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Interview with Karen about her late-friend and companion Lex Barker during his last days

Karen & Lex Barker

Interview by Reiner Boller
Assistance: Marlies Bugmann

Karen was both friend and companion to Lex Barker during his last days. They met at a Hollywood party in the winter of 1972 when Karen attended the event together with Lex’ good friend Bill Orr. It was love at first sight. During the months leading up to Barker’s death, Karen Kondazian frequently accompanied him. She also travelled to Canada with him at the end of April 1973 before both went to New York City. On the fateful day of 11 May 1973, Karen Kondazian was at Lex Barker’s side.

Karen Kondazian, born in Boston, Massachusetts, is probably best known for her skillful depictions of Tennessee Williams’ female characters. However, she has also acted in movies and television shows, produced stage plays, taught acting students and created a name for herself as an author (her book The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors, which contains interviews with Hollywood’s best casting directors, became a best-seller).

The NY Times wrote an article on Charley Parkhurst, mentions “The Whip”.

New York Times article (December 5th, 2018)

Overlooked No More:
Charley Parkhurst, Gold Rush Legend With a Hidden Identity

By Tim Arango

A swashbuckling, one-eyed stagecoach driver lived her life disguised as a man. After her death, the revelation that she was a woman provoked widespread astonishment.

An illustration of Charley Parkhurst. She earned the nickname “One-Eyed Charley” after she was kicked in the eye by a horse, which was perhaps startled by a rattlesnake. Credit: Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.

Charley Parkhurst was a legendary driver of six-horse stagecoaches during California’s Gold Rush — the “best whip in California,” by one account.

The job was treacherous and not for the faint of heart — pulling cargos of gold over tight mountain passes and open desert, at constant peril from rattlesnakes and desperadoes — but Parkhurst had the makeup for it: “short and stocky,” a whiskey drinker, cigar smoker and tobacco chewer who wore a black eyepatch after being kicked in the left eye by a horse.

Fox Ridge Book Club, CO

Check out the recipes from the Coosaw Point Book Club in South Carolina (Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, Vinegar Custard Pie with Meringue, Blackberry Mash) and other creative ways, including skype, facetime or phone chat with the author–  to make your Book Club reading of The Whip memorable!

Coosaw Point Book Club - South Carolina

https://kondazian.com/2016/02/4632/

Conducting “The Whip” book club meeting in style!

2. Sandy Rogers - Hags on Nags Saddle ClubSo why not dress up like the courageous Charley Parkhurst during your Book Club meeting, while you discuss “The Whip!” Does your Book Club have what it takes to compete with the Hags on Nags Saddle Club from Wisconsin?– they discussed “The Whip” in style! The author, Karen Kondazian, might even Skype, Facetime, or Phone Chat with you~ And don’t forget to check out some of the great chili and rum cake recipes on her website to start the evening off with a bang!

From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #19 – Rome, Italy: “The City of La Dolce Vita”

Rome, Italy

Bella Roma, Italy

“When I was a boy, I wanted to travel and see the world… but then I found Rome and found my world.”
– Federico Fellini

My final stop Rome– ‘The Eternal City’–

Plaque on the exterior of Federico Fellini’s apartment - Rome, Italy.

Plaque on the exterior of Federico Fellini’s apartment – Rome, Italy.

Whenever you need a very quick high, all you have to do is walk the streets of Rome– with its seemingly crazed, screaming honking- drivers, towering crumbling edifices, iconic fountains and cathedrals and those Spanish Steps that lead to forever.

Turning down a quaint, flower-box filled alleyway into the historic piazza Campo de’ Fiori, I walked toward Federico Fellini’s colorful looking apartment building (and a few doors down, Audrey Hepburn’s old digs.) During my walk, I was beginning to understand a bit of what this ancient city had fed into Fellini’s night- time dreams that later he  brilliantly transformed into his iconic films (i.e. La Dolce Vita, 8 ½ and Roma) When the young Federico moved into his Campo de’ Fiori red splashed building at 18 years of age, it was just the beginning of his wild, lifetime love affair with this dramatic, almost ‘operatic’ city.  Across town, I later stopped by another of my Italian idols’ residence– quietly stepping into the great Anna Magnani’s elegant apartment lobby. As I gazed around, I  saw the doorman walking toward me …I smiled, waved and disappeared. I had done my paparazzi pilgrimage. It was time for some serious historical sight seeing.

From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #18 – Amalfi and Positano, Italy: “The City of the heavenly lemon, muse to both Steinbeck and The Rolling Stones, and home to the most romantic foreign film of the 90’s.”

Karen at Positano Beach - Positano, Italy

Karen at Positano Beach – Positano, Italy

Ah, Amalfi and Positano… When you are in love, this is the place to come.

Natural Rock Enclave - Amalfi Coast, Italy

Natural Rock Enclave – Amalfi Coast, Italy

Lying in the mouth of a deep ravine at the foot of Monte Cerreto and surrounded by dramatic cliffs, is the coastal town of Amalfi. As our little tender whizzed though the Mediterranean waters, it was instantly clear by my goose bumps, why the majestic beauty of Amalfi has magnetized painters and writers throughout the centuries.Two other times I remember having this “perfect sight” experience…(seeing the Taj Mahal looming in front of me as the sun rose-–and suddenly turning a bend on a dirt road and gazing upon the heart stopping ancient city of Petra.)

Houses Sitting Above the Amalfi Beach - Amalfi, Italy

Houses Sitting Above the Amalfi Beach – Amalfi, Italy

Greek sailors from past ages admired the breathtaking landscape, even imagining parts of the coastline as home to mythic creatures. Later, wealthy Roman nobleman built seaside villas along the coast and created some of the first settlements. In the 1920s and 30s, the town was a popular holiday destination for British aristocracy. Now it is a city of artists and wealthy bohemians.

From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #17 – “Palermo, Sicily: The City of the Cosa Nostra, fabulous Pizza & Gelato and the Great Mount Pellegrino.”

Festive Horse & Carraige - Palermo, Sicily

Festive Horse & Carriage – Palermo, Sicily

Palermo is located on the island of Sicily and is the region’s capital city.  It’s history has suffered 13 foreign dominations from which she has taken both the best and the worst. The invasion of so many diverse cultures has made Sicily a fascinating place, quite unlike any other…

Enrico Alfano, one of the first publicly known mobsters in Sicily

Enrico Alfano, one of the first publicly known mobsters in Sicily

Since the mid-19th century, Palermo was known as the hive of Mafioso activity. The genesis of the Mafia began under feudalism, whereby the nobility owned most of the land and enforced law and order through their private armies. In countryside towns that lacked formal law, local elites responded to banditry by recruiting young men into “companies-at-arms” to hunt down thieves and negotiate the return of stolen property, in exchange for a pardon for the thieves and a fee from the victims.  These companies-at-arms were often made up of former bandits and criminals, usually the most skilled and violent of them. While this saved communities the trouble of training their own policemen, it may have made the companies-at-arms more inclined to collude with their former brethren rather than destroy them. On the other side of its much-debated history, my grandmother told me that the mafia actually started out as a benign organization. That it was mainly created to protect the women and children.

From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #16 – “Cagliari, Sardinia: The ‘Green City’ of Un-fouled Beaches, D.H. Lawrence’s ‘White Jerusalem’ and Magical Pink Flamingos.”

Karen in Castello, the old city of Cagliari, Sardinia

Karen in Castello, the old city of Cagliari, Sardinia

On the island of Sardinia, 120-miles west of the mainland of Italy, lies its capital city, Cagliari – an Italian municipality. It is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily. Although Cagliari has one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, there is no industry – making it a ‘green city,’ with sprawling, un-fouled beaches, botanical gardens, sixty wildlife preserves and three national parks.

Gates to the entrance into Castello, the old medieval town - Cagliari, Sardinia

Gates to the entrance into Castello, the old medieval town – Cagliari, Sardinia

Cagliari has faced occupation throughout the centuries due to the island’s strategic geography in the Mediterranean. Sardinia and Cagliari came under Roman rule in 238 BC when the Romans defeated the Carthaginians. During the French Revolution, France tried to conquer the city but was defeated by the Sardinians.  After a brief period of autonomous rule, the Allies then heavily bombed the city after the German army took control of it. Once the Germans retreated, the American army then took control of Cagliari and used it as an airbase for the remainder of the war.

Phoenician grinning mask (5th century BCE): National Archaeological Museum - Cagliairi, Sardinia

Phoenician grinning mask (5th century BCE): National Archaeological Museum – Cagliairi, Sardinia

From Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #15: Palma De Mallorca, Spain: “The City of Olive Tourism, Castle of Kings & Prisoners, And House of Wax & Taxidermy”

Overlooking Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Overlooking Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Palma De Mallorca is the capital and largest city of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The name of the island originates from an old Latin phrase ‘insula maior’ that means ‘larger island’. In ancient times, the Romans would use this term to refer to the island because Mallorca is the largest island in Spain. Over time, the phrase was mispronounced and corrupted. The British pronounced it as Majorca, while the rest of world simply referred to it as Mallorca.

Yachts with the Cathedral Palma Mallorca in the background - Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Yachts, with the Cathedral Palma Mallorca in the background – Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Today, Mallorca is one of Europe’s major holiday destinations. It is a city of modern hotel chains and flashy shops, yet still retains much of its old architecture. Football is a passion on the island, with the Real Mallorca team competing at its home playing field, the Iberostar Stadium. The island is famous for its many olive groves, which has led to the development of olive tourism on the island.

Bellver Castle - Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Bellver Castle – Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Gothic style structure of the Bellver Castle - Palma De Mallorca, Spain

Gothic style structure of the Bellver Castle – Palma De Mallorca, Spain