The Birth of a Salesman
The palatial hilltop home he lost when his life crashed could scarcely have been imagined by the Gary Ramona who began his boyhood in the rural outskirts of Los Angeles -- in the Orange Grove Trailer Park at Grand and Cyprus Avenue, five miles from downtown Covina. Shoulder-to-shoulder on postage-stamp lots, each trailer was ringed by a white picket fence with a mailbox out front; a cement patio shaded by a metal awning bloomed with pots of geraniums, brave efforts to replicate suburbia. The table was too small to hold much more than the Christmas turkey, and a few bells and stars hung on the varnished wood-veneer walls. But the young Gary, moving a fork full of turkey toward his mouth, was a Norman Rockwell image of a happy boy.
Years later, Stephanie would speculate that Gary's upbeat personality -- his tendency to paint everything perfect -- was a shield from some suppressed pain from his childhood, something sinister, she implies. However, there is no evidence. If Gary's later concern for appearances was rooted, partly, in a sensitivity about the boyhood trailer, he hid it behind his laugh and the smile that shines from his earliest pictures. The toothy smile of a nine-year-old blazed as visiting family from Ohio gathered proudly around Gary and his accordion. Starting at the age of six, he took lessons and played until he was fourteen. In a full-sleeved white satin shirt, his hair brushed back, spit and polished, Gary held his shiny Sylvanir accordion across his chest, the arc of white keys echoing his grin. A natural performer, he played "Lady of Spain" and "The Beer Barrel Polka" in concerts and parades.