Los Angeles writer Steve Brodeur is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, the last exit off the Santa Monica Freeway East.
as Brodeur has reported in detail, was in the decades prior to the
birth of Hollywood the defacto "Hollywood East", the first center for
theatrical film production all year around. With over two dozen
silent film studios in operation at its peak, J-ville was Jurassic
More than half a century later, Brodeur would start
his professional career as a journalist - and dinner theatre critic
- on his hometown morning daily, The Florida Times-Union.
the gathering twilight of the 70's Brodeur packed his belongings into
his MGB and took the I-10 west out of J-ville. The interstate
southern route to LA, with a single sign at the end of the trail in
Santa Monica proclaiming it, The Christopher Columbus
Transcontinental Highway. The Sunbelt Mother Road.
been based in LA since the day he first drove in on the Santa Monica
Freeway West, arriving on or about the 4th of July 1978.
BASE Jumping is the vehicle that drives the story in KISS THE SKY.
BASE Jumping is skydiving, but not from a plane. Instead, it's a leap from a building or a bridge, a cliff or - a radio tower.
Cassadaga Beach, Florida 1997...
Tom Lemoine is a late night radio story teller, who will soon be signing off his show with "Parachute Woman" by the Rolling Stones.
Cali is a BASE Jumper, a fatal
beauty who free falls from top of his station's radio tower; to stick
her landing in the headlights of Lemoine's oncoming car.
Inspired by true events, their story
is a spiral into romantic obsession, adrenalized emotions and truth or
dare sex, with death lurking in the wings.
Lemoine's show Radio A1A is on the air. Pulling the rip chord on the Stones' Parachute Woman, and counting down Cali's free fall...one Mississippi...two
Mississippi...three Mississippi... "Parachute Woman, land on me tonight..."
"Just for shits and giggles," as Ernie wouldsay... DearPaulThomas Anderson, Hope all’s well.
By way of introduction, I wrote and produced my first promos with the legendary Ernie Anderson
back at the dawn of the 80’s. He was ever loathe to work in the
announce booth, so my dozens of subsequent voiceover sessions with
Ernie, throughout the 80’s and beyond, were almost always conducted
elbow to elbow. Fast fwd to the present: my producing partner and
I are developing a film, MISS NOVEMBER SWEEPS; and I’m writing to you
with this personal heads up that the story features a pivotal character,
ARTIE ABBOTT, who is largely based on my own - apparently indelible -
experiences with Ernie. This project is one from the heart, a movie Valentine to our fabled "Promowood" scene at the dawn of the 80's in L.A. We're wondering if you can seeBryan Cranston as Artie Abbott? Because we can't seem to see anyone else. All the best, SB
One of my weekend morning guilty pleasures is reading the L.A. Affairs
column in the Saturday Los Angeles Times. Regretably, this title is a
bait and switch; the actual column is a self-described chronicle of
“Romance, Dating and Relationship” experiences written and submitted by
readers. These stories are inevitably tame and generic, without a hint of the thrills and dangers of an actual affair.
Still, I keep reading it to see if anyone will ever chronicle the real thing. After years of disappointment I’ve been forced to take matters
into my own hands:
My Lymphoma is the ultimate femme fatale.
We met in Brentwood, introduced ten years ago by Doctor X, my ear, nose and throat specialist. He had just biopsied a swollen node from the back of my neck.
He held it up to the light so I could get a better look. It was about the size and shape of an oversized kidney bean. He gently massaged it between his thumb and forefinger.
“I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years,” he told me. “This doesn’t look or feel cancerous.”
The lab results told a different story, of course. Her full name was Chronic Lymphocytic Lymphoma. CLL for short.
From the beginning, our chemistry was off the charts. Like me, she’s non-agressive and slow to develop. She takes her sweet time but she’s relentless. There is no cure for her.
My Lymphoma never sleeps.
Sometimes in the middle of the night she perches on my chest like a succubus. Leaning over until we’re nose-to-nose, she tries to steal my breath away. I wake up with a start to find myself face-to-face with my cat Lola, but she isn’t fooling me.
My Lymphoma is a shape-shifter.
My celebrity oncologist Dr. Y strongly advised me to keep our relationship on the down-low. And for nearly three years - a period of what Dr. Y calls “watchful waiting” - we managed to do just that. Only my wife knew about Lymphoma and me. My wife knows everything.
Then on a visit back home my mom, who hadn’t seen me in a couple of years, outed us.
“What’s that on your neck, son?” This query from across the room at a family gathering. Disclosure time was suddenly upon me. I gathered the family around and put my cards on the table. There was a single audible gasp from one of my sisters - a breast cancer survivor.
Lymphoma and I went another year before I really tried to break it off, with my first round of chemotherapy. Six treatments, spaced three weeks apart.
I came to think of the infusion treatment room at my Santa Monica cancer clinic as the Chemo Lounge. It serves about a dozen clients at a time. Some are in their 20’s and you’d never guess they're members of our cancer club, others are aged and sucking oxygen from portable tanks, looking like every breath might be their last; and everyone in between.
At the end of my first day of treatment the infusion nurse looked at me closely and said “I think that swelling is already going down.”
The next morning I looked in the mirror and the swollen lymph nodes on the side of my neck were all but gone.
My Lymphoma was melting away. I didn’t see her again for almost two years. It was a welcome remission; and I began to forget the first letter in CLL stands for Chronic.
Then she was back, spiking my white blood cell count and swelling me up again.
My oncologist Dr. Y put me on a drug called Ibrutinib, the cutting edge new oral chemotherapy. The name sounds like one of Satan’s little helper demons, but Ibrutinib kept My Lymphoma at bay for almost four years.
Then she was back again with a vengeance, the little succubus. You know I can’t quit you, she whispers to me in the night.
Ten years together now and she’s taken her toll. I'm melting away myself these days. I look in the mirror and see half the man I used to be; but I’m all the man I need to be for my Lymphoma.
Illustration: Faithful to None, paperback cover by Ernest Darcy Chiriack
My first wife, The Wife Aquatic, was a second wave feminist. More in the junior ranks, as a daughter or a niece or a kid sister or all of the above, but a second waver nonetheless. I was a surfer - at Jax Beach starting in the mid-sixties - and a feminist fellow traveler by college. Before that I was a nice, fairly decent Catholic boy with three younger sisters. A former altar boy who did some of his best work in Latin, at old school mass, pre-Vatican II; but coming out as apostate by the time I started college.
In high school she was a community pool lifeguard in the summers. She was, is, a Libra, I’m Aquarius - air signs, but our summer air in J-ville was so humid we might as well have been water signs.
had French surnames, both occupational names in the original French.
Mine means one who embroiders. Hers designates an usher or a doorkeeper, one
who ushers you across the threshold. Correctly pronounced in French, her surname sounds more like: one who unlooses you.
We actually met at a swim meet, a suburban neighborhood league event in J-ville in the summer of 1964. She swam butterfly for Colonial Park, I swam breaststroke for Arlingwood. In our little red tank suits and speedos. She was almost thirteen and I was a year and a half older.
I had to practice hard just to be competitive in breaststroke, while she was a natural in the ‘fly. And by a natural I mean the girl was built like a she-dolphin. Brunette, she competed with her hair pulled back into a braided ponytail. Impressive shoulders and not just on a girl. She was sleek and petite and buxom all at once, with powerful legs. Her tan was more of a tawny glow and she was freckled in interesting places. Pretty in a handsome kind of way, she was not shy; she had a disarming way of looking you right in the eye, and her little laugh was infectious. It was the only time I saw her that summer, but she made an indelible impression, in her little red tank suit.
She graduated eighth grade a year behind me and from a different parochial school in J-ville. I had a girlfriend by then - lucky for me - and sense enough not to attempt a swim through high school in the wake of my future Wife Aquatic. But that undertow would always be there between us. She was the girl the nuns had kneeling on raw rice kernels in the hallway because her wool plaid uniform skirt was too short. She and I moved in different social circles, neighboring orbits that rarely intersected. She was already “dating up” with a guy in my class whose name our peers pronounced as Why Gull. A self-styled make-out artist and definitely not an upgrade for the girl's reputation. But her little laugh was more killer than ever...
A personal pledge to keep my own
generational bs detector in good working order. To avoid all
to revert to type, or cliche, by embracing the most stinging dismissal I
imagine from my critics of what they may read here. Tip of the hat to
Bill Maher (for "Blogga please!") but all props to my fellow tennis
fanatics, the black players of Poinsettia Park in WeHo in the 80's, who
schooled this white boy, however inadvertently, in the power and nuance
and glory of the mother putdown that puts the dis in dismissal. Of
which Boomer please! is but a faint echo but one that will have to do.
Delivered by SB in the pulpit at his funeral mass at Christ the King in Jacksonville in 2013.
Robert A. Brodeur
First I’d like to thank
everyone here with us today, in the flesh and in spirit. I know I speak
for our extended family when I say how much we appreciate your
comforting presence on this mournful occasion. And we will always be
grateful to all the caretakers who not only looked after dad so well in
his final days, but also brought him joy and enriched his life in
countless little ways. So, yes, this is a mournful occasion, but the good news
is: we are also here to celebrate a life well lived. The life of Robert
Alexander Brodeur. And since I’m his first born, and he passed away on
my birthday, it is my privilege to speak on behalf of Jeanne, Carmel
Anne, Mark, Julie and myself.
There is certainly no shortage of great family anecdotes
about Dad, but I am going to exercise some restraint and limit myself to
just two stories. The first one I can date precisely. It takes place at a
birthday party for Bob's grandson, my son Alex, who is turning four. (Last summer Alex turned twenty-three.)
The 4th birthday party theme is Come Fly With Me, because
Alex at four is very into Frank Sinatra; and the venue is a terrific little
aviation museum actually located on the premises of a general aviation
airport in Santa Monica California. It's called The Museum of Flying. Both my family and my wife Judie's family are pretty well
represented. Dad and Mom are there. We have family group photos with
everyone wearing propeller beanies. In addition to our family and friends, there is also a
sizeable contingent of other four-year-olds and their parents from
Alex's preschool. In short order, the museum's multiple exhibition
spaces with vintage aircraft on display are turned into one big echo
chamber reverberating with little-kid noise. At one point Dad and I are off to the side by ourselves.
We're looking out the window at other vintage aircraft, the ones that
still fly, parked on the tarmac right outside the museum. He points to a
biplane of the type that first saw combat in World War One. "That's
just like the trainer I learned to fly in," he says. Though Dad never saw combat in World War Two, he trained
as a naval aviator and completed his first solo flight not long before
the war ended. It was perhaps the second luckiest break of his life.
The first, of course, was having our mom by his side for that life to come. Bob and Carmel, Here's Looking at You, Kids. SB VIMEO password: only
So we're looking at the biplane through the window and Dad
proceeds to tell me a story I cannot recall ever hearing before. It
details how he and his fellow pilots in training practiced take offs and
landings, a maneuver called the touch and go, where the landing lasts
only long enough to get the wheels on the ground before the pilot
immediately throttles back and launches into take-off mode. He describes
how they would do this in groups of three, three of these biplanes
flying abreast, not exactly wing to wing but pretty close, doing these
touch and goes on what was basically an oversized football field. His
account is detailed enough to paint a vivid picture in my mind of him in
the cockpit, a memory I still cherish. It's my little Come Fly With Me
moment with Dad.
It's a lasting reminder to me how dad personified those
Greatest Generation values. He was a stand-up guy, a hard-working and
loyal family man, with a deep faith in God. I always felt like he
taught and lead us by example, and always in a strong and loving
partnership with mom. Above all he was a genuinely good person, a
practical humanitarian at heart who built his career and his life on
caring about and helping other people.
My second anecdote might be described as the flipside of
the first. I cherish this one because it showcases my father the happy
go lucky free spirit. It might also be my earliest childhood memory of
dad. I could not have been much more than two. (I know, I'm skeptical
myself - but even if this is false memory syndrome on my part, I'm
keeping it.) Picture a small steamy limbo. Dad has probably just
stepped out of the shower, now with a towel around his waist, and he is
whistling a happy tune. I'm the little rugrat there in the bathroom with him,
just the two of us. Hard to believe, but I was technically an only
child at the time. He is whistling a happy tune, and not just any tune,
because in my memory he is a world-class whistler. The tune is: When
the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along. My fellow Baby Boomers
may remember it from a classic 50's tv show, Your Hit Parade. I won't
ask for a show of hands. But If you do remember it, you know that Red Red Robin is
no tune for amateur whistlers. The tempo is tricky, and there are a
lot of notes to hit. And Dad is just killing it. Killing it a good
way. Not only is he killing it, he's doing it while shaving. It's a
virtuoso performance just for me. He's got a facefull of lather and
he's going at it with a big scary-looking "safety" razor and whistling
Red Red Robin, note for note perfect. And perhaps for the first time, the realization begins to
sink in: this guy is going to be setting the bar pretty high around
here. I won't try to sing Red Red Robin for you because I'll
start crying and you'll start crying - killing it but not in a good way.
But the lyrics go like this: When the Red Red Robin comes bob bob bobbin' along There'll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin' his old sweet song Wake up, wake up you sleepy head Get up, get up, get out of bed Live, love, laugh and be happy… Live, love, laugh and be happy. Bob bob bobbin' along. Yes he was. In the lives of parents and children there inevitably
occurs a familiar variation on the famous "aha moment". We blurt out a
particular expression, or opinion, or some semi-coherent rant directed
at our own offspring and suddenly it hits us: OMG, when did I turn into
my mother!? OMG, I sound just like the Old Man!
In my case the tell tale utterance is none of the above.
But not too long ago I began to notice that when something makes me
laugh, I do emit a certain chuckling sound that to my ear is pretty darn
close to one hundred percent pure Bob. It's dad's little chuckle
coming out of my mouth. Which is yet another great little item in his
legacy to me because from now on, every time I hear it it will be like Dad and I are sharing a laugh together.
You have to take Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine to get to
my March Madness. Set the dial for 1969-'70...
That season, the NCAA mens’
basketball tournament was devastated by a Dolphnado. The Jacksonville University Dolphins - from my sweet
little alma mater JU, where I was a sophomore - schooled up for a run
through the Mideast Regionals and all the way to the finals, against
John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins. Right out of the gate, the sporting press dubbed us The Mod Squad.
Ours was the smallest school (in enrollment) ever to play
an NCAA Final, a record that still stands. Also, no team called the
Dolphins had ever kicked serious ass in either college or pro sports;
the Miami Dolphins domination of the NFL was still a couple of years
out. Nevertheless, our J Dolphs had just become the first
college team ever to average over 100 points per game for an entire
season. This while playing in an era with no shot-clock, no three-point
line, and no dunking allowed. (Those first two no’s would prove mere annoyances to JU,
but the no dunking rule would play a huge role in the title game against
The Dolphins had not managed to evade anyone’s sonar. JU
came into the NCAA tournament more like Godzilla than Cinderella, with a
single loss and a number 2 national ranking. But the haters among the
college basketball elite in 1970, and the haters in the national
sporting press, just could not believe their own eyes until it was too
late. All season they had derided JU as a “pick-up” team, with a
“playground brand” of ball, and a “rent-a-goon” frontline with not one
but a pair of black seven-footers, both having transferred in that
season from obscure and therefore suspect junior college programs.
Haters gonna hate. But ours will always be basketball's first Twin Towers. Both 7-footers were, in fact, down home brothers from the
Florida towns of West Palm Beach, and tiny Chipley, unmarked on most
state maps. One of them blotted out the gym lights at 7’2”
topped with another half a foot of ‘fro. His name was Artis Gilmore
and he would go on to become the ABA icon known as “the A Train” - and
after that a six time all-star in the NBA. At JU Artis was still just
the “Big A”. The other 7-footer was Pembrook Burrows III. Known at JU
as Pembrook. After a brief career as a journeyman pro, Pembrook would
go on to live out Shaq’s fantasy as the tallest state trooper in the
Florida Highway Patrol. The rest of the J Dolphs were unheralded white boys from
the basketball heartland, some Hoosiers included, and some hometown
players from J-ville. All
of them with chips on their shoulders and two or three with serious
skills. Like shooting guard Rex Morgan, a playmaker and penetrator who
would make 215 free throws that season, second only to Pete Maravich. All American, drafted by the Boston Celtics. Btw, the backup point guard was a classmate of mine and a
two-sport star at J-ville’s only Catholic High School; where I once
caught a pass over him on a fly route in a flag football game in phys ed
class - highlight reel stuff for the likes of me, a non-player of
organized sports. The 6-10 forward was a frat brother of mine, also drafted
by the Celtics. When JU went big, he was on the floor with Artis and
Pembrook - on what instantly became the tallest frontline in college
basketball, averaging 7 feet. The one other brother on the squad, from the playgrounds
of New York City, was the first black player at JU. His name was Charles "Chip" Dublin; he was the star sixth man off the bench, the flashiest
player on the team and a huge fan favorite. We want the Chipper! Send
in the Chipper! JU Coach Joe Williams, and his ninja recruiter Tom
Wasdin, had pulled off the recruiting coup of all time. They had
conjured the Dolphnado and unleashed it on unsuspecting division one
competition. But I actually coined the term, in a column I wrote for
the student paper, The Navigator. A sophomoric exercise, admittedly,
but then I was a sophomore at the time. I described how it first came in a dream: End of the
world thunderstorm in progress. Out of nowhere a badass waterspout
appears on the St. Johns, then up the riverbank at JU, and out onto our
home court in our tiny sweatbox Swisher Gym. The opposing team shrinks back in awe, as the Dolphnado spins out Artis “the Big A” Gilmore and his Mod Squad. “We ran a controlled break,” Coach Williams would say with a straight face. Now the J Dolphs were
suddenly battering the NCAA temple walls. JU had swept into the Sweet
Sixteens, where we beat the Big Ten champ Iowa on a put-back at the buzzer.
Then in the Elite Eight we torpedoed the Southeastern Conference champ
Kentucky Wildcats, coached by the legendary “Man in the Brown Suit”
Adolph Rupp, 106-100. Rated Number One in the country at the time. The unthinkable had become the possible. This basketball
rabble was one game away the national title! The haters were having a
stroke! Fittingly, it would fall to the John Wooden, the Wizard
of Westwood, to send this freak show packing back to J-ville and restore
order to the college basketball universe. Wooden was a lover not a hater but he was so old school
he started his players on the fundamentals of getting their socks on
right and their sneakers properly tied. Coach Williams, the Zen Master of Swisher - yes! - Swisher Gym, was as
hang-loose as Wooden was controlling. He did not believe in player
curfews, and he was known to draw up plays on the backs of envelopes. Artis Gilmore also said Williams was “the first white man
I ever trusted.” This one year after the ’68 Summer Olympics, with the
double Black Power salute from U.S. track stars on the winners’ podium.
When Artis threw in with Coach Williams in the summer of ’69, JU was a
tiny private liberal arts university in a racially divided city. Williams was the closer with Artis, after Williams’ ninja
recruiter Tom Wasdin had delivered the Big A to JU on a bank shot that
just happened to go in. Coach Williams was always the closer; he had
signed up Wasdin as his assistant coach and recruiter, at a higher salary than that of the
head coach himself. How did this unlikely good old boy duo, long-time rival
high school coaches in J-ville, and before that as opposing junior high
coaches - how did these two join forces? How did they get one game away
from pulling off the heist of the century in college basketball? How did their J Dolphs, branded as renegades, unite a
racially divided city? How did they inspire a wave of Mod Squad Mania,
with growing crowds of jubilant fans meeting the team's returning plane
right there on the tarmac. Virtually no airport security in 1970, so
the more the merrier. My frat brother forward recalled one autograph
who yanked the booty off her newborn and implored him to sign the
bottom of her baby’s foot.
even more fans pulling their cars over along the interstate into town
from the airport, cheering the passing team bus and waving signs of
support. With thirty-thousand plus fans on their feet at a rally in the
Gator Bowl. How did Williams and Wasdin pilot their Dolphnado all the
way to the NCAA finals, against a UCLA team on a mission to win a fourth
consecutive national title for their coach John Wooden? One game, winner takes home the national title. No shot clock, no three-pointers, no dunking rule in effect. How did it really play out? What is the untold story of the most magical March Madness Cinderella team - ever?
Four years after this post first appeared, the story of the Mod Squad has become the centerpiece of our new feature documentary, JACKSONVILLE WHO? Our film premiered February 20th on NBA TV, as part of Black History Month 2018.