While most everyone have been cooped up in their homes, sheltering in place due to the global pandemic – except for our essential workers – I found a local resident who came up with a creative way to keep her family, friends and especially the elders – smiling.
Meet Marla Luckhardt of Brentwood who lives in Summerset 4 – whose front room doubles as a stage, and her husband "known as Grandpa Ernie" videos her lip-syncing to her favorite artists' songs while in full costume – most of the outfits from her own closet.
She's created a remarkable 68 Facebook posts of artists and groups so far, with many more to come, and the positive comments coming from her friends and family, fuels her forward.
"The comments are so sweet and kind. Most relate to these oldies, which create memories that make them smile," said Luckhardt, who was born in Brooklyn, New York. "Luckily I have had nothing but kindness, laughter and positive reactions. Some share their recollections with me, like a song they sang with their mom or dad; or the time they sang it in a school play or they listened to their favorite album over and over and could sing it with me. Every comment is very special and I answer each one, every day."
From imitating Sammy Davis Jr. to Janis Joplin, Luckhardt started creating the short videos in early July, mostly to cheer people up during depressing times.
"This project started out to make my senior peeps laugh. I still make that my focus. If others enjoy them, it is lovely icing on the cake," she said. "I have no aspirations of anything but the smiles that I hear are happening. Some may live alone or have been inside for many months and I get comments that this is the fun part of their day."
"Sometimes I get requests and if I can make it happen, I do," she added. “The highlight of my day is the comments and responses. I email them to Cleo and send still shots of each 'guest' to her and some others that are not on Facebook."
Cleo Thompson is her mom’s best friend who lives in Cortona Park, where her mom once lived. Cleo is 98-years-old and strictly adhering to the safety codes during quarantine, except for doctor visits and rare trips to Walgreens, when absolutely necessary, for example, for her flu shot.
Luckhardt's videos started with bringing a smile to Cleo and the others at Cortona Park.
"I decided to try to make Cleo and the other seniors laugh and have a few minutes of fun each day," she said. "It blossomed from there and now I have a lot of followers of all ages! It really started as a way to make folks laugh. I guess it’s working."
Both Luckhardt and her husband Ernie are retired.
"My background was 20 years in sales and sales management, 25 years in local real estate and five years as a Community Relations Director for Visiting Angels," said Luckhardt. "I still write, but I am officially retired."
If Luckhardt had to choose one artist as her favorite one to perform, she said it's a tough call, but she definitely has one.
"It would be Joan Baez, since it was a challenge to talk during her song several times," said Luckhardt. "Getting each word just right was a great deal of fun for me. My second favorite was all the rest of them! I have become very attached to my 'friends.'"
The best part about performing and imitating her favorite artists is that she's met several along the way – in real life, when she worked at the Fillmore and other places. She said the best story was meeting Jimi Hendrix.
"I had a belly ache, but was asked 'quite strongly' by Bill Graham to stand in for the shadow dancer who didn’t show up," said Luckhardt. "The 12-foot screen made me look like a giant, but only a shadow. I was appalled, but you did NOT say no to Bill Graham. I went to his office for some Pepto and Jimi Hendrix was there! He offered me a toke of his hash pipe, but I told him I needed Pepto, not that! Last laugh on me was, the dress I wore was white, and so it was totally see-through on the screen! I appeared to be dancing in my underwear and a small black Peter Pan collar! Still cracks me up to this day."
She said years before meeting Jimi Hendrix, she met The Supremes.
"I got them coffee when they visited Sammy Davis Jr. at The Majestic Theater," she said. "He was doing Golden Boy on Broadway and I got to bring it in to all of them after running to the coffee shop around the corner. I was 14 and adored Sammy!"
Luckhardt could write a book about her experiences, especially from growing up in New York.
"Those are just two of many stories of these performers that stand out in my mind. I was so lucky to meet a lot of wonderful celebrities over the years," she said. "All were quite sweet".
"While I grew up back East and hung out at the Fillmore East, Grandpa, who was a San Francisco native, was at the Fillmore West and met dozens of folks including Janis Joplin," she added. "Lots of fun stories on that one! He was friends with Sylvester Stewart from Sly and the Family Stone and recorded the song The Swim as a guitarist with Bobby Freeman. He has dozens of great stories too."
Today Luckhardt simply enjoys bringing smiles to her Facebook viewers, imitating her favorite artists.
"I hope to keep adding more and more 'guests' (performers) and it looks like I will keep going as long as even one person is watching. Some will be back for encores as requested, but there are tons of possibilities to come," said Luckhardt. "I literally have no shame at all and will try anything! ZZ Top and Bobby Boris Pickett doing the Monster Mash are perfect examples of taking one for the team!"
You can visit all Marla Luckhardt's "guests" from her living room to yours, by going to her Facebook page named: Marla Luckhardt.
Cypress Self Storage: We Love Our Local Community
As Oakley's brand new self storage facility, we truly love our local community. Here on our blog, we are always looking for interesting stories about our local community. Please do not hesitate to reach out with ideas and requests. Of course, we are also here for your self storage needs. Before we leave, we want to sincerely thank Marla Luckhardt for giving smiles to those in our local community and beyond. Thanks, Marla, for letting us cover your story. And, a special thank you to Charleen Earley, for writing this amazing piece for our blog!