Peyton Hall was a lovely garden apartment property at the corner of Hollywood and Fuller, just west of La Brea Avenue. It featured beautifully manicured sprawling grounds and walkways, interspersed by white bungalow-style buildings boasting four units each. I don’t remember if every building had the same layout. I don’t think so because some units were singles – bed-and-bath affairs – and I assume there were two-bedroom units available. Dad’s place was a one-bedroom.
Somebody told him that actor Leo Gorcey once lived in that apartment. Gorcey was best known as one of the Dead End Kids.
His rent? $225 per month.
Just up Fuller was the parking garage. It seemed ancient to a ten-year-old – like it could have been an old stable or something. I could imagine early-model cars parked there back in the day, way older than my dad’s 1967 Chevy Impala. According to an ad I found online, a parking attendant once worked in there.
I thought his Impala was ancient, too, but it was only seven model years old. What a difference a little perspective makes…
Behind the garage was an Olympic-sized pool, said to have been built for aquatic MGM star Esther Williams. The pool was a huge feature at Peyton Hall. It was textured with small square tiles, most light blue and some black to mark the lanes.
Even as a youngster, the magic of the place was not lost on me. It was palpable.
Strolling east down Hollywood Boulevard was a journey of discovery for me and for my brother. This was a world we had not known in Miami, although that place, especially Coconut Grove, holds an altogether different treasure trove of memories.
The twins discuss what drove them – what defined them when they were younger. Perhaps getting reconnected with that is the key to a more meaningful life now. And Judas Priest, chemistry sets, Ken Kesey, Sherlock Holmes, stamps, comics and much more, including a gem from the archive. PHOTO: Yale Brothers at House of Blues Myrtle Beach (PHOTO: Mike Heidtman) SHOW NOTES: 0:00 – Chris messing around in GarageBand 1:41 – Greetings / K.K. Downing book / Judas Priest 2:45 – More about Downing / If you cut an old rocker's hair / Judas Priest / Rock 'n' Roll Church / Living After Midnight 4:28 – Remembering who we are / Buster and his cone / Sentient dog / Scientology 6:03 – Roger's blog post: Remember Who You Are 6:32 – "Clear" / Scientology and Chris' Scientologist girlfriend back in the day 7:07 – Roger reads part of his blog post: Remember Who You Are 9:34 – Comic shopping in Hollywood / Chris liked chemistry 9:45 – The Yale Brothers at 17 11:03 – Younger Chris: Sherlock Holmes / Chemistry sets / drums / Magic / Stamps / Secret Crime Fighting Service 11:23 – Chris' stamp collection / Mint never hinged / Old stamp collectors / Columbian Exposition versus Colombian Exposition 13:45 – Chemistry sets as presents 14:55 – Riffing on alchemy 15:25 – Chris' drums / First talks about playing music / Later talks about starting a band / The move to Los Angeles / School bands / Steve Kobashigawa and the glockenspiel 17:54 – Are we who we thought we would be? 18:11 – More from Roger's blog post / Our first band with Pascal Srabian / Bla Bla Cafe Studio City / Gazzarri's Hollywood / Lee Newman / Jimmy McHugh / Eddie Cantor 20:03 – Ditching at "Liverpool" 20:31 – More about Pascal (RIP) / Did we work hard enough? / Variables / 20/20 Hindsight / Collaboration / This podcast / "If You Walk Away" By Chris and Roger Yale / Influences 25:00 – Chris' definition of "hindsight" 26:30 – Who Chris wanted to be 27:29 – Rising above it 28:26 – Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out. Is Chris a hippie? / Sir versus dude 32:04 – More about K.K. Downing / Rob Halford 33:17 – Punk ethos versus corporate rock 33:48 – Divided only by ideas 34:57 – Getting on the bus / Ken Kesey / tripping for the first time / "Are we here?" /"The Bible Bus" 36:55 – Chris gets out of pulling weeds 38:56 – "Rise Above It"
The first time we tried this, embarrassingly enough, was in 2008, when podcasts were still gaining steam and long before they became ubiquitous. Over a period of a years, we made several more stabs at this – and then we just stopped.
Some earlier attempts went up on SoundCloud, sort-of complete but not quite actual episodes. But we had stories to tell…
And we still do. Stories about growing up in Hollywood in the late 1970s and early 1980s – a period when the town was what my brother called “beautifully grungy” – well before a Build-A-Bear Workshop appeared across from the Chinese Theater.
We lived at the foot of the Hollywood Hills at Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive, in an apartment building wedged directly in between the fabled Magic Castle and a 40-unit hotel our father managed called The Magic Hotel. The hotel is now called The Magic Castle Hotel.
At that time, not only the names of the buildings were magic. Our young lives were as magical as could be.
This podcast will be cathartic for us, and I hope the stories of twin boomers coming of age in lotus land will strike a chord with those curious enough to have a listen.
But we’re not just about looking back. Expect to hear original music in each episode and updates on what’s going on with us now in Myrtle Beach.
In Disney’s “The Lion King,” the shamanistic mandrill Rafiki instructed Simba to look deeply into a pool of water, revealing his father to him. Mufasa appears in a cloud, dispensing what was to me the best advice ever: “Remember who you are.”
I would like to get through this blog post without naming the source of the global pandemic currently at play. Rather, this is an opportunity to touch on a subject that might have become muddled for many boomers over time – myself included.
Seclusion offers a chance for reflection. In some cases, this reflection gives birth to an agonizing reappraisal – a reordering of priorities and beliefs and an existential reset.
THE EYES OF A CHILD
I knew who I was when I was a child. My favorite years were likely ten and 17.
“Mad Does Smell / Mad does smell / Prices raised too high
First ten cents / Now fifty / Not worth it to buy
Trashing all the Mads / In a single garbage can
Might be pretty tough / ‘Cause there’s too much to stuff…”
You get the idea.
Note that I said I was writing and submitting. As far as selling – well I might still have those rejection slips in storage. I hope so. But I loved to write. I identified with it.
I was also a voracious comic book collector and budding entrepreneur. I used to place classified ads, calling for neighborhood people to sell their old comics. My “business” name was Mr. Comix, and I bought up a lot of books on the cheap. I got more interested in keeping them than selling them.
In my late twenties, the cares of the world and my own bad decisions let to my decision to sell off my comics to Golden Apple Comics on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood – for a fraction of what they were worth. I needed to make in-arrears payment on a 1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster I had no business buying in the first place. Eventually, it got repossessed. No bike. No comics.
I don’t care about the Sportster. I still wake up with a start when the comics pop into my mind.
I was an enthusiastic ten-year-old, and the world was my oyster. I liked nothing better than writing, in no small part because my father was then a screenwriter – and he encouraged me when he saw that I had taken an interest. Dad never got the break he was looking for – but he was prolific, and I still have his screenplays.
At 17, my twin brother Chris and I had already been playing music for several years and we teamed up with a French kid named Pascal Srabian – a great, natural guitarist – and formed a trio called Yale. We played out at places like the Bla-Bla Café in Studio City and actually won a Battle of the Bands at Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip. Our dear friend Lee Newman managed us, and we were all inseparable.
Lee is busy these days running his family business, Jimmy McHugh Music. McHugh was Lee’s great-grandfather and gave the world such priceless tunes as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I’m in the Mood for Love” and so many more. Lee is the real deal. Hollywood royalty. His other great-grandfather was Eddie Cantor. Think about that for a moment.
Sadly, Pascal was gunned down one morning in 1981 as he was about to get into his Firebird. A jealous husband found out that Pascal was sleeping with his wife. The husband fled, presumably to Mexico. I don’t think there was ever any closure.
But our late teens were heady times. Chris and I believed we would be rock stars. Unfortunately, we partied like rock stars but failed to do enough work. We had several bands in Hollywood after Yale, and our failure to launch haunts us to this day. That’s almost as painful as losing my comics.
It’s no use pining away for what might have been – and it’s never too late to correct course.
If we get in touch with our inner 10-or 17-year-old selves, we might be able to salvage some of those old hopes and dreams.
What makes you want to get up in the morning? What do you remember doing when you were a kid that lit you up like nothing else? What were you certain about? What would you be doing now if you stayed true to those nascent plans – those stirrings that urged you on?
My world centered on writing and later, music – and although I am not getting rich with either, I am happy to report that I’ve been again engaged in those things for more than a decade – and I still get lit up about it.
A byline, a show completed. There’s still a thrill attached to both.
If you worked at Motown Records, you worked for Gordy. Whether you actually saw him was beside the point. I never saw him, but a lot of mail passed through my hands on the way to him.
I found out about a mailroom opening from a friend while I was working at a hotel my dad managed in Hollywood, The Magic Hotel (now The Magic Castle Hotel). I was twenty and had worked at the hotel for several years – doing a little bit of everything but mainly front desk duties at that time. My twin brother Chris also worked at the hotel and, looking back, we had a sweet deal. In addition to our paychecks we lived rent-free in a wonderful old apartment on Franklin Avenue and Orange Drive – in between the fabled Magic Castle and the hotel.
But none of that seemed to matter. I was young, and this was Motown.
I spiffed up and went to fill out an application at what I thought of as the First Interstate Bank Building at 6255 Sunset. I met the HR boss, Brenda Johnson, and had a brief chat after I filled out my application. Memory is a funny thing. I’d like to think she hired me on the spot, but it would be safer to assume I got a call from her later.
Motown occupied three floors in that building and each floor seemed to have its own personality. Floor 16 was a bit sterile – things like personnel, accounts payable and receivable (finance), the tape library (run by an outstanding human being named Frances Maclin) and what I believe used to be called data processing – an ice-cold room that housed the computer systems. But Jobete Music, a Motown publishing arm, was also down there.
When I started, songwriter Ron Miller’s office was directly across from the mailroom. I could lean on the half-door’s counter and look at him in there if his door was open. Miller wrote many songs for Motown artists in the sixties and seventies, including the lyrics to “For Once in my Life,” – of which Stevie Wonder’s version was a monster hit.
Another memory of the 17th floor was that a young Benny Medina had an office there. Medina was A&R boss at the time, and some of his real-life experiences were the basis for NBC’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The 18th floor was rarefied – Gordy’s executive suite, Smokey Robinson’s office and Motown Productions (MPI – headed up by Suzanne de Passe) were all there. I also remember a guy named Tony Jones, who had a management company up there, somehow connected to Motown. At that time, he represented an artist named Finis Henderson. I remember a couple of Henderson’s songs; “Skip to My Lou” and “Blame It On the Night.” Years later I saw Henderson do standup at The Comedy Store on a bill with a then-relatively unknown Dennis Miller.
I did mail runs twice a day – maybe three – on every floor with my little cart. It was also part of the job to restock the coffee stations. We were also in charge of the office supplies, which were kept in a locked storeroom inside the mailroom – and my immediate boss Reginald Dotson was over purchasing. I cross-trained in purchasing – processing purchase orders. We made a morning and an evening trip to the Hollywood post office on Wilcox. I worked with a great bunch of guys, and I will never forget them.
I was at Motown for roughly 18 months, beginning in August of 1983. Everywhere you went, it seemed like the walls breathed music. Everybody had a stereo, and most of them were in use at all times. Some examples of stuff that came out during my time there are Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” The Commodores’ “Night Shift” and Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me.” Rockwell was one of the boss’ kids, Kennedy Gordy, and I suspect a favor was called in for Michael Jackson’s appearance on that record.
Jackson was long gone from Motown by the time I got there, but Jermaine was still signed. Three months before I joined the payroll, Michael debuted his Moonwalk on NBC’s “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today Forever.”
Other snippets of memory: DeBarge’s “All This Love,” Teena Marie, and the Rick James’ album, Cold Blooded.
I’m happy to be setting all of this down before the memories are lost to time. There will be more.
As another tourist season ends in Myrtle Beach, I am happy to report that I have been busy with my twin brother, Chris Yale, in our musical work as The Yale Brothers. The fact that we played more shows than last year in different venues is heartening – and I want to continue that momentum. A big “thank you” to the management of these spots – and a grateful shout-out to everybody who came out to support us.
As we mention in our bio, we’re working to recapture the spark that we ignited long ago – specifically when we were just 14 – writing, recording and performing for the first time. We made a pact to start a band on par with KISS or Aerosmith with two our best friends in Miami as we were finishing up what is now considered middle school. The plan was to secure our instruments over the summer of 1977 by hook or by crook (well, at least wheedle our parents into securing them for us) and reconvene at the beginning of ninth grade.
Chris and I planned on begging our father to buy us a drum set and a keyboard while we were visiting him for the summer in Hollywood.
Our band, with the uber-pretentious working name Iron Cross (hey, what do you want – we were 14-year-old boys), never came to fruition because of a life-changing event in our lives: We also asked our father to let us stay with him permanently, and after some intense conversations with our mother, he said yes. I plan on going more detail about those early years at a later date.
Long story short for now, Chris and I came of age in Hollywood – playing music as a duo and later in several iterations of bands there, most notably our last one there, Rogue Alley.
My brother has been on The Grand Strand since 1992, and I’ve been here since 2005. After a ten-year stint in the local classic rock cover band Sick Stooges, of which I was a founding member – I’ve been working with Chris exclusively over the past few years. The end game is to do play out even more next season and head out of town for gigs, devote some time to writing and recording – and to finally get our podcast up and running.
In early September, a message appeared on The Yale Brothers’ Facebook page from a guy named Roger Robinson in the UK. He was very complimentary about our music, but the crux of the matter was that he was doing research on the original Yale Brothers for a magazine he publishes in England called The Perry Winkle, which is devoted to all things Laurel & Hardy.
He was aware that my Dad and “Uncle” Roger had performed with Laurel and Hardy – presumably at the Glasgow Empire in 1947, and had stumbled across an old black and white photograph of the four of them together while visiting the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston.
This intrigued us, and I was happy to help with any information I could provide – and my brother Chris felt the same way.
Robinson heads up Saps at Sea, a chapter of Sons of the Desert/The International Laurel & Hardy Society. Interestingly enough, there is a Saps at Sea/Sons of the Desert chapter or oasis/tent here in Myrtle Beach. Full circle.
I am so grateful to Robinson for reaching out to us about this because this is part of the legacy left by my dad, Carl Yale. He meant so much to us.
Here is the finished product.
Thanks again, Roger Robinson – happy to count you a friend!
Even though we haven’t figured out the proper feeds and under-the-hood stuff to officially call this a podcast – the fact that we have another half-hour conversation in the can, as they say, is a testament to our resolve.
As a fitting follow-up to my last blog post, we talked about my trip to Charleston last week and our memories of “A Chorus Line” back in the day. Boy oh boy our dad gave us so many wonderful memories.
The other original cast member that we forgot for the moment was Priscilla Lopez, who was the original Diana Morales. Wayne Cilento, the original Mike Costa in the show, was nominated for seven Tony Awards – finally snagging one for choreography for the Who’s “Tommy” in 1993.
How could we forget that it was Ann Miller who starred in “Sugar Babies” alongside Mickey Rooney when we saw it at the Pantages in Hollywood back in the day. I was thinking of Ann Jillian, who became famous from that show.
This week’s “Stump the Guru” was an attempt by yours truly to trip up Chris about the band, Translator. He did not falter.
Chris got a check from ASCAP yesterday, what he calls mailbox money.
Other items: The Continental Hyatt (Riot) House on Sunset – and our encounter with Little Richard. Chris’ earlier encounter with him at rock ‘n’ roll Denny’s on Sunset and Vista before that. The Central, which became the Viper Room. Filthy McNasty, the FM Station and Eddie Money “opening” for our band there.