The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Looking to Be a Starr!





                                                                                                                                                                 
     Some of you might be wondering why the heck I still am sporting these badges on my post today.  Well, anyone who's been around my site long enough knows that I can run something to the limit once I get started on it.  If I like an idea I'll get somewhat obsessed and keep on posting about it.  After all I started that A to Z thing and that can be a bit obsessive too.

      So anyhow if you missed either of the above posts I hope you go visit the Battle of the Bands post and vote on your favorite song version (voting ends tomorrow).  Then check out my entry for the Blood, Boobs, & Carnage Blogfest.   Once you've read these posts you might see some logical progression that leads to my post today.

The Song

      My biggest takeaway from seeing the film Circus of Horrors was the catchy pop tune "Look for a Star".  The only place I ever recall hearing that song was in that movie where it was played so many times and was so memorable that the song stuck in my head for months after I heard it.

       By 1964 I had started acquiring my own record collection.  I started out with the 45's that only had a hit song on one side and a lesser known "B" side.  Soon I discovered that I often liked the "B" sides as much or more than the hits.  At about a dollar a pop, the 45's didn't seem like such a bargain compared to an album with ten or so songs for a couple bucks more.  My interests became more directed toward the long play albums--more songs and you didn't have to change the records so often.

       But in the summer of 1965 when I found 45's at a clearance sale for the amazing price of 20 for one dollar, I couldn't resist.  I was living in Crown Point, Indiana at the time.  A friend and I had taken the bus to a shopping center on the outskirts of the city of Gary and it was at the Sears Department Store where I found the irresistible record sale.

        With only a few bucks in my pocket I was still able to buy sixty 45's.   Most of the songs and artists I had never heard of, but musical adventurist that I was, the obscurity of the music made no difference to me.  I had a musical listening adventure ahead of me.  I also had a copy of the song that been haunting me, "Look for a Star" by Garry Mills.   That find alone was almost worth the three dollars that I had paid for 60 records.

The Inspiration

        For anyone who is not familiar with my history, my family had a juggling act that we performed when my father wasn't working his regular job.  When we lived in San Diego from 1959 to 1963 our bookings were few since there wasn't much show biz activity in that area, but through constant practice we honed our act into a top notch club passing act.  After we moved to the Chicagoland area in late 1963 we signed on with one of the top Chicago agents and soon we were working regularly on weekends.

        During the summer and on a few rare occasions during other times of the year my father would take work vacations so we could work brief stints on the fair and shrine circus circuit.  I grew to love the lifestyle and the thrill of performing.   In my fanciful thinking I wished that we could live on the road working the show business life all the time.  My parents dreamed the same thing, but the practical side of my father told him to keep his good job with a guaranteed income--not as much fun, but it made far more sense.

         Still, a desire for the call of the road and the roar of the crowds was luring me to some future in the world of show business.

The Dream

          While I was still in junior high school I began to dream about the act that I would create for myself.  At first I came up with an idea of a chair that I would balance on the two rear legs and then have a ladder which I would climb up while it was balanced upon the balanced chair.  It would all be a prop with a mechanical gimmick that I had meticulously planned in my mind.  No actual balancing would be involved regarding the chair or the ladder and the greatest danger would be falling off.  Perched atop the ladder I would perform various stunts like handstands, prop balancing, and juggling.

         This all seemed like a pretty good idea, but then I decided to make it all more flashy by using a large five pointed star prop instead of the chair.  I would mount the star and balance it on one point while using the top points for attaching the ladder and other gimmicks.  As I envisioned it, I could decorate the star or even install lighting within it.  There were all sorts of possibilities that began to enter my mind.

          As I considered the tricks that I could perform and the routine that would incorporate those tricks, I also imagined the music I would use in my act.  The song choice was immediately obvious.  I would use the song "Look for a Star"--it would be perfect.    Picturing myself performing atop a ladder balanced on top of a giant balancing star as the song "Look for a Star" played, my stage name jumped out at me.  Ricky Starr!   

          Maybe the name came to me as a mash-up between Ringo Starr and Ricky Nelson, but I thought it rocked and was very appropriate to my dream image of the act that I would one day perform at fairs and circuses across the country and maybe even around the world.

          Ricky Starr.   I liked the sound of it.

The Reality

         That balancing act dream never came to anything other than passing time in my junior high classes looking out the window and fantasizing.  Even occasionally in high school I would sometimes daydream about it.  I drew up the plans for the prop that I would one day have built for me.  But it never happened.

          However it wasn't a totally impossible dream.   I did go into show business and toured for many years as a juggler, performer, and show manager.  The road, the roar of the crowds, and show biz life all became a reality for me. 

          In my dreams I was looking for Ricky Starr, but in the real world I found myself.  

          What dreams about your future did you have when you were young?   How many of your childhood and adolescent dreams have you achieved?    Does any part of travelling with a circus or carnival appeal to you?


For more memoir visit my other blog Wrote By Rote

43 comments:

  1. Sounds like your dreams were achieved Arlee in reaching for the Star and becoming more of who you are - a Star -- which is such an achievement. I hope I achieve this ...
    Childhood dreams? I wished my parents would be happier people with each other and in the end, they were ...

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    1. Susan, marriage can be a tough challenge with which to deal. A lot of adaptation and compromise that if undertaken successfully can be very rewarding in time.

      Lee

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  2. Childhood dreams are so far away. Mine were pretty low flung.

    Ricky Starr, I would have had a crush on you. Take care.

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    1. Ann, looking back though I see how fast those years of childhood dreaming went. You're sweet, Ann. I was always hoping for a girlfriend back then.

      Lee

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  3. Hi, Lee! What an interesting life you've had. In the mid 50s, I watched the TV series Circus Boy and imagined myself trading places with Micky Dolenz. I think every boy at one time or another imagines life on the road with a troupe of circus performers. It's so cool that you actually got a taste of it. I enjoyed reading about your dream of putting together a balancing act perched on a star and playing "Look For a Star" in the background. Seems to me it would have been safer to be strapped to a revolving turntable while "The Chief" threw tomahawks at you! :)

    I bought my first records the same year that you bought yours - 1964. I went shopping at an E. J. Korvette store and I left with the Beatles doublesider "Please Please Me'/"From Me To You," "Do You Love Me" by the Dave Clark Five and another doublesider, "I Get Around"/"Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys. I also used to buy those packs of shrink wrapped 45s in discount department stores and found some treasures.

    Television made a big impression on me as a kid and I dreamed of a TV career. My dreams came true to a certain extent. I had a career as a television newsman and later worked in entertainment television production at a music video station, a job that enabled me to rub elbows with numerous rock bands of the 80s and 90s.

    Thanks for the great stories, Lee, and enjoy your Wednesday!

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    1. Yes, Shady, I remember those packages of 45's. I think I got a few of those myself. I used to go to the Korvette store across the Indiana border near where we lived, but I bought stamps for my collection when I'd go there. I was so excited when I discovered their department for stamp and coin collectors.

      Working in the TV and media industry sounds like an interesting job.

      Lee

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  4. Finding yourself was more important.
    What I do for my day job I enjoy and is in line with what I always wanted to do. But I also had those rock star dreams. Not the lifestyle, just being on stage and playing awesome. I still don't play awesome, but otherwise playing in a Christian band has meant that came true.
    Never had author dreams though. One day I'll figure out how all of that happened.

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    1. Alex, being happy and fulfilled with our jobs is very important in my opinion. I've liked nearly all my jobs and usually found something to like about the jobs I wasn't thrilled about. No point spending several hours each day feeling miserable, I don't care how much I'm being paid.

      Lee

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  5. Any chance of you balancing on that ladder now?

    I set four goals when I was 14 - I wanted to be a professional photographer, I wanted to be an author, I didn't want kids, and I didn't want to go to college. I achieved all four of those things. (I know not going to college sounds odd, but I knew there wasn't a J-O-B out there I wanted. I've been self-employed so long now that I would make a really lousy employee.)

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    1. Diane, you won't even find me balancing on chairs without a ladder.

      I believe there is an overemphasis on kids going to college. We need to convince more of them to go to trade schools or just start working at something they like. A lot of things about college are pretty bogus in my opinion.

      Lee

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  6. While I was reading your description of your balancing act, an image of acts that are now showcased on America’s got talent popped into my head. They are incredible. Gee, but now I wonder if they are only gimmicks? :)
    Funny, I had a childhood fantasy involving the name Starr also. That would be Brenda Starr - Reporter.
    My English teacher, Mr. Clarence Jolly Jr., encouraged me to write, “perhaps as a journalist,” he said.
    But, that was not to be for, various reason.
    Later on in life I did wind up working for a newspaper - The Wall Street Journal, but in the IT department. I was the one the reporters called to fix their email. I never met any of them in person, as everything was done over the phone. I guess you could say I rubbed earlobes with them. :)
    I wonder how Mr. Clarence Jolly Jr. would like my blog.

    Do you still have the 45 record “Look for a Star”?

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    1. Lynda, a great many acts do use gimmicks to some extent, but most of what they do does require a great deal of skill. So to say "only gimmicks" might be taking away some of the actual talent that they deserve credit for.

      I remember reading the Brenda Starr comic series in the newspaper. I think a focus on a dream might bring us nearer to what we imaged though maybe not spot on. My dreams came about in a round about way, but that was fine too.

      The story of my 45 record collection is a sad one that maybe I'll have to tell in another blog post one day. Maybe at Wrote By Rote. In short though I don't have that 45 anymore.

      Lee

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  7. I can't even juggle! Trying to balance and juggle? Disaster!
    This glimpse into Arlee is so cool! Thanks for telling us about your dreams.
    I always wanted to be a rock star. I don't have the voice. Author is pretty darn cool though.
    :)
    Heather

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    1. Heather, I had my rock star dreams as well--still do to some extent. An author is a good place to arrive too.

      Lee

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  8. I could never travel with a circus or anything like that. As for dreams when I was a kid...I wanted to be an artist and I guess I sort of am now with all the dabbling I do. I wanted to live in England but after visiting San Francisco after college I focused my dream on that and I did achieve it. Lived in The City for 4 years and Bay Area for 10 total. I've had a lot of dreams of travel and achieved only a little bit of it which is a huge disappointment.

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    1. JoJo, you are indeed an artist! You've impressed me with your skills. And you've traveled more than many have so your're not doing too badly.

      Lee

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  9. Great post Lee, I think soul searching never does anyone any harm.
    Especially if you find one can better themselves .
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, there are many ways that I can better myself and many dreams yet to achieve.

      Lee

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  10. When I was young, I saw myself as a big-time author with movies based after my books. I am an author, but not big-time. Not yet. And I still have hope for those movies. ;)

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    1. Chrys, you still can become "big-time" and even if you don't reached those dreamed about heights, you can still call yourself an author.

      Lee

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  11. Thanks for sharing. There, now I've commented on your blog so you can shut up about it.

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    1. Pat--I am surprised to see your comment here, but puzzled by your animosity towards me and so many other bloggers. If there is some wrong that you feel that I've done towards you, please let me know and maybe we can remedy that.

      As an author and one who is working in a public enterprise, you are not being very amenable with your potential audience and those bloggers who you could be using to help enhance your image.

      I certainly don't have anything against you, on the contrary your prolific writing and publishing intrigues me. Do you want me to be an enemy? Would you be more pleased if I were to write a scathing post about you and your talents as a writer and blogger? That's not me I assure you, but I am curious as to what is bugging you.

      Take care, Pat. Hope you return to another post here one day and engage in actual discussion of some sort and hopefully discussion that is productive.

      Lee

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    2. You're not the audience for my books. I didn't ask you to comment on my blog so I don't know why you think you're entitled for me to go comment on your blog. Anyway, it seems the bulk of your posts are one blogfest or another, which is pretty lame.

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    3. Well, Pat, then that leaves me puzzled about why you even bother with blogging . Is it all about you and your promotions? Not that I'd hold that against you, but do you have any blogging friends? And don't take my question wrong. I'm just wondering why you would be filled with so much negativity towards me and I see little engagement from others on your site.

      As far as the "blogfests" --or as I prefer to think of the ones in which I choose to involve myself--interactive blogging events, I do it for the social interaction and self marketing just in case I ever become a productive writer like you are. I doing the old writer's platform thing that's so often recommended. Playing the game my friend--er, sorry, I guess I shouldn't say "friend"--but I'm just playing the game. Maybe I'm being lame and just wasting my time, but I guess I could be wasting my time in worse ways.

      So in closing, Pat, I was just trying to be friendly towards you. Sorry. I'll keep my distance in the future. If you want to engage in discussion with me then go ahead--I'm open to that. But I'll drop it from my side otherwise.

      Lee

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  12. That was a very ambitious dream you had. People would've paid good money had you actually pulled it off.

    My dream was to be the first female president, ever since I got the book 40 Presidents: Facts and Fun, from some school book fair in third grade in 1988. That was the book I memorized all the presidents from, the old-fashioned way, not that silly song I've heard some people using. I worked a lot harder to memorize the presidents and didn't just learn a song! I'm actually eligible in this coming election, though I wouldn't stand a chance if I actually ran. People without political experience aren't considered viable candidates in this day and age.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, never say never and I think a lot of people are sick of the professional politicians anyway. Besides Hilary needs more women in the field against her.

      Lee

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  13. In high school I had the rock star dream but soon after realized the life would not be for me, a realization cemented by my years travelling as an auditor. Not a huge fan of volume travel, and I ended up in Arizona partly in an effort to stop travelling.

    Looking back, I wish I had tried to break into the music biz on the production side, but I have been fortunate that a big part of my work life (mostly accounting, auditing and financial analysis) has appealed to my curious side-I like problem solving, and that is pretty much my work day.

    I stopped dreaming about the road not taken a long time ago. I have had a good life, make a good living and do not want for much.

    Funny how life turns out so different for most of us than we planned but usually for the good.

    Larry

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    1. Larry, I'm not sure that being on the road as an auditor would be quite as attractive as being on the road as a performer. I never got tired of the life and wouldn't mind doing something similar again. Like my father did, you made the wise choice for stability over adventure. Most adventurists don't make a good living at what they do.

      Lee

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  14. I find it quite neat that I have a blogger buddy who was a professional juggler and that his family had an act. This is not something one comes across every day. You are lucky to have such cherished memories. My brother loved buying 45's and I remember when he played "Bertha But" the first time. I think you may be the only one who may know that song. My dreams? I wanted to help people. How? I did not know but I knew I wanted to give something to the world since I was so bullied. Now I am a Credit Counsellor and help people when they are in financial straits...I guess I am really good a juggling my bank book(nyuck, nyuck)). I wanted to see Budapest and Venice...I have! I still have the dream of living in Europe...somewhere in Austria. You never know, this may happen one day and if I want it bad enough, it can happen. I also wanted to dance like Cyd Charisse. A girl can dream. I did not have those long legs or sultry look. I wanted to dance like I saw on the screen but in my area all they had was tap for kids and I wanted Ballroom actually. I can't do that now due to my joint issues but I am a pretty good dancer and I have taken Ballroom lessons

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    1. Birgit, can't say I know the song "Bertha But", but I'm well aware of the fabulous Cyd Charisse. Credit counselors are probably in big demand these days. Good career choice.

      Lee

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  15. My childhood dreams all had to do with digging up bones.
    It looks like you did a better job with yours than I did with mine.

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    1. Andrew, I've heard that they always are looking for volunteers to go on dinosaur digs during the summer vacation months. I know a guy who goes out ever summer with his wife to North Dakota and Montana. Actually I think they get paid as program directors. During the school months they go around and present entertaining educational programs about dinosaurs.

      I hope those were the kinds of bones you were talking about.

      Lee

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    2. They are! I was set on being a paleontologist right up until 8th grade when I had to take Earth science and discovered I hated rocks.

      I would love to go on a dig, but that will probably have to wait until I don't have to worry about my kids during the summer.

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  16. Wow! Just WOW! I never knew any of this about you, Lee. You are one interesting man with fascinating tales. I love the name Ricky Starr and it seems he still lives on in your heart.

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    1. Elsie, Ricky Starr might live in my heart, now only if he'd take over my body!

      Lee

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  17. So So interesting! You have a very cool story to tell and family background.
    My dream was to be a Radio City Rockette. I was in dance since I was a kid and in college I really wanted to be a rockette. Sadly, I was too short. Now I settled to be in the joyful corporate world.

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    1. Holli, my mother had that same dream about being a Rockette. She eventually did dance professionally as a tap dancer and then she teamed up with my father to start the juggling act.

      Lee

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  18. What an incredible story! I can't imagine what it would be like to be a family in show business. Did you ever get stage fright or were you fearless out there? I would freeze in front of a crowd. That would scare me to death! Even though Ricky Starr didn't exactly come to fruition, you certainly got a lot closer to your dream than many people do. Fabulous story Lee. Thanks for sharing!
    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, there was always that nervous anticipation factor which was good for energizing me for performance. Most performers acknowledge some level of nervousness before a performance.

      Lee

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  19. My childhood dreams were inspired by the nurses and doctors who cared for me, especially my orthopedic surgeon. Seeing that he too had a physical disability (His from residual of polio) gave me the hope that I could be like him. I did get my nursing license and practiced for a few year. Never had the desire to be in a circus or show biz but I sure did love the circus!

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    1. Lisa, the healthcare industry is one of the top places for finding jobs. There will always be a need for doctors and nurses.

      Lee

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  20. Holy cow! I don't know which is more interesting, learning these cool fun facts about you or watching how you expertly handled a heckler!
    Writing is my passion but I make more money crunching numbers :-)

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    1. Thank you, Diedre. That exchange it the comments above was a strange one that I don't know that I've encountered before. Writers making a good living from writing is probably similar to the numbers of actors making a good living from acting. Another source of income is a necessity for most I'd say.

      Lee

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If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee