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Daud with Ludmila in one of the parties

Daud with Ludmila in one of the parties

( thoughts of the past, about Onda Nueva fiasco)
Preparing for the big party for New Years eve.and on…..

Somehow the toughest  part of writing is writing!!!!  It is been said by writers much better than I.
It has also been said by producers, film makers, and event publisher yes, that the STORY is the most important part, and that is exactly what I have.

My dear readers, life just happened to me, I had no plans, not a glue what I was doing next, not even plan  A

Keep reading it will surprise your even more.

Jack is helping me to organize our house for New Year party and, is getting  cold at nights, so we decided to bring in all our small animals as your all know I sale than to pet shop on Beverly Hills,  but, were to put them? O.K. in the dining room it can be close in, so we did that,  we got them out of the large garage and brought them in the house , the Finches ( small little birds all different colors that are in the garage will bring them  in their  cages,  and the baby guinea pigs too,  put them  in the formal dining room  table, which is happens to be  too small for our formal New Year  party  dinner for 40.
I can close the doors of the dining room  and it will be perfect,  so we finished  putting  them there , everywhere in  the dinning  room including on the table, in the chairs,  it was full of animalitos, now they all will  be warm here,  Jack  said,  ( just want to say something here,  with not discrimination, head enuf husbands of all the different religious two know the best . the Jews men makes the best husband , because the woman is a queen of his kingdom.)

Now lets go  to the next step, we have to set up a very large table  for 40,  in the living room where there’s a lot of space and is in front of that large rock fireplace which seen so many wild parties,  plus true the big sliding glass wall you can see the outdoor fireplace
and the almost ( for professional practice swimming pool), it was that large,  checking  everything for New Years bash night,  as we worked we talk to each other Jack and I were  reminiscing about Onda Nueva first World Music festival before the one in Chile, and remembering when those union communist man,  stole all our cameras from the hotel rooms  in the Tamanaco Hotel,  yes dear , and remember how Peter Graves spoke to them,  the night before the opening premier gala,  and joke, doing  with his fingers  like  a gun,  pointing at the bad guy had,  whistling the tune of Mission Impossible and later  then Reni talk to them, and  another very high ranking people.

Ludmila in her garden

Ludmila in her garden

While the negotiation been coming  down and we were needing more capital, I managed to get  another investor to  help us out, as  we had to hire couple of the Venezuelan union guys or else we’ll not let us shout the festival.
But as we were all busy with things , the cameras and all recording equipment disappear from the cameraman rooms, equipment all gone, now was my turn to go see every big important person in Caracas that I knew, it  pay off my life before on Venezuela, hoping a good result ,  meanwhile we head couple of days off,   Jack was not feeling good so I said lets go to The Island of Margarita Jack was happy for that,  he will see, where I grown up? And went to the boarding school Inmaculada Concepcion  love walking there with the memories of my dreams in one of the swing in the school that today they are realities,  the classrooms look so small now, and showing with Mother superior that was still there and remembering me,  visiting with my husband holding my hands that was very nice. , I had lived their for couple of years, on my one world, did not have but may be 3 friends on all that time. .
We driven and walk The  whole Island the beach and little park where I swing and swing so high trying to reach the unreachable stars, the cities of the Island then so old and primitive and now so knew!
In the evening after dinner we went for a walk where I used to live near the houses of the fishermen in front of the caribbean  sea, and remembering,  opening the oysters that they got with their bare hands from the bottom of the sea  and then they would open them  one by one looking for pearls and I was allow to open as many as I wanted and if I found any they allow me to keep them, so as walk we pass one of  those homes the next one,  had the doors  wide open into their living room and they were watching T.V you could hear and see it from the sidewalk, so we stop abruptly because Jack almost skimming of top of his lungs  said, stop look that is  you in the tube and everybody turn two looking at us, with their open mouse   they  recognise me, that was the opening scene of Mission Impossible with Peter Graves in T.V the whole family was around it watching Mission Impossible series of this show that where the very first ones .
What a thrilling moment that was, but we just say hello and we waved goodbye and prosite walking to our hotel,  very excited , small world we were laughing and happy…

Back in Caracas, as  we went  in the rooms of the cameraman  to ask and check what was the news? That we hear at the aeropuerto? That a helicopter came yesterday and lendent on the gardens of the Hotel and unload boxes, that went to the cameramans rooms, we’ll, when we arrived we went immediately to the rooms two find Jimmy Maddox laughing and telling us the story,  everything is back,  so we hired 2 of the union cameraman so they can  sit and learn the American way how to do an festival film, today you can see a documentary of it. We’ll we’ll Williams did not kept any of his promises,  not even a penny when one day I was on much  need,  and ask him for help, he ignored everything and later I hear he  mary, of cause someone else, but I did not need him now any more, God is making my dreams come through.

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Actually reality is stranger, stronger and more exciting than any fiction, so just kept reading: this is a true story!

To describe the fantastic gaiety, joy and happiness of everyone invited to the Onda Nueva festival is almost impossible. The air was so thick with excitement and electrifying energy, especially to hear all  the new arrangements that Aldemaro invented to fit into the composers songs; it resulted in a magic rhythm, which is still used today, Manzaneros, and others heard their music like never before, “Esta Noche vi LLover”, “Somos Novios” — These songs’ melodies came alive with his arrangements.

I received a call from “La Hacienda La Vega”, a large piece of land in the middle of Caracas: a long row of palm trees as you entered this beautiful antique iron gate, to follow about half of mile into this incredible mansion. The garage  was in other building contained several Roll Royces and other rare cars. Of course we came by taxi, my husband Jack Millman and I invited at the request of Reinaldo Herrera and Mimi, two bring with us if was possible also Peter Graves and his wife Joan, his lovely wife Mimi  amazed me, she was in her 70s but looking fantastic and was taking classes in Russian (I don’t know why I thought that?  it was incredible at her age , how unusually fantastic  I thought since Russian is a very difficult language. But now that I am in her age bracket it seems so natural, after all  I take classes event of Tango now and Yoga and other studies),  but comparing those moments and feelings now with me,  it seems that’s not seems so unnatural  that now I can understand very well).

 Onda Nueva Festival problems whit Venezuelan cameraman  Union Syndicate Peter Graves and I  said let have a drink, after they left  and I had  promise them, agreeing  to there demand for the extra money payment to be done the next day.

Onda Nueva Festival problems whit Venezuelan cameraman Union Syndicate Peter Graves and I said let have a drink, after they left and I had promise them, agreeing to there demand for the extra money payment to be done the next day.

So we entered this enormous living room surrounded by French antique furniture of the Empire Napoleonic era; orchids in vases were everywhere, but of course,  I forget to mention that as we drove in, the Palm trees were full of orchids in bloom waving in the breeze lazily, inviting us in. From the entrance stood the most elegant tall charming blue blood Señor Reinaldo Herrera, with his gold and black cigarette holder on his hand, made by Dunhill of course!.  He greeted us charmingly and escorted us to the entrance of this bright salon, full of memories and of history off very famous people of royal blood and political office from all over the world. The pictures on the mantels were of Rodolfo Valentino , Venezuelan presidents since  the time of Simon Bolivar’s up today.. Then sitting on this soft big sofas,  that were extremely comfortably ,after couple cocktails served by very expert personnel in formal livery, and some small talk, we were escorted to this fabulous formal dining room in terracotta colors with this curtains in orange with yellow and blue very heavy velvet  plush curtains the crystals shine brilliantly and the center pice full of orchids  ( since that time and up two now,  they still my favorite flowers.)

There we were with the all Herrera family, Reinaldo Sr. and Jr. and Mimi (his wife) and the other son Luis Felipe who I had the pleasure of knowing a long time ago, from Alejandros Penthouse and of course us!  It was an excellent dinner with many courses, including the famous typical Venezuelan bread Arepas– (let me tell you, I like them, really hot just out of the oven or grill, they are made of corn like the mexican tortillas but they look like hamburgers round thick and puffy made of  white corn very soft and moist inside,  (I particularly love them by opening  in half, then  put butter and  Venezuelan  white home made cheese and a big slice of avocado, you have to try it, its a tasty delightful experience).
After dinner, we went to a another room where there was a grand piano, and we were served champagne with dessert for the lady’s and cognac and cigars for the gentlemen.

This was not all, as we were ready to ask for a taxi, Reinaldo ask me aside and said please take the Rolls Royce for your entire stay in Caracas, and of course if you wish take my chauffeur too! Of course, if you prefer here are the keys to the Bentley!  Well, I decided that with all that drinking I preferred a chauffeur, so we went out to a private key club after proper farewells and there I did some heavy drinking.  I had too many scotch and sodas, my favorite drink at that time, and went on to drink all night, Johnny Walker Black or Chivas Regal, with lots of scotch and a splash of soda, Peter was a good drinking partner and his wife did not spill any either,   Jack  was not a very good drinking partner,  he did  not enjoy drinking.

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Alejandro's Penthouse. He is in the center, Ludmila next to him in one of the parties.

Alejandro’s Penthouse. He is in the center, Ludmila next to him in one of the parties.

Now we were headed to New York again, for the big Fashion Week, staying in a luxury penthouse by the East River across from the United Nations Building,–a gorgeous little apartment for Bud and me. I heard this Willie Nelson song “On the Road Again” some time ago– this song matches my life: in the road all the time, even to this day, I’ve led a gypsy life. But now I had a beautiful home and my mother to come back to, and I has William and many other friends. What started with William as antipathy had become a burning love which was  so full of admiration and respect, but as the saying goes, there is no light without dark. Inside my heart there is still a light keeping my love for him alive,
Now in New York everywhere I go reminds me of us together, happy and enjoying life-  living, loving having fun. Sometimes the work  makes me forget him by going here and there keeps me very busy. Today as  every day after worked I go for a drink or 2, or 3, after living my modeling things with my enormous bag in our apartment where we are staying, on the same building  there is a great bar, overlooking Manhattan so I go there,  while Bud gets ready  to go out, or if I am very tired than I make dinner in our penthouse, but is so tempting to go out,  have same cocaine, dance, drink all night,  especially in that famous discotheque that belongs to the wife of Richard Burton before they got a divorce. After a  few sniffs and dances we inevitably we start talking about how was our day, and constantly have two here from my boss Bud, way can your train the other models two walk like your ??  (Will, now you know? Way they don’t like me.) Then he will go home and I still have La Vida Loca until morning,  and walk two our place  with a glass full in one hand  ( not coffee) and on the other my shows, my poor feet head enough activity so did I, Bud was such a nice person,  then at work he let me sleep until the show stars and everybody is ready, in the private little dressing room of my owned (this only happens when the designer needs you body for his or hers creations and your are a great model in the cat walk or photography, and  you sale every piece of garment you’re showing, than than and only then, your will  get away with a lot). Then finally  modeling again, all day long and then maybe go out to dinner at some really good place. Next day its the same routine all over again, for the entire week, and discotheques at night!. Modeling all day.

Ludmilas birthday party in her house. Daud  proposing her in front of all her quest and mama.

Ludmila`s birthday party, 1964:  Daud proposing to her in front of mama and all the guests.

Today we went to work to our showroom, on the 30th floor. As usual when we finished work it was dark already, and the last buyer had left. All of a sudden the lights started going out; we stood by the big window and watched as area after area of Manhattan and greater New York were shutting down the brilliant lights and everything turned pitch black!  People were just coming out of the showrooms and boutiques, the ones like us that had stayed late where all coming out from everywhere, what a commotion, half panic started. None of us knew what was going on? Maybe an atomic bomb attack from the Russians? There was no radio transmitting, no electric power, so now people started walking down the escalators but it was not easy it is a long way down, besides we were in fear  not knowing, it was very scary to say the least.
Thank God Bud and I were healthy and strong, so down we went, all 30 some floors expecting the worst,  when we finally arrived two the  main floor, Bud went immediately stood on line with another maybe 50 people or so wanting something from   the lobby desk manager of the building hotel. The hotel management was trying to accommodate us with what they had, just some snack and drinks (the showrooms for fashion week generally are in big  plash  hotels). People everywhere were playing cards, drinking and talking, not in a real panic anymore, but anxious because no one knew for certain what was going on? The people of New York behaved amazingly well, actually, with no robberies or vandalism. Somehow Bud got help from the lobby manager and put us up in the basement on some cots. In  among all this we meet this color men, who became our suppliers, even offer us some for free, how nice of him, free cocaine and wish as a good trip back and that soon we will see him back in L.A. Later back in Hollywood he did contact us.

The Great New York Blackout …What an experience! But now I had to go back to Caracas again,  although this time I was going on my own business. I flew down with my portfolio, my composites and my ideas for a show of models in Venezuela. I don’t really know how or when this came about, but there I went with mamachka Palina. We stayed in El Hotel Tamanaco, so familiar to me– thoughts of William suffocate me! With so much going on in my life I had almost banished that memory, but now here I am confronted with all our past, reminding me that I was not cured of his spell, and the pain and anger and sadness came to me so strong, that horrible awareness of what I had done. I killed those innocents souls, and I will have to live with it the rest of my life, paying for my sin– can I ever forgive myself?

Renee called me and asked if I could come to an interview? Everyone wants to know how this girl from Venezuela made it in Hollywood? On his show was the men who played in the French film “Papillon”, and the men from the hit film “Asphalt Jungle”!
I have forgotten their names today,  but before the book is out I will have their names, I promise. This was really fantastic, I really felt like a star in Caracas! I was someone people recognized and saw on the cover of magazines, with my pictures larger than the President of Venezuela (I believe it was Larrazabal?). I was invited to many fancy places, one of them was a very private penthouse party for Mr Rodriquez.
Anyone who was anybody in the society of Venezuelan was there! One way or the other, they were there, and some of the prettiest ladies too- Miss Venezuela Susanna Duin and Miss Universe and Miss Mundo!

Of course the party included a very formal dinner under a bougainvillea tree that must been there since the building was built! It covered the whole outdoor terrace like an umbrella of deep red flowers, and seemed to bloom all year round. The table was laid with exotic seafood dishes, but then I went to the bar, after having wine and champagne with dinner, like this was not enough!  I had to drink some more and I took a couple of pills, pep pills  were there under the bar top behind the bottles. The bar was next to the terrace, with the living room  next to the bar, a very cozy, warm room with soft pillows in chairs, full of new music and wide open French doors and windows. It was just right, with the fragrance of the flowers and the moon peeking in, in this wonderful semi tropical nights of Caracas (it was never hot at night!).

Sitting in the big comfortable seats, with albums of pictures of famous faces of past visitors on the tables, one of them that comes to mind is Natalie Wood. I thought, that was my favorite bar room in the world, this cozy bar usually attended by Alejandro himself, when he wasn’t busy in his boudoir making love to one, two or three ladies. Once I “brought a sandwich to a party” on one of my flights down to Caracas. I was picked up at the airport by Alejandro who never goes anywhere, but for me he made a real gesture of friendship and showed up in a black limousine. Once inside the limo, I told him I had cocaine with me, He almost jumped out of his skin, here he is picking me up, can you imagine the scandal! He was a very prominent socialite and from a good family, with a good name to protect. I laughed and told him  nothing could happen.  Well that is how nonchalant I was about life at that time. After that we became even better friends when he realized what a silly worrier I really I was, so innocent, in so many ways and naive and gullible, and we became the best of friends. Ever since that day I was invited every night two his Penthouse  parties, and I met so many people there — very important politicians, film and TV stars, and spies, people from all over the world. There I meet the grand Venezuela maestro composer Aldemaro Romero and Luis Felipe Herrera my dear friend, his father Reynaldo the one marry two a very lovely dear lady, tried to take my virginity a long time, but I love that family too much, pure class  (too bad it was not him, probably would’ve  much better), this family probably is the most aristocratic  and old money family besides the Lord Boulton’s family…

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“Nina Blanchard’s” favorite models, me standing above her

This was at the end of 1960. In Caracas, everything had look so promising with William and me. We had wonderful time going dancing, celebrating the holidays, and of course living it up with alcohol and cocaine. It all seemed so inoffensive back then. But one night, before we went out to the Key Club, he told me he wanted to stop so I could meet this French lady. He said they had a business relationship, but of course they spoke French so I was in the dark. Her place looked like Gigi’s aunts place; I thought she was a prostitute or maybe a madame, because she looked so much older than I and so made up.. They went into a room, closed the door, and when he came out I felt sure this was where he got the cocaine for that night. Taking the coke back to the US was dangerous, even then, but it was so easy just to carry it in your pocket or purse. No problems! At least, I did not yet know the consequences of such acts, and unless you were a suspect the customs did not search you then like they do today.

On the other hand it is more difficult for me to describe my love for Oscar. Our romance was different, so innocent and full of outdoor life- polo, scuba diving, fishing, wine with dinners. It was so romantic and charming, the very different and rich old money world! Oscar was a young generation of that time, a Venezuelan men of European ancestry, but Oscar was the good boy, and William was the bad one, crazy and adventurous. Each one could be a romantic novel or film by itself, and in my crazy young mind I was not being bad or immoral. Since I was not married to anyone, it was all very simple and justifiable.

From Caracas William and I flew together to Miami, in first class with real napkins and crystal goblets. Even the water glass was crystal, and there was a real menu and washcloths with perfumed, or cologne on the napkins. After dinner again they served a clean hot perfumed bowl with floating flower and a piece of lemon to clean your hands. In the bathroom were cologne, perfume and all kinds of pretty things. We were talking about how things had changed in N.Y. and especially in California in the last few years. I remember when I first sat on a bus they were no black people allowed to sit up front, they all sat in the back. I have read a little history about slavery and that really made me sad, that people could treat other people like that, but I was not into politics nor I was so unselfish as too feel too busy to spend my time for any one. I did not think I could save the world – I only was interested in me, myself and I.

At our arrival at the Miami terminal, William alter picked up his new Mercedes Benz convertible sports car, which was already there awaiting for us. I’ve never understood why Jewish people would buy German cars– Hitler and the Nazis were German weren’t they? William was a French Jew and said he had been in the French Legion in World War II, spying for the French– so he said. He also told me a story that one time he was briefly taken prisoner and the Nazis were going to bury him alive, until he fooled them by screaming in perfect German that they were idiots, burying one of their own people, and that he was an important counterspy! So why a M. B.?

There was something dark and mysterious about him, and I was so naive or ignorant about things that I never went any deeper than loving him and enjoying life with him. So I didn’t dig any deeper , honestly I was not interested on his past. We drove the car up to New York together and then he shipped the car west and he flew to San Francisco. So I went back to Hollywood where Daud was awaiting me. Mama told me that he even spent couple of nights on our sofa! I forget the reason why- maybe he did not know when I was coming back?

Now I was back in Tinseltown and seriously had to look for an agent.

One lucky morning, after Gala went to work, my niece went to the school across the street and mama went to see some Russian lady friend for a job. I went off to see an agent by the name of Nina Blanchard, in a little one room office on Sunset Strip. She was just getting started and was planning to expand her operation on Sunset Blvd, since already she had one of the most famous models in the world signed with her. A few years later her supermodel died of drug and alcohol abuse, but I did not know that she was using at that time, she was so very beautiful but totally wasted her life, little I knew then that is where I was headed two…….

I walked in and Nina was right there. She just said sign here and tell the secretary to take your measurements and give all your information. Then she sent me to some photographers to take some different test shots. She did not want to change my look or cut my hair –nada , nothing, she liked me just as I was!

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American in Paris

American in Paris

Well, father was gone. “If only!” The most powerful words in the dictionary and the smallest ones.  If only there had been AA at that time in Venezuela If only we had known how to cope with the signs of the alcoholism that was eating up my father.
If only!
But soon dear Maria Luisa called, and work made me forget the pain I was going through. There were rehearsals for the new TV show we were putting on, the very next weekend! And there in the studio was the maestro Aldemara Romero, the conductor of the Sinfonica Venezuela. What an honor to meet him, he was such a great artist and a  great person!

Well, life takes over and I must go on.  An Italian friend Giovanni, a sports car racer, invited me to a “very different nightclub” to celebrate his birthday. Of course I would go- what time will you pick me up? Seven pm for cocktails, then dinner and the private club. After eating, we entered this crazy place with a floor show of men dressed as women! To my surprise, the customers were all couples, very elegantly dressed; even in the dim red lights you could see this was not a cheap place- it was well decorated and the show was great, especially this one very tall woman (I love tall people). She was very talented and during all her performance she didn’t take her eyes off of me.

Soon after there was a single beautiful pink rose sent too me, to  our table, with a note: “Can I have the pleasure of sitting at your table?” And in another minute, a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne arrived at our table, and the waiter told us the “tall woman” would meet us at our table after she took off her costume and makeup. That seemed strange- why would she take off her makeup? What a surprise! A tall handsome, very refined man with great big green eyes (my favorite color, reminding  me  of that line, “aquellos ojos verdes de mirada serena”)  approached. He introduced himself politely then took my hand very gently, kissed it, and asked me to dance. We danced for hours– the tango, the pasodoble, the mambo! We had a wonderful evening, into the early hours of the morning, when he took me in his convertible to watch the sunrise and take coffee at his mother’s house in the hills just outside of Caracas. We talked and talked, and then he drove me to my mother’s house and said goodnight.

I was still a young lady, and it was late (or early), but Caracas was very safe in the fifties. But one evening, coming home very late alone, a man was following me in a dangerous way. I told William and he said, well, you’re going to move in with me. We had already been in New York together, and now it seemed okay for me to live with him as long as he didn’t show himself at work or with friends- he was very married.

He agreed to this, and I now had to see how I could convince mother. She was not happy to hiere I was moving in with William, but she already knew. Galina had been spying on me, following me to ballet class and then telling mother all about William. So now I had to convince William to meet mother and ask her, where of course he lied by suggesting that we would get married “soon… one of these days.”

And I have to admit, it was the loveliest home I had every line in up to that point!

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I was working as a representative for the “House of Seagram’s” and promoting their products in all of Caracas’s most elegant restaurants, bars and private clubs including Country Clubs and Polo Clubs with those handsome Venezuelan, Argentineans and Chilean men. I ended up at William high class liquor store, doing a promotion for Seagrams. I walked into this liquor store to set up my promotional display and advertising posters; after all, I was “Miss Seagram of Venezuela” at that time. Unknown to me the owner William had his own brand of imported Scotch, called “Dundee,” so I was there trying to lure away sales from his own brand.  But he invited me to go out to lunch with him, I was hungry and it was that time of the day, so I accepted his invitation,
I said to myself, “I don’t care if he flirts, I could never fall in love with a man like that.” Thirties, not too handsome, losing his hair and just average build. Well, how incredibly wrong I was! He wrapped me around his little finger like magic; he only had to whistle and I would come running to him. The place where I was taken to lunch was a beautiful French restaurant, exceptionally elegant, decorated so tastefully complete with soft candle light, violins and a menu boasting the most exotic and varied gastronomic delights. At that time I had never imagined  there could exist such a truly romantic and seductive atmosphere- especially next to a liquor store!. You can imagine my surprise to see all of this opulence, since from the age of three, with our journey from war torn Russia and through Europe and finally to Venezuela, I had been living very frugally with my family, always on the edge of poverty.
Suddenly I was falling in at the deep end, learning a new and hopefully better life.
This was the first time I had seen a menu never mind ordered for one.  At that point William realized that I did not know that the man ordered for the lady, so he proceeded to educate me as to what the correct procedure was. I told him and he ordered for me, took his advice and let him recommend the various drinks for each course. At all the other social functions I had attended in the past, at Polo clubs and receptions, all the meals and drinks were just there for the taking, no ordering required. What an experience this was. I was adjusting my “learning curve” for future use in the “university of life”
This experience totally dazzled me and over time a long a major love affair transpired, thought I was only seventeen at the time. I had to continue with my modeling job, and other work as well as social activities, though I usually saw William every day at some point. I was completely swept off my feet with him, his love, care and affection although by now he had admitted that he was married– at the time it did not seem to matter. Later he took me to New York to meet his mother, I hadn’t meet her in all this years, although I met his children,  and we had been in Balnerios together.   His wife went after me with a gun one night when we arrived from the beach, William and I,  so now we met in New York not at the home in Caracas,
I got a bouquet of flowers for his mother, but at the door she made us take our show is winter well snow  soon, so we did. I gave her the flowers  but she said, “No, don’t ever bring me flowers,  they are very dirty!  I later learned that in Europe when she was young, she was one of those women that smoked a cigar and wore pants and rode a motorcycle! Not at all what I was expecting. But William never failed to teach me how his mother would do it, to iron William ‘s shirts properly of course,! New York was pure magic; you can imagine my excitement as a young woman of seventeen. It started snowing that everning, and I had to see how it felt to walk with my lover on Riverside Drive, over to the upper East Side in the now.  Later his mother said, “Tomorrow we take her shopping, she needs a coat and boots, not heels if she’s going to walk in the snow!” I still have a picture in front of her apartment building with the coat she gave me. After my past life living in third world Venezuela, I was being whisked off on a “first class” magic carpet with excellent “in flight” service to the great metropolis of New York, with all its magical and dazzling lights, beautifully dressed people, the hustle and bustle, the traffic, unbelievably tall buildings! I was completely amazed and overcome by what I saw– it was magnificent. I thought it was a dream and I wondered when I would wake up!

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"La Hora Nacional"  T.V. Canal 5 Presenta a Ludmila Pochepsoba

“La Hora Nacional” T.V. Canal 5 Presenta a Ludmila Pochepsoba

 

I arrived before 9:30 am at the door of the downtown office  building, in the elegant business part of Caracas, and went up the 8th floor penthouse. My senator’s office had just opened; after entering, I saw my own desk with 2 telephones, and in his office were another three phones, one of which was red. Another worker in the office explained to me that my place was up front, greeting people when they came in and letting the senator know who was there: were they a client, did they have an appointment, and so on. It looked so simple, and a few days passed with no trouble at all. Then one day the senator announced to me that he had hired another secretary, who would do my work typing and dictation–I was not to worry, my job was just to be nice and greet people, which was more important!  Then one day, I think it was my birthday, he insisted on taking me to dinner. We drove off in his big black car after work, off to this great restaurant on the beach in Maiquetia. There were white cloth covered tables lit up with candles, violins playing dance music in the background, and I was perplexed to see all this beauty. He casually asked me what I would like to drink- at 15 years old I had no idea, so he ordered champagne and then asked me to dance!

After we finished dinner, he ordered a special desert, then reached down and pulled out a beautifully wrapped little package. I opened my surprise and it was a gorgeous gold bracelet with a morocota, the 5 Bolivar gold coin, set in 18k gold links, very expensive even back then. I had no idea of its value or what money meant, but everything was so magic and new that I found it all beautiful.  After that we went to the car and drove back to Caracas, first stopping in a discotheque  or music store; he bought me the record of the music we had been dancing to at the beach, by the most famous “Magic Violins of Villa Fontana.” He handed it to me, but I said no thanks, you keep it, blushing red in the face (I did not have a record player but I didn’t want him to know that). After holding hands briefly, we said our good by, hasta manana. But he guessed my secret.

Next day after work, he asked if he could give me a lift home, since he was going that way. He was a short, chubby man with a sweet smile and elegant manners; i admired his style and wanted to learned how to be graceful and elegant too. As we went out to his car, to my surprise he said, “Would you please accept this,” opened the trunk and pulled up a big box and a package full of long playing records. “I know your mother and your family will enjoy this!” Of course he probably knew about my niece being in the hospital, about our miserable little home, but he never said a word about that. I realized he knew all about us and that, behind the scenes, his hands were working everywhere to help us.

I took the phonograph home, and the records were all my favorites– Siboney, Begin the Beguine, classical music like my sister loved, even some gypsy violin music that my mama loved. Soon
my life began to take a very different turn; we moved to a nice Italian neighborhood, and I met the Cacique woman Maria Luisa Escobar who had a troupe of dancers which I joined. After a little while I decided that I danced good enough to be a star, not a secretary, so I went to the boss of the main government television channel for an interview. I told him I was a prima ballerina at the Ballet Montecarlo that had just played the Caracas theatre, and wanted to be on television! What gall I had, when I think back on it! The nice man put me on on every Friday at 6 pm, my own half hour show of ballet, jazz and pieces like Ravel’s fire.

Suddenly my life was getting very interesting very fast, even if I did not understand why at the time. In Venezuela in the fifties, high society was ruled by the very private old money families, who did not accept the newly rich upstarts. But at the same time, the rich Venezuelan men wanted pretty white girls, not the old blood Spaniards. So here comes this 15 year old young lady with good manners and a pretty face, who looks like she might be accepted by society, at least by the men (their women were not too happy with the competition!) The local Don Juans and playboys were very excitable; once a couple of them crashed their cars while looking at me walking across the street!

Still, Caracas high society was hard to crack. One topic of conversation was how the top society Country Club had denied a membership to General Marcos Perez Jimenez, the ruler of the nation, because he was new money and his power came from the campesinos! . The old money– the Herreras, the Boultons and other patrician families of the day, were all royalty. Eventually I was to meet all of them as I moved on up in society, but  life then  seems to me  moving so slow  with time for everything.

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Fire well adios to island Margarita

 

Goodbye to the little girl and hello to the young Lady.

We were going back to the capital with the truck driver Julian, until we reached a small dusty village where his family lived. When we arrived there, his wife told him he couldn’t leave because their daughter was  giving birth, not too far from their little village. She made it clear he was not going anywhere today or even tomorrow; he needed to take the daughter back to  the city we had passed a few hours back. Julian was very apologetic and said he was sorry, that was the end of our journey with him. Thank God, it was still early in the morning and with any luck we would see another truck, or a bus, coming along. But we were hours from the main road, and opportunities to hitch a ride in the jungle were very few. So we had to walk as fast as we could back toward the road, before night would find us alone in the middle of the jungle.

This was fine with me, but we had a bundle of clothes and a suitcase made of cardboard, and they were heavy. So Gala took the suitcase, I grabbed the big bundle and put it over my shoulder, and we set off. The bundle was heavy, and after an hour of being distracted by the jungle sights, the 100 degree temperature and humid air got to be very uncomfortable. All of a sudden, a big hairy animal with a long nose and huge feet appeared, standing with his big claws out just on the side of the road. He was eating on a nest of ants, but I did not know how dangerous they were and just stood there watching him. He paid no attention to me, strangely enough, but then I realized how far away my sister was and screamed out to her to help me. I dropped the bundle on the ground and ran to her, and my scream had scared the anteater off. Gala never forgave me for making her walk all the way back to get the bundle of clothes. I was still afraid and very tired; we had to walk another two hours to get to the main road, where we got a bus to Caracas. After many stops along the way, we were finally back in the city on the third day.  From there, we took the ferry boat back to Porlamar.

My dear niece Vera had fallen, broken her arm and developed gangrene, so my sister left with mama and her to go to doctors in Caracas. I stayed behind, since I had to finish packing up and closing up the house. It was adios to my Isla de Perlas, to the peaceful island and my beloved swing by the beach.

I finally came along to my family’s impoverished new home in Caracas. It was little more than a shack made of timber and  cardboard along the hills of Buena Vista, on the poor side of Caracas. When it rained the mud slid down the hillside and the roof leaked!  Poor Vera was in and out of the hospital with her gangrenous arm, and Gala and I were at home with mama and papa working. The Orthodox Church was not too far, and there were many Russian refugees there, new friends of mama and papa. Sometimes we would go to their homes, much nicer than ours, and they would all drink and sing along to the accordion that Sasha played. Somehow, all these poor heartbroken people had made a life in the new world, all trying desperately to be happy and find work wherever they could.

The doctor’s wife had given mama a nice lady’s dress among a whole bunch of clothes, and I was soon wearing a
smart American ensemble, a turquoise colored dress with a matching coat that fit me like a glove. I was showing off my young figure for the first time, and I liked it. Somebody showed me how to read the help wanted ads in the newspaper, and I saw a job that seemed good, working at a lawyer’s office. I thought, how hard can it be answering the phone? I had already done that in Porlamar at the place where my sister worked. So I went for my first interview in my new outfit!

There were another 20 girls there too, waiting for the abogado (lawyer), who turned out to be the senator for Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. He finally arrived and told us to come into his office, one at a time, to talk to him; being the last one to arrive, I was the last to be
interviewed. I was surprised when I entered the office; it was a room of rich mahogany wood around the walls, with a big desk. Everything was shiny and new. I just smiled and told him my name.

The interview was quickly over: He immediately called another young lady in the front office and told her to sign my onto the payroll. I was to be there at 9:30 am the next day, he would arrive at 10 am and want to know who had called. The secretary in front asked me if I could take shorthand and type. Of course, I said, yes I can! (I told myself, I will have to learn to do that).

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Anatoly arriving to he "Magic dream of all man, El Dorado"

Anatoly arriving to he "Magic dream of all man, El Dorado"

By 1954 ,  Anatoly been gone for over a year and mother was very worried about him.  We hadn’t heard from him since he left,  and our the  letters were coming back from the address he left us.
So the two ladies, decided they were going to El Dorado to find their brother! One early morning, with mother’s tears and blessings and prayers, we embarked on the ferryboat to Maiqueta.  It was an all day journey, but we went to Caracas first by the colectivo taxi and spent a couple of nights at our Russian friends house (the mother of Anatoly’s girlfriend).

We had very little money, so Galina spent couple of days in Caracas doing permanents, haircuts and pedicures for friends. Galina was a beautician, self-taught in the time since she left Valery, but we were eager to get on the road to the deep jungle. After two days of dirt and dust on the bus, down a road made for donkeys and mules we finally arrived at El Dorado, almost on the border of Brazil.  Of course, we had heard Anatoly’s stories about El Dorado, where the nuggets roll down the streets when it rains, but we didn’t believe it until we got there and actually saw the glitter of the rainwater in the muddy gutters.

Still, El Dorado did not look like any kind of paradise to us.  It was a filthy, dusty little town full of drunks with all their lost dreams, staggering down the crowded streets with only their past to remind them why they had come to this end of the line.  We spent several days wandering up and down the streets ourselves, asking any miner we met if they had heard anything of Anatoly.
They all told us the same thing:  he was long since gone, moving deeper into the jungle in search of diamonds.

We couldn’t possibly search in the jungle, so we looked for a driver with a truck going back to Ciudad Bolivar or any place north on the road back to Caracas. We had the innocence and optimism of youth, and I had no fear of coming to harm from any man. After all, there was no war here, so there was  no reason to be worried (like my dear sister). I was actually enjoying all of this incredible adventures; it was just like I was in the movie and the story  was happening  to us.

So we did find a man with a truck, a kindly smiling man who let us into his big camion. When night came, he pulled over at a roadsie motel that look clean and nice, and told us to go get something to eat while I go get my room. We sat  at a big table away in a corner, but when the waitress came we told her we were not hungry, that we had already eaten (we had no money!)
Instead we loaded up on the sugar at the table, drank all the water in the jug, and when our driver came back he asked if everything was okay?

Our driver assured us that the hotel was safe and clean, and said ‘I think they still have rooms.
I’ll see you in the morning, 6 am sharp, si?” Suddenly my sister looked him in the eye and she blurted out, “We feel better sleeping in your truck, we’ll be just fine, please Senor?” At once he realized that we had no money and were too proud to beg; he did not want to offend my beautiful sister by offering us money,  so he gave her the key, took us to the truck park and made sure we were locked in. We were hungry and not very sleepy after so much sugar, but we went to bed with only paper cups of water and tried to sleep, awakening only to go to the bathroom. But there are drunks walking around so what were we to do? I had an idea: we poured the water out of the cups and used the cups. they filled up so quickly and we had to open the window again and toss our pee out quickly.  All of a sudden we heard a man’s voice yelling, “Shit, its raining here!”

We couldn’t stop laughing!

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Visiting with my sister Galina and her baby, Vera.

We ended up in the outskirts of Caracas, in a home of a family with whom we’d been friends since Austria, by the name of Isbarenko. There were two sisters and a brother; the old man and my father had a good time together drinking and singing, and the old man played the accordion. The lady of the house was a typical Russian matuchka, a country farm woman. Theirs was a happy home, but somehow they were different from us; the girls and the boy were older and they didn’t exactly want a younger girl like me hanging around them.

They rented a piece of land not far from their home and were farming tomatoes. I loved those vegetables, the sun and open space, so I went with them to help with the crop. But Anatoly went back to the gold and diamond mines, and Galina went back to her husband on the Isle of Pearls, as it is known in Spanish (La Isla de Las Perlas, Margarita), so I felt very alone and insecure.

We were broke, so father sold the truck and dismissed the chauffeur, and we finally rented a small one-room place with a bathroom and kitchen. Father turned the countertop and refrigerator into a butcher shop in the morning, at night we slept in the floor in the same room. Poor Father could only drink down his disappointments in life, and the alcohol was beginning to take its toll on him. Somehow he found animals to buy, a place to slaughter them, and meat to sell. Mama would work hard right next to Papa, and I would walk for miles down the highway to a store that sold the spices we needed to make the homemade kielbasa sausages. When I think back on how I watched a great strong man like my father turn into a beat-up, broken old man, my heart still aches and a painful feeling comes over me.

The Isbarenko girls were not too far away from our new home, so once in a while I went with them to the movies, I suppose when they felt sorry for me and would tolerate my presence. Their reluctance to hang out with me didn’t stop me from having fun, because I was always happy with very little. Some Sundays we would all go down to the river, but it had a big rushing current and since I did not swim, I just hung on to a tree branch and dangled my legs in.

The days ran on and on; I was growing up—in fact, I looked older and more developed than I really was. One day, I heard the Isbarenko girls were going dancing the weekend after Easter. I wanted desperately to go along, so I begged Papa to let me go. Mama had nothing to say against it, so we girls went to a night club and I got my first glimpse of another world. How incredibly fantastic it was to me–twinkling lights, music playing, people laughing and dancing and drinking. Everyone was so happy and gay; I don’t remember what we ordered to drink, but it made me happy to just be there. Then the band was playing “Siboney”! Oh what a romantic sound, moving just like the waves and wind by the sea. We were sitting across from a table with five guys and, naturally, the flirting started. One of them, a tall, handsome young man, asked me to dance, and it felt so natural to me–I just melted away in his arms!

Soon they were all making plans to meet up at the beach the next day, and I just knew I had to go too! The girls had brought me home and dropped me off on time, so father had no objection–after all it was just the beach. The next morning we all left at 9 am, and on the way we were singing and talking about the night before. I was dreaming about seeing that same young man (who was really much older than me) as I walked alone down the beach and played with the waves and water, but the group of guys from the night before, including the handsome prince who had danced with me, never showed up.

That was probably my first disappointment from trusting a man, but the real lesson of love’s disillusionment only came much later in life.

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