Monday, February 14, 2011
"No, thanks. Bad luck. Three on a midget."
Diamond Bar, folks. I lived there when the city first began. A former ranch located north of Orange County and south of Pomona, it became incorporated in the mid-60s with one set of track houses at the south end and another set of track houses at the north end. Brea Canyon Road twisted up from Fullerton and Brea into what seemed like an urban version of Borgo Pass from Dracula. The rolling hills dotted with oak and walnut trees reminded yours truly of being in Mario Bava's Black Sunday. It was quiet. Deer would come down from the hills and drink in the fountain that welcomed the weary traveler into this new Stepford community. For a while it really was tranquil. An escape from the madness of Orange County. Ugh, Orange County. Flat and Republican filled. A place where its sense of history was re-fabricated in Disneyland. Every street corner was the same. Three gas stations and an Alpha Beta. I used to say to people that if they wanted to get rid of me, all they would have to do is break my glasses, put me on any corner (like Beach Blvd.) and I would never know where I was. But I digress.
So Diamond Bar became a refuge for this young man with flights of fantasy. I left the Alcatraz-like environment of Fullerton Union High School and began my sophomore year at the fresh, multipurpose room adobe of John A. Rowland High School, located in the dreamlike community of Rowland Heights, CA. Home of the rip roarin' Rowland Raiders, this unique learning establishment tried its best to change European-styled yours truly, Guy de Maupassant--man of letters and culture--into my actual namesake, Guy Madison--branding, tumbling cowpoke. This made for an amusing clash; a mutation of merriment, which I will discuss in detail later.
Diamond Bar was the home of the illustrious Diamond Bar Players. A high spirited group of theatricals nestled in this quaint community, I auditioned for them and they were impressed by my youthful Orson Welles-like vocal gymnastics. I suckered them, folks. And like Dick Powell in those Busby Berkeley films, for a while, I became their perennial juvenile. I did a number of plays for them: George S. Kaufman stuff like The Solid Gold Cadillac; Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, playing psycho red herring Christopher Wren (pictured); and a piece of fluff called Slice It Thin. Acting in these productions got me in prison. Of which, I mean, this little group was invited to bring our humble productions to all of the illustrious penal institutions conveniently located near our dream community. Besides doing our productions in one of the local schools, we would hit the road and go on tour, bringing our little repertory company to the entertainment starved felons of the Chino Institute For Men, the Norco Narcotics Rehabilitation Center, and (my favourite) the Corona Womens Prison. Let me tell you, folks, a young man's hormones can light up the imagination when you're in The Big Bird Cage or Cell Block H. Young girls holding hands would give the heavily made-up Illya Kuryakin looks of invitation. You could feel the subdued power of tension in this incredible B-rated drive-in movie. The facility in Norco was an interesting place--a former posh hotel resort turned into institution. My companions wondered why I kept humming the theme from the Great Escape as we entered through the gates. Chino was interesting as well. I remember the male lead who looked like Jack Cassidy being made-up by one of the inmates, heavily tattooed and rugged. As he was being shaved and powdered for his role, the slighty nervous lead asked the man, "so what are you in for?" As the blade trimmed the actor's neck, the inmate replied, "I murdered my wife." There was no need to powder the actor's face. He had become white enough.
Ah, the memories come flooding back. The problem of poor plumbing at this age. Diamond Bar in the early days before it became the inspiration for the TV series Weeds. It all went to hell when they put the Orange Freeway in. And all those special folks got smog-trapped within the once beautiful but now barren hills. It was time to rethink the area after the Pomona Freeway became an alternative route into Los Angeles, instead of the previous choices of the Santa Ana Freeway or the San Bernadino Freeway (which I tended to use the most). I left in 1970 and have not returned to Diamond Bar for even a visit. My wife has heard enough stories about the area. And when I've had more psychic courage, have told her that perhaps we should look and see how much it has all changed. Personally, I'm afraid the shock would kill me and that's why it hasn't happened so far. So we look at the photos instead and share a few mildly amusing anecdotes.
By the way, before I owned the first white car, I had a motorcycle. It was a Bridgestone 90. I thought I was a midget version of Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Do you hear it? Do you hear it? There's that theme again. The thrill of driving in those pre-helmet days on the highways near Walnut, CA. There's nothing more fun than having some big green bug squash in your mouth. One bug leads to another.