Sunday, March 18, 2007

Our Father's Sequins

I hung out with my new friend Charlie yesterday. He had an itch for adventure and thought I might like to join him. I had an itch myself, so I complied. We met up and hit the road for our destination: The Reagan Library in Simi Valley. On the way we stopped off at a privately owned public sanctuary called Gardens of the World, which was a pleasant surprise. We strolled through a Japanese garden, complete with asian teenagers reading Joseph Heller. Then we found ourselves in a California style mission that reminded me of the set of a Salma Hayek movie. The place is quite compact and beautiful, though not everything is blooming quite yet. Maybe we'll return in a month to see the English Roses in full effect.

By this time, we were starving. So, we stopped off at a little Mexican place for some spicy duck tacos. It was good, but I could hardly tell the difference between duck and chicken. I remembered the time Roman Coppola sent me on a mission to find him a baby duck for a commercial shoot we were working on. Needless to say, baby ducks don't exactly grow on trees in the greater Los Angeles area, so I got him a lobster instead. Anyway, after lunch we hit the freeway again and finally arrived in Simi Valley.

The Reagan Library isn't a library so much as it is a giant monument to all things Reaganesque, and as we heard a young boy, much to his father's dismay, put it: "Fabulous!" The museum starts out with a collection of red dresses, worn by the various First Ladies of recent years. Charlie and I were surprised to find that the best of the lot belonged to Betty Ford. Who knew? Next up was an exhibition called "Gifts to the President", a large hall filled with an astonishing number of bizarre gifts given to Ronnie whilst in office. This was the beginning of what we would soon realize was the museum of 90,000 chachkis. Rhinestone beltbuckles (about 200), statues, paintings, saddles, portraits, knives, guns, quilts, big leather "artwork", etc.

We were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of insignificant crap, so we made our way into the hall of history, where various displays take you on a virtual tour of Reagan's life. Charlie pointed out that they was only one small picture of Jane Wyman (the first wife) and their two kids. The paint was worn off from people pointing to the names and, I imagine, saying: "See, I told you...." I quite enjoyed the Assassination Room, admiring the x-ray of the president's chest. For all the bullshit that the Reagan era represented to me at the time, it hardly compares to where we are today. In a strange way, it made me miss Ronnie a bit... Yeah, the Cold War ended, the Wall came down, but Jane Wyman wasn't the only thing oddly missing from the museum. Charlie said he wanted to write in the guest book: "What about AIDS?" On second thought, I don't miss Ron that much.

Towards the end of the tour, you can have your photo taken boarding Air Force One. We politely declined. The plane was not as fabulous as I had expected, as well as being historically inaccurate. There, in plain view, was a Vogue magazine with Catherine Zeta-Jones on the cover. Shame on you, Reagan Library! That bitch was an amoeba in the eighties! Then again, weren't we all? After that, we dropped by the Oval Office, noted the vast number of Jelly Beans available at the gift shop and stopped by the grave. I'm not sure he's actually buried there, but a headstone exists, on an ugly little monument next to a garden donated by Merv Griffin. It was cold, windy and depressing, so we decided to hit some of the local thrift shops before heading home.

Charlie found a few treasures, but I was not so lucky. Was there nothing for me in the Simi Valley? I had chachkis burnout. Charlie showed me a sequin jacket and said: "These could very well be my father's sequins." That got me thinking about my own history, heritage and legacy. What would fill the halls in the museum of my own life? I suppose I need to start collecting rhinestone belt buckles right away. I've got some catching up to do...


Tumuli said...

Your excursions and insight could provide the basis for an L.A.-set film! I've never wanted to visit as much as I do.

Still, all I can remember are Nancy Reagan's gigantic glasses when her husband was laid to rest. The following exchange on the subject between a co-worker and his mother:

Her: "What do you think she was trying to see?"

Saviour Onassis said...

Thanks for your kind words. It was a fun day of Republican memorabilia gawking... I was a bit concerned that Nancy might be there, in those huge glasses like some crazy old librarian, shushing us as we gossiped about First Ladies and how fab the White House China was....
Alas, she wasn't there.

I guess she just said no.

Erik said...

Somehow I always suspected that the Reagans and chachkis went together just like Nancy & Mr. T

There's something satisfyingly, quietly, ever-so-disturbingly surreal about your account that made me read it again. Three times. I wonder what you'd make of the Liberace Museum?

"Chachkis burnout" sounds like the name of an International Male shirt I once, ill-advisedly, procured.