A Classic Written in Heat of the Moment

It isn't widely known, but singer Mel Torme, who died over the weekend, co-wrote "The Christmas Song" in 100-degree weather on a summer day in Toluca Lake. The 1945 song starts, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Jack Frost nipping at your nose. . . " That line was penned by Torme's collaborator, Bob Wells, who hoped that by thinking cold thoughts in his non-air-conditioned house he could cool off. They didn't know how hot they would become.


IS THIS A TEST? David Bell took a snapshot of a Hollywood psychic's sign that would require callers themselves to have extrasensory powers (see photo).


STATE OF CONFUSION: Dick Andes of Redondo Beach noticed that one local newspaper headline about a national spelling bee would have caught the eye of any of the contestants (see accompanying).


A BRIDE GRIM: This being the traditional month for weddings, the San Fernando Folklore Society is still adding to the "Bothered Bride" category of urban folk tales on its Web site (www.snopes.com).

Typical is this version of about a decade ago: At a "big wedding in Simi Valley," the bride turned to the assembled friends and relatives just before the vows were spoken. She thanked everyone for the beautiful gifts and praised her parents "for all they've done for me." Turning to the groom, she then supposedly said: "And I want to thank you for sleeping with the maid of honor last night." She threw her bouquet in the groom's face and stormed out. Talk about a chill in the air.


CYBER SEX? Speaking of promiscuity, Kent Bridwell of West L.A. sent along an ad that seemed X-rated at first reading (see accompanying). Turns out it's computer speak and has nothing to do with sex, I was informed. I was unable to comprehend exactly what it does mean, having by then lost interest.


MASKED CREATURES OF SAN PEDRO: Art Vinsel of the Beacon House wrote that Manny Moreno, the operator of the recovery facility's nonprofit thrift store, was "tired of rowdy raccoons using the roof over his head as a martial arts arena. He theorized they were apparently males trying to impress a cute female raccoon who lived under the house across the street."

A resident had also complained about the masked creatures. "The lady who lives in the penthouse of our building says they're peeping Toms," Moreno told Vinsel. "She doesn't care that they aren't human. She doesn't like being peeked at through her curtains."

So, using dog food as bait, Moreno began catching the animals in a carrier trap. So far, he has released three in a park on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

And his trapping talents have won him a nickname: Manuel Boone.


MY HOMEWORK: I was a half-hour tardy for the start of the 50th birthday party of my old junior high--now called Palms Middle School--in West Los Angeles. Luckily, no one was taking roll call but I nevertheless had a momentary flashback to my erratic years there in the late 1950s. Once I relaxed, it was interesting to see the past and present collide.

When a mom recalled how the girl's vice principal had measured her skirt in the 1960s to see if it was too short, her young daughter said in astonishment, "You wore skirts to school?"

Alex Morrison, a former teacher and football coach, recited a note he received from a mother who had been told her son was disruptive at school. "At home, my problem," the note said. "At school, your problem."

And there were all the exclamations of people recognizing photos in the vintage yearbooks on display. Like one grad who said of a classmate: "He bit off his father's ear."



L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and former L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates are both alumni of L.A.'s Franklin High, as are Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward, Olympic swimming champ Sammy Lee and tennis star Bobby Riggs. Late in his career, Riggs lost a much publicized match to Billy Jean King, who was a graduate of Long Beach Poly High.

Steve Harvey can be reached by phone at (213) 237-7083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com and by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, Times Mirror Square, L.A. 90053.

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