Learning to Fly

In the middle of March, 1976, I was a senior at Hollywood High School. I figured my college chances would be better if I could prove that I had super powers. While my classmates were busy in the library, I was hard at work trying to learn how to fly!

I also imagined that it would be cool to be a super hero who went around in Speedos instead of the more traditional tights-boots-cape outfit.

Dracula 1974

Dracula 1974

This rather nervous-looking cat was named Dracula because of his fondness of going for the neck of anybody wearing perfume. They all had it coming. Already I have featured one of the other weird cats from the spring of 1974. Don’t worry, there’s more where this came from! We had 12 cats in the house back in the 1970’s.  This fact may help explain why, for many years, I’ve been content to hang out with dogs, such as this one:

Rainbow June 2008

Kay Ross 1978

Kay Ross 1978

Here’s a picture of Kay Ross that I took at the 1978 Hollywood High School graduation. Mrs. Ross was the debate coach for many years. She worked with me and with many of my friends. Kay Ross was continually frustrated with me for being too critical of America, but she generously gave her time and energy to help all of us sharpen our skills.

Even now, decades later, we recall Mrs. Ross’s basic teachings, such as “don’t begin a speech with an apology.” It’s interesting to note that she looks far younger in this picture than she does in my memories.

Hollywood Sign – July 1972

The Hollywood Sign was falling apart in the summer of 1972. You can see plenty of holes in the letters. The reason each letter looks like tinfoil is because the original surface of the letters was perforated with hundreds of little holes for lights – originally, the sign read “Hollywoodland,”  and it was lit up at night. It was put on the hill to advertise a new housing development, and the neighborhood still thinks of itself by that name. The Entertainment Establishment did not wake up to the commercial value of the sign until several years later.

Here’s what the sign looked like at the end of December, 2007. You’ll notice that the new letters are a lot sturdier, and that the vegetation has been cut back quite a bit.  Back in 1972, you could hike up and walk around in between the letters. Now there are unmanned flying drones cruising the barbed-wire perimeter, and guys with shoot-to-kill orders watching this National Treasure night and day and making sure nobody gets too close. This is Hollywood. Look but don’t touch. If you want to mingle with your monuments, go to the Lincoln Memorial or the Empire State Building.

W.C. Fields said, “Hollywood is the gold cap on a tooth that should have been pulled a long time ago.” Of course, everybody knows that guy was a sentimental optimist.

Hollywood Sign December 2007

Graduation Speech 1973

35 years ago today, I graduated from LeConte Junior High in Hollywood, California. The ceremony was held at the Hollywood High auditorium. I got to give a speech at this event, on the topic “Imagine All the People Sharing All The World.” Here’s what I thought about the future when I was 14 years old:

Scott Pearce - June 15, 1973

“Imagine All The People Sharing All The World: Where Do We Go From Here?”

For a minute, I’d like to ask everyone here to imagine the whole world and all the people sharing it. It can be a pretty nice thought, can’t it? After all, in one junior high school, the one that we’ve been attending, there are more than sixty different countries represented. That’s a fairly healthy cross-section of humanity, and it shows that lots of people of many different national origins can not only get along but really enjoy each others’ company.

Most graduation speeches are traditionally very optimistic. However, when I imagine the people in the world in twenty-five or fifty years I find that optimism doesn’t come easy. Already we are faced with a dangerous degree of over-population, pollution, and depletion of the world’s natural resources. Dr. Erlich and others say that by the end of this century we are going to be faced with such a world famine that wars will be inevitable between those who have enough food and those who do not. So war and its attrocities are added to hunger, and that is a combination that, historically, has usually meant epidemic diseases as well. Meanwhile, we ourselves – the people of the United States – annually use up more of the planet’s irreplaceable energy sources than all the rest of the world put together. Obviously, this can’t go on forever.

That’s an awful lot of problems.

Like it or not, we are going to have to deal with them. It remains to be seen whether our generation will be up to the challenge they represent. This generation will have to avoid the danger of repeating past mistakes and handing on to the next generation all the chaos that we are threatened with – plus other varities that we haven’t yet even dreamed of. After all, in my opinion, man already belongs at the head of the list of endangered species.

At the begining, I said that graduation speeches are usually very upbeat and optimistic. They express thanks to faculty and parents for the wonderful education that we have received during out term at Le Conte. It would be nice to be able to make such a speech, but honesty has compelled me to talk instead about the grim challenges that we’re all going to have to face up to.

Are we going to be ready for them?

I hope so, and I also hope that some of the people that I have known here at Le Conte will be at the forefront of the struggle to find the solutions that we so desperately need. If the solutions arn’t found, than imagining the world and all the people in it two or thrree generations from now will be a frightening task indeed.

We Are Snake Pit 1976

We Are Snake Pit 1976

Here is a charming photo from the archives, taken on February 20, 1976. This was Hollywood High School’s “Special Ed” club. Let’s see if I can remember the old school cheer, which rang out in the bleachers at various sporting events. Did you know that the school allowed smoking in the bleachers back then? It’s no lie. Actually, they had two smoking sections, one for tobacco and the other for everything else.

A closer inspection of this photograph reveals the presence of dog biscuits, dropped trousers, and other evidence of that wholesome spirit of teen exuberance American kids are so widely known for.

Oh yeah, the old school cheer. Here goes:

“Coach Cha’s boys, raiders of the night, g__ damn, son of a b____, we’d rather f___ than fight. Flim flam, g__ damn, who the hell are we? S___ f___, c___ suck, we’re the varsity!”

Today, everybody in this photograph is about 50 years old. I’m still waiting for the alumni association to see the obvious sentimental value in reuniting all these creative people and getting them to come back to Hollywood High and shout this cheer to the current students. It’s important for elders to keep the old school spirit alive.

Hillary Clinton Concedes

Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign this morning. Although I did not support her candidacy, I recognize the historic importance of her speech. Watch and listen to it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Full transcripts available here.

Alexis did not get to watch or listen to the speech live, as I did, so I got to sit in the background while she took it in on-line. Alexis thought the speech was pitch perfect. I think it was brilliant. Sadly, I remain profoundly disappointed with the Democrats for their failure to serve as a true opposition party. I find myself appalled at the power of corporations and frightened by the disintegration of Constitutional law in this country. It seems to me that the Ralph Nader and Ron Paul campaigns have far more intellectual and moral substance than do those of Obama, Clinton and McCain.

At the same time, I recognize the importance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and I respect the enthusiasm that it has generated among several generations of American women. I have no doubt that this speech will be quoted for many years to come. For those whose work on Senator Clinton’s campaign has been their first taste of political activism, this address by their candidate will serve as a continuing inspiration.

Although I handed out bumper stickers for the Bobby Kennedy campaign when I was nine years old, I didn’t put any real time and effort into a political campaign until the McGovern candidacy of 1972. Sometime between now and election day, I’ll publish the campaign literature that still sits in my files, including the piece put out within weeks of Watergate, entitled “Bug Nixon Before Nixon Bugs You.”

I remember election night,1972. Everybody knew that Nixon was going to win a gigantic landslide victory. I spent that night alone in my room, with a cheap black and white television set and a cassette tape recorder. Even today, I still remember the hot tears on my face as I watched and listened to George McGovern’s concession speech, just days before my 14th birthday. I dreaded the future under a second Nixon administration. Little did I suspect at the time that Richard Nixon would leave a more progressive legacy than would any of his successors.

Have a listen to Senator McGovern’s fine speech from that miserable November evening more than 35 years ago, and imagine the sort of world we would live in if fine people like McGovern had been leading the executive branch of government instead of the ones we ended up with. As I listen to this speech again today, I recognize that McGovern was hardly the perfect candidate – yet his words and and the substance of his career continue to inspire me today.

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No doubt Hillary Clinton’s speech will do the same for untold numbers of young women who for the first time have tasted politics, and political disappointment, with Clinton’s campaign of 2008.

Ticker 1974

Ticker

Here is a picture I took of a cat named Ticker way back in April of 1974. In this photograph, he is using his immense mental powers to open a can of cat food and to cause it to pour into a bowl that only he can see. Back in ’74, there were eleven other cats in the household. Ticker was not the weirdest.

A Better Jade Plant Photo

For no extra charge, here is another cool jade plant photo, taken a couple of days after a cold spring rainstorm gave it a proper washing.

Hollywood High Ticket 1975

OK, admit it – you don’t see something like this every day, do you? That’s why you come on-line, instead of wasting your time watching TV or doing your job, to see interesting stuff like this! Splendid. Well, since you asked, this ten-cent ticket was issued to allow entry to a faculty-student basketball game on December 11, 1975.

How is it that I would still have this ticket stub, more than 30 years after the event? That’s a good question. Maybe somebody can look it up in the DSM-IV and get back to me with the answer.

1976: KFI All-American

In 1976, KFI was a good radio station. It carried the Dodgers broadcasts, had a real news department, and was part of the NBC radio network. KFI was part of the local community, too. Back then, a teenager could win his first chance to fly in an airplane from the station by taking a few minutes to enter a local essay contest.

Today, the station is just another brick in the wall of downsized corporate propaganda.

But wait! Take a look at the topic of the essay. “Why I am proud to be an American.” It’s not as if they said, kids, in 25 words or less, explain “What America Must Do to Live Up to her Promise.”

Back in the mid-1970’s, I spent a lot of time entering speech contests at places like the Lion’s Club. They would usually ask us to speak on topics such as “What the Flag Means to Me.” You’d always get a free meal, and often a pass to stay out of a period or two of class. Plus, it was a fine way to become a better speaker.

I remember once giving a talk to a room full of WW2 Vets, back in ’75 when I was a scruffy teenager, on the topic “What is Patriotism?” I recalled Hiroshima, our support for the Shah of Iran and Apartheid South Africa, and our recent expensive and humiliating defeat in Vietnam. I noted that my earliest memories included the assassination of President Kennedy, and that I got my driver’s license a few weeks after President Nixon resigned in disgrace. Looking out at the audience, I saw a lot of angry guys, including one who was holding an ash tray in his right hand as if he might be thinking of throwing it in my direction. “Patriotism,” I concluded, “is the feeling all of you have right now. You love your country and most of you defended it with your lives when you were only a few years older than I am now. I look around me today, and I feel the most patriotic thing I can do is to stand up and say that our country has lost its way…” (A different teenage orator won that particular contest.)

Back in ’75, when I won this extremely expensive, fun trip, I remember a friend being impressed with me for “giving them what they want, for a change.” Although obviously what I wrote was what they wanted, when one of my teachers gave me the KFI contest form, I approached the exercise sincerely. I like being challenged to express an idea in few words. At the speech contests, I figured the point was to be sincere, to challenge the audience rather than pander to it.