Monday, January 19, 2015

The Best Years of Our Lives

Thanks to the largesse of my Facebook friend Mickey Wetzel Bernhardt, I have been enjoying a wonderful, unusual experience the past 24 hours. She scanned the high school yearbook from what would have been my senior year at Westchester High School in Los Angeles, which I actually attended for only a semester before my parents decided to move to a neck of the woods serviced educationally by the Santa Monica public school system.

Brian Ashley, regarded by his peers as Best Looking, apparently played varsity football with no little distinction. Well, of course he did! I remember wondering, when we were both 9th graders, why God had made him so gorgeous and virile and athletic, and me a little embarrassment, to myself and others. Kinks fans reading this are of course thinking, “David Watts!” And they’re right.

Several of the girls I lusted after implacably as a hopelessly shy 14-year-old at Orville Wright Junior High School don’t look like much in their senior portraits.  On the other hand, I am delighted to see that Mel (!) Farber had become handsome by 17. When he first arrived at OWJHS, he called himself Melvin — inspiring gales of derisive laughter from his classmates — and was taunted only slightly less viciously than poor Billy Snyder, the school spastic, in whose milk many of the alpha boys thought it hilarious to spit at lunchtime when Billy’s head was turned.  I hope that Mel went onto become a successful porn producer, and that handsome, virile, full-of-himself Brian Ashley auditioned for him unsuccessfully several times, eventually gave up acting because he got so tired of fellating casting directors, took a soul-destroying office job (maybe processing words for a big fascist law firm?), lost his looks, and has never known a day’s happiness.

Oops. Did I say that?

Look at this! Sandra Lucas, who was probably black, but who asked (successfully, because she was so pretty) to be perceived as… Spanish, was a cheerleader, as too were Nancy Renkow, with whom I went on my disastrous first date (she invited me to the Leadership pool party, at which everyone except us…made out) and wee Joe(y) Sugerman, whose baby brother Danny would, in theory, co-write a famous biography of The Doors and tell people that I’d come onto him sexually, though I’d done no such thing.

Ron Wiggins, unnervingly pretty at 17, was very much more my type, though we were never more than good friends. Actually , we weren’t friends at all. He was sort of in-crowdish, and I was…John Mendelsohn, with only one s, but one day when we were in 8th grade he brought his father’s (unloaded!) pistol to school for show-‘n’-tell (you think I'm making this up, but I am not), and needed someone to guess its weight, and I was seated right in front of him, so he bit the bullet and conferred the honor on me. I guessed around eight pounds, he said, “That’s right, John,” (someone in the in-crowd knew my name!), and for an hour or two there I felt like a real boy!

I note with astonishment and a little delight that both Mel and Ron Wiggins were in the Chess Club. At Santa Monica High School, to join the Chess Club was to commit suicide socially. Only those in the Audio/Visual Club were more untouchable. But what's this? Mel also played varsity baseball?  I could spend the rest of January poring over these scans! I look at these portraits and think to myself, “So that’s what So-‘n’-So looks like now,” only to realize that, in every case, it’s what he or she looked like 50 years ago, before the Class of '65 began slowly to die off. 

We were gorgeous. We were clever. It was obvious that ever we’d be thus. We had genius beyond rating. History clearly had been waiting just for us. Like a diver from the cliff at Acapulco at the moment that he dives, we were so exhilarated as we waited for the best years of our lives. Brian fucking Ashley couldn’t have written that song (and neither could R. Davies), but I did.

[Update: Mr. Farber apparently didn't become a producer of pornography. He is seen at right in a recent photograh. No recent photographs exist of Mr. Ashley.] 


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