It was around 11 P.M., a work night. Katherine realized she was going into labor. I called my parents, alerting them. I bundled her up, and drove her to Marin General Hospital. For several hours she struggled. Eventually the doctor said it did not seem the baby would arrive for a few more hours. I was apprised to go home, get some sleep, then come back in the morning.
I drove to my folks’ house, sleeping in my childhood bed for a few hours. I was awakened by a phone call from a nurse. “Katherine needs you,” she said. I drove back to the hospital. For several more hours I held my wife’s hand while she went through the incredibly painful process of childbirth.
Finally, around noon, with the Sun standing tall outside the windows, Elizabeth Ashley Travers made her debut. I am a writer. I have spent years describing things, hopefully in an entertaining manner. I cannot put into words what this event meant to me, except to day it is number one and will always be number one. I can say to witness childbirth is to witness a miracle. The long, winding path I walked with the Lord Jesus Christ, one in which I so often strayed, was now a straighter one than before. I so often offended Him, yet He benevolently gave my wife and I the greatest of all possible joy. I was walking on air. The fact I hardly slept or ate affected my emotions, for sure, but in my memory this was superfluous.
My parents arrived. There I was, holding the precious one. My mother gushed, but my father said an odd thing I never forgot. “She looks like Hakeem Olajuwon.” Okay, she was mis-shapen, covered with blood and mucus, her face scrunched up, her eyes tightly shut, and she wailed pretty loud, but she was the Mona Lisa as far as I was concerned.
I went home to catch some sleep. I returned to the hospital that night with Garth Henderson in tow. What I saw was a sight as beautiful as any I have ever witnessed. Katherine looked radiant as she lay in bed recovering, holding little Elizabeth. She was all cleaned up by now. She was ours; healthy, happy, my beautiful child. Garth and I went back to my apartment. Mike O’Toole swung by with cigars. We drank beer and celebrated fatherhood.
While Elizabeth’s birth took place in 1985, it really was an extension of the magical year of 1984. It also marked a new beginning for me. It was part and parcel of a period, beginning in 1984 and lasting until 1990, in which I rose in this world. I made my parents proud. I became a “golden boy” of sorts. I found my footing. There would be set-backs, but for the mot period I moved upward and onward during these years.
After Elizabeth’s birth, we moved to Los Angeles. I was able to effectuate a transfer from Charles Schwab & Company, Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters to a branch office located in the Wells Fargo Building, at Seventh and Flower Streets across from what is now the Library Tower (being built at that time) in downtown Los Angeles. It was one of the most prestigious addresses in L.A. The Wells Fargo Building was shown at the beginning of each episode as the home of the law firm in the popular 1980s television series L.A. Law. Indeed, the show spurred my continued interest in law school. That came later.
My parents were not pleased when I decided to transfer to the Los Angeles office, but I had my reasons. They were legitimate. Katherine entered into a period of great depression immediately after Elizabeth’s birth. I heard of postpartum depression. I am fairly sure Katherine suffered from it. All I can say It was pretty shocking.
Now a mother, Katherine yearned for her side of the family after her mom, who came to be with her immediately, eventually returned to L.A. The transfer to the L.A. office was easy for me to make. It even came with a raise in pay. I was also fired up to be around my friends Terry Marks and Bruno Caravalho. I would be near USC again. I flew down for some games in 1984. I wanted to be able to see more football and baseball games. Both my wife and I were USC alumni. I believed the best opportunities lay in the L.A. Basin.
It was all made quite easy for us when Tom said we could stay at his house in Topanga. This really excited me, actually. Tom had a small cabin out in the desert, somewhere near Joshua Tree National Park. He spent most of his time there. We would often have the place to ourselves. It would be a convenient place to be until we found a place for ourselves. I began thinking of purchasing a home. Tom was letting us stay rent free, a great way to save money.
Topanga would be a real gas, filled with ex-rockers, washed-up movie stars, and eclectic ‘60s has-beens, all of which fascinated my sense of wanderlust. We packed up two cars and Elizabeth, driving in tandem to Los Angeles. We arrived at Tom’s around nightfall. Terry and Cecile Marks came by with beer, welcoming us. I unpacked, organizing myself. I had no time to settle in. The next morning I arose, showered and drove to work in a three-piece suit. It was very early in the morning. I made my way down the winding road connecting the mountain town of Topanga. From all appearances it could have been 300 miles from a city. I took a winding road down to the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, which then snaked a few more miles through Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica to the San Monica (10) Freeway. As I picked up the Santa Monica Freeway, a sign informed me I was entering the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. I thought back on the year that had been. I made a transcontinental trek, beyond the Atlantic, and back. Much had changed since the last time I lived in Los Angeles as college student, “in search” of Jim Morrison and the elusive “L.A. Woman.” Now I was a businessman. Maybe I was not quite an executive – yet – but I sure felt like I was on my way. My trek was as much a transformation of mind and spirit as a physical journey.
I worked the freeway traffic to downtown, looking at the city of Angels with new eyes; the eyes of a husband and father. I tasted her pleasures, lived just a little bit on the edge, went to all of Jim Morrison’s haunts. Now I was a new man. As I made my way down the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway, I thought of myself as having been delivered.
I arrived in downtown, staring at the high rises which in little over a decade transformed the area from seedy to what it was in the process of becoming, an urban renaissance. I was part of it. Thus I began my job at the L.A. branch of Charles Schwab & Company, Inc.
No sooner had I settled into work on my first day when I received a phone call from Katherine, sobbing. Her father had “second thoughts” about our staying at his place in Topanga. He was kicking us out. That day. It was unbelievable. Katherine packed as many things as she could into her car, driving to her mother’s place in Orange County. Mary Jean lived with her mother, Mae Hicks, Mae’s brother Al, and her son David from another marriage, in the west Garden Grove area where Katherine grew up. It was an already crowded condominium. There was no room for us. We had little choice. I was busy with work. I certainly did not want to run up bills at a hotel, plus restaurants. Somehow – mainly through Mary Jean’s personal sacrifice - they squeezed some room for us. Mary Jean slept on the couch.
I managed to settle into the house and into work. It was a vibrant downtown setting, although not quite as action-packed as the San Francisco financial district. Los Angeles had disparate business districts. Roughly, the Westside (Santa Monica, Westwood, Culver City), Hollywood proper, and Studio City-Universal City areas are Democrat-based “industry towns,” where movie studios and affiliated businesses operated. Beverly Hills-Century City is the world of entertainment attorneys, talent agents, shopping and high glamour. Newport Beach-Irvine is Republican-based, real estate, the law and beautiful women. The “Miracle Mile,” L.A.’s mid-Wilshire, is advertising, public relations and insurance. Downtown Los Angeles business trends Republican; high rise skyscrapers, publishing, oil, real estate, corporate law, banking and investment-finance-stockbrokerage. That is where the Pacific Stock Exchange, the “New York Stock Exchange of the west,” is located. Many of these industries inter-mingle. The more glamorous professions associated with the entertainment industry are not found downtown. I ate it up with a fork and spoon.
A very strange event occurred when I worked downtown in 1985. “The Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez terrorized the state that year. Prior to his capture, Ramirez killed people, often couples in their beds at home. He was known to use garage roofs, making his way into second story windows. He tied up husbands, raping and murdering their wives in front of them before killing the man; or vice versa. It was horrifying. The news media sensationalized the whole thing. He was traversing the state. There were reports of “the Night Stalker” killing people in the San Francisco area, L.A. and Orange County. He left messages; he was a “devil worshipper” doing it all for Satan. It could not get worse than that.
The condo where we lived had row after row of garages, easily accessible to anybody with a little strength and dexterity. “The Night Stalker” could be right outside our window! He could move from condo to condo, having a Satanic field day. That long, hot summer, we slept with the upstairs window tightly shut. His killings were not far from where we stayed.
Finally, on August 31, 1985, Ramirez arrived at the downtown L.A. greyhound station. His mug shot and visage were all over the newspapers and television screen. He was recognized, cornered and captured within blocks of my office.
Living in Orange County meant I was subject to a brutal commute from “the O.C.” At the time, there was major road work done on the Golden State Freeway (I-5), making it even worse.
Almost immediately, I was contacted by my old pal Phil Smith. Phil, like me, was taking a while to graduate from college. He arranged with Rod Dedeaux, coaching the USC junior varsity team, known as the Spartans (or “Spartoonies” as everybody called them) in exchange for a scholarship to take his last classes. Phil called Terry Marks and I, asking if we wanted to be volunteer assistant coaches.
“Are you kidding?” I told Phil. “Count me in.”
By going to USC every day after work, I avoided the worst commute hours. Terry was equally enthusiastic. He had a sales job at Minolta through his brother, which gave him a certain amount of flexibility. For me it was easy. Because of the stock market’s hours, I got off work earlier than most people. I drove my car a couple of miles to USC, went to the club house at Dedeaux Field, changing from my suit into a Trojan baseball uniform. I can honestly say in all my baseball career this was one of the most enjoyable episodes of it. I wanted to play for the Trojans since youth, but never fulfilled that dream. I graduated from there, went to every game, was best of friends with many of the players, but was never part of the program, even if Coach Dedeaux sometimes absent-mindedly thought I was a “red-shirt.” He never told me I was doing a “helluva job, I’ll get you a scholarship next year,” as Tony Pitaro said he once told him, but that was okay.
Here I was. I could not wait to get off work each day so I could go to the baseball field. Afterwards, Terry, Phil and I oft repaired to our old stomping grounds, the celebrated “Five-oh,” quaffing a few cold ones. Good times. By the time I got in my car to drive home, the brutal traffic subsided.
The thing about USC is you continue to be a member of the Trojan family long after graduation. Rod Dedeaux, who called everybody Tiger, was still at USC. We always said hi to him. With a big wave and a smile he greeted Phil, Terry and I. Who was this tall guy wearing a Trojan baseball uniform? In some capacity I was a member of his “staff.” Oh well, it’s all good. I still do not think he figured out who I was, but it was so much fun.
We raided Coach Dedeaux’s refrigerator after games. I have one photo of Terry and I in USC baseball togs sitting in the coaches office drinking his Henry Weinhard beers. One time Phil rifled through his desk. He help a piece of paper in his hand.
“Horace, you gotta see this,” he said.
I looked at this dog-eared sheet of paper with a list of names on it. It read “top 50 baseball prospects in Southern California” The date was 1979. There among a pretty solid list of really good baseball players, whose recognizable names included John Elway of Granada Hills High School, Jay Schroeder of Palisades High, was “Steve Travers, RHP, Santa Monica College.”
“See, I told you guys,” I said.
“Horace, I’m impressed,” said Terry.
“I gotta admit, I thought you were ‘deekin’ us,” Phil said.
Both Terry and Phil saw me play semi-pro baseball when I was at USC (and during 1985, as well), mostly for the Redbirds at Brookside Park next to the Rose Bowl. My shoulder injury, traced back to the infamous “Max Patkin game” in Tennessee four years earlier, prevented me from throwing the ball with any authority. I think some of my USC pals may have thought my stories of pitching success, before and during my professional career, were just that, stories. This was some proof at some point I indeed did have it “goin’ on.”
We sure did have fun coaching the Spartans. Later they disbanded junior varsity baseball, which was a shame. A lot of excellent baseball players got playing time, mostly in their freshman years, playing junior varsity ball. For a guy sitting on the varsity bench, it was a chance to get much-needed at-bats. Don Buford, a former USC baseball and football hero, once hit a homer off fellow Trojan Tom Seaver in the 1969 World Series. He shared the club house with us. He told some funny stories. Don was a real gentleman. I later got to know his son Damon.
I had one regrettable moment coaching the Spartans. One night we were a run behind in the late going with one out. A grounder to the left side of the infield looked good enough to send the runner home, which I did. I miscalculated. Our man was thrown out. We lost by a run. Terry, Phil and the players were happy to place the blame on you know who.
1985 was a real down year for Trojan baseball. By that season the power shifted in the Pac-10 and nationally. Stanford, Arizona State and Arizona were the dominant teams in the conference. Cal State, Fullerton was a huge program. The game changed in the 1980s. After Fullerton’s victory in 1979, programs like Hawaii, Wichita State and a resurgent Texas emerged on the national stage. Miami won their second College World Series in 1985. USC finished a dismal 22-44, an even worse 5-25 in conference. Amazingly, they had some really talented athletes. Randy Johnson was 6-9 with a 5.32 earned run average. Brad Brink was 6-10, but he became a Major Leaguer. Rick Weible was a good reliever. I later got to know pitcher Steve Bast, also a quarterback on the football team. Jeff Wetherby and my friend Alby Silvera were solid hitters. Catcher Damon Oppenheimer was another friend of mine, as was outfielder Randy Gabrielson. Third baseman Dan Henley was an old school ball player. He later got into coaching. Another infielder on that team? A fellow named Rodney Peete. In 1988 he almost led the football Trojans to the national title and a Heisman Trophy for himself.
When the baseball season ended, I decided to save money on wear and tire of my car, taking the bus from Orange County. The system was no prize, certainly not as good as the Golden Gate Transit in San Francisco. I drove every day to a depot of sorts on the I-5 (I suppose it was Buena Park or some other non-descript locale), boarding the bus. Whereby riders on the Marin commute were all businessmen in suits, these people were mostly Mexican janitors, maids and the like. The bus was like those old “yellow dog” high school baseball buses; no air conditioning in the brutal summer heat, and little leg room.
Nevertheless, I greatly furthered my education on that bus. It was riding to and from work each day I read Richard Nixon’s lengthy autobiography, R.N.: Memoirs. It was a fascinating political education. I suppose detractors could say it was written from a Republican point of view. In part it was, but as a broad treatise of inside politics and history, played out against the brush strokes of the 20th Century, I found it indispensable. The fact I lived in Orange County, even picking up the bus every morning not all that far from Nixon’s Yorba Linda and Whittier childhood homes, was quite interesting to me. In the book, Nixon described the Los Angeles of his youth; orange groves, long drives on rural roads to the Farmer’s Market in L.A., buying produce for the family grocery store, and his early days in Congress representing most of the now-industrial part of L.A. and Orange County I rode through each day. In Nixon’s youth it was a geographically large district encompassing Artesia, Whittier, south L.A. County, and parts of the city of Los Angeles. The bus traversed a freeway roughly paralleling the road Nixon once took two hours each way for his Farmer’s Market purchases.
The term “Orange County” is a difficult one to pin down. It is a huge, widely diverse place with an enormous population. Over time it became impossible to label. It was well past the labeling stage when I moved there in 1985. Located in between Los Angeles County to the north and San Diego County in the south, with Riverside and San Bernardino to the east, it is a hot, arid, dry place of plateaus, canyons, mountains, hills, plains, beaches and the Pacific Ocean. Its topography resembles the American Southwest, a desert with little fresh water. It grew only when Los Angeles figured out a way to harness water from the Owens River Valley, the Colorado River, and eventually Northern California.
It is oil rich. Oil drove its early development and politics. Local high school teams go by Oilers, Drillers and other such terms. Its evangelical Christianity owes itself to migration of Midwesterners and Southerners, beginning after the Civil War and continuing a steady flow that never ended. People often choose Orange County over L.A. because they see Los Angeles as “Hollywood,” an immoral place. “The O.C.” viewed itself as home to hearth and family.
It became associated as a real suburb of Los Angeles with the post-World War II population boom, spurred by new automobile technology and Dwight Eisenhower’s Federal Highway Act. People thought of themselves as Los Angelinos as Marin Countians think of themselves as San Franciscans, once removed. It was a bedroom community, but its southernmost beach communities were too far away for commuting. They were resorts and vacation homes. The freeways made it easy enough for residents of Anaheim, Fullerton, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach to drive into L.A., or Long Beach, to work. Over time the traffic made this problematic.
The county was viewed as “country” until the population explosion of the post-war years. Disneyland put the place on the map. Its vote for conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 spotlighted its John Birch membership. It became synonymous with Right-wing Republican politics, an anti-dote to the 1960s protest movement. It was a springboard for Nixon, Reagan and the Republican Revolution I lived through in the 1980s. The arrival of the California Angels in 1966 separated it from Los Angeles, giving it an identity all its own. Over the years, Orange County battled itself over this issue. Are they part of Los Angeles, or is “the O.C.” a wholly different place? When the Angels reverted to calling themselves the Los Angeles Angels, it seemed to be a way of saying they wanted the worldwide imprimatur of L.A.
Its towns are quite distinct. Its mythology revolves around its “endless strand” of golden beaches, absolutely unbelievably beautiful, tanned, rather promiscuous girls, and wild nightlife, mainly in Huntington Beach (Surf City) and Newport Beach. This is the land of wealth and privilege depicted in Real Housewives of Orange County. Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa and other areas are wealthy and exclusive. Seal Beach and Long Beach are coastal towns separated by the L.A. County line. San Clemente is wealth and Nixonian Republicanism.
Inland, in Tustin, Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Anaheim, Los Alamitos, Buena Park, Villa Park, Orange, La Habra, Santa Ana, and other cities, the ethos is comfort, Christianity and patriotism, absent the exuberance of the surfer life. Churches were traditional. Support for school, and school sports, was absolutely phenomenal, on par with the South although not as crazy. It was much different from Marin and most of the Bay Area.
I moved into the west Garden Grove area, tucked in between Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos. The main thoroughfare, Katella Avenue connected us to Disneyland and Anaheim stadium some 10 miles to the east. Its west Garden Grove appellation was important to its residents. They wanted it distinctly separated from Garden Grove. It was officially the same city, but those who lived in the west part of town wanted no part of Little Saigon, the gang culture and adult bookstores de-facing the central part of the city. Even though another busy, nearby street is Beach Boulevard, the world of Huntington Beach a mere 20 or 25 minutes away was completely different from the one where we lived. It was blue collar, almost farmers living in a suburban setting. A lot of people had Southern or Midwestern accents, like the Texan Mae Hicks.
Latino migration diverted some of its John Birch notoriety. A district here and there might be vulnerable, but the whole of Orange County was and continues to be a GOP stronghold. The fact Orange County is considered “Trojan country,” USC is “conservative,” and John Wayne lived there, are culturally inter-twined with each other. To be a Trojan was a tremendous advantage in “the O.C.” Life there was significantly different from what I was used to. Coming of age as a conservative and Christian, I was comfortable all the way.
Mae Mae, as Mae Hicks was known by everybody, had a nice collection of books on her bookshelf. I read through most of them. She had a fair number of books on Texas history and political figures like Lyndon Baines Johnson, all of which I read. My favorite was a book about the 1968 Presidential campaign, America In Our Time by Godfrey Hodgson. It was illuminating on a number of levels. Hodgson was an Englishman. He was known for disputing the notion of American Exceptionalism, but had insight into the uniqueness of the United States. I thought it to be a 20th Century version of Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy In America.
That book, along with the Nixon memoir, truly kindled my political fires. I was a real fan of Nixon; not really as a political ideal, but as a figure of fascination. The liberal commentator Chris Matthews expressed an interest in him for the same reason despite not having been a supporter. At Nixon’s funeral, Democrat President Bill Clinton referred to the “age of Nixon.” Indeed it was. To read of Nixon’s life and career was to read a treatise of world history in the momentous 20th Century. I was particularly fascinated by the fact such a man emerged from humble California roots, marrying a USC graduate (Patricia Ryan). I identified with this aspect of him. California emerged after World War II as the lynchpin of American politics; a world trendsetter of style, fashion, entertainment and sports. I realized I was born into it, at precisely the moment my home state was reaching its apex. I wanted to ride this whirlwind.
I read Advise and Consent by Allen Drury, a 1950s novel (and movie), one of the greatest political fictions ever written. I started reading the biographies of Congressmen, Senators and public figures. I got hold of dreary government publications featuring the backgrounds of these people, learning where they went to college, graduate school, how long they held office, what they did before being elected. I formed in my mind the idea of the “proto-type” political figure. I wanted a person with a good education, some military experience, and success in the private sector before embarking on elected office.
My God, I was learning things, educating myself. It was like becoming born again. I read an article in the L.A. Times about upheavals in Greek politics. Dr. Kallins was impressed with my knowledge of his homeland. 1985 was the high point of the Reagan Presidency. His success inspired me to get involved. I wanted to be part of what was happening in Washington. A turning point came when I took the Series 7 examination to be a licensed stockbroker. I studied for it quite hard, taking a class and reading through the material every chance I got. I suspected before the test, as hard as I studied, I was not getting it. Kevin McCormack, who had a keen mind for numbers and such, aced it. He told me it was easy. I failed miserably.
This was a jolt to the system after a period of success. It was a failure not hidden from Katherine, or Charles Schwab & Company, Inc. It was one thing to work for them, but their bread and butter was the selling of stocks and bonds. It was like working for a big league ball club, but not being part of the process of winning games, a fact Rush Limbaugh (who worked for the Kansas City Royals) pointed out.
“The point of the team is to win games,” he said. “If you are not a player, a coach, a scout, or in some capacity part of the process of trying to win games, you are peripheral to the organization.”
I felt peripheral to the organization. I certainly knew I was not good with numbers. Selling stocks was not my future. The thrill of wearing a suit and working in a skyscraper wore against the daily grind of five A.M. alarm clocks, dirty buses, an hour-and-a-half commute. My pursuit of knowledge through good books, mainly on history and politics, furthered the motivation developed at USC and from G. Gordon Liddy to take things to another level.
I began to get bored at work. None of my colleagues inspired me. I chewed Copenhagen at my desk, which I was not supposed to do. It did not endear me to anybody. I made some inquiries about working for the Central Intelligence Agency. I am sure it was a “pipe dream.” I did not have the grades, possessed no special skills, did not speak a foreign language. I had never served in the military. I was a young, eager graduate of a fine college, an ex-pro ball player who worked in a stockbrokerage outfit, but I did not pass the Series 7. I was not there yet.
Then I wrote a letter to my uncle, Colonel Charles T. Travers. Reagan was recently re-elected. Uncle Charles’s very good friend, Caspar Weinberger was the Secretary of Defense. I may not have been Langley material, but I certainly had enough on the ball to be a junior aide or staffer to some Congressman, a functionary in the White House or the Pentagon. Washington was filled with bright young people no better qualified than I. Once I got on the inside in D.C., I could climb to greater heights, fulfilling some of the ambitions taking root the day I listened to Liddy speak. But my uncle did not lift his little finger for me.
He hated cronyism and nepotism. I understood that. He, and to a lesser extent my father, lifted himself up by the boot straps from Depression-era poverty to greatness, wealth and even some fame. I was not asking him to “give” me anything. All I wanted was an introduction. I felt I could impress the right people, handling myself well. His contacts were superb. He knew everybody in California Republican circles going back to the 1950s. In 1984 most of those people were still close to the levers of power. He wrote me a letter. It was discombobulated, sort of a technical treatise or civics lesson. It had nothing to do with what I asked of him. It was worth Less Than Zero, the 1987 Robert Downey movie title I always equated it with.
In 1960 he did not lift so much as a finger to introduce his own brother – Naval officer, Cal grad, teacher, coach, recent law school grad, freshly minted lawyer after passing the Bar - to Weinberger and his posh law firm. Now his lack of action translated to me.
He was a multi-millionaire. I never saw any of it save a $5 bill sent at Christmas until I reached age 14 or so. Uncle Charles did not call me. His conversations could be described as rambling. He was almost incoherent some times. I did not understand this guy. I wanted him to help me. All I got were strange homilies. Many people raved about his intelligence, his leadership qualities. I do not doubt he possessed them, but the simple fact is my uncle and I always were on as different wave length as two people can be. We shared party membership in the GOP, but that was about it. Even in this regard we were different. He was a very pragmatic, fiscal Republican with no interest in social issues like abortion. He was an atheist as best I could tell. I was a staunchly conservative Christian (albeit a morally flawed and sinful one). I was disappointed. I reached out to him, not just to help me, but to be a good nephew. I always inquired of his past. I did so from a historian’s point of view. How many older men would not love to have a young nephew express genuine interest in their life? In a world in which young people are consumed by iPods, cell phones, text messages, or whatever modern innovation takes from family time, an old man would, I thought, to have a young relative express interest. I was not some kind of unimpressive.
Uncle Charles had chances to help me in the future. I did not learn my lesson. I asked him again. The result was always the same. I guess I could say I was on my own. In truth I had no complaint coming. My parents supported me all my life in everything I did. They provided me every advantage a young man could ask for. Besides, I lived in America, a country where you can make your own breaks by dint of ambition and hard work. This I was determined to do.
Then I started to do something that eventually became my life’s passion. I wrote all my life, but it was always a hobby. My father bought me a typewriter when I was in the seventh grade. I typed game stories from the Strat-0-Matic baseball league. I wrote the great story of the 1951 pennant race for Grace Jones’s journalism class when I was at Redwood, which she gave me a lousy B- on. She never let me write for the Redwood Bark, so I started the Redwood Sporting Green instead. I did my share of writing at USC, including excellent treatise on film and story development for Andrew Caspar and film school classes.
Rob Scoal was in France. His brother Darren and Tom Soriano joined him. They wrote a stage play, producing it in the English theatre in Paris. I started writing letters to him. I had a typewriter at my desk at work. I often used it to write not just letters but stories, poems and op/eds of a sort. Every day I cut out articles from the L.A. Times, especially Jim Murray’s columns. I put all of this in Charles Schwab envelopes. I used the Schwab metered mail machine, sending them to Rob, Darren and Tom in France. Each day for the better part of a year, they received these missives and newspaper clippings, dubbing it the “Daily Travers.” In many ways, it was my first writing gig. I became obsessed with it. I carried a note pad all the time, writing down ideas for the next “Daily Travers.” I enjoyed the fact people in France were reading and laughing because of me.
At USC I also created a character. I gave him the name Tom Jordan. It had nothing to do with the John McGiver character of the same name in The Manchurian Candidate. I had not even seen it yet. Jordan was everything I was but strove to be, and some things I was. Jordan “grew up” in Palos Verdes Estates, a town I identified early on as the ultimate place to live. He was a baseball star in high school and USC; a great student; got all the girls; was a big league baseball hero; served in the Navy; went to Harvard Law School in the off-season; clerked for a Supreme Justice; married a beauty queen, starting a family; after retirement from baseball was a Wall Street attorney; became the Ambassador to Great Britain; ran a corporation in downtown Los Angeles; was elected as a Republican Senator from California; and finally ascended to the Presidency. If Jack Ryan was Tom Clancy’s creation, Tom Jordan was mine.
He was an amalgam of different people, I suppose: Chief Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, Senator Bill Bradley, Christy Mathewson, Tom Seaver, Moe Berg, George H.W. Bush, and the character from Lester Chadwick’s Baseball Joe series so influencing me as a kid.
I did not have my typewriter with me at Mae Mae’s house. Besides, I wanted privacy. There was none there. On weekends I went to the Seal Beach Public Library, using their typewriters to write out stories and biographical sketches of Tom Jordan. In the summer of 1985 Katherine, Elizabeth and I drove to Lake Tahoe, taking our vacation at Northstar. I arranged for my typewriter to be brought up. On the porch of the condominium I typed for hours. I did not keep the Jordan stories, but they played a big role in my eventual writing career. That was still some nine years away. Somehow I kept my stories secret. I never told anybody what I was typing, even though it was loud and obvious.
I was bored at Charles Schwab & Company, Inc., no longer enamored of the corporate scene, tired out from the brutal commute. After failing the Series 7, I endeavored to make a change. Looking back I suppose I could have used my writing, communications and public relation skills, forging my way up the ladder at the company. Those abilities were mainly developed later. I was quite unformed at the time. Nobody could have told me at the time. In my mind I was quit the hot shot. But my efforts working for the CIA and the Reagan Administration came to naught. My original goal to become an attorney was still possible. I decided to go to law school. It seemed to be a natural choice, to follow in my father’s footsteps.
I decided to attend Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, located across the street from the Cal State, Fullerton campus. The choice of Western State was as much based on geography and convenience as anything else. We decided to buy a house near Katherine’s mother. This way, Katherine had as much support as possible with baby Elizabeth. We always had a babysitter, among other advantages. Western State was fairly close to their home.
I was becoming a genuine citizen of Orange County. After growing up in “enemy territory,” I was surrounded by like-minded Republicans. Reagan’s popularity was at its peak. Orange County was its center mass. The law was the perfect vehicle for me to get involved in politics. My father thought to do the same thing when he graduated from USF Law School. He went to Europe with the notion of studying political science at the London School of Economics. He was Richard Nixon’s San Mateo County campaign chairman.
I took the LSAT at UC-Riverside, applying to Western State College of Law. I was interviewed by the dean, a Harvard Law School man. Soon thereafter I was accepted. This meant three things. I needed to tell my employers at Charles Schwab & Company, Inc. I was leaving. I needed to find employment in Orange County, allowing me to go to school at night. I needed to buy a house. We could not continue to live in Mae Mae’s crowded place.
I informed my boss at Charles Schwab & Company, Inc. I was departing. I doubt it broke anybody’s heart. Once I failed the Series 7 I lost much of my luster. Katherine and I spent a number of weekends looking for homes. We finally decided to buy a condominium literally across the street from her grandmother’s. It was perfect. It allowed Katherine to find employment, which she did at a marketing company in Fullerton. Mae Mae looked after Elizabeth during the day. She never needed day care, which was great.
The condo had a two-car garage, overlooked a park with tennis courts, and had a little patio out back perfect for barbequing. It had four bedrooms; one for Katherine and I, Elizabeth’s room, a spare bedroom, and the fourth converted into my downstairs study. We had a washer/dryer. From upstairs there was even a little bit of a view. The distant mountains of eastern Orange County were visible. At night, we heard and saw the nightly fireworks at Disneyland. It was safe. Elizabeth played with other kids. It was close to school and the law firm I eventually worked for. We paid $78,500 for it.
During Christmas vacation in 1985, I made a momentous decision, changing my life forever. Since my release by the A’s in 1982, I did exercise. I played a little semi-pro baseball and some tennis, but that was it. I tried to run with the hot blond at the Regal Trojan Arms, but that wore me out. I even joined a gym but never went.
On New Year’s Eve, I decided to one have last fling before buckling down to the challenge of law school. Garth Henderson and I hit “the Triangle,” San Francisco’s trendy night club district. Sitting in a bar, drinking with Garth, I made a New Year’s resolution for 1986: to quit, or at least greatly reduce, my alcohol in-take and get back in shape. It was a miracle I avoided drunk driving incidents before I stopped driving inebriated some four years earlier. I greatly cut down my drinking after I met Katherine. It was impossible to work the hours I did at Charles Schwab and drink. But law school posed a challenge. I wanted to be at the very top of my game.
My mother, a tennis player and fitness buff her whole life, let me know she did not like what I allowed myself to become. I weighed upwards of 240 pounds. Dad embarrassed me in front of Katherine about the size of my belly, stating I had “gone to hell.” Katherine told me she had enough of my parent’s criticism of me.
“I just don’t like it,” she said. It was something of a revelation.
“If you think this is bad, you should have heard them before I married you,” I told her. “This is nothing.”
The kind of intense criticism and belittling my folks subjected me to throughout my life was almost gone. To Katherine they were constantly finding complaint with me. She found it quite abhorrent. After having survived so much of it as a kid, it was nothing to me; a lesson in perspective.
But I was a grown man now. My ability to deal with, and understand, their criticisms was substantially improved. I lived on my own since 1977 with the exception of the summer of 1979 (Northstar), the 1981-82 off-season (Northstar, Marin), and the period in 1984 after I came back from Europe before marrying Katherine. By 1985, talk radio was a big deal. I stopped listening to rock ‘n’ roll music, choosing instead to educate myself with news and commentary. It was before the conservative era of Rush Limbaugh. I listened to a lot of “Dodger Talk” on KABC/790. Fred Wallin was an on-air host. Bud Furillo and Stu Nahan dominated the air waves. I loved them. I listened to the all-news stations. I also got into Michael Jackson, an erudite South African with a tony English accent, on KABC. I also occasionally listened to the psychologist Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
Jackson featured great guests and high-brow political and historical subject. He and, to a greater extent obviously, Dr. Laura delved into psychology. I began hearing explanations and diagnoses of behavior. People called in describing their rocky relations with parents. That was when I started to hear about “transference,” a phenomenon whereby one takes his or her faults and, instead of owning them, accuses some person, usually close and vulnerable, of their faults
“Holy cow she’s talking about my parents,” I exclaimed while driving in my car.
One time when my folks visited, Katherine told me she had enough.
“You have to confront them,” she said.
What a mistake that was. The possibility of telling my parents they were wrong, they were in the wrong, and oh get this, were treating ME poorly, was an idea that flew like a led balloon. It was so preposterous a notion to them I realized then and there I was destined to simply endure my parents as long as I lived. It would be dysfunctional, but it was reality. I was strong enough to take it. I lived through Al Endriss’s terrors at Redwood High. I could survive. I came to think of it like the scene in Patton when the staff aide tells the general the troops do not know when he’s acting. Patton says it is not important for them to know, “It’s only important for me to know.” I did not need anybody else to know I was in the right. I possessed knowledge of it. That was enough.
I applied a more Biblical, philosophical and rational concept to it. Christ, confronted by the howling mob, makes no attempt to convince them of their error. He forgives them, content in the knowledge that He knows He is in the right. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle also understood the nature of truth. There is an inherent truth, which is good. Ultimately it is only important to be in the right, not to be applauded for it. I also applied this idea to the American policy of Manifest Destiny. It was right, just and imperative for the United States to expand west. If we did not, others less worthy or moral – Germany, England, Russia, Spain, Mexico - would, at far greater cost than the result of our acts.
None of this prevented my parents from getting mad at me, calling me “ungrateful,” and various other untruths. Aw, so be it. Around this time another event occurred which caused a rift in the Travers household. My parents owned their first Gordon Setter, Burgundy. The truth is, Burgundy occasionally nipped at people. She nipped a postman and a stranger at the door a few times. For my parents, it was a case of pure denial. Even though the fact Burgundy did this existed as a fact, my mother said, “Oh, Burgundy would never hurt anybody.”
But Burgundy never showed aggression towards those she knew, like family members. She was around baby Elizabeth plenty without a problem. Over Christmas vacation in 1985 (I remember it had to be 90 degrees in L.A. that year), Elizabeth played with Burgundy next to the Christmas tree. Maybe Elizabeth pulled her hair. Burgundy lashed out. I do not think she bit her, but she clawed her, leaving some definite scratches. It only lasted about five seconds, but it was World War III.
Katherine went ballistic. Mary Jean went ballistic. My parents tried to defend Burgundy. Katherine wanted Burgundy gone. She wanted them to get rid of Burgundy. She wanted assurances if Elizabeth ever visited Burgundy would not be there. All of this caused huge problems. I was in the middle. It was not good.
Anyway, beginning on January 1, 1986 I stopped drinking and began jogging almost every single day. I did not touch alcohol for months. For the very first time I consciously ate healthy foods. I never gave any thought to my diet before. I started in 1986. I probably weighed 240 pounds or more before I started to exercise. My baseball weight was 220. Incredibly, I lost a pound a day for a month. In 30 days I was trimmed down to 210. After that I worked down to around 200, until I was too thin. But I was healthy. I felt fantastic. It was literally addicting to be as healthy as I now was. This after over two years of physical laziness. I certainly looked better for it.
On top of everything, my dad stopped drinking in May of 1985. His friend at Original Joes, nicknamed “Glen Livet” because of his choice of cocktail, died of liver disease. My father’s doctor told him he had the first stage of cirrhosis himself. My father had to wait a matter of months to make sure he was free and clear. By 1986 he was assured, given a clean bill of health. I suppose this was a motivator for me to get my act together, as well. I was girding for the rigors of law school. I knew it would require all of my mind, body and soul.
Dad’s decision to quit drinking came just before Elizabeth’s Baptism at a Lutheran church in Los Alamitos. It certainly was good timing, coming shortly after the birth of his granddaughter. Of course he wanted to be alive to see Elizabeth grow up, but his main motivation was the fear of dying a horrible death. The Baptism was a fine affair. Terry and Cecile were on hand as Elizabeth’s Godparents.
Katherine and I enjoyed good times. She was a complete sports fanatic. We attended many Dodgers and Angels games. We went with our USC friends to all the Trojans football games. We attended many USC basketball and baseball games. We even saw the lowly Los Angeles Clippers play. We saw plays and concerts: Cats, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Bruce Springsteen at the L.A. Coliseum.
I started taking my law at Western State College of Law in January. Shortly thereafter I began working at Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey, a workers’ compensation law firm in Santa Ana. It was in an absolutely perfect situation. I had a good job, tailor-made for a law student. My wife had good employment. Our daughter was well taken care of by a nearby family support system. I was a homeowner, with a nice office where I could study.
My days were very busy. The busier I was, the more fulfilled and energized I got. It was a phenomenon I experienced all my life. Whenever I have periods of inactivity, lethargy sets in. It leads to less activity. The more things I have to do, the more I accomplish and take on. I had to be at Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey every day at 8:30 in the morning. I got off work around 4:30 or five. Depending on my schedule, or if I was in my car doing business for the firm (filing papers, picking up documents) I might have a quick dinner at home then drive to school. Sometimes I even got in a fast run. If I left from the office, I picked up dinner somewhere near school. I had classes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from seven to 10. I often got to school early enough to get in 45 minutes of study in the law library before class. My job at the firm was not terribly taxing. I was able to study and do case briefs an hour or two at my desk, which never bothered any of the attorneys. They understood the path I was walking.
On Friday nights I studied for a few hours but shut it down after dinner, spending time with my family. I spent all day on Saturdays and Sundays at the law library or in my study. I went running every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in addition to the exercise I squeezed in on the other days. It became a passion of mine to be in great shape. I found a legal research store near the office where I picked up a number of study aids. My father gave me all his old books from his days at the University of San Francisco Law School. I utilized the old law books my dad gave me, always looking for an edge. I truly loved law school. I poured myself into it with everything I had. The study and time it took never occurred to me. It was never a drag, never drudgery. I finally learned how to efficiently study at USC. Now I perfected the art. Being a working man helped. I saw now work is really just a form of study. In school we did it because we had to. On the job I did it for money, a huge motivator. In order to continue making a living, one must produce quality work, my best efforts. So it was with law school. I was there of my own free will, to achieve a goal I set for myself.
I became an academic. Prior to USC, I took classes I needed to pass in order to be eligible to play baseball. This motivated me only to do enough to get by. At USC, with my father paying the high tuition, I understood the gift given to me. I had the opportunity to receive a first class education. In the two years I was there I embraced it. Yes, I partied, but that was on weekends at night. I learned to compartmentalize. When I put Rob Scoal on a bus back to Ventura on Sunday nights, I went back to the old grindstone. Being an older, more mature student was the best thing that could have happened to me. Had I entered USC as a freshman, joined a fraternity, and played baseball, I may well have not taken advantage of the educational opportunities.
But there was another, even bigger difference between the old me and the new. I was married and a father, working full time. I was a homeowner. The old party boy was, at least for now, a thing of the past. I certainly continued to grow spiritually. Honestly I was so focused on school and the tasks at hand my law school period was not the greatest time of Christian growth in my life. That said, He was always with me. Mainly, I was extremely proud of myself.
Katherine bought me a special new typewriter. It was still before the age of the Internet, cell phones and laptops. The typewriter she bought me was computerized, a kind of traveling word processor. I typed into a small screen, then made changes and corrected typos. Only when I was satisfied with what I wrote did I print it out. It was perfect for taking tests. It was light and portable, more impressive for the professor to read a typed paper than a handwritten one.
I took classes in Constitutional law, criminal procedure, torts, evidence, contracts, civil procedure, library research, wills, trusts, and others. I never missed a class, arrived late or left early. I joined every study group I could find. I developed partnerships with other students to share research and ideas. I actively discussed the law with great passion.
The professors were quite excellent. Most were full-time professors, former judges or attorneys teaching what they specialized in when in practice or on the bench. Others were adjuncts in practice in Orange County. The emphasis was hands-on, practical law. It was less about theory. Western State wanted to produce working attorneys. Orange County was a huge metropolis of its own, irrespective of its “suburban” nature. The citizens of Orange County resisted the notion they were a bedroom community of Los Angeles. Indeed many people did commuter to the big city, but Orange County lacked nothing in terms of industry and professional opportunity. Some of the biggest law firms, investment banks, real estate corporations and other businesses made up a large, thriving professional environment in Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Anaheim, and other cities. There was great need for lawyers. Many who practiced in “the O.C.” were Western State University graduates.
I made particular friends with a man who had great influence on me. He remains to this day one of the most unusual, indeed impressive people I ever knew. His name was Bruce Stevens. I met him at an orientation held before classes even started. I overheard him speaking to another student.
“So I fixed the target,” I heard him say. “The son of a bitch was out in the open, within range. I let fire and caught him center mass. His body exploded; guts, blood. What was left flew about five yards into the rice paddies.”
Who in the heck is this guy? I thought to myself. I introduced myself. As I suspected he was describing his experiences in Vietnam. Bruce was about 5-9, a wiry 165 pounds or so, completely fit with taut muscles. His hair was either shaved, he was bald, or a little of both. He wore glasses and looked like a librarian. Everything about him was ordered in a military way; his notes, the contents of his brief case, the way he arranged his pens and pencils on his desk. He was a native of New York City. When he was in high school, he made a home-made rocket, shooting it at a police helicopter. The judge saw despite his juvenile delinquency, he was a straight-A student. He told him since he was still a minor, he had the choice of juvenile hall or the military. Bruce joined the Marines with both feet flying.
He was quickly assigned a tour in Vietnam, where he was involved in hardcore assaults on “gook villages.” He was not an exaggerator or a liar. He did not need to be. Bruce killed a lot of NVA and Viet Cong in the ‘Nam. He was a sharpshooter, a special weapons expert, and “bad ass” of the first order. He loved Vietnam. He loved war. He loved to kill. He was a warrior, possessing the unique “warrior spirit.” He was somehow able to do something few could do. He compartmentalized his emotions. When on patrol he focused on the task at hand. Away from the action, he was normal, disciplined, yet fun-loving. He was incredibly unique.
Bruce was an atheist, fairly unusual in the military. I suppose it played a role in his ability to do a job that required killing other human beings. He was not a murderer. He did not kill just to kill. He was able to break down the essence of the mission, which was to attain victory with the fewest casualties inflicted on his own men; to survive, to do unto others before they did it unto him.
At the end of his tour in Vietnam, Bruce was identified as a high achiever among the enlisted class. He was offered an appointment to the Naval Academy, which he accepted. At one point he claimed to be Oliver North’s roommate, if I recall correctly. He was a boxer and completely unfazed by the academy. He handled discipline, orders and the rigors of academy life as if born for it. He was brilliant, breezing through the academics. I believe he earned an engineering degree. He was totally devoid of worry, lethargy, doubt.
He broke all the Naval Academy rules but was smart enough to get away with it. He had pornography in his room, a no-no. He went off-campus to drink and pick up girls, but was always stealthy enough to get away with it. He was a prank and wise-acre. Like Paul Coppersmith at Redwood, he was so sly it never came back to bite him. He graduated high in his class, then was sent on a second tour of the ‘Nam. This time he was an officer.
His “luck,” for lack of a better term, continued in Vietnam. He was like the Bill Kilgore character in Apocalypse Now (played by Robert Duvall) who Martin Sheen says “has that weird light around him, and you knew he wasn’t going to get so much as a scratch here.” He moved up in rank, winning medals. When he returned, he had his choice of assignments. He used the opportunity to compile an amazing resume. He was trained by the CIA as a sharpshooter, assigned “ranch detail” for President Reagan’s Santa Barbara home, and picked up an MBA from Pepperdine.
He applied for flight school. Bruce never would have been accepted because he wore glasses, but the Marines were desperate to keep him in the corps. They let him do it. He easily earned his wings. He was a pilot stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro when I met him. He was a lieutenant colonel. Like me, he attended law school at night. Bruce breezed through every aspect of it with ease. He was as brilliant and gifted a man as I have ever known. Naturally, he was a staunch Republican.
Bruce was married but had no children. He professed absolutely no sentiment over them. I do not really know how much he loved his wife. I think marriage was something he felt he needed to “accomplish” in order to effect his moving up the Marine Corps ladder. He was an inveterate womanizer, hitting on every young, attractive girl at the school. He loved to party, hitting happy hours and the like, trolling for girls. His looks were not great, but he had the gift of gab. Women somehow fell for his charms. His partying was said to be legendary in the Marine Corp. He was persona non grata in the Philippines. I imagine he slept with the wives of many fellow officers, but I cannot verify this.
Bruce flew missions by day. He came into class eagerly describing how that day he flew over the Tehachapi Mountain range, or into Nevada and Arizona and back, down towards San Diego, or out to sea. He claimed to run 20 miles a day at lunch time, I suppose when not flying. Apparently he did not need more than a couple hours of sleep per night. Despite his Ruthian capacities for just about everything life had to offer (except God and children), he was a remarkably nice and normal guy. He never got angry. He was not threatening. If somebody attacked him, he could kill using his pinkie finger, but that was that.
In October of 1986, when the Iran-Contra scandal hit the news, he told me all about his Annapolis friendship with Oliver North. He was not in the least surprised at North’s rogue operation. The Cold War was still hot and heavy. He fully understood who the Communists were, in part from seeing their atrocities up close and personal in Vietnam. When I told Katherine about Bruce, her Democrat instincts kicked in. She immediately despised him without meeting him.
Soon after beginning law school, I began work as a paralegal, or law clerk, at Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey, a top-notch workers’ compensation law firm in Santa Ana. The first day was a real eye opener. I was invited to lunch with the partners. They met at a restaurant in Garden Grove. I entered and saw it was the regular Wednesday “lingerie show.” As the partiers gathered around the table waiting for lunch, a bevy of spectacular women in sexy lingerie paraded around the restaurant. Wow. I figured working for Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey was going to b fun.
Several of the attorneys in the firm were Western State alumni. They were very understanding of the pressures I was under and schedule I had to keep. The pay was not great, but by the standards of the day not bad. I had full benefits and my own office, as well as complete access to all the firm’s resources. My use of the law library was a great help in school. This was a great advantage. As I say, the workload they gave me was not overly taxing. I had time for my briefs and other study in a relaxed, professional environment. It made law school at night as easy as it could be. If anything, I would go so far as to it was an advantage to me, employed by Falk, Regnell.
The firm consisted of about 10 or 15 attorneys, including the four partners. They had one tort lawyer, James Berryhill. His nephew, Damon Berryhill was a catcher for the Chicago Cubs. Berryhill was an easy going guy, a pleasure to work for. His secretary was very helpful and understanding. However, during my time with the firm he took on a civil lawsuit. He lost in court. This infuriated him. For a day or so, he was unbearable.
He barked at me to do something, to get a document, which I immediately did. When I did not return with the document in what was a physically impossible short time, he yelled at me in front of everybody how “you never do anything right.” After playing for Al Endriss, this did not faze me. He berated me, bringing up some issues one of the secretary’s brought up about me. After studying until three in the morning a week or so earlier, I fell asleep at my desk. He now deemed it appropriate to bring it up. His secretary got made at him, compelling his apology.
Several of the secretaries were rather attractive, including the girl we hired for the front desk. She was a real stunner. “The O.C.” was a place crawling with beautiful young women looking for employment in the many firms doing business in the area. It became almost de rigueur to hire pretty girls to handle front desk duty, as I discovered during my many visits to law firms delivering documents, sometimes serving process. One of our secretary’s was an older women, quite plain, but she was obviously madly in love with the handsome, married attorney she was assigned to.
Early on in my employment I was given the task of researching the viability of becoming self-insured. Knowing first impressions are important, I poured myself into the task. I produced a very well-researched, professional memo covering all aspects, pro and con, of self-insurance. This impressed my employers. They responded by raising my pay and responsibility. I never received any complaints on any assignment I was given. In some cases I really did the work of an attorney.
I was constantly at the Orange County Civic Center in downtown Santa Ana, as well as other court houses in the county, filing documents. I spent a lot of time dealing with the filing system at the courthouse in downtown L.A. I appeared before the Fair Political Practices commission. I received a really good education on how the legal system operates. These were practical matters not taught in school. Regardless of whether I became an attorney or not, the knowledge I obtained was very beneficial, often put to use throughout my life. If nothing else, it made me unafraid of the law. Half the power of attorneys is the ignorance of the citizenry. A letter from an attorney makes people quake in their boots. Mainly, they fear the unknown. I knew most of these “threatening” letters were just bluffs. It was not at all unlike Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a cat-and-mouse game of psychological advantage in order to gain a legal upper hand.
In future years this was tried on me a couple times. I always stunned the “opposition” with detailed letters written in perfect legalese detailing why they would not have prevail should they proceed against me, which nobody ever did. The ability to know one’s way around a courthouse is invaluable. I also learned how to file lawsuits as a “threat” in order to effectuate action; against credit card companies, defaulting creditees, breaches of contract, and the like.
I wrote many letters, made phone calls, and handled all manner of legal business for the firm. Within a short time I was considered an important member of Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey. Not indispensable, but assuredly a key employee. It was made clear when I graduated from Western State and passed the bar, employment would be offered me. I was actually quite rare, in that most law clerks/paralegals do not go to work in such a professional capacity until their third year of law school.
Perhaps because I learned so much being around my father, I was comfortable in the environment. This made it a much easier task. I had a professionalism to me, an air that was unmistakably impressive. The attorneys all saw it, responding to it. I was a rising star of sorts, a young man (27 years old in 1986) most definitely on the move. A golden boy. My resume was impressive; USC graduate, professional baseball player, two years at Charles Schwab & Company, Inc. I was married, a father and homeowner. This was a new era, of slackers and intellectual lightweights. I was a well-turned out, a physically impressive 6-6 ex-pro athlete who handled himself with aplomb, even if I do say so myself. I “dressed for success.” Even though I was not required to wear a suit, I often did. I knew I cut a dashing figure making a great impression. It afforded me style points, making me as impressive as I could be.
I was comfortable. I was not ever intimidated or out of my depth. In terms of intelligence, intellect and in many case breadth of knowledge, I think I even intimidated some of the attorneys. I had by this time truly increased my overall knowledge of history and politics to the point where I was something of an expert. I freely discussed the New Deal, World War II, the Founding Fathers, the “original intent” of the Constitution, and all other subjects with excellent knowledge.
Then things bumped up. One of the partners, W. Peter Godfrey, was the high-power parliamentarian in the Orange County Republican Central Committee. He learned I was politically like-minded. He decided to “sponsor” my rise in Los Angeles and Orange County GOP circles. He knew everybody. Peter was on the short list as a major political candidate himself should he ever desire to do so. Godfrey could easily have been elected to Congress. He chose to remain behind the scenes, as my Uncle Charles did in the 1950s and 1960s.
Peter was almost too perfect. He was a tall, well-built, incredibly handsome man who could have been a model or an actor. He was a Los Angeles County policeman or sheriff’s deputy who went to law school at night. He was considered one of the best legal minds in workers’ comp circles. He had a deep, smooth, caramel-rich California voice, oozing charisma. Women adored him. His secretary literally loved him. She could not contain her flow of emotions over him. He was married with a family, living in Fullerton.
Peter began inviting me to Orange County Republican Central Committee meetings. Through him I became associated with some major political heavyweights of the era, including U.S. Congressman Robert “B-1 Bob” Dornan, Congressman Ed Royce,
Congressman William Dannemeyer, state Senator John Seymour, Assemblyman Wayne Grisham, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, Central Committee head Tom Fuentes, and California Governor George Deukmejian.
Dornan in particular was a real hoot. He flew B-1 bombers in the Air Force. After a stint as a TV talk host, he entered politics. He was in fact my Congressman, representing a series of northwestern and central Orange County cities. He was loud, abrasive and wildly charismatic. When Rush Limbaugh became popular Dornan was a regular guest host of his show, regaling audiences with stories, history and anecdotes. He was a master storyteller.
Seymour was appointed California’s U.S. Senator after Pete Wilson was elected Governor in 1990. He lost when he went up for election before the voters in 1992’s “year of the woman.” Two liberal Jewish women from San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, were elected.
I attended the 1986 November election party in Newport Beach, mingling with all the big whigs of the GOP. Governor Deukmejian was on hand. Some of the biggest movers and shakers in California and America were there. Several top Reagan Administration officials attended. It was a huge social scene, a real soiree. To be part of this was breathtaking. Katherine put on her most exquisite dress and attended with me. We cut dashing figures. I was impressing people, moving in the right circles. I was only 27 years old. Unfortunately it was a set-back for the Reagan agenda in 1986. Seats were lost in the Senate in the wake of Iran-Contra. Democrat incumbent Alan Cranston easily defeated Republican Ed Zschau. I was her exposure to the Right might move Katherine to the politically. She was impressed with the people she saw and met, but steadfastly refused to back off her Democrat registration.
I was riding high, baby. I was in the middle of a run of unprecedented success in my life. 1984, 1985 and now 1986 were magical years; marriage, employment, law school. I was moving up in the world. The contacts I made were impeccable, from a professional, legal, social and political perspective. I was in precisely the right place at precisely the right time. Godrey and I would sat and mapped out my future.
Continued employment at Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey. Graduation from law school in 1989. Pass the Bar in 1989. I had a standing offer to join the firm. Godfrey said perhaps I would get offers to work at more prestigious, political law firms, in Los Angeles or Newport Beach. Surely, he said, with my political contacts I would be recognized.
We started planning my first run for Congress. I would be 31 in 1990. I figured I should practice until I was about 35, make some money to set my family up. I could be appointed to a political commission. We started talking about 1994. It was very heady.
Then I dropped out of law school.
Why did I do that? There were different reasons and factors. One of those reasons was my marriage began to break up. I would be remiss if I used that as the primary excuse. I must take responsibility for what happened. My grades were not as good as I thought they would be. I was stunned. I took a civil procedure class with Professor Jo Ann Case. She was a judge in the county and an excellent, diligent teacher. Half-way through the semester, I was getting Ds.
I went to Professor Case. She knew I was putting in all the study time, but I did not seem able to grasp the subject matter. It was arcane, litigious stuff. My father told me he feared this might happen.
“The same thing happened to me at USF,” he said. “I hated civ pro. I could not grasp it either.” I read through some of his old law books, hoping they would yield more understanding. My mind seemed blocked. Oddly, one of the text books for the course was written by a judge named Don King. Judge King was a longtime San Francisco attorney married to my cousin Bill Friedrich’s wife’s sister. I met Judge King on many occasions. He was a nice guy. His text book sucked. I never told him how arcane and obtuse it was.
The best way to explain it would be to say it was, to me at least, like memorizing or writing a paper on the driver’s manual. Professor Case actually took the time to meet me in a library near my house on Saturdays. I seemed to grasp the material. I wanted so badly to succeed, but I kept getting Ds on the exams.
This, among other reasons, propelled me to leave Western State University College of law. I certainly cannot blamed it on my full-time employment. It was not the money. I was in good shape. My job was an advantage in law school, not a disadvantage. But things started to unravel in my life. It was a shock. I could have continued. I could have gone back later, but when I dropped out the life was sucked out of me. All the energy, passion and momentum was sapped away. It never came back. I was not to become an attorney. I cried.
As I look back on my life, I have had many things happen, for good and for bad. Often I was able to pick out the good in a bad situation. Some closed door revealed another open one. I never felt that way about law school. It remains a regret. I wish I finished and become an attorney. Even if I ultimately did move in another direction, like writing (as John Grisham did), I always would have had that option. There was no down side to being an attorney from my angle.
Just because I was not going to be a lawyer did not mean I would be a failure. I continued to be a “rising son.” My parents were very disappointed, but I seemed to rebound quickly. The reason I apparently “landed on my feet” was because of W. Peter Godfrey. He introduced me to Orange County Republican circles. I seemed to be on my way. This did not affect my standing at Falk, Regnell, Hamblin and Godfrey. I continued to work for Godfrey on political issues. I continued my employment as if nothing changed. The fact is, he needed me. He came to rely on me.
A special election took place in 1987 to fill an open state Senate seat along the Orange County-Los Angeles line, roughly representing the cities of Cerritos, Artesia and Bellflower in L.A., La Palma and I believe parts of Cypress in Orange County. Godfrey was tasked with the job of making sure it remained in Republican hands. I became the chief “opposition research” man for Assemblyman Wayne Grisham, who represented a district straddling the same L.A.-Orange County area.
I spent a lot of time at the civic centers in Santa Ana and Norwalk digging up documentation. I was tasked with keeping track of all the publicity surrounding the race, creating a “clipping service” from the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Long Beach Press-Telegram, and other relevant media. I poured over political magazines and national newspapers: Human Events, American Spectator, National Review, The Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Journal, Los Angeles magazine. One day I was reading Orange County magazine. I came across an article about a high school football player dubbed “Robo QB.” It was the second time I read about Todd Marinovich. The first was a 1984 article in the Orange County Register. It showed a photo of a tow-headed kid at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, a rare freshman starting quarterback. The Orange County piece said now, three years later, he was closing in on every significant state and national prep passing record in existence. His father put him on a special diet and training regimen. He had never eaten “junk food.” He was ticketed for the University of Southern California.
“We’ll win two or three national champions with this kid,” I thought to myself, “and he’ll win a couple of Heisman Trophies.”
I went to downtown L.A., taking meetings with Republican Supervisor Don Knabe. He was one of the chairmen of the campaign, providing much logistical and tactical support. I wrote speeches and prepared memos for Godrey. Because of his time commitments he needed my help a great deal in order to constantly be prepared. I liased with Republican groups in Los Angeles. I attended conferences and seminars, including one full weekend on campaign strategy at the Radisson across the street from USC. I learned the ins and outs of campaign organization, fund raising, and arcane political tricks of the trade. I attended the California Republican Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center. I met numerous candidates for office, staffers and officials. I also “crossed over” to the Democrat side, kind of. I arranged to meet with legendary Democrat political consultant Joe Cerrell at his L.A. office. I picked his mind for 45 minutes.
Then I was given a private meeting with Neil Bush, the son of Vice President George H.W. Bush, in his hotel suite in Anaheim. I decided early on I was supporting Vice President Bush over Senator Bob Dole in the 1988 Republican Primaries. The liberal press, realizing Bush was now the front runner, went after him with a Newsweek cover emphasizing “the wimp factor.” Unreal. The guy flew dangerous missions for the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. I began understanding the Left. My understanding of psychology played into this new realization of their motives.
They were unimpressives with no accomplishments; no acts of heroism or bravery. At heart they knew they were cowards. Human pride, going back to Original Sin, prevents people from coming to grips with their own failings. Therefore, when confronted by those who do that with which they are not strong enough to do (like George H.W. Bush), instead of giving them credit, they lie about their accomplishments, calling it something bad. They say the great things they do are actually not great things. War mongering, or some other lie.
I boned up on Bush and his family. George H.W. Bush was probably the most qualified Presidential candidate in American history. His resume was absolutely unreal. I read a book called Looking Forward: The George Bush Story by Victor Gold. It was not the most powerful book of all time; a basic campaign-ready tome, but I learned everything there was to know about this family. I vividly recall my reaction to Gold’s description of the Vice President’s eldest son, George W. Bush. I knew nothing about Dubya until I read Looking Forward.
Dubya was a graduate of Yale University; a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force’s Texas Air Guard; earned an MBA from Harvard; had run for Congress; and was an oil executive. Knowing nothing beyond these facts, I well recall saying, “George W. Bush will be President some day.” If his father was elected, it would unquestionably increase the chances of this possibility.
Neil was very much an average sort of guy, almost a California surfer type with blond hair and an informal manner. This made some sense as he was a Colorado skier. He told me some old Texas stories about Lyndon B. Johnson, who told his father (then a Congressman from the Houston suburbs) some homily about how “a good politician could make chicken (deleted) taste like chicken salad.”
I told Neil I was backing his father for the Presidency in 1988. I was hoping my meeting would result in an introduction, getting me onto the Bush campaign and, upon election, his administration. At the time I felt my timing was good. My uncle could have helped me. Alas no help was offered. I did not waste my time asking.
I began angling for other opportunities with elected GOP officials, hoping I could work in their Orange County, Sacramento or Washington offices. I was thinking very seriously of my own political future. I contemplated running for Central Committee or water board posts. No longer figuring to graduate from Western State College of Law in 1989, I “pushed up” my planned Congressional run from 1994 to 1992. I started thinking about where I would run. I looked around, trying to figure what sitting Congressman might not be in office by that time. Representative Dornan did not look to be going anywhere, although his district was becoming more Latino. After the 1990 census it was be gerrymandered to his disadvantage.
I was not overwhelmed by the prospect of living in the west Garden Grove area forever. If I could afford it, I wanted to live in Newport Beach or the Palos Verdes peninsula, but that seemed a long shot. Home prices in these places were out of this world. I contemplated a possible run in my hometown, Marin County-San Francisco and the Sixth Congressional District. Congressman Barbara Boxer was a liberal Democrat. I dreamed of challenging and beating her. I made a visit to Marin, meeting with staffers from Assemblyman William Filante’s office in San Rafael. Filante was the only Republican of any real clout in Marin. He was very liberal for the GOP, although in those days we did not really think of these types as RINOs (“Republicans in name only”). In Marin he was the best we could hope for.
I got to know C. Christopher Cox, a high-powered Newport Beach attorney. He worked in the Reagan Justice Department prior to returning to private practice. Congressman Robert Badham was planning to retire after 26 years in the state Legislature and U.S. House of Representatives. Cox was one of the most impressive people I ever came across. We hit it off because we were fellow USC graduates. Cox went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. He was highly placed at the prestigious Latham & Watkins firm. I was quite familiar with Latham & Watkins. I delivered documents on behalf of Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey to their posh Orange County offices. Cox organized the printing of the U.S. Constitution in Russian for distribution in the Soviet Union. He worked for Reagan beginning in his first term. He was immediately installed as the front runner for Badham’s seat in the 1988 election. He was handsome, a blond-haired All-American type; pleasant and charismatic.
I proposed he hire me as his campaign manager at his candidate announcement, held at a Tustin restaurant. I think he admired my rather straightforward approach, but I did not get the job. Cox was elected in 1988, served in Congress for many years, and was eventually named by President George W. Bush chairman of the SEC. Tamara Rubinoff worked under him.
I also worked with the man who was named Cox’s campaign manager (and later ran his district office before going into the private sector). Chuck DeVore was a former Claremont fellow and Reagan aide. He was a captain in the National Guard, a tall, intellectual fellow. He worked closely with Republican Congressmen to help the Israelis and the Contras during a time in which Democrats were trying to hurt their respective causes. DeVore was very young, maybe even younger than I was (28 in 1987). He left the White House, throwing his hat in the ring for Badham’s Congressional seat.
After running Congressman Cox’s office, DeVore went to work in the aerospace industry. He became a lieutenant colonel in the Guard. In 2004 he was elected to the California Assembly, representing a district in the Laguna Beach area. In 2010 he ran for the U.S. Senate.
One day I was in Godfrey’s office. Our one female attorney came in to discuss something with him. She was amazed, possibly even jealous, that I, a mere “clerk,” occupied so much of the partner’s time and concern. The key people that mattered – the other partners – never offered complaint. I was doing all my work with aplomb. But this female attorney, possibly agitated against perceived bias against a woman, never allowed herself to be impressed by me. Every attorney in the office regularly asked for my services on a variety of issues, often even asking for advice. She steadfastly refused to acknowledge my contributions. When she saw me with Godfrey, holding court as if we were Jack and Bobby Kennedy silhouetted against Godfrey’s big corner office window overlooking downtown Santa Ana and the mountains beyond, it apparently was too much for her.
Godfrey ended our discussion, regarding a political matter. As I was leaving the female attorney stated, “I don’t get it, you’re just another constituent.”
“Oh no he’s not!” piped in Godfrey. “This is an important man and his star is rising.”
I contacted former USC football star Pat Haden, recruiting him for a Congressional campaign. Haden was a Rhodes Scholar and attorney with a downtown Los Angeles firm. I wrote an impassioned letter to him, assuming he was a Republican. He was flattered but declined. I also made inquiries of two Redwood and USC friends of mine, Jim Connor and Jeff Scoal. At the time, Connor lived in Newport Beach. Scoal still lived in Manhattan Beach, but was soon to move to Corona Del Mar. Both were highly successful young real estate executives. I knew Scoal was a Republican. I assumed Connor probably was. I still am not sure about that (although I know his son to be conservative). I outlined a possible political future for both of them, offering my help should either ever wish to try. Connor apparently had no interest. Scoal made some inquiries but was never more than lukewarm about politics, despite staunch support of the GOP.
My star was rising. Despite occasional set-backs and the ups and downs of our personal relationship, my father was incredibly proud of my progress. I was a successful young professional with an unlimited future.
I read a couple of books in 1987 that influenced me. The first was William Safire’s fabulous Freedom, a novelized version of Abraham Lincoln’s Presidency. I learned much I never knew about Lincoln’s imposition of Martial Law on Washington, D.C., and the in-fighting of his cabinet. I also read Mikhail Gorbachev’s celebrated Perestroika. The liberal media hailed it as offering a hand of peace to the West. They tried to say the thawing of relations between the two superpowers was occurring strictly because of Gorbachev’s benevolence, not President Reagan’s show of strength. As far as I was concerned, whatever progress was made came precisely because Reagan followed the “bar room advice” of Terry Marks at the 502 Club in 1983. He offered simply to “outspend the bastards until they fall.” This is what was happening, and would happen.
I wrote an article for an Orange County Republican newsletter called, “Beware a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” In the article I warned America Soviet Chairman Gorbachev – the darling of glasnost - was possibly hoping to lure us into a trap benefiting the U.S.S.R. When my father read it (my first published work not counting the Redwood Sporting Green in 1974), he was amazed at my political acumen.
“If you can write something like this,” he said, “you are a well educated person with a great future. You can be anything you want to be.”
It continued to be a heady time. The political work seemed to feed my legal work. I saw this incredible vision of my future; a person of great stature, accomplishment and power. I was incredibly confident. I was doing precisely what I wanted to do. I felt like George C. Scott in Patton when he surveys the battlefield and declares, “I’m in precisely the right place at precisely the right moment in history . . .” – the Reagan era, Republican ascendancy, Orange County – riding the whirlwind of power. Everything tied together.
I joined the Orange County Young Republicans. The OCYRs met once a month at a swank hotel in Costa Mesa across from the famed South Coast Plaza shopping mall. Some 200 young professionals, almost all dressed in suits, (or attractive women in business attire) made up this group. In the Orange County of the high-flying 1980s, this was the social networking organization not just in Southern California, but maybe the nation. Yes, they were a bit snobby, stuffy and full of themselves, but it was a very enjoyable group to be a part of. I did not make the big bucks many of its members made, but I had a legal and political role giving me imprimatur. I always made sure to dress in my best suit for the meetings. A huge number of it members were USC graduates, which was not surprising. The only set-back for me was I was never in a fraternity. One beautiful blond USC sorority sister asked me “what house were you in?” as if not to be in one was unthinkable. When I told her I had never rushed a frat she almost blanched.
We had buffet dinners, then heard a speaker. Afterward most of us repaired to a local bar for political and (always opposite) sexual opportunity. I was married, remaining unavailable. Opportunity was certainly there. In 1987 my marriage was in trouble, but I was determined to save it. I found the association to be indispensable.
The president of the OCYRs was Nathan Rosenberg. His brother was the infamous Werner Erhard, founder of the est movement, ironically taking root in Marin in the 1970s. Erhard fell in disgrace due to embezzlement of funds and other scandals. Rosenberg’s wife was an attractive brunette. She was ambitious but fairly sociable. Nathan, however, was the picture of the est’s “assertive man,” poking his finger into people’s chest to make a point, taking a physically intimidating posture in order to attain “dominance.” He was tall and good looking, impeccably dressed, drove an expensive car and flashed money as a badge of his self worth. He was quite the picture of conspicuous consumption. Frankly he was a stark stereotype, from the Democrat’s view, of the “rich Republican.” My take on him was that he sought power. Any good he could accomplish would be simply be a by-product of his efforts. Nathan ran for Congress in the 1988 GOP primary, but fell far short.
I have spent a lot of time among Republicans in my life. I must admit this type exists and is not completely rare, but honestly they are a small minority, especially today. But this was the go-go ‘80s. This environment was a Randian kind of social Darwinism, most definitely prevalent, with the likes of Nathan Rosenberg as its dollar symbols.
The OCYRs invited excellent speakers each month. The South African Ambassador to the United States spoke to us. Apartheid was a raging issue at the time. Nelson Mandela was still in jail. Reagan wanted to undue apartheid, but too a “go slow” approach. Bishop Desmond Tutu said the West could “go to hell” (such kind Christian words from the holy man). The Left-wing media affixed Tutu’s “go to hell” remarks at Reagan, not the larger “West” he aimed it at. The ambassador found an audience, if not wholly receptive, understanding of his country’s predicament. He argued, with some justification I guess, that his nation in 1986-87 was where the U.S. was in the 1950s and early 1960s before the Civil Rights Movement kicked into high gear.
As if to counter the ambassador, another speaker was the former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. Incredibly, in 1986 he ran for the Republican primary seat for the U.S. Senate. He eschewed his radical past. Now he was a committed Reagan conservative. He was dressed in a grey three-piece suit, looking the part from head to toe. He gave one of the best conservative speeches I ever heard. He espouses free market principles, strength in the face of the Soviet monolith, and Christian faith. Cleaver stated unequivocally the conservatives were the best friend of minorities. Naturally he was given a standing ovation. He lost in the primary to Ed Zschau, who won a tight race against a series of GOP challengers.
I became involved in the OCYR political action/speakers section, charged with finding challenging people to address us each month. I worked with a fellow named Rick Tuttle, an engineer at one of the big aerospace companies. In 1987-88, the former Major League baseball star Bill “Spaceman” Lee was embarked on a whimsical, Quixote-esque “Presidential campaign.”
Maybe the most egalitarian big-time athlete ever, he was running on the Canadian Rhinoceros Party ticket. They were little more than satire, a bar room campaign. Spaceman garnered enough attention because of his baseball celebrity and outlandish reputation as a “flake” that the “campaign” received a fair amount of attention. Thomas Bonk of the Los Angeles Times and Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register gave him some newspaper space.
I was a member of the buttoned-down, ever-so-serious Orange County Young Republicans, assigned to inviting serious political figures. I suggested Spaceman address our group. The people in the speakers’ section knew little if anything about Spaceman. I explained his background; USC, big league players, “flake,” Rhino candidate. His recent publicity helped them decide to invite him.
Spaceman lived in Canada at the time. He “retired” as a member of the Montreal Expos when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn became infuriated at his quotes about “sprinkling marijuana on my pancakes.” But Rick Tuttle, who had an open mind, was enthused at the prospects of Spaceman. He arranged a honorarium to pay his travel expenses. Spaceman was happy to come to Los Angeles. It was winter in Canada. He liked to visit friends at USC. He still had family in the Southland.
The day of his speech I was nervous. I had no real idea what to expect. I spoke to him on the phone once or twice. I figured he was a “wild card.” The whole thing could be a disaster. I was hopeful, though. I contacted Mark Whicker, asking him to be there. That night we had one of our biggest crowds. People looked at this guy like he was crazy, wondering, "Why is he speaking to the OCYRs?"
I entered the hotel ball room where we met for cocktails, buffet and social gathering. I looked for Spaceman. Would I recognize him? I figured him to be about 6-3. I knew what he looked like in his playing days, but would he have long hair? A beard? Crazy clothes? I saw one guy I thought for a second was Lee. I figured I would know him when I spotted him. I did. He was unmistakable, holding court with several attractive blonds.
Ah, the Spaceman.
I introduced myself. He assured me he was prepared. Rick Tuttle introduced him. Plenty of people knew of his sports background. His USC affiliation helped a lot. Spaceman took the podium.
“Here goes nothin’,” I thought to myself.
But Spaceman held them in thrall, announcing, "I'm more conservative than you. I'm so conservative I eat road kill." Then: "I'm so far to the right I'm standing back-to-back with Chairman Mao." Take it from me, this may not sound funny, but when Spaceman says it, it is. People were literally rolling in the aisles.
In all my life I have never heard a funnier speech, or heard a more receptive audience. It was a gold-plated success. Afterward Bill worked the room, wooing the blond USC debutante who asked me what house I was in at school. He was telling stories about how “I beat the Southern Illinois Salukis in the 1968 College World Series.” She had this quizzical look on her face. Salukis? It did not matter. She was turned on by Bill “Spaceman” Lee. He had a big reputation as a ladies man and bar hopper in Boston. He and Bernie Carbo were said to be legends of the State Street nightclub scene. I could see why.
We paid Bill’s air fare from Canada. He did not stay in a hotel. He had an aunt in Costa Mesa, but the night of the speech he came back to my house. Katherine seemed bemused by him. By that time she was not happy with anything I did. She wanted out of the marriage. She was not about to give me any kudos for anything. Bill immediately sensed tension.
I put him up in a spare bedroom. The next day I arose at six in the morning. He was gone. I looked outside. He was doing tai chi with my 90-year old Chinese neighbor. I took him to work with me. That day I needed to go to a number of law offices. I stopped at an attorney's office in Orange or Santa Ana. It was mid-morning. He stayed in the car while I conducted business. Suddenly the secretary rushed in saying, "Call 911, call 911, there's a man having a heart attack in the parking lot." I looked out the window. It was Bill doing his mid-morning tai chi.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “That’s Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee, the ball player. He’s with me. He’s just doing his morning tai chi.”
“Bill Lee of the Red Sox?” one of the lawyers asked. I took him outside to shake Spaceman’s hand.
At lunch I got a burrito some place. Spaceman settled for yogurt. “Is that all you eat?” I asked.
“Health food,” he replied.
I finally dropped Spaceman off at his Aunt Annabelle’s home in Costa Mesa. I did not realize she was the model for the women baseball players in A League of Their Own. In 2000 wrote a magazine column about her. The next night I invited Bill to the 502 Club. I told Terry, Chris Wildermuth, Phil Smith and Bruno Caravalho to meet us. Terry, an enormous Red Sox fan, was convinced Spaceman would blow us off. We sat at the table for 45 minutes or so. I was starting to get nervous when he arrived. The Spaceman regaled us for several hours with Bosox stories. Bill remains a good friend to this day. He should be in the Trojan Athletic Hall of Fame.
We had a black and a Latino secretary at work. Both were relatively decent looking in their 20s, but neither was Miss America. It was rumored both were sexually active with some of the attorneys. The Latino secretary often made sexually suggestive remarks. Before lunch she announced, “I got that In-N-Out urge,” ostensibly a reference to the In-N-Out hamburger place down the street. It was obviously a double entendre. Godfrey’s secretary actively despised her.
I had little real association with either one. They both had a malevolent, yet seductive, quality. I sensed it was not good. Berryhill’s secretary had the inside scoop on them. I am not sure why she felt the need to reveal this rather shocking revelation, but it turned out the black secretary attended swing parties, involving men and women, often but not always couples. They would go to a house, engaging in relatively indiscriminate sex. The sex was apparently selectively consensual. The woman was not required to have sex with any man who asked her, but often did. These particular swing parties had an added twist. One of the attorneys, according to what the black secretary told Berryhill’s secretary, attended these parties. That was only half of it.
The black secretary claimed she entered a room where she saw one of our attorneys engaged in a homosexual act. The back girl apparently saw with her own eyes this lawyer fellating another man. The Latino girl may have been her “partner” at these orgies, for lack of better term. I did not verify that.
Whether there was blackmail going on I cannot say. I found the news quite shocking. I revealed no secrets to anybody. In those days I was quite naïve about homosexuality. To me, a gay person was obvious. A “straight” man could be identified by his mannerisms, politics, tone of voice, marital status and interest in the opposite sex. I later came to realize gay and bi-sexual men come in many variations. Berryhill’s secretary was a nice woman. She helped me, took me under her wing, but she was a “busybody.” She could not keep her mouth shut. I did not need to know this stuff. I did not want to know it, but now I did. I have reason to believe the fact she told me this story about the “swinging bi-sexual” attorney came to the attention of . . . the “swinging bi-sexual attorney.”
Right around this same time, Wayne Grisham lost the special election for state Senate. Shortly thereafter, Godfrey told me since I was no longer attending law school, I was to be let go. I imagine it was because the Grisham campaign was over, but I always suspected the “swinging bi-sexual attorney,” who shall remain nameless, found out I was aware of his secret. I do not think he wanted me around after that. Either way, I was let go. Shortly after that, I broke up with Katherine.
Out of law school, out of work and out of my marriage. It was a major trifecta.
I needed to start over again. Should I go back to law school? Should I stay involved in politics. I began re-thinking my situation. At age 28 I endeavored to re-invent myself. I took a road trip to Marin County and Lake Tahoe, hoping to clear my head, to get back on track.
My first stop was in Salinas, California. My good pal John “Dino” Lobertini was a reporter for the NBC affiliate, KSBW/8. He was married to an attractive Southern girl from Huntsville, Alabama. Dino previously worked in Huntsville. I stayed at their apartment for a few days, accompanying Dino on his reporting rounds. One night after he was finished, Dino had me put together a demo reel.
“You know, you’re really good,” he told me. “You have a good voice, good presence. You’re a good-looking guy. You oughta work in television.” I took the demo reel. Today it would be a video cassette or, more likely, a DVD. I had this big, bulky, heavy thing. I still have it. I suppose somebody could convert it if I ever wanted to.
From Salinas it was on to Marin. I arranged to meet with the station manager at KFTY/50 in Santa Rosa. He looked at my crude Salinas-made demo reel. He told me he had no positions available. I went out with Howard Gibian, Garth Henderson and Kevin McCormack. I do not think Garth was broken-hearted over my marital woes. He was happy to have me as his “wingman” on excursions of the sexual variety. We managed to score a few girls. It was the first time since before marriage to Katherine I was with another woman.
Then I went to Northstar, where my folks were. My parents were very concerned with my marriage. I told them I was going to fight to stay married. It was a pretty tough time for me. I spent some time fishing, contemplating life. I missed Elizabeth. The prospect of not living in the same house with “sweetie” was awful. I did some crying.
I drove down to the state capitol at Sacramento, resume in hand. I knocked on the office door of as many Republicans as I could find, hoping for a job. Nothing. I went into Reno a few times, seeing some old Wolfpack baseball pals. I lost my feel for the place. Most of the guy were scattered, no longer around. Dan Farano was in Las Vegas. One day I put on my best suit, driving with my mother to Reno. First I went unannounced to KOLO/8 TV. I told the secretary I wanted to see the station manager. Without an appointment, she tried to get rid of me. I was persistent.
With my mother waiting in the lobby, I finally went in to see the man. I told him I wanted an on-air job. He knew who I was from my days as a Wolfpack baseball star. He thought there might be something to my doing sports reports. He looked at my demo-reel, apparently seeing something.
Then he gave me an “assignment.” He found a news story coming in off the Associated Press wires, asked me to condense it into a two-minute on-air report, then read it. The story was about former Miss America Bess Myerson. She was the first Jewish Miss America. She recent came under a criminal probe for tax fraud. I wrote up a nice, professional report. I read a solid, eye-level report into the camera. The man was almost sold. He told me he would consider hiring me. I left. When I called back he said he liked me but ultimately could not hire somebody without experience.
Later that day in Reno, Mom and visited Joe Nady, my teammate at Reno. Joe ran the money-exchange business his brother Jay started. He was wearing a $1,000 suit and looked like a million bucks. I knew Joe was plugged into Nevada Republican politics. At the time he was planning to run for Mayor himself. He kind of smirked at me, as if to say, “Ha, the tables are turned now.” He never became Mayor. I was not surprised. He lacked the people’s touch.
I stopped at the law offices of Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr. Fahrenkopf was chairman of the Republican National Committee. He rose by virtue of his association with Ronald Reagan’s good pal, ex-Governor Paul Laxalt of Nevada. I never got anywhere with Fahrenkopf. I bet my uncle could have arranged a meeting with him in two seconds had he lifted his finger to help.
I up-graded my reading above and beyond all previous efforts. Once out of law school, I attacked books, reading everything I could get my hands on in an unquenchable search for knowledge. So influenced by William Shirer’s The Rise and the Fall of the Third Reich in high school, I read his masterful work on the years before the war, The Nightmare Years. I got into Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. I was fascinated with aviation after reading Chuck Yeager’s autobiography and seeing the movie. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff was even better than the film. David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, his epic run-up to the Vietnam War, was incredible.
During the summer of 1987, I attended the wedding of Mike O’Toole’s brother, in the Napa Valley wine country. Tom O’Toole was a bright University of California graduate. A Democrat, he worked for Senator Joseph Biden (D.-Delaware). There were a lot of sharp politicos at his wedding. My old high school pal Pat Seidler was in attendance, too. As we stood around the bar drinking beer and trading stories, the discussion got political. I stood toe-to-toe with Seidler, a brilliant Boalt Hall law school graduate from Cal, among others. I just finished The Best and the Brightest. It illuminated my historical perspective of the Vietnam War, and also the struggle we were at that time engaged in, amidst much Iran-Contra controversy, in Central America.
I could tell Seidler was stunned. The guy he knew in high school was now speaking with such authority about the implications of the French pull-out after Dien Bien Phu and the Algeria campaign; the effect of a CIA “approved” coup d’état and assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem; and, for the very first time, a view of Vietnam not just as a national tragedy, but part of a long-term global strategy against Communism. The liberals in the discussion were aghast. I felt our current impending victory in the Cold War – by 1987 it looked like Reagan was about to pull it off – was made possible because of the expenditure of blood, treasure and effort we forced international Communism into pouring into a Pyrrhic victory. The look on their faces was astonishing. It was like they were “losing their religion.” They had their template and stuck to it, but the truth of my words made them blanch.
My political career did not end when Wayne Grisham lost his state Senate campaign and Falk, Regnell, Hamblin & Godfrey no longer required my services. I sent resumes everywhere. All the Republican Congressmen and Senators; most in the state Legislature; White House staff jobs; national campaigns; lobbying firms; cabinet offices; and others. I took the State Department foreign service examination. That was an eye-opener. I did not do well. I was not as smart as I thought I was. I did not know the difference between the Sunnis and Shiites. It left me with a resolve to continue educating myself until I really would be the most knowledgeable person in any room I entered.
With so many resumes out, I figured it was just a numbers game. Somebody would need me. Finally, in 1990 I got a phone call from the Marin County Republican Party. Apparently I sent them a letter and resume. I forgot about it. A Greenbrae businessman named Bill Boerum was running for the United States Congress. He needed a campaign manager. Boerum wanted to speak with me.
It was back to Marin County. Boerum interviewed me at Zim’s restaurant, hiring me on the spot. The Marin I.J. wrote it up; ex-prep star now a rising political star. The Marin County Republican Party, which was not very impressive (the joke was they met in a phone booth, or in the witness protection program), was very impressed with me. I had been to the Promised Land. I worked with important, winning Republicans in a place where conservatism was king. My background in Orange County was prized. It was a good opportunity.
Boerum was the Republican candidate in California’s Sixth Congressional District (San Francisco, Marin, Solano). The district was gerrymandered beyond all recognition after the 1980 census. Marin was never a “conservative” place, but it was trended Republican. Old-timers spoke wistfully of it being a “Republican county” once, but it was never a lock.
Its politics changed with the San Francisco Bay Area: the labor movement of the 1930s; union and longshoremen influence on the docks; Cal-Berkeley scientist Robert Oppenheimer’s treacherous decision to hand atomic secrets to the U.S.S.R.; Communist infiltration of Cal’s faculty; the school’s subsequent decision to downgrade athletics; protests against HUAC in San Francisco; the Free Speech Movement and anti-war protests at Sproul Plaza; the “summer of love” and hippy era in Golden Gate Park; the gay rights and Civil Rights Movement; the “green” movement; Watergate and 1970s drug malaise; the spread of un-patriotic sentiment after Vietnam. Each of these were allies of the Democrat Party.
When Reagan was elected in 1980, there was still a viable Republican Party in Marin. Governor Jerry Brown was a Democrat. The California Legislature went Democrat after Reagan left Sacramento. The John Burton-Phil Burton machine controlled Bay Area politics. They owned the judges. After the 1980 census, the political masters gerrymandered the sixth district, making it impossible for a Republican to win. The district stretched into heavy labor and union precincts in San Francisco. It included all of Marin County. Normally it would have proceeded north to Santa Rosa, but the masters eliminated the patriotic and fairly populated environs of Petaluma on into Sonoma County. Instead, the district snaked along the unpopulated northernmost edge of San Francisco Bay along Highway 37 to the town of Vallejo. It was a place that had nothing in common with Marin or San Francisco. It was as union, labor-heavy and Democrat as it gets; filled with minorities and seething resentments. With these new boundaries favoring her, Marin County Supervisor Barbara Boxer defeated Marin businessman Dennis McQuaid in 1982.
Boxer was a Jewish woman from Brooklyn. As best I understood, she failed as a stockbroker. I always wondered about the psychology of this. In failing in her bid at capitalism, did she then decide to wage war against it? Her career looks like she did. She came to Marin County, re-inventing herself. What better place than the burgeoning radical hippy enclave of 1970s Marin. She wrote for a free weekly publication called the Pacific Sun (which could hardly have paid any money). Somehow, the opinions she expressed were very popular. She was elected to the Marin Board of Supervisors, where she came under the wing of Congressman John Burton, the head of the Burton political machine. It was as corrupt as any of the infamous Democrat machines in history; Tammany Hall; the Jim Crow South; the Pendergast operation spawning Harry Truman; the Little Rock-Hot Springs Mafia giving rise to the Clintons; or the “Chicago way” of Richard Daley, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama.
John Burton’s brother Phil was a cocaine addict. His addiction was so out of control by 1982 he could no longer represent the sixth district. By Democrat standards, that is pretty out of control. Boxer was selected to run against McQuaid. It was a seminal moment in Bay Area-Marin politics. The residue of Berkeley, the San Francisco hippies, and the beatnik/rock music scene springing up in the Sausalito houseboats, transformed the county. No it was the home of “key parties,” swing parties and cocaine, caricatured in The Serial starring Martin Mull; a place of hot tubs and peacock feathers, creating stereotypes living to this day.
The children of Marin were a veritable “lost generation” in the 1970s. I grew up with them and saw it. I was saved only by my parents and baseball. Al Endriss and his drill sergeant program made us a total anomaly in this environment. It turned violent as in the Marlene Olive murder case in Terra Linda. This seemed to summarize a decade of decadence and, frankly, evil permeating the fair county.
But despite all of this, there continued to exist in Marin pockets of resistance. Families in Greenbrae, Ross, Tiburon, Novato and other places still raised their kids. The Italians still worshipped in the Catholic churches, sending their kids through the CYO programs. Business people in San Rafael still ran the economy through Rotary meetings. In a decade of great economic meltdown in America (1970s), Marin exploded as the place to be. A battle ensued for the soul of the county. A nouveau riche element, many of them attracted to lowered moral and social standards, found Marin to be an attractive destination, buying million-dollar homes. From our stand point, we hinged any hope of success on economics. Low moral standards or not, rich people still did not like paying high taxes. Ronald Reagan was the most popular President since Dwight Eisenhower, if not the entire century. We hoped there was just a little bit of magic left from his eight years.
Boerum was a graduate of Cornell University. He come of age under Barry Goldwater in 1964 before moving to San Francisco. He lived in Greenbrae, an unincorporated community. It was also the home of Jim Connor, Pete Carroll, Kevin McCormack, and many of my friends at Redwood.
Ironically, Barbara Boxer was Boerum’s neighbor. She lived in a house almost directly across the street from him. Boerum was a moderate Republican. There were two big issues discussed. The first was President George H.W. Bush’s infamous repeal of his “read my lips . . . no new taxes” pledge of the 1988 campaign. This was death for Republicans. We were, are and always will be the party of low taxes. Raising taxes is never a good idea, politically or economically.
Bush was a wonderful man with impeccable credentials. Like so many Ivy Leaguers he lacked the resolve of Reagan, whose education and background paled in comparison. This was why the second issue was still a major question in 1990. On August 2 Saddam Hussein’s army crossed into Kuwait. Bush immediately responded. The rest of the year was a stand-off before the war was fought and won, more than two months after the November elections, in early 1991. Until the U.S. did enter and decisively win, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, perhaps unnerved by Bush’s failure to hold his end of the “read my lips” pledge, urged him, “Don’t go wobbly now, George.”
I wrote, or contributed, to speeches, handling his general campaign coordination. I was paid but there was little money for campaign extravagance. We opened a headquarters office in the industrial section of San Rafael. Outside of 1984, when I spent most of my time at my Corte Madera apartment with Katherine, or at work in San Francisco, I had not spent a lot of time in Marin County since the 1970s. I was stunned at the demographic changes. I never saw Mexicans in the county before. Now huge numbers of illegal aliens lined the streets of industrial San Rafael looking to get picked up for day jobs. They were hard working folks. I never had a problem with them, but it was an eye opener. Quickly, law enforcement started reporting gang activity in the canal area and other places. Schools began develop troubles dealing with the new influx of immigrants. It was a new decade and a new world.
I did something in 1990 I am still ashamed of today. At one point Boerum addressed the abortion issue. “I’m Pro Life,” I told him, “but we can’t touch that here. This is a Pro Choice district and you’ll get killed if you try to advocate overthrowing Roe v. Wade.”
What a coward I was. First, Boerum had no chance against Boxer anyway. He should have taken a courageous stand against the infanticide of this terrible practice (or I should at least have advocated he do that). We should have let the chips fall where they may.
We tried our best with what we had. I accompanied Boerum all over the district. We met with black reverends in San Francisco. I was shocked to find almost anybody could call themselves a reverend, so easy were the qualification standards. There were 15-year old reverends, people earning the title from jail, and all form of “reverends.”
We went north of Marin, meeting with senior citizens at cookouts, including a patriotic Fourth of July event. Once we traveled to Petaluma, meeting with a Republican businessman who owned the Clover Stornetta dairy farms. He promised Boerum a large check.
We drove to his office. He was unable to see us, asking us to return in a couple hours. We repaired to Sonoma Joe’s restaurant. There, we ordered beers. I drank mine. Boerum was only about a quarter through his when he called, telling us to come over.
Boerum, without realizing it, left with the open beer in his hand. I was driving. He sat in the passenger’s seat with the open container. I swear he held it up high as if to make sure anybody we passed would see it. He was talking excitedly the whole time about the campaign and the impending check. I think he did not realize what he was doing. I was worried I would be pulled over and cited for open container, with possible embarrassment to the campaign. That did not happen.
Some years later I became friends with his son, Tim, an ex-track star at Fresno State. I told him that story. He relayed it to his father. He denied it. As I say I think the man just had a lot on his mind. He did not know he was doing it. It sure was odd.
Boerum left unbelievably long messages on my answering machine, until the tape ran out. Once he called and said, “Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.” Then he asked, “What do you know about the Log Cabin Republicans?”
I had about the organization. At that moment was unsure of their purpose. Boerum told me they were the “gay Republican group in San Francisco.”
“Hey, we’ll take money and endorsements from anywhere we can get it,” I said.
We trekked over to their Van Ness Avenue offices. Boerum promised to give their issues fair hearing and was given a modest donation. We attended one big meeting with Senator Pete Wilson. He was running for Governor that year (and won). I met a good friend during the campaign, a young businessman named George Huff. Huff was a handsome fellow with a beautiful wife. His dad attended West Point. He was a former partner of Kevin McCormack’s father, Frank. The Marine pilot from Notre Dame jokingly called West Point “a fine trade school.” We sat through many boring Central Committee minutes and minutia. We attended school board hearings. I made a speech at one of them in Terra Linda. We went to mixers, retirement homes and schools.
We met with the editors of the San Francisco Examiner, Marin Independent Journal, Vallejo Times-Herald and Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Boerum laughed when I told him once I drove with my dad past the Press Democrat’s distribution center off the 101 Highway. Dad stared at the name of the newspaper sneering, “I wonder what their politics are?” I told that to their editors. Their faces resembled unmovable stone. This was violation of the universal code: “the liberal is media but thou shall not actually state this truth.”
Just before the election we met with the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. They were as liberal as the rest of the media. In what can only be testament to how atrocious Barbara Boxer really is, through some impressive efforts we actually managed to get them to endorse Boerum over her. It was an incredible event in retrospect and at the time. Boerum faired better against Boxer than any opponent she faced since her first election in 1982, but she won easily.
We worked closely with Assemblyman William Filante. Two years later, in 1992 the district was re-configured under Governor Wilson. It was not a GOP enclave, but at least a place where a moderate Republican could compete. Filante decided to run for the open Congressional seat Boxer vacated in 1992, running for the Senate in the notorious “year of the woman” election, in which the “enemy of America” Ross Perot ultimately gave us Bill Clinton.
Filante probably would have won. He was diagnosed with brain cancer during the campaign, providing Lynn Woolsey a de facto victory. She has soiled the office ever since. Boerum always said Filante got a tumor from holding a cell phone to his ear constantly. He was one of the first to really rely on them.
After defeating Bill Boerum in 1990, Barbara Boxer went on to the U.S. Senate. I watched her rise, in confluence with the Left-wing Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. These two women created terrible destruction on this great nation. I look at them and think of Isaiah 3:12-18. Consider:
“As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”
Read further, 3:16-18:
“16 Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet”
“17 Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
“18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,”
No doubt Pelosi and Boxer would call me a religious zealot for so obviously seeing them in these words. I warn anybody, read The Holy Bible. When you hear yourself described, bow down with humility. I read it every day. I am constantly struck by its descriptions of my sinful acts. It describes precisely why I am unworthy of salvation. In recognizing this, and asking God to forgive me, maybe, just maybe I will be forgiven.
But I look at “haughty” women like Pelosi and Boxer, “walking and mincing as they go,” adorned by “their tinkling ornaments.” I see people who worship this god of power. In particular I recall the abominable acts of Democrat women questioning men of valor after the “tail hook incident.” A few rowdy flyboys hooted and hollered at a few women in Las Vegas. These “mincing” immoralist women tried to make it look like My Lai, ruining careers. They caused Admiral Jeremy Boorda to commit suicide. Ignore the Word of God and its description of you at your own peril.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism