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January 11, 2012

Unfortunate Tour, But What Memories!

Tom McLaughlin

Los Angeles CA – Later in life I became a fan of old movies. I can watch them over and over again. I think I have seen Casablanca at least 30 times and always see something new. I still stand at attention when they play the Marseilles.


In the good old days actors had to act. They did not have the technology to blow things up or fly in from outer space. Sex scenes were forbidden. Foul language was replaced by well-written dialog.


The thrifty depression era denizens did not have much money and marginal actors were censured by the public. They voted by not attending their films as they could only afford to watch the best.


I eagerly awaited Beverly Hills on our four-hour tour of Los Angeles before my family visit ended with a flight home. I arranged it so we would have time before our 25-hour plus steerage to Kuching, Malaysian Borneo. I reasoned that since Los Angeles was close, why not see some of the sights.


Most of the “mansions” were hidden, understandably, behind walls. We saw a roof line here and a roof line there. I recognized most of the names as the bus driver/tour guide called them out, but the sun was setting and shadows began to hide any hint of these huge homes.


The one house I did see in all of its glory was the Beverly Hillbilly mansion. For those of you too young or live in a PBS world, the Beverly Hillbillies was a banal number one series during the 1960s.


The simplistic plot entailed an uneducated mountain family who became oil rich and moved to the Hills of Beverly. Each week brought comic misadventures as they attempted to socially adjust to their new culture. They lived in a huge mansion with an expansive front yard suitable to feed a herd of bison.


At age 10, I was a devoted fan as was most of America. The theme song became part of American lore along with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “She will be coming ’round the mountain.” We even moved our Boy Scout meeting to Tuesdays nights as the show aired on Wednesdays.


The house was a disappointment. There was only a small front yard and not the expanse of lawn as seen on television and in the movie version. It looked like a McMansion you see everywhere in the States.


Disappointed with the tour, I asked the bus driver to take us to Watts. This affable African American wanted to know why in the world I wanted to see this part of Los Angeles. “To see Fred Sanford,” I replied.


“Sanford and Son” was another hit television series starring comedian Redd Foxx. The award winning, biting and hilarious sitcom was set in the black ghetto of Watts a few years after rioting ripped the community apart. Riots again visited the area in 1992.


“No, I am not taking this bus to Watts,” was the reply as he was responsible for a bunch of rich people who could afford $125 per person for a four-hour ride.


“Don’t you live there,” I pressed. “I have never even been to Watts,” was the stern response.


I think the rest of the bus was relieved that the driver would not venture into the gang-war ridden neighborhoods of this unfortunate center of black America.


“C’mon, listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed. And then one day while he was shootin’ fer some food….”


Sorry to leave you with that rollicking around in your head. On second thought, maybe not.


…Life is good…


For a copy of my book “Borneo Tom” send $15 to my daughter Mary McLaughlin Box 514 Malta, Montana 59538. Proceeds benefit the orangutan research here in Kuching.


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