Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happy Birthday Mickey Spillane!

Frank Morrison Spillane, (better known as Mickey Spillane), was born March 9,1918. So, Happy Belated Birthday Mickey! I have been thinking about my friend since his birthday, (he would have been 95 this year). I had planned to share some some of my memories on his birthday but unfortunately, did not do so. This is my attempt to honor my friend, by remembering him here.
When I first started collecting autographs, I got most of them in-person but, some, I would write letters asking for a signed photo or index card. I wrote to Johnny Sheffield who played Boy in the old Tarzan films and later played Bomba. We became good friends writing letters and emails back and forth. He invited Val and I out to his home to go swimming. I did go to his home in Chula Vista and visited all day getting to know him. I wrote to Mickey Spillane as well but, never received a reply. I had always heard what a great guy he was so, while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, I drove to Murrell's Inlet, asked about directions to his home and rang his doorbell. No one answered but I heard a cry from the side of the house, "We're out here, come around." There sitting next to the water was "Mickey's Mud Boat Marina" and there was the master of hard-boiled crime fiction, Mickey Spillane.Pretty neat, huh? Mickey, not knowing who I was invited me to pull up a chair and join him, his wife Jane, and the woman who typed his finished manuscripts and her friend (don't remember his name). He offered me a beer which, I declined since I don't drink. Mickey was drinking O'Doul's a non-alcoholic beer. We visited a while, his friends left and Jane went inside. Mickey and I spoke for along time. While I was interested in getting to know him, he was genuinely interested in me. We found out we had mutual friends and shared many experiences. That day, Mickey and I became friends and that friendship lasted more than 10 years. Before Mickey passed away, I asked him if he would mind if I wrote an article for Autograph Collector Magazine about him and our relationship. I did not want to take advantage of our friendship and promised that he would have the right to change anything I wrote. He was happy for me to do so and I wrote the article "My Years With Mickey Spillane."

Most people remember Mickey Spillane as the American author of crime fiction and the creator of the hard-boiled, gumshoe Mike Hammer. He became the best selling private eye writer of his time and has sold more than 225 million copies of his books internationally.
I remember Mickey telling me "I'm a writer not an author," and, "The big shot authors could never understand the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar."
Mickey and I sat around his kitchen table hours upon hours talking about his growing up, the 1930's, 1940's and the 1950's till present time. Mickey told me of his lifeguard days, his days as a trampoline performer with Ringling Brothers Circus, and how he became a human cannonball there as well. He was a scuba diver, a stock car racer, a Hollywood actor and a celebrity hobnobber. He was a comic book character in Blue Bolt Comics and became a comic book writer writing "Captain America, The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger, a predecessor of Mike Hammer." He was a World War II veteran and was a fighter pilot instructor. He was a Miller Lite spokesperson and a bestselling author and a good friend of mine.
Mickey told me many times how in 1947 he needed $1,000 to build a house. He decided the best way to get the money was to write a book. He did just that, writing his first book, "I, The Jury" in just nine days.
Critics would sneer at the "sex and violence" (I've never understood that. They seem very tame today) but the buying public devoured his books. I guess at the time, Mike Hammer was a violent, brutal avenger brandishing his justice with his smoking 45 and his fists.
The above photo is Mickey and I at his home and yes, that is the original artwork for the cover of I, The Jury. Mickey was also gracious enough to not only to let me see it, but to fondle his original typed manuscript for I, The Jury complete with his notes penciled in.
Mickey gave me one of my most prized possessions. We were visiting one day and he asked me if, I would like to have a great piece of memorabilia. I said I would love it but that it was not necessary. He asked me to follow him upstairs and asked that I look under the bed and pull a typewriter out. I pulled out an electric typewriter and he said, "No, not that one, look behind it." I pulled out the Smith-Corona you see sitting on my car in the picture above. Mickey asked, "Would you like to have my typewriter?" I told him I would love it and again that it wasn't necessary. He said that he wanted me, someone who wanted it to have it. He went on to tell me how he had used many typewriters but that this one was his favorite, "his money machine." He told me he had written 8 or 9 of his bestsellers on it and gave me a copy of a documentary "Waiting For Lili" which in it, you see my typewriter, Mickey talking about it as his money machine and all the books he had written on it. You can even see the damage to the casing in the film. Needless to say, I was touched and elated.

That's Mickey, Bogie and me in Mickey's home.Bogie was a present from Mickey's wife Jane.

I miss Mickey very much and on this birthday, I want to wish him a very Happy Birthday! You were one of the most decent human beings I have ever known and a good friend.

Mickey had several unfinished manuscripts when he passed away. He had told me that his good friend Max Allan Collins was going to finish them and publish them which he has done with some of them. I just hope there's many more coming.

Happy Birthday Mickey!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Memory Lane

Thomas Wolfe said, "You Can't Go Home Again." Well he was wrong. After a routine follow-up with my Dr. today, I drove by the house I grew up in. My Dr. is in Duluth, Ga., I live in Jonesboro, Ga. an easy hour drive across town. My appointment was for two fifteen, so, by the time I finished the visit, I was looking at driving through downtown Atlanta during afternoon traffic. That was a thought I didn't relish. Quick-minded as I am, I weighed my options. I could find my place in traffic or since I had grown up on this side of town, I could visit my childhood memories. Normally being one to push forward, I decided to look back, turned on Buford Highway and headed for Norcross. My parents moved us from Buckhead to Doraville just before I started third grade. I attended Norcross Elementary, Summerour, Jr-High and then Norcross High. I guided my car into the right lane and slowed down, not because I'm an elderly driver but because I was on Memory Lane, taking in the sights. I passed two of the four schools I attended and as I approached my old sub-division, my mind was flooded with memories of the "good old days."
When I was a child, there was a little store on the corner of Buford Highway and the street leading into my subdivision. I remembered all the times I had walked (it was safe then) to this store, sometimes after playing hookey from school. Those were the days when my thirty-five cent lunch money would buy a feast for a young lad like me. My purchase would often include Kick-A Poo joy juice, 16 ounce Co-Cola or Pepsi (just ten cents), a Polar Bar (a nickel), and a pack of Beeman's Clove Chewing Gum (another nickel). A bargain at twenty cents, I still could buy a pack of bar-b-que potato chips. Thinking back, I wanted to stop my car, go in and pay $1.59 for a 20 ounce Co-Cola. Unfortunately, while the building is still there, the business has long since closed.
Turning left onto Edward Street, I again slowed down, looking right and left trying to remember which was Dennis's house, Max's house and, I was a little uncertain. Not, because I'm getting older, but because the houses didn't look quite the same. The yards and the houses both seemed much smaller.I passed the house the Poole's lived in and there on the left was the sports complex. I was looking at the Womack's old home. There on the side of their house was the football field. Not quite as wide as I remember or as long but we spent many great afternoons between their house and the neighbors passing, catching, running and scoring touchdowns until Mama called "Larry, Billy, time to come home. It's supper time!" I still prefer supper to dinner anytime. It just tastes better in the mouth of a southern boy. Wayne, Deborah, Darlene, Billy and I along with the other kids in the neighborhood would play until the lightning bugs had to light our way home. Wayne, Deborah and Darlene's backyard was Yankee Stadium.I was a Yankee fan. What kid was not, with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra all on one team? I must have been Mickey's biggest fan. I had even adorned my bicycle spokes with his baseball cards. The house between the Womack's and ours was where Susan lived and later, Wanda and Larry. First love bloomed many times on Edward Street. I didn't pretend not to like girls, I thought they were Tony Tiger, G-r-r-r-reat!
I applied my brake and stopped in front of my old home. The downhill driveway was still there. I rode my skateboard (yes, we had them then) down that driveway many times. I could still see in my minds eye, my Mom's old Galaxie, and later her Fairlane sitting in that driveway, parking brake on. There just to the left of the front door was where Mom's main flower garden was. Boy, did she have a green thumb! It was the most beautiful flower garden I can remember. And, I do remember as my brother and I were the main weed pullers whether we liked it or not. Just to the right of the house, was where our cement fish pond was. At times our fish lived in it. At other times our 12" plus pet alligator lived there. We didn't have to go to the zoo then. Being the Tarzan fan I am, I was thrilled when we found a squirrel monkey in the bushes under our bedroom windows. Now I didn't have to send my money to the address on the back of the comic book to get one. A neighbor, a street over, had a pet kinkajou. With a menagerie of alligators, monkeys and kinkajous, why go to the zoo?
I could still see the old swing we had in front of the cement pond but, alas, the swing is not there. The monkey bushes are not there and Mom's beautiful flower garden is missing. Mama must have a beautiful flower garden in heaven today and I would gladly pull the weeds here or in heaven just to see her or her garden. I miss Mama and Daddy but I will see them again in heaven one day.
There was a hispanic man raking and cleaning at the end of the driveway. I got out of my car and went to say hello. I explained who I was and why I had come. He told me he had lived there for two years and said I could walk in the backyard if I wanted.
I remembered Billy and I digging holes, taking our plastic golf clubs and balls and being magically transformed into Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. I could see the spot where Billy set up wash tubs and I my guitar. We were the Beatles and at times Johnny Cash signing "Ring of Fire." I still could see where we found our meteorite (only kids in our school that had one). That meteorite was just as neat as my formaldehyded tonsils.
I look back and I'm glad we didn't have cell phones, Ipod Touches, WII's and XBoxes. Our imaginations carried us to many greater adventures. Those purple stumped toes we got from football or other competitive sports were medals of honor. Playing with green army men, BB guns and our bow and arrow was much better than the electronic toys of today.
I thanked my new friend and slowly walked back to my car, to start working my way to Jonesboro.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12: 1-2, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
As I've said, I'm not normally one to live life looking in the rear-view window, but, today was a good day. I am normally pushing ahead running the race that is before me because I know that when I finish the race, I'll see Jesus, and Mama, and Daddy and Granny and maybe Mama's new flower garden and maybe, just maybe, I'll see a ten cent 16 ounce Co-Cola.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Four Aces

My friend Harry shot this video while we were on a mission trip in Anchorage, Alaska. We had gone for lunch at a dine and Harry wanted me to show these guys who were sitting at the counter, this particular card trick.
Click on The Link Below:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remember These?

I had the clicker and the shoes. Remember the jingle? "Poll Parrot, Poll Parrot are the shoes you want to buy, They make your feet run faster, As fast as I can fly! Squawk! Poll Parrot!!!

My Greatest Missed Autograph Was The First One I Missed

“Life’s funny. To a kid, time always drags. Suddenly you’re fifty. All that’s left of your childhood… fits in a rusty little box.”
From the movie Amelie
Royston Home of Baseball's Immortal Ty Cobb
What is Royston Georgia? Well besides my younger brother and I being born in Ty Cobb Memorial Hospital in Royston, it was a magical place for two skinny Georgia boys. It was a fall out shelter ready during the cold war, it was chasing wild pigs with sticks, it was poking these sames sticks at a six ft. alligator that would escape his owners pit. It was 10 cent comic books, ice cream at Dixie Dale, William Sims poking fun at us and riding Fireball Roberts pedal cars down the driveway. It was catching lightning bugs in a Mason jar with holes punched in the lids. It was tying a string on a June bug's leg and flying him around. It was Grannie Pierce, Aunt Mazell and Aunt EllaDee. and any magical realm our unlimited imaginations took us.
But, Royston is the home of baseball's immortal Ty Cobb. Every trip to Grannie's, we would pass the sign and hear our mother tell us about Ty Cobb.

My mother's grade school teacher was Ty Cobb's sister. During the off season or when he returned home to Royston, he would visit his sister at the school and play ball with my mom and her school friends. She and everyone that I ever spoke to that knew Tyrus Raymond Cobb, tells a different story than the mainstream media or in the (ugh!) Tommy Lee Jones movie Cobb. All that spoke of him spoke of how good and generous he was.

One day my brother and I decided to walk over to Ty Cobb's house and get an autograph. Since he died in 1961, I was probably 7 or 8, my brother. two years younger. It was a simpler, safer time in a small town so, it wasn't unusual for two boys our ages to go exploring. We gather up all of our courage and started on our task. As we neared his home, we could see him sitting on his front porch. We slowed our approach the nearer we got and when he turned towards us, we turned, kicked our Poll Parrot shoes into high gear and scooted off. We never got the courage up to talk with him and we never got the autograph. that was the first great autograph that I missed. A baseball signed by Ty Cobb normally sells for $7,000- $8,000. A signed 3x5 index card will fetch $2,000-$3,000 today.

Billy and I went to his burial in the Rose Hill Cemetery. The courageous young men that we were, stood behind a tree and watched as he was carried into his mausoleum. If you ever see any video of his burial and see two boys peering around each side of a tree, that's us.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

What To Expect?

 If you are like me, you're probably thinking, "Why do a blog? Do we really need another blog?" Truth be known, I started keeping a journal in the early 70's until, a friend told me I was crazy to put all my thoughts on paper. Being easily influenced back then, I stopped. Being an avid reader, I have always thought I had a book or two in me but have not disciplined myself to write. My author friends have asked, "How much do you write each day?" My answer until now, "None."
 This is an attempt to change that. I can't promise that it will be a daily blog but I will try to blog as I experience and learn new things. 
 What is the blog about??? Who knows? God has blessed me with a full and exciting life some of which I wish I could do over, but God has worked in my life in spite of these longed for do-overs and has made me the man I am today. This blog may be about earlier experiences in my life and how now looking back to where I came from, I see the principles I violated, the consequences of my choices (good and bad), and the life lessons I have learned from these experiences.
 I will at times write about my hobbies. I have been an avid autograph collector for 32 years and have over 4,000 signed 8x10's, in addition to signed books, magazines and memorabilia. While those are neat and interesting, the back story of how I got them and the people I met is more interesting. I also think the stories of the autographs I could have gotten but didn't will be of interest. This hobby has led to becoming friends with many actors, writers and other "celebrities."
 Being an avid reader and a collector of signed first editions, I may blog about a book I like or have just read.
 I teach a senior men's Sunday School class at First Baptist Jonesboro so I may blog about how God is working in the lives of the members of our class and how God is using them all. They are all special men and I love them all. I will at times blog about our church, the activities that go on there and how God is doing a great work through His church in Jonesboro.
 I was born in 1952 and grew up watching Tarzan, Superman, Davy Crockett, The Time Tunnel, The Monkees (I became friends with Davy and Mickey) and other great shows. I miss the 1960's so, I may blog about simpler days.
 I will try to keep this blog fun, interesting, at times humorous and thought provoking. Please pass on any comments, suggestions and questions.
 All that said, I will post the first real blog tonight or tomorrow.

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