Flame Simon

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More Shared Stories are Below! This website will continue to blossom as you share your Flame world. Please send your stories, memories, and quips to: stevensimon@earthlink.net and we will upload them to the updated website regularly. Thank you!

Flame (Doris) Simon

An irrepressible force of light, love, humor, insight, independence and fealty for everyone she touched in her world.

Flame fostered nurturing and rewarding friendships and relationships, from New York to California, from Woodstock to Hollywood, from England to Africa, from Mt. Washington to Altadena. She enhanced the world as a teacher, restaurateur and docent at the LA Zoo.

Flame’s light and warmth reached the hearts and souls of so many on countless levels for over eight decades. Her memory is cherished, her loss is felt intimately. Tenacious Flame will not be mourned, she will be celebrated as she wished to be remembered, for who she was and how much she loved life and so many tangible and intangible things in it.

To all who knew, loved and frolicked with dear Flame, we share your pain. The loss of our mom, aunt, great aunt, mentor and love of our lives is immeasurable. Nevertheless, as Flame would want, we remember her beautiful smile, twinkling eyes and heart full of love… always…

Arlene wrote:
The Doris I knew as a child was always a “flame” to me. She was a bright and warm light I cherished as a child and every thought of her always warmed my heart as an adult. It came as no surprise that she decided to be known as Flame.

My sister Chezna and Doris were best friends and walked to school together. When I was four years old and started kindergarten, Chezna was in sixth grade. She was required to walk me to school so the three of us then walked together. My first memories of Doris are from those walks. I can close my eyes and still see her as I remembered her then – red pigtails, freckled face and a big smile.

I always joined in with their conversation and Doris made me think I was an equal in spite of the differences in our ages. She made me feel loved and safe and I looked up to her. The next year, when my sister was in junior high school, Doris agreed to walk me to school each day. Oh how I loved the time with her. I can still feel the warmth and strength in her hand as she held my mine. In retrospect, my family did not make me feel safe and sheltered, but when I was with Doris, I felt a safety and care that was unique in my young Iife. I adored her. Then, the unthinkable happened. Doris‘s father accepted a job in the Los Angeles area of California and Doris left the Bronx. Her vividly detailed description of her multi-day train ride made me realize just how far away she was and I felt a great loss.

Luckily, Flame and my sister kept in contact and when she visited New York, she sometimes stayed at our house. After I finished my graduate work, I moved to the San Francisco area. When I had business trips to the Los Angeles area, Flame would invite me to stay at her house. I always looked forward to getting together with her and every minute the familiar feeling of warmth was present. During that time in the late 60s, she became “Flame” to me. Again, I felt safe being around her and was able to talk to her about many things as no topic was off limits, nothing taboo. Her words of wisdom were life-changing to me. She was easy to open up to.

When reading the remembrances that others have written about Flame, one person described her as “bohemian“. That word personified Flame to me. In retrospect, through many discussions over several visits, I realized that Flame allowed me to feel better about myself and to open myself up beyond what my family experiences had imbedded. In later years we occasionally met for lunch and when we did, Flame felt like family. Our last meeting was made possible by Steven who provided her with driving directions to the restaurant were we met. I was especially happy and felt completed to know she had a chance to meet my wife of 32 years.

I loved Flame. And her flame will always glow brightly within me.

Daphne wrote:
I first met Flame when I came to teach at Garden Gate High School in 1972. I was a recent graduate of USC and had earned my teaching credential to begin what I believed would be a lasting career in the field of education.

Garden Gate High was an opportunity school for girls in South Central L.A. At the time that I joined the teaching staff of Garden Gate, there were only two opportunity schools in all of Los Angeles Unified, one for girls and one for boys. “Our young ladies”, as we liked to refer to our students were there because of interrupted schooling (usually because of time spent in juvenile hall), or pregnancy, and who’s behavior and life style clearly didn’t fit in at the regular high school setting. Because of this profile, the school attracted an interesting cast of educators.

Doris Simon immediately caught my attention. She had a bohemian aura about her: she didn’t walk, she seemed to glide by in her own unique sandal-footed sauntering gait. She usually was dressed in some brightly colored garb that was loose fitting and very flowing. Her curly reddish hair framed her animated and expressive face. Like her dress, her make-up emphasized her uniqueness. She heavily outlined her eyes with eyeliner and she wore the most unusual color of lipstick, either a reddish clay brown or a deep purple. Where ever she went people and students gave her a double take. She had a deep laugh and a wonderful warm and engaging smile that lit up her whole being.

She would arrive to school every morning driving her dilapidated green and white VW bus. Glued to the dashboard were a variety of tchotchkes, toy animals especially those representing Africa: giraffes, lions, tigers, elephants interspersed with figures of gnomes and the seven dwarfs that had peace symbols dangling from them. There was usually an array of throw pillows and stuffed animals on the car seats and a sleeping mattress in the back of the bus. On the floor of the bus would be scattering of notebooks, school materials, art supplies, pet food, strewn newspapers and literary magazines such as the New Yorker or the Atlantic.

When I got to know her better she invited me into her home and her life in the community of Echo Park. It is only fitting that she should live in a turn of the century craftsman’s styled house that was built by a railroad Barron for his mistress. The house couldn’t be seen from the narrow and densely car parked street. One had to ascend up eighty stone steps carved out of a steep embankment and pass by vegetation that was reminiscent of Ganna Walska’s Lotusland to reach the house. Then there was a home that unveiled itself as being so unique and fabulous, it was truly magical. The heavy timbered craftsman with its large plate glass windows looked out to a setting sun and a rose-tinted skyline of Los Angeles. She lived with a man named Pearl who played the violin and a capuchin monkey, named Thelonious. Thank you, Flame, for all the memories . . .

Megan wrote:
Dearest Flame, the name you chose for yourself describes you perfectly. You are full of brightness, light, love, laughter, and beauty. I am so grateful to be your “adopted daughter “ and so thankful to have been given the gift of going through your transition with you. You did it as you did everything, with dignity, bravery, courage , love, and grace. You will always be role model for me and I will miss you deeply. I love you so much Flame! Soar high ❤️

The Mills wrote:
Beautiful, quirky Flame! We first found you at the beloved Cinnabar restaurant, working there with your brother Alvin. We became great friends with both of you, and spent many a meal with you. One Halloween, you dressed as a zebra, in striped leggings with a tail. You always called us “The Mills”, not just Sandy and Al. New Year’s Eve was magical there with you and Alvin and Damon. I can’t believe all of you are gone.

Even after Cinnabar was no more, we continued to meet you for dinner and visit with you. I remember traveling to Venice with you at Carnivale in 2007, and going to Russia with you in 2017. Russia was tough for you because you had broken your shoulder and it was painful, but you soldiered on through it. It was difficult getting together once we moved away, and the pandemic made it even harder, knowing that you were failing. We hope to be together again on the other side, if there is one. We loved you dearly, Flame, redheaded dynamo!

Elaine wrote :
I can’t imagine the world without Flame, but I realize anyone who knows her, has her inside.

All the times I’ve spent with Flame are infused with her joy, enthusiasm, insight and wit. I’ve known Flame since the 1970’s when we taught school together at Fremont High School. We were in our 20’s. I taught English and I believe Flame substituted because she didn’t want to be tied down. (I could have that wrong). I was struck with her completely natural beauty and her empathy and genuine interest in everything. Flame brings out the best in everybody… We’ve been friends for almost 50 years. Through numerous loves, crises, addresses and careers.

Probably the greatest period of our friendship was about 40 years ago. I don’t remember which came first: my decision to have a child alone or our decision to write a script together about a newly divorced 38 year old woman who finds a way to have a child. But I do remember that we approached it like a do-able problem. Both writing the script AND finding a father. Flame was clear that she did not want a child of her own. She had two nephews that were at least as good as sons, a dog and a cat. As she wrote in the script: “why would I want a child – I want pretty little things on my coffee table.” The better lines in the script are mostly Flame’s – but the fact that we DID complete a script, I credit to me. We met weekly (?) for one or two years and wrote on index cards. We might fool around for 90% of our time but always buckled down for the last ten% and wrote at least three cards. The script is called “And Baby Makes Two’ – I think original at the time. We actually interviewed men for the “job”. Once we went to a bar where there was a piano player which Flame identified as the right man for me. “Nice hands – your baby would have good hands.” We got up the nerve to talk to him – he had a high squeaky voice. We left laughing.

The script never sold. Selling was neither of our strong points. Over the years Flame would say: ‘Where’s the script, let’s re-write it – it’s really good.” But we never did. I believe we tried to do one more script – but we always thought there’d be time. Flame was a wonderful aunt to my son – always supportive.

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