Last of KFWB’s Seven Swinging Gentlemen has something else to say.

By Anita Garner

Elliot Field onstage – 1950’s

It’s Hollywood in the 1950’s.  It’s the high school cruise.  We’re up and down Hollywood Boulevard then looping over to Sunset and back.   We’re listening to the radio and sticking our heads out car windows, greeting students from other towns whose radios are also blasting KFWB.

KFWB’s disc jockeys, the Seven Swinging Gentlemen, are celebrities.  We know where the studios are and we know we aren’t allowed up there on the second floor at 6419 Hollywood Blvd., but we like being close to the stardust, so we honk each time we pass  the building.

Decades later, I met Elliot Field, the last of the Gentlemen, through Don Barrett, Los Angeles radio guru, and we were immediately friends and collaborators on two books.

Conversations with Elliot are adventures. He’s multi-talented.  He’s brilliant.  He’s feisty.  And who gets to have hair like this in his 90’s?

Now he’s talking about a new book.  He’s written a few pages and do I want to hear?  What he read to me a few days ago is visceral and beautiful.  Do I think we should do this one more time?  He has things he’d like to say.  About being one of the early polio cases during the gruesome era of iron lungs and leg braces.

As told in his first book, getting the job at KFWB presented challenges none of us listeners knew about.  The fact that the Hollywood Boulevard studios were on the second floor meant planning ahead to navigate steps in heavy metal braces to get to the microphone in time to do his show.

He’d like to share some thoughts on what life is like now, about how polio affects aging and vice versa.  I urged him to do it because when Elliot tells a story, it’s worth listening to.  His goal this time is to write brief essays about different aspects of his life in Palm Springs today and he’s offering to share his experiences with individuals or organizations that can use the information.

One worry he has  about putting together a new book is losing the word he’s reaching for.  He said when we started this phone conversation he had a word in mind and now it was gone.  Did I think we could put together a book, even if he loses a word now and then?  Yes I do. I’ll try to help fetch lost words.  One idea – I can be his thesaurus, suggesting words until one comes close. Another device that might work – changing the subject, stop grasping for the missing word and see if it’ll drift back in.  We agreed to get started and were about to say goodbye when he said,

“Dinosaur.”

“Pardon?”

“Dinosaur.  That’s the word I was looking for.  That’s what I am,” he said. “Not complaining.  Just stating a fact.”

Timeless.  Wise.  Witty.  Those are words I’d suggest.

In his first book, Elliot wanted to end with his greatest hope, staying vertical, so here’s where we left off.  Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Vertical

It’s the last leaf in the plant pot.
It stands up straight and tall and proud.
I so admire its presence and strength.
The other leaves are bent, bowed, and almost horizontal.
One is vertical.
I’ve always admired vertical.
I think vertical is worth the effort.
It’s not an easy way.
It’s not uncomplicated.
But, I’ve always felt it’s worth the effort.
I water and feed Mister Vertical.
He responds with strength.
The other leaves also get water and food.
I’m always hoping they’ll stand up.
One of them is really making an effort.
We know the time will come when all of the leaves will lie down,
Will rest forever.
Meanwhile, I’m feeding all of them,
And cheering on the survivors.

******

 

It’s the lights. It’s the music. It’s the coffee. It’s the season.

By Anita Garner

I’m not a good shopper nor an artistic gift-wrapper and am sometimes running late before reaching full immersion in the spirit of the holidays.  However, I do feel fairly confident a few December rituals will eventually turn things around.  Early in the morning, while it’s still dark, I plug in the office lights, turn on the Christmas music and coffee my way toward daylight.  While Willie sings “Pretty Paper,” I’d love to share another couple of favorite spirit boosters.

Visiting the lights in whatever place makes a heart feel at home.  That works for me.  Cities that twinkle all over, or a little tree and a country cabin, I’ll take either.  Before I had the opportunity to live in the Bay Area, I declared San Francisco my favorite city and visited often.  Then I moved across the Bay where it’s always a thrill to arrive at the Ferry Building.  By the end of November, the  Embarcadero Four buildings are stunning, outlined in lights. If a person has to shop, a person might as well do it then and there.

My agent’s office was in a beautiful old building on Geary, across the street from Neiman Marcus at Union Square.  I’d take the vintage elevator up to Joan’s office, then across the street for a bite inside the glorious rotunda.

Like many broadcasters, I have a substantial holiday music collection, going back to the days when record companies sent them to us. I treasure them.

My website partner, Dave Williams, and I were producing audio for another website a couple of years back and searching for music, I met Chris Whiteman and Colin Tribe on YouTube and have followed them ever since.  Their holiday songs are part of my tradition.

My office lights now stay up all year.  The old Christmas CDs still work in my computer and when they don’t any more, I’ll keep downloading and carry on.

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Here’s Chris Whiteman, who lives in Virginia and plays and teaches everywhere.  Click the picture to visit his YouTube channel

Here’s Colin Tribe with grandson, Edward.  Colin lives in England where he composes, arranges, teaches and plays the you know what out of that ukulele. Click the picture for his YouTube channel.

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