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Time on my Hands

By 1974 I found myself with more free time than I’d had in years. The house was running well, I entertained as before, went out as often as I chose to accept invitations, but money was running low. I changed agents, but it didn’t help. A few spurts of activity at the beginning and then the slow down. I thought perhaps I was going out of vogue. Fortunately, I had a lot of hobbies which helped keep my mind occupied.

A year later I found money getting tight, so I decided to sell the house. I figured the change of location might shake things up. Hiro had found a lovely girl whom he wanted to marry. Instead of moving all the furniture, I gave it to him and his bride as a wedding gift, plus a few thousand dollars to get started on.

The day after I entered escrow on the sale of my house I started looking for an apartment and my spirits flagged. Everything I saw felt cramped. I was used to spending a lot of time at the pool or in the garden and I’d taken that open feeling for granted. I didn’t want to buy anything at that moment, figuring in several years when I was back up to action and the bank account was healthier I’d get another house.

I found a spanking new condominium penthouse on the edge of Beverly Hills that I could rent. The living room ceiling was two stories high, it had a fireplace, and there was a loft up a circular staircase that opened onto a rooftop patio. Two bedrooms and two baths. One bedroom became my study and library and one of the bathrooms became the powder room. I put my woodworking machinery in storage, along with a few other personal items that didn’t fit the new place, and sold the wine cellar contents at a very good profit to a restauranteur friend.

A few months before the house sold, I’d committed to buying eighteen cases of 1975 Bordeaux wines on futures (that is, pre-arrival prices). The vintage was considered outstanding and the wines wouldn’t be bottled and in the country until 1978. By then, I’d be in another house and would have another wine cellar, but, as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you’re planning other things."

The only upsetting factor about the move was not being able to keep my bird dog, Cappi, with me. She was used to going in and out of the house through her pet door for years and a German Shorthair needs plenty of room to exercise. I had a friend who owned a kennel in the San Fernando Valley where he boarded and trained water retrieving hunting dogs. I boarded her with him, knowing she’d get a good outing two or three times a week. He was extremely fond of Cappi (as was everyone). She was a very mannerly dog who I’d taken through obedience school, and was always a joy to have around.

During hunting season, I’d pick her up on Saturdays and take her back to Bill’s place Sunday evenings. We’d hunt quail on a ranch that was owned by some friends, north of Santa Barbara, or go to a pheasant club. Bill told me she always sensed when I was going to show up. She’d lie down in her kennel and quietly wait for me. When I dropped her off on Sunday evenings, it always tugged at my heart, but she seemed to have a better understanding of the situation than I did. She’d give my hand a quick lick, then turn and walk to her kennel with Bill, never on a leash.

About a year after I moved into the condo, real estate prices started zooming and any idea of getting another house had become moot. The place on Benedict Canyon that I’d sold for $180,000 sold the following year for more than $220,000. It’s changed hands several times since then and I heard the last price was $800,000; by now it’s probably over a mil.

My personal manager, Gene Yusem, had long since faded away. He just stopped calling until I got the idea that he wasn’t representing me anymore. I didn’t think it was the nicest way to end the relationship, but after years in this business, one learns not to expect too much from people.

A new commercials agent I’d signed with called me a few months after I’d settled into my new digs. A Japanese man had inquired as to my availability to do some on-screen commercials for Toyota. They wanted to make three commercials, all to be shot in the U.S. but only shown in Japan. They were willing to pay $100,000 for two weeks work and the commercials would be shown for only one year. Combat! was being replayed every three or four years there, still one of the most popular series. The commercials were a breeze to do. Toyota and I did them for four years.

The dry spell was over.

During that time, they threw in a car and some trips to Japan. The gentleman who had located me in Los Angeles, Yuzo Takagi, who resides in the States now, always accompanied me. We’ve become great friends. Each time I went back with him, I spent time at Yoshikawa Inn, to which I introduced him. It always felt like returning home. As we were flying over on our first trip together to Japan, he told me that he’d take me to a very famous international restaurant called Makidonorodo. It turned out to be the Japanese pronunciation for MacDonald’s.

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