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Sally Rand was a high school classmate of my mother's. As a struggling dancer, she told my mom that she would do anything to finally get a break. And my mother said, "I can help you do that." So she arranged for the former Helen Gould to permanently become the more sprightly Sally Rand. And Sally agreed to my mother's plan for her to appear as Lady Godiva at the forthcoming Art Students League Ball at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Naturally, Lady Godiva (like her tenth-century namesake) would make her appearance by riding down Michigan Boulevard wearing only a long blond wig on a rented white horseright into the ballroom, or as far as she could get. Of course, as planned, Sally was arrested. Her intrepid press agentmy motherblithely told all the papers that Sally would be opening the next day as a fan dancer at The Streets of Paris show at the Chicago World's Fair.
The following day, I am told that there were ten thousand people waiting in line at the Streets of Paris. Sally was sprung from jail, and her career was made. Nothing has to be true it just has to seem true. The whole event was created out of my mother's desire, energy, and intentionality. That was my mother at her best.
I lived directly across the road from Arlene and Alan Alda. I had gone to college with Arlene, who was an accomplished clarinetist and often participated in our at-home musicals. Alan was just at the beginning of his career. I would often tell him about my latest physics or ESP projects, and he would listen with interest, and ask extremely insightful questions. I have often thought but never said, "You know Alan, you're really very smart for an actor."
In the early 1960s,Alan did daily improvised press conferences at the Compass Playhouse in Hyannis, just a few miles from the Kennedy's Hyannis Port retreat on Cape Cod. Each morning President John Kennedy would have a press conference on his front porch, and in the evening Alan would have one for the same press corps in the theater.
In his shows, Alan was amazingly funny and brilliant. A reporter asked him, (this is 1962) "Will the U.S. beat the Russians to landing a man on the moon?" Alan said, "I can't be sure that we will be the first to put a man on the moon, but I can promise you that we will be the first to put a man on the sun."
Face blindness is a continuing and very perplexing problem for me. It's a perceptual defect where people all look more or less aliketwo eyes, a nose, and mouth. What more is there to see? This face blindness (prosopagnosia) is a developmental problem of the visual cortex. In my case, this lack of what developmental researchers call neural sprouting was probably the result of congenitally very poor vision. It can even affect people with so-called normal vision who have had strokes, brain injury, or other congenital defects. The exact cause is not known. You not only don't recognize people you have met, they don't even look familiar if you meet them out of context! This is a particularly confusing disability for a child on the playground where he is supposed to be learning how to make friends. At least in the classroom, I could memorize which person was sitting in which chairback when the desks were screwed to the floor.
A blind friend, who is a sociology professor at Stanford, once told me that he has an easier time than I do. When he is at a conference, he just stands aside with his white cane in his hand, and if someone wants to talk to him, they would come by and pull his sleeve and announce their name. Nobody expects him to recognize anyone. However, my face blindness continues to cause frustration, loneliness, and confusion for me because my colleagues of many years simply can't believe that I don't recognize their unique and very special faces. This has created many challenging situations in my lifesome of the more interesting will follow. (Dating identical twins was probably the most confusing.) My really good friends usually tell me who they are at once.
In 1973, we began our very first CIA test of the possible usefulness of remote viewing. The classified Scanate (scanning by coordinates) program began with a bang. An agent at the CIA sent Hal Puthoff the coordinateslatitude and longitudeof something on the East coast that we were supposed to psychically describe. We had begun doing remote viewing by such coordinates at Ingo Swann's request. He'd said that it was a "trivialization of my ability to ask me to look into envelopes [to describe pictures]. If I want to see what's in an envelope, I'll damn well open it!" Most of Ingo's pronouncements ended with an exclamation mark. Hal and I would never have thought to use something as arbitrary as geographical coordinates to demarcate targets. But, Ingo said it would be simple and direct. And it proved to be so. Using their psychic powers, the psychic artist Ingo Swann and the psychic policeman Pat Price looked into what turned out to be a National Security Agency (NSA) super-secret crypto-radar listening site in Virginia. I still tremble with amazement as I type the words. Pat named the site and read code words from the files, leading to a NSA and CIA investigationnot a trivial event.