One step out here in Los Angeles got a pleasant boost when an NBC staffer I met after one of my presentations at my alma mater, California State University, Fullerton, on Monday asked if we (hubby’s here with me) planned to go to Jay Leno’s show. We thought that would be fun, we said. She could arrange it, she said. I told her I had sent Leno a signed copy of my book — in which he’s mentioned — a couple of months ago in appreciation for his generousity during the Simpson murder trial. He had performed a private show — monologue, band, the works — for the jurors after learning that we had to scrap the idea of having the jurors, who were sequestered, attend his show in Burbank because his production crew couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be shown on TV. (California prohibits photographing and televising jurors.)
When the NBC staffer emailed me about the date and time she had arranged for us to attend the show, she said that after the taping we could meet Leno and give him a copy of my book.
The news yesterday that Leno had checked himself into the hospital because he wasn’t feeling well was certainly disturbing enough and we were wishing the best for him. This morning’s news that he’s OK and will be back at work was doubly good. He’s not seriously ill, number one. But it means our visit scheduled for Tuesday (28th) is still on. Tune in. Who knows, a camera sweep of the audience my catch our happy Cheesehead faces!
So the trip so far has included three presentations to university journalism media law classes — about 300 students and a number of faculty, and speaking to half-a-dozen service clubs and a journalism class at UCLA. I’ll do a couple more talks — a USC jounalism class and another service club — and do a radio interview before winging home to South Milwaukee next Thursday.
We’re also taking time for a little fun. In addition to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno next Tuesday, we’re hitting the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA on Sunday. I couldn’t cough up the $1,000 display book fee for “Anatomy” so we’re wearing our “Anatomy” tshirts and taking a supply of “Anatomy” bookmarks to give anyone we strike up a conversation with and attending a panel discussion on the “Packaging Fear: The Art of Persuasion” that includes former Cal State Fullerton jounalism professor, Nancy Snow, who is now on faculty at Syracuse University. It’ll be great to see her again. A friend here is hosting a small book-signing party Sunday evening. We’re hanging out with our son, Chapen, at a shoot of a TV program he’s working on as editor, and going to his kickball game on Monday night.
A highlight, though, was yesterday. We took the subway — yes, Los Angeles has a subway! — from where we’re staying in Hollywood Hills, to the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown — catty-cornered, in fact, from the County Courthouse where I worked for more than a decade. I watched this fantastic Frank Gehrey creation go up — with its unique stainless steel tulip petal-shaped facades — mystified over where in the world the auditoruim would be located. (Turns out that’s literally a concrete box that was plopped own in the space provided in the middle of the structure.) Despite numerous trips to L.A. after we moved to South Milwaukee seven years ago, I had never toured the WD Concert Hall.
While on our guided tour yesterday, which consisted of four of us — Hib, me, a screenwriter who lives in Palos Verdes and our guide — our guide suddenly whispered, “Oh, do you know who that is?” We were outside in a gardened courtyard viewing a tulip petal-shaped projection and three people were approaching from the opposite direction. We said, no.
“It’s the soloist!” she said. “Nathaniel Ayres. The movie about him opens tomorrow night.”
Next thing we knew, she spoke to the man. She was so smooth, so low key. Then the four of us fell into conversation with him and his two companions, who turned out to be relatives visiting from Ohio. “He wanted to show us his city,” the woman, who was his sister-in-law, said.
The movie, “The Soloist,” is about Ayres, a classically trained musician who, because of mental illness, ended up homeless in Los Angeles where a Los Angeles Times columnist encountered him and began to write about him.
Ayres is no longer homeless. He’s living in an apartment, he said, with a leaky faucet. He told us about meeting Jamie Foxx who plays him in the movie, his reaction when he attended the premier (he wore a blindfold he said, which enabled him to focus on the music and other audio, and, he said, “it absorbed my tears.” Although he didn’t say specifically, it was obvious that the tears were of joy.
So a beneficial trip so far. Most gratifying is the reaction of the journalism students who were assigned “Anatomy of a Trial” as required reading and said it was a fascinating book, and members of service clubs where I’ve spoken who said they wished to program could have been longer.