2017 Christmas letter

Gordon had to fit our letter on two pages so he had to edit someone’s part–he picked mine. I can fit anything I want to on this site so I included the missing pieces. God, I hate it when he messes with my stuff without asking…

December 2017 – START HERE

GORDON: I’m writing this after picking up the tree and hanging lights, so the season is officially started. The holiday season is slipping by so fast I’m almost afraid I’ll miss it – Halloween came and went, Thanksgiving involved a very tasty turkey and a week of leftovers, and I have no idea what to get Barb to put under the tree. We’re both dealing with “I already have whatever I want” – dumb thing to whine about, but we’re grateful to be in that position. The house, on the other hand, is getting some big presents – a repaint and new floor in the kitchen, and Barb’s ‘91 Miata is getting a repaint and new top about 20 years after the last one. Our driveway is starting to look like a collector car alley – even my Infiniti is now ten years old, and the Beast (‘67 Dodge Polara wagon) turned fifty this year. I’ll get around to fixing it up next year I hope.

We did get some traveling in – Another Viking cruise that included Prague and Paris. Prague was particularly fun since I have a cousin who lives there and runs the local Skittles factory, of all things. She and her family were wonderful energetic hosts, and almost walked our feet off day one.  The Viking tours covered much of what we saw that first day, but in buses. We spent two days saying to ourselves “yeah we saw that on foot” or “We climbed this hill with Suzanne and family”. After almost a week on various rivers, we wound up in Paris after a long bus ride, and saw the highlights out a bus window. We’ll have to do that again on our own time. And if you haven’t read Barb’s blog about getting there, you should. Alitalia provided the airplane ride from hell, but I’ll let her tell that story if she wants.

Other trips stayed within the US. I’m now a two-time inductee into the SoDak Rock and Roll Association Hall of Fame, this time with the Fabulous Flippers. This is the band that got me to 48 of the 50 states – The bus didn’t get to Hawaii or Alaska, but it did get me all over the continental US, and any Canadian Province that touches the US. And I got to play with musicians significantly better than me – of the folks that came back for the reunion show, only two (one was me) don’t actively play on a regular basis. If anyone’s interested, click on this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXt-NflV0NY and see me hiding behind the guitar player – we wailed.

My second oldest cousin Nancy (the only person I know who still sends holiday cards via USPS throughout the year – bless her! – not to mention being unofficial organizer of everything reunion, it seems), outdid herself this year, inviting seemingly every shoestring relative to celebrate her and Hubby David’s 50th anniversary in Sheboygan, WI. For this midwestern kid, it was a trip down memory lane to places I frequented with my parents, since all Mom’s siblings seemed to live in Wisconsin. And it was fun hanging with the relatives and friends/spouses thereof who had no background in Northern Wisconsin traditions. Many of us have moved to more cosmopolitan places and acquired significant others who didn’t have a background in Wisconsin mores or eating habits: ya shurr you betcha and ya want some pop? And as a Californian, it was an adventure into red state mores – as a libertarian, I was somewhat refreshed.

I played (I use the term loosely) golf at a charity tournament, and while I didn’t win the “best try” award, I did win a silent auction or two, so I have tickets to Disneyland, which I haven’t been to in almost 15 years. Barb & I spent about nine hours there, riding rides but mostly standing in line, and I think I’ve established Barb’s limit of tolerance for “fun” – about nine hours. We have two more tickets, so we can go back and catch all the rides we missed, but I think I’ll make reservations at one of the hotels on property, so I can let her have a nap before we go out and play until the wee small hours next time.

I’m still doing my LA Conservancy tours, and taking the jobs that get thrown over the transom, but easing into retirement. Gives me time to work on my taxes.  Here’s Barb.


BARB:  I’m running on fumes as Christmas approaches. I decided we had to replace our kitchen floor before year end. I don’t know why I gave myself a deadline; we’ve been living with a warped floor for a year and a half. But I wanted to GET IT DONE! Unfortunately, to replace the floor I had to paint all the kitchen woodwork—which meant a week of prep, painting, and clean-up. And I’m an old lady so I’m getting really tired. I asked Gordon why he didn’t stop me from starting the project and he just raised an eyebrow. I guess he would have had to tie me up and lock me the closet to get me to stop and that’s against the law, isn’t it?  I’m done with the painting but the floor still waits. I had other things on my mind. Gordon had scored some Disneyland tickets so I decided we had to SEE THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!–although I’d sworn for years that the next time I spent a fortune to stand in line for hours I’d do it at the grocery store; at least I’d have something to show for it. But we had the tickets and my mantra is “Can’t waste a thing.”  I’d never been to California Adventure so we started there. I enjoyed the rides that we got on—particularly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy ride although I almost left my kettle corn at the top of the lurch. And the roller coaster was great. I yelled at Gordon, “That was great! I may vomit but it was great!” We finished the day at Disneyland because we wanted to see the fireworks display—which was cancelled due to the brush fire danger.  Of course it was. But we spent nine hours having fun and now I’m exhausted. Which explains our Christmas tree. I went into full screech mode (“We need to get the damn tree NOW!) and wasn’t patient when it came to picking. We just grabbed a wrapped up tree because it’s easier to transport–which wasn’t smart. When we unwrapped it we found a huge gap on one side. And we lost two feet when we trimmed it. Gordon calls it a Charlie Brown tree but I think that’s giving it too much credit. Well, it’s ours now; we’ll love it. Shouldn’t take much time to decorate as there’s not much tree. Time to whirligig about something else. We still have to LAY THE FLOOR! Oh dear.

As Gordon pointed out, we’ve done a lot of traveling this year. My job was mostly to ‘spouse’–smile and be pleasant. You wouldn’t think that would be difficult—but this is me we’re talking about. I spoused beautifully through Gordon’s band induction in Sioux Falls. I was in charge of my own entertainment while Gordon practiced so I toured the arts district which is amazing. I even met some interesting people. Artists are moving back to places like Sioux Falls because they can afford to live there. One of the photographers at the induction told me he was born in Sioux Falls but had worked with Prince and gone to Los Angeles with him. He also worked for Disney painting the ocular at the Pantages theater. Now he’s a sculptor back home where he started. He said he’d like to buy a place in Lake Los Angeles for winter which is in the desert someplace. Apparently I’m not the only one with the idea of spending winter in California and paying taxes in South Dakota. Oh, and the Flippers were great.

Gordon mentioned our Viking tour; if you want to read about it in more depth, google Barbara Schnell’s Daily Squirt. That’s my blog. Make sure to specify Barbara Schnell’s site. If you just look for Daily Squirt you’ll end up at some porn sites. Never even occurred to me when I named the site; apparently I lead a very sheltered life.  Or you can click on this: https://barbaraschnell.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/i-hate-alitalia/

We went back to South Dakota last October for a Prairie Rep (summer stock) reunion. It was fun to reminisce—although I was irritated when I saw the new theater facility. We didn’t even have running water! We had to use an outhouse! These kids have showers! And air conditioning! And dressing rooms! Spoiled whippersnappers. Back in my day we suffered for our art. And the miles were longer and the snow was deeper…Hmmmm. Out of room already. I’ll just add that the cats are fine. George looks like a bowling ball with ears from the rear and Gracie jumps him to make him exercise. I thought it was a man/woman thing. Seems to transcend species. Have a happy and a merry. Check the blog.

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Christmas partying

Gordon and I Christmas’d ourselves to death yesterday. We were helping Jim out with his Christmas concert in the afternoon. He’d managed to find two really fine sopranos, some tenors and basses but he needed mezzos for the alto line. I figured what the hell, I’m not doing anything. Jim promised to keep Foghorn away from me but nobody can control that awful woman. She showed up an hour and a half late to the practice (we all hoping she wouldn’t show up at all) and she was late for the pre-show rehearsal (see above). She managed to get robed then disappeared until the second piece. She made a big deal of forcing her way into our row, in the middle of the concert, loudly whispering for help with her music. We all ignored her as much as possible but she threw poor Jim off. He’s playing piano, conducting, and trying to sing with the basses–which should be impossible but he usually manages. I think Foghorn’s pushing through distracted him and In Dulce Jubilo was pretty rough. We got through it and struggled on. My problem was the sopranos were all tall and I couldn’t Jim at all so I was flying blind. I had to listen carefully to hear what the other sections were doing to stay with them–and when you’re doing time changes it gets tricky even if n you can actually see the conductor. The only thing that really bothered me was when Foghorn decided she had to do a descant all by herself–and if you’ve worked in a choir, you NEVER just throw in a solo like that. And her descant was particularly awful. When she started screeching I thought someone had stuck a hog. I looked at Martha and said, “What the hell was that?” She whispered it was Foghorn and I had to fight the giggles. It was truly awful.

Gordon and I had to leave the concert early to drive down to Newport Beach to catch a party boat–one of Gordon’s professional organizations was having their holiday party there. I stripped off my robes and we ran out, pretty sure we going to miss the boat anyway. We flew down the carpool lanes but it was 6:10 by the time we got parked. Some other stragglers ran with us and we managed to catch the boat. Thank God the captain had held up for us because they’d heard the freeways were all screwed up, as usual. We made it! And I was glad. It was the final night of the boat parade–the residents decorate their boats, both sail and power, and slowly lap the harbor a few times. It was very special. And then there were fireworks. I’m so glad we managed to catch the boat. We caught up with old friends until the DJ decided we’d talked enough and drove us outside with really loud music. That’s ok; I’d brought a scarf and gloves and it was a nice night to stand outside. Besides, I got a better view.

We got home about 11 and just died. I’m taking today off. The plumber didn’t get the work order last Friday; that’s why he didn’t show up. He’s says he can come tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see. I might work on the floor anyway. We know where the leak is so we can just a bucket under it and put down tile. I need to get my stove re-installed so I can make cookies. And fudge. and toffee. And the whiligigging begins already. Acckk!

We’re in our choir finery. You’ll probably never see us looking so angelic again.

One of the decorated powerboats

And a nicely decorated sailboat! I like the way the light reflect on the water.


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Greetings from Casa Cesspoole

It’s that time of year again–I’m marketing a seasonal book! Ho ho ho.


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Something Rotten at the AhmansonI

I spent yesterday morning prepping my kitchen woodwork for painting and running errands–and I was exhausted. I only worked for four hours but you’d think I’d been digging ditches for a week. I used to spend six hours a day doing house building–but I was younger. I have to build up a tolerance for hard work. Or get younger. One or the other. I made salad and sandwiches for lunch and then took the afternoon off so I’d stay away for the play.

Gordon and I stopped at Kendall’s for our pre-show treat. I startled the bartender by declaring, “No soup for me! Tonight I’m in a mood for mussels.” I loved the mussels, white wine, and bread. We played a so-so game of Jeopardy then crossed the street to admire the decorations in Grand Park. I was surprised to see where the county had moved the tree. It’s been outside the Dorothy Chandler ever since I’ve been going to the Music Center–and that’s almost forty years. I guess they had more space to work with because there were lots more decorations. And they make a nice picture in front of City Hall.

I may have enjoyed the mussels but they didn’t enjoy me. I burped garlic throughout the show. I appreciated Something Rotten anyway. It’s a send-up of Shakespearean times with a playwright trying to come up with a new idea to compete with Shakespeare. He comes up with the idea of a musical and hilarity ensues. Actually, it really does. The play is clever and funny–and blessedly non-political. It’s intelligently silly. And it’s fun to identify all the themes from hit musicals interspersed throughout. I think even Gordon laughed out loud and I usually think it’s a good show if he stays awake. The cast were all excellent. It’s a holiday treat. Go see it.

I’m still burping mussels. I guess it’s back to soup for me.

Lots of lights. Merry Christmas from Los Angeles.

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On Sexual Harassment

I don’t know anyone my age who hasn’t been harassed. My first experience was in college. I was trying to work at the college radio station–me and all the guys. They had the walls plastered with Playboy pinups. I got a little disgusted–actually, a lot disgusted–so I brought in that Cosmo spread of Burt Reynolds–you know, the two page spread of a naked Burt with one hand–and a staple–coyly covering up his genitals. I taped my Burt pic up with the women and you’d have thought I’d set fire to the place. How dare I! Didn’t I know that was disrespectful to men? I just looked at all the yammering males and said, “Seriously!? Look at what you’ve taped to the walls!” Apparently that was alright. Boys will be boys, after all. The teacher in charge of personnel refused to let me even apply for the licensing test. He was going to “show that Barbara Schnell. Who did she think she was?” I didn’t want to work in radio anyway, thank God. I wish I could remember that little pissant’s name. I’d show him who Barbara Schnell is.

The next time was when I was a senior in college. I was working as a bartender at the Pheasant Lounge. It was about midnight on a quiet Saturday when the owner came in, drunk as a lord. He trapped me in the back when I was putting a tray of glasses in the dishwasher. I wasn’t too surprised; he trapped most of the other women I worked with. They usually ended up crying; I don’t know if it went any further. It was the usual “screw or you’re fired” situation. Well, I’m not a crier. I threw a glass at the old fool and stormed out. I was supposed to close up that night. He had to do it himself. Being drunk, that must have been a challenge. But that’s what happens when you threaten to fire someone if they don’t put out. “Screw or walk” loses its force when the victim chooses to walk.

I guess I’d been bothered to one extent or another on every job I’ve had. You learn quickly to talk your way out of ugly situations. Unfortunately, I’d gotten so used to being accosted that I didn’t trust any man at all. I remember a senior partner at a law firm I worked for offered to take me out for a drink after I’d performed some service above and beyond my job description (not sexual!). I tried to get out of it but he said he wanted to thank me. There didn’t seem to be any graceful out of it so I accepted. He took me to his tailor’s Friday night happy hour for selected clients. I had a glass of wine and argued with all the other attorneys (heavy hitters in the city). One guy asked me if I was one of the new associates and I told him I was just a peon. He said he was glad; he’d hate to have to argue against me in court. When my lawyer buddy gave me a ride home I was tensed up, waiting for the pass. He didn’t try to touch me. He said he’d come from a poor background, the Southside of Chicago, and I shouldn’t let the lack of money or family stop me. He offered to sponsor my entry into Bolt at Berkeley. I didn’t even process what he said until later. I was just eager to get out of the car without a hassle. But what a comment on how women were treated. A mentor couldn’t help out a promising candidate without her expecting a quid pro quo. I appreciated the offer but I didn’t take him up on it. I didn’t want to be a lawyer anyway.

I did want to become an actress. That’s why I’d come to California. I remember a producer asking me to dinner to discuss casting (before I got married). We had a nice chat over dinner then he asked me if I had an apartment. I said, “Yes.” He suggested we go to my apartment to discuss the part further. I said, “No.” That ended that. At least I got dinner.

I shot quite a few commercials when I was chubby–worked all the time and nobody bothered me; I was a comic. But after I got married Gordon gave me the time to figure out diet and exercise; I lost 42 pounds. I’m told I was gorgeous. All I knew was that I was skinny for the first time in twenty years and got to buy a whole new wardrobe. And I quit working. I was told skinny women weren’t funny. I replied, “Have you talked to Goldie Hawn lately?” Most casting directors, the women anyway, did their best for me. I’d make it to the callback, things would be going great. I remember goofing around, getting laughs, and I said, “Blame that on my husband.” Silence. One guy said, “You’re married?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Happily?” I said, “Most of the time.” And I never heard from them again. At least no one tried to fondle me. I just didn’t get hired.

I did get fondled when I took an improve class at the Groundlings. I got the bad luck of getting a short, dumpy woman of Asian ancestry for a teacher. And for some reason she hated my guts. She kept partnering me with a goofball who I think came from a showbiz family. The first time he grabbed my ass, I was startled but I thought it could have been a mistake. The second time he did it I figured out it was no mistake; he meant to do it. And the teacher knew it was happening. She enjoyed my discomfort. Then third time she partnered me with him I called him out. We were in front of the class and I pointed my finger at him and declared, “If you touch my ass one more time I’m going to break your f**king arm. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” He stammered that he did and I said, “Then let’s do this.” The teacher just blinked and I glared right back at her. It’s not just men who victimize women; other bitchy women play the game too. I was puzzled as to why the kid thought he could get away with that behavior. I honestly think he had a crush on me. Did he think debasing me would attract me to him? And I can’t guess at the motivation of the teacher. She told me I didn’t pass and would have to take the class again and I told her I’d consider it. Hah! Like I was interested in the Groundlings after that–although she was probably right not to send me further up the ladder. It’s a group performance and you need people of like tastes. I thought the Groundlings humor was sophomoric–I’ve never really liked PeeWee Herman, their star alum–so I wouldn’t’ve fit in at all. But it wasn’t a total waste. I educated one young man. And some other guys in the class later came up and told me never to change. I think they were amused my forthrightness.

So apparently you can stand up for yourself and be admired or you can submit and work. That’s not acting, that’s prostitution. Not interested. I never worried about getting acting jobs anyway. I found other, better ways of making money. And now I’m writing. Nobody gets to grab at you when you’re on your own couch. But I feel sorry for young women. They seem to have to go along to get along and that’s infuriating. That’s what we fought against 45 years ago. It seems worse now than it ever was.

I’ve been musing about the Cosby trial. I remember when he was first accused. A woman who sits next to me at the Ahmanson asked if I thought it was true and I said, “Probably. He has a rep for being a hound. But I can’t take the women who are charging him seriously.” I told her that when I was acting a lot of the young women loved to go to the Playboy mansion parties where Cosby apparently had most of his encounters. They knew exactly what was going to happen at those parties and they fought to get invitations (one actress I took a class with bragged about being one of Wilt Chamberlin’s 4000). And the comment was always that you got the best drugs at those parties. It was the 80s and ‘ludes were popular. So you have to wonder if these accusations were just money grabs. Can you rape the willing? I can’t comment about the young athlete. I have no idea what happened to her. But I’m skeptical about the other charges. And I keep coming back to the women I’ve known who’ve played along for gain. I remember a casting agent telling me that he couldn’t count the times women offered him sexual favors for parts. He said they even sent him unsolicited naked pictures. So it makes you wonder… And it makes me wish those women would quit soliciting. It encourages the bastards to bother the unwilling–you know, women like me. I can’t comment on Weinstein. He has the reputation for being a jerk. Boy, is he paying for it now. But he was in a position of holding people’s future hostage. Pretty sure he deserves whatever happens to him. I also want to point out that the men with the most accusations are all butt ugly. My theory is that some cheerleader dissed ’em when they were teenagers and now they can get back at beautiful women. They should be happy with making money; that’s what nerds do. Quit torturing pretty women. They didn’t do anything to you–anyway they’re doing their damnedest to avoid you. Let them be.

Anyway, I hope the men who deserve it get what’s coming to them. And the innocent men are left alone. But how do you tell the difference? I guess you go by the evidence. If there is any. Don’t have any answers.

This picture of a feral tomcat seemed appropriate. This is Squirt. ‘Nough said.

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I just got another nudge that I haven’t been tooting my own horn lately. So I’m tooting. I’m really terrible at this. Hey! At least it’s a short toot!

It’s not porn! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JYIV9D6

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Bright Star at the Ahmanson

Gordon and I stopped at Kendall’s for our soup and wine before going upstairs to the Music Center. We got there early to get a seat but that was okay; the Dodger game was on. I had time for a second glass of wine as we all cheered on the Dodgers. Unfortunately, we had to leave in the fifth inning to go to the show but Gordon has the Dodger app on his phone so we could check the score at intermission. Always lots going on in Los Angeles.

I enjoyed the music of Bright Star, written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was mostly Blue Grass with some ballads thrown in. And that suited the play right down to the ground since it took place in North Caroline after WWII. Carmen Cusack reprised her Tony-nominated role of Alice Murphy; she was just wonderful. Her singing, her acting….it was nice to see a meaty part for such a talented woman. The whole cast was wonderful doing their clog dancing and country singing. The audience seemed to really appreciate the Americana. We all clapped along with the band when they played Blue Grass by themselves. I had a few problems with the book but I think I was the only one. I noticed all the men in the row in front of me surreptitiously wiping their eyes. It was moving. I never understood why the New York critics dissed it so badly; probably because it was a love song to the American South. I particularly appreciated the fact that not one negative reference about Republicans was evidenced. It was a relief to see a show without current politics. Anyway, it’s a sweet show with a talented cast. If you like Blue Grass music, or even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy it.

One interesting thing I forgot to mention that Gordon pointed out last night. The music supervisor was Peter Asher–you know, the Peter of Peter & Gordon? Apparently, when the duo broke up Mr. Asher was head of A&R for the Beatles. In 1971 he founded Peter Asher Management, representing James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, and the list (and the beat) goes on. I had no idea.

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