It was a fall day in 1973 with perfect weather. A bunch of us decided to make the most of the perfect day and go to the beach. We ended up in Victoria Cove in Laguna Beach, three girls and three guys.
None of us were from perfect families. All of us were out of college, and none of us had really talked with someone our parents' age in quite a while.
It was a Monday, and I was ditching work (at United Artists Records) to go. About 10 a.m., a man jogged by. We all recognized him and decided to be cool, except Julie, who called out, "Hi, Ozzie." The rest of us cringed; Ozzie waved and kept jogging.
He got to the end of the beach and came running back. Despite our pleas to Julie to cool it, she called out again: "Hi, Ozzie." If sand could squeal like tire on pavement, he came to a screeching stop right in front of us. Julie quickly said, "Hey--you're doing that new TV show 'Ozzie's Girls,' aren't you?"
Ozzie was indeed putting together the show and, seeing a girl who could help him with research, started talking about the show and asking her questions about her college experiences.
The rest of us kept mum for quite a while, letting them talk. When I thought the subject had been thoroughly explored, I piped up, "Your band recorded 'Swamp Fire,' didn't it?"
Ozzie's eyes lit up, and he said yes, it was one of his biggest hits, and how did I know about "Swamp Fire"?
I said that I had the record and that it was one of my favorites, which was true, though I had about a thousand favorite big-band records.
From that point, all of us talked about everything that we were curious about: sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, Ozzie's recording days, the radio and the TV show, David and Ricky. Ozzie was open and candid and, most of all, enthusiastic.
Finally Harriet called down to Ozzie from their house overlooking the beach: "Ozzie, we have an early dinner engagement; you've got to get ready."
The familiar "Yes, dear, I'll be right up" was his reply, and off he went. It was around 5 p.m.--the end of a perfect day talking to the perfect person about everything on our minds.
We left the beach and went up to the girls' house and fixed a big dinner. We knew we had a truly memorable experience. Not because we talked with Ozzie Nelson, but because all of us had talked with someone of that generation about everything on our minds and came away learning a lot: that the older generation was as fallible and human as us and that you could trust a person over 30.
The TV show "Ozzie's Girls" died, and shortly afterward so did Ozzie.
The show was no great loss, but Ozzie Nelson was.