by Dr. Derek Lamar
Peggy Lee was screaming, not singing, this one late afternoon. Then there was silence; she hung up the phone. Her manager, Brian Panella, stood there speechless and embarrassed. This seemingly was the beginning of the end as it pertained to Peggy asking herself: "Is that all there is" once again in her life.
Brian Panella was visibly upset. He and Peggy had been going at it for some time and it wasn't about her next album. In fact, her recent release at that time was one of the best albums she had ever done. She and Brian and the A & R people had put together an incredible repertoire of compositions that were contemporary and showcased Peggy's voice. The album: "Norma Deloris Egstrom from Jamestown North Dakota" had just been released in June of1972. Like Bobby Darin's album in 1968 titled "Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto," it reflected a stripping away of the false persona for a real look at the real artist.
(Above: the beautiful Peggy Lee)
One of the popular songs from this Peggy Lee album was "Love Song" which became a theme song for the Fourth Way school I was going to. A specific line from the song reads: "Love is the opening door. Love is what we came here for. No one could offer you more. Do you know what I mean? Have your eyes really seen?" I loved the Elton John rendition of this Leslie Duncan song but soon Peggy Lee's version took over. Especially with the lines "Love is the key we must turn. Truth is the flame we must burn." Since this esoteric school dealt with the metaphysics of "Truth" on a daily basis, this song captured that esoteric power of love and personal unfoldment.
(Above Right: Norma Deloris Egstrom from Jamestown North Dakota; Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto.)
During this time I met a new student, John Tangney from New York who was visiting my actress friend, Barbara Gates, next door. He went to Fordham University and was part of the wave of new students of Thane's from New York. One of my first memories was an incident that happened while we were on our way to Santa Monica in my VW. I looked at him and said "Feel free to open the window if you want to have a cigarette." He was blown away by this because he explained that he was just about to ask if he could light up a cigarette. "You read my mind," he said in astonishment. To which I replied: "Oh yeah, I do that with lots of people." There was a moment of silence and some sort of response that expressed a level of disappointment. I thought to myself: "Derek, you're such an ass. Here was a special moment between the two of us and you minimized its importance." I tried to heal the moment but the damage was already done.
(Above: Fordham University)
Still, we did become good friends, and starting hanging out together. The great thing about a Fourth Way school is that you learn from each other. Sometimes this happens simply because you pay more attention to yourself and how you interact with other people than you might in your everyday "busy" life.
(Left: Cut and joining process, gallery shot of frames, poster being digitally printed just for the hell of it because I really liked the artwork.)
I was still living in West Hollywood my unemployment ran its course. I found a job through some friends across the street. They were three gay guys with a monkey named Darwin. One of them, Danny, told me about a job opening at Wes Lee Frames where he worked in Beverly Hills. They trained me and I continued to learn on the job. It was interesting work. I had no idea what a custom frame was. Their clients were upper end including many famous people who lived in Beverly Hills. I remember a Picasso coming in to be framed one day and that turned my head a bit. Albert Carl was always going over to Zsa Zsa Gabor's house to deliver framed pictures. And Peggy Lee often had items being framed there. I mention this because one day there was a conversation about Peggy and Brian Panella and all sorts of gossip that I knew wasn't true. I spoke out and said so. When I told Barbara Gates about the incident later that evening I thought that was the end of it.
(Right: Peggy Lee's masterpiece, "Mirrors" with all songs by Leiber-Stoller)
In a day or two, however, I was invited to stop by for drinks at Barbara's house. My teacher, Thane, and Frank Ralston were close friends to Peggy Lee, and Barbara was helping console Brian regarding his personal problems with Peggy. The next thing I know is that Peggy and Brian's relationship is severed while Barbara and Brian were now seeing each other. That was fine except that the song I was writing for Peggy is back on the shelf.
Brian was pleased to find out that I had stood up for him because he was feeling somewhat isolated. Brian had been working for Capitol Records before his relationship with Peggy ended. He even had dealings with the Beatles. He was involved in trying to keep British bootleg recordings of the Get Back Sessions from getting airplay in the States. Ironically I was at Teen Screen magazine running back and forth to Capitol getting promotional materials then. Who knows how many times I passed him and never knew? Paths. One begins to look backwards at paths and crossing paths and overlapping lives and trying to figure out the unfoldment of life and people and things when one is on a mystical journey.
(Left: Capitol Records. Right: book about the Get Back Sessions which resulted in bootleg debacle that began decades of pirated Beatle recordings.)
Soon Brian was managing a group called Tavares. Brian wanted to know if I would be interested in being their road manager. I was flattered and shocked. I think Brian offered it to me because he felt he could trust me. But I wanted to be doing "my music." Also, I was afraid. I didn't know anything about being a road manager. And I was taking these "metaphysical" classes at a Fourth Way school and the teaching was drawing me deeper. I thought I was on a "path" but suddenly things were coming at me from out of the blue. I told him no.
I have come to understand that looking at oneself is the hardest thing that one can do. When it comes to giving up false beliefs about ourselves we find that this is the last thing we are willing to do. Most people can live a lifetime without ever knowing this truth. But knowing it and doing it are two different things. A Fourth Way school provides reflections that are more intense because the people you are around are basically all on the same "path" as you. But it must also be understood that life itself is a Hall of Mirrors.
(Left: Mirrors, reflections, observations, distortions)
We find that life is a road map of "paths" and one overlaps another while others are crooked and take forever while a few are straight lines which become the shortest distance between two points. Is this a true "path" or are they all relative? How many of these paths leave footprints that lead one to the fingerprints of immortality? Can I know where I am going if I don't know where I am from?
(Right: the R&B group, Tavares managed by Brian Panella)
They used to say "all roads lead to Rome." And they say "all paths lead to God." But in life we learn that sometimes we seem to move in circles and we get stuck going around and around never seeming to get anywhere. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. What kind of "path" is it that becomes a cycle that repeats itself over and over again? When we look in that mirror do we see who we are or simply who we think we are?
Some time later I was at Barbara's and Brian is telling about a bizarre event that happened a couple of days before. He had recently gotten a car: a brand new pink Lincoln Continental. He pulled up to the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and La Cienega and realized that a brand new pink Lincoln Continental, exactly like his, was right there waiting for the light to change. He pulled up alongside so he could see who was driving the car and to his horror Peggy Lee was behind the wheel. She turned and entered into the very same shock, the light changed and she sped down Sunset Boulevard. Through friends and associates it was learned that Peggy returned the car the very next day.
(Right: a 1973 Pink Lincoln parked tongue in cheek.)
The Hall of Mirrors doesn't always make sense. I am not even sure what all of this meant. And I don't know what it meant to Brian or to Peggy. One thing for sure: she thought Brian had purchased that particular car for the sole purpose of pissing her off. He didn't but she was angry anyway. It was clear however that this particular "path" for Brian was over and closure had been accomplished.
Saga continues: Translating life into another language.... The Mirror Stops Here!
© Copyright Derek Lamar 2005
(Misc. Peggy Lee albums. Check out the FEVER... hot... it looks like 2005, also the Fabulous Peggy Lee, and Black Coffee with Peggy Lee. Peggy Lee stands in all of her glory above.)
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