“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
The Rock Star
My uncle Jack was a contractor, the youngest Eagle Scout in his troop, the mayor of La Canada and one of the finest people I’ve ever known. He built the guesthouse for our family friends around the corner, Dick and Jane Kelsey. Yes, those are their real names. They loved to go out to dinner with my parents, Harry and Mary, and Dan and Cam Gross, also friends from the neighborhood.
Speaking of names, you may have noticed that it seems that nearly everyone in my family is named Mary or John. If you’re keeping score, we have nine Marys, if you count variations, eight Johns, three Harrys and three Sterlings so far. Even Uncle Jack was a John, but because of his gregarious nature all the grownups called him Uncle Chatty.
Anyhow, my cousin John was working for his dad on the guesthouse and came over one day to say hi. When he arrived, I asked him if he knew that that very night was the last of six sold-out nights for Led Zeppelin, at the Forum in Inglewood.
He said he did. And I said, why don’t we go and five minutes later, we were cruising down the 405 in my ’69 Karman Ghia with no tickets but we had a dream.
We got to the concert after it started, and no one else was in the parking lot of 10,000 plus cars, except for one lone scalper with two awesome twenty-dollar tickets. We felt like celebrities, as the ushers led us to the sixth row from the stage, dead center. The concert was terrific, loud and wild!
I need to tell you a little backstory here. You may recall that many of my cousins had Model A Fords that were in various stages of restoration or decay, depending on how you looked at it, and that we took occasional summer trips on back roads in the West, past many farms and ranches, dotted with grazing cattle.
Well, our Model As rolled along at about forty-five miles an hour with no radio, phone or air conditioning. With nothing to do but shoot the breeze, we got a little bored here and there and started looking for diversions. So, we decided to see if we could attract the attention of the cows.
It turns out that is pretty hard to do. Grazing cattle don’t respond to yelling or pounding on the side of the car or the distinctive sound of the Ahooga horn on a Model A Ford. Believe me we tried and nothing worked. Miles and miles of cows just kept chewing the grass and ignoring the monkeys going by in the old cars.
Somehow, I began to think about my friend Todd’s dad, who had been a cameraman at CBS and had a vast collection of old movie shorts. One of these featured Joe E. Brown, a famous comedian who had a distinctive way of saying, “Hey.” He stretched it out, so it was more like, “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!”
I decided to give it a try but threw my own twist into it, so it started out quiet and slowly became super loud. “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYY!!!”
And to our surprise, every cow in that first field stopped chewing, raised its head and looked up at us. Every cow in every field looked up at us after that.
They didn’t stampede or appear frightened. They had more of a, “What the heck was that?” look on their faces as we passed by. Well, we named it “the cradle call” and had a lot of fun with it, until we were so hoarse we couldn’t speak.
Back at the Led Zeppelin concert, the crowd went wild as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page rocked out on stage. And at the end of a song, cousin John suddenly gave a super loud cradle call. Robert Plant turned around and yelled, “Heeeey!” back at John, in response.
So, next time you’re at a concert and want to get the attention of a rock star, or perhaps get thrown out of the venue altogether, or you’re just out driving through the country and see a herd of grazing cows, well, now you know what to do. And I’m sure you’ll have fun doing it, cause we sure did.