Los Angeles,1952 and the story behind the story

When that first dime-sized drop of blood hit her blouse, I figured the evening was pretty much shot.

Los Angeles, 1952 part 1

One of the favorite stories I’ve ever written is Los Angeles, 1952 which is now out (at least part 1 is) in Issue V of Twist in Time Magazine. It came out the same day as another story, Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell was published in Ragazine.

The stories are a little similar, in that they both take place in the 1950s (at least partly) and are based on semi-historical events and involve Studio-age Hollywood. I gave you a little backstory on that tale in a previous post, and thought I’d do the same for this one.

LA 1952 is the most thoroughly researched short story I’ve done. On the surface, it’s a tale of boxing, old Hollywood, and first dates. In its own way, it’s also a very personal story. Here are some of the tidbits you might not know.

The boxing card that night was real. Using BoxRec, a website for the geekiest of boxing geeks, I found a real fight card for June 7, 1952 at the Legion (later to be the Olympic) in Los Angeles. All the fighters and the results of that card are as stated in the story. Gil Cadilli was a popular LA-based fighter who fought the likes of Davey Moore and Willie Pep in the early and mid-fifties. He was one of “Senator” Johnny Forbe’s proteges… Forbes helped set up boxing programs in East LA and was responsible for a good percentage of the west coast fighters of that period.

The details about Monarch Studios contracts are accurate. As stated earlier my wife, the Duchess, is a fount of information about the golden age of Hollywood. She also has a number of friends who are equally geeky. One of them is Gary Brumburgh, a singer, actor and someone who has contributed to hundreds of IMDB bios and articles on the studio days. He gave me the low-down on the small studios like Monarch and all he asked in return was to name the actress Lorna Malone. Seemed like a fair deal. Lorna got her big raise in 1952. Unfortunately, Monarch closed its doors in 1954. I hope she married well.

The Hollywood Studio Club was a real thing and my wife lived there. The studio club dormitory where Patsy/Lorna lived was on Lodi Place between Fountain and Lexington in Hollywood. It opened in the early 20s and remained open until 1975. A number of famous actresses lived there, and literally thousands of wannabes and never-weres. in 1972, a bright-eyed 22-year-old from Miami named Joan Herrera pulled up in her Toyota Corolla planning to be a star. They put her in the room once occupied by Marilyn Monroe. She immediately asked to be put in another room fearing bad juju. She became the actress Joan Dareth, and then the current Joan Turmel.

I sold cars in LA for a short time in the 90s, and that was pretty much my boss. Morrie existed, and he’d have absolutely been that guy.

The final part of the story will be out November 1 in Issue 6. Please read it.

If you enjoy my short stories, you can find a list here of what’s out in the world. Better yet, buy one of my novels and support my habit by visiting my Amazon Author Page.

Support Litmags #2 – The Mighty Line

The Mighty Line is looking for stories that are technically sound and culturally relevant.

John Hegellund, publisher The Mighty Line

As someone who loves the short story, it’s kind of staggering how many places are you can find them. If, of course, you know where to look. Because so few print magazines feature short fiction, most of these places are to be found online. This is the second in a series of interviews that might steer you towards places I find great stories to read.

Some of these mags, like Storgy, or Twist in Time, have published my work. Others I enjoy but have yet to crack (although it doesn’t stop me from trying.) Such is the case with The Mighty Line magazine.

Here’s my interview with John Heggelund.

The Mighty Line is kind of unique among lit journals. Tell us about it.

The Mighty Line is a digital magazine of short fiction and visual art. We publish our issues online for free (www.TheMightyLine.com) so our contributors can share their work with as broad an audience as possible. We do not solicit fiction. Every story we publish starts in the slush pile, so every submission we receive is given equal attention. Contributors are paid $25. In addition to standard submissions, we offer expedited submissions, which receive responses in two weeks or less, and feedback submissions, which receive a critical essay critiquing the story submitted with suggestions for improving it.

What was the big idea behind the site? That’s a nice way of asking what the hell you were thinking.

The journey from amateur to professional writer is long with few avenues of support. Your friends and family can encourage you, but they can’t edit your work or give you critical feedback, typically. For the most part, magazine editors respond only in form rejections and paying for editing can get real expensive real quick. I received 168 form rejections before my first story was published. I had spent hundreds of dollars on submissions fees and racked up twice that in editing costs. It was all worth it, but it was a huge investment in time and resources that many people can’t afford. I want to change that. That’s why I started The Mighty Line.

You just publish short stories, rather than poetry or essays. You also showcase one visual artist per issue. What kind of material excites you? What are you looking for?

The Mighty Line is looking for stories that are technically sound and culturally relevant. I love a great plot, but if the story does not encourage the reader to reconsider their perspective on the concepts it touches on, then it’s a lot less likely to be selected. We believe stories resolve internalized conflicts by reconciling opposing ideas in specific contexts. This is a citable public good we want to see in everything we publish.

I won’t take it personally that you haven’t selected one of my stories yet, but you do get major karma points for positive encouragement and feedback. But let’s get negative for a second. What drives you crazy about submissions?

Guidelines. There will always be people who don’t follow guidelines, so I’m railing at the wind here, but it’s very frustrating. It seems incredibly rude that some people expect me to read and seriously engage with their work, yet they aren’t willing to even make sure it’s in the requested format. Our guidelines aren’t arbitrary rules for making the submission process more complicated. A readable font, decent spacing, numbered pages, email in the cover letter, these are all things that make my life so much easier.

What are the long-term goals for The Mighty Line?

As long as The Mighty Line continues to exist and publish writers, I’m golden. I didn’t start this magazine to make money. Our submission fees barely cover our costs most months, and the vast majority of those are tied to services such as providing feedback, which is increasingly taking up more of my day. This mag isn’t going to make me rich, and it surely isn’t going to make me famous, but it does give me a daily opportunity to encourage people to critically engage with literature. I want to inspire people to decide for themselves what is good writing and what is bad writing and why. I don’t care if you’re a tenured professor or a dilettante mystery writer, everyone can engage with literature equally. I want to convince as many people of that as possible.

That’s the goal, so as long we’re receiving submissions, I’m living the dream.

If people are motivated to submit now, what should they know?

Follow guidelines, have a discernible theme, and build to a climax in which a decision is made whose ramifications meaningfully subvert or fulfill the reader’s expectations. Do not summarize the story in the cover letter. The longer your cover letter is, the more likely I am to skim it rather than read it. Please, please, please do not send me something unless you are absolutely sure it is ready for publication. Rejecting good stories that aren’t sufficiently refined breaks my heart. Don’t break my heart.

Most of my short stories, published or otherwise, can be found here on this website.

New Short Story- Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell

…you can imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, the old guy ups and says, “I ever tell you about the time I had a three-way with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner?”

Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell Ragazine, Sept 1 2019

So, I have a new short story out in the world this month. Two of them actually, but more about that in a minute. This one appears in Ragazine, which is a smart, eclectic collection with some world-class contributors. I’m always glad and a little surprised when places of this caliber let me come and play in their sandbox. I also think it’s a pretty nifty little story.

The story is called Ava, Lana and Old Bob Campbell. It’s a tale of Old Hollywood, memory, and day-drinking. There is also a story behind the story that I thought you’d find amusing.

Usually, writers hate the “where’d you get that idea from?” question. It’s what we do. But the fact is that this story actually has roots going back 20 years or more.

My wife, The Duchess, is an old Hollywood geek. Like the Rainman of old movies. Anyway, we were sitting at the table after dinner with friends one night and we were relating our favorite scandalous tales from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Out of the blue, she comes up with one that knocked us cold.

When she lived in Palm Springs in the 80s, there was a local urban legend that sometime in the 1950s, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner were having a bit of a lost weekend in The Springs. According to the tale, they picked up a local gas jockey and gave him the weekend of his life. Well, of course, everyone said, “Can you imagine? That had to be the luckiest SOB that ever lived. Must have been the greatest night of his life!”

The writer in me asked a different question: What if it wasn’t? What if instead, it started a downward spiral and the guy never recovered? Since then, we’ve talked about that story many times with people, and I had threatened to write about it but it just stayed so much cocktail chatter.

The Duchess thought it should be a novel. I actually considered making it part of a play (yeah, I had delusions of grandeur. Don’t worry, it will never happen). At any rate, this year as I was stuck on the last few chapters of Johnny Lycan and needed a distraction the story finally came to me.

As usual with these kinds of pieces, the research was a blast. I had to pick a year when Ava and Frank were on the skids, Lana wasn’t married and hadn’t yet gotten involved with Johnny Stompanato, and the kid could still mathematically be alive today to tell the story. I settled on the summer of 1957.

Then there were all the details about the Coachella Valley and the people who lived there. Go Arabs. Only they’re not the Arabs anymore, for reasons you can well imagine. You also shouldn’t use the word “beaners,” but the behavior of the characters is not always condoned by the management.

If I thought nobody would care about such an odd little tale, I was disabused of that notion when I brought it to my Sin City Writers critique group, blessings be upon them. Enter Mike Foldes and the good folks at Ragazine, and here we are.

I had another story, with an equally twisted history published this week in Twist in Time. Part 1 of Los Angeles, 1954 is here, and I’ll say more in another post.

I hope you enjoy it. If you want to read more of my short piece, you can find them on my website under Short Stories and other Pieces. Support the litmags who publish writers, and if you like the short stuff, imagine entire novels full of that brilliance. You can find The Count of the Sahara, Acre’s Bastard and its sequel Acre’s Orphans on my Amazon Author Page.