Thursday, August 20, 2009

TV in Beverly Hills

There's comfortable free fun in the heart of Beverly Hills. Inside the Paley Center for Media are nearly 150,000 media experiences and all you have to do is walk in the door. They asked for a donation, but, this being Beverly Hills and all, my wallet contained only one lonely $50 bill nestled behind my plastic. The volunteer at the desk smiled and waved me inside, with vague instructions about going up the steps.

There are lots of steps on several different staircases. I was having a Zero Mostel moment, humming "one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down" when I honestly came to "one more going nowhere, just for show". Just a little freaked out, I found the front desk and started all over again.

Walter Cronkite had just died, and the tv in the big front window was running loops of him being famous and fatherly. The walls had Hirschfeld drawings and I spent more than a little time feeling nostalgic for Sunday mornings with the Arts and Leisure section of the NYTimes splayed open in the beam of sunlight on the living room floor, propped on my elbows searching out the Ninas, reading the Sam Goody ads, fantasizing about being old enough to do the things they were writing about.

It was a sunny, lazy, Southern California day and I was mellow. Which is different from relaxed. I was hyper-aware, energized from my walk , bombarded with images and memories and new spaces -- that is not my definition of relaxed. Relaxed includes pillows. I was going with the flow, wending my way while humming and letting the afternoon take me along for a ride. Mellow. And in that frame of mind, I walked back into my past.

Greeted by an intelligent smile and a list of most requested titles, I was whisked to a comfy desk chair at a private carrel, asked not to pause (it stretches the tape) and left alone. .........

Did you just think of the show you'd choose? Are you considering more than one? Not I. I asked my lovely escort if I could watch Howdy Doody and she smiled back at me and said "Yes, you can watch Howdy Doody." And I knew that she knew what it meant to me to hear that. Mellow is a wonderful state of mind.

And Howdy Doody was just as I remembered him, in all his grainy black-and-white magnificence. The kids in the Peanut Gallery were wearing skirts and bow ties and every one of them had the same haircut and we all watched Buffalo Bob and Clarabell and Howdy for a while. Nostalgia only took me so far, though. I moved on to The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, the Florida show. Paul was sweating and pushing George out of the way and Ringo was singing along as if he were in the shower and the girls in the audience were squealing and I was 12 again, kind of embarrassed that G'ma and Daddoooo were in the room while I watched it, but not moving until the last note was sung and the final bow was taken.

I watched more - Kennedy/Nixon debates and Bonanza and Red Skelton - and enjoyed the guffawing from the couple in their carrel down the way. But the pool beckoned and I'd been sitting for hundreds of miles so I returned my list with heartfelt thanks and moved on.

And in the back of my head, on an endless loop, ran a mix of she loves you, yeah, yeah it's howdy doody time, that gir-irl, isn't right for Princess SummerSpringWinterFall. Mellow.

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