Matthew Lickona 2:29 p.m., May 24
Wednesday, July 4, will mark the ninth anniversary of the death of Barry White. I'm taking note of that date because he really pissed me off back in 1980. I was reminded of that particular time when I read his biography a few weeks ago. In the book, he took full credit for his success as a musician, and even said he did all of his arranging himself, which was not true. Our friend, Gene Page, whom Barry simply describes as an "educated black man" did all of the arranging for Barry and even gave him money so that Barry could pay his rent and feed his children when he was a struggling artist.
Around the time that I was about to married to his road manager and the co-writer of his song, "The First, The Last, My Everything," he told myintended not to marry me because "a young girl will only be after your money."
"She's never asked me for a dime," my intended said. And he was right. The only thing I got out of that relationship was a five-dollar T-shirt from Hawaii and a diamond ring, and I gave the diamond ring back on the day I left him.
A common thread that runs through the biographies of entertainers like Barry White, Jermaine Jackson, and even Michael Jackson is that women are gold diggers. Where do they get off? I'll admit I did know a few women in Tinsel Town who made a career out of marrying for security, but I wasn't one of them. No man has ever made me feel financially secure except for my dad.
I can still recall the hard look Barry gave me when we met at the Frontier Hotel. You would have thought I had "out for cash" stamped on my forehead. And the thing that makes me angry all these years later is not that he was suspicious, it's that I let him get away with it. I was too shy to stand up for myself.
I have always felt I had to downplay the accomplishments of my family, and now I think it is utter crap. If I had to downplay who we were, I wasn't with people who were fit to be around. I didn't exactly arrive in Hollywood on foot as Barry did, having walked from his home in South Central Los Angeles, I arrived in the new car my dad bought for me when I graduated from high school.
My dad grew up a poor farm boy in Iowa and had vowed to make something of himself. After serving in Korea, he received a master's degree in engineering from UCLA, and designed modules for the Apollo Space missions, and because he signed a confidentiality agreement, he was required to find another line of work when that job was done. For a few years, he owned his own metal products company and then lost his shirt when his best friend, a guy named "Fast Eddie" embezzled Dad's tax money instead of paying the tax bill.
My dad spent the rest of his career working as an executive for a telecommunications company.
My mother's side of the family had class. She came from a long line of Harvard-educated lawyers. My great-grandfather was Dr. Ernest Lyons, a lawyer, missionary, and reverend for the Methodist Church. I recently received a printout from my uncle that told about how Ernest started the United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
I will say that my ex did stand up for me later. He finally took Barry aside and said, "Uh, her uncle is the senior vice president of Great Western Bank. He flies around on a private jet and if you don't believe me, take a look at the Wall Street Journal. His picture is on the front page because he is the foremost authority on mortgage banking in the country.
My grandfather, Sam Lyons, was known as Mr. Orange County. He was tossed out of Harvard because he stayed up all night drinking and playing cards instead of studying. Eventually, he became a police officer and a columnist for the Orange County Register. His involvement in civic affairs, most notably the council that built the children's hospital, led him to friendships with Walter Knott and Walt Disney. His other friends included Bob Hope, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan whom he met when he was the head of the Republican party for Orange County.
Growing up, I thought everyone visited Walter Knott in his little office on the main street of Knott's Berry Farm, and I often heard stories about how Walt Disney had his office on the second floor of one of those little shops on Main Street at Disneyland. Mr.Disney had his office there so he could "see the people who came to visit."
I can still remember eating dinner at Coco's on 17th Street in Tustin when Senator James B. Utt came to our table to say "hello." He tried fervently to get Grandpa to run for the senate, but he said his nerves couldn't take the crooks.
And to think that Barry White, who once served time for stealing hubcaps, thought I wasn't good enough for him. If the truth be told, my family wouldn't allow "show business people" in their houses because they were considered low. Grandpa's friends were an exception.
And what's really ironic is that at the end of his life, Barry's girlfriend claimed that her daughter, little Bariana, was his when in fact she was not. DNA testing subsequently proved that there was no relation. So when it came to sizing women up, I'd say the maestro was a bit off key. Anytime I needed money, all I had to do was call the family and someone would drop off $500. And I worked part-time too. I didn't need Barry White or any other guy at Motown to pay for anything.