Archive for January, 2008

Lana Clarkson, The Movie Star That We Knew

Monday, January 28th, 2008

It was December 20, 1991, and my wife Marlisa, her sister Beatrice, and I were alone in the compartment of a night train leaving Paris for Zürich, when we became acquainted with Lana Clarkson as a result of a series of somewhat unusual events.  That evening, the train had left Paris and shortly after departure, our party of three was all asleep. Suddenly, an obese, rude, and loud French conductor abruptly awakened us. He spoke first to Beatrice and me; since neither of us spoke French, we put on our most innocent-looking face and pointed in unison to Marlisa, our French interpreter. Marlisa and her sister are both Swiss, however, only Marlisa speaks French fluently.

The conductor spoke gruffly; he complained that ‘yet another American’ had tried to ride his train without paying. The man remembered that I had an American passport and asked if we wanted to help another American on the train who was in ‘bad’ trouble. Marlisa, who is always kind, compassionate, and ready to help a traveler in distress, volunteered to determine the nature of the problem.

She found the American-in-trouble, to be a beautiful young woman dressed in an eloquent evening dress, crying pitifully into a handkerchief. The woman was of such striking beauty, that Marlisa had remembered seeing her board the train dressed in jeans and casual clothing. Marlisa sat down beside the weeping American and asked the woman what had happened to her. The sobbing woman introduced herself as Lana Clarkson, a name Marlisa had never heard before. Lana then poured out her story.

It seems that Miss Clarkson was traveling from Paris to meet friends in Zürich, where they would then proceed to travel on to St. Moritz, Switzerland, the famous ski resort. She was traveling, First Class, and on a Eurail pass that expired on that particular day and that she believed was still valid.

When the French conductor came to take tickets, he informed her that the Eurail pass was not valid, on the day of expiration, and she would have to pay the fare. Lana then produced a credit card to pay the fare and the conductor informed her that payment must be in cash, either French francs or Swiss francs, and Lana did not have that much cash with her.

At that point, the conductor told her that if she could not pay, he would notify the police and they would put her in prison.

The sobbing Lana was caught in an impossible situation. She had credit but no French cash, she was in a foreign environment where a foreign language was spoken, and she believed the cruel conductor was going to have her imprisoned.

“My grandmother,” Lana told Marlisa, “whose name is also Lana, like mine and Lana Turner’s (the famous movie actress), once told me that if I ever had to go to jail that I should dress in my best clothes, just like Lana Turner did in one of her movies.”

“My grandmother was a big fan of Lana Turner’s. So, when the conductor told me I had to go to prison, I went to the rest room and changed into these clothes,” she said, adjusting her lovely evening wear.

Marlisa was impressed by Lana and her story of the conductor’s rude behavior. Graciously, Marlisa offered to loan her the money for the ticket. Lana was stunned and could not believe that this Swiss stranger, who had never heard of her, would offer to help her out of her predicament. .

“Keep my passport till I repay you,” she told Marlisa and handing her passport to her. “My friend will meet me in Zürich,” Lana explained, “and if she does not have enoough money with her, I promise you that we will bring it to your house, in Zürich!”

When Marlisa did not return right away, Beatrice and I went to look for her and found her sitting with Lana. Marlisa introduced us and told us that she would sit with Lana for a while, until Lana had regained her composure from her recent ordeal, now resolved.

After a while, Marlisa returned to our compartment and showed us Lana’s passport. Marlisa said that Lana had told her some bizarre stories, about being an American actress, living in Hollywood California, and being in Paris to discuss making a Fellini film.

None of us recognized the name, Lana Clarkson, on the passport, and were somewhat skeptical of her story about being a famous actress.

“Lana is a very nice young woman,” Marlisa told us, “and she had a very bad experience in a foreign country that speaks a foreign language, through no fault of her own. I feel sorry for her and want to help her. I like her”

“Lana showed me pictures of her home in California and her horse. She gave me her address and invited me to visit her there.”

“What I told her was that I was helping her because I was also a woman and that we women had to stand together and help each other, when we have problems. I told Lana that I wasn’t helping her because she was a Hollywood actress.”

Interestingly, when the train reached the Swiss border, a much more polite Swiss Conductor, who had taken charge of the train, notified Lana that the French conductor had only collected the fare for the train traveling in France; the fare from the Swiss border to Zürich had not been collected. Again, Marlisa, in shining armor, came riding to Lana’s rescue.

When the train arrived in Zürich, all of us left the train together: Lana, Marlisa, Beatrice and I. It was snowing. To get to the station, we had to walk outside, in the snow, for the length of the train.

Now that she wasn’t going to prison, Lana was dressed in a miniskirt, fur jacket, and high heels and was pulling a huge suitcase through the snow on a leash. It made an interesting picture.

In her triumphant arrival as a heroine in Zürich, Lana led a parade. Lana was leading, followed by Marlisa, who was followed by Beatrice and me bringing up the rear. We had the distinct feeling that the eyes of the crowd were on Lana’s entourage. Near the end of the train at the doors to the station, stood another beautiful blonde woman, dressed in a white miniskirt, white fur jacked, and heels, and holding a leash with a white miniature poodle at the end.

“Guess which one is Lana’s friend,” I discreetly whispered to Marlisa.

“Oh! I am so glad to see you!” Lana told the lady who had been waiting for her, hugging the woman.

Taking Marlisa’s hand, Lana told her friend dramatically, “This is my fairy godmother! She saved me from going to prison!”

Then with a great deal of emotion, Lana related the story of the nasty conductor and Marlisa coming to save her from a fate worse than death!

Lana’s friend quickly repaid Marlisa for the train fare and both women thanked Marlisa profusely.

We left the train station, never to see Lana again. Over the years, we told the story, over and over, about how Marlisa had saved a Hollywood actress, who no one recognized as an actress. It was a wonderful story that we enjoyed telling and Lana had become a real friend, a nice young woman that truly appreciated Marlisa’s generosity and compassion, and really believed that she was a Hollywood star. We would never forget that name, Lana Clarkson, although we never saw it in print or heard of it for over a decade.

In 2003, while visiting the USA, I picked up a ‘Vanity Faire’ magazine. On the cover was a murder story highlighted, “Lana Clarkson, Hollywood Actress, Murdered in the Hollywood Mansion of Phil Spector”

To me, Lana’s death was a horror story. When I informed Marlisa, she wept. Beatrice was stunned. Until the moment that we heard of her death, Lana Clarkson had played the lead in our often-told story of , ‘The Train From Paris.’ Now, our shining star had gone out!

The Lana Clarkson that we knew was a charming, warm, and gracious human being. Coincidently, we now knew that Lana really was a Hollywood actress. However the void in our lives, left by her death, is the absence of the Lana Clarkson that we knew!

Notes From My Desk 2!

Monday, January 28th, 2008

To Presidential candidates of both political parties: The voters’ demand for change’ in our current government does not mean change from Republican to Democrat nor from Bush to McCain!

To President Bush: Is there anything I could do to convince you not to visit the Mid East?

To Democratic Presidential candidates: The one who keeps his mouth shut gets my vote!

To the Iraq politicians: Take my President, pleeeease!

To Congress: About illegal Mexican immigrant workers, it is really about the illegal American employers, Stupid!

To President Bush: Please refrain from invading Iran, based on military intelligence garnered from the ‘National Inquirer’.

To Sen. John McCain: Walk Softly and carry a big white stick and wear dark glasses.

To Hillary Clinton: Save your tears to use as Holy water after you are elected; you will need it.

To Karl Rove: Why aren’t you in jail instead of on television?

To Vice President Dick Cheney: Could you possibly organize a hunting trip with Mitt Romney?

All We Have To Fear Is Fear of Ourselves

Monday, January 28th, 2008
There doesn’t seem to be an English word for everything that a man experiences in a lifetime. It is a pity; such a word would often come in handy because it takes a long time to consider the lifetime of experience of an old man. There is, of course, an English word for ‘being afraid of’ and that word is fear. In the nation that is the richest of all nations, one would conclude that the word fear would not be a common a part of the vocabulary but it is. The word fear has been used extensively in recent Presidential elections and the 2008 Presidential election is no exception; ‘fear’ appears to be the key to the Republican Party campaign. 

One Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, appeared on television warning Americans of the imminent dangers of Islamic-fascist terrorists and that all Americans, including me, should fear for our lives and being. Mr. Romney did not impress me. He did cause me to think about all the fear that I have experienced in my considerable lifetime as a citizen of the United States of America.

Fortunately, contrary to Mr. Romney’s lifetime experience, I have seldom had reason fear anything, and currently I do not have a fear of Islamic-fascists, though I have experienced considerable concern (near fear) about the policy of the current American Christian-fascist President. I do, however, feel sorry for Mr. Romney, because the stark fear that he describes takes so much (seven years, now) of the pleasure out of life; Mr. Romney must be miserable. Perhaps that is what prompted him to run for President; if a person is miserable, he might as well be President of the United States in its present state of chaos.

The greatest fear encountered in my lifetime, was the unprovoked attack on my democratic Republic by Japan, in 1941, and the subsequent declaration of war against America by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Though young at the time, I do remember wondering how the people of Germany and Japan could be convinced that aggression and war against America and the rest of the world could be justified and meet with their approval; the last seven years of President Bush and his preemptive wars has enlightened me and provided the answer to that mystery. Now, I understand.

As a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans felt extremely vulnerable. America had lost the battle but not the war. Many American lives were lost; the dead were neighbors, sons, friends, and ‘the kid next door’. Americans shared their sorrow and they shared their fear, a genuine fear. The only immediate good news of that time was, not the news of a great victory, it was a familiar voice over the radio saying, “The only think we have to fear, is fear itself.” It was a reassuring promise of the President of the United States.

Of course, Americans in 1941 had good reason to be afraid and the words of a President did not alleviate the fear. But President Roosevelt gave Americans hope and promise and with that, America persevered against a formable World War II foe that possessed weapons of mass destruction, and left Europe and Asia in shambles.

When WWII ended, fear left with it. However, America did wonder how it could possibly contend with the people of Germany, Japan, and Italy who were our hated enemy. Soon, Americans and the world came to realize that those people, who were our despised enemy, were simply ordinary people; this then caused us to wonder how inventive, productive ordinary people could have been turned into fanatic war-mongering maniacs. It could never happen in the democratic Republic of America, we said.

Thus it is that after due consideration of the issues, our wars, and Mr. Romney, I have concluded that in America, we have nothing to fear but ourselves.