The single most amazing characteristic of Art's was that all his personal adventure stories were true. He was the second close friend of my life whose actual experiences stretched the imaginations of fiction writers. Both of them had to dilute the truth to many listeners in order to gain credibility. You might wonder how I knew them to be true. I was with both friends on a great many of their ventures and heard them tell the stories accurately year after year. Both friends had insatiable capacities for socializing, going out, partying, talking to, meeting people, etc.
Art had been living in Hollywood in the thirties and earned some cash as an extra in some movie crowd scenes. The hockey kids used to tell him they stayed up till three to see him 'wave at the King' or some such crowd scene. He loved it. He moved back in the '50's to stay and be near his uncle Jack in Montclair, California.
During WWII, being 4f, he managed to work for the Army Air Force supervising work crews in Florida. He lived in Kansas City, Chicago and New York City briefly.
Art used to kid me about going to Harvard particularly since he had the opportunity to go to Dartmouth but forsook it for what he considered greater adventures. He had been admitted and his aunt agreed to pay all his expenses. (The image of Art as an 'Indian' alumni just cracks me up. In those days it was known as a winter sports 'camp'. He and Eddie Jeremiah would have 'written the book' on hockey.)
I knew him a long time before he admitted his prior marriages. Many friends had suspected that he had a family somewhere. Not true. His marriages didn't last very long. Even if they were compatible Art had a propensity to go into business for himself and go bankrupt. He told the hilarious tale of how one marriage really shouldn't count. He was partying in New York with a girl. He remembers waking up one Sunday morning and saying. "We didn't get married did we?' The answer was yes and the discussion that followed led to dissolution. Apparently his 'wife' had understood that it was probably all just a lark. He told me about another marriage, the one that lasted a bit, but I can't remember anything other than their agreeing that they should go their separate ways. He always spoke respectfully of the women in his life.
I remember a lady he dated in L.A. in the 70's was very sociable and pleasant. He took her to a lot of Jazz events and a hockey party or two. Well as a lot of us remember, Art had some 'lapses' in memory and one night it cost him her friendship. They had gone to where the 'in crowd' was playing jazz in northwest Long Beach. Art parked the first time at the wrong club. Drove the car to the right club and they entered and enjoyed the music. The 'word' came that the 'in-crowd' was going to another club over on a different boulevard to catch someone special. The rest of the 'in-group' left ahead of Art and his girlfriend. He paid the bill and they exit to his car. It' s raining. Guess what? No keys. Pounds all his pockets, cusses, spouts off six theories as to where they are. Back into the club. Not there. Back to the car. Girlfriend hears the bad news. Hails a cab. Gets in. Says goodbye and shuts the door on Art.
He called a friend with whom he had wisely left a second set of keys, He had left the others beside the driver's seat. She never would see him again, citing 'incompatibilites'. After that he had a key attached to the back bumper.
He was very proud of his final marriage. He had met Latchmi while he was on an extended visit to Australia and Fiji. He hadn't originally intended to marry her but at emigration, trying to get her into the U.S. it was decided that would be her best passage. They didn't get along very well in the U.S. and there was a typical Art scenario that almost resulted in divorce. Latchmi was homesick for her native Fiji. Art agreed to pay her way there but the agreement was that after she was back there and if she found she could stay safely, they would get a divorce. Well, the Fijians seized the government and wanted all Indian descendant people to leave. Latchmi owned property and was Indian descent. She called Art and described the situation. He cancelled the divorce plan so that Latchmi would be married to an American citizen and if deported could come to the United States. Some of us helped in an effort to enable Latchmi to emigrate to Australia. Art, Vince and I had done a great deal of pre-planning on our desire to emigrate to Queensland. Latchmi's daughter was living there due to the efforts of Vince and Art, but the Fijian government told Latchmi to join her husband in the U.S.
Typically I got caught in the middle of this 'adventure' since Art had requested me to retype and mail a letter of his to Fiji requesting the now rejected 'divorce'. I had already mailed it to Latchmi, so there were phone calls and 'correcting' letters to U.S. Australian and Fijian government officials. (I still have copies of these in my 'hockey memorabilia'.)
Art's 'chariot' in the '70's was a yellow late 60's Camaro with a black and yellow interior. There was the ever present sneaker footwear, the athletic jacket, jazz musician friendships and ironclad big band tastes. There were first hand stories with quotes by Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and many others. Art maintained contact with as many people as successfull political campaign managers. I used to talk about some era and geographical region and he would be reflecting and suddenly come out with related names. There was the perpetual lateness. We remember how he would always be engaged in conversation and looking at his watch would say, "Jesus, I'm supposed to be in Van Nuys 10 minutes ago."
He told me of a song Duke Ellington named after a dry cleaners on Trapelo Road in Belmont. Duke lived for awhile in Waverly so he could hop the trolley car for Cambride and Boston. His wife was a Bostonian. Duke told Art one night that he would get a kick out of where he got the inspiration for a song, knowing Art also lived in Belmont along the same trolley line. Duke passed a dry cleaners with a melodic name day after day and finally wrote the tune related to what it brought to him. I haven't been able to recall the cleaner's name. Art virtually worshipped Ellington throughout his career.
There were the famous $5000 'loans' from the valley meat market owner which he kept forgetting. We arranged a meeting to pay them off and Art forgot to show up. I drove 45 miles from Anaheim, had breakfast with Art's ever patient creditor friend in Santa Monica before going to work in Beverly Hills.
There was the day we convened in Zach Levy's office, a major lawyer on Wilshire whose kids were in hockey. The purpose was the legal structure of Art's skate and hockey equipment business. The lawyer's first few questions brought out such convaluted prior arrangements that nothing formal developed in my association with his business.
There was the famous summer program, Hockey By the Sea, named after Howard Rumsey's Concerts by the Sea in Redondo Beach. Art would ask me to call San Diego to see if Peter McNab was going to fly up for the game. Another player had his own plane. I can recall confirming the plans with Mrs. McNab. It was mostly a McNab-Guy Hildebrand confrontation and I can clearly recall referee, Larry Scott at Culver, standing by the boards annoucing a long list of penalties to the scorekeeper. We often wondered if the game should be continued. The roster of the 1971 teams is on my page of ROSTERS , Western U .S, SENIOR & OPEN ICE HOCKEY, 1970-1986.
Art was extremely active in those days. As soon as the store closed he was off to rinks, meetings, delivering equipment and usually spent two nights a week at jazz clubs. The little Camaro would wear out from his relentless running around and a friend mechanic in Van Nuys would often take it to his shop. He loved that car and everyone made fun of it. I swear it was the only one of its color in L.A. Orval Sloan used to say it was a mark of distinction parked outside a rink.
There was the trip to Vegas for a kid's hockey game. Bob Campbell was running the Vegas rink. Well on Saturday I was waiting for Art and he called and said he couldn't make it. I had to do some preparation on my '63 Porsche and made it to the rink, just in time to lower my son Benjie over the boards and into the line-up.
In the summer of 1971 I would leave my son Benjie, age 10, with Art for part of the day when Ben and I had an appointment with my dermatologist in Beverly Hills. I would drop Ben off at the Culver rink in time for Art's summer hockey school and afterwards he would run errands and help Art in the store until I took him to the doctor. One day they drove out to the late Victor Feldman's house, the British jazz musician, in the Hollywood Hills and visited. Benjie was impressed. The average kid in Anaheim did not have such experiences.
One of Art's stories for which I owe him several thousand thanks was his graphic description of what happened, every time, and you must realize the shouting emphasis that Art put on 'every time', that he went to the bank in Santa Monica."Every time I go to the bank in Venice, a goddamed hippie is in the line ahead of me and they have to call back to his father in Scarsdale or Dallas or someplace to get the check cashed. I always (remember the shouted repetition of 'always') have to go to the bathroom and the store is either closed or Jeff is trying to run it and orders are expected and the phone's ringing. No matter what line I get in, he's there. If I change lines, the teller goes on break."One of the first things I noted in the 4th street Santa Monica store was the number of people who came in asking for tennis and or beach balls, ignoring the ice sports only display in the window. Art would politely repeat over and over directions to Tex's Sporting Goods. I suggested that it would be easier to have a carton of tennis and beach balls behind the counter. Art protested that would complicate his records too much. When I helped with sales on Saturdays I noted that one of the simplest bottleneck's to clear up was to add another sales tax chart by the second adding machine. I made nice new clean copies and mounted them under a poly sheet. Art appreciated that and kept showing it to people. I'm sure many remember the difficulty Art had completing a sales slip while engaging in additional sales, answering questions, the phone and getting into whatever discussion was going on. And when the items were all entered, many prices having to be looked up since inventory often got on the shelves before prices were set, he would, with his head bobbing up and down to look through his bifocals, enter the numbers on the clanky old calculator. I believe it only produced a plain undated tape.
The one task that he could not be distracted from was properly fitting a kid's first or second pair of skates. To him that was a foundation for a life on the ice and had to be done right. While doing that he would shout, 'Will someone please get the phone?' and say 'Who is it? I'll call them back.'
All his notes from phone calls were written on 'pieces of paper' which were the bane of Art's existence for many years. Trying to keep them together, shuffle through them, find some he knew 'must be here.'
I know at least once Art lost his little phone and address book and half of Los Angeles wondered what had happened to him. I think his phone bills weren't much less than his rent and probably higher in his early hockey business days.
Go to Art Guiney Part III 1916-1992 R.I.P.
Copyright, Joseph P. Nix, 1999-2013
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