I’ve often wondered where or when the creative urge moves into our psyche and becomes part of our very being. Apparently it can strike at any age. In my particular case, it was at a very early age—mainly attached to my Aunt Nanny Lou who was a poetess, adventuress and young ladies’ Zouave drill instructress. She used to float in and out of our house when I was a kid. I thought she was the greatest.
When I was about five, on one of her yearly visits, she read me some of her poetry. Then I told her I wanted to read it. To her surprise and with a little help, I did read some of her poetry. A couple of days later she and I wrote a little play. She had me read and act it out to my family. Everyone thought it very cute. My French grandmother, however, did not approve of my aunt’s Bohemian ways, so she was glad when Aunt Nanny Lou left.
My aunt may have left but she left me with the bug—the bug to create. So, I guess you could say my creative juices got to stirring at age five due to those moments of fun with my aunt and it never stopped. I was always up to something creative. I wrote and put on plays with my little neighborhood friends. I acted in the school plays. I wasn’t a show out and I definitely didn’t try to be the class clown at school. I was just a pint-sized version of my Aunt Nanny Lou. To her Life was a giant tray of hors d’oeuvres—and likewise I believed the same. I even used her saying at the top of this blog. Look up there and you’ll see it.
I came from the little town of Okolona, Mississippi, and with its population of 2,000, it was at best a backwoods cultural center for hunting, frog gigging and sports of any kind. Theater, poetry, acting, writing and all that sissy stuff was just old maid falderal. But I loved it and had to pay the price. You guessed it. I got bullied silly at school.
My father, Aunt Nanny Lou’s brother, was pretty much like she was in that he was a Bohemian in many ways himself. He was great help to me in that he built a stage for us to perform on in our garage and he was always coming up with some new form of creativity himself. You can read all about him in an earlier blog.
Anyway I persevered and finally graduated from high school and enrolled at Mississippi State College in Starkville, Mississippi. At least that was a bit more sophisticated than Okolona. I took advantage of all they had. The thing they didn’t have was a drama department or play group so I started one a month after I arrived there. I wrote a play called GOOD GRIEF and it was put on and our little drama group became a known entity.
A couple of years after that, I was in the US Army. I was sent overseas to the little island of Okinawa, which had been the scene of a terrific battle in World War II. My fate was to be two years on that island so I thought to myself: What would my Aunt Nanny Lou do if she were exiled on such a place?
Most of the guys stationed there wheedled away their time by drinking and going to visit the prostitutes in the native villages. That wasn’t for me. No creativity there. Instead I went to one of the villages and rented a native hut. I then formed my own film company that I called MORGUE STUDIOS.
I went to the PX and bought an 8-millimeter Bell & Howell movie camera, some film and voilá, I was in the movie business. I wrote a scenario for a film which I called IT HAPPENED IN HONG KONG, The plot dealt with a special spy-fighting unit in the army. I then rounded up some fellow creative people and got them involved.
To really get going though, we needed lighting, film and a little editing machine. We had no money so we baked chocolate cup cakes on a hibachi in that little hut to raise money. We immediately found we had a real problem—Okinawan rats. They sounded like elephants when they would race across the thin ceiling of that straw hut. They got into our cup cake supplies and decimated them in one night.
I complained to the native landlord. He had the perfect answer, which he proposed to sell us. He brought over a Habu, which was a large cobra type snake. He put it into our straw roof and overnight the rats were gone. But we had swapped the devil for the witch, we thought. How could we be at peace with a cobra overhead in our straw roof? Sometimes when I entered Morgue Studios, I saw a little beady set of eyes following me. I told the landlord of my fright.
He told us not to worry and tried to calm me down. He said that as long as the supply of rats held out we were safe and he said there was an enormous cache of them in the village. In fact, he said everyone in the village had a Habu—but the cautious ninnies like me would do the protective thing and have a mongoose.
So, the landlord after hitting us up for a snake, then sold us a mongoose. He assured us we could resume our cup cake manufacturing immediately.
We had no further problems and did a booming fund-raiser (a kind of last century Kickstarter.) Before we knew it, we had the funds for our movie. I bought a Revere tape recorder and even though we could not have a sound sync film, we at least had sound and music.
We made the film and then had a regal premier in the rec room on base. It all came off just fine. We made several movies while there and exercised our creativity to the fullest.
And so it has never stopped. I went to Paris, then to Los Angeles and now here in Palm Springs where I am writing novels and this weekly blog. Thanks, Aunt Nanny Lou, wherever you are!