Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Friday, July 27, 2012

Cover design by Gayle Higgins

Last week I talked about the book, “Pietro,” based on Pete Denevi’s life.  I thought I’d run a few of his stories by you just for fun.

            Pete grew up in Los Gatos in an Italian community.  If you scrape away all the yuppies, you can still find remnants of those original Italian families in town. Pete had a beautiful plow horse that he entered in the Los Gatos parades and made money plowing all the vegetable gardens in his neighborhood when he was a kid.   

            Pete’s cousin was Frankie Crosetti, the famous shortstop with the New York Yankees.  Crosetti was known as “The Crow,” and spent 17 seasons as a player and another 20 as a third base coach.  Frank was Pete’s hero and became his best friend.  But Frank also became human to Pete the day he took Pete to the doctor after Pete shot a hole in his big toe with a 22 rifle.

            Pete didn’t tell his parents that he had a hole in his toe for fear that his dad would take his gun away, but his cousin, Frank, insisted on taking Pete to the doc.  The doctor took a metal instrument and ran it right through the hole in Pete’s toe pushing out the infection and anything else that might be in there.  Pete heard a crash and turned to see his hero passed out on the floor.  Watching that instrument running all the way through Pete’s toe was more than “The Crow” could handle.  Crosetti was out cold.

            It was through Frankie that Pete met Joe DiMaggio.  Joe would visit Frankie and they would both play with Pete, who was just a kid then.  Pete said he always felt important when he hung out with Frank and Joe.  They would sometimes take Pete to San Francisco to ride the trolleys.  Pete remembers he and Frank got on the trolley, but Joe wouldn’t climb on board.  Joe said, “Go ahead.  I’ll catch up.”

            Joe would then run after the trolley and leap on the cow catcher on the back.  He would sometimes get caught, but would just turn around and do it again.

            Many years later Joe introduced Pete to his new wife, Marilyn.  She gave Pete a kiss that he still remembers.  Along with Marilyn Monroe, there is a story of Lucille Ball kissing Pete after he helped her sell a motel she owned. Lucille’s lips were always covered in bright red lipstick and Pete had to use a sandblaster to wash his face.

            When Pete graduated from college he had to decide between playing professional football or baseball. He chose baseball and Crosetti and DiMaggio pushed for him to sign with the Yankees.  Pete had a chance to play immediately if he would sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he did.  Injuries cut his professional career short.

            There are stories of when Pete helped Frank Sinatra make spaghetti sauce, visiting Bob Hope in his fantastic home on the top of the hill, being offered the opportunity to built recreational facilities for Howard Hughes, playing tennis with Paul Newman, between beer breaks, accidently knocking Pope Paul VI to the ground in Rome, being called personally by President Nixon, and other interesting stories.

            And, of course, there were athletics. Pete was said to have been the best athlete in the history of Los Gatos High School.  He was the same outstanding athlete at San Jose State College.  He was All-League in football and baseball, as well as a star in basketball and the heavyweight boxing champ.  Pete played quarterback all four years at State and his roommate and primary receiver was Billy Wilson, later to become a 49er great.

            I could go on with the stories.  As many of you know, Pete was my football coach and a mentor in many ways.  After graduating from college I went to work for Pete and developed and managed a small golf course and country club; I helped manage other swim and tennis clubs, and sold land for him.  Pete built the Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club, Courtside, and many other clubs and golf courses.  

            Pete is 85 years old now and in great physical shape.  Once an athlete, always an athlete.  Somehow it didn’t work that well for me. We have been friends for almost 60 years. It was an honor to ghost write and publish the autobiography of my good friend, Pietro.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ghost Writer

You might notice a few minor changes on this blog page.  I’m involved in a new venture and posted a few messages in case anyone is interested. 

            I’ve just finished ghost writing the autobiography of my former football coach, Pietro (Pete) Denevi, and the completed book has been published.  As you can imagine, writing a book is a major project, but publishing the book adds an additional layer to the process.  

            Since I’ve written and published a number of books, as well as having ghost written books for major international music publishers, I feel comfortable with this challenge.  I am in discussions with several prominent people interested in working with me on their own biographies in book form.  Consequently, I thought it made sense to let folks know what I’m doing in case others may want to become authors and tell their stories.

            As you know, a ghost writer does the writing for celebrities and non-celebrities and, in most cases, receives no credit for his or her work.  Ghost writers work on a fee basis and may or may not receive credit on the book cover in the form of “as told to…” or “with…”  Otherwise you may never know who really wrote the book.

            The ghost writer is not the “Author.”  The author hires the ghost writer to write the book and the author owns all the legal rights to the work.  Normally all royalties go to the author, unless otherwise agreed.  So that’s basically how it works. The ghost writer gets his or her fee and then disappears into the mist, to haunt another day. 

            There are a lot of people with great stories to tell and very interesting biographies.  Whether these appeal to a small circle of family, friends, and home town folks, or if they have wide-spread appeal, there appears to be a great need for writers to put these stories into words. 

            My good friend Pete Denevi is a good example.  Pete is the son of immigrant parents from northern Italy.  He was a professional athlete, coach, and successful entrepreneur.  Those of you who know Pete may be interested in getting a copy of his book.  I have a few copies that I will be happy to send out for those interested.  I’m helping Pete with sales at $15.00 per book plus $5.00 for shipping and handling on local sales.  I’m not taking an over-ride.  All funds go to Pete. 

            If you want a copy of “Pietro,” Pete’s autobiography, send a check made out to Pete Denevi and mail it to me at 2252 Greenhorn Ranch Road, Quincy, CA, 95971 and I’ll see that you get a copy of Pete’s book.

            I’m going to be doing articles, memoirs, biographies, short stories, and a variety of projects as a ghost writer.  But I’m specializing in writing, producing, and publishing complete and professional books from start to finish.  The process takes time and it’s not a cheap venture, but based on industry standards, my rates are on the lower end of the scale.

            Please go to my website at www.ralphhiggins.com and click on the “Your Ghost Writer” tab for more information, if you or someone you know may be interested.

            This week’s blog turned out to be a commercial for Pete and me. I just wanted to let you know what’s been happening since returning to our hollow log here in the forest.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Leash Laws & Plastic Bags

Gayle and I got home two days ago after a great visit with our kids, grandkids, and many of our friends in Los Gatos and Discovery Bay. It was terrific.

            We are now acclimating to mountain living once again after spending three weeks on the “ant hill” that was once the beautiful town of Los Gatos

Up here in the Sierras we know what a car is.  We’ve actually seen them, but we saw thousands of them lined up on Highway 17 from San Jose to Santa Cruz.  It was awe-inspiring.  It appeared to be a migration, but maybe they were hibernating, because they weren’t moving. But thousands more were rushing to join the queue to experience sand and seagulls, with little kids waving from the car ahead.

We stayed with friends in very nice neighborhoods.  You can tell it’s a nice neighborhood by the sound of lawn mowers and leaf blowers every morning at 7 am. Scientists still haven’t determined where leaves and dust go when blown.  No one has a lawn here in the mountains.  Although grass is common, lawn mowers aren’t.

Gayle and I just returned from our daily walk in the forest.  It’s so quiet there that I can hear my new knee click with every step.  I’ve been known to turn around, thinking I was being followed, but now I use the “clicks” to accompany the songs floating through my mind.  I have a built in rhythm section and can determine the song’s tempo by how fast I walk.  Once a musician, always a musician.

My dog is “leash free” now.  He is back home in the woods, chasing lizards, birds, and anything else he can’t catch.  On our trip, Dakota experienced civilization and the brave new world of leash laws and sidewalks.  I was introduced to small plastic bags used to pick up Dakota’s tangible expressions of his dislike of civilization. I admit to cheating sometimes by guiding Dakota behind a bush and contributing to a green world by saving a plastic bag. But, I’ll admit, Dakota quickly became a good canine citizen.

In the city, anyone who doesn’t have their dog on a leash is a moron.  A dog wouldn’t last five minutes with the traffic, so I’m in total agreement with dogs on leashes in the city.  It’s just that my mountain buddy enjoys the freedom he has here in Greenhorn Ranch. We follow different trails each day in the forest for variety and my companion is never on a leash.  He runs free and explores the smell of bears, coyotes, mountain lions and other wild critters.

While in civilization and after a few days on the leash, Dakota mellowed and didn’t pull against his restraint.  He gave up his freedom, albeit reluctantly, because it was for his own good; for his own safety and security. His master determines what's best. He had no option but to obey.  Dakota joined the ranks of tame dogs walking obediently and passively with their masters, sniffing furtively at passing dogs.  Sniffing is the limit of freedom for a city dog.

            After watching the machinations of our government, maybe I need to get used to a collar and leash myself.  Like my dog, maybe I'll happily acclimate to less freedom and more restraints.  Maybe I'll be a good serf.  Maybe I won't strain against the master's leash. Maybe - but not likely.  Not me.