My ‘tangentitis’ takes me to Pasadena C.C. and its diverse alums

What do you get when you combine an interest in research, writing, and story-telling, with a lot of time on your hands? You get a guy who’s been waiting for 79 years for Bill Moor to create a blog.

I suffer from an ailment called tangentitis.  You may not be familiar with it because I invented the term only a few years ago. I frequently get on tangents.

Got on one today.  When I first moved to L.A., I lived close to Pasadena.  Soon learned that Pasadena City College had some interesting alums.

Decided to google PCC to see whom they listed as prominent alumni.

There are a few who struck my fancy:

— George Reeves and Jack Larson fought evil as Superman and Cub Reporter, Jimmy Olsen.

 — Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan were evil.  Incidentally, PCC list Manson as songwriter, philosopher, and convicted serial killer.  In that order!  Manson was a groupie with the “Beach Boys.” Bobby Kennedy, whom Sirhan assassinated, was one of the heroes of my youth.  I rank him with Jack Kemp as the two greatest possible Presidents who didn’t make it.

— PCC had some fine baseball teams.  Darrell Evans was their second greatest baseball player.  My pal Bill James, noted baseball statistorian, has called Evans the most underrated player in baseball history, absolutely number one on the list.

How come this fine player, whom James tabbed as a deserving Hall of Famer, isn’t PCC’s best?  Because they also had Jackie Robinson, the first African Major Leaguer after “Fleet” Walker left the game, 63 years earlier.  Baseball was likely Jackie’s fourth best sport when he played for UCLA.  In those days, the other sports in which Jackie starred (football, basketball, and track) were not well established and did not pay as much or offer the career opportunities as baseball.

Jackie was the younger brother of another fine athlete.  Mack Robinson finished a very close second to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games’ 200 meters.

— One of PCC’s alums was a guy I had never heard of, but seems to have had an interesting life.  Jack Parsons was a true rocket scientist, pioneering the first liquid and solid fuel rockets.  He was the co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Aerojet Engineering Corporation.  He worked closely with other scientists at Cal Tech.

 The more interesting aspect of his later life was that he was an “occultist.” He was one of the leaders of Thelema, a religious group that holds a complicated set of magical, mystical and religious beliefs.  

According to Wikipedia, Parsons was expelled from JPL and Aerojet in 1944, owing to the Thelema’s infamous reputation and his hazardous workplace conduct. In 1945, Parsons separated from wife Helen, after having an affair with her sister Sara. Sara later left him to marry L. Ron Hubbard, an American author who founded Scientology

Amid McCarthyism, Parsons was accused of espionage and left unable to work in rocketry. In 1952, Parsons died at the age of 37 in a home laboratory explosion that attracted national media attention; the police ruled it an accident, but many associates suspected suicide or murder.

—- Michael Dorn is one of my favorite alien actors.  He played Worf, on one of the innumerable Star Trek iterations.  Not a very complex thinker, but that made his character’s situations more challenging. 

 — James Deen.  Not Dean.  I had never heard of this guy, but his occupation is listed as pornographic actor!  I guess if you include serial killers, assassins, and Thelemans, a porno actor fits right in.  I looked him up.  Multiple women have alleged rape and other sexual improprieties against him.

Suggestion to PCC: Drop Manson, Sirhan, and Deen from your Wikipedia page.

— Jerry Tarkanian was an alum.  He had quite a ride as the men’s basketball coach of the Runnin’ Rebels.  One year when I was doing a signing (Shameless plug, Notre Dame Baseball Greats) in the Notre Dame Bookstore, Tark stopped at my table.  Said he had a granddaughter he hoped would gain entrance to ND.  We had a nice chat. 

— Rod Sherman spent some time at PCC before moving across the county to play for a frequent ND rival.  He was the guy who caught a TD pass, with a little over a minute remaining, as his school defeated ND, 20-17,  The cheating Pac-10 refs cost ND the game, but Rod caught the winning pass.

Forty years ago, I attended an Los Angeles Angels baseball game in a suite.  I was the only non-USC guy among 10 folks.  I turned to the guy next to me to shake hands and he said “Rod Sherman.”  I said, “Are you THE Rod Sherman?”  He said, “You know me?”  I said, “Every Notre Dame man who was alive in 1964 knows you.”  He said, “I go to USC reunions and gatherings and nobody knows who I am.”  Quite funny.  Turned out to be a terrific guy.  Lessened the 1964 pain a little.  Just a little.

— Michael Cooper, future great defensive player for the Los Angeles Lakers, spent some time at PCC  He was good enough to have played for my home state Celtics.  I’m sure he regrets not having the opportunity.

— Kim Carnes sang “Bette Davis Eyes.”  I can’t name a dozen songs I like since the British Invasion ended doo wop and ballads and reduced the impact of Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Roy Orbison, but this song is tolerable.

— Last, and certainly not least, was William Holden.  Died tragically, as a result of his alcoholism.  Great actor.  He was in one of my top five movies of all time — “The Bridge On the River Kwai.”  Here are some of my top five:  Maltese Falcon; Once Upon a Time in the West; Knute Rockne, All American; Nobody is My Name; Affair to Remember; Shane; Pale Rider; Absolute Power; Laura; Taken (all iterations); The Equalizer (all iterations); Hunt for Red October; and Charade.

— That wraps up my interest in Pasadena City College.  Others may prefer Kenny Loggins, Bob Mackie, and several members of Van Halen.