post 12 • lawrence welk
“Would you like the chicken or the beef, sir?” The words lifted the veil that protected my sleep...
sodden mind. My eyelids were stuck together, but I managed to squint through one of them enough to see a pretty female was asking me this trick question. In my humbled state of awareness I felt something was wrong. In fact, I knew something was wrong. First of all this definitely wasn’t a dining room or courtroom. Besides I was sitting very comfortably in an airline passenger seat. AN AIRLINE PASSENGER SEAT!!! What in the world??? Now, let me see. Airplane. I was on an airplane. Why was I on an airplane? How did I get here? Where was I going? The pretty flight attendant repeated the question: “Would you like the beef or the chicken, sir?” Hmmm, she had changed the order of her wording. I’d better play it cagey…
”You’ll have to get back to me with that one. Sorry, I need to think.”
A frown crossed her pretty face, and then she smiled and said, “I’ll give you a few minutes and get back to you, sir.”
I said, “Thank you, Thank you very much. I would appreciate that.” She disappeared down the aisle. She was asking this confusing question to each passenger, occasionally glancing back at me to see if I was real or needed psychological assistance. Today I supposed I would have been slammed to the floor, cuffed and arrested. The airplane would have diverted to the nearest airport where the FBI, CIA and a Swat team would be waiting. There would be the inevitable headlines the next day.
I glanced out the window and I could see we were over water. Water in every direction. No apparent airport to divert to…I fumbled through the papers in the back of the chair in front of me. There was all the usual stuff: out of date magazine, candy wrapper, empty condom box, etc. And then I found it! Ta da! A picture of an airplane and a map with lines emanating from it to various destinations. Ah ha! One extra thick line in contrasting red attached the airplane to Oahu Hawaii! As the fog lifted from my partially functioning brain, I cleverly surmised I was on a Western Airlines plane bound for Hawaii! Well, that helped …a little. But why, where…How did I get here? My mind drew a blank. No spaces to fill in. Yet, I knew my name…Ron Bacon. Good start, Ron!
I hadn’t always been Ron Bacon. My full name had been labored over by a whole committee of relatives contemplating the birth of this first child to my Flapper Mother and dashing WWI Teddy Roosevelt “Rough Rider” father in 1930. The mere fact that my parents who were so much a part of the Roaring 20s had finally decided to marry was shock enough, and along came this kid. They thought if they gave me a long and important sounding name, everybody would be impressed and maybe they would stay out of trouble…you know, about the proximately of my birth date to their wedding. People used to worry about stuff like that.
So, Ronald Britton Bacon it was. However my last name gave rise to some of these variations: Bacon and Eggs, Canadian Bacon, Burned Bacon etc. In later years: Over Easy, Ronnie, Ron-Ron, Ron-Oh, etc. One VERY DIFFERENT modification I approved of was “Einstein”. That occurred for a while in the 8th grade. To me, that made me “smart”. However, that also made me a Jew in the town of Hudson, Ohio, which, at the time, would not sell real estate or housing to Jews. Oddly, the only Real Estate firm in Hudson was owned by a Jew who was not allowed to live in city limits. Hudson Ohio also had been the home of John Brown’s family and a way-point of the Underground Railroad. Many homes in Hudson had secret rooms where blacks fleeing slavery could stop on their way North to Canada and freedom. By the 1940s many blacks lived in an “allotment”, which was a shanty town without plumbing, running water, sewer system or paved roads about 18 miles North of Hudson off the State Route 91 and part of the Twinsburg Ohio township. Our wonderful maid “Fanny” came from the “allotment” and my mother would drive there to pick her up so she could work for us doing the laundry, cleaning and watching the children. Fanny always had a smile and emanated love for everyone. Mother paid Fanny well and gave her clothing and other spare articles to help her and her family get by under horrible living conditions. Fanny at least had a house with a porch on it, but most of the folks lived in former chicken coops and sheds, some even made of cardboard. When I was old enough to drive, I would pick up Fanny and struggle to hold back the tears as I winded my way through this horrible slum where the odors of human excrement were strong enough to overcome the odor that emanated from the bag of garlic that Fanny wore around her neck to keep away the evil spirits.
Perhaps it was these thoughts of Fanny that in some strange way caused me to feel humbled by the fact that I was on this airplane sitting in first class where I could order any kind of booze without paying for it. I hit the replay button in my brain again:
I remembered I had been editing a pilot called "Honeymoon Suite"for ABC. At first our editing room had been occupied by a large number of executives as well as the producer and director and script girl along with me and my editor, Emil. Emil was using a new piece of equipment which had been acquired from the Ampex Corporation. It was a $250,000 editing console that had a lot of mysterious patch cords and other dials and switches that I was unfamiliar with, but that Emil was supposed to be able to understand because he secretly had been in training for a couple of weeks how to use this equipment. The console was certainly impressive looking, but editing went very slowly. Simple edits took hours to complete as Emil struggled to understand this ugly beast. And as the hours passed, gradually, the only two people in the editing room were me and Emil.
We had toiled for unscheduled hours, and now I was on this airplane headed for Hawaii!
The attractive stewardess returned to ask me that difficult question about chicken or beef. I bravely chose "beef," and then I asked her if it was possible for me to get a message to New York. I said I had been working on a pilot for ABC and I needed to know whether the edited videotape had been successfully received from Hollywood. She said she would ask the pilot if he could send that message for me.
As I bravely waited for her return, I gradually remembered that I had called the airport and rescheduled my flight three times as our editing session had dragged on and on. But I had no recollection of how I got from the editing room to the airport. My mind was a blank. I may have driven my car or I may have got a limo to drive me there. Maybe a friend had picked me up and dropped me off...
As I struggled with this dilemma the stewardess returned with the very good news that the pilot had called the number I gave her and that New York had indeed received the edited videotape and it was in perfect condition!
I heaved a great sigh of relief with this news. I could not remember finishing the editing. I hoped it made sense.
No matter how hard I tried I could not remember how I got to the airport.
The Western Airlines plane landed in Honolulu and I took a taxi to the Sheraton hotel where I would be staying for the next week as I did a survey of all of the Hawaiian islands for possible locations for a future Lawrence Welk show.
When it became time for me to return to Los Angeles I still had not recovered my memory of how I got to the airport. It occurred to me that if I had driven there it would be likely that I parked my car in the Western Airlines terminal parking lot. So I decided to look for my car there and if that didn't work I would get other transportation home.
I walked into the Western Airlines parking structure and within minutes discovered my car parked neatly in a row very accessible to the elevator. Remarkably, I must have successfully driven from the ABC lot to the airport in my sleep after an editing session that lasted an unscheduled 72 hours!
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Emmy Award winning Associate Director tells his stories about the history of television from 1953-present.