I was 14 years-old when the sitcom Barney Miller first aired. I loved that show. I thought it was hilarious. My favorite character was Officer Levitt. Remember him? He was the short cop with the big booming laugh, played by the actor Ron Carey.
Here’s how freaky time is…
After I graduated college, I moved to Hollywood. Like a million other young women, I had dreams of being an actress. I was in several plays before I found my home theatre. It was Celebration Theatre, the LGBT theatre in Hollywood. I auditioned for the play, The Well Of Horniness. Yep, its title is an irreverent nudge to Radclyffe Hall’s book, The Well of Loneliness.
(Does anyone else think Radclyffe Hall looks like Oscar Wilde? Separated at birth, maybe? I love this picture! Mainly, for the cute Chinese pug she’s holding.)
The Well of Horniness was originally written as a radio play. It was written by Holly Hughes. She won an NEA grant for writing it. Then the grant was taken away from her because of its lesbian content. You may remember Holly Hughes as one of the NEA Four who made national headlines for being denied a grant. The artist Robert Mapplethorpe was another of the NEA Four.
I auditioned for and got the lead in the play. It’s a slapstick adventure about a naive straight woman who is introduced to the lesbian lifestyle. The play was a smash success, running past its originally scheduled four weeks. It ran to sold-out audiences for over a year and was nominated for a score of awards.
One of my favorite memories was being onstage and hearing a loud, booming laugh that brayed above the rest of the audience’s laughter. I recognized that laugh, but for the life of me couldn’t figure out from where.
Backstage, during intermission, the director told the cast that Ron Carey was in the audience and was laughing his ass off.
It struck me then that just a mere 15 years ago I had been laughing at Ron Carey’s performance in Barney Miller and now he was laughing at my performance.
Funny how life moves in circles like that.
Ron Carey came backstage after the show to meet me. From that moment on, I became friends with him and his wife, Sharon. They came and saw me in several other plays I was in. Some of my favorite Los Angeles experiences were when I met them for gelato at their favorite Italian hangout on Robertson, Al Gelato. It was there that Ron introduced me to several other artists I greatly admired: Joe Bologna (he passed away only a month ago) and his wife, the fabulous actress and writer, Renee Taylor. In fact, Renee was inspirational in getting me to start my own writing career.
I was living back in Oklahoma when I heard that Ron passed away. That was a sad day. I truly hated to think of a world without him in it. But, I swear, every time I think about Ron I can hear his loud booming laughter. It’s enough to make me smile. Every single time.
Have you read books 1 and 2 of the True Heart series? Book 3, Change of Heart, is coming soon!