Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Five



Rafael Méndez ~ trumpet virtuoso

I ’ve met a fair number of famous and accomplished people, which is remarkable considering how shy and introverted I was as a child, a condition born of abandonment, exacerbated by abuse, and finally mitigated by a career as a newspaper reporter.

I was put up for adoption by my single mother at the fragile age of 13 months, and subsequently adopted by people who stubbornly defied the verdict of biology – that they were not intended to have children.

My first encounter with a famous person came at age ten. I was a blustery student of the trumpet, taking lessons from Mr. Collins, owner of the Covina Music Store. I think his first name was Jack, but I only knew him as Mr. Collins. Playing the melancholy “Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen,” I used to hit notes by accident that took years for Miles Davis to perfect.

   Mr. Collins just happened to know virtuoso trumpeter Rafael Méndez, who was coming to our little city to perform with the local college orchestra. To quote Wikipedia:
Rafael Méndez was legendary for his tone, range, technique and unparalleled double tonguing. Méndez's playing was characterized by a brilliant tone, wide vibrato and clean, rapid articulation. His repertoire was a mixture of classical, popular, Mexican folk music and jazz. Méndez contributed many arrangements and original compositions to the trumpet repertoire. His Scherzo in D Minor is often heard in recitals. He was considered to many people the best trumpet/cornet player in the world.

Rafe, as Mr. Collins called him, was a kind man, treating me as if I were a young prodigy, which Mr. Collins generously hinted I might be. Fortunately, Rafe could not stay long enough to actually listen to me play. Otherwise, he might have wanted his autograph back.


~ By Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Met ~ Part One


This world is full of famous people and those who have met them. As a newspaper reporter, it’s not unusual that I should have rubbed elbows with a few famous and infamous folks. What is unusual is that it happened to me at all, considering my ragged beginnings as an orphaned child, born out of wedlock, placed in a foster home and eventually adopted by soul-crushing parents.




Reporter Russ Loar meets presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.


I grew up being constantly punished, made to believe that I deserved constant punishment, told repeatedly how inadequate I was as a human being. It’s not surprising that I grew up expecting rejection from the world at large, considering what a failure I was in my parents' eyes.

I entered the tumult of adolescence with a serious inferiority complex, taking refuge in music, in playing the guitar. I was lucky enough to have steady gigs as the years went by, content to be in the background. And in my early twenties, smoking marijuana provided another refuge.

It was only when my wife became pregnant with our first son did the inner adult begin to emerge. I had been hiding from the world, extending my adolescence, just talented enough to have gigs but not talented enough to have an actual career in music. Imagining what kind of father I would make in my current condition, I belatedly realized it was time to grow up. I returned to college, earned a journalism degree and began a new career for which I was not only trained extensively, but one in which I could actually excel.

   Thus began the journey from a frightened little boy who would hide under the bed whenever the doorbell rang, to an intrepid newspaper reporter who would one day meet the man who would become one of the most popular presidents of the most powerful country on earth—Bill Clinton.

   Meeting famous people is a routine fact of everyday life for many journalists, especially those on television who have their own star power. But I was a 36-year-old college graduate with only an internship and a year at a public relations firm writing newsletters when I got my first newspaper reporting job at a small weekly paper. It was not only the journey from being a dope-smoking, introverted guitar player that was remarkable, but also a combination of luck and the ambition to seize opportunity that led to my memorable encounters. Here I was, the boy who was brought up to believe he was among the least capable human beings on the planet, interviewing some of the most brilliant and accomplished people on the planet, writing stories about them for thousands of readers.

   For those reading these essays about my life who are not members of my family, I don’t expect you to be that interested. This world is full of famous people, and of course it’s far more interesting to be a famous person than to be a person who has met a famous person. But I am writing these essays for my family—my sons, my daughters, and perhaps someday grandchildren and their progeny. I have had an improbable, lucky life, and even at my advanced age of 65, I continue to have ambitions. I am writing these essays so that my succeeding generations will know where they came from, for I am the beginning of what I hope will be a long line of family. I was born out of wedlock by a father who already had a family and a mother who gave me away, perhaps out of concern for my well-being, perhaps not. They are the accidents from which I was created.

   I am the beginning of this family tree, married to my dear wife Cheryl for decades now, a loving mother who is highly literate and intelligent with a sophisticated appreciation for the aesthetics of this life. So to all those who follow, whether by way of family or in spirit, I write these essays for you. I write them to let you know who I am, or perhaps by the time you read this, who I was.



~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved

A Message




I remember the day when my mother left me at the Children’s Home Society and never came back.

(◄ Click to enlarge.)


That’s why I always knew I was adopted. And as the years passed I often wondered about my birth parents – who they were; where they were; if they were still alive.

Several years after my first son Joshua was born, when I was 30 years old, I felt suddenly overwhelmed one day by the desire to find out as much as I could about my birth parents. I immediately sat down and wrote a letter to the Children’s Home Society. It was Friday, October 24, 1980. My emotions were flooded. I was seized by the need to take some kind of action, to begin the search.

After about two months, someone wrote me back, giving me as much information as California’s restrictive adoption laws would allow. It was not much, but it was something. It was important. My father had an extramarital affair with my mother, who had kept me for a little more than a year hoping he would leave his wife and children and marry her. When it became apparent this would not happen, my mother put me up for adoption. About six months later, I was adopted.

I searched for years trying to find out additional information without much success, until 2006. I’d posted my information on an adoption site online and a professional searcher quickly found out all my birth information and put me in touch with my two half-sisters, my birth father’s daughters.

My wonderful new sisters told me many things about my birth father, including where he was buried. He’d passed away twenty-six years earlier. When I called the cemetery to ask about the location of his grave, I also asked for the date of his death, something I’d forgotten to ask my sisters. I jotted down the date on my notes.

Every bit of information was gold to me, so long sought after, so long in coming. As I assembled and transcribed the vital statistics of my father’s life, I had all my records and paperwork spread out on my desk. I typed in the date of my father’s death. Then my attention was drawn to the letter from the Children’s Home Society, the response to my first letter of inquiry. The first paragraph reads:


Due to pressures at the CHS office, it is taking from two to three months to respond to inquiries such as yours dated 10-24-80.

My father had died on that same day, Friday, October 24, 1980, the day I was so overwhelmed by a surge of emotion, prompting me to finally begin the search for his identity by writing to the Children’s Home Society.

I have never heard a discarnate voice from beyond the grave. I have never seen a ghost. But clearly, on the day my father died, some kind of message was sent. Some kind of message was received.











~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

The Princess Marjorie



M y mother saved things.

She had $50 bills hidden in an envelope beneath a stack of unread magazines in the cupboard of an old nightstand.

She had a small box of Kennedy half-dollars inside a small safe, underneath stacks of envelopes bound together with rubber bands. There were $50 bills inside some of the envelopes.

There were lacquered jewelry boxes and plain cardboard boxes filled with necklaces, rings, pendants and pins in dresser drawers beneath undergarments, old mail, pill bottles, pens and a lifetime of assembled ephemera. There were some valuable heirlooms mixed without distinction among trinkets from the many countries she had visited with her late husband. Photos taken by her husband were collected in box after box of incredibly boring slides which were viewed once or twice when friends came over, then stuffed into cupboards and never seen again. Marjorie and her husband did not seem to enjoy their travels as much as they enjoyed accumulating them to be admired and envied by their friends.

My mother was 15 years old in 1929, when the stock market crashed, followed by years of economic turmoil. But her parents were wealthy and the family was protected from ruin. She was a spoiled, only child who was smart and talented. She was a top student, played the piano and the violin, and pretty enough to be pursued by legions of young men, her friendship desired by admiring young women. She was a small-town princess whose photo routinely appeared in the society pages of the local paper.

So many in her small town had fallen into poverty during the aftermath of the Great Depression. So she saved. Everything.

By the time I was a teenager, her garage had turned into a museum of the useless and obsolete. She had saved all my father’s old electric shavers, though they didn’t work very well anymore. But they had value, somehow.

She saved cookie tins, so handy for storing things, even though she had more than twenty empty tins stuffed into a cupboard beneath her dead husband’s cluttered workbench. You never know when you might need one, she thought, and if she threw them away, in just a very few days she’d suddenly have a use for them, and then it would be too late.

After her electric garage door opener had to be replaced, she would not let the repairman take away the old, greasy, rusty, 12-foot-long mechanism. There might be parts in it that would come in handy some day.

The garage was packed full of stuff like that: old corroded sprinkler heads, scrap lumber stored in the rafters, old magazines, cardboard boxes that had come with her televisions, her coffee maker, her microwave. There were cracked plastic buckets filled with tattered kitchen dish towels and rags. Boxes of old calendars, coffee cans full of nails and screws and other mysterious, hard-to-identify parts saved by her late husband.

Inside her house every drawer was packed full. Many contained unopened mail, solicitations she meant to review, stacks of envelopes bound with rubber bands. She kept every greeting card she’d ever received, every letter, all the way back to when she was a little girl.

One might guess she was a sentimental person. But sentiment was barely in evidence as she accumulated her way through life. Sentiment was, at best, a fleeting afterthought, a momentary pause in the pursuit of acquisition. She never looked at the things she saved. Much of it was packed away in places too difficult to easily access. Each card and letter she saved was a kind of honorary award, bearing testament to her worth. They were her small trophies; homage paid to the princess.

I could go on and on, describing in great detail all the unused kitchen appliances, the unread books, the cabinets full of figurines, crystal, ceramics and silver – so many things only the privileged could afford to own, things that were never taken out of their places and handled, looked at or enjoyed.

But even in this small accounting, my writing becomes a repetition of the compulsions that surrounded me as a child, the compulsions that infused my soul, against which I have fought every day of my adult life.

Inside my mother’s garage, inside her drawers, in her closets and cupboards, in her attic, in every empty space, a lifetime of accumulation gathered randomly, while on the outside, her splendid home was neatly decorated, her most expensive possessions on display, touched only by the housekeeper who kept them dust-free.

My mother married a successful salesman, too young and sheltered to realize she’d fallen in love with a sales pitch, not a man. They were far from soul mates. She was Lady Di. He was Homer Simpson. She kept her husband at arm’s length as the years passed by, in his appropriate place, untouched, on his side of the bed. After a few years, she accumulated two children. First my sister, then I were adopted – an appropriate pair to show off at the country club.

As time went by, her husband and her children proved to be quite troublesome. Instead of showering her with praise, devotion and servitude, we actually required love and affection. Since she could not put each of us in a display case, she entombed herself within a display case of her own making. She became untouchable, permanent, unchanging, unwilling to share her carefully constructed and accumulated life. Yet we were relentlessly human and asked for more than she could give, and grew to resent her.

She came to realize she’d made a mistake. Life had been perfect when she was the only child, the small-town princess, admired by all she knew. She could never become the supplicant, required to make an earnest entreaty for love. She was superior and would never admit any kind of emotional need. And so she accumulated things and pre-empted any emotional connection by treating those around her with cruel contempt.

She was known in the community as a rich and respected woman who lived in a grand house full of splendid possessions. But she was utterly impoverished in spirit, without those intangible things which are our true possessions, which are the true measure of our lives.

This was my mother, the Princess Marjorie, sovereign of a vast wilderness.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved