The 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 and 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.

******

 

10 thoughts on “The Last of KFWB’s Seven Swinging Gentlemen has something else to say.”

  1. I had a dear friend who had Polio, we went through grade school, Jr high and high school together. I have never met a more positive, gritty, determined person like him in my life, ever. Steve Ford was, well pretty darn special and I expect your friend is as well. God Bless him and hope you two get busy on the book.

  2. I’m glad you’re connected to the topic. Elliot talks of many other things before he mentions polio, but he introduced the subject in the first book we wrote together. Now, he’s ready to share what polio is like in his 90’s. Like your friend, when Elliot speaks of it, it’s not with complaints, but rather facts about how the condition must be accommodated.

  3. How exciting to aid someone in writing their book. I’m in the same boat with a nonagenarian, sitting here at my desk with a bin full of writing materials from my Jr. High school English teacher. She wants to publish a book about the method she pioneered with our class back in the 70s that made a marked improvement in our language skills. “Color Coded Grammar – A newer approach to a firm foundation in English Grammar.” Most of it is here; I’m only the organizer and question-asker. It gives me an excuse to see her a couple times a week.

  4. Congratulations! You’re the perfect person to help get your friend’s book ready. I hope it’s released soon. I’m honored to help get stories into the world. This will be the third book with Elliot and I’m delighted he’s ready to launch it in his 90’s. He ends most emails to me with – “Onward!”

  5. Just got Last of the Seven Swinging Gentlemen on kindle to read and noticed on Amazon I can follow you & Elliot ! I am not real techno savy but getting there.

  6. Elliot Field was a pivotal part of the team that introduced “top 40” radio to Los Angeles, magnetically attracted listeners of all ages and consequently sent KFWB soaring to the top of the ratings books. He is a talented voice actor who has conveyed his wit and wisdom accompanied by a memorable cast of characters of his own creation. His candid observations about ambition, family, love, tenacity, aging and surmounting impediments are worthy of attention. I enjoy Elliot’s collaborative work with Anita Garner, and I’ll order his new book as soon as it’s available.

  7. I have a plant just like that. It is a night blooming cerius(sp). A dear friend who is a master gardener propagated one for me and I put it outside when I thought winter was over. He brought me another one this year and it looked mighty poor. If you will pm your phone number I will send you a picture of it to share with Elliott.

  8. Bruce, what a lovely message! Yes, there’s so much talent in this industry and I’ve been lucky to get to work with many of them. I’ve often wondered how and why such a diverse group ended up on radio and TV, but grateful they did. Happy holidays to you and congratulations, again, on living the dream with your show!

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