Biographical sketches and in-depth articles. Get to know me!
(more about James)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Three Degrees from Helter Skelter

I'm sure you know the idea of "Six Degrees of Separation." It's the idea that we are all only six "handshakes" away from everybody else. (I wrote something about the background of the idea here.)

Well, we always like to think we're just a few handshakes away from our favorite celebrities, say, or from powerful politicians.

But the theory says we're connected to everybody.

Exhibit A: The man in the foreground needs no introduction. That's the infamous Charles Manson, during his trial.

The man behind him on our right is then-Deputy Digby Rowe. "Dick" was one of my first and best mentors, when I was part of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Explorer Program.

I wrote about him back in October, and another of my former fellow-explorers found my reference and contacted me through Facebook. She sent me the picture of Dick you see here, from the L.A. Times.

Dick was a bailiff on the Manson case. At one point, Dick sustained an injury while restraining Charlie during an attempted attack on the judge. (This is mentioned in the Wikipedia article cited above: "...Manson leaped over the defense table and attempted to attack the judge. Wrestled to the ground by bailiffs, he was removed from the courtroom...") So when I met Deputy Rowe, he was on restricted duty with the Community Crime Prevention Bureau. He later took a medical retirement and (I believe) became a criminal justice teacher.

(Another deputy I worked with was a jailer supervising Manson's cohort Tex Watson. "We're on a first-name basis," he used to mock-brag. "I call him 'Tex,' and he calls me 'Deputy.'")

Anyway, if my honored mentor knows Charlie, and I know the mentor, and you know me, then you're just three degrees from Helter Skelter.

(In fact, I had another "degree" with all of the so-called "Manson Family": in my 30s, I worked on a TV show with a woman named Rose Lundeen, nee Spahn. Her father owned the Spahn Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, where the "Family" lived. Rose said "Family members" used to babysit her kids! Now that's scary...)

For those of you who want to know what I looked like back then, here you go:

Now which picture is more horrifying?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lazarus People II: Extras

[Read more background on my "Lazarus" days here.]

To make a TV show or film, you need authenticity. You can't just have the actors with speaking roles up there; you also need set dressing, furniture, props, and the kind of set dressing that breathes: extras.

Because I had lots of time on my hands when I worked on "The Lazarus Man," I had plenty of time to chat with extras, and take their pictures.

Here are a few:


There's a funny story about her:
One of the cowboys who wrangled for the show was hot
for this girl. She had been made up to look like a refugee,
complete with "dirt" makeup on her face.
So Bobby, the cowboy, screwed up his courage and
approached her with a pickup line only a cowboy could concoct:
"Ma'am, you got sh*t all over your face."
He never went out with her. But I did once.


Great face. As I recall, he was one of the many extras
who was always trying to "expand" his role.


Real Indians, fake costumes

Monday, July 20, 2009

Freedom Express

Cruise around this site and you'll learn a lot about my beliefs: Sri Ramakrishna, Buddhism, Joseph Campbell, vegetarianism; "sacred travel" in America, China, Japan, the Philippines, other parts of Asia--all paint a sort of cohesive picture, don't they?

So you might be surprised to learn that the man commonly called "the Laughing Buddha" and "the Temple Guy" was once a member of an evangelical Christian rock band (named "Freedom Express") that played in prisons and on street corners, yeah?

From somewhere around 1977 (I think) until 1981 or 2, I played the trombone in a group headed by James Samuel "Nick" Pratt ("Nick" was just a nickname--get it?) Nick had been a professional musician in his younger days, and since his conversion had been heading up groups that played to attract a crowd before a preacher preached. The whole thing was based at a peculiar institution called "The Canyon House," formerly located in Sierra Madre Canyon, near Pasadena, CA; I'll write more about my weird years there another time.

Anyway, with this rock/R&B/gospel outfit, I've played in a drug dealer's front yard. I've played in rescue missions. And churches, of course. And I've been in more California prisons than I can count. Playing, I mean.

So here's a look at the whole band, then individual shots of a few members. No one is being featured for a particular reason; these are just the shots I have from way back when.


Start with Jere (sp?) Hernandez (vocals), the long-haired girl (seated) and go clockwise: Nick Pratt (in the hat), bass, guitar, trumpet, vocals; Jimmy Roy, smokin' hot guitar (frequently compared to Jimmie Paige); Steve Maurer, drums; Jim Shepherd, trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Cates, the only full-time "pro" in the group, a music teacher who played sax, clarinet, flute, and about everything else; yours truly, with the usual Bible in hand; on the far right, Bob Murch, guitar; and (standing) Kathy Spurney (I think), vocals.


Nick on the bass


My buddy "Shep" (as horn players we stood side-by-side)


Our youngest member, when Jere started in the band, she was still coming to practices in a Catholic high school uniform


A long lost friend, Steve and I were at Pasadena City College and Cal State L.A. together; then we taught together for three years at Chaminade in Canoga Park (now West Hills), CA. He was also best man at my first wedding. He was a madman on the drums; now I think he's an M.D. somewhere with lots of kids; wish I could find him. (Yes, I Googled; lots of results, nothing concrete.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Classmates: 1968-1969 Grade 8 (8-7) Mrs. Wojahn

The Classmates Project is an effort to re-build my elementary and middle-school years by first, finding the names of all my classmates, and second, rounding them up into an online group. You can read more in the introductory post.

(click on the picture to see a larger version)

Learn how you can help!

A1 Louise Hitchcock
A2 Jeanne Baker
A3 Patricia Schintz
A4 Jennifer Lamb
A5 Betty Bennett
A6 Ronnie Torres
A7 Trudy Honma
A8 Greg Vetti
A9 Rich Thayer

B1 Sandy Travanti
B2 Pat Larimer
B3 Janelle McKay
B4 Beauford (Boots) Blair
B5 Nancy Nelson
B6 Alan Werner
B7 Meri-Lyn Mitchell
B8 Tom Hughes
B9 Linda Jensen

C1 Diane Quinn
C2 Pete Talley
C3 Karen Hildebrand
C4 Jim Baquet
C5 Carolyn Bromley
C6 Ron D'Amico
C7 Virginia Clawson
C8 Mike Orth
C9 Huygen (Hogan?) Hilling

D1 Mrs. Karen Wojahn
D2 Tony Badura
D8 Judy Ecklund
D9 Mr. Bill Jones

See all of my classmates

Classmates: 1967-1968 Grade 7 (7-3) Mrs. Lyall

The Classmates Project is an effort to re-build my elementary and middle-school years by first, finding the names of all my classmates, and second, rounding them up into an online group. You can read more in the introductory post.

(click on the picture to see a larger version)

Learn how you can help!

A1 Steve Yanagisako
A2 Louise Hitchcock
A3 Alan Werner
A4 Sandy Travanti
A5 Steve Ware
A6 Jan Johnston
A7 Bill Eberle
A8 Gay Cangelosi
A9 Tom Rauth

B1 Sharon Wheeler
B2 Mark Spencer
B3 Christine Kato
B4 Tom Hughes
B5 Karen Hildebrand
B6 Richard Ingram
B7 Michelle Walsch
B8 Lee Grey
B9 Meri-Lyn Mitchell

C1 Chuck Paling
C2 Beverly Throne
C3 Stuart Maude
C4 Diane Mayo
C5 Andy Hedrick
C6 Debra Hatch
C7 Robert Williams
C8 Carolyn Bromley
C9 Jim Baquet

D1 Cheryl Crook
D2 (?) Gloria Mapes
D3 Rich Thayer
D4 Karen Yagami
D6 Diane Quinn
D7 Huygen (Hogan?) Hilling
D8 Lindee Francis
D9 Doug Plummer

E1 Mrs. Esther Lyall
E9 Joanne Ledig

See all of my classmates

Classmates: 1966-1967 Grade 6 Miss Webster

The Classmates Project is an effort to re-build my elementary and middle-school years by first, finding the names of all my classmates, and second, rounding them up into an online group. You can read more in the introductory post.

(click on the picture to see a larger version)

Learn how you can help!

[First year in color!]

A1
A2 Darnella Dorado (?)
A3 Mark Spencer
A4 Virginia Clawson
A5 Jack Smith
A6
A7 Scott (?)
A8
A9 Ralph Hernandez

B1 Shirley Kuntz
B2 Reid Gulley
B3 Gay Cangelosi
B4 Dale Myers (sp?)
B5 Carolyn Bromley
B6 David Rowden
B7
B8 Steve Alvarez
B9 Gabi (Gabriella) Reull

C1 Miss (Janice) Webster
C2 Claudia Boomer
C3 Valerie Vaughn
C5 Mario Barrios
C7 Ramiro Hernandez
C8
C9 Jim Baquet

See all of my classmates

Classmates: 1965-1966 Grade 5 Mrs. Twomey

The Classmates Project is an effort to re-build my elementary and middle-school years by first, finding the names of all my classmates, and second, rounding them up into an online group. You can read more in the introductory post.

(click on the picture to see a larger version)

Learn how you can help!

A1 Rick Thompson
A2
A3 Mr. William Breon
A7 Mrs. Twomey
A8 Diane Quinn
A9

B1 Mike Delk
B2 Kim Angles
B3 Jim Baquet
B4
B5 Jack Smith
B6 Valerie Vaughn
B7 Dale Myers (sp?)
B8
B9 Mario Barrios

C1
C2
C3
C4 Shirley Kuntz
C5 Tom Rauth
C6 Carolyn Bromley
C7 Steve Ware
C8 Vickie Dutt
C9 Craig Guire

D1 Reid Gulley
D2
D5 Julie Garnant
D8 Cecelia Kelley (sp?)
D9

See all of my classmates