It was the fall of 1978. I was making the 60 mile drive from Lancaster to Westwood with my then-girlfriend. In those days, an hour drive to the “big city” for dinner and a movie was a big deal of a date for a 17-year old. Unfortunately, as we looked up what was playing in the movie section of the L.A. Times (no Fandango back then), we were disappointed to see nothing of interest. Then I stumbled upon a small picture of a pumpkin with a huge knife stuck in it. It was an ad for a movie called “Halloween.” Being a big fan of the horror genre, I was taken. We grabbed our popcorn and Dr. Peppers, and for the next hour and forty-one minutes, were horrified. What a sleeper that flick turned out to be! It would spawn so many terrific slasher movies for years to come.
Well, 40 years later, I plopped down in my seat for the 2018 version of the flick with one of my dearest friends and our wives, which I know had to painful for them considering “A Star is Born” was showing next door. This newest rendition of John Carpenter’s spooky franchise did not disappoint. There is less slashing and almost no sex. (Remember in previous versions, every young couple who tried to sneak off for a romp usually got butchered, a common formula for that type of movie at that time. Gee, I wonder what the message was?? I know I looked over my shoulder for years!)
Anyway, the movie is as frightening as ever, with a terrific performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, plenty of those bone-chilling scenes that appear out of the background, and Carpenter’s classic theme music. You’ll be hearing it a lot as the spooky holiday approaches.
Halloween. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
My dad fought gallantly in the 1940s in the second World War. He was “in theatre” with Patton’s Army. Made his way through Europe carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle, at that time considered one of this country’s fiercest weapons. He helped liberate POW camps and eventually, he and his fellow comrades helped bring an end to Germany’s attempted conquest of the world. My father’s work wasn’t done; immediately following the war he was stationed as a guard outside the famous Nuremberg Trials. If anyone ever deserved his country’s help during a time of need, it is my dad. So when we went to hear an attorney speak about helping veterans receive VA benefits recently, it gave this 92-year-old proud Latino hope that– as his and my mom’s health quickly deteriorate– his country could make things more comfortable for him. We set up a follow-up appointment with the attorney at a cost of around $600. She spent more than the agreed-upon hour going over some of the details of filling out a VA application for benefits. It was complicated and overwhelming for both my dad and me, but I’m realizing now that was perhaps the intention of this attorney. Figuring we wouldn’t be able to get through the reams of paperwork, I asked the attorney what they would charge to fill out the application. What I got was an email response offering to prepare my parents’ will, health directives, power of attorney and a few other items that my parents do not need help with. The price $9,500. I explained that we didn’t need help with any of those items, but that I was curious what the price would be for help only with the VA application. I was told the attorney couldn’t help us with our request and that we should seek help from a local Veterans Service organization. In other words, my dad’s needs weren’t lucrative enough for this attorney. It was clear to me that her office was hoping to “up-sell” us and perhaps other unsuspecting clients who were duped into thinking her office was there to help veterans. Sadly, I’m hearing more and more that being taken advantage of in this way isn’t an uncommon problem for vets.
We did take that attorney’s advice and found a local veterans service organization. Hopefully, they will be able to give my dad the support he deserves, and– more importantly– restore his faith in those he courageously defended so many decades ago.
It’s been about a decade that I’ve attended the Michael Hoefflin Foundation’s “Evening Under the Stars.” Usually I’ve worked the event as emcee. But this year from my seat as a “civilian,” I was especially struck by the many stories parents told of life with their cancer-stricken children. Over the years, I’ve delivered gift baskets during the holidays to some of the less fortunate families who struggle to afford the gas to take their children to doctor’s appointments. I always come away in tears, grateful for my family’s good luck. But for some reason, it really hit me on this recent night. As difficult as life can be for these parents, I’m reminded at how amazingly strong the children are. When I spend time with these smiling, happy kids, they seem wise beyond their years. Their strength during these moments is the glue that keeps families together. It’s why when I start feeling sad about their plight, I’ll choose to be inspired by their courage. Please check out mhf.org. Perhaps you can help some amazing people and be inspired like me.
I was lumbering up the long, steep steps of the famous L.A. Memorial Coliseum when a feeling of happiness overtook me. Not because the Los Angeles Rams had just defeated the Arizona Cardinals 34-0, but because I had tickets to the game at all. I’ve always worked hard to make my family as comfortable as possible, but a couple of years ago I did something just for ME! It was totally selfish on my part to buy season tickets to the Rams, as I was really the only person in my family who cared anything at all about the football team. And they were truly awful when I first bought the tickets. I am in no way suggesting spending one’s hard-earned dough on season tickets. But as one who wanted to be the next Roman Gabriel and play quarterback for the Rams one day, I guess having a seat for every one of their home games for the past three years has been the next best thing!