Skip to main content

Marilyn, Legacy Story

THE BUS RIDE FROM INGLEWOOD ALL THE WAY TO SHERMAN OAKS on that hot July morning was almost unbearable. The streets in 1954 were bumpy, and the buses were stiff, like submarines with wheels, catapulting us into the unconditioned air every time we hit a pothole.

I wouldn’t have been on that stuffy bus if it weren’t for my friend, Margaret Taylor, who was dead set on dancing on television. We had been studying dance together at my Uncle Bob’s studio since we were five years old, and when she found out there was an open audition for dancers on the Horace Heidt television show, she was going to get there come hell or high water. Her parents wouldn’t let her go alone, however, so you guessed it. She made me come along.

Nearly three excruciating hours later, around 10 A.M., we finally passed over the Hollywood Hills and made our way down to the Horace Heidt compound in Sherman Oaks. We found where we were supposed to go and we changed into our leotards in a bathroom. Finally we walked into the studio to find all kinds of gorgeous dancers, all seeming to be about 25 years old, stretching, talking and smoking like crazy. As we walked into the plume of smoke, they looked at us like we were from outer space. We were both 16-year-old, fresh-faced kids standing next to these beautiful women who looked seven feet tall. Margaret was in orange and I was in Easter yellow. We stuck out like sore thumbs. …

Marianne, Legacy Story

IT LOOKED LIKE NOTHING MORE THAN A DARK DOT IN THE DISTANCE among the waves of heat that danced off the desert floor that scorching August day in 1945. But the closer we got to it as we traveled together in Dad’s Model A, the more we could see that it was a structure standing all alone in the 115 degree heat—with only empty, barren, dusty ground all around it.

That was our home.

Dad drove onto the property and turned off his rattle-and-chug engine.
The silence perfectly bracketed the shock of the moment. “This is it?” Mom asked, without the slightest hint of joy.

“Let’s get out, girls,” Dad said.

My sister, Nina (8) and I (5) jumped out of the car and ran toward the structure that was no more than a dilapidated shack. Mom got out and stood there in her designer clothes and looked at the house where she was now going to raise her girls. She was a sophisticated young woman. And she was not happy.

Dad had always wanted to be a farmer, and after returning home from his brief stint in the U.S. army in 1944, he had worked hard to add to his savings for the purpose of making his dream come true. Mom, a city slicker, accustomed to fine clothes and comfortable living, may have not loved the idea, but for reasons I do not quite understand, she said yes to leaving Los Angeles for a ramshackle house in the middle of an Arizonan desert. Maybe she just loved Dad that much.

Of course, she never imagined this. …

George, Legacy Story

GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL IN 1947 seemed to be a place where every ethnic group was represented in large, rowdy swaths. Among all the different groups, there were the black kids, the Jewish kids, the white kids, and the Filipino kids.

But of all the groups that were vying for dominance, the most feared by far, were the Mexican kids, led by the most menacing guy any of us had ever seen. Caesar Montoya was as thick as a phone booth with gigantic, bulging muscles, a mean scowl, short, cropped hair and dark sunglasses. You just looked at him wrong and he would spin out and make your life miserable. I was scared to death of him—everybody was. Caesar and his straight-faced gang would do a slow roll through the halls, making getting from class to class largely a process of staying out of their way and never being seen. I would see guys being pushed up against lockers or thrown into trash cans all the time. I just hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t be next. …