Not only was I a daredevil bicycle rider as a child, I had an artistic bent. As but one small example, I drew a color picture of Sparky the Firedog and they showed it on television, all through Los Angeles, on a major broadcast by Fireman John.
I also watched the Sid Cesar Show with my parents. And I would write fan letters to Imogene Coca on large lined pieces of school paper used to practice handwriting, a faint green in color with an inch between each line, using a different color crayola for each letter. One time, someone from the studio called and asked that I send in another letter. So I did. Unbeknownst to me, the staff would tease Imogene Coca mercilessly about these fan letters, which she was convinced the show's own staff of comedy writers were writing themselves just to give her a hard time .... and one time they even worked my fan letter into a skit on television. The guy who called and spoke with my mother way back then in the 50s was named Woody Allen. My parents thought the situation was hysterically funny. But the humor of it was above me. From what I understood from their conversation, as a kid, I kind of thought those tv writers and even Imogene were making fun of me, and I silently swore revenge. So, on one level, I said to myself as a child, maybe I can even write jokes for television someday. Not bad for a six year old child, hey?
And I got to meet some celebrities right in Compton. One was Polly Bergan, a singer, whose family lived in Compton near us (her sister and my sister were the ones pretending to babysit, remember, before meeting friends at Metrick's Market and sneaking off to stand around outside Johnny Otis's club to hear Big Jay McNeeley play saxophone).
Another was Captain Jet, who I had to travel to another town with my parents to meet and shake hands with and do the Zooom moooz hand jive. And I even met the man who broke the sound barrier in the 1940s, Chuck Yaeger, whose brother ran a Cadillac dealership in a neighboring town and who had invited Chuck out to meet the folks in the hopes they'd buy a Cadillac. Onstage at the local movie house right in Compton, Lash La Rue dressed all in black from head to toe, from black hat to black cowboy boots with a black satin shirt and black trousers in between, would do lariat and whip tricks. Ca--rack! And one time, Monty Montana came on a Saturday to the movie house and he rode his big white horse onstage, and his horse reared on his hind legs and Monty took off his hat and waved it in the air!
But meeting Rin-Tin-Tin himself was the best. The absolute best! I even got his autograph, on a postcard they'd made up in advance, like a dog had put his paw on a black ink pad and pressed it onto the postcard. Someone else had even signed his name for him, "Love, Rinty".