Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Words from a friend, now long gone

I was cleaning out my email this week and found this - the last email I received from Mouseketeer Doreen Tracey on June 16, 2005, responding to my happy birthday message a couple of months earlier:

Dear John,

Thank you for remembering. I kind of skip over the birthdays the past few years. As well as not going into my in-box to check emails. Too much work. Anyway, things are fine here in my world. Hope all is going well with your family. Will bring you up to speed, once I open my all my emails which is now over a thousand +. Always doreen

Doreen died of pneumonia as a consequence of cancer two years ago this month.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Happy birthday K1200GT, still running like new

My 2003 BMW K1200GT was born/built in Berlin on this date 17 years ago.

The photo was shot at 11:03 a.m., Feb. 22, 2003 at Revard BMW Motorcycles in Indianapolis the first time I sat on the bike and wondered if it could be a worth successor to the 1991 K100RS that carried me more than 160,000 miles.

It was.

I took delivery of the GT with 15 miles on the odometer at 10:04 a.m. on March 8, 2003. There were several inches of snow on the ground, but the roads were clear and I don’t remember being particularly cold on the ride home to Thorntown.

Since then, I’ve ridden it to 10 BMW MOA rallies:

2015 - Billings, MT
2014 - Minneapolis, MN
2012 - Sedalia, MO
2010 - Redmond, OR
2009 - Johnson City, TN
2008 - Gillette, WY
2006 - Essex Junction, VT
2005 - Lima, OH
2004 - Spokane, WA
2003 - Charleston, WV
It carried me to Daytona Beach Bike Week in 2010 and 2013, down the Pacific Coast Highway a couple of times, to Las Vegas and Portland to visit my sons, a few times to visit friends in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and back to Indianapolis three times for MotoGP.

All this riding and more add up to 79,790 miles on the odometer as it sits in my shed today.

The GT, for those who care about such things, was the K1200RS with color-matched saddlebags and amenities like an electric-powered windscreen, electronic cruise control, and heated seat and handgrips. The model was introduced in 2003 and I had the first one sold by Revard’s.

I added MotoLight caliper-mounted halogen driving lights after a year or so and upgraded them with LED bulbs in 2012. I also added a removable passenger backrest at Maria’s request in 2003, but haven’t used it in years because she’s not keen to ride these days. The Marsee tank bag purchased when I bought the bike finally started falling apart a couple of years ago and I replaced it with a Nelson-Rigg bag with a solar panel in October, 2012.

I also had a Gerbings power cord connected directly to the battery in 2013 after I discovered the accessory circuit didn’t want to run my heated gear and my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS at the same time. That discovery meant I rode to Daytona and back without electric heat, other than seat and grips.

I added a Pirates Lair sidestand footpad in 2003, but it fell/sheared off a few years ago at a Return to Shiloh Rally and I never got around to putting it back on.

Maria bought me an XM Roady satellite radio setup for my birthday in 2004. I used it and later a Roady II until March, 2010 when I bought a used Garmin Zumo 550 GPS with XM radio receiver from BMW friend Charlie Parsons. It was the elegant GPS/XM solution I’d wanted for a long time and satisfied my need to more gadgetry.

So, after a dozen years and a bunch of tweaks, I have the bike set up to suit me. (Oh, I forgot to mention I bought a pair of oversized saddlebags from Revard’s sometime around 2005, which come in handy for long-haul touring.)

I look over the new models whenever I visit a BMW dealership, but other than the high tech safety electronic features like traction control, I don’t see anything that makes me want a new bike.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Remembering a friend

My friend Doreen Tracey died two years ago today of pneumonia, ending a two-year battle with cancer.

We hadn't spoken for a couple of years and I was about to email her when I did a Google search today and learned of her passing.

For those of us lucky enough to have memories of the 1950s, the name “Doreen” has a special significance. Doreen Isabell Tracey was an original cast member of the Mickey Mouse Club.

Doreen spent her entire life in the entertainment industry.

She was born April 13, 1943 to Sid and Bessie Tracey. The Traceys were vaudevillians entertaining the troops in England and Doreen was born in London.

The family returned to the States when she was four and moved to Hollywood, where Sid and vaudeville friend Ben Blue opened a place called Slappy Maxie on Wilshire Boulevard.

In a move that would shape his young daughter's life, Sid also opened the Rainbow Dance Studio.

Growing up as a normal American little girl, Doreen had the advantage of an extended show business “family.” Her “Uncle Ben” Blue was a prominent fixture in her life and she lived with him for a time when her mother was hospitalized with tuberculosis and her father struggled to keep his business afloat. Jimmy Durante seized upon her childhood name of “Do-Do” and delighted in embarrassing her by announcing, “Look who's here – it's Sid's little DoDo bird!”

She was an only child, and her best buddy was her cat, Sylvester.

Doreen was answering the phone at the Rainbow Studios that fateful day when the call came from Lee Travers at Walt Disney Studios in early 1955 announcing the search for talented kids for the pilot of the Mickey Mouse Club.
She sang “Cross Over the Bridge” in a Little Bo-Peep costume for the initial audition in March.

As one of the original Mouseketeers, Doreen remained with the show through its entire run.

After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Doreen went to John Burroughs High School in Burbank where she fell in love with Robert Washburn. The two eloped to Tijuana and, a short time later, Doreen found herself pregnant with a son, Bradley Allen Washburn. The marriage was short-lived and Doreen soon became a single mother.

During the 1960s, she performed with the Andressi Brothers in Las Vegas and elsewhere and appeared on episodes of My Three Sons, Donna Reed and Day in Court.

She also toured Alaska and Vietnam with the USO. Her recollections of Vietnam landed her a job as a consultant on the film "Apocalypse Now!" where she contributed elements of the surfing-under-fire sequence.

Doreen fell out of grace with Walt Disney Studios in the mid-1970s when she did two nude photo layouts for Gallery magazine.

That's when I first made her acquaintance. About the same time as the first Gallery layout, writer Jerry Bowles published a where-are-they-now book about the Mouseketeers called Forever Hold Your Banner High. A press kit turned up on my desk at The Indianapolis News one day with a mail-back postcard to request phone interviews with Doreen and/or Jerry Bowles. I checked both boxes and, about a week later, found myself chatting with Doreen. We hit it off and have kept in touch ever since.

Since the Gallery flap, Doreen and the studios have been reconciled.

Doreen lived in Simi Valley with her son.

In an email exchange in April, 2013, she related that this has been a particularly stressful period with the passing of fellow Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, friend Jonathan Winters and ballerina Maria Tallchief.

“She practiced with the Ballet Russ de Monte Carlo company, as Mr. Balanchine gave instructions to his troupe. He never spoken above a whisper to his beautiful swans. The rehearsals were at Sid's dance studio. I watched in wonder at her dedication. Although, I never achieved the perfection of Ms. Tallchief, she did inspire this lonely little girl to become a good enough dancer to get by.”