Dropping Butter on Queen Victorias Head
by Lloyd Kahn
unctuality being the mark of a true professional, Howard picks me up at 4 A.M. sharp for his jitney ride to the airport. Its a cold, drizzly March morning and Im heading for Baja. A first-class ride from Bolinas to SFO helps make up for the cramped-knees mode of a Sun Trips flight to Mexico.
Howard walks into my production studio, a small building overflowing with tools and by-products of the publishing trade mostly books. There are shelves in every conceivable space, and every shelf is packed with books. I see him looking around and say, Stuffed, huh?
Oh, this is nothing he says. Our whole house, and my room, and Claires and my bedroom, theyre all filled with books.
Howard, it turns out, is a book collector, one who goes to book sales and comes home with four to six boxes of books. Hes also a history buff, which means more books. Its genetic, this tendency to accumulate, he says. Along with the reluctance to discard.
Apropos of the subject, it seems, Howard is currently working 34 days a week in San Francisco helping an elderly man move out of his home (to an old folks home in Oregon). Now this guy was a collector. He was also an artist and book lover, so the house on 47th Avenue is packed to the gills. He had saved lots of newspaper and magazine articles and for some reason I cant remember right now, 20 copies of each.
Howard is going through all this stuff with him and he apparently relies on Howard to help make decisions. They have four categories:
- Keep it
Hell say, Goodwill, and Ill say, Dumpster, and hell say,OK. Occasionally Ill get him to save something he wants to get rid of, but he has a hard time making decisions. I really like him, its a good thing to be doing. And besides, going through all this stuff with him makes me look at my own life . . .
knew that Howard had gone to NYC a few weeks before to attend the Duke/Duchess of Windsor auction and and asked him about it.
He loved it: the auction, the people who attended, New York, Brooklyn (where he stayed with a friend). I dressed in all black wool. Black hat.
It was fabulous. On opening day there were hundreds of people, 1215 TV crews. After that it settled down. I would go every day . . . . There were all these elegant people, bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bidding went way beyond expectations. A piece of their bridal cake sold for $34,000!
Howard bought (for $3000) a photo album of the thenPrince of Wales. He was so happy then, you look at the pictures, he was smiling. He was 17 years old, a midshipman, the men loved him . . . in later years, there were few smiles. He looks dour. In all the family pictures he seems unhappy . . . his father died and he became Edward VIII, King of England. But he was never crowned . . . .
oward drives fast. The maroon van hustles through the early morning mist were stylin to the airport. Hes got 280,000 miles on the Ford Arrowstar with Mitsubishi engine van. The engine is original, but hes on his fourth transmission.
alking about the Duke and his family history and the English monarchy in the 20th century gets us back to Queen Victoria, and her full, rich life. I had a kind of Victorian upbringing, he says. My father was very Victorian. Stern . . . He was in the fabric business in Dublin . . . .
You know, when I was a small child, I used to dream of flying and I would see Queen Victoria below in her carriage and I would drop a pound of butter on her head.
Yeah, when I was four or five, I had dreams of flying all the time. I was chubby, I wore a nightshirt and I would fly, and carry a little wicker basket with various things in it, including butter. I would fly by and drop butter and other things on Queen Victorias head.
s we get near the airport, I ask Howard how his acting is going. Good, he says, hes working one day a week character-acting on Nash Bridges. Its great this year, theyre not so uptight. For one thing, they dont have as much money (as last year), so they cant do five takes of each scene.
Which means that bit-players can get a bit more . . . exposure. Ive been playing a cop. So if I see a chance to move closer to the camera, I do it . . . and no one says anything . . .
Watch for Howard on Nash Bridges, hes the guy in the policemans hat edging closer to the camera.