File under "Autobiography"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Preface

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. I started the day fairly depressed, feeling a bit isolated and disappointed in where I was as opposed to where I'd hoped to be at half a century. The day improved. My son called, which always brightens my day. My husband coaxed me out of the house and out to sushi and sake at a nearby restaurant, where I rediscovered what a fun date he still is. As we chowed down on our "Dragon Roll", Vyan encouraged me, as I ran through reminiscences of my life - most related to music - to start writing that book my family have been urging me for years (decades, at this point) to write. I considered it, and after going home for wine, tiramisu, "CSI" and the Suns beating the Lakers, I decided now was the time.

Memory is a funny thing for me. I can remember things very vividly from many years ago, and yet walk into a room and forget immediately why I went there. These "chapters" are NOT going to fall into chronological order. I'll pound them out as the memory hits me hard enough that I can do it justice. I'll try to put in at least approximate dates of these events. I'll be honest. That poses the remote but real chance that some people are going to get their feelings hurt. I can live with that now. Names will, in most cases, be named.

I don't pretend to be heroic. I'm all too human. But maybe somebody can get something out of this that inspires or encourages them, or at least hopefully amuses or entertains them. I'm just a rock and roll chick from California, trying to draw you a road map for her "long strange trip".

Why "File under 'Autobiography'"? Because if I did put this out in book form, you bet your hiney they'd file it under "Fiction" - nobody would believe this s***.

Acknowledgements and thanks are numerous, and I should begin with those...

- F. Vyan Walton, my husband, soulmate and the one person on earth who has come closest to truly understanding me.

- Nathan Light, my son and my pride and joy, and his lady, Lesli Keith.

- My mother, Evelyn Torbert, and my sister, Carole Frega, for getting on me to write this to begin with.

- My numerous past bandmates, in particular but certainly not limited to: Steve Litten, Merri Shaffer, Ruth Less, Art Reno, Lyla May, Laura Lissenden, Vanessa Martin, Deanna Bloomquist, Mike Cipolla, and those who drifted through, especially, Chemistry, Leading Edge, Model, Urban Still Life, and the Crystal Ships, whose names I have forgotten...

- Caroline Gonzalez, fellow writer and sister by choice, who always gives me encouragement.

- Archie Kao, a brilliant talent and angel of a man, for lifting my heart when I've needed it.

- George Manitzas, wherever you are, for lighting the creative fire within a fiery but adrift nine-year-old.

- The late, great Jack Coleman, best vocal coach ever.

- Dave Rose, Lou O'Neill, and everyone else who believed in me as a writer.

- Deana Robinson and Deborah Falls, my "partners in crime" in Dallas.

There will be more, and I'll mention or add them later...but today, those are the ones who spring first to mind.

So get in, sit down, hold on and shut up...and enjoy the ride. Just kidding about the "shut up" part. This is a blog...feel free to comment. But it's my life. This ain't no John Waters script.

Enjoy.

--Robin Walton
Los Angeles, CA
5 May 2006

22 Comments:

Blogger chris said...

george manitzas, former teacher at westwood elementary (and possibly others) passed away around 2000. he was my 5th grade teacher and we kept in touch. presumably we're talking about the same person

9:02 PM  
Blogger pokute said...

I was a student of George's in 1969. Building a 5th grade curriculum around James Thurber and Vincent Van Gogh was brilliant! He was a total fool for The Carol Burnett Show, and My Mother was able to get three tickets - I got to go see the show with George and his friend Jane, who you may vaguely recall he talked about often to his class. I met him one time many, many years later.

4:07 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I had George Manitzas (aka "Sam Zebra") as a 5th grader at Westwood Elementary School in 1972. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had. I wish I could tell him that. People like Mr. Manitzas make such a difference in the lives of their students. I'll never forget Jane the Manx cat (she visited us several times - I can't imagine she really enjoyed it!), James Thurber, the short stories of Saki, the slide shows of Van Gogh country and Pompeii... as well as almost infinite wonderful "in jokes" that he had with my classmates.

6:07 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I had George Manitzas (aka "Sam Zebra") as a 5th grader at Westwood Elementary School in 1972. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had. I wish I could tell him that. People like Mr. Manitzas make such a difference in the lives of their students. I'll never forget Jane the Manx cat (she visited us several times - I can't imagine she really enjoyed it!), James Thurber, the short stories of Saki, the slide shows of Van Gogh country and Pompeii... as well as almost infinite wonderful "in jokes" that he had with my classmates.

6:08 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I had George Manitzas (aka "Sam Zebra") as a 5th grader at Westwood Elementary School in 1972. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had. I wish I could tell him that. People like Mr. Manitzas make such a difference in the lives of their students. I'll never forget Jane the Manx cat (she visited us several times - I can't imagine she really enjoyed it!), James Thurber, the short stories of Saki, the slide shows of Van Gogh country and Pompeii... as well as almost infinite wonderful "in jokes" that he had with my classmates.

6:08 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

I had George Manitzas (aka "Sam Zebra") as a 5th grader at Westwood Elementary School in 1972. He was one of the most inspirational teachers I ever had. I wish I could tell him that. People like Mr. Manitzas make such a difference in the lives of their students. I'll never forget Jane the Manx cat (she visited us several times - I can't imagine she really enjoyed it!), James Thurber, the short stories of Saki, the slide shows of Van Gogh country and Pompeii... as well as almost infinite wonderful "in jokes" that he had with my classmates.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Dogen said...

As many of you, I too had Mr. Manitzas as my 5th grade (and Chorus) teacher at Westwood Elementary. George was a wonderful, quirky, eccentric, inspirational teacher -- one of the teachers that you think back on and count your blessed stars that you were lucky enough to have had. He made a difference in the lives of the children he came in contact with and for many opened up entirely new vistas they would never be exposed to again. Aside from the wonderful art history (his slide shows!), literature and general humanities core he based his curriculum on, a few of the things I will always remember about his class:

-- The communal class call of, "AGD!!!" when one of us started using an "Attention Getting Device"

-- The "no erasures" rule on spelling tests.

-- His wardrobe consisted only of imported white and light blue guayaberas.

I loved George. He helped make me who I am today.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Professor Philips said...

I had George Manitzas, too, for 4th grade in 1961-2. He was the best teacher I ever had, the only grade school teacher I ever went back to see after I got into graduate school, and the only grade school teacher whose name I still remember. I hope they still make teachers like that, for the sake of today's students.

3:18 AM  
Blogger Gabriel "Mondo" Vega said...

He was an amazing man. I never will forget being the 'voice' of Evelyn the Mouse in the school Christmas program of "The Night Before Christmas" in 1969, and how he would make us in the chorus sing "GM...makes us excellent!". I also remember him sharing his petrified fig from the Pompeii site he visited. And his love of Joanne Worley! What a fabulous human being and teacher.

10:08 AM  
Blogger sahar said...

I had the genuine and amazing man as my 5th grade teacher. He opened up so many doors to arts. Till this day I have yet to run into anyone offering such teachings of art and with such love. I remember the candles we rolled in class. The Van goh. There is not a week that passes and I don't think of him.
I am so sad to have just now read of his death. I feel as if a part of me has been taken a few minutes ago.I can swear he is one of the reasons I am who I am today. I truly can say I adored this man with all my heart. What a wonderful human being.He would always make these silly jokes of Miss Linden down the hall. If anyone does have any info on where his grave is I would really like to pay my respects.
I think I can say this for everyone that took his class "he was a classy man".
Please anyone with any info on this amazing man please post or email me directly legalsahar@yahoo.com

4:35 AM  
Blogger sahar said...

I had the genuine and amazing man as my 5th grade teacher. He opened up so many doors to arts. Till this day I have yet to run into anyone offering such teachings of art and with such love. I remember the candles we rolled in class. The Van goh. There is not a week that passes and I don't think of him.
I am so sad to have just now read of his death. I feel as if a part of me has been taken a few minutes ago.I can swear he is one of the reasons I am who I am today. I truly can say I adored this man with all my heart. What a wonderful human being.He would always make these silly jokes of Miss Linden down the hall. If anyone does have any info on where his grave is I would really like to pay my respects.
I think I can say this for everyone that took his class "he was a classy man".
Please anyone with any info on this amazing man please post or email me directly legalsahar@yahoo.com

4:35 AM  
Blogger john said...

Manitzas, Augenblick, Mrs. Fischer, Westwood School was cool, before kids brought guns to school. I sensed George was gay, but what did I know at that age. maybe it was the Pompei bathhouse references. In any event, a classy gentlemen who was sensitive to the needs of his classes. John Westwood School 1968

8:15 PM  
Blogger cantords said...

GEORGE FRANK MANITZAS JR.

George Frank Manitzas Jr., 74, passed away May 29, 2001, at his
residence in Santa Monica, Calif.

George, born on May 17, 1927, was the first of three children born to
George Sr. and Etta Manitzas in San Angelo. He was a 1944 graduate of
San Angelo Central High School and began attending San Angelo College
before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. Afterward, he
attended Texas Christian University and graduated from UCLA.

For 41 years he taught elementary students in the Los Angeles City
School System. In that time he became a favorite teacher of many
students and their families who remained in close contact with him
throughout his life.

George directed many childrens plays and choral groups through the
years as well as teaching additional classes in theater and art for
students and adults alike, up until this year.

The arts were Georges passion throughout life. This prompted several
European trips during the sabbatical leaves he accrued during his
career. From these trips he gathered information he used in lectures
on Van Gogh and other artists.

His parents preceded him in death, also one brother, Thomas Manitzas,
and his longtime companion, Ms. Virginia Barnell. One sister, Mrs.
Evelyn Brown-Nettleton, survives him along with five nephews, one
niece, their families and his extended family of relatives and many
friends.

Interment was in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif., in the
Barnell family crypt. The closing service was conducted by nephews,
Dana, George and Christopher Kuykendall.

For all of us who were inspired by George (1965 here) here is his obituary. I last saw George at the memorial for our friend Ward Winton. George and Michael Augenblick represented Ward's elementary school and mutual friendship. By chance I saw George at UCLA in 1996 just outside of Murphy Hall. Without prompting he called out "David Silverstein, class of 1965," and then proceded to name all our classmates and where they sat in his room. When I told him I was serving Sinai Temple as one of its clergy/cantors he said, "I always knew you'd get off the choir reserve list..." How did he rememebr it all--the mark of a sensitive human being who empowerd so many of us. RIP Mr. Maitzas--Daisy Butterfield sends her love.
-David Silverstein

2:04 PM  
Blogger brad neal said...

Moved to LA in 67 from Ohio. I was a troubled youngster. Fortunately, I was blessed with George Manitzas as my 5th grade teacher in the 67-68 school year. The absolute best teacher I have ever had including College and Law School. I can honestly say that he guided me through my transition from a troubled depressed youngster to the person I became today. I was able to connect with George in 1995. I am so grateful for everything he did for me.

9:40 PM  
Blogger treasurefull said...

I guess I'm just repeating what others have said, but after 21 years (I can't believe it's been that long) he is one of the few teachers that I still remember; he has clearly left a mark in my and many others' lives. On my first day in his class I completely feared him, not sure why, but I quickly realized that he was such a great and caring person. A truly great and caring person! I lived about a block from Westwood Elementary and the summer break after 5th grade I was wondering around campus after playing basketball and he was working in his classroom. A couple of other students with me and he decided to play a video for us, and of all things he picked a movie about the life of Elvis Presley, well, I can say it was the first thing I wanted to watch, but I saw in him a desire to motivate us and teach us something new and in the end I enjoyed the movie.

Till this day I remember that wonderful enriching experience and his caring soul!

9:39 PM  
Blogger AlanDSanborn said...

First, let me thank Cantords for posting George Manitzas's obituary. I had not seen it and did not know where he was buried. I was in George's class from the Fall of 1971 to the Spring of 1972 but hung out in his room as often as possible in my 6th grade year and visited him frequently after school in the years that followed. As with seemingly everyone else who has posted here, I always considered him to be my favorite alltime teacher.

Three of my older siblings had been in his class before me. When I was in 2nd grade, he tried to enlist me for his "Night Before Christmas" pantomime (being that I had bright red hair as did his whole onstage "family") and I refused. But I joined the cast in 3rd grade and by 4th, now being the tallest red headed boy in the school, I graduated to the Father role. Not long after, I was one of three students chosen to play Charlie Brown in his own original musical (with a couple of borrowed songs), "Things Are Looking Up, Charlie Brown."

Several of the things people have mentioned from his class sparked memories in me. I might add his love for Winnie the Pooh and the "Story Giant" that sat atop his piano (and now sits in my friend, Bill's room, a gift from George.)

I inherited the fireplace from the Christmas pantomimes when he was retiring and have used it in many Hallowe'en shows for the Trick-or-Treaters since, including a "Night Before Christmas" parody which I dedicated to George. I also have a self portait that he painted when he was a younger man.

George Manitzas took an unfocused child who didn't pay that much attention in school and gave me a love of learning and of the arts and literature that continue to this day. I will always thank him for that.

1:42 AM  
Blogger AlanDSanborn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:43 AM  
Blogger wtiger said...

I think I'm the eldest so far to contribute a tribute to the inimitable George Manitzas. He was my 4th grade teacher in 1961. He introduced us to Olvera Street on his own time and we were lucky to have him as an inspired docent when he took us to see the Van Gogh's the very first time that they were displayed at LACMA. When I returned to visit him on "Career Day" 7 years later, he pretended not to know me and proceeded to read a letter of gratitude that my mom had written him -- a letter that he kept as a bookmark in that tattered old Winnie der Pooh of his. One of my favorite things about George was the ridiculous sentences he made up for each word during our weekly spelling tests.
How lucky we all are to have had such an exuberant life and art-loving teacher. I have made my living as a writer and an artist in large part because Mr. Manitzas modeled an appreciation and respect for the arts that carries me still.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Chris Kuykendall said...

My name is Chris Kuykendall, my uncle was George Manitzas Jr., or "Jugee" as my brothers grew up calling him. First off let me begin by saying "Thank You", reading these comments came as a complete shock to me! Not that he was a great teacher and friend, but that all of you loved him as much as we did, and miss him just as much! I came across this blog by accident, I was just thinking about him, as I always do, and descided to GOOGLE his name and it came up here, and OMG! As I read the statements that have been left, the pride(and tears) welled up inside me and over flowed. I think the world is a better place because he was here and we were ALL blessed to have known this GREAT man. I take care of my 78 year old mother, Georges sister, now and she is having trouble with her memory, but we talk and laugh about Jugee everyday, and still cry 12 years later. I lost my father at the age of 3 and Jugee would come to visit us in Texas when he could and called at least three times a week, and was a kind of absent father for me and my two older brothers. He used to laugh with me when I was in my twenties and tell me the first thing I would ask him when he would come visit is "When are you leaving?". I loved him but feared him at the same time, you know what I mean! I need to go but I just wanted to say "Thank You" for the memories of my Fantastic Wonderful Crazy Loving Uncle Jugee

5:10 PM  
Blogger Chris Kuykendall said...

My name is Chris Kuykendall, my uncle was George Manitzas Jr., or "Jugee" as my brothers grew up calling him. First off let me begin by saying "Thank You", reading these comments came as a complete shock to me! Not that he was a great teacher and friend, but that all of you loved him as much as we did, and miss him just as much! I came across this blog by accident, I was just thinking about him, as I always do, and descided to GOOGLE his name and it came up here, and OMG! As I read the statements that have been left, the pride(and tears) welled up inside me and over flowed. I think the world is a better place because he was here and we were ALL blessed to have known this GREAT man. I take care of my 78 year old mother, Georges sister, now and she is having trouble with her memory, but we talk and laugh about Jugee everyday, and still cry 12 years later. I lost my father at the age of 3 and Jugee would come to visit us in Texas when he could and called at least three times a week, and was a kind of absent father for me and my two older brothers. He used to laugh with me when I was in my twenties and tell me the first thing I would ask him when he would come visit is "When are you leaving?". I loved him but feared him at the same time, you know what I mean! I need to go but I just wanted to say "Thank You" for the memories of my Fantastic Wonderful Crazy Loving Uncle Jugee

5:12 PM  
Blogger Chris Kuykendall said...

I intended to include my email in the coment I left above in case anyone wanted any more info on my uncle, or share any stories

lottovegas@yahoo.com

Thanks again.......

5:20 PM  
Blogger Chris Kuykendall said...

I started a Facebook account for George Mantzas Jr, please leave messages and I will pass them on to his sister.
Thank you
Chris Kuykendall

9:08 AM  

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