"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Do! I Do!

WEDDING DAY--June 19th, 1964

They played Bach's Brandenburg Concertos when Marv and I were married. My brother played a French horn solo called Romance, and a friend sang Tonight, Tonight and There's A Place For Us from WEST SIDE STORY. (This friend, who was an actor, was killed a few years later during a performance of Oliver, the villan Fagan, shot by a badly packed blank bullet. )

When Marv proposed marriage, back on Valentine's Day, 1964, he gave me a heart-shaped box of candy. Inside, in the center, one of the candies was missing, and in its paper wrapper was a diamond ring. On the previous Sunday night, February 8th, the Beatles had appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. Marianne thought they "looked like apes." Gaylen was impressed with their "backbeat." They sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and She Loves You, and Please Please Me to an audience of screaming teenagers. And I said, "Yes." Absolutely. Yes.

This was my third visit to the L.A. Temple. The first time was when I attended its dedication, as a teenager; the second was on September 10th, 1957, when Gaylen and I were sealed to Mama and Daddy after their marriage for Time and Eternity. Marv's best friend (and Best Man) Richard Barbieri and his wife Eileen were there for us, and Gaylen and Marianne. Janet was mad that she wasn't allowed inside the Temple for the ceremony, but she and beautiful Cindy Moller (who took time off from her job as a topless dancer at the Dunes in Las Vegas) made up for it by providing a huge bottle of champagne (which we kept in the closet, unopened, for years and years....), painting "Just Married" signs in lipstick, and tying tin cans to the back bumper of the car.

Janet was my Matron of Honor, my sister-in-law, Marianne, andMarv's little sister Jean were my Bridesmaids. I wore Janet's wedding dress, that filled both the "something old" and "something borrowed" requirements. The "something new" was my veil, with a sparkly little decoration in the front. Two of my old boyfriends were there. (There. I have survived. Do you see? I am happier than I ever was! Do you see?)

Hey," one of them said. "You look great!"

I smiled, knowing I looked terrific. Marv and I had been to the beach often. We were both thin and sun-tanned and golden. My hair was blonde and he had hair! I'd say now, looking back from a distance of forty-plus years, that we were perfectly perfect people. Almost.

Some wedding pictures: Marv cutting our cake with a pancake turner. Why didn't we have a knife? I have forgotten. Janet and me, smiling. "You be good to her now," she warned him. No one ever said to me, "You be good to him." At least, I don't remember it if they did. Claude Gillham, a friend whose lap I used to sit on as a five-year-old while I rubbed his bald head, gave me a hug. Mama used to tell me not to rub his wonderfully smooth head, because it would hurt his feelings. FOr the life of me I could not imagine why it would ever hurt his feelings. But this night, I did not rub his head. I held two of my cousins little girls for photographs. And I may have been thin, but my corset was so tight I could not breathe, and I thought the night would never end.

Tonight, tonight. won't be just any night.
Tonight there will be no morning star.
Tonight, tonight, I'll see my love tonight,
And for us, stars will stop where they are....

But it did. And we drove from the desert back to the city, where Marv's room-mate, a cop we called Sweet William was sleeping in the bedroom. So, at three in the morning, we threw a mattress on the front room floor, and we slept.

We honeymooned in Ensenada, Mexico. We stayed at a little motel just out of town, on the beach, called Cabanas Monte Carlo, run by some people from Lebanon, who gave us a calendar with Hernan Cortez carrying off some voluptuous black-haired, half-dressed woman. We ate tacos at places who made their tortillas by hand and cooked them over big metal drums, places run by Chinese, called Fat Choi's Mexican Food. We ate Chinese at places called Pedro's, or Juan's. We ran out of money and lived for three days on corn tortillas, goat's butter, and 7-Up. At night piteros players on the street made lovely ancient music with magic flutes and drums. We took walks on the rocky beaches and watched the sun set. I wore my hair long and loose, and Marv smiled a lot. We loved each other. I'd never had so much fun in my whole life. We were poor but happy. The village idiots.

There's a place for us,
Some day a time for us.
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care.

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there


Monday, March 26, 2007

Marvin Maurice Emerson Davis, Jr


Marv and I had only known one another for about eight years, so it was sort of a whirlwind romance, you might say. *Smile* This is a good time to let you know you something more about Marvin Maurice Emerson Davis, Jr (besides his impetuous nature). He was born in St. John's Township, Harrison County, Iowa, in his Grandmother Stoddar's house, the first of six children. For a while they lived in Sioux City, in a quiet neighborhood called Morningside, where he fell in love with a little girl with a red sweater and had his first banana split, and crossed the Missouri River over the singing bridge, and carried a real pocket-knife in a pouch at the top of his lumberjack boots. His father worked in the slaughterhouses down by the river's edge. His mother was from a well-to-do Chicago family. She had taken dancing lessons, and wore ribbons in her hair. When she moved to California with her family she had a real future in Hollywood. Everybody thought so. And the California air would be healthful, a cure for her mother's consumption. The Stoddar's (Marv's mother's people) were from old seafarer's, ship's captains, Master Mariners, and such. His father's ancestors can be traced back to a Black Irish lad named Roe and an Indian medicine woman named Dancing Sun, and to a President of the United States and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence.) When he was still a little boy, the family moved to Alhambra,California. On the way, at Grand Canyon, he had a nosebleed. Once there, Marv fell in love with a little girl in a yellow dress, tried a couple of times to burn down his house, blew up seagulls with carbide-laced bread, and endeared himself to his sisters by hanging their paper dolls by the neck until they were dead or chopping them into pieces with his scissors. He wasn't always that violent. He camped overnight at Tin Can beach with his friends, and stargazed. He peddled newspapers, and --out of embarrassment, or fear-- those he didn't sell he bought with his own money and threw away down the rain gutter, rather than return the unsold papers to the manager. In school, he was required to memorize "Invictus," by William Ernest Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of Chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade.
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

"Invictus" was the motto of the United States Naval Academy, class of 2001, (the year the Trade Towers in NYC went down), hurling defiance into the teeth of the storm.

He joined the Navy when he was just seventeen, and spent most of the next four years as a radioman on Guam, an island paradise he would dream about for the rest of his life. The Navy taught him to drink and smoke cigars, and saved his life. Once, he almost drowned himself swimming alone in off-limit waters, out past the coral reefs. When he found himself exhausted, he decided to give it up, and just let himself go under. When he ran out of air, he changed his mind and resurfaced. He gave up, went under, and came up again for air several times before they hauled him in, his legs raw and bleeding from the knife-edged coral. I guess I owe the Navy for that.

When he wasn't on the island, he was on the USS Chandler, where he sat alone on the deck at night and wrote poetry, sang songs to himself, and smoked cigars-- a vice he overcame, thanks to his conversion to the LDS Church. I guess I owe the Church for that.

It was while he was in the Navy that he became converted to the Church. I met him in 1957 while I was a student at the Pasadena Playhouse. He was working as a counselor at Hathaway House, a home for abandoned and emotionally disturbed and abused children. He had a great love and sensitivity for those children. Later he worked at Albert Sitton Hall in Orange County. We had a lot of fun together. When he held my hand it just seemed to fit. We spent lots of time at the beach, or at Pershing Square in LA (which used to be a fantastic place populated by schizophrenics, street preachers, drunks, dope fiends, and Salvation Army revivals). We went people-watching at Boorman's, a market in Pasadena which specialized in packaged pig-snouts and pig-tails and pig-feet, and it was purely awful, --but fun. We had unusual dates, and he fell in love with me.

We went our separate ways for a while, while I went out on the road with the theater company, and he almost married somebody else, a girl named Jane, heiress to the riches of the Tappen Stovetop Ranges fortune. He might have had millions and lived comfortably ever after, but, as it happened... it seemed like every time I went to visit my friend Janet, for some reason Marv would always show up with his skis, or on his motorcycle. Fate seemed to be throwing us together. Anyway, I finally proposed, and he accepted, and we were married, and I'm glad, because I do love him. Penniless though I was, he thought I was "a fairy princess," and loved me back.

He had a terrible temper. He had the soul of a poet. He loved opera, Lily Pons and Enrico Caruso, and folk music-- Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, he loved Johann Sebastian Bach, and took me to the LA County Library where, listening with one shared headphone, each of us with one speaker, he introduced me to the Brandenburg Concertos. I owe him for that.

He's been a good father to our five sons. He's a good grandfather. He loves John Wayne westerns and old war movies (if they have no blood, and star John Wayne). He likes his poetry to rhyme. His favorite movies are The Wizard of Oz and Brigadoon. He loves to watch football on television, and his favorite color is yellow. He's an insomniac. He still loves opera. And he still holds my hand.

What else?

Saul Bellow (who won a Nobel Prize for literature) said: "I blame myself for not often enough seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Somewhere in his journals, Dostoyevski remarks that a writer can begin anywhere, at the most commonplace things,
scratch around in it long enough, and lo! soon he will hit upon the marvelous. I tend to believe that, at least most of the time." And H.G. Wells said that "Man must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of his life is a miracle and a mystery." Each moment of my life has been a miracle and a mystery. The love I have for Marvin, the birth of each one of our children, our grandchildren, have surely been miracles and mysteries. Johnny Carson asked singer Helen Reddy once what she'd do if her success would all end tomorrow. And she said, "If it should all end tomorrow-- well, I've had one heck of a ride, and enjoyed every minute of it!"

Me, too. It's all marvelous! I've had one heck of a ride, and I guess I owe my Father in Heaven big time for that.


The University of Utah

The U of U was on the hillside across from my brother Gaylen's house on Sunnyside Avenue. The Zoo was only a little farther up the hill. I walked to the University and back home every afternoon, and the fields behind the National Guard Armory were empty except for meadow larks and sparrows. I lived in the basement of Gaylen and Marianne's little house until their new house on Orchard Drive in Bountiful was built. Mom and Daddy were building a new house on the lot just to the west, and were getting ready to move from California. Every morning after the move to Bountiful, Gaylen and I would climb into his Volkswagen and chug off to school together. He had his new PhD in Music, and was teaching several classes in music theory and composition, and French Horn. I took Music 101 from him, and felt obligated to get an "A" because I really didn't want him to think I was stupid. I loved the class, and he was an awesome teacher. I spent much of my free time between classes in the listening library of the music building listening to Palestrina Masses. My friend Janet wrote, warning me that this was a terrible place to meet men, and she worried that I would become an old maid.

I loved my Physics and Astronomy classes. I barely made it through a year of French. Paris est dans le Sud de la France. Le Seine traverse Paris. The new Pioneer Memorial Theater had just been completed, and most of my classes were there, or in Kingsbury Hall, next to the music building. I loved to sit under the trees between the two buildings, listening to the hodgepodge of sounds coming from the windows of the various practice rooms: piano scales, violins, horns, voices.... When Kingsbury became the home of the Ballet and Dance Department, I began to live my life, from dawn until dark, in the basement of the Theater building.

My theater classes were fine. The University accepted most of my Playhouse credits, so I had all upper level classes. I wrote home:

May 25, 1961

Dear Folks, Thanks for the dress and sweater. They're very nice, and fit fine. Gaylen's house is really going up fast. The basement and floor are in. Marianne is so excited-- she's been planning paint colors and decorating and such. The kitchen is all built in. Gaylen has been trimming all the trees on their lot and yours.

Do you know who the happiest motorcyclist is? The guy with the bugs all over his teeth! And have you seen the new Helen Keller doll? Wind it up, and it walks into the wall! (Not very funny?)

I have a rehearsal at 2 this afternoon. We open on Wednesday. I got my name in the paper this morning-- spelled wrong. We have been having late run thru's lasting until after one a.m. I play Dunyasha Thursday night. One performance out of four. Amy E. plays opening night and the week-end. So Byron took me aside after rehearsal & told me why I was playing just one night. He said he was sorry I wasn't playing more, but that there were "a lot of things involved," such as the fact that Amy has been here three years, and this is the first good part she's had. Mrs. McGrath (Byron's wife, Grace) was there when he was talking to me. She said she liked my Dunyasha, and that when she looks at me she thinks of 25 plays I could do! That was nice.

I met John Jory last night (Victor Jory's son). We talked for a long time. He came again tonight, and asked where in California I lived, & how come I was here, & how I liked the Playhouse, etc. He's done a lot of shows there, since he was a little boy.

Maybe I'll just enroll in the Writer's Conference this summer, and save my money for the Fall quarter. There aren't a lot of classes offered in summer. I'll just concentrate on the Conference, and maybe some of the summer shows. I'll have to get a manuscript together-- don't know what....


Opening night's over. The show ran 20 minutes late. Amy felt very bad about it, she was in tears. It will be me in tears tomorrow. John Jory told me he's coming tomorrow night. And Gaylen and Marianne will both be there. So there will be at lest three people in the audience. There was a full house tonight. More later.


We had another full house-- even had to turn people away. MY night is over. Byron patted my cheek, called me "Angel," and said it was "Swell." Who knows? Since I have just one night, there's not much use for criticism. Marianne and her mother came. Gaylen has been writing a philosophy paper all day and all night. Her mother is mad at me, I think. See, we had this weird-looking bug on the wall, it could run like hell, boy. Gaylen was after him with a piece of paper and a Kleenex. Marianne was shrieking and her mother was on his tail with her shoe, stomping and shouting, "WELL MY GODFREY, GAYLEN, KILL IT!" (That's the nearest to swearing I've ever heard from her).

"My sister'll be mad at me if I do," he said. Up to now I was just an innocent bystander. "He won't kill it," said Marianne.

"WELL I'LL KILL IT!" And Mrs. J. runs at it with her shoe again. So I took Gaylen's Kleenex & picked up the bug & put him outside. My cat was running wild by this time, rolling up all the rugs, with her eyes big and her ears back flat-- Hot damn! Quite a fun little episode, huh? The cat's all lovey now tonight. Goodnight.


Tonight is the last night of "Cherry Orchard." Grace McGrath told me I was "just wonderful." I heard a lot of good things from a lot of people. She said I was the best Dunyasha she'd ever seen. I wish I could do it again tonight, even if Byron does feel obligated to Amy because she's been around for so long....

After last night's show my ride decided to go with the rest to a little bar called the Blue Angel. I felt awkward and out of place because everyone was getting drunk but me. Joyce the Stick. Gaylen and Marianne will begin to wonder-- I'm always bringing half-crocked people in to use the bathroom at one or two a.m.... Byron and Grace are having a cast party after the show tonight. Full house again, with people standing, crammed in every aisle. I wish you could see it.

Gaylen's going to plant a couple of little apple trees on your lot. I told him I thought Mrs. J. was mad at me. He said, "Well, she makes ME mad, quoting the Bible about the Lord sending things to torment man! The world is full of bugs-- every drop of water is full of little bugs, and most of them are harmless, if she only knew it!"
He's a good brother. XOXO

So that's how things went, generally. I went to the Writer's Conference that summer. Robie McCauley talked with me about my manuscript of stories (for 20 minutes and 6 dollars). He said my stories were too short and unfinished, and too grotesque.

Well. I got to do "Look Homeward, Angel" on the mainstage. Actually, I went to read for the understudy for Mercedes McCambridge, the actress coming from Hollywood to play Mrs. Gant. I only went along because my friend was trying out for one of the roles, and I read just because I was there, not because I expected to get the role. I was already involved in another show. Allen Somebody was doing "The Rainmaker," and I was doing Lizzy. We had several performances in Salt Lake and were taking the show to Moab in a few weeks. I could have had the understudy role. The director, Robert Hyde Wilson (we called him "Rawhide") said I read it perfectly, and he seemed disappointed and angry when I apologized and told him I couldn't do it....but he gave me a smaller part. In theater lingo, "Break A Leg" is a good-luck wish. As it happened, Ms. McCambridge actually broke her leg and was unable to come, so they hired an actress from New York, Leora Dana. She inspired me. She was a wonderful actress, absolutely awesome. Every night. I wrote home: I would love to keep trying for professional theater. If I am too old (by the time I finally get out of school) to play charming young things, then I'll play character and mother roles. After seeing Miss Dana in "Look Homeward Angel." She has played mother roles her whole career. I'm not a very charming young thing anyway!

Well. We took "Rainmaker" to Moab. And it was fun! I was Lizzie! Gene Pack, who hosted a classical music show on KUER for many years after, played my brother Noah. Steve Somebody-- I've forgotten his last name-- (he was a dead ringer for James Dean) played Starbuck. We took publicity photos in an old barn. Steve What's-his-name, standing up in the hayloft emptied the flashbulbs out of his camera down onto the bald head of Gene Pack, standing unaware below him. The flashbulbs bounced off like ping pong balls. I laughed and rolled around in the hay until I thought I would die of laughter. No one else seemed to think it was THAT funny.... Steve and I had a love scene in the "tack room." I discovered that I really liked kissing! I mean, it was 1963, I was almost 24 years old. I had certainly kissed, and been kissed before. But here, in the middle of "Rainmaker," I discovered that I really really liked kissing! And I can't even remember his last name!

Kim Hunter, who I had admired greatly since I was a teen-ager for her role as Stella in "Streetcar Named Desire," (she won an Academy Award for that), came to the U. to do G.B. Shaw's "Major Barbara." I wrote home: "I saw "Major Barbara" between rehearsals Saturday. It's a great show. I am very impressed with Kim Hunter. I sneaked into a symposium here this afternoon sort of by accident. The Theater Guild was listening to a discussion of Shaw, and "Major Barbara," and Kim Hunter was on the panel. I sat in the back with the newspapermen. (This was an accident, too, as I just walked in and sat down, uninvited. I didn't know then what, or who, was happening). Anyway, it was the most interesting hour of the day.

Anyway. I took a directing class from "Rawhide." I decided to do Christopher Fry's "A Sleep of Prisoners," which we had done when I was on the road. I cast a very good friend, Victor Gordon, a fine actor who was also Black, as God. In the 60's, people were marching for equality, and bombing churches, and killing civil right's workers and burying their young bodies in landfills. Our performance would be in a church in Bountiful, in my Ward on Orchard Drive. There were a few raised eyebrows at our rehearsals, but the show went very well. Rawhide gave me an "A". Years later, Time Magazine wrote a piece on the status of Blacks in Utah, and they interviewed Victor Gordon, who apparently felt like a 2nd class citizen among Mormons. I've always regretted that I never wrote a letter to the editor of Time, wondering if Victor remembered the time when he played God in a Mormon church?

Graduation was a blur. Forty-plus years later, I discover that the Baccalaureate Address was given by Neal A. Maxwell, "...but speaking the truth in love..." He said: "It is they to whom we look for concern with justice, whether this concern is held in spite of the fact that we live on a planet that someday will blink, quiver, and die or whether the concern is held because life on this planet is part of a continuum in which we strive for proximate justice; it is they to whom we look for some shared realism about the nature of man and for assurance and reassurance that man is sufficiently rational and good that, therefore, we need not despair. It is they to whom we look for shared concern about freedom....It is they to whom we look to place a premium upon knowledge as essential to survival in a changing world.... If all of us cannot link arms for the task of dealing with conflict by communicating the truth...we shall be a crippled culture-- a pathetic huddle of the timid, the apathetic, and the fearful-- a society likely to end as Eliot said, 'not with a bang, but a whimper.'"


About Me

My photo
1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.