Back at the house, I call Helen to catch up on the Joey situation.
“Oh, Tim. I knew you’d find a solution. The doctor said he’ll get Joey released to come home. You even found him a job nearby.”
“Well, he’s an adult, Helen. He has to make it work. Drugs almost killed him. Can you deal with him?”
“What other choice is there? The doctor suggests Joey join AA. I thought it was only for alcoholics.”
“Alcohol is a drug. You should go to Al-anon. You’ll need all the support you can get.”
“Is it our fault he’s an addict?” she always treats me like I know more than she does.
“Go to Al-anon. They teach you what you can do to help and what is strictly up to Joey.”
“We will. Thank God for you, Tim.”
“Are Jeff and Jerry there?”
“Oh, they’ll be so happy you want to say hi.”
“Don’t remind me. Will I end up like Joey?”
“Gosh, y’all’s still a kid. Enjoy it while it lasts. Joey wanted ta grow up too fast. Y’all gonna welcome ‘im home.”
“If he lets us in his room.”
“Jist don’t be a’sleepin’ up there,” I remember the water-bed adventures too well. I can’t help but feel protective of them.
“We ain’t sleepin’ with the freak,” Jeff swears.
“Let me say hi to Jerry.”
For once it doesn’t make me mad to hear my boyhood name.
“What’s up, big guy. Y’all growed up now.”
“You sound funny.”
“Jist from livin’ in I-o-way. I’s a country boy now, even milk cows every mornin’.”
“Is Joey okay?”
“Yeah, he’s fine now. He’s comin’ home on Monday. Y’all gots ta be nice ta ‘im.”
“I will. He’s my brother.”
That kind of gets to me, so I say good-bye before I get embarrassed.
Jimmy sees my single tear. “Everything cool?” he asks.
Instead of answering, I broke into Sly Stone’s ‘Family Affair.”
He and Tony join me. Doug know this song and all four of are singing, our own little family.
It’s a late LA afternoon, warm with a hazy sun dulling the pastel colors. I strip off and jump into the pool and start swimming laps. It’s a reminder of how long ago I had done the same to clear my head. Now I’m stretching my muscles, whichever ones are still there after 18 months of not working out. Doug and the boys jump into the hot tub, au naturale. I soon join them. Doug’s long poll of a dick invades all three butts as he is lord of the Jacuzzi. It feels just as silken as last time. All four of us end up in Doug’s king-size bed for an afternoon nap. I wake up as he is dressing to go to work.
“Stay in bed,” he orders. “They’ll take you around later. Nothing happens until after ten in West Hollywood.”
As soon as he leaves, Tony and Jimmy jump out of bed, dragging me with them. I have to laugh that they had faked out Doug, but maybe he knows better.
“Naw, once Doug found out that I really love him, there was no need for back-ups. They left on their own. Jimmy wanted to stay. I taught him how to please Doug. It’s all worked out. It’ll be even better if you are here too.”
“No longer the shy guy from South Bay.”
“I get shit for having a sugar daddy. I don’t see it that way ‘cause I work at the club and pay my way. I don’t care what anyone says.”
“Yeah, fuck ‘em,” we laugh.
“Ya think I’m a prosti-toot for staying here?” Jimmy asks.
“Cain’t be no prosti-toot if’n y’all likes it and does it fer free.”
“All gays are sluts,” Tony argues.
“Slimy sluts,” Jimmy proclaimed.
“Shiny happy sluts,” I add.
I finally have an answer to Tina’s question two years before about what ‘free’ love is.
Tony takes us to the club, as he has to work. We offer to help but he kicks us out.
“Go have fun. Tonight’s bands are nothing much. Go chase that Suzi Quartro clone. She looks like fun.” He tosses me his car keys.
We tooled up Santa Monica Blvd, me driving while Jimmy yells out the window at all the street tricks he apparently knows. We park on Larrabee and knock on the studio door, in the low, one-story building. After they recognize us from earlier, we’re admitted. It’s a run-down single room, with the engineer’s booth tucked into the corner behind a sound-proofed wall.
“Yeah, Doug got real anxious about damage to his club.”
“Didcha pass the audition? We felt ya was pretty exciting. I even wrote a new song afterward.”
“Naw. Doug says I needs ta grow up. Let’s hear your song.”
“It’s like your songs about Miami, ‘cept of course, it’s called ‘Hollywood.’”
Each night alone I dream
That I’m a rebel roller queen
I’ll be a star that shines
I can make the whole world mine
Hollywood it feels so good
Hollywood it feels so good
Songwriters: MICHAEL NESMITH © Peermusic Publishing
“Didja like we repeated the chorus, just like you do?”
“Wow,” I’m impressed. “It reminds me of the Monkees, but better ‘cause yer a chick singin’ it.”
Larrabee Jimmy starts laughing. “It might be a bit like the Monkees, since Michael Nesmith actually wrote it.”
Joan shoots him a nasty look. “Well, here’s the song I did write after you played. It’s called ‘California Paradise,’” she admits.
It’s okay. I liked the Hollywood one better. I figure Joan did as well, as she tried to pass it off as her own.
“Now yer copying the Momas and Papas’ “California Dreamin’’.
“So what do you think?” Joan wants my approval.
“The Monkees will do,” as I grabbed the mic and sang a capella, “I’m a Believer.’
“But you’re gay,” Joan disputes my sincerity.
“Gay in the day, straight at night.” I smirk at my ‘rhyme in time is truth.’
“Hey, we’re working here,” Jimmy complains. “I’ve got another session in an hour.”
“I’d hate to stop you from working just to have a little fun,” I joke.
“We’ll wait until y’all’s done and treat ya ta hamburgers.”
“Oki Dog,” Jimmy shouts.
“No way. We’ll go to Astro Burger and watch from across the street as you boys try ta get picked up at Oki Dog,” Joan counters.
Jimmy and I sit in a corner. He scores a couple of cigarettes and I smoke for the first time in a couple of years. Still tastes vile, ‘cause my pot habit makes me inhale too much smoke. I choke from trying not to cough.”
Joan works with Larrabee Jimmy on her guitar and vocal tracks for their new album, Queens of Noise. We go outside so my coughing wouldn’t ruin the recording. An old van with Florida plates pulls up. A bunch of long hairs pile out and start unloading equipment. They are the next session at Larrabee Studios. The last guy to leave the van is a hillbilly with blonde hair covering his face and a buck-tooth grin. It’s Tom Petty.
I run over and grab him by his skinny shoulders, “Tom. Remember me from Skynyrd?”
“If it ain’t the old false god hisself. Wot ‘sup, Tim. Last I seen you’s was cryin’ over yer dead dog.”
“Ya got the band tagether agin?” he asks.
“Naw. We’s pretty much broke up. My mate Jimmy and I are hanging out with Joan Jett. I had a tryout at the Troubadour this afternoon. I got her to bring her runaway friends to cheer me on.”
“The Troubadour. She-it, y’all’s always gettin’ breaks. We jist scratchin’ along. We’s doing a demo here fer my new band, ‘The Heartbreakers.’ How’d yer tryout go?”
“I was told to grow up and come back when I’s old an’ borin.’”
“Wanna hear the song we’re doin’ fer the demo?”
He grabs an acoustic guitar and sings for Jimmy and me. The song is ‘American Girl’
“Yer tryin’ ta be Bruce Springsteen now?” I laugh.
“No way. We’s from the heartland now.”
“Right. Here in Hollywood, the heart of darkness. I lives in the heartland, Ames, I-o-way.”
“No shit. I heard they locked you up after Skynyrd.”
“They tried. I’s escaped and lived in the Everglades fer four months.”
“I guess that makes ya a country boy after all. No more cracker from Alaska.”
“You remember. That show with y’all was somethin.’”
“Somethin’ else. I gots my mojo back after that. Thought I’s washed up before y’all reminded me I could git fucked up and cause a riot. Where’s that ol’ drummer o’yours. He’s a trip.”
“Still dealin’ pot to the neighbor kids. The band’s broke up. I’s here and played a few songs ‘jist fer fun. Jimmy here’s the dude ta know if’n y’all wants ta play the Troubadour.”
“I’ll git ya on,” Jimmy pipes up. “I knows Eddie Nash.”
“Write down my number and once ya done yer demo, call me. But they don’t pay shit.”
“No problemo. We jist gotta play live. We’s signed with Shelter but needs to play live to build a rep here. Hollywood ain’t Florida, boy.”
“Ya got that right. I’s jist here takin’ my cousin home after he OD’d.”
“I heard that one before. He okay.”
“Yeah. In the hospital, but I take him home on Monday.”
“Hang out with us here. Yer a faggot but I likes ya.”
“Ain’t much bein’ a faggot in I-o-way.”
“What’s that like?”
“My boyfriend in the band came to stay, but the Baptists sicc’d a snake on ‘im. He almost died. I got twin step-sisters now and we have a cover band called the Triplets. It’s cool. I go milk the cows with their boyfriend ever’ mornin.’”
“I don’t wants ta know. Hang out though.”
“I doubt Jimmy’ll let us stay. We’re outside here after getting’ Joan Jett ta jam instead o’ workin’ on her album. He won’t let us jam no more.”
“Well, next time. Anyways I’m sure glad ta see y’all agin. Yer too talented to stay in the heartland.”
“Ya said yer a heartland band.”
“The Valley’s not the heartland.”
Joan appears, having finished her tracks. “Who’s this? Another boyfriend.”
“No, Joan. Sorry ta disappoint ya. This is Tom Petty. He’s from Florida, too.”
“I heard about yer band. Ya goin’ in to record next, or jist tryin’ ta pick up boy faggots on Santa Monica.”
Tom turns red. “Yeah, we’s doin’ a demo tonight.”
“Yer on Shelter, right. But no one’s heard ya play.”
“How about y’all let us open fer the Runaways?”
“Talk ta Kim. But we’re off ta Japan next. They actually buy our records there.”
“I kin see the flier,” I interrupt, ” Runaways, the Heartbreakers.”
Everybody laughs at me, the hick from the sticks.
“Stay awhile, Joan, and hear our song, ‘American Girl.’ You can be my muse.
“I’m a’musin’ myself with hamburgers at Astro Burger. Join us later. We’ll be across the street from Oki Dog, while these boys try not ta sell their asses.”
“Maybe,” Tom demurs, still from the heartland.
Joan jumps into the front of Jimmy’s Datsun. I crowd her over until she finally sits on my lap. Three girl fans are in the back. Luckily Astro Burger isn’t as expensive as Dan Tana’s. Moms’ money goes a long way. We all sit in a window seat, watching the action across the street at Oki Dog. It’s outdoor seating there, with a large parking lot.
Kids are going up to the order window, discussing their order with an Asian, and returning to a bench seat with a wrapped sandwich. They never pay.
“What’s an Oki Dog?” I ask.
“Just a hot dog with chilli in a tortilla, cheese and onions added. Damn, I’m still hungry. Let’s go over there,” Joan decides.
We enter the twilight zone of hustlers and gays looking to be picked up.
Jimmy explains that Oki Dog is the end of the hustler zone that starts on Selma and Las Palmas, going west to Highland, south to Santa Monica, and west past La Brea, where anyone on the street is cruising to get picked up for money. From La Brea to Vista it’s a mixture of sex for pay and/or for free. Oki Dog is the end of this mixed use zone. Everyone cruising west on Santa Monica doesn’t expect to be paid. Joan laughs at how sad gay sex is.
“Girls can get picked up anywhere. Sunset Boulevard is female prostitutes only. No standing on the street if ya just wanna get laid,” she laughs.
“Bet ya can’t get picked up here,” Jimmy challenges her.
The girl posse hanging with Joan are shocked but not surprised. Jimmy is happy to play her game. It doesn’t take long before both are picked up. Joan is back in less than five minutes.
“Did your john think ya was a boy?” I kid her.
She holds up her twenty. “He wanted me for the night. I made him pay me twenty for picking up someone underage. I did nothing’. Where’s yer pet?”
“I’m sure he’s satisfying someone’s every need,” I defend him.
After ten minutes, Joan buys us all Okie dogs, swearing Jimmy has to pay her back. They’re great. The cook says, “Chop. Chop,” every time someone gives him an order.
Jimmy looks at the food and burps up a mixture of spit and cum. “I ain’t got no money. The guy just got me wasted for a blow job.”
“Gross,” all the girls scream. Joan grabs the Okie dog. After seeing what Jimmy has burped up, she just gives it back to him. “Pay me next time.”
We slap him on the back. Going to the back of the parking lot, everyone gets stoned. Food and drugs for free on Santa Monica Boulevard.
“Let’s go to Highland Records,” Joan suggests. We cross back to Astro Burger and all six of us pile into Tony’s Datsun. The girls in the back are as silent as ever. Joan sits on my lap again.
I whisper, “How come they just follow you around. Don’t they ever say anything.”
“Not really. They’re my stalkers.”
“Like lesbian groupies?”
“Sorta. They wanna do me, but I won’t, never.”
“Groupies that care,” I mock her.
“You wanna hit it with anyone of ‘em?”
“No way. I’m too gay to be desperate.”
“Why’d you say you’re straight, ‘at night’ as you said.
“I’s jist strange.”
We both start singing the Doors, ‘People are Strange.’
Singing makes her wiggle on my lap, which causes the normal reaction, which means she notices the developing hard-on.
“Someone’s acting strange,” she laughs and reached down. “Oh, it’s getting abnormally large.”
“You really want that cat outta the bag.”
“Someone’s lost his country boy accent.”
“I’s all growed up and ready fer action.”
Lucky or not, we’re at the record store, across the street from Hollywood High. I wonder what everyone is going to think when I fail to show up for classes at Ames High on Monday morning. I’m too stoned to care, promising myself I’ll call the moms Sunday morning. That makes me think I’ll miss church and choir. I’m feeling really strange about my life, or lives, as my multiple identities clash.
Highland Records is just a store front, with narrow aisles lined by rows of album stacked on edge for easy browsing. My generic taste for rock will betray me to Joan as too cliché. I decide to appreciate the album art instead of trying to find some exotic record I’ve waited all my life to buy. I’m admiring the Yes albums with the Roger Dean covers, which makes Joan laugh.
“You like Yes?” she asked disparagingly.
“They’re okay. Pretty pretentious. Working man’s Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I like the keyboards.”
“Rick Wakeman? He’s a dick. The others are the real musicians.”
“He’s the star.”
“Well, they pretty much suck.”
“I like looking at the covers.”
“What’s it got ta do with the band?”
“Spacy. Better than Peter Max.”
“Ew, you dissing the Beatles?”
“They broke up. I met John last month. He’s a dick but that’s okay, I guess, if yer a Beatle.”
“Is that what your song’s about – False Gods?”
We keep looking at the records. A guy comes over and we debate the greatness of Led Zeppelin II.
“I like ‘Houses of the Holy’, too.”
“Time will tell. Ya wanna get high?”
After we get high, he asks if I’ll suck his dick.
“I thought you were interested in the music,” I demur.
“I’ll pay,” he offers.
I shake my head, which shuts him up. Mixed messages.
“Well, we are on Selma,” he attempts to explain.
“But we met in the record store.”
“It’s just a pick-up place, kid.” He looks about 25. I feel sorry that he has to pay for sex. It gets me thinking about free love again. Hollywood is a place where the word free is soon monetized.
He walks to Selma and starts trolling the prostitutes. I wander back to the store.
“Make that twenty bucks your friend owes me?” Joan crows, knowing exactly what went down.
“He’s just a troll.”
I’m too high to care. We walk up to Hollywood Boulevard. Jimmy stops me from trying to read all the stars’ names, set in the sidewalk pavement.
“Stop bein’ a tourist. Yer sure to get hustled.”
We watch as other tourists get approached. Tourist watching is pretty boring, especially when you are a tourist too.
Joan suggests we go back to Larrabee Studios.
“Well, I bet he knows how to score drugs.”
“His Cousin It look give it away?”
“What else is there to do in the Valley?”
Tony stuffs us in the Datsun and we head back to West Hollywood. I fill Joan in on all the pranks and antics we pulled with Tom the weekend of the Skynyrd concert.
“He never seemed interested in anything other than pot,” I defend his stoner image.
“Well, life in the fast lane tends to change that.”
We both break out into the Eagles’ hit.
I vogue the ‘brutally handsome’ line while Joan preens to ‘terminally pretty.’ The Datsun is rockin’ even without the radio on. We pull up to the boys standing around smoking outside the studio.
“Hey, Heartbreakers, I gots a Runaway needin’ a heart fix,” I yell out the window.
“What’s y’all wants, sweetheart? I’m Mike,” one of Tom’s guitarists leans on the Datsun
“Ain’t what y’all think, Mike” Joan ripostes. “I need a real fix. Know where to score?”
“This ain’t an ‘American runaway dream’,” I quote Springsteen.
“This yer idea of growin’ up, Tim,” Tom is concerned.
“Hey, you,” Tom calls to one of the roadies. “Take Joan to the van and fix her up.”
Joan grabs my hand, “Coming?”
I was more than a little anti-heroin after my experiences caring for Joey and the Robbie/Iggy meltdown at the Chelsea. “Knock yerself out, honey. I’s still a country boy.”
She disappears, leaving her posse still in Tony’s backseat. I walk over to Tom and we catch up on my travails in the Everglades. Gatorsaurus is entertaining in LA. He tries to explain how he’s ended up in the Valley, the graveyard of many an out-of-town rocker.
“We gots ta score a hit with our new album or else Shelter’s gonna drop our asses.”
I have Jimmy come over and promise to get the Heartbreakers a gig at the Starwood.
“Y’all gots ta have fans ta make it big,” Jimmy tells him, forgetting that he’s 16 and Tom 24.
“What happened after the Miami show?” I ask him.
“Ronnie let me play a few shows on their tour. He liked ‘Born a Rebel,’ so I got to join them. It convinced me to get the old band back together.”
“How’d ya git Shelter to sign ya.”
“We’d bin with them a couple o’years. That’s how ya heard our single. I jist gots disgusted with it all. That show with y’all convinced me I wasn’t so old no more. Y’alls fired me up.”
“I’s so glad ta see ya, Tom. I knows y’all be rock stars soon.”
“No false gods, though.”
“Ya got that right.”
“Y’all done recordin’ tonight?”
“Naw. Jist on a break.”
“Think I’ll ditch Joan. Don’t wanna see her all fucked up. Seen enough o’ that a’fore.”
“I thoughts y’all was turnin’ straight.”
“Pretty much in I-o-way. She’s fun but dope ruins it.”
“I’ll keep her safe. Bet ya I kin talk her inta takin’ us’n on tour ta Japan.”
“Yeah. They’s big in Japan.”
“That’s what they all say.’
“Good luck, Tom. Good seein’ ya agin.”
“Yer not soundin’ like the cracker from Alaska no more.”
“Yer a trip.”
Jimmy drives us down to the club and gives the keys back to Tony. Datsun days and Datsun nights.
We sit with Tony upstairs in the VIP area. Jimmy fills him in on all our activities. The highlight is picking up Joan, a hot chick in their eyes. Is this hetero-normal activity, or are we just kidding our gay selves.
“You split without saying good-bye,” Jimmy reports.
“She went ta git high. That ain’t cool fer me. I’s here to drag Joey out of the junkie gutter.”
“She smoked out with us. Ya didn’t complain none.”
“It’s heroin that spooks me. Not just Joey. When the band played New York, our drummer scored in Washington Square and was out of it the whole weekend, missing all the gigs we played. I hate heroin.”
“How’d cha play withouts yer drummer?”
“Don’tcha wanna try it? How can ya hate sumthin’ ya never tried?” Tony asks.
“All I knows is what I’s seen which ain’t pretty.”
I think about how I cannot deal with my feelings and cry a lot, even when I am happy. I don’t want drugs to solve my problems. I do drugs for the fun of new experiences.
“Ya gonna see Joan again?” Jimmy asks.
“Probably not since I go back on Monday.”
“Cain’t ya stay. It’s so much more fun when you’s here,” Jimmy whines, just like the kids at the Dakota.
I laugh, realizing I had bi-coastal partying to bookend my boring farm life in Iowa.