Remembering My Late Uncle, Actor Regis Toomey, On His Birthday Today, August 13th

14 Aug

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Uncle Regis was my mother’s older brother by 20 years and an actor with a long career spanning seven decades of movies and television. You can find his star on Hollywood Boulevard just west of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Uncle Regis and his wife, Kathryn, were married 56 years and madly in love until her death in 1981. They had no children, although online biographies often say they had two. Aunt Kathryn was a dancer and choreographer whose claim to fame was choreographing Rose Marie in Paris. She did a lot of volunteer, charity work. My uncle’s full name is John Francis Regis Toomey, but he has been given many inaccurate names.

Regis Toomey performed on Broadway and in hundreds of movies and television shows and starred in lots of “B” movies in the 1930s before becoming a well-known character actor. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1941 for his role in Meet John Doe, a Frank Capra movie. Until just recently, he held a record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest screen kiss with Jane Wyman (Ronald Reagan’s first wife) You’re In The Army Now, 1941.

Uncle Regis was a huge dog lover (as a kid, they used to follow him home from school) and he owned dogs most of his life. He was born in Pittsburgh and was already grown when the family moved to Upland, California in 1921 when my mother was two-years-old. He was of Irish descent, 100%, and the first Catholic president of Sigma Chi fraternity at the University of Pittsburgh. He was studying to become a lawyer before he turned to acting. His photographic memory made him a good law student, but also helped him to easily learn his lines when acting.

My uncle became good friends with Ronald Reagan when Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Their friendship lasted until his final days when the Reagans were among the last people to see him before his death in 1991. He also recited the Gettysburg Address at President Reagan’s inauguration in January of 1981.

On a personal note, Uncle Regis was a great uncle and I’m happy that I got to know him better in my late teens and early twenties.

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Olympic Track Star and WW II POW Survivor Louis Zamperini Dies

4 Jul

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Another American hero from the Greatest Generation has passed away. Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and WW II POW survivor died Wednesday at age 97 after a 40 day battle with pneumonia. Zamperini was chosen to be Grand Marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade in January. A movie about his incredible life is being directed by neighbor and friend Angelina Jolie and set to be released by Universal Pictures on Christmas day. The movie is based on the best-selling book, Unbroken, a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption written by Laura Hillenbrand. Unbroken was published by Random House in 2010.

Unbroken is one of those books you just can’t put down. I picked it up a few years ago after hearing a fascinating interview with Zamperini on radio station KWVE out of San Clemente, California. It’s an unbelievable, true story and probably the best documented biography I’ve ever read, demonstrated by 49 pages of Hillenbrand’s notes.

I don’t want to give away the whole story, but Louis’ journey from a troubled Torrance, California youth to a World War II hero and motivational speaker includes a plane crash and 47 days at sea on a life boat with virtually no provisions. Zamperini roomed with Jessie Owens during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and graduated from USC, which he attended on a track scholarship, in 1940. With a high school mile record of 4 minutes 21.2 seconds and a national college record of 4 minutes 8.3 seconds, many thought he would break the 4 minute mile much earlier than 1954, when Roger Bannister broke it. But Louis’ running career came to an end in 1940 when the Olympics were cancelled because of World War II and he became a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. His survival at sea and in captivity is nothing short of miraculous, but his starved and battered body was so damaged that he was unable to resume his track career.

Zamperini’s survival from most certain death is almost overshadowed by his long life, strong mind and ability to forgive his tormentors in person. After reading Unbroken, I watched Louis’ appearance on the Tonight Show, where he demonstrated a quick wit and infectious sense of humor during an interview with Jay Leno. When Leno asked about surviving Japanese POW camps, Louis made a crack about surviving marriage.

Zamperini was married to Cynthia Applewhite from 1946 until her death in 2001. Their marriage survived Louis’ post war alcoholism and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1949, Cynthia convinced Louis to attend a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles, California, where Louis became a born-again Christian and began repairing his shattered life to become an inspiration to at-risk youth and others.

Despite Zamperini’s death, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses does not plan to replace him with a new Parade Grand Marshal. On its website, the Tournament of Roses stated: “Louis’ life serves as an inspiration to us all, and we are committed to honoring him as the Grand Marshal of the 2015 Rose Parade.”

In addition, Tournament of Roses President, Richard L. Chinen, wrote: “Louis Zamperini was and will continue to be the embodiment of the 2015 Tournament of Roses theme “Inspiring Stories.” As we mourn the passing of a member of the Tournament of Roses family, one who was moved to be asked to serve as Grand Marshal, we are honored to shine the light on one who truly lived a life of unconditional love, courageous perseverance and patient endurance. He shared with us that his faith in God was his inspiration to be content in plenty and in want. At this time, we pray that Louis’ family and friends may find strength knowing that the story of Louis’ journey will inspire the world.” http://www.tournamentofroses.com/News/NewsDetail/tabid/132/article/201849/THE-TOURNAMENT-OF-ROSES-EXPRESSES-OUR-HEARTFELT-SYMPATHY-TO-THE-FAMILY-OF-LOUIS-ZAMPERINI.aspx

Journalism 101 for Bob Costas

8 Jun

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 If there were a class that teaches journalists how NOT to make a horse’s behind out of themselves, I would sign up Bob Costas ASAP! Costas, NBC’s 26 time Emmy Award winner, did a superb job of taking the focus off the winner of the world’s most watched horse race and onto the sour grapes of a loser.

I’m not the biggest horse racing fan in the world, but like many people, I watched the Belmont Stakes to see if California Chrome would be the first horse in 36 years to win the Triple Crown. And like others, I was disappointed when California Chrome tied for fourth place. I was also sad to watch his owner, Steve Coburn, vent a little bit more than, perhaps, he should have about the race results. http://www.nbcsports.com/horse-racing/steve-coburn-cowards-way-out

Coburn’s comments were understandable in light of the loss, but it wasn’t the time or place for name calling or debate on how horses should qualify to compete in Triple Crown races. It was time to focus on the winner, Tonalist and his owner, Robert Evans. So, I was relieved when TV coverage cut to the Winner’s Circle. But there, Bob Costas continued the focus on California Chrome and the bitter remarks of Coburn.

First, Costas brought up Evan’s late father, Thomas Mellon Evans, whose horse Pleasant Colony had a shot at the Triple Crown in 1981, but fell short, as did California Chrome. When Evans said that his dad had been “quiet” about the loss, Costas didn’t take the hint. Instead he flat out asked Evans what he thought of Coburn’s harsh words. When Evans declined to comment, the interview was over. Poof! No chance for Evans to thank the jockey, the trainer or his own family.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who would have liked to have heard more from Robert Evans and less from Steve Coburn. Thanks, a lot, Bob Costas.

 

Santa Barbara Mass Murder Could Have Been Prevented

25 May

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After reading some of the disturbed thoughts of Elliot Rodger, some obvious questions come to mind. If Rodger was so obsessed with having a girlfriend, for example, why didn’t he join an online dating service rather than an online gripe session for “undateable” men?

Unfortunately, such simple questions, even if answered, do nothing to explain the unthinkable act of taking six innocent lives in a premeditated binge of random vengeance. Rodger’s 140 page manifesto, My Twisted World, exposes the 22-year-old killer’s deranged mind and lack of logical thinking.

After simple questions, more complex ones come to mind like, why didn’t Rodger’s family do more after viewing his ominous videos on YouTube? They were so disturbed by the videos, which showed their son discussing suicide and murder, that they called police who conducted a wellness check on April 30. However, according to Fox News, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said deputies reported that Rodger was shy, polite and having a difficult social life. He convinced officers that the videos he posted on YouTube (which police apparently had not viewed) were just a misunderstanding.

Actually, while duping police, Rodger worried that his depraved plans would be thwarted if the deputies searched his room. “That would have ended everything,” he wrote in My Twisted World. “For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.” http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/05/24/at-least-3-dead-in-shootings-in-santa-barbara-area/ and http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/05/25/authorities-detail-moments-terror-in-california-shooting-rampage/.

Elliot Rodger’s parents did the right thing when they called the police. But law enforcement gets lots of similar calls and may not be adequately staffed or trained to deal with complex mental health issues. Evidently, officers did not see the videos and were unable to decipher the extent of Rodger’s illness. My guess is that they did their best and made an honest mistake. Yet, Rodger’s parents had seen the videos, they knew something was wrong with their son and they were extremely alarmed.

So, why didn’t family members persist with their pleas for help? Why didn’t they demand that detectives view the upsetting videos? Why didn’t they call their son’s friends or roommates? Why didn’t they take their concerns to the mental health department or a private psychologist or psychiatrist? Why didn’t they have their son locked up in a 5150* because he was a danger to himself and others?
*Section 5150 is a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code which allows a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person who is a danger to himself or others.

Elliot Rodger’s wellness check was conducted on April 30, almost a month before his killing spree of May 23. That’s more than enough time to do something. That’s more than enough time to prevent mass murder. It would have taken only one family member to persevere, one neighbor or one roommate. (Rodger’s two roommates and their friend were the first victims of his killing spree.)

The public has the right to be protected from people like Elliot Rodger and all of us are responsible to do the right thing with the information we have. And sometimes that takes perseverance. Why didn’t Rodger’s family persevere until their son got the help he needed and they had peace of mind that he was not a threat to others? These are questions that will probably haunt the Rodger family and I don’t wish that on anyone. But, it seems that the only way to prevent similar tragedies in the future is for those who know something to do something.

I don’t believe the answer is just gun control. Remember that Rodger used his BMW as a weapon to mow down bicyclists during his deadly rampage.  He also stabbed to death his two roommates and their friend. And Rodger was raised in a family that is “staunchly against guns,” according to family attorney Alan Shifman. Perhaps their knowledge of Rodger’s upbringing lulled family members into believing that Rodger would never use a gun, obtain one or act out violently.

This tragic incident brings to mind the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard who was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Dugard was held for more than 18 years at the couple’s California home in backyard tents. Neighbors called police to report the unusual living arrangement of Jaycee and her two daughters who were fathered by Garrido. Police went to the house but left before searching the backyard, which they may have been reluctant to do without a search warrant.

Why didn’t the neighbors call police again or even go to the media with their strange story? There were plenty of other missed opportunities. Phillip Garrido was a convicted, registered sex offender who was monitored, to an extent. Yet, even parole officers failed to thoroughly search his backyard during routine inspections.

But then there were two people who went the extra mile. UC Berkeley Police Officer Ally Jacobs was alerted to Garrido by staff member Lisa Campbell, who was alarmed by a bizarre on campus encounter she had with Garrido and his two young daughters. The perseverance of these two women led to Dugard’s freedom after 18 long years and the capture of her tormentors.

It only takes one person to ask that extra question or make that extra phone call. It only takes one person to care enough to do enough. And that one person could be any of us.

Can anyone tell me why Steven Spielberg presented President Obama with the USC Shoah award?

25 May

 

 

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Can anyone tell me why Steven Spielberg presented President Obama with the USC Shoah award? After viewing and reading several news accounts, I was perplexed that none of them mentioned the reason Mr. Obama was chosen as recipient of this award. Some described the Shoah award as a humanitarian award and some said that the Shoah Foundation opposes genocide. But none of the stories explained what Obama has done to earn this award.

After doing some online research I caught a glimpse of the answer. According to The Hollywood Reporter, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/president-obama-attends-steven-spielbergs-702223, Spielberg presented Obama with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award, while thanking the president for “taking steps to combat genocide worldwide.” Wow! That’s an enormous feat, an achievement of which I was unaware. I have heard the president express concern for groups of people that are threatened worldwide, but I am unaware of the steps Obama has taken “to combat genocide worldwide.”

President Obama can be pretty good with his words and even convincing. As I read The Hollywood Reporter article, I noticed that the president made some wonderful and inspiring comments, like: “And it’s up to us — each of us, every one of us — to forcefully condemn any denial of the Holocaust. It’s up to us to combat not only anti-Semitism, but racism and bigotry and intolerance in all their forms, here and around the world. To speak out against rhetoric that threatens the existence of a Jewish homeland and to sustain America’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”

Those are great things to say. But what has the president actually done about them? And what has he done about combating genocide worldwide? Perhaps, just saying great things is one of the steps to which Mr. Spielberg was referring. However, I would hope that President Obama backs his great statements with great actions.

Governor Brown thinks California Business Owners are Stupid?

9 May
Governor Jerry Brown Disses California Businesses

Governor Jerry Brown Disses California Businesses

So, California State Governor Jerry Brown thinks struggling California business owners are stupid? That’s what he communicated the other day, although not in so many words. Brown was speaking on April 28 in Lancaster at the U.S. headquarters of Chinese automaker BYD. Brown was there to recognize BYD’s production of its first two electric buses coming from the California factory, which employs 60 people.

Coincidentally, Brown’s remarks were delivered on the same day that Toyota, the world’s largest car maker, announced plans to relocate thousands of California employees to Texas. Toyota currently has more than 5,300 California employees, mostly in Torrance.

“We’ve got a few problems, we’ve got lots of little burdens, regulations and taxes,” Brown said, “but smart people figure out how to make it. And like I always say: you get what you pay for.”

Okay, so does that mean if California’s high taxes and strict regulations are causing business owners to struggle they are stupid? I would venture to say no and to disagree with the suggestion that lack of intelligence is responsible for California’s dismal business climate. I would also venture to say that the “little burdens, regulations and taxes” which are crushing California businesses are not so little, after all.

Snoop Dogg vs. Donald Sterling

8 May

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One undesirable consequence of the Donald Sterling fiasco is the platform it’s given people like Snoop Dogg to claim the moral high ground. In a profanity laced rant Dogg (actually Rapper Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr.) also known as Snoop Lion, sent a message to the Clippers’ owner and to anyone else who would listen. I can’t print the message because of its vulgarity, but let’s just put it this way: Dogg doesn’t care for Sterling, his mama or anything connected to him.

I knew that Dogg was a rapper and that he’s done some acting. But, I also connected his name to the infamous “Girls Gone Wild” porn videos that were promoted on late night TV some years back. Indeed, Dogg was a promoter of “Girls Gone Wild” videos which exploited inebriated teen-age girls and young college women by filming them in ways they would later regret. In 2012, for example, Missouri stay-at-home mom Tamara Favazza received a $5.77 million judgment after claiming that Girls Gone Wild used video of her breasts in 2004 without her permission.

While I’m not a fan of rap music, Snoop Dogg’s obscenity filled Instagram made me curious about what Dogg sings about. So I looked up some lyrics and was shocked. I wondered why feminists and the NAACP hadn’t shut this guy down. His songs promote denigration and abuse of women and he used the “n” word innumerable times in almost all of the songs I looked up. To be fair, Snoop Dogg is older now and has children. Perhaps he has tamed his tongue over the years, I thought. So, I looked into newer songs. Yes, they were more tame, but still offensive and disgusting. The scary thing is that Snoop Dogg has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. He’s promoting disrespect, contempt and mistreatment of women and others to his listeners and to the world. What’s even scarier is that Snoop Dogg has been legitimized by the entertainment industry and the media. Snoop Dogg is acceptable in modern society and he’s cool. In my book, he shouldn’t be. He needs to be grilled for the way he raps about women and his fellow man. It seems Donald Sterling isn’t the only one who has some explaining to do.

I WAS WRONG

15 Feb

 

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I WAS WRONG. There actually are people who are stupid enough to take to heart the issues that the late fugitive, Christopher Dorner, has raised and who viewed him as a sympathetic figure, a righteous vigilante and a revered messenger of truth. (See my last blog.)

People like Natasha Lopez of San Diego, who started a petition asking that an independent agency reopen Dorner’s case which charged that he was unjustly terminated from the LAPD.  According to the Associated Press, Lopez is concerned about police corruption and negligence. “I believe that he has opened a can of worms for the LAPD and opened the eyes of individuals that might have otherwise been blind,” she said.

Of course there have been abuses of power in the LAPD and other police agencies. Remember that old saying, “Power corrupts?”  But what Lopez and other Dorner supporters are missing is that Christopher Dorner was that bad apple. He was that rotten cop. He has proven that by his actions. Thank God he was terminated. Think of what damage he could have done with a badge on.

Then there’s the person who created the YouTube video game declaring Dorner, “A True American Hero.” I personally declared Dorner a true, yellow coward who killed four totally innocent people whom he did not even know.

Let’s not forget the singer of “El Matapolicias” or “Police Killer,” in English, who pays tribute to Dorner in a Facebook video.

Maybe there has always been a small number of people who are just “out there” in their beliefs, defying logic and common sense. But now, with the Internet, they have found their voice and they are able to broadcast it to others. The internet has given these no-names a platform to stand on.

Voice or no voice, I choose not to focus on this small minority of misguided people or their beliefs, but rather to focus on the facts and the truth. Christopher Dorner took out some very good people who will be missed by many. That cannot be changed. Let’s remember these people and the good they represented and try to forget about Dorner and his evil campaign of hate and murder.

Charlie Beck

11 Feb

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Wherever he is, assuming he’s still alive, I hope that Christopher Dorner saw the news last night. If he did, he would know that Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is listening to him. Dorner would know that shooting that retired cop’s daughter, her fiancé and those Corona and Riverside Police Officers got Beck’s attention.  He would know that now Chief Beck wonders if maybe the LAPD did make a mistake. Maybe Christopher Dorner was wrongfully terminated. Maybe it was a set-up, a cover-up, racism or, whatever.

Of course Chief Beck says he knows the LAPD was right, they were fair, Dorner should have been fired. This is just to show THE PEOPLE, especially those in the African American community that the LAPD is fair, that the LAPD has changed. They’ve made progress in race relations, in community policing and community outreach. The LAPD is NOT racist, says Beck. And everyone will see that after this case is reopened and reinvestigated. Then everyone will know the truth.

What I would like to know is, who is Charlie Beck trying to appease? Even the Reverend Jessie Jackson, himself, bypassed the importance of specific issues raised by Christopher Dorner in his now infamous manifesto. In a radio plea for Dorner’s surrender, the Rev. Jackson chose not to address a reporter’s questions about those issues, and downplayed their significance, focusing instead on the issue at hand, the issue on everyone’s minds: safety. Reverend Jackson chose to focus on safety of the public, the police and everyone else – even safety of the suspect himself, should he choose to surrender.

Does Charlie Beck really think people are so stupid that they will take to heart the issues that Dorner raises, that he will become a sympathetic figure, a righteous vigilante or a revered messenger of truth? Anyone who has read or heard excerpts of the disjointed ramblings of Dorner’s manifesto knows that this man is not thinking logically and that he is not in his right mind. There’s paranoia, self-aggrandizement and a host of other problems with his thinking. And everyone knows that.

Even if Christopher Dorner did have a leg to stand on in his arguments and claims of mistreatment, he lost it when he shot that innocent Irvine couple and those innocent police officers who were just doing their jobs.

Charlie Beck, I beg you, please do not give Christopher Dorner another leg to stand on. Just let your officers and others do their jobs and catch him.

Fugitive Reward

11 Feb

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I’m getting my dog, Sugar, and taking her up into the mountains, not too far from where we live, our destination:  Big Bear. Maybe we’ll stop along the way at the local Sporting Goods store and pick up a gun or two for good measure.

Or, maybe not. I keep hearing about these background checks and waiting periods that everyone is talking about. And people want to make them longer. Something about not letting guns get into the hands of the wrong people. But, that shouldn’t affect people like me. After all, I’m not a criminal. I’m a law-abiding citizen and I think I want a gun or two NOW! I’ve got an idea. Perhaps I can borrow a gun from someone.  I know lots of people who have guns.

Whoops. I just thought of something else. Even if I get a gun, I have no idea how to use one. Oh well, it couldn’t be that difficult. It seems pretty basic to me. I’m sure I could figure it out. Nevertheless, gun or no gun, I’m going. I’d be stupid not to.

After all, I could use a million dollars as much as anyone else. I’d even be willing to accept part of the million, especially if I’ve earned it. Never mind that I don’t know what I’m doing or that I don’t have the proper clothing, protective gear or weaponry to carry out my mission, not to mention the training. Never mind that Sugar is not a police dog, a bloodhound or any other kind of trained dog – she’s actually just a mixed mutt. And honestly, although I love her, come to think of it, she’s not the smartest dog in the world. But there’s a reward at stake, money, dinero, cash… a lot of it. And I would really like to get my hands on it or even on some of it.

Never mind that I might get in the way of the police or the other reward seekers or the suspect himself. Never mind that I might get shot or killed. Or, that if I’m somehow able to get that gun or two, I might accidentally kill someone else. I might accidentally shoot someone who looks like Christopher Dorner or perhaps I would shoot some innocent bystander who gets in the way because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never used a gun before.

Come to think of it… maybe I won’t go after all. I don’t know if Sugar could track a suspect or do anything helpful, probably not. She’s just a pet, a happy dog, and kind of dumb. I don’t even remember the last time her paws touched the snow, or my boots, for that matter.

Maybe this reward idea isn’t such a great idea after all. I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there harboring the suspect or holding back information that could lead to his capture. Why would anyone do that? He’s declared war on the LAPD, their families, police in general and anyone who’s “hurt” him. He’s killed three innocent people who have done him no wrong. I would assume that he’s a danger to anyone at this point and that no one would be willing to help him.

All I can say is, reward or no reward, I hope they find him and that nobody else gets hurt!

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