During the early 1970’s, I spent a couple years living in Los Angeles, going to Art Center College and working for a company that designed and created miniature model kits. The picture above is a painting I made of the house I rented on Alvarado Street, just above Sunset.
My landlord was Richard Kiel, an actor who would later go on to play “Jaws”, the metal mouthed villain in the James Bond movie, “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Needless to say, I always paid my rent on time! The house was at the top of a little hill, you parked on the street and walked up a couple dozen stairs to the first two houses, continued through the courtyard another 30-40 steps to my place, and another 30 steps to the big two story house behind mine. In those four houses lived 12 or 13 people that were all in their 20’s. I fit right in from day one and it became our own little community.
The original mansion was long gone, but the four houses were the guest houses of Hollywood cowboy film legend Tom Mix in the 1930’s. So we called our little group of houses “Mixville”. David Ossman lived in the top half of the rear house, and was a member of the comedy troupe, Firesign Theatre. He occasionally published a “Mixville Rocket” newsletter to keep us all informed and laughing. And I was lucky enough to be invited down to Columbia Records in Hollywood one day to watch the group record parts of their album, “I Think We’re all Bozos on This Bus”. The troupe occasionally reunites and tours, and I’ve seen them in Portland twice in the past decade, and shared old stories with David during intermissions. It was a time I will always cherish, and only some of the stories can be told.
I lost that painting of the house, but fortunately, a print of it lives on. I unearthed it a year ago during my last move, and at the same time, I discovered a xeroxed, handmade book of poems given to me by Bob Baber, one of those neighbors from the group in LA. He lived in the front house on the right. And thanks to social media, and Amazon, I found out he had a “real” book published, that recounted his being shot and arrested as police dispersed the crowd after a canceled concert that occurred while we were friends in LA. After reading his book, I tracked him down in West Virginia and we reconnected, after 44 years. Turns out, he’s been mayor of his home town several times, and has run for senate and governor with the Green Party. That’s the Bob I remember! Glad we’ve reunited, my friend.
Once Bob and I reconnected, the next friend I had to track down was Lynne Cooper, now a psychology professor at the University of Missouri. In LA, she lived in the front house on the left. We reconnected, talked, and on Labor Day weekend, she came to Portland and spent two great days staying with us and really catching up. Another 44 years of the past that has disappeared and merged with the present. Amazing. Thanks, Lynne, it was perfect and rewarding — and my son Travis got to meet another friend from his parents’ past.
My last friend from that group and time was Chuck, a few years older and a whole lot wiser. I have never completely lost contact with him, but it’s been almost 30 years since we saw each other. Perhaps a trip to Colorado needs to happen. I’ll save you for another story, old buddy.
It seems there are moments in time that defines who we are—the people, places and politics combining to have a permanent effect on our lives and consciousness. And we don’t always realize it at the time, but reflecting back, it all makes sense. I treasure all of these defining moments and friends. To quote guitarist legend, Jorma Kaukonen “Friends are always good… you can’t have too many of them. That said, the old ones share that wondrous gift of knowing you when you were young. You can’t buy that.”
As a footnote, here’s what the courtyard looks like today, courtesy of Google Maps. A bit older and rundown, but recognizably the Mixville of my memory.
Funny, all my memories of Chuck (“Uncle Chuck”) are vague and ambiguous… He was fun, he was a kick, but I that’s the first time I have heard “wise” used… Although he was also crafty, so I guess you’re right, that does take a lot of wisdom, street wisdom. I look forward to the blog installment about him, I’ll always remember that motorhome of his I got to sleep in when he visited 11 Raccoon Lane.
It’s been great hearing of the reconnections happening with that era, it has started to fill in a lot of holes in the stories I’ve heard my entire life. Those times can disappear so quickly, especially when you move around as much as you/we did back in those years. It’s up to each us to keep those connections alive or decide to rekindle years later. So it is up to us to do so, if we lose sight of the years and people that made us who we are then its all too easy to think we got here on our own. But every single person we have met leaves an imprint on us. Good or bad that imprint still lingers, it takes knowing how it got there to understand what it means today. Kind of like Mixville, it is no longer in your life and you don’t even have the painting that represents the actual time you were there. But you still have that print…
Side note: Richard Kiel was also in such MST3K-worthy classic as This Island Earth (also starring the professor from Gilligan’s Island) and Eegah. He was oh so talented. He was probably best at being a rent-collector.
Yes, a little more of the story you’ve heard so many times before. So happy you read it. And thanks for the MST3K info.
Wish I could have shared some of those times with you, but I was too tiny then! Loved reading the stories about though, and feel through our shared conversations over the years, I was somewhere there in spirit, anyway. So is youth wasted on the young?? Maybe not…
And you are still the same brilliant creative spirit you’ve always been and, will always be.
you were there in spirit, no doubt. B.
Omigod best blog yet!!! I loved every word!! What a great recap of that defining segment of your life!! I remember visiting you there and thinking “this is so cool… I wanna live like this!” And another hippie was born haha. I feel this way about Mike’s & my Arizona years — a very short period of time but so influential in our lives. So great to relive yours with you through just now. What a great cast of characters in your ‘hood! So much awesome name dropping! Last night I watched the documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead about National Lampoon magazine. Same era, and so fun to re-visit. You would enjoy it. Fits right in to your time period here. Wow those were good times. Thanks for sharing all this. So cool you are reconnecting with so many of your formative friends. Must be a blast for all of you. Very cool.
and I’m so glad you were there…
Thanks, Scott. You are too kind.
Thanks for sharing Bill. Those folks were blessed to have you as a friend.