May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Home from Vegas, I vacillated between feeling “safe” and kind of “crazy.” It had been a trip of highs and lows. The lows involved Mother feeling ill, and me being afraid to venture out beyond the pool and showroom due to anxiety-ridden character flaws (that’s what it felt like at the time, but it was actually a distorted belief). The highs being feeling like a caterpillar hidden in a cocoon, yet somehow able to briefly transform into a butterfly in order to be near to, listen to, and interact with Tom Jones, my transitional object (unbeknownst to me at the time).
I lived for the adrenaline of those moments, yet my life was mostly made up of “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to school we go” moments. Yep, Snow White (AKA: Long Tall Sally) was schlepping books and charting a course for the future. I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just knew I needed to work on my motivating mantras. I needed to be better. I needed to grow (not physically, since six-foot-two was more than ample, thank you very much). So my motivating mantra became, “If I work at being around people and learn how to better handle myself socially, then I’ll be able to get Tom Jones fall in love with me.” In the meantime, it was not unusual, (pardon the unoriginal play on words), to listen to Jones’ albums in order to regulate, moderate, or accentuate my mood and emotions.
In iconoculture, the culture of celebrity, there is a belief that everyone is just six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. But, Mommio and I found ourselves a loose six degrees of separation from Tom Jones one Sunday morning in the 1970s. Let me explain these very wide degrees of separation:
First degree: We resided in Orange County, California. Actor John Wayne left the more liberal lifestyle of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles County, for the more conservative Orange County in the 60s and 70s. John Wayne was so revered that they named Orange County Airport, the airport we flew in and out of in order to see Tom Jones perform, John Wayne Airport.
Second degree: Wayne was probably the most famous and revered celebrity who lived in Newport Beach. He had a beautiful home in Bayshore, a private community along Newport Bay, in Newport Beach, California. We also lived in Newport.
Third degree: Wayne’s beautiful wife during the 60s & 70s attended our church. We rarely saw Mr. Wayne. I think we saw him once at church, and once at our local Savon, and you could not miss him due to his size. He was one of the few men who was actually taller than I – a rarity – and he appeared to be as tall as they claim his 6-foot-four-inch frame was. He was a big, brawny man, and you could not miss his voice; it was deep and uniquely, unmistakably John Wayne.
Forth degree: My mother’s uncle married a lovely lady who lived next door to John Wayne. She, too, attended our same church, and they became “couples” friends. They shared meals and evening card games in their beautiful homes until the Waynes’ separated. We heard many times that the Waynes were gracious and fun hosts.
Fifth degree: Our family knew the John Wayne house only from the outside bay view, as my father was a lifelong sailor, and we regularly sailed by their notable home. It was a large, white ranch-style, one-story home with impeccable landscaping and a stunning view of the Newport Bay basin. Most exciting to see, and keep tabs on over the years, was Wayne’s 136-foot yacht, “The Wild Goose,” moored within Wayne’s sight in the bay. It was the biggest “stink-pot,” (that’s sailor slang for a boat powered by an engine and not a sail), in the bay. With its huge, painted white hull and varnished teak trim, it was known by the locals as the floating Taj Majal. It was well known that Wayne would use it for family outings and that celebrities and other dignitaries also enjoyed its capable size, crew, and accommodations.
Sixth degree: After church we would often go to Richard’s Market, a local, individually owned, top-of-the-line supermarket at the base of Lido Island in Newport Beach, for our customary Sunday grocery shop. The owner of the grocery store, who knew almost all of his customers by name, also just happened to go to our church, and was always friendly and chatty. One Sunday, as we were purchasing our groceries, Mr. Richards pointed over to the next check-out stand and, said to me and Mom, “That’s the crew of ‘The Wild Goose.’ They’re taking someone you know somewhere.” We were a little confused. “They’re taking a special someone out.” Still not getting it, we just looked blankly at him. He then asked one of the men purchasing items, “Can you tell them who you’re taking out?” The man looked a tad chagrined, but said, “Sure. We’re goin’ out on a cruise with Tom Jones and guests. We’re preppin’ the galley and stockin’ up on supplies.” My heart skipped a beat or two. Mother and I looked at each other as if we were in on a secret. So many questions we wanted to ask, but we were, for lack of better words, good girls. We didn’t grill the Goose Crew. We didn’t need Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and it would be decades until Richard Castle and detective Nikki Heat were created. Besides, we were smart enough to know the most important part of the who: Tom Jones! We did not have to sleuth out the what because we were told it was a cruise. We didn’t know where, although we could surmise it would be either to anchor off of Catalina Island for a short cruise, or the coast of Mexico for a longer cruise. We could guess when, because the supplies included fresh groceries, so it had to be soon. It didn’t take a detective to determine the Why was for R & R, (rest and relaxation), because why else would anyone go on a cruise? And we were told the How, as they would be cruising on “The Wild Goose.”
As much as we wanted to pry and ask a million questions of the Goose Crew, we wished them bon voyage, and watched them as they went on their merry way. Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum… or in Tom Jones case, a bottle of Dom Perignon. And that, my friends, is irrefutably stretching the six degrees of separation between me and Mom and Tom… the singer who saved me.