Our Hometown Stories: T.Katz: Telling Tales And Making Music
By Rachel Singer
I may require an Intervention.
I have an addiction...it interferes with the running of my household, taking care of my kids and being a doting wife.
My name is Rachel and I am a "Bookaholic"
A few Mondays ago, while patiently waiting in the carpool line, I tuned into John Boston's afternoon KHTS show and heard him chatting up a local author by the name of T. Katz. I put down my book and took a listen. I am always impressed with those who have the ability to take everyday words and turn them into lands, characters and stories on the pages of a book.
A few days later, standing by my kitchen sink waiting for my pot of tea to brew, I began reading T.Katz's children's book, "Miss L'eau".
After the first chapter, I was captivated. Needless to say my pot of tea went cold as the story of Miss L' eau unfolded. It is truly a delightful imaginative tale and I hope to capture your imagination while I share with you the "Hometown Story" of T. Katz.
"T." stands for Thresa. No, not a typo on my part....as T.Katz shared with me during our sit down, "I am a walking talking typo." An air of mystery still surrounds who actually named her and how the clerical error occurred omitting the first "e" in Theresa...
About her 18th year, she officially evolved into "T.". She explained, "I like it, it suits me, and it is all that my family and friends know me as."
I asked her a simple question. "Can you tell me about your early family life?" Oh my, as T. began talking, my head began spinning. She saw the wide eyes and my version of "I Love Lucy" stenography and laughed as she said "My husband Steve says I need a John Madden football chart to keep track of my life."
Well, I don't have a chart for you, but here goes: T. was adopted as an infant. Her birthmother made the selfless choice to give her up. Nola and Howard adopted her. They separated when she was 18 months old and she stayed with her mother. When T. was 2, Nola remarried and Will became her stepfather. Their marriage lasted six years.
Throughout Will and Nola's rocky marriage there was always one constant in T.'s life, Will's sister Betty Weider and her husband Joe. They knew this little girl needed stability and they wanted to provide it.
When T. turned eight, the Weiders took on the role of parenting and began supporting her financially and emotionally. By her 15th birthday, she had moved in with them. Today they are simply known as "my folks."
The Weiders were guardian angels dressed in Spandex leotards and workout gear! If you belong to a gym, work out at a gym or have had occasion to be near a gym, you know the Weider name is synonymous with health and fitness!
Joe Weider sits atop a fitness and bodybuilding empire that includes nutritional supplements, weight lifting equipment and magazines like "Shape" and "Muscle & Fitness."
These two octogenarians continue to maintain their healthy lifestyle and Betty Weider still looks like a Vargas pin-up girl.
While growing up, her folks were passionate about fitness and weight training. T. was also passionate about training...but instead of her biceps, T. was training her voice!
"I loved everything having to do with voices and I was being groomed to become a singer." T., now living with the Weiders received her high school diploma from the Hollywood Professional School.
The 80's arrived with all of its fashion glory and T. became a "bumper girl" for the television show, "Pat Boone's U.S.A." T. laughed as she said, "We were the squeaky clean version of the Solid Gold dancers!" The "Bumper Girls" sang and danced while the show went in and out of commercial breaks.
T. went from bumping for Pat Boone, to vocalizing Industrial Films, to singing in hundreds of demos for songwriters.
With a long career in television as a Production Associate,
T. shared with me the dreaded, "One that got away." In the mid 80's a new show was submitted to the executive producer that T. was working for.
Her boss asked T.'s opinion on the show. "I love it, it's hysterical, and I was on the floor laughing." Her boss thought it over and concluded, "No, I'm going to pass." Their biggest competitor picked up the series. The show he passed on was a little mega-hit called "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"!! Cest la vie.
T. met her husband Steve in 1986. He was the George Clooney of his time, a handsome consummate bachelor who was never getting married.
That all changed on December 31, 1988, when Steve and T. flew to Las Vegas for her family's annual New Years Eve getaway.
Steve's mother picked them up at the airport and in a nutshell stated, "What are you two kids waiting for, I'll buy the rings, just go and get married, the courthouse is open 24 hours."
As Las Vegas was preparing to ring in 1989, T. and Steve found themselves at the Clark County Courthouse. The bride was radiant in a black and red strapless gown with red granny boots. T. recalled Steve being nattily attired in "a clownish plaid suit thing." The wedding party consisted of Steve's mother and T.'s folks. It has been a beautiful union for 20 years, 5 months and almost 15 days! But who's counting.
The Katz family grew in 1992, with the birth of Shaina. "She is a nurturing soul," her mom shared with me. This tender heart has aspirations to become a nurse or psychologist.
Jordan Katz, aged 13, is a boy of joy. He LOVES elevators and fulfilled a dream this past Spring Break when his mom took him to Las Vegas on the "Inaugural Elevator Tour, Part I." The duo spent 2 solid days collecting hotel key cards and riding every variation of elevator that they could find within the hotel walls. "The desk clerks treated him like a king," T. smiled. "He is already planning "Elevator Tour, Part II."
Jordan will begin La Mesa Jr. High this fall in their wonderful Autism program.
The Katz family made the move from the west side to the SCV over 14 years ago. The house they fell in love with then, is still the one they call home today. It is a virtual scrapbook of their lives, loves and memories. "I have a real problem getting rid of anything," T. confessed.
Wisteria Lane, Mayberry; call it what you may, but while we were chatting, I couldn't help but notice a bulletin board on T.'s kitchen wall. Hanging along the bottom pegs were all of her neighbor's house keys!
T. should be the official ambassador to Canyon Country. "I love living in Santa Clarita's step-child city," she laughed. "Our 'other side of the tracks' reputation is just fine with me..." Yet, T. was serious when she said, "This valley truly has a beautiful heart."
When you meet T., it is clear that her beautiful heart belongs to her family, her music and her lyrical words. "Writing is a part of my soul, I had just never done it professionally," she explained, when I asked how her writing career began. "I got married and published on a dare!"
After helping Shaina on a school project about writing, T. thought she would show her what a tough business it was to break into. "I sent out 10 query letters to literary agents and publishers outlining "Miss L'eau", a children's book that I had worked on many years before."
T. sat back and waited for the rejection letters to come in. To her chagrin and delight, they did not; her book outline generated letters of interest that were full of praise.
It was in 2006 that "Miss L'eau" her story about a teacher with a love of the ocean and bottomless blue eyes to match was published.
"Pythagoras" followed in 2008, with its tale of a musical ghost and life lessons for Priscilla who hates having to practice the piano!
It was no stretch for T. to write a book that focused on music lessons. She is a popular music teacher and many afternoons can be found in her home, encouraging her students to make beautiful music with the piano or with their voice!
T. moves effortlessly from piano bench to computer bench when she finds inspiration for the newest children's book she is composing. A timely tale of childhood bullying.
As we finished up our raspberry iced tea, I asked T. "What are some things about you that your readers would find surprising?" I had to laugh at her responses...
"I am a mouse killer,"
"I love Halloween,"
"I covet an 11 foot bookcase with sliding ladder,"
"I am a bit snarky," and
"I look forward to getting older and having the 'crone mentality.' I know that I am going to be a phenomenal older woman when I grow into myself."
After just one morning together, I can honestly say that the T.Katz of 2009 is already a phenomenal woman.