'The Second 100 Are the Hardest'

The old rocking chair will have to wait for a number of the Valley's seriously senior citizens.

Take Stella Wood, 80, the greeter at her neighborhood West Hills Wendy's.

She went in to get a cup of coffee four years ago and ended up going to work.

"When my husband died I did volunteer work for a while. Then I filled out an application for the hostess job here and the owner, Ron Ross, hired me on the spot."

She works five days a week, five hours a day, and she loves it.

She wears a fresh corsage every day, usually courtesy of customers who bring her flowers.

On her 80th birthday, June 14, owner Ross gave her a birthday party with cake and all the trimmings, but she says it wasn't nearly as much fun as her 79th party when a male stripper performed.

Then there's 101-year-old Carl Evans of Glendale.

He lives alone, does very well, he says, and can still read his morning Times without the aid of glasses or contact lens.

"Just remember, dear, the second 100 are the hardest," he says.

And there's also Gertrude Parnes, 90, of Sherman Oaks.

She still drives herself and friends to Bell three times a week to play poker and Pan at the Bicycle Club.

"I used to do wallpapering and painting and all that," Parnes says, "but gambling is more fun."

For One Writer, Crime Pays

Three years ago Karen Kingsbury was living in a $100-a-month garage apartment, putting her husband through school on the $24,000 she earned reporting for a local paper.

The couple's avocation was trying to make ends meet.

When she found out she was pregnant, the Canoga Park High School and Cal State Northridge graduate was thrilled--and terrified--at the prospect.

How, she wondered, could they manage financially?

Today she and her teacher husband are looking forward to the birth of their second child and have purchased a West Hills home.

This is due in large part to Kingsbury's use of the word processor. In September, 1989, Kingsbury, who has free-lanced for The Times, wrote a People magazine article about the murder of an Arleta girl named Missy Avila that prompted New York book agent Arthur Pine to contact Kingsbury about doing a book.

Pine warned her that most advances for first books run between $5,000 and $10,000. However, two publishers got into a bidding war and pushed her "Missy's Murder" advance to a healthy $85,000, ending the money crunch and starting Kingsbury on a new career.

She now writes books about crime and criminals in the San Fernando Valley.

"I got into it by accident, but it really has been fascinating to me," Kingsbury says.

Her publisher, Dell Books, offered the same advance for her second effort, "Final Vows," which is now in bookstores. It is about the death of a Burbank woman named Carol Montecalvo and how her husband, Dan Montecalvo, was found guilty of first-degree murder on circumstantial evidence. "Final Vows" also has been made into an ABC-TV Movie of the Week. It's scheduled to run during the May or September, 1993, sweeps weeks.

Kingsbury is at work on her third book, "Deadly Pretender, the Double Life of David Miller," about a Granada Hills con man.

Yes, she got that same advance.

Fast Draw Artist

Margaret Fleming draws upon her artistic talent for fun and profit.

Fleming creates one-of-a-kind cards featuring her personalized pencil and color sketches. She can copy a photograph or work from real life, the 73-year-old self-taught artist says. The cards may then be taken to a printer and mass produced.

People use the note cards to give or send to friends and relatives. Her busy season is at hand as people come to her for Christmas cards.

"People usually bring me a picture of their family for me to re-create in my own style. For the holidays I can add a special touch like Christmas holly or a menorah to the drawing," Fleming says.

Her prices run from $5 to $10 for the initial drawing and, she says she has as much work as she can handle.

"My husband, my daughter in Idaho and my daughter in Nevada all have samples of my work on their bulletin boards at work," says Fleming, who works out of a studio in a red barn in Van Nuys.

"People see my work and the orders just sort of roll in."

Beauty and the Halloween Beasts

Be prepared for an onslaught of Batmen, Cat Women and Penguins if you are answering your doorbell the evening of Oct. 31.

According to Nicholas Alexander, manager of the Halloween Adventure Store in Tarzana, these are the hot happening costumes this year, along with that nice little Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."

But Alexander said the skeletons and vampires will also be well represented.

Anything's better than last year's reported sighting of about 30 little girls dressed like Madonna.


"There were so many police and television helicopters tracking that high-speed car chase, it looked like a scene out of 'Acropolis Now.' "

--Man in Granada Hills having trouble telling Vietnam from ancient Greece

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World