My Stepfather Doug

This remembrance is contributed by my half-brother, Dave:

I was five years old, living with my mother, aunt, and cousins Maggie and Valerie, in New York City. I kept seeing a man by the name of Doug Jenkinson dating my mother. We instantly liked each other. A stand out memory was my future stepfather having his tonsils taken out, living in our apartment, and eating mostly mashed bananas… one of the few foods he could swallow. I identified, because I had my tonsils out when I was four.

When I was six, my mother married Doug. A decision was made that we move to Los Angeles, CA, where my stepfather would have better career opportunities, having been honorably discharged from his stint in the Army. In California, he chose to change his last name to Laurence. He didn’t like the name Jenkinson… I’m guessing due to his unhappy childhood.

Even though he didn’t get a college education, Doug was ambitious. After a few short-term jobs, he received a position under Bullets Durgom, a highly respected talent agent in the entertainment business. He went on, with mom’s help, to write and produce radio shows like Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage, and Roy Rogers. I remember sitting on the floor in the radio station waiting room playing a “Memorize the Presidents” board game while one of the shows was broadcast. He later became a personal manager for groups like “The Continentals” and “The Wilder Brothers”. I remember being a child allowed to watch the Continentals at the Coconut Grove, which kids were not usually allowed to do. When I was about 13 years old, Doug became the Entertainment Director for the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. When Judy Garland didn’t show up for her contracted booking for a week — not his fault — but Al Parvin, the owner, fired him anyway. I remember playing darts with my stepfather. A picture of Al Parvin was the bullseye. When he and my mother were searching for “What Next?”,  Mom suggested he take an aptitude test. The result and the answer — become a motion picture producer. His focus on this choice yielded great success, and became the high point of his show business career.

My personal relationship with my stepfather was 90% positive. He was my guidance counselor to opportunities I would never have found without his contacts and influence. As a child, I was shy and full of low self- esteem. My stepfather was old school. He made certain that if I wanted any money, I worked for it. I had a paper route. Then I sold papers on the street. Then… a stock boy at Bullocks, etc. The lesson from this was if you want something, work for it. No free lunch. I look back on this with gratitude because it improved my self-esteem and I was able to deal positively as a man in the jungle we all live in. Yes, he was overbearing at times and lectured a little too much, but always with my best interest at heart. He was straightforward and always honest with me. You always knew where you stood. As an adult, He opened a door for me that led to a 25 year successful career in Motion Picture Distribution.

In his effort to shape and mold me, some of our moments were funny.  When I was 7, Doug and his army buddy, Paul Nicholas, took off the training wheels to give me my first lesson in riding a bike. They chose an alley so cars weren’t around. After a few tries, they let me ride down that alley without help. That lasted ¼ of a block and then my only safety net was to crash into an open garbage can, leaving my bike, and landing face-down in garbage. Doug was a good athlete. When I was 8, he would occasionally pass a football and/or baseball with me. It was baseball where he threw a high ball. I was poised and ready and caught the baseball with my forehead. It was my birthday and my long awaited wish to go fishing was granted. Doug carefully plotted and mapped out a location called “Hidden Lake”, somewhere in the San Bernardino Mountains.  “Hidden Lake” was a good name for it because Dad spent hours looking for it. Finally, he came across the “Hidden Lake” Trout Farm… a small swimming pool very over stocked with Trout. It took me 5 minutes to run my fishing pole line (without bait) to catch my limit of 3 Trout. Dad and I spent most of our time at “Hidden Lake”playing Ping Pong.

I visited my real father when I was 17 years old. I wound up spending 6 months in Schenectady, NY, with his family, working as a page at the TV station owned by General Electric. They laid off a lot of employees in December including me. I was unsure of my goals at that time. My real father suggested I join the Navy, and I did. Doug didn’t chastise or scold me. I’m sure he hoped for a better move, like college. But, as it happened, it was the right decision for me at the time. He took it rather philosophically and supported my move.

Doug never seemed to be satisfied with his successes. Instead, he chose to dwell on his failures in his professional life, and as a father. I remember an alone time with him in a restaurant, approximately 25 years ago, where he claimed that unless a man had a passion for living, there’s no life to live. He felt he had no passion and if it wasn’t for his responsibility to be the Knight in Shining Armor for his wife, he wanted to die. He continued this train of thought for years until he passed away. I spent the last years trying to tell him that he had a great deal to be proud of, that he was a better father than most, and I was eternally grateful for what he’s done for me. Most importantly, I let him know that I loved him. He had trouble accepting that, or saying I love you.

My last visit with my stepfather was last Thanksgiving. He had an annoying question for me that had bothered him for years. When I was a salesman in distribution at MGM, he had a conversation with the President of Distribution who said I was the most talented and intelligent employee they had and I could go straight to the top. Why did I move from that opportunity to become in independent national distributor for Russ Meyer’s company? I explained that I didn’t want to be in the corporate side of this business. It wasn’t about money. I’d wanted to be independent and enjoy the freedom of it, and learn all facets of the business worldwide.  As it happened, I went as far as one could go successfully as an independent. He was content with the answer.

In my POV of Douglas Laurence… was he kind, considerate, helpful, honest, respectful, and did he love me? On all counts, the answer is yes — and if he didn’t love me, he sure as hell liked me a lot. I will miss him.

With Love – DB


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