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Guy Things | So Socal

The Artful Lodger

August 11, 1996|A. Grey Le Cuyer

Your grandfather was very likely one. Your father might have been one. At 34, I am one of the youngest surviving ones.

I am a practicing, card-carrying, secret handshake-using, password-knowing Free and Accepted Mason.

My particular chapter meets in the Ionic Lodge, squeezed between a tennis court and apartment buildings on La Cienega just south of Olympic. You've no doubt driven right past the building--and the half-dozen or so other Masonic lodges scattered around Los Angeles--without ever noticing.

Those of you whose sole knowledge of fraternal orders stems from the Water Buffaloes of "The Flintstones" or Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton's Raccoon Lodge might be surprised to find out exactly how tame we Masons truly are. We do not shake the tails of coonskin caps in greeting. We have no Grand Pooh-bah or Supreme High Exalted Raccoon--although the Master of our lodge wears a top hat and somewhat resembles the guy on the Monopoly "Community Chest" cards.

So, what is it that we do?

I'm afraid I can't tell you. When I was raised to the third degree (you'd be surprised how many common phrases have their origins in Masonry), I took an oath, swearing under threat of vivisection not to reveal any of the fraternity's secrets.

I can safely say that the Masons is not a religion, a cult or even a business organization. Indeed, all the Industry contacts I could have made are dead. (Darryl Zanuck and both the Warner brothers were Masons, as were Danny Thomas, Mel Blanc, Friz Frelang and George Burns. ) The closest Biz connection I've made thus far is our lodge's organist; he's David Cassidy's father-in-law. While it probably won't score me a script sale, it's still a pretty cool thing for a guy whose No. 1 birthday wish 24 years ago was to be David Cassidy.

Why did I, a vital young L.A. transplant, join the Masons 30 years shy of retirement age? Certainly not for the artery-blocking dinners steeped in substances long ago banned from the FDA's food pyramid, nor for the pre-vaudevillian entertainment provided at our Stated Meetings: third-rate Elvis impersonators murdering "Don't Be Cruel," mother-daughter teams murdering show tunes, honest-to-God accordionists murdering "Edelweiss."

I came aboard largely, I suppose, to please my father (seven years shy of his Masonic 50-year pin), with whom I now have more to discuss during my parents' weekly transcontinental phone call than: "Nope, scripts haven't sold yet, Dad. Right, three hours earlier, just like last week. Put Mom back on." He's promised to fly out to California for the first time since WWII to attend my swearing-in ceremony as Master of my lodge, once I've moved up through the ranks.

But maybe I joined simply because I was intrigued by the idea of being the most recent link in a chain stretching back through the sands of antiquity. That, and the sincere sense of camaraderie that greets me whenever I enter the lodge, where my youth is greatly appreciated. (When the Secretary read my birth date off the application, a stage whisper went up from the sparse gathering. "He's 62?" "He was born in '62." "Ooohhh . . . .") At 34, I evidently represent hope for continuity into the future.

So far, I've not been let in on the Masons' supposed schemes to rule the world or control its banking systems. But I am getting fatter, and getting a glimpse into what the men of America once went through just to get away from their wives and families for a few hours. That alone is worth the price of membership.

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