Saturday, April 9, 2011

Old Lady of the Hills, Naomi Caryl (Part one)

In my last post I mentioned that after eating at Musso and Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard we proceeded to drive up the hills to visit Naomi, the Old Lady of the Hills. In August 2009 while reading ToraA Mirror’s blog of Norway I saw a comment by Naomi and paid a visit to her blog. From then on I started to read her posts. It was because of her report on Musso and Frank Grill that we tried to go to this restaurant in June 2010, but unfortunately it was closed (see my post here.) At the time Naomi told me that when I came back to Los Angeles to make sure to go and visit her. So when we returned there in February 2011 we did pay her a visit.

click on picture to enlarge

The road was quite steep and hilly – and very narrow. My daughter, driving her little sports car, was cautious.

Naomi greeted us in her lovely home. The large window-sliding door in the main room attracted the eye immediately. Moving near this window, we saw the stunning view and felt closer to the clouds than to the land below.

Naomi told us that the view is ever changing – the sun and the light giving a different backdrop to the panorama in an instant. Naomi has taken many photographs from her balcony – I can understand how inspiring this is.

Click on collage then click on picture to enlarge - these are Naomi's pictures
I knew a little bit about Naomi from reading her blog since 2009. Being there with her I felt that I had known her for years. She has a very warm and inviting personality.

Naomi has been writing her blog “Here in the Hills” since October 2005. She has an engaging style and writes on a variety of subjects: her life in show business, her family, friends, her art, her pets, her garden, the animals she observes, flowers, books, movies and many other subjects. Please click on “Here in the Hills” to visit her blog – you will enjoy it – it is fun and a visual delight. She has the most beautiful cat, called Sweetie. Sweetie is a little bit shy and we did not see him right away. But he came back toward us, slowly.

I thought I would ask Naomi some questions in an informal interview style, such as - What delights you most in nature? – Naomi: Flowers, Plants, Cactus and Succulents.... Hummingbirds--in fact all kinds of Birds including Hawks....But there is something about Hummingbirds that touches my heart. I think all living creatures in the Animal and Plant world are fascinating to me.” Naomi has shown many pictures of birds on her blog. I made a collage of the hummingbirds.

Naomi's pictures
She also showed some hawks and doves that nested in her garden.

Naomi's pictures

My next question was: You talk about books in your blog -what type of books do you like to read, do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? – Naomi: I love "memoirs" and autobiography.... “The Autobiography Of Malcom X," which changed my life in some very important and fundamental ways...., but I really prefer reading what the actual person has to say about their life.....In fiction, I like really 'escape' reading…. In one of her posts Naomi showed her den where walls are covered with books.

Naomi's pictures

Then I asked her: What did you want to be when you were a young girl? Naomi: I always wanted to be in show business or the theatre. From her posts I saw that Naomi was born on 27 June 1931 in Great Neck , New York – a peninsula on the North Shore of Long Island, about 17 miles from New York City. She is the youngest of four children.

Naomi at 4 years old

Her sister Robin passed away in 2005 but she still has her brother Gordon and another sister, Gene.

Naomi with her brother Gordon at 5 years of age
Since she was 4 years old her family took her to the theatres in New York City to see great plays and musicals of the late 1930’s and 1940’s to the end of the 1950’s. She grew up loving the theatre. Naomi spent 2 years studying at the Feagin School of Drama located in Rockefeller Center in New York.

Vintage postcard of Times Square in the 1940s, New York

When she was barely 20 years old Naomi received her first salary ($1 because this was done at a church) as an actress playing the role of Abby (one of the old eccentric sisters) in "Arsenic and Old Lace.” Then she obtained acting roles throughout the summer playing the Sea Cliff Summer Theatre in Sea Cliff, New York where she was an “apprentice.” She was cast as Eunice Hubbell in Tennessee Williams “A Streetcar named Desire” and received her Equity Card through this role. One of the stars that played there that summer was the great silent screen actress Lilian Gish (1893-1993.).

Lilian Gish by Charles Albin, 1922
Naomi remembers her well because Lilian Gish made a generous gift to the apprentices which no other star ever did. You can read about this in her post here. It is interesting to read Naomi’s posts as she mentions, in passing, great actors and actresses she has worked with or met. For example she was chosen to be Eva Gabor’s “dresser” during the week Gabor played Sea Cliff in a light comedy called “Her Cardboard Lover.”

Eva Gabor, 1919-1995

After speaking for some time we moved to the dining room where a lovely fruit salad and some other sweets were waiting. It was a warm day and we enjoyed drinking lemonade in blue crystal goblets. I failed to take a close-up photo of the beautiful decorated table and the striking water goblets but here is a picture taken from Naomi’s blog.

These goblets used to belong to her mother. Naomi has several posts and photographs of her mother - one is of her mother when she was a young woman. The photograph shows a very lovely lady with large almond shape eyes, the same eyes as Naomi.

Naomi’s mother Jen, affectionately nicknamed “Jen the Hen
I took a picture of the floral arrangement as I could not fail to notice the exquisite roses.

Reading Naomi’s blog I saw that she delights in flowers, especially roses, and has taken many photographs of the lovely floral arrangements a nearby art-florist creates for her. Here is a collage from her pictures.

Click on collage to enlarge and click on individual photos

This made me think of the many “Ladies who Lunch” posts Naomi shared with us. In it we see the same dining room, for memorable lunches or for birthday occasions with fun presents. Lovely floral arrangements are always present. Her friends become our friends when she show us the “Ladies who lunch” posts or her fun New Year’s parties.

I had failed to take pictures of the lovely china on the table but on Naomi’s’ blog I found some pictures showing several examples as you can see below.

In her posts Naomi has showed many beautiful cacti flowers.

From the balcony I had bent over the railing and seen a great variety of cacti and other succulent plants.

Naomi has a terraced cactus garden since her house is on a steep hill. Here is a picture she took to demonstrate it.

It was time for another question, and this was: Did you get nervous before a show? Naomi: Yes, I had a horrendous fear. She added that this was before the show, but once on the stage the fright was gone. However when she sung she was always relaxed. Naomi‘s first 45 rpm was released in 1956 by Ember Records. Below is a photo of her at the time.

Naomi also recorded for Cambria Records as you can see by the picture of Alexander’s Ragtime Band recording below (one of the first records they released.)

Naomi at the time (late 1950s) worked in small night clubs in and around New York City and throughout the East Coast. She also did a booking, without rehearsal, at the Officers Club at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, DC. It was not an easy time for her and very lonely. You could not tell by her voice though because it was very clear and fresh. She recorded several songs like “Before You Say Goodbye…” and a record, which I found on YouTube, called “If” released by Ember Records.

I saw in her posts that her parents’ divorce had been very painful for Naomi and her sisters and brother (and her mother too.). After being quite ill in New York she decided to move to Los Angeles in 1961. She found an apartment there, on Hollywood Boulevard. And now, here, we could see Hollywood from the home she purchased three years after moving west. I went back to look at the view and took a picture of a cat peacefully sleeping on the balcony.

Like this little kitten, I think we’ll take a rest now, and will come back for more, next week.

P.S. I noticed the video above does not work anymore.  I found another one, on youtube :


Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post, Vagabonde! Naomi is a most interesting lady. I love the terraced garden.

DJan said...

You are such a gifted writer of memoirs yourself, VB. I loved this story, the roses, the pictures, and getting to know Naomi. I am heading over to her site to get to know her even better, thanks to you!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Vagabond, my dear...You make me sound so interesting and my home so inviting, I would like to come visit me, myself! (lol)....
You did a beautiful job with this, my dear, Truly! Thank you so much for showing all these wonderful things...I had forgotten some of them like the pictures of the different China, (I DO dearly love beautiful China...) and those three baby Hawks and the Hummingbirds---Delightful!
Thanks so very nuch....!

Kay said...

Thank you for introducing us to Naomi. What a very interesting person. It's always fun to actually meet a blogger in person, isn't it? I'm always shy about it, but once I do, it's like you already know them. This is such a wonderful post! I love all the photos. I'll be sure to take a peek at Naomi's blog.

marciamayo said...

Another beautiful gift to the eye and the brain and the heart.

Jeanie said...

Oh, my! I must visit Naomi -- she sounds amazing and through your words I can get a wonderful essence of her warm personality, her love of beauty and her passion for life.

Isn't it wonderful to meet blog friends? I think so, and when you come away feeling filled with joy because of that meeting, all the better!

Thank you so much! Imust go meet Naomi!

Friko said...

Thank you V, for this introduction. I must go and visit Naomi.

I hope one day you will come and visit me too and we can go for a walk in the wild woods you miss so much.

Pondside said...

What an interesting life - thank you for the introduction.
Blogging opens doors like nothing else. It's such a pleasure to read blogs, meet their authors and perhaps make new friends.

Ann said...

thank you for this post..through your words and the photos,I've spent some lovely time with a fascinating woman! As i read your post,i felt her warmth,it seemed like i was there with you!i must go to her blog now!

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Great post and thanks for the introduction to Naomi. How nice to meet a fellow blogger. I've had that opportunity a couple of times and we had a blast.

Like Naomi, I like to read memoirs and autobiographys too.

bowsprite said...

Ah!!! lucky us!!! what a delight for all senses!!! the colors, the Nature, the stories, the music! thank you Vagabonde and thank you Naomi!

Elaine said...

How lovely to be able to meet a fellow blogger, and one who has led such an interesting life. I love her view!

✿France✿ said...

COUCOU tu sais je n'arrive pas à faire marcher la traduction donc je ne sais que te dire encore. Par contre je vois des oiseaux et des bestioles que j'adore. je vais voir ce que je peux faire car ce n'est pas le top pour moi bise

Miss_Yves said...

Fabuleux destin d'une femme de tête qui savait ce qu'elle voulait!
J'aime beaucoup la photo de sa " tanière où les murs sont couverts de livres.", et celles des stars d'autrefois.
Lilian Gish,( que l'on connaît surtout dans son rôle de vieille dame au grand coeur dans la nuit du chasseur,) était bien jolie
Le paysage des Collines ressemble , par sa végétation et son escarpement aux hauteurs de Cannes...ou de Monaco, avec son jardin exotique

Olga said...

So many interesting things in this post. I think I'll return to it a few times. I particularly love to read about real people who have lived in the era of my parents and grandparents. I know I idealize it, but I still have a strong nostalgic feeling towards that time. Your photos are fantastic.

Ruth said...

I see that Naomi appreciates beauty as you do. This is a very nice biographical post on your friend, I'm sure she must have enjoyed it a lot.

Anonymous said...

That view is amazing. It is certainly more than a million dollar view in LA.

Great photos, as usual. '

I am just catching up with all of the blogs I have missed recently. I will check out your others as well.

Margaret said...

Just wonderful! You are amazing for sharing this wonderful lady. :) And I adore the song - how fun and what a beautiful voice.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Southern California

I added myself to follow your blog.
I invite you to follow my blog.

God Bless You :-)

BTW, I haven't seen a 45 record in years :-)

Shammickite said...

Oh my goodness, Naomi is going to have many many more visitors to her blog after such a wonderful description of her home and her life. I have been reading and commenting on Naomi's writings for a few years, and you are quite right, she is a fascinating lady and she always writes with such passion and flair. I love her pictures of the wildlife around her home, and the flowers, the cactus, the birds, the trips around the notable views of Hollywood, the "Ladies who lunch". Thank you for a very readable post about a lady that I have never met, but nevertheless I call her my friend.

Snowbrush said...

What a wonderful story and photos, Vagabonde.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! I'm glad you got to meet this nice lady, it definitely adds a lot to a trip when you get to meet a "local".

I met a couple of Bloggers in person and I wasn't disappointed. Tell me how you write and I'll tell you who you are I guess...

claude said...

Quel joli post, Vagabonde ! Tu lui rend un bel hommage à Naomi, dont je partage quelques passions, sauf celle de la lecture. Je t'en parlerai quand on se verra à Paris.
mot vérificateur : asteere. Cela me fait penser à Fred que j'adore voir danser.

John's Island said...

Hello Vagabonde, Your blog is representative of many reasons why I think blogging is a better form of social media than, for example, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This post is simply great and it gives us an in opportunity to go along with you, virtually, on your visit to see Naomi. I was hooked from the first photo showing the view out of her home. I love a good view and her view is outstanding. Very nice how you related the visit and the informal interview. Naomi certainly has had an interesting life. Thank you for a wonderful post. Now, also, thank you for your kind comment on my blog. You asked about when to visit Yellowstone. All the seasons have their special attractions, but my favorite time to visit is in September after the summer crowds have thinned out and the days are still, for the most part, warm and sunny. John

livininlb said...

Even though I love my two cats dearly, I do have to admit that Sweetie IS the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. She is definitely the Elizabeth Taylor of cats. The pictures don't come close to showing how exquisite she is. And her Mom, Naomi, is a very generous, interesting and warm lady! =)

Monogram Queen said...

Having become a blog acquaintance of Naomi's several years ago I am pea green with envy that you had a chance to meet Naomi in person! What a wonderful tribute to a truly extraordinary woman. I will definitely be back for part 2!

Ginnie Hart said...

Bloggers meeting bloggers! That's the mood I'm in these days, too, Vagabonde, having just returned from Norway. You and I are on the same page, loving to travel and meet each other. Lucky for me, I have met YOU!

Vagabonde said...

Vicki Lane, DJan, Lady of the Hills, Kay, marciamayo, Jeanie, Friko, Pondside, Ann, Sam@My Carolina Kitchen, bowsprite, Elaine, Olga, Ruth, Alwaysinthebackrow, Margaret, the Old Geezer, Shammickite, Snowbrush, Zhu, John’s Island, linvininlb, Monogram Queen and Ginnie – Thanks y’all for reading my post. I enjoyed writing it and I am pleased you enjoyed it. I am finishing the second part and hope you will read that one too. Thanks so much for your comments.

Vagabonde said...

France, Miss Yves et Claude – merci d’être venues lire ce post. Je termine la seconde partie et espère que vous viendrez la voir aussi. Merci pour la visite.

Jenn Jilks said...

Such a beautiful Blogovation.
thank you for this.
Thank you for visiting my blog. Always, you make me look back and view our history.

Darlene said...

Wow !! What a fascinating lady and what a great life she led and still leads. You were both blessed to meet each other because I think you, too, are fascinating Vagabonde and lead in interesting life in your many travels.

I had a friend living in the Hollywood Hills and remember the steep drive to her house. Sadly, we have lost touch through the years.

✿France✿ said...

Bonsoir oui je vais regarder pour la traduction. BISE

Rachel said...

I had to come and read your post about dear Naomi! I think I have been reading her blog from almost day one! She is a lovely person and I wish I could meet her someday in person.

I loved reading this and I especially loved hearing her sing! She sings so well!!

I'm going to read the second part now!

Dutchbaby said...

What a fantastic post about a very interesting lady! I loved traveling to the Hollywood Hills and also backwards in time.

What a feeling it must be to have worked side by side with all these Hollywood greats. Lilian Gish and Bob Fossey - Wow!

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Travis,
That is quite a story and a remarkable lady!
She persevered through a number of things.
The links however are no longer working but I found her video at least to hear her voice:
Hope all is well with her!

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Vagabonde,
Sorry for calling you Travis in the above comment...
Was not yet fully awake!

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