Monday, December 7, 2009

My Image to Think Of [March 31, 2007]]

John Lennon once observed that no music will ever mean more to anyone than that which he or she loves at 19. The same process might apply to coiffures. I don’t think there’s ever been a sexier women’s hairstyle than the early-60s beehive that was so much in evidence at Orville Wright Junior High School, the first junior high school north of Los Angeles International Airport.

Of all the cruel practical jokes life has played on me over the course of my now-officially-pretty-long life, none has been crueler than sending me to Orville Wright in the early 1960s, when the place was absolutely crawling with girls who’d have made a monk wild with yearning while I was the shyest boy on the planet.

If Elizabeth Taylor and Susan Purcell had entered Mr. Wildemuth’s Spanish class from opposite sides of the classroom, there was a fair chance you wouldn’t have noticed Liz’s arrival. Marilyn Monroe committed suicide (or so they tell us) in the summer between my leaving Wright and starting Westchester High School, which is to say that she was very much alive, and an exemplar of feminine beauty -- and, at least in my own view, at her sexiest -- my whole time at Wright. And my classmate Patty Wiemar (as in the Republic) looked like her sexier younger sister.

And I the shyest boy in the solar system.

Not that it would have done me much good if I’d been the cock-o-the-walk, as our lust-inducing-est beauties were periodically plucked from the gene pool, if you will, by older men -- high school boys with (stand back!) their own cars.

One of the reasons I lacked the nerve to approach our local beauties was that I was one of the five smallest boys in my class, the smallest being Joey Sugerman, who I later realised to have been the big brother of the late noted Jim Morrison biographer and confessional memoirist Danny Sugerman. The remarkable thing is that I officially began dating in those days. One morning towards the end of ninth grade, right after Spanish with the scintillating Wildemuth, my classmate Nancy Renkow, with whom I’d never exchanged a syllable, followed me to my locker and asked me to accompany her to the (student body) leadership party – primarily, I suspect, because of our shared ethnicity. Though the world’s shyest boy, one never seen having anything at all to do with girls outside the classroom, nor they with me, I was hesitant to accept, as poor Nancy wasn’t going to put anyone in mind of a famous sexpot of stage and screen, and I had my image to protect. I wound up accepting because my friend Ron Siegel was going with Nancy’s friend Lesley Greenfield (behold the parade of Semitic surnames!), and my mother, who didn’t want me to follow in her own socially inept footsteps, insisted. (Yes, I was the sort boy who still, at 15, acceded to Mom’s will.)

To my infinite discredit, I steered well clear of poor Nancy on the big night, never moreso than when everybody looked for quiet corners of our host’s back yard in which to French-kiss and maybe even cop a feel. I remained staunchly in the pool.

It would be three years before I’d go on another date, with the girl who became my first girlfriend, and whom I nearly married because I couldn’t imagine that I’d be able ever to talk another one into going out with me. Which is to leave the missed period unmentioned.

I wish, nearly 45 years after the fact, to apologise publicly to La Renkow, who deserved much better, and also, while I’m at it, to Ms. Diane Geller, the daughter of a strangely neckless Jewish family on my paper route. As much as I lusted after La Wiemar and La Purcell, I lusted most after the rather more disreputable (I have always been drawn to bad girls, for reasons I don't know) Barbara Myers. Since he hadn’t the slightest intention of trying to converse, one didn’t really need much self-confidence to ask girls to dance at Wright’s weekly sportsnites, which might, on the East Coast, have been called hops. You’d just wait for Mr. Acker Bilk’s Strangers on the Shore or Percy Faith’s A Summer Place or Santo & Johnny’s Sleepwalk to come on, slither over to them, mumble, “Wanna dance?” and away you went.

So there I was shoving the girl of my dreams around the floor, nearly swooning from her perfume, willing myself not to become erect, when the lumbering Geller lumbers up and taps her on the shoulder -- cutting in, as we used to say down on the farm. La Myers sighs with something that looked too much like relief, and glides off, and the unlovely Geller – who, I realise as I write this, looked remarkably like future Secretary of State Henry Kissinger – steps eagerly into my arms.

Well, I had quite enough self-esteem issues without being seen dancing with Diane fucking Geller, hadn’t I? I lasted around four bars, mumbled, “Excuse me,” and just left her there in the middle of the dancefloor.

Shame on me. As though anyone noticed with whom I danced or didn’t dance. Or, for that matter, if I were there at all.

I got what was coming to me two years later when my pal Chief (as we called one another because Maurice, the pimp, so addresses Holden in The Catcher in the Rye) and I somehow summoned the gall to try to ingratiate ourselves to a pair of comely sunbathers on the beach below Pacific Palisades in the summer of 1964. “Why,” their spokeswoman wondered when we’d finished blurting our opening witticisms, “don’t you find someone your own age?” That was enough to put me out of action, approaching-girls-wise, for 18 months – at a time when my body chemistry was absolutely screaming at me to get off the dime procreatively.

Really sorry, Diane.

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