In the 1992 movie “Mr. Saturday Night,” Billy Crystal starred as comedian Buddy Young, Jr. He also co-wrote and directed (his directorial debut) but it’s not true that he took tickets or sold popcorn.
Buddy Young, Jr.’s character was rather obnoxious. Some critics suggested that it was an autobiography for Crystal on how he might have turned out. That sounds like something a critic would say.
Crystal poured his heart into the movie, but it was a flop. Frankly, the fake-looking make-up to age Crystal ruined it for me. The tagline was clever, “It’s lonely in the middle.” And I loved the scene where brothers Buddy and Stan (David Paymer) are in the kitchen after their parent’s funeral. In his late ‘60s, Buddy says, “Stan, we’re orphans now. What’s going to become of us?”
I, too, am a “mature orphan (chronologically speaking).” I miss my parents most around holidays like Mother’s Day. (It’s Sunday in case you need to run to the florist.) I thought this year I’d write a Mother’s Day column to my late mother, as opposed to sending a card. (Where would I send it?) With a column, at least I don’t have to shop. Maybe it’s genetic because my mother didn’t like shopping, either.
Thelma Neworth (mom) was an amazingly-poised public speaker. If she’d been born 30 years later she’d have been a congresswoman. Of course, if my mother had been born 30 years later, she and I would have been the same age, which sounds eerily like a plot from the “Terminator.” (Brace yourself, folks, Arnold’s making a movie due out in 2010, which, coincidentally, is when he’s finally due out of Sacramento.)
My mother was a mini-big shot locally with the Democratic Party. She was in charge of the seating at the 1960 Democratic Convention at the L.A. Sport’s Arena.
With Ted Kennedy, she helped organize statewide Democratic Clubs to support JFK in the fall. She went to a party at Peter Lawford’s and reported that JFK was having an affair with Marilyn Monroe. I jokingly called her “Rona Barett,” (a gossip columnist of the era) naively thinking why would anyone cheat on Jackie? Sorry, Mom, you were right.
Years later my mother mentored the then-interns, Congressmen Henry Waxman and Howard Berman, and former secretary of state, two-term governor, current attorney general, and possibly our next governor, Jerry Brown (whew).
Two stories best typify my mother. In 1982, Tom Hayden, then married to Jane Fonda, ran for the state Assembly from Santa Monica. (My father volunteered at the Hayden office on the Third Street Promenade.) Election night, I called my mother to check in. Two years earlier Ronald Reagan had decimated the Democrats and she was still pessimistic. Finally, she said she’d better get off the phone because “Jane Fonda’s in the den, watching TV.”
I was a bit confused. “You’re watching a Jane Fonda movie?” “No, Jane’s here. She was knocking on doors for Tom and since the polls just closed, she asked if she could come in and watch the early results.”
Perhaps a bit of Thelma’s history is in order. Through our temple Forum Series (Temple Isaiah on Pico) which my mother headed, she introduced (and often picked up from LAX) such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Daniel Shore, Rod Serling and Margaret Mead, all of whom spoke at our temple.
Given the above, I suppose having Oscar-winner Jane Fonda, the Angelina Jolie of her day, sitting in your den wasn’t such a huge deal. As my mother hung up the phone, all I could say was, “Tell Jane I loved ‘Kute,’” How lame was that? Very.
It was in 1957 when my mother picked up Dr. King at LAX. (I still have the audiotape of the speech he gave at Temple Isaiah.) The year before, when King was 27, he had changed America forever by leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.
Forty years later, my mother confessed that, on the drive to temple, she had inadvertently made a left at Pico and Sepulveda, instead of a right. At 12th Street, apparently seeing the waves, Dr. King volunteered, “Mrs. Neworth, isn’t that the Pacific Ocean?”
Apparently my mother had been doing most of the talking. I can just imagine. “You know Dr. King, it’s none of my business, but if I were running the Civil Rights movement …”
“Mom, what did you do?” I asked. “I made a U-turn. What else could I do?”
So, happy Mother’s Day mom, wherever you are. And, to any sexy mothers reading this, as a bona-fide orphan, I’m available for immediate adoption. Being American, there’ll be no red tape, as opposed to, say, India. Did you hear that, Angelina Jolie?
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.