When I was young, my singular ambition was perhaps to go to Hollywood; maybe become an art director in the film industry and make movies. Then I found out I was color blind. So much for that dream. Stay with me folks, it gets funnier.
My first exposure to the art world came when, at the age of nine or ten, I was taken in hand by my father's sister; who rose from art teacher to become Superintendent of Art Education for Prince Georges County, Maryland. She expected me to someday "Be Somebody" in the art world . . . like her. But she was never very impressed until I went to Hollywood and wrote and sold a screenplay that's made over 350 million dollars, and counting.
At about age twelve, my father entered my work in a national art contest held on the lawn of Lafayett Park, across the street from the White House. I was awarded first prize in the small paintings category. I don't think there were any other entrants in that category. But the prize? I got to keep the entire fifty-dollars some lady paid for the painting. Big bucks in those days.
After high school, I spent a year and a half in the Naval Reserve where, when they learned I liked to draw, I was given a bucket of gray paint and pointed toward a large warship that seemed in dire need of cosmetic attention. During my initial physical exam, all my friends behind me in line got a big laugh when I failed to read the numbers in the color blind charts. Prior to that day, I had no idea about my color perception deficiency. While I was serving in the Navy, the wisdom department of the US Government drafted me into the Army. For a color-blind artist, from Navy-Blue to Olive-Drab.
After serving two years, I headed west with a stop in Chicago where in utter poverty, amazement and great adventure, I attended the American Academy of Art on the G.I. Bill. By carefully budgeting a pay check of thirty-two dollars a week, and hocking my Mickey Mouse watch every Friday for six-dollars and fifty-cents (to get me through the weekend), I found out that Henry David Thoreau was right: It is possible to get a living by doing the thing you love to do, if it is something that is needed. But in art school, I found a new love; a secret mistress. I began to leave my art classes to wander the cold and rainy streets of Chicago to be with my mistress and write poetry. My secret mistress was my love of writing. The affair that started in Chicago continues to this day. So there I was, with two intellectual pursuits; pulling, it seemed, in two different directions.
Finally, I made it to Hollywood and got my big break with a job at Columbia Pictures and a membership in the set designer's union. No proper color perception needed, just a pencil. It was an interesting time; working on big projects like Funny Girl and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. Finally, I was able to combine the thing I was able to do well - drawing, with the thing I loved to do - writing. If Hollywood is about anything, it is about writing and pictures. So, I set out to write a screenplay about one of the first exotic creatures I met in Hollywood; a stuntman. Long-story-short, I found an agent who sold my first screenplay to Warner Brothers. The result was HOOPER: An instant box-office smash hit. By the time the movie was released, I was working for the Walt Disney Company on the EPCOT, Disneyland, and Euro Disneyland projects as both writer and designer. Somewhere in between, I worked on the Universal Studios theme parks for Los Angeles and Florida.
Before Disney I created sets and characters for Sid and Marty Krofft. Projects that included the national McDonald's commercials, McDonaldland, H.R. PuffN'Stuff, The Bugaloos, and The Banana Splits. It was a good ride. But in the end, I discovered that I didn't have the arrogance and personality to be a serious player in the deadly game called Hollywood. My "Blog" will tell all I know, hate and fear about the Hollywood Game, as I call it. It is simply a derivation of the age-old Golden Rule. He who has the most gold makes the rules. And you must either follow the gold, or follow your heart.
My decision to depart tinsel town correlated with a desire to head North in search of "my kind of weather", which the desert basin of Los Angeles does not provide. The San Francisco Bay was the perfect fix and a houseboat in San Rafael sealed the deal. Something (everything) about the San Francisco Bay area, like a cup of tea in the afternoon, soothed my soul. I think it was because I was raised near the great Eastern coast bay: the Chesapeake.
There I continued to work in various commercial art fields to pay the bills and afford me the time to be with my mistress to write. I spent many hours photographing, sketching and painting the coastline, marinescapes and landscapes of the bay area. Along Tomalas Bay I discovered the subject for my prize winning painting: Relic of Peace. I moved back to Los Angeles for too many years. Now that I am retired, I've returned to Marin County for the same reasons I came before.