■ By Mary Ann Morris / Editor
He’s a regular at Destination Coffee Bar & Bistro, Bambi’s Hangar 1 Café, an investor at Derby’s Bar & Grille and can often be found in The Valley Chronicle conference room, especially when the donuts are fresh. He’s published more books than there are letters in the alphabet; mostly celebrity biographies. He’s got some amazing stories to tell, if you’ve got time to listen.
While I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing Raymond “Rusty” Strait for about a year, I can honestly say that had I not met Rusty, my life would be much less exciting. Through him, I’ve learned about his childhood, his business ventures, his family, the subjects of his biographies, and most notably, how much he cares about this community and how much of his personal self he has invested here.
The Diamond Valley Writer’s Guild seems to agree, as the organization recently recognized Rusty for his service to the San Jacinto Valley and awarded him a lifetime membership to the writer’s guild, which he helped pioneer. To say that Rusty is a prolific writer is an understatement – he’s written more than three dozen books and is a regular contributor of feature articles and editorials to The Valley Chronicle.
Rusty considers himself an “accidental writer,” starting his career on a whim after watching “The Girl Can’t Help It,” in 1957, starring the legendary Jayne Mansfield.
“I said to myself, ‘Geez I’d like to meet her;’ I felt we could be great friends,” said Rusty. So he gave his two weeks’ notice at the Southern Pacific railroad and transferred to Los Angeles. He then gave his two weeks’ notice there, and he eventually found himself in a business management job on the Sunset Strip. Who was his eventual boss? “Miss Pink Fluff and Fur herself: Jayne Mansfield,” said Rusty. Talk about serendipity!
After introducing herself to him, and he to her, she asked whether he would like to help her with her family on the weekends. And with that, a 10-year relationship and his first book was born.
His advice for someone writing their first book: “Never give up on your dream. You’re gonna get critics, but always believe in yourself. If I’d given up, waiting six years to sell my first book, nothing would have happened.”
And Rusty believes the best way to get dialogue is to sit in a restaurant booth and listen to not only what the people sitting nearby are saying, but how they are saying it. “Not everybody speaks the King’s English, you know.”
So how does Rusty stay young?
“I don’t believe in old. Old is for old people and I don’t hang out with old people. I hang out with young people,” said Rusty. “They are the future and they are the ones alive and not headed for the cemetery.”
The guild publishes a magazine called “Straitjackets,” as homage to him. It’s available for reading on the guild’s website at www.dvwritersguild.org.