It’s my friend Laura Raynor’s birthday tomorrow, Saturday. Friends are flying in, some are here already. From all over the world, calls keep coming, asking for updates. Some know my pal as Dianne, some as Laura. Me? Mostly, I’ve called her “Raynor.” It can be confusing. Everyone calls her baby brother, Dean, by “Raynor.” Her older brother? Richard Mosshart? The 27,723rd Greatest Athlete in SCV History? Dear Moss. All total? I’ve known these three some 165 years.
The most complete description of Miss Laura Raynor came from another long-time pal, three equal parts surfer, banjo player and doctor. Rodger still shakes his head in discombobulation:
“When I started college in the 1970s, the five most beautiful women at COC were Laura Raynor, Laura Raynor, Laura Raynor, Laura Raynor and — Laura Raynor.”
Rome. Paris. COC. It didn’t matter. Laura was beautiful. Inside. Outside. Three blocks down the street and around the corner. She was — is — ethereal. Her laugh was infectious and she was silly, in a disarming, child-like way. She wasn’t my soul mate. Cooties, yick, no. But better? Raynor was my soul pal. Forever. I suspect she has that same, pure, sincere relationship with hundreds.
I remember a Sunday afternoon. I was an inch from the set, yelling, watching an NBA playoffs game and the back door opened. Laura didn’t have feet. She floated. She innocently asked what’s on TV.
“Weren’t you a cheerleader?” I asked.
“Sports for me ran together in a big blur,” said Raynor. “How can you guys collide into each other all sweaty like that?”
She chatted amiably about how her TV was on the fritz and that my living room could use flowers (which she frequently brought) and that there was a Chekhov play on PBS starting in five minutes. Could we watch? With commercials, there was 44 minutes of basketball ahead. I’m screaming, punching the air, threatening to find a flaming trident and chase the referees’ children home from school. I masterfully jammed a cassette to record the first part of Chekhov and tossed her an afghan, all the while not taking my eyes off the television. On a regular basis, Laura would ask which team I liked, and why, and who were the players and which ones were the “nice ones.”
She did this on purpose, partly to annoy, partly to play.
Afterwards, we sipped tea and watched the taped Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters.” All through the play I kept asking when the affable young Russian ensign from “Star Trek” would be beaming in.
She said, “Boys,” but meant, “Neanderthal.” But not really.
Isn’t that grand? To be lucky enough to have friends who completely get one another?
About 40 years ago, Raynor started our custom.
She called one day and, stifling a giggle in her patented, high-pitched matter-of-fact little girl’s voice, said: “Hello. This is Laura Raynor. I’m your friend from West Newhall. May I speak to you, please…?”
Holding the phone, I went to the back door and looked at the building next door where Raynor was.
To the west.
I answered: “Hello Laura Raynor my friend from West Newhall. This is John Boston, your friend — from East Newhall.”
Then we giggled. Like imbeciles. And we couldn’t stop. It didn’t matter this was the 3,007th time we heard the same, exact greeting. We laughed until we lost our breath. Year after year after year.
Laura was always gregarious, and yet, a ghost, a loner, the body here, mind and soul elsewhere. She traveled the world and the calls sometimes were from Ireland or Canada, in Texas after being on stage singing with her friend Willie Nelson, or calling backstage from a Glasgow theater where she’s highlighting. Laura was an actress, graduated magna cum laude at USC when she was sneaking up on 60.
Raynor was Audrey Hepburn petite, but once played the garishly buxom billboard Hollywood icon, Angelyne, in a movie. Again, the laughter, describing the 4 a.m. make-up calls which were like climbing into a pink gorilla suit with giant boobs.
You know something?
If you needed help, she could be in France and if you didn’t stop her, she’d be on the next plane to rescue you. Or someone. I’d try to make sure she ate. She tried to make sure I didn’t. We’d console each other over too many wrong relationships. These pep talks started with: “What the HELL’S wrong with you!?” and ended with: “You deserve so much better.” As always, tea would be required.
What a dear, what a friend to the world, that Laura Raynor.
What a friend. A roll-up-your-sleeves, blue-collar backwoods Idaho friend. An elegant, head-turning pal and confidante.
When I’d finish writing a book or novel, I’d ask literary friends to read it, give me an overview critique. I’d get nonstop calls from Laura, at all hours. As if she were the first to taste ice cream, she’d yell at me over the phone about how much she not loved, but adored my work. She could see a beauty in me that I could not.
I never let on. Her enthusiasm, her unabashed love, it made me not cry, but sob in gratitude. How lucky I am, how lucky everyone who has known her?
My pal’s body gave up the ghost back in early October 2020. That’s OK. Someone that profoundly beautiful, so forever young, is not supposed to look 112. I got to sit by her bed and hold her hand, sing silly songs and play “Remember When We…?”
Tomorrow’s her birthday.
I’ll be standing under the stars tomorrow night on a ranch on a hill in Acton, with so many friends.
I’ll take a moment to be by myself. I’ll pick out a star and place an invisible telephone call. We’ll share our ancient, child-like greeting:
“Hello. This is your friend, John Boston? From South Newhall? May I speak to you, please?”
I’ll wait. For the little kid giggle and reply: “Hello. This is Laura Raynor. Your friend from way, way, way up — in North Newhall…”
John Boston is a local writer.