Our Chat with Lisa's Long-Time High School Friend, Toni Little
Toni and I grew up in the same small city in Southern California. We hung out at the beach, drooling over surfer boys. We showed our Gaucho pride at Narbonne High School football games. We stayed up all night at slumber parties, giggling and gossiping with our girlfriends. And just like those girlfriends, we dreamed about and made plans for our futures.
My cobbled together agenda was to become the next Linda Ronstadt and warble my way across Europe. Yeah, no. I basically hung around, worked non-descript 9-5 jobs, got married and popped out a kid. I’m not complaining, it’s just that Toni –legit set out to have a life, and boy-howdy, did she ever!
During our chat, Scotty and I plumbed the depths of her many adventures.
At the tender age of 16, she was abandoned on a Greek island, when the actor, John Derek, skipped town, ahead of law enforcement, in the company of the 16 year old co-star of his film, Toni’s bff, Mary Collins (who would later be introduced to the world as Bo Derek).
While at least, but just barely, an adult herself, Toni entered into a romantic relationship with one of our former high school teachers. As questionable an arrangement as it was, the elderly perv inspired her to become a teacher; a decision that would not only change her life, but the lives of many, many students over the years.
She taught drama for a while but switched to teaching AP literature to gifted students at Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles, where she was featured prominently in the book “And Still We Rise” the story of 12 of her students.
Those kids went on to universities and successful careers, in no
small way, due to Toni’s dedication and mentorship. One student, Venola Mason, became a teacher herself, and wrote the book “Teach Up!”, crediting Toni as her inspiration.
Toni took a little time off from teaching - to work at the United Nations !! and has rubbed elbows with the elite, doing PR for Hollywood royalty.
Fifty years on from high school graduation, Toni is still energetic, enthusiastic and endlessly curious. She grabs life by the balls and sprints!