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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose // By any other name would smell as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.1-2.

Back when, as I recall, I was always a lover of beautiful actresses and movie stars, those “starlets” of the ‘50s.  I’m not sure that this hasn’t changed much now, as I still have tendencies toward liking beauty, and appreciating youth, and fine acting.  Then, as now, I have had my favorites, but I’ve never had large pictures of posters of, say, Farrah Fawcett affixed to the ceiling above my top bunk, or of Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe pasted on the wall above my desk.  [Farrah Leni Fawcett 1947– 2009), American actress, model, and artist.  A four-time Emmy Award nominee and six-time Golden Globe Award nominee,Farrah-Fawcett-1 Fawcett rose to international fame when she posed for her iconic red swimsuit poster–which became the best selling pin-up poster in history.  She starred in the first season of the television series Charlie’s Angels (1976–1977).  She was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, dying three years later at age 62.–Wikipedia.] 

I did, however, have pictures inside my high school locker door, probably as a freshman or a sophomore (really? junior? senior?)  Two of my favorites were Mitzi Gaynor and Kim Novak.

About Kim Novak (Marilyn Pauline Novak), the nice Bohemian girl from Chicago, my hometown:  I saw as many of her movies as I could–and still consider Picnic (1955) and Man with the Golden Arm (1955) two of (my) the best films she made.

picnic_poster

She played dual-roled Madeline/Judy in the thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958), with actor Jimmy Stewart (considered a classic, but not one of my all-time favorite movies).

bell book and candle life mag She was absolutely beauty and sexy as the witch in Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) (again with Jimmy Stewart).  Definitely one of my favorite “I’ve-never-been-infatuated-by-Kim-Novak-movies.”                                 

With her blond-white hair and her classy-sassy shape, she was playing the Temptress Jeanne Eagles (1957) with hajeanne eagles kim novakndsome heartthrob Jeff Chandler.

How was I so smitten?  So many memoriesofatime. . .

Beyond the movies and the acting, though, the name “Kim” has no special hold on me (or does it?).  Nothing was ever magical in the name, a girl’s name, short for Kimberly; or the title of a Kipling novel (Kim); or a very popular Korean name–like “Lee.” 

“Mitzi,” however, has a different life, far beyond a school locker or a movie screen for me.  As that young movie lover, I first saw Francesca Marlene de Czanyi von Gerber–another Chicago girl (b. 1931)–in South Pacific (1958) on the big screen of a downtown theater.mitzi gaynor wholesome

She danced (had legs!).  She sang.  Posed risqué (a poster girl).  Was sweet, charming, mostly demure.  And, could act, too.  In my years of objectifying females (Y.O.O.F!), she was more than decorations inside my locker. 

I bought movie magazines, scissoring out her pictures, hormoning after her (35-22-35) every time I opened my locker during the school day.  mitzi gaynor legsBut no pictures of her hidden around at home, in drawers, under mattresses, in secret places throughout the house.

I carried her with me, however, made her part of my life, when I called out “What’s in a name?”  I named my first car, bought and paid for, cash deal–$75.00–a 1950 4-door Ford:  My “Mitzi.”  “Mitzi.”  (There would be other cars, but you never forget your first.)  So, what’s in a name?  Why name a car?  Personalization, friendship.  Why is a car female?  (Always?)  A “she”?  “She runs well.”  “She is a real go-er.”  “She gets good gas mileage.”

1950_Ford_Custom_Fordor-maroon-m

“Mitzi” and I had a good relationship for a while, from the first tank of gas in the spring of 1959 to the summer of 1960.  There were some problems with her, however, early on.  First, the gas gauge did not work well, was weak in calibration.  I ran out of gas in Golf, Illinois, coming home, with my sister and my mother in the back seat, after I had just bought her.  The good news was that I had an empty gasoline can and was near a gas station.  So I prepared to exit my stalled vehicle that was off the road.  The bad news is?  . . . a police car, pulling up behind.

The officer of the law approached my vehicle.  The usual “license and registration” while shining a light throughout the car.  My sister, in her best non-quiet voice (she was out of high school then), blurted out, “Does he think we stole something?”  Gulp (to utter the least)!  He asked about my license plates:  “Mine.  They came with the car.”  Wrong answer:  They were not registered to me, the owner.  So, “I’m giving you a citation for driving with fictitious license plates.”  Which he did.  Then he drove me to the gas station to fill up the can–and brought me back to my mother and sister, still laughing at the whole situation.  (I had to pay the fine; I mailed it.  And avoided all roads that led to Golf, Illinois, as much as possible, in later life.)

village of golf.jpg

Later that year, in the Illinois winter, I was driving Mitzi, along with two high school classmates.  Winter-early-evening dark, as we came home from a school activity.  Bam!  Bam!  The engine stopped, and we coasted along a two-lane highway north of Chicago.  (No car-phones back then.)

No luck starting the engine, that only knock-knocked-knocked.  Fortunately, a friend came by and got us a tow-truck to another friend’s house nearby.  So Mitzi sat most of the winter in a cold auto shop, being repaired

rod and pistonpiston and rod

for a “thrown rod.”  By spring, she was good-to-go, but was never the same.

It was rough, the repairs; she endured some serious trauma, and would never really recover.  I visited her as much as I could during that winter.  By summer, I knew her days with me were short.  She became over heated, under pressure, then simply shut down.  At times, I had to wait on a hot summer day for the Temperamental One to relax, start, and run smooth.

I sold Mitzi that following summer.  She was replaced.  I was so fickle, so non-comitted to her as she grew older.  I was looking for a more committed relationship.  When she left–or rather, when I left her, cast her off like some used, used-up, Hollywood starlet on a used car backlot–Mitzi was traded for a sleek 1954 Ford.

1954 ford

But never could this one replace or duplicate the first-time experiences I had with “My Mitzi.”

“Let’s see: First, she needs a new paint job, then a new 4-barrel carb, a new custom grill.  Then I want to install . . .”  “She’s a go-er with her V-8, and . . .”  “What shall I name her?”

© JAMES F O’NEIL  21 April 2019 (Happy Birthday, 1941!)

Kim_Novak_-_autographed

“Hey, Hon, can I put this picture over my desk?”

 

 

 

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Friends, Good Friends–and Such Good Friends”–by Judith Viorst (1977)

I came across Judith Viorst’s essay on friendship many years ago. It was included in a writing text, as an example of one of the major (“classic”) expository writing strategies: Classification. The content is about degrees of friendships and kinds of friendships, an essay mostly about women but also does include “men who are friends.” Viorst posits some eight or nine categories. I liked/like her essay, so much more concise and example-driven than Cicero’s “classic” essay on friendship, which I once wrote about in a college paper.

I like Viorst’s varieties of friendships, which I modified for my own use, but based on her commentary: acquaintances, companions, social friends, intimates. Yet within my own classification, I even found myself making too many subdivisions, sub 1, sub 2, and on.

What more can be said, then, written about, that is not already available, from Aristotle (now that is one-long-analytical-philosophical piece–EVER) and Francis Bacon, and not to forget Emerson–and more?

For movie-lovers, the screen is filled with examples of friends and friendships, categories and kinds. (There’s that Jack Ryan character, in Clear and Present Danger, sorting out friends, and all the President’s friends.). And Stand by Me: classic. Nor can we ever forget Bogart and Bacall; Rick and Ilse?

rick and ilseCASABLANCA

Pause with me for a moment. Hold that thought-picture from Casablanca, while I come to “black books”: those small black books within which are found addresses of friends, relationships, passwords, codes, comments. Such little black “address” books become a Revelation of Life and Times and Thoughts. And mysteries. Small address books, black, leatherette, red tabs, handwritten entries, perhaps with some phone numbers. No pictures. Special books. I never had such a black book. Instead:

JIMMY'S FIRST COMMUNIONJIMMY’S FIRST COMMUNION

There I stand, on May 9, 1948, between The Twins, my first “friend-girls.” Though my hands are folded in the prayer-mode, my first little black book was My First Communion Prayer Book, not an address book. It was probably similar to this:

FIRST COMMUNION BOOKFIRST COMMUNION BOOK: PHOTO CREDIT: jerryhammes.com

Most likely, the book was in my little suit pocket. I used the little prayer book for a few years, until I graduated to something akin to the Saint Joseph’s Sunday Missal, then on to the Saint Joseph’s Daily Missal through high school.

Some years ago, I underwent a special period of nostalgia. I searched for a link to a past life, and another black book. I found The Book of Common Prayer, with its soft leather and gilt edges. I bought this particular book (in 2007) mostly for its beauty and its comfort-for-me content:

EPISCOPAL BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.Photo Credit: Oxford U Press

Since the beginning, however, my little black books have morphed into larger black books, but then on to a Day-Timer, and AT-A-GLANCE (2-year format) “books.” Yet were I to have a “small black book,” it would include, among other items, the coded names and coded notes about my “something-special” friends. I once intended to write about my “friend-girls,” those women in my life who were/are special, yet certainly are not “girlfriends.”

carol, jim, dianne at shubat's july 1956--10th gradeJIMMY ON VACATION 10TH GRADE

So there we were: C. Z.: At Sister Lakes, Mich., and her cousin, D. K. My first REAL Friend-Girls. Teen years in the summers, high school, and college. “Friends Forever”–until after my marriage. C. my confidante. Confessor. Mentor. Guide. Wee-hour discussions, for hours and hours, about poetry, God, friendship–and love. Then gone. A loss. One of the essential pieces of The Great Puzzle I Am…. [R.I.P. July 1998]

L. A.: Next-door neighbor: Married. I loved her. I am fourteen. I am sixteen. I am eighteen. I still love her. [R.I.P.]

T. M.: On a first date. Movies in downtown Chicago. The Longest Day.

longest dayTHE LONGEST DAY. Photo Credit: imdb.com

DUMB! Didn’t think she’d ever date me again. I was right: she didn’t. A war movie, for God’s sake?!

K. N.: Nice Czech-Bohemian girl from Chicago. I had her pictures pasted everywhere. I was a fan-atic. She was my pubescent-time fantasy. Silly infatuation with a goddess, Jeanne Eagles. I was The Man with a Golden Arm. KimKimKim. I suffered from Vertigo:

KIM.KIM.KIM.KIM.KIM.KIM.KIM.

P. S.: “My” BRIDE OF CHRIST. Most holy and beautiful. A spiritual distraction, came to be my first dark night of the soul. To the nunnery! Curse God! Conflicted. “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Not so. Or so I thought. Time healed.

AUDREY HEPBURN in THE NUN’S STORY. Photo Credit: amazon.com

D.T.: SECRET ADMIRER. I kept address and phone number in secret place. Secret letters. Mail from “D.T.” The Vixen? The Destroyer? Just a friend? Serious discussions. Two lost souls.

Oh. And:

saint pauli girl vintageadbrowserPhoto Credit: vintageadbrowser

M. V.: “You’ll never forget me.” Too young. I’ve never forgotten her. “You’ll never forget your first….”

And, finally (here), 

E. W.: Untouchable, with braces. Virgin on Pedestal. Adorable. Adored. Forever a Good Memory of a time that was good and wholesome. And how I did so well learn how to spin that bottle with her!

My friends, and such good friends at the right time.

© James F. O’Neil 2015

Regarding Henry wikipediarandom hearts poster

[For some interesting viewing of “friends” and “friendship,” try Random Hearts (1999) and/or Regarding Henry (1991).]

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