Article from the 7/22/2016 Catalina Islander

Since I became "Catalina Official Greeter", March 10, 2014, when the Chamber Of Commerce assigned me to greet the cruise ships and cross channel carriers, I have answered 51,274 questions.  Here are some new questions/comments:
"My husband works for CHP (California Highway Patrol) and he wants to know if there is a Highway Patrol office on the Island as we would like to move here?"
A rock was received in the mail to the Chamber Of Commerce with the note, "My family came to Catalina 5/14-20.  We had a great time! But my 9 year old daughter took a rock off the beach.  Well everyone knows that it is bad luck so PLEASE return it to its rightful place.  Thanks!"
"Are the boat moorings in the water?"
"Is your area code 3-1-0 or 310?"
"Is Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic?"
 
"HE'S MY BROTHER!"
 
It is well established practice to keep making things "New and Improved".  For those of you who are old enough to remember the "Pike" in Long Beach (location of the present  "Pike", Ocean/Pine), which ran from 1902-1979, its name was changed to "Nu Pike" in the 1950's.  By this time the amusement part was pretty tacky and, even with this "cute" spelled new name, it still showed much wear.  I remember men pulling young "ladies" through the crowd trying to find men "interested" in them.  Dad had to explain what was happening and it made me sick to my stomach even then!  One good thing that came out of the park was a magician/carny by the name of "Tony".  Every summer in the late 50's-early 60's, he would come to the Island and set up his "games of chance" on Crescent Ave., location of the present "Metropole Market Place", between Metropole/Whittley.  It was pretty standard fare.  You had a chance to win a cheap doll or fish by throwing dimes on platters or knocking over milk cartons that were weighted down to put the odds in favor of the "house".  Tony would often "let" us poor kids win, if we had spent more money than we probably should have.  I don't think that Tony realized that "diving for coins" meant that I was probably making more money per day than he was!  Sometimes $15!!!
 
Jumping ahead to the winter of 1961.  My stepfather and his father tried to expose me "culture" and so took me to the "Wilshire High School Auditorium", Fullerton, CA, to hear the famous actor, Charles Laughton, perform his "Reader's Theatre" performance that he had done around the world during WWII for our military camps.  He was already my favorite actor as I cried for him when he played the lead in the "Hunchback of Notre Dames", 1939, and booed him when he played Captain Bligh in "Mutiny On The Bounty", which used Catalina Island for much of the movie in 1935. Of course I was able to cry and boo as I was only able to see these classic "old" movies on our black/white RCA TV.  Although Catalina would normally show a different movie every night (BOY, WOULDN'T THAT BE NICE!), the these older films just weren't be replayed much in those days.  Of course, many of the current movies I was watching in the 50's at the theatre turned out to be classics!  I marveled at how Mr. Laughton kept his audience completely spell bound with his "readings" from the "Bible", Shakespeare and probably the phone book if he so chose.  For a 14 year old "native kid", this was something special!  When the program was over and Mr. Laughton adjourned "back stage" all of these "big kids" (most likely students of acting) and adults all ran to the "stage door" in hopes of getting to meet this acting icon!  As it was raining (REMEMBER THAT WET STUFF!?!), I was placed outside the theatre next this non-descript door which had an overhang for protection as Bob, my step-father, and his father, Mem, went to get the 1956 Chevy Bel Air (yes, aqua blue/white!!!).  As I was waiting, about 150' away, a limousine pulled up and the driver got out with a heavy coat.  Next to me the door opened and out came Mr. Laughton with someone helping to keep him covered.  He rushed to the curb.  I was DRAWN to him as I wanted to share my excitement of the evening.  NO ONE ELSE WAS AROUND!  As I started toward him, he noticed me and signaled for his assistant not to get him in the vehicle, but to wait to see what this "kid" wanted.  I HAD NOT IDEA WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY!  I noticed how large and heavy Mr. Laughton was, considering the fact that he had shared during the concert that he had cancer.  For some uneducated reason,I thought he should have been skinny, dying of this horrible disease.  (He died less than a year later in 1962.  He was 63.).  I got closer and closer and we were both getting wetter and wetter when, without seeing the dynamics of this possible encounter, my step-father grabbed me by the arm and rushed me to the awaiting Chevy!  I LEFT MR. LAUGHTON STANDING THERE!
 
Now jump ahead to the fall of 1977.  I had a business called "Catalina Island Odyssey" which handled our "Odyssey Bus Line" to many points around the Island and would eventually put on the "Casino's 50th Anniversary" celebration as well as the "first" and "last" annual "Catalina Island Film Festival" in 1979 (this is NOT to be mistaken for the VERY SUCCESSFUL and world famous "Catalina Film Festival" put on brilliantly by my great friend, Ron Truppa, for the last five years).  Gigi Wyatt, my assistant (who was to be killed in a helicopter accident the following year), and myself would go to travel conventions as our Chamber was yet to be active as it fortunately now is.  We were at a trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center and up comes this slightly overweight by distinguished looking man to our booth.  "I used to work at Catalina during the Summer months in the 1950's-60's and I bet you don't remember who I am?"  Immediately I said, "Yes, you are 'Tony' and you used to put on those carnival type programs for the kids, along with some magic!"  "You REMEMBER me!!" he said with a lump in his throat and his voice quivering a bit.  "Of course!  Every kid remembers you and how generous you were to make sure that we generally ALWAYS won SOMETHING!  By the way, did anyone ever tell you how much you look like the actor, Charles Laughton!?!"  (he even had the same mole on his left cheek!).  "I SHOULD! I'm his youngest brother, Tony Laughton!!"  WHAT, THE BROTHER OF MY FAVORITE ACTOR!!!!!   (Tony's real name was Sidney Edwards, 1916-1986,  and he and Charles shared the same mother.  "Tony" changed his name when he moved to Hollywood and became a director).  Overwhelmed as I was, I was still able to share my story of 1961 and wanted to know HOW he THOUGHT his brother would have reacted IF this 14 year old had been able to talk to him in the rain in Fullerton, when I really had NOTHING to say except how much I "loved his acting". He assured me that his brother would have been VERY PLEASED to have such a young fan and would have been very gracious, even under these trying circumstances.  Tony shared how the family had "disowned" his brother's actress wife, Elsa Lanchester (she was the "Bride of Frankenstein", 1935) as in her "tell all" book, she had shared that Charles Laughton was gay and had many young lovers.  I had read her book and told Tony that I found her to have handled the subject very well.  She had shared how her husband always went out of his to assist his companions with their future careers.  One such companion came with Mr. Laughton to Catalina in 1935 during the filming of "Mutiny".  Charles wanted SO MUCH to fit in with Clark Gable and the rest of the cast and crew, as he was new to the U.S.  Things, I understand, went pretty well, until Mr. Gable found out about his sexual preference!  THAT WAS THE END OF THEIR FRIENDSHIP.  Little acting went into the animosity and hatred shown to Charles Laughton on the screen of this most classic film.  The fact that Charles was seasick during most of the filming made for a very convincing Bligh and the idol of a very impressionable 14 year old!
 
Once things get more organized in our new Museum, I was cease writing this column (you can check out any of my old articles on www.catalinaislandman.com).  I will continue with my original column, "Catalina Time Capsule" that, through the use of old "Islander" newspapers, I am able to share what was going on each month, 100, 75, 50, 25, and 10 years ago! I will also be writing my first book highlighting 25 stories about my life growing up on Catalina, some of the more interesting questions/comment I have answered since March 10, 2014, plus finding the most remarkable "trivia" about this most remarkable Island!  If you want to contact me directly, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.