Smart Car Test Drive!

Smart Car Test Drive!
Click for Robin's review of this little dandy.

Robin in Television News

Robin in Television News
A trip to Bahrain at the end of the Gulf War was one of her assignments. Those characters were the secret police assigned to keep their eye on her. Fascinating place, the Middle East. Click for more on Robin's years in television.

Liz Taylor's Legacy

Liz Taylor's Legacy
Click for Robin's piece on the best and the worst of Taylor's life in film.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Comment Alert and Spamming or Why We've Added More Filters for Comments

12th century Chinese calligraphy. It's lovely, but I don't want to see it in my "comments"!

I began to notice lately that quite a few of my old blog posts have popped up on my Google Analytics list of my "most popular posts" and, in addition, I noted these particular posts had dozens and dozens of "comments" attached to them. Trouble in blog land.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lots o' Fun With Colors

That's the sample of Nutty Beige.

I like working with color in a home. Color is fun for me and I've always felt I had a strong sense of what looked good with what, in the colors around me.

Boy, was I having a tough time with the color of the latest room--a bedroom.

I made trip after trip to Home Depot for those little sample jars of Behr Paint, and I really wasn't satisfied. After six samples! And I couldn't stand the thought of another trip to Home Depot.

So, I put up the two I liked best--or hated the least--and flung fabric around them and just stared at them for a week.

And that's the sample of Fall Mood.

I still didn't like either of them. And Mr. Chang, the painter, was arriving this morning at 8:00 to get the paint sample, while another man prepared the room. At 7:30 a.m. I was still dabbing paint here and there and couldn't make up my mind!

I had to pick one of the two.

I looked over the Behr paint chart I had been working with and decided I would do something pretty wild: I would pick one of the colors I had not yet bought a sample of. Winsome Beige looked good to me all of a sudden.

Indulgent Mocha had been too heavy, and Vintage Taupe, too gray. Nutty Beige was too yellow, and Heavenly Cocoa had too much blue in it. Fall Mood looked good, but I thought it was too dark. Maybe I just wasn't in a Fall Mood.

I picked Winsome Beige--without getting a sample of it. It looks great in there.

The room under wraps and being painted.

Maybe I had been trying too hard. Maybe color is a bit like love: you have to just roll with the feeling. If you chase it too hard it slips from your hands.

Winsome Beige it is ...

... and it came out great.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Farewell to Fess

Robin was a cowgirl true and true: And Fess Parker--she will surely miss you.

Robin Writes:
Actor and winemaker Fess Parker died last week at the age of 85. He was one of my first television heroes (see cowgirl photo above) and he also caught the attention of writer, actor, filmmaker Steve Latshaw. He files this salute to the Texan who was, to many of us, our image of America: of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, all rolled into one.

Fess Parker and Ed Ames in the television series Daniel Boone.

Salute to Fess
Steve Latshaw

I've been living in Hollywood for 15 years. I came here to work and maybe meet some of my heroes in the entertainment industry. Yet as the years pass, it seems as if there's not much left of the stuff I grew up on except memories preserved on DVD and missed opportunities to thank those few still standing.

Sometimes, living here feels like I'm attending a family reunion for the first time in forty year: the old house looks familiar but I don't recognize anyone in the food line.

Part of it is my own fault. I've worked with lots of famous actors. Nice people, most of them. Easy to deal with once you figure out their game. Behavior-wise, they have more in common than not. Once you figure out what they aspire to do, what scares them and what makes them comfortable, it is relatively easy to write scripts for or with them.

But when I'm with someone I'm a true fan of, it's all over. Lots of well-meaning smiles and awkward silences. I just never know what to say or how to say it. Stuart Whitman? I was working as an actor on the set of Superboy, the TV series. Whitman played Pa Kent. Didn't know what to say. Stayed away.

James Bond? Same show. I'm playing scenes with Britt Eklund, Bond Girl from The Man With the Golden Gun, and George Lazenby, who was James Bond in another film. Shared a make-up trailer with them. Britt on one side of me, George on the other. What did I say?

Nothing. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys? Hell, yeah, backstage at the Hollywood Bowl. Shook his hand in his dressing room. "Good evening, Mr. Wilson." Profound conversation from Mr. Latshaw, there. Good on ya, fanboy.

I kicked myself for years after those meetings. I'm a glib fellow, thank you very much. Life of the party. Can get people laughing at a moment's notice. So what's my problem? I just can't think of anything to say, when I meet someone I really admire. What can I say that hasn't already been said?

So, when I finally moved to California in the fall of 1995, I vowed I'd do better. I had a dwindling list of people I wanted to meet and have half a conversation with. Thank them, mostly. Stop worrying if my words were profound. Just chat 'em up. November 2, 1995, we hit Burbank, ready to move into our apartment. Stayed the night at the Safari Inn (featured in Apollo 13). First on the list?

Dean Martin. As of that week, Old Dino ("Old Redeyes,” as Frank used to call him) still spent his dinner hour at Hamburger Hamlet in Beverly Hills. He'd pull out his teeth and plop them on the table next to a glass of scotch and gum his pasta. To hear tell, you could saunter in to the Hamlet and have a friendly chat about movies.

He loved westerns and was most proud of one he did with Duke Wayne called Rio Bravo. Well, I put it off. Didn't get to the Hamlet that week. Or the next. Or the next after that. Within a few weeks, Dino had had enough of this life. He missed his son, killed in a 1987 Air National Guard crash and was tired of fighting cancer, emphysema and all the rest of it. So he went home to die at age 78. By the time I figured out where the Hamlet was it was Christmas Eve. And Dino was gone.

Roy Rogers was next on the list. Anybody who's read this space knows how I feel about the King of the Cowboys. And in those days, when fans and families visited the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, Roy delighted in walking up behind them and surprising them. He was as joyful about those meetings as the fans, eager to meet people and point out things in the museum. He'd show off photos of experiences and events or play with toys that had been possessions shared between himself and the fans.

Visiting Roy, so I heard, was like visiting a long lost relative, full of unconditional love. Like a long overdue family reunion except you recognized the people in the food line. Perfect for me, right? Well, Victorville was 90 miles from Burbank. And weekends were short, particularly when you were new in town, working to jump start a movie career. So, I put it off. What would I say to Roy? And time flies when all your focus is on the wrong things. The things that suddenly seem so unimportant when you read an obituary. Roy's obit hit the newsstands that first week of July, 1998. "Good-bye, Good Luck and may the Good Lord take a likin' to ya, Roy."

So that brings us back to Fess Parker. By all accounts, a good man and a fair businessman. And a nice fellow. But to me and millions of other children of the fifties and sixties, he was a symbol of the American spirit.

He wasn't born on a mountain in Tennessee, but to many children, he was still their very own Davy Crockett and Dan'l Boone.

He was Daniel Boone. He began his career in the 1950s, playing in small but important films in classics like Them!, where he played a pilot who doctors thought was crazy becuase he insisted his plane had run into a giant, flying ant. (It had!) I liked him fine in a little-seen John Wayne classic called Island in the Sky, about a downed cargo plane and its crew in the Yukon. In the mid-fifties, Fess became a national icon when Walt Disney fitted him for a coonskin cap and called him Davy Crockett.

King of the Wild Frontier!

Unless you were a child back then, you may not know how big Davy Crockett became. That coonskin cap made Fess Parker the Beatles-on-steroids for a whole generation of TV viewers. An icon for the ages. Soft Texas accent, a man with hard eyes who stared a villain down. A jaw set to do the right thing even if it got him hurt or killed.

All the fuss stemmed from a handful of TV episodes that were later cut into feature films. It was TV's first mini-series and became an annual encore on the Wonderful World of Color (later Wonderful World of Disney) which is where I saw it. The real Davy Crockett had been a savvy politician, a big drinker and talker and some say a bit of a con man. But the way Fess played him, he was America in the flesh. Tall, strong, handsome, and simple: but, a smart man, spouting the occasional profound statement or humorous "teaching moment." A mountain-man version of Abe Lincoln.

By the late fifties, it seemed to be all over for Fess. He was now typecast; people didn't want to see him in anything unless he was wearing a coonskin cap--or at least Western rawhide. He bounced around, initially under contract to Disney, doing various features and TV series. Nothing really clicked. And before long, kids didn't care much about the coonskin cap. Elvis had taken care of that. Or had he?

In 1964, Fess put the cap on one more time for a TV series he also produced called Daniel Boone. While a hunter like Crockett, Boone was also a land surveyor, early explorer and a brave American intimately involved in the American Revolution and the early development of the American wilderness.

The series itself was set during the Revolutionary War and co-starred Ed Ames as Boone's brave Indian sidekick Mingo. I loved that show and I learned a lot about that period of history. The show got condemned for historical inaccuracy: but I knew the difference between TV and real life. It made me want to read history books about the War for Independence. Something else to thank Fess Parker for.

So I began making plans to meet him. Because Fess was an accessible icon. After Daniel Boone's run ended in 1971, Fess did a few more TV productions, then walked away from the business. He bought a winery in Central California, turned it into a beautiful resort and lived a life of beauty and contentment.

I knew he liked visitors. I had a relative named Dowain who visited that winery a few years back. Took his wife Carol Ann on a romantic road trip up there. They stopped at the Fess Parker Winery for a taste of the local vintage. And wondered if it was "that" Fess Parker.

It was. Fess sat down at the table with Dowain and Carol Ann, opened a bottle of his finest and shared it with them, briefly. He was warm, friendly and nice and wanted to chat. Dowain and Carol were star struck. Fess quickly made them feel special. They shared the grape together, swapped lies and talked about the good old days, like the old friends that, in a way, they were. Fess had been a friend on the big and small screen, reminding us all how it had once been, when we were a nation of "just folks" and good Americans.

We all felt we had a relative like Fess that we never saw as much as we liked but enough to remember who he was and what he stood for. And Fess was friendly in return because he never forgot how all those kids and their parents helped him buy the second half of his life, as a Gentleman Vintner.

So I figure you're dying to ask. Did I ever make it up there to visit Fess Parker? Of course not. Time, career, relationship and life changes all got in the way. You know, the unimportant stuff like that. Besides, I had to be true to my own bad choices. I never went. And a couple of days ago, Fess was back in the headlines. For the last time.

You can still visit the winery. And I will. I hear it is a beautiful place. You may have seen it in the movie Sideways.

When you go, hoist a glass of Fess's finest in his honor. I love his Frontier Red. Goes with anything, especially an old Daniel Boone DVD. And you might want to quote Picasso's last words for his benefit: "Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can't drink any more."

Or perhaps you’ll sing one of Parker’s theme songs:

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With an eye like an eagle
And as tall as a mountain was he!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
He was brave, he was fearless
And as tough as a mighty oak tree!

From the coonskin cap on the top of ol' Dan
To the heel of his rawhide shoe;
The rippin'est, roarin'est, fightin'est man
The frontier ever knew!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
And he fought for America
To make all Americans free!

What a Boone! What a doer!
What a dream come-er-true-er was he!

by Vera Matson, Music by Lionel Newman
(Copyright 1964, 1966 Twentieth Century Music Corporation, New York, NY)

Visit Fess Parker's Web Site

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