Keeley Smith, with Sam Butera and the Witnesses. It was free admission, and no cover or minimum. Just walk in, sit down, maybe order a drink for a $1.00, and watch the show. Then off to the Sands and the Rat Pack. Las Vegas treated me to Lena Horn, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, and about everyone you could think of. A weekend was almost more candy than any enthusiast could stand.
But still to this day, of all the thousands of actors and actresses I have met and or directed, one woman made the most lasting impression on me as a young man. There will never be another Peggy Lee, in my estimation. Those were the high-flying nightclub days on Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood. The two “in” places for a performer to appear were Ciros and The Macambo. I was introduced to Peggy Lee by Dave Barry, the erstwhile comedian who served as her opening act.
We shook hands outside the club, and as a young man it was all over for me. I fell in love with her instantly. On stage Peggy Lee was the sexiest performer I had ever seen or heard. A close second was the absolutely unbelievable Lena Horn. Even mentioning Peggy Lee and Lena Horn in the same sentence brings a reflection I will always be able to count on as an everlasting truth, depicting quality, and the best ever.
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