One memory we still laugh over is when the two of us, back in the late 1970s, were walking down the street in Simi Valley, California. As a car drove by us we heard a loud wolf-whistle and then a CRASH. The driver apparently, in looking at us, rear-ended another vehicle. Ahhh, youthful boasting.
There will be moments when a memory will pop into my head and I’ll have to smile because of the feelings it evokes. One recent one involves meeting an actor maybe a year after I’d moved to southern California. It was how I met James Beach and the experience of our short-lived relationship that is sweet in my mind because it showed how both naïve and ballsy I was back then.
I hadn’t been in California for very long. I had moved there when I was 19 to attend Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. It was 1977 and being in California after living a lifetime in small town America was invigorating for me. You know that feeling when you are young that the world is just waiting for You? That nothing is impossible? That’s just how I felt.
There was a story in the local newspaper announcing that Actors and Others for Animals would be holding an event in the L.A. area. I decided to go to the event. While there, I was surrounded by crowds of people pushing and shoving as they tried to glimpse the actors participating. I’m short and I couldn’t see a thing. When I made it up to a roped-off area I still could see the actors were kept separated from the throng. At some point I overheard someone say something about being a volunteer. I had a moment of brilliance, or so I thought, and went up to one of the rope-keepers and announced that I was a volunteer sent over to help with crowd control. My nervy move worked! The rope was lifted and I was on the other side.
My memory of what took place next is somewhat fuzzy; but I remember that I didn’t do any work at all. I was escorted into a trailer and pretended I was supposed to be there. Inside I sat down at a table with actors I recognized: Mark Hamil of Star Wars fame (very nice guy), Melissa Gilbert, Little House on the Prairie actress (snotty brat), and one I did not recognize but an actor nonetheless, James Beach.
The day ended with my head in the clouds from my experience. James asked to see me again and for many months we dated; he taking me to restaurants a huge step-up from what my budget could afford, he came to my 21st birthday party, and I was his date for a party honoring a soap opera I’d watched for years and one he was an occasional actor on: The Young and the Restless. This is a memory that I’m not as proud of, but one that is pretty funny.
I was so anxious about looking good that I ate nothing the day of the event. I borrowed one of my roommate’s dresses, a really cute one that I wanted to look perfect in. I think I did. At the event waiters walked by serving hor dourves and champagne. I was introduced to many of the actors from the show, the one I most remember was the one who played, “Snapper,” actor David Hasselhoff. That’s about all I remember.
The combination of nerves, empty stomach and champagne drove me soon to the ladies room where first I puked, then passed out on the floor by the toilet. I awoke to one of the bathroom attendants reaching under the door, shaking my foot and saying, “Lady, are you okay?”
I found my way back to my date. James took me to his home. Up to this point we had simply dated, had not gotten intimate. This could have been James’s “lucky night” but being the gentleman that he was, he tucked me into his bed and let me sleep it off.
I don’t remember the last time I saw James. I don’t know whatever became of him; even doing an Internet search turns up nothing. While James is lost to me except in memories, he did give me two photos of himself that I keep along with my other most treasured keepsakes. Those photos and his sweet words to me: "To my Lisa, I have met 3 women in my life who were ladies, you are two of them. With all my love and respect, James Beach" along with those tender memories, will have to be enough.
Yes, growing older is bittersweet, but I am so grateful I have those experiences to recall. And as I have often thought, when I’m ninety-years old, I’ll look back on the memories I am making right now and recall that they, too, were sweet ones.