I miss the giant scrubs, the ones who love-swayed in the midnight hour as though our back yard was a ball room for waltzing oaks. In my darkest hour, you gave refuge to my soul while I sat under your merciful bough and wept in my never-ending fruitless search for the me of myself. I felt your laughter when I lamented, “You and I are so alike; both of us look better with clothes on.” Come quickly spring.
© 2020 Jennifer Brookins

Sex is an hors d’oeuvre in Hollywood

tharon ann

An excerpt from Tharon Ann.

“Every day I run back and forth to the Chinese Grauman Theatre, working crazy odd hours with breaks in between shows. Oh, the life of an usherette. Ha! At least I have a job, and one step closer to my goal. I have to start somewhere. I’ll never let anyone push me in the dirt again. Never.

It’s so cool living at the Hollywood Studio Club. It feels like a luxury hotel, but it’s more like a sorority house for starlets and other show folk like me floating around trying to get their foot in a door – any door. Lots of contract players from major studios live here. There’s so much to say about this town – the seedy underbelly of ambition, the many times I’ve been in a car when suddenly his arm slides down, and confuses my leg for the gearshift. Sex is an hors d’oeuvre in Hollywood, a precursor to fast-tracking goals, a route I won’t take – thank you very much.

After dinner I decide to sit in the lobby and work on a scene from This Property is Condemned, a one act play by Tennessee Williams, for acting class tomorrow. My room is so small, the lobby is the only place to read and study; the other residents do the same. It’s also where guests come to visit. No one is allowed upstairs with the exception of those who live here.

I’m sitting here with my nose in a script when I’m hit on by one of Howard Hughes, or so he says, talent scouts – like seriously, who can believe anyone in this town. He is a tall, nondescript man who tries to strike up a conversation about how hard it is to get parts in Holly- wood if you don’t know the right people. The man says he’s waiting for someone who lives here that was just put under contract to Howard Hughes, along with his pitch that he is setting her up in a new apartment. In addition, he pays all her expenses and pushes her career. He asks me the question, “What do you think of that?” Without looking up, I reply in my old Southern accent, “Sounds good to me.” Those words are the ammunition for his big finale.

He continues to explain that when Hughes calls for this girl, she must be available for him. He makes it sound like such a great

opportunity, that if I’m interested he can make it happen for me too. This guy is the usual Hollywood wall snot. I’m insulted by his offer.

In my softest Southern ladylike voice, I look directly into his eyes and without blinking an eyelash, smile sweetly and ask, ‘Would you kindly take that offer and shove it up your ass?’

He’s shocked by my reply, but I continue to focus my glassy stare on his very nervous face. I have no idea what he is about to say; I take the lead once again and continue our one-sided conversation, ‘If you so much as look at me again, I’ll have you arrested for pimping.’ I’m angry because I know I’m better than this. Perfect timing. The girl he’s been waiting for enters the room. He quickly turns from me. She’s happy to see him. Smiling, he takes her hand and they leave. I know her. She is Elizabeth Taylor gorgeous.

A week or so later I notice that same girl in the dining room. She catches my eye and motions me to come join her for dinner. After we exchange the usual chitchat, I begin to describe my brief encounter with the so-called Howard Hughes guy she went out with. To my surprise, she’s genuinely happy I have an opportunity to get ahead in this town. Still thinking she’s putting me on, I laugh and begin to share my exact words to “pimpman,” that I have no interest in being any man’s whore-girl. Horrified, she abruptly gets up and leaves the room in a huff. She never speaks to me again. Well go damn figure Hollywood.

I share a room the size of a shoebox with a goofy dancer at the Hollywood Studio Club. She has the one single bed in the room. Mine is on the sleeping porch at the end of the hall, number fifteen to be exact, where the Miss Universe contestants dream of becoming queen of the world during runoffs. She reminds me of a slightly off-centered Christmas tree angel. Each morning on the way to ballet class, she walks through the Hollywood Farm Market to test sausage samples for breakfast. Betsy’s leaving soon to go back home and marry her high school sweetheart. I’m glad. She would never survive Hollywood; way too sweet for this town … reminds me of back home. I’ll miss her when she’s gone.

I know what I want. When push comes to shove, I’m a survivor. Otherwise, how did I live through the first two years in Hollywood trying to break into television, trying to get an agent, trying to get anything. Agents always tell me the same thing, “Little lady, you’re no hothouse orchid. You got no headlights and a voice like Minnie Pearl. Take your cute little ass back to Little Rock and marry the milkman, but whatever you do – get out of show business. You’re in way over your head. You’ll never make it.”

Actually, I do have an agent of sorts who calls herself, “Mrs. Virginia, agent for the stars.” She represents midgets, talking dogs, parrots, jugglers, a ventriloquist, a spider monkey she stole from a street vendor and me. One day, she calls to say that such and such is casting a great role, “Dahling, you’re perfect for the part. It will put you on top dahling. Now you must be there on time dahling.”

I suspect Mrs. Virginia is a man in drag. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. She has a deep, show biz voice sprinkled with “dahling this” and “dahling that” in every conversation. Whenever she opens her mouth, I envision hot prune juice running down the side of her face.

When I arrive at the casting office, Mrs. Virginia’s entire circus act is in the lobby, flying and swinging in all their glory. Are we here for the same part? It could happen. This is Hollywood. I take her into my confidence, cough a few times on my sleeve and explain that I’m dying of tuberculosis, adding in my sweetest voice, “I haven’t the heart to waste your precious time.”

I may be new to the Hollywood scene but I’ve come a long way from this type of mass cattle call, and half-assed agents who book clowns and monkeys for car shows in shopping malls. It’s easy to be eaten alive in this town.

Being a starlet has the same value as a cheerleader in a nursing home. My dream is to be a real actress on Broadway. Last week, someone from the Actor’s Studio told me Hollywood actors aren’t respected on or off-Broadway. Well, that’s great, but I need to pay the rent. I have to begin somewhere.

At last, my foot is finally in the Hollywood door doing bit parts on television shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Father Knows Best, Dobie Gillis, Suspicion etc. If you blink you’ll miss me, but it’s something. Warner Brothers grinds out shows, one hit after the other. Sitcoms sweep the nation week after week. One of the most popular is 77 Sunset Strip starring Ephrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith, along with Edd Byrnes and Connie Stevens. Overnight, Edd has become a household name after his hit record, “Kookie, Kookie Lend me your Comb.” Teeny boppers go wild for this song. When Edd’s contract is up for renewal, his agent holds out for more money. Where Jack Warner is concerned actors are dispensable, no matter their popularity. Edd wants more money than Jack Warner thinks he’s worth, and fires him. That’s the end of his rising star, his agent’s big commission, and another hard lesson to learn in this town. The pendulum swings both ways. A headliner today stands in the unemployment line tomorrow.

My agent just called to say I got the job I auditioned for months ago … so excited I can hardly breathe. I’ll be part of a summer repertory company in Connecticut as well as a proud, card-carrying member of Actor’s Equity, and the union dues that go with it. He tells me to buy a plane ticket and be there in two weeks. Whoo! Whoo!

Summer stock isn’t what I expected. I hardly have time to unpack! On the upside, it’s an opportunity to learn the techniques of performing on stage with well-known character actors like Dora Merande, a great comedian in her late seventies. She makes it her life’s ambition to stand in the wings each night and critique my every performance – comedy in particular. Dora is like a badger hunting prey, her long nose always checking me out, her buzzard-like eyes, small, squinty blue dots that at first glance seem cold, unyielding and lacking in humor. On the other hand, her odd-shaped nose has made a grateful friend out of me. If I look at it long enough, it begins to assume a life all its own.

Dora feels it’s less painful to teach me her lifelong bag of comedy trade secrets than to have me step on her laugh lines every night for the rest of the summer. She’s tutoring me in all the tricks of comedy, how to come in when a laugh peaks, how not to step on a laugh line, how to do a double-take in a natural way, how to take a slap, how to give a slap, how to take a fall without breaking every bone in my body, how not to upstage another actor, and how to upstage another actor. In short, she has become my mentor in comedy, and likes me despite herself. I adore her, and hang on every word she says. Lucky for me, because directors in summer stock have little time for anything outside of blocking scenes and preventing the actors from killing each other. We rehearse next week’s play from early morning until late afternoon. Afterward we go home, wash up, and grab a bite before returning to perform the play of the week for packed houses six days a week. Monday is dark. This is hard, grueling work, not at all what I thought it would be, but I’m not complaining. Where else could I learn the technique of performing on stage, as opposed to television and film – two different mediums. I’m lucky they hired me; at least that’s what Dora says. Ha! During the day, I rehearse for next week’s lead role of the sexy waitress Cherie in Bus Stop. In the evening I play twelve year old Ann Frank in The Diary of Ann Frank. When Bus Stop is in performance, we begin rehearsals for Separate Tables. I’ve learned so much from this strenuous schedule. The disciplined give and take of ensemble acting isn’t for sissies. Not a week passes, I’m not taken to task by the older, seasoned cast members. I hope to have more confidence in myself by summer’s end. Saying goodbye to Dora won’t be easy. Seems like that’s all I ever do. “

Five-star reviews on Amazon

A beautiful story of bravery, tragedy, independence

Tharon Ann, by author Jennifer Brookins is a wonderful read! A young woman begins her journey to chase her dreams from the Deep South to Hollywood, enduring a number of difficulties and overcoming the hardships of single motherhood to a wonderful ending and to the lovely woman known to us today. She teaches us to reach for our dreams, and though life sometimes seems senseless, in the long run good things do come. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves biographies or for just a delightful read. Check this out!” 

-C.C. Cole


India with Backpack and a Prayer

An excerpt from India with Backpack and Prayer

We arrive at Indira Gandhi Airport and go through the usual rigors of Homeland Security, passport checks, exhausted crabby travellers, and the endless wait for luggage. As for me, my thoughts are focused on meeting Baba Ji in Tarn Taran as promised. I am overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Delhi, the colorful style of Hindi and Punjabi dress, and rickshaws designed for two carrying three or four people pulled by one slightly built man. These manual drivers usually come from the lower strata of society and work 12-14 hours daily for a couple of rupees during monsoon season to cold winter months. I see Indians travelling on bicycles; orange-robed sadhus begging for money; Indian music piped from loudspeakers; whiffs of curry, masala, and other Indian spices.
Everywhere I look there are women beggars holding babies, children beggars, invalid beggars, elderly beggars, and homeless beggars sleeping on sidewalks. I thought the streets of New York were crowded but I’ve never seen anything like this. Delhi is a wall-to-wall mass of people. India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and often referred to as the cradle of humanity. This ancient land seems so familiar to me. I continue to have feelings of déjà vu .As we head through the terminal exit I notice several Indian men smiling and waving their arms in our direction. Baba Ji sent Ashok Pabbi and two others to pick us up and drive to his home where we’ll spend the night with his family. Early tomorrow morning they will drive us to the train station. We’re minutes from his home when Doug, embarrassed many times over, says,
“I’m so sorry but I left one of our suitcases at the terminal.”
They are very gracious, and reassure him they will return to the airport before sunrise, retrieve his lost luggage, and exchange the train ticket for another later in the morning. How can we express our gratitude to such loving souls? Each time we try to thank them, the answer is always the same:
“Please. Baba Ji’s Grace.”
I’ve never met people like this. They are service oriented and give without expectation of reward or praise. Ashoks wife welcomes us as though we are old friends. She has prepared a late meal that is out of this world: fried prantas* filled with onion and potatoes, homemade yogurt, and chai made with buffalo milk. Yummy. Afterwards, we’re taken to a bedroom already prepared for our short stay. Tomorrow is a busy day. We sleep in our clothes for a few hours. At 4 a.m. Archana knocks on our door and says,
“Naashte da time ho gya.”
Translation: Time for breakfast Ashok and his team have already eaten but sit with us for morning tea. They look fresh, energized, ready, willing, and able. We look sleepless, frazzled, and half-alive.
No sooner do we finish breakfast than our luggage is whisked to the car. They drive us back to the airport to fetch one more piece of luggage, then race to the Delhi train station for an eight hour train ride to Amritsar. From there Baba Ji’s driver will take us to Tarn Taran. One thing I will never forget is how attentive Baba Ji is. Every now and then Ashok calls to let him know where we are, how we are and says,
“Yes, Baba Ji, their flight went well.”
Despite his age, poor health, and twenty hour days of travelling, giving satsang, dealing with satsangis and non-satsangies the world over, he continues to oversee construction at Dera. All this and he wants to make sure we’re okay. Regardless of his health Baba Ji always puts the welfare of others before himself. The Delhi terminal is filled with people lined up for tickets while others have their arms around loved ones saying their last goodbyes. Some look like they’ve lost their best friend, others frustrated because they can’t find the right platform to board. Doug and I look more like tired children, our hands held tight by Ashok and team to ensure we don’t get lost in this mass of international travellers. The world over train stations have the same smell: wave-like puffs of steam telling passengers it’s time to board. Baba Ji’s sevadars* guide us through a pushy crowd anxious to get a window seat. They hold our hands until we step onto the boarding platform, hoist our luggage onto the rack above and strap us in as the wheels begin to crank up. Call me crazy but this train’s about to leave
with them still on it. Smiling, they reassure us we’ll see them tonight for Baba Ji’s birthday celebration. As they leave, the train gradually picks up speed. They remain on the platform until the train is out of sight. I look out the window and watch their faces slowly fade away, hard to believe it’s still early morning. Each time we try and thank them, the answer is always the same:“No thanks, Baba Ji’s Grace.” In the states, we call this type of train a Red Eye, and the seats hard-tail. I quickly tell myself it doesn’t matter, that in a few hours we will be with Baba Ji. I doze off only to be awakened by my armrest hitting me on the head. I grumble to an Indian food vendor who doesn’t speak a lick of English. The more I try and explain, the more politely he doesn’t understand. Finally, I pantomime the armrest hitting my head. He laughs and says,
“Ah yes madam fix, fix.”
He pulls it back in place, tightens the knob, returns to his cart, and moves on. Doug tells me to adjust to the situation instead of complaining as I roll up my shawl to put behind his back. I think to myself,
” Easy to say for someone not sitting in an aisle seat with an warped armrest.”
Like clockwork every forty-five minutes it flies up and konks me on the head. Each time it happens, I flag the food vendor, point to the armrest against my forehead, growl as he adjusts it for the twentieth time, and remember Doug’s advice.
“Just flash him a big smile and thank him.” I think to myself,
“Next time I’ll hoof it.”
He smiles, shows lots of white teeth, and continues to push his food cart down the aisle until he hears my next ouch. There is a reason for whatever happens in life, better stated as the karmic law of cause and effect. Also referred to as “as you sow, so shall you reap.” I shouldn’t have lost my temper with the food vendor, but I did and honestly, let’s face it, I could have been killed. Why do I always make excuses? There is an old Indian saying,
“Jado v chela tyaar hunda, guru pragat ho janda.”
Translation: When the student is ready the teacher appears. I’ve had that experience. There are no grey zones on this Path. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, good grief it’s a duck! “

Hollywood Junkies and Strip Joints

Jennifer Brookins author

From Tharon Ann – a memoir by Jennifer Brookins

“I’m head over heels in love for the first time in my life – with his Cherokee good looks, his soft blue eyes and long black hair in contrast to his fair skin. He’s got a gentle way about everything he does, the way he says my name, the way he lifts my hair and kisses me on the back of my neck. Here I am not even twenty and loving so new to me. I’m also in love with a career I don’t have yet. Now for the reality check. I spend most of my fairy tale marriage traveling back and forth on a bus to Chino State Prison whenever he’s busted for drugs. Each time I visit, I get body searched for weapons and dope. It has a stench about it that follows me until I get home and soak in the tub for an hour. It’s the odor of hell that eeks out the pores of everyone locked up in there. Chino is the only place he’s able to clean up from smack, and that only lasts a week or so after he’s released before he’s back on the street again. When I married him, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was so naïve. It didn’t take long to discover it was heroin that gave him the illusion of being something he wasn’t. Maybe buried beneath the layers of dope is the person he could have been. I smoke pot but I’m too vain to have track marks up my legs and arms like him. Sure I dabble with drugs, but I know enough to stay away from the hard stuff. I’d go so far out, I’d never come back. It’s easy to understand how he became a druggie. At sixteen, he was still in high school, already playing in jazz clubs around Manhattan and gaining a reputation for being one of the best jazz drummers around. One day the telephone rang and the voice on the other end asked for him. Naturally, his mother thought the call was for her husband as they have the same first name. She told the voice he was doing studio work, and that she would give him the message when he got home from work. The caller was the great jazz musician Charlie Parker who had no interest in the father but great interest in his son. Billy dropped out of high school and joined Charlie Parker’s famous band thinking it was the greatest moment in his life, not realizing at the time that it was the beginning of the end. I can’t help wondering why God doesn’t flag the events of our lives that will destroy it. I sometimes wonder how Billy felt playing with the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived – all strung out on heroine. He was the only white boy playing in Charlie Parker’s band. At sixteen, he switched from pot to smack, the perfect way to ward off stress and blend in. But today, he’s just another unemployed, strung out musician.Lots of jazz musicians work in clubs like The Hot Kitty Cat, a well known strip house on Sunset Blvd. Billy was one of them and talked the owner into hiring me as a waitress. I’m nervous about working in a place like that but we’re broke. Lucky for me, someone just quit and I’m hired on the spot. The owner orders me to wear stiletto heels, black mesh hose, devil red lipstick, a bustier and shorts so short men felt free to pinch my ass before I have the chance to knock the bejesus out of them. These horny old men think I’m for sale. I hate working here but I have to pay the rent. Billy shoots our paychecks wherever he can find a healthy vein in his arm or leg. Today the electric was shut off.Several days pass before I finally get the hang of this place. For me to get a tip all depends on how well I play the game. I’m a fast learner when it comes to playing games without being touched. The dressing rooms for strippers are located backstage, directly across from where the bartenders make drinks; they never shut their doors. I can’t help but see what these strippers do in front of the bartenders, waitresses, or anyone else who has the bad luck of being condemned to working in this X rated hell hole. I don’t have a temperament for this crowd. The Hot Kitty Cat, one of the most popular night spots in Hollywood, is packed every night with famous, as well as not so famous, male actors, producers, directors, and men trying to grab a cheap thrill. Some try to get it on with the waitresses by sticking a large bill down their boobs. If one of them tries that on me, I’ll knock him to hell and back. I can’t stand much more of this place. Tonight, as I’m going through my usual drill of wading through smoke and tables so close together that I’m amazed at the balancing act I’ve learned carrying oversize trays of drinks to balding horned toads, I bend over to serve a large group of white haired men, when one old man grabs a handful. I’m so mad I purposely drop the tray of drinks as hard as I can on his bald head, as glasses of booze crash down, scattering here and there in the most unlikely places, staining their Rodeo Drive suits and ties, while at the same time strains of “What the hell you bitch!” and “Someone get this bitch out of here!” are heading straight to the owner’s ear. Do me a favor and fire me! I’ve had enough of this hell hole! All my pent up anger shoots back “Kiss my ass, you sons of bitches! I’m calling your wife and telling her where you are and what you’re doing! I’m out of here and kiss my ass again!” Heads are turning. People are beginning to enjoy the little side show coming from the table of men and me, rather than the strippers. Here she comes. The owner is heading my way. I turn to her and shout, “Keep my paycheck and buy yourself a new face!” Then, I take off my high heels and throw them as far as I can back into the crowded smoke filled room. So long hell! I’m out of here!Every day I plead with Billy to let me help him clean up. I can’t unless he agrees to the hell days of withdrawals. If a ten year old girl can live through DTs with an alcoholic, shouldn’t I be able to help him? I want to. I’m naive enough to think I can, but then again didn’t I learn my lesson with Uncle Zack? I’m trying to make myself believe a part of Billy’s sick. We drive to a small bungalow on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood where he scores from two mean, skinny lesbians – the nasty bitches. We go inside. Three junkies I don’t recognize are making jokes about two young narcotic cops who sent them to Chino twice, but now work the Hollywood scene. These guys are blond, good looking narcos who resemble the Crosby boys. A middle aged gaunt faced man walks over to the three junkies, and motions for them to follow him to the back room. I always wait up front, never where the deals go down in the back, but if this place is busted, I’ll go down with every one else. I’m standing here feeling very uncomfortable, not knowing what to do or what not to do when I look over and wonder if it’s my imagination that a girl wearing blue silk pajamas hiked up to her knee caps, is sprawled out on a couch by the window. I walk to that side of the room and find a young girl with long auburn colored hair, maybe my age – maybe younger, with fresh track marks running up her legs and arms. Another young woman who is waiting to score walks over to me, confiding that the girl on the couch is the daughter of a famous movie star. When I ask what’s wrong with her, quite matter-of-factually she shrugs and replies, “She just shot up,” and abruptly, turns and walks back, anxious she’ll miss her turn to score. No sooner do I sit down beside the girl on the couch, than she reaches out for my hand, her fingers cold and lifeless. The man volunteers this girl is about to enjoy a large inheritance on her eighteenth birthday. She is a hard core junky, very young, very beautiful, very strung out, and biding time for death to come. She will never see eighteen.I’m almost out the door when the telephone rings. I answer. It’s Billy. I know from the tone of his voice that he’s hurting; a voice unable to score, one that is lost in the bottom of a well. He begins to cry, “Tharon honey, I’m sorry but I can’t take it anymore.” He’s begging me to help him clean up. I make him tell me where he is. I tell him to wait there … that I’ll throw some things in a bag and pick him up; we’ll drive to Malibu, lock ourselves in a motel room and just do it. Outside of going back to Chino, it’s the only way. I say, “Wait … please don’t go … just wait … Billy, just wait … I’ll pick you up in thirty minutes … it’ll be alright … don’t cry … it’ll be alright baby.” There he is. An immediate wave of sadness runs through me seeing him like this, standing on the corner in front of Barney’s Beanery. He was my first love, handsome, talented and so gentle. Now look – gaunt and thin with track marks on his arms and legs. Not even looking at me, barely mumbling hello, he gets in the car and we drive to a motel in Malibu. He tells me in advance that no matter what he says, I’m not to let him out of the room. He tells me to hide the car keys as well as the key to our room. There are no words to describe what it’s like trying to hold on to someone going through heroin withdrawals, to someone who isn’t here. By day three, I’m sick from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, and he’s sick from hurting. He’s freaking out; he’s threatening to kill me if I don’t give him the keys and what little money I have. His hands around my neck, he’s screaming in my ear, “Give it! Give it! I’ll choke you to death Tharon! Give me the goddamn keys or I’ll kill you … you’re a dead bitch!” He’ll kill me if I don’t do something. I give him my purse. He throws it on the bed, and takes all the money I have … twenty-five dollars. I unlock the motel door, and tell him the car keys are under the mat on the driver’s side. They aren’t. I’m not giving them to him; he’ll sell my car for a fix. He grabs the money out of my hand and shoves me aside. As he runs to the car, I quickly lock the door to our room. He’ll be back when he can’t find the keys. I’m so scared I can hardly breath. He’s back …now he’s banging on the door and threatening to kill me again. “Get out of here Billy. The police are on their way.” This will be a long night. I’m sitting on the floor, my back propped up against the wall in wait for dawn, to make sure he’s gone. He’s looking to score. After that he’ll be ok … until the next time when he thoughtlessly shoots up again.

Amazon Five-star review by Shirley Priscilla Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE: “This book will touch your heart, your mind, your Spirit. It will make you stop and think about the world that was and the one we live in now. It is both down to earth, yet goes deep into the Heart and Soul. A story of love, a story of pain, a story of battles, some won, some lost. Excellent read that you will never forget. Book received for an honest review.”

Tharon Ann Book Review

book review tharon ann

One of my all-time favorite books, period! I fell in love with the young, sassy and hysterical, “Tharon Ann” who grew into the pained but stunning woman. A woman who somehow managed to survive all the pain and injustice thrown her way. The child, the actress, the mother, and the roadrunner all wrapped up to become the irresistible poet and writer we know today. Weaver, keep her tenderly in the palm of your hand she deserves your love.” Dennis John Ferado 


Poor little human heart, I’m vexed you refuse to look beyond your nose. Let’s sit together this early morning like two old grizzlies drinking coffee and eating nachos while dawn wraps herself around our shoulders. Look … the sun is coming up like mangoes and ripe persimmons. Isn’t love grand ….
© jb


young girl

A little Punjabi girl with long black hair and denim coveralls, triggered this feeling of déjà vu:

“The year is almost over; I’ve hardly had time to fly my kite or make a party dress for my magic skin doll. And, doncha know the roof on my tree house still has a big hole in it. Why is it that everything I love goes away, but what I can’t stand hangs around forever? I think I’ll go to Willard’s Drugstore, and have a cherry phosphate. Sitting at the counter helps me figure out stuff.”

© jb


An excerpt from Tharon Ann – a memoir by Jennifer Brookins

“I’ve gone from a scrappy kid wondering when I’d get to China digging a hole in the backyard with a spoon, to being a Hollywood starlet, then to Broadway and the high life, to the present. I’m a very pregnant crazy lady with two little kids and ten hours out from a long, hot cross country drive across America in my old Chevy. I can’t sleep for all the memories running through my head. If there was ever a time for a mind boggling quote from Dylan or a sobering passage from Moby Dick, that rambling classic with a point I never quite grabbed by the tail – this is it. Oh, and just in case I forget to mention it, with so much going on and all, my future looks like zip, and what really happened to J.D. Salinger?
The big day is here. Insomnia is driving my mind nuclear reliving every piece of minutia from my birth to the present. It’s 3:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’ve cried so much, I’m alarmed at the amount of snot one person can lie in without being glued to the pillow. How did it all come to this? Seems like only yesterday, I was a rising Broad- way actress with successes under my belt. I can still hear the knock on my dressing room door, the stage manager giving me the last call, “Showtime Jennifer! It’s a packed house tonight.” As usual, I’m so terrified before going on, I can’t remember the first line. But the moment I step onstage, my jitters long gone, I vanish into character and I’m fine. It’s make believe time. The thrill of playing before a live audience is better than dope.
I’ll be driving straight through the Mojave Desert from LA to New Jersey, no doubt my three year old kicking the back of my seat all the way asking, “Are we there yet? Mommy, I have to go.” If Romie kicks hard enough, with my luck I’ll go into labor and have this baby next to a cactus. I can’t sleep for stressing over the future – no husband, no money, no job, bills to pay and three kids to raise. How will I do it? All these years I’ve supported myself as an actress. What am I supposed to do – squat on the sidewalk and sell pencils out of a shoebox? My choice is either fall back into my old, destructive ways or wrap myself around a future I know nothing of. Being clueless at thirty is a bitch.
Why cry over the “Sperm Donor?” He makes love like shoveling spaghetti with both hands. Lots of women have husbands who cheat. You could monitor how often they drop their pants by putting a metronome up their ass. They don’t fall apart like me. The ones I know marry wealthy men, and find it convenient to ignore their over active libidos. They compensate by shopping on Rodeo Drive until they pass out, then to spring shows in Paris, then to Milan, having affairs along the way, and thanking God for revolving credit. For some men, the more submissive the wife and mother, the less appealing she is as a woman; the sexual attraction and challenge no longer exists. Like a hound chasing a fox: hound chases fox, hound catches fox, hound kills fox, hound hunts for another fox. The Sperm Donor is never home. I doubt he even knows how fast the kids are growing. I closed our joint bank account today. What I took is barely enough for this trip, the hospital bill and rent for a small apartment once we arrive in New Jersey. That’s if we make it to New Jersey. Just saying those two words makes me run for Imodium, and what’s wrong with me? I always make the same mistake – jump first, and look afterwards.
I’m home late tonight. I worked overtime on a Gunsmoke. Thanks to Arness it took forever to hear, “It’s a wrap!” This house looks like a tornado just passed through, popcorn all over the floor, the kids eating Wheaties out of a box, and our latest addition, my husband’s five year old from a previous marriage racing from room to room wearing a Batman cape, his school uniform still not washed for tomorrow. The Sperm Donor is sprawled out on the couch watching Mod Squad, oblivious of the circus going on in front of him. Working all day, then coming home to a nightmare like this would push anyone over the edge. Some things never change. I shift to high, make dinner, wash and iron Willie’s uniform for tomorrow, and do a quick tidy-up. Afterwards, I bathe the boys and tuck them in for the night, knowing full well they won’t go to sleep unless I read to them. I sit on the edge of the bed, and begin the next chapter of Wind In the Willows. They love the Badger.
I still have ten pages of new dialogue to memorize for tomorrow, get five hours of sleep, be at the studio at 6:00 a.m. in makeup, and pray to God I don’t have bags down to the floor. I can’t keep up this pace. If I don’t step back from my career our home life will be in worse shape than now. There’s not enough room for two careers in this family. Let him have it. It’s what he wants.
Something is wrong.
How long does it take to answer a simple question, and what’s wrong with me that I can’t confront him? The two of us stand in this small kitchen that looks out over the mountain, his back facing me as he pours himself a second cup of coffee when I finally say, “You leave mornings, and don’t come home until dawn.”
Moments of silence pass. He continues to sip his coffee and stare down at the floor before he finally turns around, his dark eyes focused into mine and replies matter-of-factly, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m done.”
My response is frozen in silence that so reverberates in my ears that I’m deafened to its clamor. My breath pushes me to smart-ass, flippant silent retorts, “You’re done? What about me and the kids? Are we done too? When you leave the house each morning, I make you a brown-bag lunch with fresh banana bread sandwiches, the crusts cut off the way you like. My paycheck goes to you after every job. I’ve all but given up my career for you. We have two children, another on the way, and now you say you’re done?” I listen to my unspoken thoughts coming through this mealy-mouthed person I hardly recognize. I’m unable to speak because there are no words left to come right out and say, “How many hours can one man spend at the Actor’s Studio? I know damn well what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.”
The Sperm Donor wastes no time describing his passionate feelings for her, and the futility of living one more second trapped in a loveless marriage. He talks to me like I’m not in the room, and explains in great detail how good it is to finally let it all out, that he’s not the type man to live in shadows. I can’t catch my breath … I’ll stop breathing if he doesn’t shut up. Still unable to speak, I grab both kids by their hands and run along the narrow, weathered path alongside Aunt Lowee’s house, a brick missing here and there, the smell of Eucalyptus guiding me like a silent friend to the top of the mountain that overlooks dark clouds of gray smog hovering over East Los Angeles. I can’t stop crying for the uncertainty of our future, for having wasted so much of my life, for the baby growing inside me, and for Willie, his five year old son who just came to live with us and misses his grandparents.
Several weeks ago, he mumbled something about a new project he was working on with some actress at the Actor’s Studio West. When I asked about her, he casually mentioned a name I immediately recognized. The exact same feelings of rage and jealousy welled up in me again, precisely the same as I had experienced twelve years ago. As soon as I heard her name, I knew I’d lost him … and remembered the first time I saw her face.
Twelve years earlier in Hollywood, long before I moved to New York and met the Sperm Donor, a friend gave me an article he’d cut out of the newspaper about a beautiful actress who worked in Elvis Presley films, as well as B-movies. It showed her photograph along with details of a large sum of money she inherited. It wasn’t the money. It was the recognition of her face that filled me with jealousy, feelings out of proportion to the situation. So many times I’ve asked myself why I reacted like that to someone I didn’t know. She looked like every other starlet in Hollywood, as opposed to me who was somewhat offbeat compared to the Barbie Doll look of the sixties. I threw the paper back and snapped, “This has nothing to do with me.” Ironically, as quickly as those feelings of anger entered my psyche, that’s how fast they left. That incident still puzzles me. Perhaps my reaction was a premonition of events to come – although I’m not into crystal gazers, psychics, telemarketers hawking spirituality, fake gurus and all the other scams to support their mansions. What difference does it make now?
I’m beginning to sound like those women in supermarket tabloids next to the check-out. If it’s a long wait, I’ll take one off the rack and give it a quick look. If I read about one more female who attempts suicide over a failed marriage, I’ll pull the plug on myself. I can’t stand whiners yet much as I hate to admit it, that’s what I’ve become.
“Yeah you are, so shut up!”
“I’m not. Am I?”
“Does a bear pee in the woods?
“What kind of man abandons a pregnant wife and two kids?” “The one you married stupid, now shut the hell up!”
“How will we live? I have no money.” “Stop watching As the World Turns.”
It’s as though two people live inside me. One like sand in an hour glass, moment by moment drained of self-worth, crawling through each day begging to be punished for everything I’ve ever done in my life. But the other more predominant one is a hard-edged, spirited fighter who laughs her way out of every impossible predicament.
Dammit, I may cry, I may bitch, but I won’t fall under the train. There’s got to be more to life than getting married and having babies – even a career. I remember having a close friendship with a powerful presence as a child, but somewhere along the way I lost it and I don’t know why. I’m fighting for my life, for that lost girl I only vaguely remember; one buried so deep, I fear she may never be resurrected. I fight not to fall into the depths of a mental abyss so intense, I might never recover; the ugly face of ambition rides me like a horse frothing at the mouth. Three lives depend upon rising from this quagmire of self-loathing to reinvent the person I began life with. I still talk to a God I can’t see, and I still can’t shut up. I know there is something powerful in me, something outside myself, otherwise how could I have survived the past thirty years?
Where’s my damn tissue? Blowing my nose is the only constant in my life. I always feel secure in one good blow on anything outside of my Hermes, God forbid.

Dear God, Dorothy, Sam or whatever your name is, May I shake your hand for giving us Oil of Olay and Kleen- ex, or do you prefer Puffs? Store brand? And the big winner hands down is … ta dah: Puffs!

Sincerely lost in East LA P.S: Need sleep fast
Time douches the bloom off a cheating rose

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on this cold winter day
aviaries of black birds feast on summer leavings
white tail deer munch in my garden
vagabond neighbors always welcome at our table
sometimes late in the day I see flocks of winged birds
headed for supper-fields
Beloved, guide them to your special place
where huckleberries grow wild in depths of snow
weatherman says more of the same on the way
no one believes him since he got caught
jogging naked at rush hour
© jb