Far Flung…

The room was a mess.

So was she.

Forty-five minutes of trying on outfit after outfit and flinging them across the room after finding nothing that fit was frustrating!

Not to mention exhausting and depressing.

Baby fat – it was never going to go away.

Who knew a little fling would lead to so much flinging?

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to find more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was fling.

All The Laughter

Wide receiver, Lance Rentzel had it all back in the 60s and 70s.  A hugely popular and good looking athlete, he was married to Hollywood and singing star Joey Heatherton, the daughter of film legend Ray.

They were both in LA when they met early in 1969; both were superstars.  In today’s world, the only comparison would be Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.

Seriously, they were huge.

He was great looking, she was sexy hot; both were ubiquitous on TV and in the press.

In March of 1969 they got engaged after a “whirl-wind” 5 week courtship.  Hey, sometimes those work, sometimes they don’t.

That same month, the football super-star whisked her home to Oklahoma to meet his folks telling gossip columnist Earl Wilson that he wanted to get married the next week, but her dad was holding out for a June wedding.

April it was, and after a star packed wedding at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Don Meredith as the best man and three of his football team members as ushers, the two superstars dashed off to Miami Beach for a honeymoon provided by the Hilton Plaza.

Following the honeymoon, the couple went back to work; Heatherton to Hollywood and another Dean Martin show, and Rentzel to Dallas, where he was wide receiver for the Cowboys.

Joey was Hollywood royalty, her dad being Ray Heatherton of “My Funny Valentine” fame and Rentzel was the golden boy from Oklahoma where he’d grown UP rich, was BOMC in high school and college, and gone on to be one of the most admired athletes of his day.

He was good, he’d always been good.

Coached by Oklahoma’s legendary Bud Wilkinson, he was an all around halfback and was known for his speed and rushing which generally ended in big plays.

His kick returns were epic. He made the All Big Eight team his senior year, was Oklahoma’s top pass catcher.  The only one to out rush him in the Big Eight was Gayle Sayers.

He left his senior year when he signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Oklahoma was devastated.

But they forgave him.

Career on the rise, beautiful wife, fame, fortune, talent, he – they had it all.

But he blew it.

What happened?  Did he gamble like Pete, crash his sports car like Josh, or take a bribe like Maurkice?

No, it was worse.

Much worse.

His behavior was perverted, disgusting, and incredibly stupid.

In 1970 Rentzel was arrested in a Dallas park for exposing himself to a 10 year old girl.

When the news broke, the jokes were endless.

Bumper stickers advised “Keep it in your pants Lance.”

If the Cowboys were behind jeering fans of opposing teams chanted “Don’t worry, Lance will pull it out in the 4th quarter.”

Every disc jockey on the air dedicated “Easy to Be Hard” to him every time it was played.

Heatherton was humiliated.

Rentzel was devastated.

But it got worse.  After the 1970 arrest it was discovered that Rentzel had been arrested in a similar incident on a Minnesota playground, but the charge was dropped to disorderly conduct when he promised to seek psychiatric help.

He was shortly thereafter, traded to the Cowboys.

When the Dallas incident occurred, the Cowboys traded him to the Rams.

In 1973, while still on probation for indecent exposure, he was busted with marijuana and NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle suspended him for the entire 1973 season.

After returning for the 1974 season, he retired.

Meanwhile, back on the Dean Martin set, Joey was lawyered UP and filing for divorce.

Joey of course, has had her own run-ins with the law.  Some say she never recovered from the psychological damage inflicted by the constant press over her husband’s behavior.

The NFL was rocked by the scandal at the time. Jim Murray, syndicated sports columnist, struggled to understand how a golden boy like Rentzel, who was a scholar athlete, could become “that most despised of human flotsam – a compulsive exhibitionist.”

Rentzel published his autobiography in 1973.

It would appear on first hearing, it was a risky move.  I mean, really, why would a football star, one who was preoccupied with his masculinity, take the risk of discussing his sexual problems with the world – in print?

But that isn’t all the book is.  When All  The Laughter Died In Sorrow focuses on the trail starting in his high school days to his professional career.

It’s insightful, humorous, and tragic all at the same time.

The most revealing part of the book tells us of his three years at OU under Coach Wilkinson.

Lance tells us of on full-pad scrimmage in 100 degree heat after which two players lost all the salt in their bodies and coiled UP in agony, as another player went wild and attacked the coach with his fists.

Rentzel said the “…field was covered with bodies that could not rise.”

He also shares the details of the infamous “O” club initiation at the university.

I’ll spare you the details.

The book tells us that Lance had finally seemed to find “home” in Dallas and was happy with Heatherton.

And then he shares the sad tale of how it all fell apart, and how all the laughter indeed died in sorrow.

I read When All The Laughter Died in Sorrow when it first came out back in the 1970s.

Really, it’s not bad.  It’s not Hemmingway, but it’s not bad.

These days, Heatherton is 65, drawing social security and re-hashing her glory days.  Lance lives quietly in Texas, somewhere, no one’s sure, and he’s rarely seen.  After undergoing years of psychotherapy, Rentzel has not, by all reports, re-offended.  But, there is no laughter; it all died in sorrow.

The official story is that Salvatore Phillip Bono met Cherilyn Sarkisian in an LA coffee shop in November of 1962.

She was 16, he was 27 and working for record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star.

The couple became “best friends,” moved onto lovers, and told folks they were married in 1964.

Years later, Bono would admit that it wasn’t an “official” marriage, as in a legal one, and they did really tie the knot until after their daughter, now son, Chastity, now Chaz was born.

Sonny got Cher work with Spector as a session singer where she sang back UP on Spector classics such as Be My Baby by the Ronettes, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling by the Righteous Brothers and even Darlene Love’s A Fine, Fine Boy.

As the 60s got stranger and stranger, so did the couple.  Sonny wrote, arranged, and produced songs, while the couple started performing as Caesar and Cleo.

No one noticed even though they released singles, Do You Wanna Dance and Love is Strange.

With their outlandish clothes and $100 Hippie lifestyle, most people thought they were too – strange that is.

Realizing that only Liz could pull off a great Cleo, they fell back on their true identities and released Baby Don’t Go as Sonny & Cher.

Actually it was Sonny & Cher and Friends because it included the Letterman and the Blendells.

A year later in 1965, their first album, Look at Us came out.

It contained the hit single and their most identifying song, I Got You Babe.

The album sold well, peaked at number two on Billboard, and stayed there for eight weeks.

They were a hit.

As Ed Sullivan used to say, they were popular with the kids, and made the rounds of TV shows including Sullivan’s, American Bandstand, Shindig!, and Top of the Pops.

They even appeared in a movie, playing themselves and singing It’s Gonna Rain.

Their second album, The Wondrous World of Sonny & Cher, “skyrocketed” all the way to number 34.

So, they went on tour.

They were a pretty hot ticket on the tour circuit, and teens lined UP to see them.  Sonny in caveman boots, Cher barefoot, and both of them in animal skins were quite the attraction.

In 1965, five of their songs made the top 20.

The only other person to do that was Elvis.

Cher made a few singles, sang the theme from the film “Alfie,” and pissed off the Rose Bowl Parade committee by siding with protesters in LA.

Dumped from their promised spot in the Parade, they headed for Europe, right after releasing their third album, which stalled at # 45.

Hoping to rev things UP, Sonny arranged a film project for them to star in; it was a bomb, and the studio sold the rights to the planned sequel to MGM who promptly replaced Sonny and Cher with Elvis and Nancy (Sinatra).

Sonny, not reading the handwriting on the wall, dove into another film, Chastity, which starred Cher solo and flopped like a fish on the wharf.

As album sales stalled when their middle of the road style was replaced by acid rockers, Bono, ever the optimist, looked to the greener pastures of Las Vegas.

It was show biz college for the couple and they created new public personas for themselves while they honed their act with Sonny as the straight man and the brunt of Cher’s wisecracks.

But, Sonny was in complete control.  The arrangements, the jokes, the costumes – Sonny had final approval.

It wasn’t long until their success was noticed and TV came calling.

Meanwhile, Chastity Sun Bono was born in March of 1969.

In 1970, my senior year in high school, The Nitty Gritty Hour, their first special debuted.  A mix of slapstick, skits, and music, it was a critical success, and all the sudden, they were guest starring on all the variety shows.

Fred Silverman, CBS programming head saw them on the Merv Griffin Show and offered them their own show.

The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour went live in 1971 as a summer replacement and returned in the fall.

It was in the top ten, was nominated for 15 Emmy awards and lasted for four seasons.

Everything looked rosy.

Well, everything but their personal relationship.

By the time the third season rolled around Sonny and Cher were constantly fighting.  Their neighbors complained about the battles, called the cops, and their public arguments in restaurants got them banned from more than one five star Hollywood Hot Spot.

Later that year they separated and the show took the brunt of it.

A nasty divorce ensued, the headlines were epic, and Cher won a Golden Globe!

CBS thinking Sonny was the brains behind the act handed him his own show.  Meanwhile, Cher announced plans for her own comedy hour as well. The buzz was that Sonny would win out, but after six weeks, his show was cancelled without explanation.

Cher’s show first ran on February 16,  1975 and contained an all star cast including Flip Wilson, Bette Midler, Elton John, and Cloris Leachman.

But, the public didn’t want Sonny OR Cher, they wanted Sonny AND Cher.

Sonny went into acting, and that failing, politics, eventually winning a seat from California in the US House of Representatives.

Cher won a Grammy and an Academy Award, and the couple seemed to be moving on and apart.

But in the spring of 1979, they showed UP on the Mike Douglass Show and sang a medley of songs.  Alas, fans’ hopes were dashed when they continued separate careers, forged new relationships, and even got married a time or two, or three.

In 1987, they tweaked our hopes again by singing I’ve Got You Babe on the Letterman show.

But it was just a tease.

Sonny died in a skiing accident on January 5, 1998.  His wife, Mary Bono, asked Cher to speak at the funeral.  Unbeknownst to Cher, the funeral was broadcast live on CNN.  Her tearful eulogy, containing the line “…Sonny was the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met…” was met with derision causing Cher to contemplate suicide and retirement.

Rather than retire, she just re-invented herself once again.

Yes, we were young and we didn’t know then, but Sonny and Cher and their songs are part of the soundtrack of our lives.

Well, at least for my generation

Enjoy…

 

 

I find it almost impossible to believe that Sonny Bono died 20 years ago last month…but he did.

Not As Easy As It Looked

Looking back on the times I watched Little House on the Prairie I find it difficult to absorb that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life and mine shared the 1950s.

I don’t know why, but I assumed her story ended long before mine began, but in reality, she lived until 1957 when she died at the age of 90.

A prolific writer, and one who has inspired many a child to read, write, and explore, her story was brought to life by her books and by Melissa Gilbert on Television.

Many hours were spent enjoying that show by many, many people.

Though there were trials on the show, they pale in comparison to the difficulties Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo, experienced.

Almonzo, or Manly as she called him, was 25 when he began courting the 15 year old Laura.  These days that would cost you an election, but back then, it must have be socially acceptable.

They didn’t marry until she was 18, but for three years Almanzo drove Ingalls back and forth between De Smet, South Dakota and a new town some 12 miles away.

Laura was teaching school and boarding with a family there.

On August 25, 1885, the couple tied the knot and their first child, Rose was born in December 1886.

She, like her mother would grow UP to be a writer.  Her genre was politics and philosophy.

The TV show, though plagued with drama, portrayed the couple a bit carefree and successful.

But it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

Laura’s book, The First Four Years, tells of bad weather, illness, debt, and peril.

In 1888, Almanzo and Laura came down with diphtheria but survived.  Laura, fully, but Wilder was plagued with complications.  Parts of his legs were temporarily paralyzed causing him to use a cane for most of his life.

Unable to perform hard physical labor needed for farming, a long drought, and crop failure sent the young couple spiraling into poverty.

1889 brought tragedy as their son died two weeks into his life from convulsions.  Laura never spoke of his death and there were no more children.

Along the same time, within weeks actually, they lost their home to a fire and their crops to drought.  Rose would say, “It took seven successive years of complete crop failure, with work, weather and sickness that wrecked his health permanently, and interest rates of 36% on money borrowed to buy food, to dislodge us from that land.”

Evicted and homeless, the family moved to Spring Valley, Minnesota to live with Almonzo’s folks.

It was a time of rest, but recovery being slow they took off for Florida hoping the warmth of Southern Sun would help him regain his strength.

He did improve, but Laura hated the humidity and never warmed UP to the “backwoods locals” of the Florida Panhandle.

In 1892 they headed back to De Smet where they lived with Charlres and Laura Ingalls, her parents, who BTW, looked nothing like Michael Landon and Karen Trust Grassle.

While there Laura worked as a seamstress in a dressmaker’s shop and Manly was a carpenter.

After saving money, they took off for the Ozarks in a covered wagon and placed a $100 down payment on 40 acres of land near Mansfield, Missouri which they promptly named Rocky Ridge Farm.

In what would be their final residence, Wilder spent 20 years building Laura’s dream home, a 10 room house with cabinets low enough to match her small stature of five feet.

Over time, the farm grew from 40 acres to 200 and became a productive farm. Wilder was able to indulge his love of Morgan horses, and kept cows and goats.

The hard lessons of South Dakota taught the Wilders to diversify their crops.

It wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that the Wilders income was secured by Laura’s book royalties and their daughter’s support.

Rose, living on the farm from time to time, insisted that electricity be added as well as other modern conveniences.

Almanzo learned to drive a car giving them more freedom to explore the country and the couple went on road trips to California and the Pacific Northwest as well as to see relatives in South Dakota.

The couple spent their last years tending a vegetable garden while she wrote and he tended his goats and took UP woodworking as a hobby.

They also spent a great deal of time greeting and shooing away carloads of Little House (book) fans who took pilgrimages to Rocky Ridge Farm.

By all accounts, theirs, their friends’, and their daughter’s, Laura and Manly were a pretty happy and devoted couple who weathered hardships well and allowed them to strengthen their relationship.

Manly died in 1949 after suffering a heart attack, Laura joined him eight years later on February 10, 1957.

Their life had not been as easy as it looked.