On Any Sunday

“Every time I start thinkin’ the world is all bad, then I start seeing some people out having a good time on motorcycles and it makes me take another look.” — Steve McQueen from the Bruce Brown movie, On Any Sunday.

Photographs from our visit to Southern California’s Cahuilla Motocross Park this weekend.

My name is Joshua Tree.

Made fertile by a yucca moth, my mother cast her seed which became me onto the desert floor in your year of 1871. Over the following ten summers, I reached just 30 inches from the ground, while providing shelter from the wind and sun to countless tiny insects and reptiles.  

It took another 30 winters to double my height. Thereafter, as I slowly grew, branches began to emerge and ever-larger animals and birds began to find shelter and food among my canopy. The ancient ones would carefully harvest my flowers and seeds for food, and shape my leaves to make baskets to carry their burden and make sandals for their feet.

As the countless seasons passed overhead, I saw humans from other worlds trample my home, cutting down my sisters to fence off the land and fuel their fires. But, as if by divine intervention, I missed their fate and survived.

My summers of late have grown longer and hotter. The soil beneath me slowly dries and loses the moisture that nurtures new life.  

Now, one hundred fifty winters have gone by and I stand and watch the flames of fire edge closer, as an endless line of machines of a human world pass by. I stand evermore alone, scarred and twisted by the ages. I will survive.

The Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take it” House.

For all you Twisted Sister fans… I was living in this historic West Adams house near USC’s Los Angeles campus in 1984 when an unknown rock band called “Twisted Sister” rented it for two days to film their first video for MTV, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

I found old snaps of the house from 1984 in an old box in the workshop recently, and thought you might enjoy a few of my favorite memories of their visit.

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much no one outside the club scene in New York had heard of Twisted Sister when the massive studio filming truck pulled up to film the video at our house. So, I was expecting the band members to be women. You can imagine my surprise when I met Dee Snider and his bandmates dressed in their outrageous stage attire. I knew right then this was going to be a very outrageous video.

In the video, the opening scene begins with the kid playing the guitar in what is the front “guest” bedroom upstairs, seen in the photo above as the upstairs left window. Dad gets tossed off the balcony off the master bedroom seen on the right.

Later on, the band are squeezed together, hanging out of my upstairs bathroom window singing. I’m really not sure how the four band members squeezed into those windows, as there was a cast iron claw-foot bathtub directly under the window. The faucet-end of the tub was under the window, making the squeeze impossibly tight for the band-mates. I wonder if they remember jamming themselves into the tub and out of the window!

A few of the neighbors’ homes also made it into the video, including the scene where “dad” is swinging out of a tree (the tree is gone now).

As outrageous as Dee Snider and the band looked, they were the nicest people and, most noticeably, absolutely dedicated to their family and kids who had joined them at the house during the filming.

Oh yeah, the house was built in 1909 in a true craftsman style of architecture, and those are my college pals, including my friend and roommate, the late Bob Bortfeld, hamming it up on the porch steps.

Several other videos and movies were made at the house over the years I lived there, including playing Barry Manilow’s mom’s house in his Copacabana TV movie, and other flicks with Christopher Lee and James Earl Jones. But, Twisted Sister was the first and most memorable by far.

My story of Twisted Sister’s most memorable visit in 1984 goes deeper, but I’ll leave it for later.

Here’s a link to the original and official Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video:

Twisted Sisters video filmed at my home in Los Angeles.

Minolta 110 Zoom SLR, the first SLR in 110 format.

I rediscovered my Minolta 110 Zoom SLR while sifting through old boxes in the workshop.

In April 1976, to celebrate my first real marketing job (a part-time marketing assistant position in the Bank of America marketing department), I bought this Minolta 110 Zoom SLR, the first SLR in 110 format.

Actually, my new boss asked me if I had a “good” camera that I could use to take pictures of merchandising in the bank branches. Of course I said “Yes” – even though I didn’t. So after work, I rushed over to the local Ritz Camera store and bought the best camera I couldn’t really afford for the assignment

Minolta produced the original Minolta 110 Zoom SLR from 1976 until 1979. I paid about $200 for it – that’s almost $950 in today’s dollars.

I still have it 45 years later, so here’s me imitating the photo from the original box. The 110 film cartridges are still sold for the camera, so I think I’ll buy a few rolls and give it a try.

Desert Rose of Pioneertown, California

Her name is Desert Rose and she’s a performer in the Mane Street Stampede, which just returned to the wild, untamed streets of California’s Pioneertown.

Desert Rose was kind enough to pause for a portrait along the boardwalk of the infamous Mane Street Hotel. Pioneertown, a legendary movie set dating back to the 1940s, is located just a few miles up the hill from Joshua Tree National Park.