ALMOST SEPTEMBER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The calendar is about to change. Again. Just a few months for this year. A few brief weeks of tee-shirt, shorts, and boat shoe weather. Walter Houston is singing in my head. Raspy and bittersweet.

It’s the beginning of baseball’s stretch drive. Our Boston Red Sox are in the mix for the post season. It’s high anxiety time if you’re a die-hard fan. Will the hitters cool off? Will the starters maintain their newly discovered success? Will the bull pen purge those relievers who are serial arsonists?

Pro football is also back. If you belong to Patriots’ Nation, you wonder how it will go this year, with Brady a year older. Time will have its way, even with the best of them.

Facebook is full of posts and pictures from parents crying as they send their kids off to school for the first time. There are no posts for drop-outs. We offer requiems for our fading summer flowers. It’s difficult to watch them as they slowly die.

The late night talk shows are packed with “stars” promoting their new series which sound like old series. I particularly object to reboots of old shows that weren’t particularly good back in their first run.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Political analysts are dizzy, trying to explain Orange Head’s bizarre and unprecedented presidency. If you want to really call it that.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Labor Day weekend will offer a brief time out for memories about summers past when we were younger and our world a bit more innocent. Think “Moon Glow” and “The Theme from Picnic.”  I’m William Holden dancing with Kim Novak. Snapshot memories of faded love affairs.

This is a brief respite.

Walter Houston is now singing louder in my head about those once lazy days dwindling down to hurricanes, raging fires, floods, mass shootings and Orange Head tirades blurring our collective sanity.

September Song.

These precious days I’ll spend with you…….

THE IDYLLIC ISLAND FROM MY CHILDHOOD – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I had a chance recently to go back to a place I had loved in my childhood, more than 55 years ago.

Wendy was my best friend from fifth grade through seventh grade. Best friends at that age understand the true meaning and importance of a best friend. I always remembered that intense friendship as a high point in my long life of friendships. Wendy and I spent a lot of time at each other’s homes with each other’s parents (we were both only children). Also, both of our fathers were psychologists and knew each other.

Wendy and me on the motorboat at the island in 1959

Wendy’s family had a summer-house on a three acre island on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. We spent glorious days there playing in the woods and on the water. I rode in her motorboat and her motorized rowboat, both of which we named. The motorboat was Wendy Bird and the rowboat was Tinkerbell, from Peter Pan. I learned to water ski behind the Wendy Bird.

Wendy and me in the rowboat at the island with the house in background

We cleared a path into the woods, complete with signs. The path led to a wonderful tree, right next to the water. That tree was easy to climb and wonderful to sit in and we often played Mad Libs sitting on its branches.

I renewed my friendship with Wendy, through Facebook, this past year. We now speak on the phone almost every week and have become close once again. I always believed we had a strong connection. I guess it must have been to have survived for 55 years!

So Tom and I drove the six hours from Connecticut to the northern end of Lake Winnipesaukee. I was excited to revisit a childhood happy place. Wendy picked us up on the mainland with her brand new motorboat. I saw the island and had an immediate sense of familiarity. When the house came into view, it was just as I had remembered it – except that it seemed much smaller. I’m not that much bigger now than I was at the age of twelve. But I think my memories had enlarged both the dimensions and the magic of this idyllic spot.

My memories of the living room, the master bedroom and the room that Wendy and I had slept in, were totally accurate. In fact, I noticed that the beds in both bedrooms had been moved. Wendy was amazed that I remembered exactly where they had been in 1960!

I ran around looking at all the old photos of Wendy and her parents that decorated the house. My memories were again confirmed as accurate. After dropping my bags, the first thing I wanted to see was what little was left of our path into the woods.

The main remnant of that labor of love was, coincidentally, named “Curley.” “Curley” was a tree at the beginning of the path, where the beach meets the woods. The tree has a huge branch, shaped like a giant ‘j’, which we ‘rode’ like a horse. We had taken strings and created a set of ‘stirrups’ we could slip our feet into to mimic riding a real horse. The stirrups were still there! Wendy’s children growing up, and her grandchildren now, all rode “Curley” using our old stirrups. What a wonderful surprise!

This is our tree horse, “Curley”. If you look closely, you can see the stirrups on the right, below the branch

We talked the whole time we were together. We reminisced and shared stories about ourselves and our families through the years. I brought Wendy some old photos of us that she had never seen. I also brought my old diary from when I was ten to twelve years old, the Wendy era. I read Wendy what I had written about her and our mutual friends and teachers from school. LOL!

View from the porch, where we spent most of our time

Wendy shared a memory with me that I had forgotten. She said that at around age eleven, I had admonished her that she should stand up for herself and not let people walk all over her. “Don’t let yourself be a dishrag” I had told her. The funny thing is that while I don’t remember saying any of that to Wendy, I do remember my mother saying those exact words to me! I was apparently passing on to Wendy, my mother’s good advice to me. Neither of us took the advice for much of our younger lives. But I think we’re getting there now.

We also spent time riding on the lake in both boats. Everything was as beautiful as my glorified memories. Tom was impressed. We sat on the porch, looking out at the lake, talking about the games we used to play on the table there so long ago. Games like Scrabble, Sorry, Risk and Mad Libs (a favorite). Wendy showed me the online Scrabble game she plays now. I showed her Shanghai, my favorite computer game. We bonded all over again, on the site of our shared past.

I’ve talked about Wendy’s island paradise for years to my kids and to Tom. It was great to go back again, this time-sharing it with Tom. Also through photos, I got to share it with my children.

I wonder what my kids will want to revisit when they’re in their sixties.

SINGING AND DANCING AT THE GREAT BIG BIRTHDAY PARTY

Yankee Doodle Dandy

We watched “Yankee Doodle Dandy” tonight. Again. This is a movie that I have watched several hundred times. They used to play it on “Million Dollar Movie” on channel 9 in New York, where I grew up.

“Million Dollar Movie” played one movie a week. It played the same movie all day every day for seven days — often horribly mutilated to make room for the advertisements –and if I happened to be home sick from school, I watched that movie all the time. They played “Yankee Doodle Dandy” often and it seemed to coincide with incidences of tonsillitis, one of my primary reasons for being out of school. I learned the songs. The dances. I know all the words not only from the songs, but from the entire script.

I love it. I still love it. Garry loves it. This despite the fact that we cannot figure out why it wasn’t made in color since it is so obviously a movie that ought to be in color — but I digress. At the end of the movie tonight, Garry commented that “All young movie makers should be required to watch this movie.”

In many ways, it is perfect. If this can’t get a little American fervor running through your veins, nothing will. This despite the current pathetic condition of America’s politics and elected officials. It still makes me sit up, smile, and sing along. I love the piccolo solos and the singing and the flag waving. It reminds me that I really am American. Born here, raised here. Went away, but came back because this is my home and I belong here. However awful it is these days, it simply has to get better. I demand it get better! I am horrified by this version of America and I want it to go away.

It’s the 6th of July again and the fireworks are over. Boom, bang, and back to reality.

When we lived in Boston, we got to see the fireworks live and hear the concert from our balcony where we lived. I know all the dog owners are dyspeptic about the fireworks and I understand, but I can’t help it. I like fireworks. Shoot me down, but I love the bang and the flash and the giant flowers in the sky. I always have. Back in New York, it was a mile walk to the park and we walked it. And back because the roads were a parking lot and there was nowhere to park even if you did manage to get there.

We would lie flat on the ground and watch the sky light up.

BostonFireworks2013

We watched Boston’s show last night on Bloomberg. David Mugar is no long sponsoring the fireworks and none of the TV stations had the money to cover the show. Bloomberg stepped in and took over sponsorship. I’ve never bothered to watch Bloomberg before. It was strange not to be watching it on NBC or CBS, but it was the same great show. Now only does the Boston Pops play one rousing version of the 1812 Overture, but the guys from the Army drop by and shoot off the artillery. It has got to be the loudest concert in history.

Now today was movie time.

We watched again as James Cagney dances down the steps in the White House. We always replay it half a dozen times. Can’t get enough of it. In case you feel the same way, I’ve included it so you can replay it as many times as you want. Happy Birthday to US!

This is the beginning of American autonomy, when we stepped off the sidelines and entered the mainstream of the world’s history and politics. Let’s hope we remember that what we do matters, not only to us, but to the entire world. We aren’t a little colony anymore. We’ve moved up to “the Bigs.” We need to really make America great.

Really great. Again.

SOMETHING WENT BUMP IN THE NIGHT

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

Never met a ghoul and I have various issues with long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about “Things That Go Bump in the Night.” Long ago in a house far away, we had our ghosts. Friendly ghosts or at least, friendly to us.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t think if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts. There seems to be a general agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they have slipped that mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion and era. Even today, there are rumors and stories.

I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear our ghosts. It was 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing my degree.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was overtly friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and then died in it. They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved.

We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies. I could feel it.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

 

Initially we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half had been turned into a big bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was much bigger and had wonderful light, but we wanted to fix it up first. Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor heard it. The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight at night.

We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier, like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one else ever in the house we moved in.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there before us, watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did indeed. I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

Life is full of strangeness. Panicked might be too strong a word, but it was definitely weird. Meanwhile, if anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me about it. I’m dying to know.

ELECTRONIC MEMORIES

THE OLD DAYS


After contemplating operating systems at length, I started rethinking the whole thing and I began to wonder if operating systems will be relevant a couple of years from now. Because everything is changing.

Change is hardly new to the world of computers and technology. Change is what drives the industry. Change is how come you need to buy new software, new hardware, new operating systems. Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used special languages — COBOL and FORTRAN. Even decades later, personal computers were one step removed from a doorstop. Floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel like you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then … everything changed.

APPLE, WINDOWS, ANDROID AND SO MUCH MORE


First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but soon enough, it got better. And then better again.

There were different players and more operating systems in the beginning. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen that spit out paper.

This was the Amstrad!

Then, everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. It was magic!

I worked on this machine in Israel using the first word processing tool, WordStar.

For a while, it seemed like everything changed every day. One day, there was a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to access it. Once connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around and see what there was to see.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

My first personal computer.

To get on the Internet , you turned on the computer and the modem. Went to the kitchen. Prepared dinner. Cooked dinner. Served dinner. Ate dinner. Cleaned up. By the time you got back, you might have managed to connect. Or not.

My first PC. I think everyone had one of these at some point!

Then suddenly AOL popped up and I got a really fast modem, a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast and the Internet has always been the world’s biggest shopping mall.

My old 486 ran for 10 years. It wasn’t fast, but it was durable.

At age three, she could run basic applications. Computers are to her as electricity is to me. It isn’t something you think about. It has always been there. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it — or WiFi, cable, and electronic cameras. Even for me, it’s not easy to remember. My brain gets stuck in the early 1980s when I realized that computers were definitely going to be my thing. I would never go back.

Memories of days of yore … but not halcyon I fear,

During the 1990s, the rate of change slowed for a while. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a few years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it immediately.  Nonetheless, everything kept getting faster. Soon, no one could remember getting on the Internet using an old, copper telephone line. If you did remember it, it made your brain hurt.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced.  More than 30 million of them sold.  I had one of these, too. Everybody had one, if they were “into” computers.

AND NOW


Every couple of years, there is a new generation of processors. Bigger, faster hard drives. Amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off. Just when you think your socks have been knocked as far off as socks can go, there’s another “fix” and your super fast computer is a slow-poke compared to the latest and greatest. I should know. I’m using one of them.

Meanwhile, the highway of information devolved into a chat room with ranting … and a universal shopping mall. The Internet is a world.

I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast. Computers aren’t only computers, either. We have them everywhere. They are part of our cameras, our bed, our toaster oven. Our television. The car. Smartphones. GPS units. Kindles and tablets. The little computers probably make “things” run better, but when they stop working? They are exorbitantly expensive to fix.

Sometimes, you can’t get in or out of your car because everything is locked tight. That little computer blew again.

ABOUT THE CLOUD


Same old Internet, but “cloud” is the “new” word for stuff stored on external servers.

We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the “cloud.” Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instant. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade expensive applications and volumes of data. You don’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory, and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right? Or is it?

SO — YOU HAVE FAITH IN YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER?


If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG, STILL GOES WRONG


Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I control. That I own.

The idea of entrusting everything —  from my photographs to the manuscript of my book — to an unknown server somewhere in the world scares me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? You have no way of knowing what country your data is in, how stable its government is, or how good an infrastructure it maintains. You financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

Is there a compromise possible? Because when I think about entrusting everything to a cloud, I twitch. How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are out? What if you need a critical piece of data from a server when it’s offline?

My bank was hacked. BOA had to send me a new bank card. Land’s End and Adobe have been hacked. More than once. I’ve had to redo several accounts because they’d been compromised. Lots of other places over the years, places that were supposedly “unhackable” have gone down.

I know I am hackable. Luckily, I don’t have anything worth hacking.

If your ISP is down, you’re out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? If that doesn’t give you the cold sweats, nothing will. If you put too many eggs in the basket and the basket falls — and it will — eggs break. In which case you don’t have an omelet, just a sloppy mess of busted eggs and slimy shells.

You can’t totally avoid the cloud these days. I keep my audiobooks and eBooks on Amazon, and my email on Gmail because there’s no way on earth I could store all of that, even on this big computer. But my personal stuff? Pictures, documents, and other important material? It lives here, at home. On personal, external hard drives.

I learned the hard way to perform regular backups. I don’t do them as often as I should, but I do them regularly. If you don’t, think about it. It’s a little late when you’ve already lost all your stuff.

THE BEST JOB EVER

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.

To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive.

And they have to look good while doing it. Without a break for lunch or even a bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken.

When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

One day, I got a call. A large HMO was looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing.

I went to the interview.

Bad news? It was a part-time job, paying (25 years ago money was worth more) a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, about $10 less than my usual rate.

Good news? It was a retainer. All the freelancers out there know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into an office. At all. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the summer-house on the Vineyard.

It was half the money I’d been earning, but I could take free-lance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job. This was a job from Heaven. When I accepted it, I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out, there wasn’t any work. Or almost none.

Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me and didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything is fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep.

For a couple of years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case. It was the dream job: getting paid and not having to work for it.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. Stay there all day. What a horrible thought!

I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. The best colleagues and absolutely the greatest boss. But it was work. I had to think (a lot), learn (like getting a masters in advanced object linking in a couple of weeks), synthesize, design documents, write them. Back to meeting deadlines. My 2-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever. But.

Never again would I feel comfortable in a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Just having to be in one place for all those hours made me itchy. I got my work done and done well, but I was spoiled. No regular job felt right.

I was ruined for the real world.

REMEMBERING THE MAN: RICHARD JAECKEL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Boston, 1973.

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was warm. We shot in shirtsleeves in the lobby of the TV station. I couldn’t get a studio and was being urged to get the shoot finished as quickly as possible. The “suits” were unimpressed with Richard Jaeckel. James Coburn was the hot interview on the circuit as “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid” was being pushed by publicists. Richard Jaeckel was very pleasant and friendly even before we rolled the camera.

jaeckel -1He asked about what I did. I gave him a snapshot biography back to my radio days and shooting my own film at a previous TV station. He grinned and said it was good to be working with a “grunt”. The rapport was established.

I mentioned having interviewed Gregory Peck a decade earlier, how well we got along. Jaeckel segued into working with Peck in one of his earliest films, “The Gunfighter” (1950).

As Jaeckel talked, I nodded for my cameraman to begin shooting. He smiled. He’d been shooting since Jaeckel and I began swapping war stories. The interview flowed smoothly.

It was more like a conversation between friends than an interview to promote a film. We chatted more than 10 minutes before I mentioned “Pat Garrett” and Jaeckel again smiled, saying he’d forgotten he was supposed to be promoting the film.

He discussed working with the quirky Sam Peckinpah and scene-stealers like Chill Wills. I asked about Bob Dylan, also in the film. Jaeckel’s smile got bigger as he recalled the folk singer’s kid-like behavior working with “movie stars”.

About 20 minutes later, we wrapped the interview. I asked Jaeckel what was next on his schedule. He said he was free for the afternoon. I suggested a pub near the station might be fine for lunch. He quickly agreed.

Drinks and meals ordered, Jaeckel and I began a three-hour conversation touching on family, movie making and the business of promoting movies. We found a common thread in our roots in New York, in our frustration with management and “the suits.”

I mentioned how I was always “the kid” at every stop in my career. He nodded and jumped in with stories about working with Richard Widmark, John Wayne, Karl Malden and Richard Boone in some of his very early movies. He said they all treated him well but he was always called “the kid”.

richard-jaeckel-dirtydozen-7Jaeckel broke into guffaws when I asked about working with character actors like Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Lambert — all well established screen villains. He said they were the easiest and nicest people to work “jobs” (films) in the business. Jaeckel slid into a brief note about his son, Barry who was a rising tennis player. I quoted some stats which prompted a very pleased grin and a final round of drinks. We ended the afternoon with him picking up the tab, saying he had really enjoyed the day and would check me out on the tube before leaving Boston.

The next evening, just after the 6 pm newscast, I got a call. It was Richard Jaeckel. He’d caught me doing a news piece.

“Good job, Kid”, he said.

“Thanks, Kid”, I replied. We both laughed and wished each other well.

More

“Chisum” is a goodie directed by Vic McLaglen’s son, Andrew. Jaeckel had made it 3 years before “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid.” It was, he said, fun working with Wayne and a many from the John Ford stock company.

BanacekS1During our lunch,  Jaeckel recounted the off-camera sparring between vets like Bruce Cabot, Ben Johnson,  Forrest Tucker and Duke Wayne versus “kids” like Andrew Prine, Geoff Duel and Christopher George. There were drinking contests with the old guys daring the younger guys to match them shot-for-shot of the hard stuff. The old guys won.

Jaeckel said by the time he made “Chisum” he was regarded as a “tweener” by Wayne and his buddies. He wasn’t harassed like “the kids” but wasn’t quite accepted by the old guys.

Jaeckel said Bruce Cabot was a mean drunk and was reprimanded by Wayne, who himself wasn’t always friendly when he was loaded. Ben Johnson was a friendly, easy-going guy who wasn’t intimated by Wayne who tried to goad his old pal. Christopher George who I met on another occasion confirmed Jaeckel’s stories.

Another Meeting

The second meeting with Richard Jaeckel occurred when “Banacek” was shooting in Boston. We used to have a charity softball game on Boston Common. This time, it was the media all-stars versus George Peppard, the “Banacek” crew and the Playboy Bunnies.

Kegs of beer were set up for both benches. The drinking began before the game and never stopped. Before the first game, the flacks were introducing Peppard to media folks. Jaeckel was a guest star on the “Banacek” series. He pulled Peppard over and introduced me as his buddy, a “grunt” who knew his stuff a holdover from our initial meeting.

Peppard grinned broadly, shook hands and led us behind the bench where he had a carton of his private stock of “the good stuff.” I don’t remember much about the game. I do recall we did justice to the carton of the good stuff. The following day, Peppard –notoriously difficult with the press — turned up for an interview I hadn’t scheduled.

Richard Jaeckel was his driver.