Schulenberg’s Page: Scripts and Skits on the Sunset Strip

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Guitarist Chris Crockett treating us to a private performance at home, December 8th, 1971.

December, 1971. I was visiting my family in California for the holidays.

I was staying in my brother’s house in the hills overlooking Studio City and trying to accustom myself to domesticity and the fact that everything — including entertainment occurred at home.

Chris Crockett and his wife were friends and he was (and still is) a professional guitarist. After dinner he gave us a private performance.

Here’s Chris today!

I visited my old friend from my UCLA days, Pattie Sauers. Her father was the actor Joe Sawyer, a very familiar face from old movies.

His German name, Sauers, had been changed to the more familiar “Sawyer” as was common before Streisand refused to be Barbara Sand!

He had been in 300+ movies having started in 1927 and played heavies — a gangster, a cop, military types (usually a sergeant) and even comedic types.

Here’s Sawyer in a Paramount Studios publicity photo with Mary Treen.

Pattie Sauers reading about the crows in Friendly Fairies, which was a bestseller in the 1920s thanks to its cute characters and beautiful color illustrations.

Pattie had lived in Manhattan and even been featured on Broadway playing Ernestina in HELLO DOLLY with Betty Grable. Barbra gave her a small bit in the television special, The Belle of 14th Street.

There’s Pattie on the top left!

I had first met Pattie when I was a UCLA graduate student having finished my compulsory term drafted into the army and being stationed at the (then) little known Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama.

Here I am in Huntsville, Alabama.

Pattie was a friend of Paul Bartel and Barry (born Barre) Dennen. They were undergraduates in the Theater Arts department.

Barre/Barry after moving to Manhattan.

Pattie Sauers and Paul Bartel in Los Angeles, 1961. Photographed by Bob Stone.

Barry had gotten Pattie, Paul and some other UCLA friends together to perform pantomime skits he had devised and he’d persuaded the management of The Unicorn, a coffee house on the Sunset Strip, to allow them to perform the skits there.

Bob Stone and I built a collapsible portable stage platform and we were in business!

Bob Stone photographed me on our portable stage.

Pattie and I went out for coffee and during our visit we found a photo booth.

Pattie had a long struggle with her weight. While living on the East Coast she had gone to a weight loss farm in upstate New York and had lost a great amount of weight. She had appeared to have a complicated relationship with her family but never really spoke about it. Rumor had it that it was related to her weight.

We couldn’t resist!

Years later, she moved into a beautiful cottage in Pacific Grove near Monterey and Carmel — completely Pattie-style with richly colored floral chintzes and a lush, cottage garden. She had been caring for herself after having developed diabetes and was finally given a prognosis of eventual blindness.

The disease progressed and she was told that with the blindness if she stayed in her home she’d need a full time caregiver. Or she could move to an assisted living facility.

Both of these prospects were not acceptable to her and she decided that she didn’t want to live like that. She had a plan and with a trusted friend obtained a large quantity of sleeping pills.

I was told that she wrote a note and left it on her front door.


And that was it!

During my visit to Los Angeles I couldn’t help but visit a studio. I still had fantasies about working in movies but this time I noticed how young the crew members were! That was intimidating.

Going to lunch at Musso & Frank I was pleased and surprised to see Al Nickel, who was the head of Western Costume the company that supplied movies with their wardrobes — whether they were designed or out of stock. Western’s large building was at that time just next to the De Mille Gate at Paramount Studios.

Paramount Studios Bronson Gate (1933)

They’re now located way out in the San Fernando Valley which to me and possibly other old-timers seems inappropriate and very un-Hollywood!

I’d been introduced to Al Nickel by Moss Mabry who’d been the designer for Giant designing 40+ costumes for Elizabeth Taylor and the costumes for Rebel Without A Cause including the iconic red jacket worn by James Dean!

Al Nickel gave me an assignment to (freelance) design several period costumes for Eleanor Parker for the movie with Clark Gable, The King and Four Queens. I did and was feeling optimistic that I might actually have a future with an interesting career!

Eleanor Parker.

I had also been accepted to design for the television production of Sid and Marty Krofft’s Les Poupées de Paris but the show got canceled!

Unfortunately, before I could continue with other projects I graduated from UCLA and was immediately drafted!

Now, it was time to take my mother and go to Fresno. She had originally driven down for Christmas but now we were heading north for New Years!

My nieces’ Christmas tree in the den.
My niece Katie at Uncle Nate’s house the following day.

To break up the drive we stopped for lunch in Bakersfield.

And then it was New Year’s Eve and we were invited to a party at a local restaurant where our hosts had taken over the place!

My mother invited friends over to see me. She’d been such a good public relations person representing me that they really did seem to be dying to see me! Since the time I was working in Paris she sought out the European publications my work was appearing in and would take them to luncheons, club meetings and card parties and share my work with everyone!

Aside from being maternally proud of me, I think she was also relieved finding that I was able to make a living doing something that I’d always done!

A special friend invited me to come to dinner, Jane (née Breckenridge) Palmatier whom I’d known since we were 14!

She was very artistically gifted with a discerning eye.

Although she had so much knowledge about so many things she had possibly the lowest self esteem of anyone I’ve ever known. I have some ideas about how she got that way but I’m not qualified to really know.

Her home was a virtual treasure trove of furnishings and art objects!

There was an early 20th century Steinway grand piano and a lot of silver candle holders and candelabra all of which were shedding a soft light.

I was appreciative of the Art Nouveau silverware that we were using and Jane explained that she had collected it piece by piece by searching antique shops and even thrift stores and that they now had a complete set!

She had become an expert on the subject of silver and was mentioned in several publications and yet she still apologized about almost everything!

The crowning glory of the setting was an enormous oil painting — obviously from The Golden Age of Dutch Painting! It portrayed a coach with well dressed people (aristocrats?) standing and watching a peasants’ wedding celebration. I was stupefied and asked how in the world they’d gotten it?

Jane smiled and told the story.

She and her husband Leonard, had been driving through Northern California near the Oregon border and found a rural antique shop. They could never resist an antique shop and this one looked particularly promising.

They noticed an enormous unframed painting with an image so obscured by seeming centuries of dusty grime that it was impossible to know what the subject was. Jane and Leonard checked the back of it and noticed that it had been restretched with “new” stretcher bars — but this had been done so long ago that they were as aged and dirty as everything else!

They decided it was worth buying and offered $100 for it. The proprietor was thrilled to be rid of it. It freed up so much space!

Jane and Leonard squeezed it into their van and rushed home to Fresno!

Leonard was a master craftsman and cautiously and carefully strengthened the back of the piece while Jane investigated the front — the image.

Years before, she had taken a museum class in painting restoration and this was the time to use her knowledge. She started delicately to clean it with Q-tips and a special solvent used by professionals and slowly — very very slowly — an image was appearing. It took her over a year but at the end there was this radiant painting with glowing colors.

The centuries of accumulating filth had fallen away as if it had never been there!

And there was the c. 1900 (or earlier) child’s chair that Leonard had put together from a pile of mahogany sticks. They had found a photograph of William Randolph Hearst as a child standing next to the identical chair!

There was so much but you get the idea.

Jane was still apologetic saying that she knew that this was not what I was used to in glamorous Manhattan. I thought to myself of how I usually dined over the sink in my “glamorous” minuscule Manhattan kitchen in my rent-controlled apartment!

She was right!

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