Monday, December 1, 2014

When You're Six And A Spy

Patricia Lynne Cardella 
female tv-spy 'Honey West,'
In Southern California, in my small-child world of the 1960's, spies and 'all things spy' was all the rage.

In the adult world of the early 60's, concerns were real about the Cold War and were beamed into our homes on evening television news shows.

Our world was teetering on the edge of a war with the Russians due to their desire to expand and rule the world - possibly through the use of a nuclear bomb.

Thusly, in compliance with government regulations, we kids at school were required regularly to practice 'duck and cover' drills for safety from nuclear detonation.

That is, at the sound of three, short, distinct loud alarms - in the case of a random nuclear detonation - we were taught to quickly climb under our school desks for shelter from both possible exploding debris and radiation.

The duck and cover drill may seem bizarre, but somehow, evidently it seemed logical to the appropriate authorities at the time. It was a long, long time ago.

Gosh, back then we were still legally allowed, no, change that, we were still required, then, to swear allegiance to the Flag.

This "Pledge Of Allegiance," ritual was done every morning in school: in standing position, facing the flag, right hand over our hearts. True story. I know, hard to believe! 

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation
under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

But, our particular State was full of fun!

That part of our State known as Southern California, was rocking with Hollywood happenings. A singular, unique 'Cali' city was producing remarkable movies and remarkable movie stars. We had Elisabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen, Katherine Hepburn, Marlon Brando. An endless list. It is absolutely vivid to me now, it was 1963, then.

We drove to Hollywood
to see this brand new movie release.
My family dressed up in our 'Sunday best,' clothes to go see the premiere of the movie, "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." I wore the dress (shown above), which I watched my Mother sew. When it was finished, it sat on a hanger, on the door knob in our hallway, waiting. Finally my dress and I and my family climbed in our shiny, blue and white Chevrolet Bel Air, and drove to Hollywood.

The "Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad," movie had an 'all star cast,' the plot involved stolen cash and a diverse and colorful group of strangers' and a madcap pursuit of the $350,000 ($2,705,000 today)'.**

That all star cast ensemble included, foremost the then ever-talented, 'forever Hollywood actor,' Spencer Tracey, and the much beloved Jimmy Durante. Also, featured were Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, and Jonathan Winters.

This movie was hilarious and frivolous, but marketing being key, many Hollywood movie productions were also fitting to the times.

This Cali city offered up to the world, to the globe, enjoyable distractions from the cold war. Fortuitously, these movies made their way some twenty seven miles from that Hollywood mecca, to our own movie theaters.

They were the Whittwood Theatre, the Whittier Theatre, and the Wardman. (I know, similar names, but ignore that, they were significantly different venues, even to the eye of a six year old, or eight year old ... ). I walked home from all three. We were still allowed to do that then (not at night of course).

Whittwood was my community's favored facility, it was a current location (to be 'termed,' that, later).

It was modern and conveniently located near the popular Whitwood Mall, near the Broadway Department Store (the more prestigious end.)  The Whittwood Theatre was closer to my home, had the best movies, best times, best popcorn. Whittwood Theatre is memorable to me because it was where in 1964 I'd stand in a very, very long line to see The Beatles first movie, "A Hard Days Night," in black and white. And then, in 1965, to see, "Help," the first Beatles film filmed in colour.  It was also at the Whittwood that I'd put a dime in the payphone to call my Daddy to come pick us up at 10:30 or 11pm (us being two or three girlfriends), and, then, further in high school, I'd sit in the upper deck and make out with boys.

The other two theatres though would become historic buildings, which of course back in the 1960's in Southern California, I knew nothing about.

The Whittier Theatre and the Wardman were a bit farther from our house, both situated in
A Wardman Theatre photo shows "Gone With The Wind' on its marquee.
As a child,  magically, I reveled in the Theatre's beautiful design.
The historic building eventually became a notorious 'pussycat theater'
and it is said, that when it succumbed to the 1987 Whittier earthquake
the original settlers of Whittier, the Quakers would have been pleased. 
what otherwise uptight, Whittier-ites would label as the 'Uptown Area.' I wasn't a city planner, but, in high school, that's what I thought about it all. In urban speak it could be described as beautiful tall and also less-tall buildings of commercial and office space, in the uptown (not downtown) area of historic Whittier, California.

The Wardman. As a kid, as a theatre patron, walking upstairs and then downstairs to this building's restrooms - one envisioned actually appearing in a Betty Davis/Joan Crawford movie - due to the hugely glamorous wide stairway with broad carpeting and curved out walls.

The Wardman. Built in 1932, its design and architecture was art deco with explosive interior Egyptian design touches. Illuminated-style signs were then luscious and vast wall to wall carpeting in a public
building was posh. Add beautifully carved bathroom sinks, oversized mirrors with sculptured hardware and the Wardman, was all things vintage, and lovely.

The Whittier Theatre was built in 1929 in Hacienda style.
It is still an active movie venue to this day.
Alternately, the Whittier Theatre was constructed in the Hacienda style, with Spanish sidewall styled architecture that even embraced its next-to, retail sites.

That theatre, the Whittier Theatre, the actual theater part of it, had a phenomenal ceiling that was painted to look like there were stars and clouds.

These were the venues that Bond, James Bond, entered into, in my home town.

"Dr. No," "From Russia With Love," and "Goldfinger," came to us from our own nearby Hollywood. My generation was introduced to the Cold War with the super-cool actor Sean Connery, playing the iconic British secret agent James Bond, aka, 007, and it was fabulous. Spies and all things spy even burst into our living rooms, first in black and white only, later in color, in television shows such as:

  • "The Man From U.N.C.L.E"
  • "Honey West"
  • "I Spy"
  • "The Avengers"
  • "Mission Impossible"

It was terrifically fun to be a kid, in the Whittier area of So. Cal. I lived large in a make-believe, spy-crazed, adventure world at home and even in otherwise-bored-moments at elementary school, at Charles T. Samuels.

I, personally, was partial to television female spy "Honey West," maybe because we were both blonde, and female.

I'd in fact taken her to Chicago with me and playing make believe, I was now lost, abandoned, in a blistering winter storm, dug in deep for comfort and well being in six feet tall snow. Everything about the current assignment was risky. But I was up for the task, that is, Honey West was.

A 6-year old Southern Californian with platinum blonde hair was now in Chicago, Illinois pretending to be female private detective, Honey West.

I really have few memories of my Daddy's parents, my Cardella grandparents, but I vividly remember this visit. The rear yard, the wallpapered dining room and the suburban, Chicago house. Their current winter snow storm was heavenly to my little girl blue eyes. It was 'postcard pretty' and evidently this snow scene prompted in my little girl brain the foundation for a real, new adventure with 'spydom'.

I was female private eye Honey West.

Sexy Honey West was in chase of renown international criminal/spy, "the Russian," as we called him, Boris Trotsky.

When you're Honey West, you're a hot chic who carries a gun! You're a black belt in Judo and you have your own 'Man Friday.'  I personally considered Sam Bolt to be more than that though, he was my partner and we were a first-rate team.

I communicated with Sam Bolt via a radio hidden in my lipstick case. So very ultra cool!

Without the American government knowing it, Boris Trotsky had entered the U.S. and stolen thousands of priceless diamonds from jewelry stores dotting all over the Chicago area. The jewels were worth millions and we knew Trotsky was even now making plans to dispatch them to the Russia, our Country's fiercest enemy.

Sam Bolt and I were top notch agents in Russian espionage. We'd know the Russian, Boris, by his distinct, tailored wool coat with Russian-sable collar and matching Russian-sable Ushanka hat. And of course, the ever present cigar stub, always in his mouth, but seldom lit.

Of all my private eye tools, my personal, favored ultra-cool spy tool was my lipstick case, two-way radio.

Being only six, I didn't even own lipstick. I improvised with a stick; I would talk into a stick.

It was imperative that I not be identified by the enemy (while also avoiding getting caught up in the yard's parameter, barbed-wire fence).

I was making my way, though, through the deep snow, most stealthly when I heard my Daddy. He was whistling to me from the concrete back steps of my Italian grandparents' home.

He was telling me that lunch was ready. Even spies get hungry. 
I was sad to give up my mission but then again happy to go into the warmth, where I quickly climbed into my daddy's lap.

He didn't care that I'd trudged in muck, wet shoes, and mess from the snow, or that I was carrying a stick. I loved him so. I was Joe's daughter. To me, my Daddy was Sam Bolt, my partner.

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