It is interesting to see a person conditioned by their environment, blissfully unaware of what is taking place, and yet being molded accordingly. The simple Pavlovian theory seems to have had an influence on the snarky and the compliant offspring, knowingly and unknowingly. Do you recall the first time someone complimented you? Do you remember your reaction and feelings during those memories? In some youthful experiences one only tastes the dust of the desert and the lack of kinetics in the vacuum-like tube, called home where one eats, and sleeps during the transition from the other competitive world that defines identity. My home was for a meal here and there and more about it being a tent in between my next carnival or extravaganza.
Interpreting social skills and life was not part of my Wyoming upbringing. Validation came in various flavors and most of which are no longer socially acceptable in this high density concrete jungle called Los Angeles. So, one asks, who and what evolves when there is very little attention and esteem building tools. How does one etch out some form of cornerstone for an architectural need called identity? When discernment is not even part of the landscape of logic, then one takes a scrap here and a scrap there to try a put together some architecture that looks and feels like a poorly designed jungle gym. But, if you try and condemn or insult the naïve pride in such a jungle gym, look out as the wrath of hell may visit you with passionate and cathartic rage. That cathartic reaction would often be acknowledged with a nod of the head of an older local, or an Atta boy from a middle aged mentor. You see, mentors are relative aren’t they. Mentors in the desert are different than mentors in the city, and both have good and bad, deep and shallow mentors. However, in the desert, the choice is very limited and what you get may be your only choice in a few decades. It is sad to see a grown man still in need of mentoring but often so well defined that moving back to the GO space in a vulnerable state might cause destruction and violence.
I can remember playing basketball for Sunnyside elementary school and when I was in 5th and 6th grade I had spent hours in the evening just being a gym rat watching the Rawlins High School Varsity Basketball Team practice with Coach Gene Hitner. These long hours in the gym every night was another form of denial and escape. I had memorized all of their plays and would call them out and teach my 6th grade coach how to run them. I was proud of that knowledge but no one else seemed too impressed even though they had no contribution to make. I can remember shooting the old stride shot and dribbling behind my back like Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics but no one said much about that. I remember one of the high school players I used to watch practice was Ron Holloway and he seemed like he could be a mentor. And, when I would get mad in a game, I would get aggressive and score most of my points during these little games. My anger bubbled over and sometimes meant crying in rage as I dribbled down the court. During one of those games, my mentor, Ron told me my shooting form was perfect and man did I have a hair trigger temper. He smiled and slapped me on the back of the head and I knew this was applause due to my steeped acumen in life and my inherent talent for reading social skills.
In 8th grade I ran for president of my class and the girl who was supposed to be my campaign chairman and build and draw all of my posters quit the day before the election. My sister Sharon witnessed my sad droopy lip and embarrassed demeanor. I had no posters for the next day to put up on the school walls and so she sat down and made some cool posters and helped me with my speech in front of the student body. Everyone was going to vote for my best friend, Curt Penman, but somehow, I won and felt the first gift called applause. How one registers this so called applause sometimes dictates the flower or the weed.
In high school I went on to play sports and perform in plays. I did Damn Yankees and Brigadoon and really enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow students. It was almost surreal having a “relationships” of exchange with people on a daily basis. John Carlson was the director of these musicals and he was a good guy as he would usually throw me a bone here and there. Over time I found that my humor would win friends and was voted the most humorous of my graduating class. Ironic…….
As I moved out of high school and into Laramie, Wyoming to attend school at the University of Wyoming I pledged a fraternity called ATO (Alpha Tau Omega) which were mostly jocks. It was the first time I witnessed true brotherly support as these young college students would allow me to sit on their bedroom floors till 3 in the morning and tutor me with my college essays and papers. This was a new applause for me and was a signal to turn up the work ethic so the GPA would go up and one would receive some fans and applause.
When I joined the Marine Corps one received validation and a form of applause for tenacity, toughness, and the never give up attitude. I was instantly enamored with this way of life and was immediately made the Leader of my platoon and while in Vietnam was meritoriously promoted multiple times and awarded. The second time I was to receive my second meritorious promotion I told the Commanding Officer I did not want it and he was flabbergasted. He stood in awe and asked me why? I explained that awards were not respected amongst the men, and they preferred that you just walk the talk and have no fanfare. Therefore, if he wouldn’t mind, this time I wanted to pass on the next meritorious promotion. I asked to be excused and the silence was deafening. I think I lost a fan on that day.
As I returned home from Vietnam I realized there would be no applause, no gratitude for the sacrifice, and some angry Americans to face in San Francisco when I landed. I wasn’t sure where to go at that point as Vietnam wanted no awards and Americans did not want any vets.
I found an old acting coach in Beverly Hills named Lois Auer who allowed me to try out for her acting classes. She loved my acting (so I thought) and would brag on me constantly in front of all the other actors and beautiful actresses. I did not realize what power it afforded me and what a happy narcissistic drug it was.
When I was cast in my first TV Series, Lassie, GIRLS began to ask me for my autograph and it was very bizarre to me. I mean, you want ME to sign my name on a piece of paper because I am an actor. I mean….is an actor a big deal?
As time went on and my so called familiarity grew in the world of celebrities I realized how powerful those fans and applause were and how they had shaped my being and my perceptions. Now I had a complex set of permutations and angles covering up my core, my corner stone, and my architecture which was that same old jungle gym. That is when the real growth was in conflict with the old growth.
Now Fans became varied and perhaps mirrored my own strengths and weaknesses at times. The freedom of power, money, and choice was intoxicating and filled with irreverence putting pressure on all of the welds of the jungle gym. It was a wearing time for sure!
Fans came in healthy and beautiful specimens from all over the world. Fans came in business deals with agendas. Fans came in employees and hanger-on’s who wanted misery to enjoy company. Fans came with attitudes including by not limited to adulterous and naughty submissions. Fans came in investment deals that were not worthy of investments. Fans came and discussed running for Political office. Fans came dressed as sheep as they awaited their own indulgent rape and pillage event.
Now that I am older, and not in such conflict, I enjoy most of my fans as they are equal and better people in many ways. Some fans recently wrote me letters about their painful and abusive relationships as kids or spouses. Some fans talked about how the show CHIPS and Jon Baker gave them such relief and escape from their awful reality. Some fans just became great friends and supporters. Some fans have become great sounding boards and we talk about parenting and the wise mentoring that is a responsible requirement. And yes, I have a few fans who are subdued and veiled stalkers who fantasize that they will have some physical or mental orgasm with Jon Baker. These are the fans I politely try to avoid. However, I simply want to say to all of you friends and fans, as Mother’s Day approaches, thank you for being my mirror in life. It has been interesting watching me through all of you. Your decades of reflections have shown me how much true power and strength there is in growth and vulnerability. I encourage you all to find that in all of your relationships. Thank you.
Tell Mom you love her especially on Mother’s Day. Thanks Mom for trying so hard with your very trying times as a single mother with four children and no support. Thanks Mom for working 2-3 jobs so I could hang out. I just wish we could have seen each other more deeply instead of running up and down the moving train!