Ojai Diary

The Ojai Valley Museum


Photograph by Bruce Heavin.

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An occasional narrative of events as they transpire in my new home town of Ojai, California.



Dec 30, 1997

Ojai is no stranger to celebrities, many live here either full or part time. But tonight’s appearance of Oliver Stone at the Local Hero bookstore was very much of a major event.

Bobby Houston’s store is a popular gathering place, as well as a reasonably famous place due to the publicity generated by the recent yacht race in which Houston was a sponsor of a team of HIV positive sailors  who completed the course.

Local Hero is a small, narrow store that contains an eclectic selection of reading matter, and is staffed by a group of fine book loving people. Ojaians would never shop at a Crown Books even if the town had one.

At any rate, I had heard a week or two ago that Oliver Stone was coming to Local Hero to autograph his new novel “A Child’s Night Dream”. I stopped by last week and bought a copy and received a ticket to the book signing event. “There will be quite a crowd here, so you will need this”, I was told. Picturing a crowd in this already unnavagable space was difficult for me.

The book, once I got it home, was a bit disappointing at first. However, it has proven to be worthwhile. Written in the “stream of consciousness “ style of Henry Miller, it contains flashes of astounding brilliance and evokes images that attack one’s own memories vividly.

I arrived at Local Hero expecting a quick book signing, but was astonished to find the patio turned into a little theater complete with seats, a musician(!), and the usual lattes, cappacinos, and carrot cake that are always there. Stone was 45 minutes late.

No matter. Things move quite slowly in Ojai anyway. I was seated next to an interesting woman who shared views with me about Stone’s films (she loved them all, I never liked “Between Heaven and Earth”) The Vietnam War (We were both opposed) and Alcoholics Anonymous (She is a 7 year member, my middle son takes his five year cake Saturday). Across the aisle from me was a man who asked if I played chess (I did, once). We had a fascinating discussion about the Green Party, to which he belongs and runs for office behind.

He was upset with the book store for forcing the purchase of the book in order to gain admittance. “That”, he proclaimed. “is not very Ojai”. It turned out he never bought the book, yet here he was.  This diminished his argument, at least to me.

When Oliver Stone arrived, he proved to be as charming a man as I have ever come across. He fielded questions from the audience with wit, and sincerity. He was on for over an hour, talking about his life and his films, and no one got the least bit restless.

At the end, we all got our books autographed and went home. Happy and full of carrot cake, at least for me.

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