By ROSEMARY LORD
It’s fun, isn’t it, to start a new year? We rush in, brimming with scintillating ideas – relieved to see the back of last year, when all did not go according to plan. We had some wonderful memories, but – nah – let’s look forward.
I think we enjoyed this Holiday Season – Hanukah, Christmas, New Year festivities and the like – as a chance to take a deep breath, chill out and set our course on totally new horizons.
Speaking of ‘chilling out’ – I spent Christmas in England with my siblings. For the first time since we were teenagers! And the Kent countryside was so beautiful – like a winter wonderland painting. But it was freezing cold! For me, anyway. Used to California temperatures, it was a shock to my system, since I’d not been there in December for decades. London (where I stay with my brother, Ted) was not much better – only fractionally warmer. I was wrapped up in a long, quilted coat over a leather jacket, a fleece jacket, sweaters, vests (!), thermal underwear including long-johns. I wore gloves, a huge warm scarf, woolly hat and – the best bit: faux-fur earmuffs. The obligatory face mask actually helped keep my face warm!
So my brothers Ted and Phil, brother-in law Peter and sister Annie and I had a wonderful old-fashioned, cozy Christmas filled with lots of laughter over childhood memories. Christmas lights everywhere and hours ‘mucking in’ together in the kitchen, preparing endless delicious meals to fill tables groaning with food. It was especially meaningful, as Annie and Peter had moved into this spacious, welcoming house last March – in a truly delightful ‘Miss Marple’s style village – during the Covid lock-downs. So we gave the house a wonderful Christmas launch.
They had moved from a picturesque, 18th century cottage further out in the country, with 4 acres of fields with stables. With no horses, those stables became the repository for all sorts of boxes, trunks – and assorted exercise equipment.
One of those trunks was mine. With my roaming all over, from the moment I left school, before I settled in Hollywood, California, my Mum had saved my ‘stuff’ from my childhood bedroom, from my travels and beyond. And when Peter and Annie downsized for their house move – a whittled down version of my ‘stuff’ came with them. So, some of this Christmas was spent going through this large box of my life. I’d forgotten I’d saved all my old 9×12 inch diaries, filled with all my appointments, interviews and auditions from leaving school through my early acting and journalism years. There were letters from big-time film directors that I had naively written to, asking for an acting job! In those days they actually wrote back to me! Alfred Hitchcock, Fred Zinneman, Elia Kazan, Bryan Forbes, Carl Foreman, Delbert Mann and so on. Wow!
I found my old, long-forgotten scrapbooks, filled with pictures of sunny Hollywood, palm trees, movie studios. Photos of the movie stars I wanted to emulate – Audrey Hepburn, Olivia DeHavilland, Irene Dunne, Gene Tierney, Grace Kelly. And those gorgeous actors that made girls swoon – Tyrone Power, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Gregory Peck. Pictures and articles of them all – and how they had accomplished their dreams. And now I have that large box of diaries, letters, several scrapbooks, that Mum had watched over for me – and that my sister had stored for me.
Looking through this treasure trove of memories, I reconnected with that skinny little girl with pigtails and freckles who had Big Dreams. Dreams of living and working in Hollywood, after devouring all those black and white Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies on the telly. Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Gene Kelly, Cary Grant. That was the world I wanted to inhabit. And so I did.
I remember, not long after I had made Hollywood my home, I was having coffee with Tony Hopkins (as you do!) at the luxurious Beverly Hills home he and his wife Jenny lived in. He was giving me a ‘pep talk’ about following my dreams. He said that before he became an actor, living and struggling through life in a small town in Wales, he had dreams of becoming an actor and living in America. So he kept some pictures cut from magazines of the life he aspired to. Including a beautiful home in a sunny American setting. Many years later he moved into this beautiful home, where we were sitting, and realized that it was the same house that he had kept a now dog-eared magazine picture of all these years.
It’s amazing the things we keep. Especially us writers. We hang on to notes, scribbles, pictures, photos, pages that pique our interest. And what a good thing that we do. For this is often where we glean our ideas and inspiration.
My first published writing in England and America, was about the Movie Stars I had interviewed. About the city of Hollywood and the Movie Studios. I wrote for magazines and newspapers – all about Hollywood. Especially the Golden Era of Hollywood. That led to my first published books on the history of Hollywood and Los Angeles. And it all started because I had kept cuttings, articles and pictures of the life I wanted to live – in Hollywood.
So now I have a whole new box of memories to plow through, that will inspire many more stories. Although now they will not only be about Hollywood, but inspired by all the other places I have visited on my journey here. With a murder or two woven into my stories along the way. Boy, am I glad I kept all that ‘stuff.’ Stuff that now feels like a goldmine to me.
Do other writers and readers out there keep ‘stuff’? Do you save articles, pictures, notes that have later inspired you to write something wonderful? Did you ever make those Vision Boards filled with inspiring words and pictures? And did anything ever come of them, I wonder? And what would your visions be now, today, for your future? Have you accomplished your childhood dreams? And have your earlier desires and ambitions changed? To what? I see another story emerging here….
(Posted for Rosemary Lord by Gayle Bartos-Pool)