My football weekend at Harvard was a blast. Jack outed me in front of the packed football stadium during halftime. He was really putting on a show, with his MOOG blaring from the stadium speakers and the cheerleaders twirling and tumbling to his music. After a busy workweek, I just relaxed and laughed my ass off at all the skits, especially the tigers being chased around the cheerleaders’ pyramid. It reminded me of the Sambo’s restaurant where I sat with Jimmy Olson for hours after escaping from the Fort Lauderdale hospital. Trudie was right by my side, relieved that I had shown up. The Smith girls didn’t object when Jack and I spent Saturday after football fucking like rabbits . Girls can be jealous when their boyfriends are having sex without them. We made it up to them that night. Trudie and I got distracted by Jack’s aggressive love-making, worried he was overwhelming his 17-year-old virgin. Once they finished and went instantly asleep, we spent the rest of the night with more mutual loving-making. I wasn’t as exhausted from my busy week as I thought. After seeing our ‘dates’ off to Smith, Jack had a minor meltdown taking me to the airport for my flight to LA. A flamboyant goodbye kiss in the departure lounge solved his broken heart. We both loved putting on a show. LA was going to be Showtime for me. I was primed and ready.
Tony and Jimmy met me at LAX. We went directly to the Whiskey a Go-Go. Every Sunday afternoon they put on local bands. It was a scene. The audience was more interesting than the bands, who needed more stage presence. They were just a backdrop to the action on the floor. The crowd looked like they had just come from the midnight showing of ‘Rocky Horror’ at the Rialto in South Pasadena. To the left of the stage was a corner where you could spark up a joint and not be seen by the bouncers. Jimmy introduced me to a tall girl called Suzie Chap Stick. Her father was Belgian and had an import business. He smuggled Moroccan hash inside wax candles. One hit and my head exploded. With the hash pipe still in my hand, I crashed backwards through the crowd, creating an open space between me and the stoners who wanted their pipe back. They looked aghast as I spotlighted their illegal activity. It was all good as my head deflated enough to return the pipe. Tony laughed that I had to make a show of my entrance to the scene.
We hung out with a group of high school kids from the Westside, Westwood and Santa Monica. Their leader was a morose boy with spiked bleached hair, calling himself Bobby Pin. I started calling him Safety, upgrading his transgender persona.
“Just you can call me that,” Safety decided. “Wanna join our clique. I’ll mark you on the wrist.”
He grabbed my arm and was about to burn me with his cigarette.
I pulled away. “Not ready to be scarred for life,” I declined.
“You’re no fun,” as he walked, followed by a coterie of five girls. He looked back and winked at me. I guess he was cool.
“Don’t fall in with those suburban punks,” Jimmy warned. “They party hardy on the weekend and go home to recover all week. Their parents pay their bills.”
“And Doug pays yours.”
“We earn our keep,” he responded, thinking a blow job was a chore, like taking out the trash.
I laughed at him, thinking about the Dolls’ ‘Trash’ song. It was where it all started for me when I was 14.
I followed him and Tony back to Suzie Chapstick and her suburban group for more hash. They refused to give me the pipe. I wasn’t cool enough. I was so high I was happy not to indulge any more.
Soon we were at Oki Dog, watching the street action. Sunday night was last call for the trolls picking up boys on Santa Monica Blvd. before going back to their straight lives. The tricks would go crazy trying to get the attention of cruisers who drove fancy Mercedes or Jags. Ford drivers were tolerated but anyone in a Chevy was considered to be a Mexican lowlife, trying to get away without paying. Twenty bucks was the going rate; the actual sex act was negotiable. The nicer the car, the more the trick would be willing to perform – a reversal of trickle-down economics. Jimmy was hot to go. He promised to bring back a joint after scoring a trick. I encouraged him as my hash high had receded and a joint seemed a good way to chill out.
Tony asked me if I expected to see Joan Jett, saying that The Runaways were returning soon from their Japanese tour. I admitted I was hoping to see her, ‘to practice my Japanese.’ Tony laughed. Jimmy quickly returned and I got my fix. I felt 14 again. I told them about my adventures with Joey and how getting high led me to be a degenerate. The three of us sat at a picnic table at Oki Dog on Santa Monica and sang the Dolls’ ‘Personality Crisis.’
It all came back to me. Pot works like reverse time travel, taking you back and keeping you from going forward into adulthood. I realized that Robby’s maintain strategy was his way to stay a 14-year-old forever. I asked Tony if Doug would take us to Dan Tana’s for pizza. I needed my pizza fix.
“Dan Tana’s not the place for good pizza,” he demurred.
We jumped into his Datsun and drove to Hollywood proper, Yucca and Las Palmas, Two Guys from Italy. It was tucked into a strip mall, just a joint. With low expectations, I was surprised it was tasty and fit the bill. They called me a snob for ranking pizza places. I told them about the Pizza Pit in Ames.
“I thought Iowa was just one big pit,” Tony joked.
“Now you’re the snob,” I accused him.
Jimmy pulled a dead cockroach out of his pocket and stuck it on the last slice. When one of the two Italian guys came over with the bill, we all pointed to the roach.
“I’sa so sorry,” the Guido apologized. “We justa fumigated. It musta fallen from-a the ceiling.”
We left without having to pay. I left five bucks as a tip. Tony and Jimmy laughed at me. I had picked up entitled habits from Jack. We walked around Hollywood Blvd, bumming quarters from the tourists. Looking into the Gold Cup, Jimmy pulled on our sleeves and we hustled away.
“Just someone I owe who I need to avoid.”
“Ya got a drug habit?”
“Naw. Just a bit short this week.”
I didn’t believe him. They laughed at me when they found out that the five dollar tip left me with zero cash.
“Get yer ass out there on Selma,” Tony ordered. “We ain’t carryin’ another homeless teenager.”
I needed to get my Lampoon check cashed in the morning.
“You need to see Top Jimmy,” our Jimmy decided.
We walked over to La Brea and turned south toward Sunset, stopping at Top Taco, a sidewalk stand.
“Hey, Jimmy,” Tony spoke up for me. “Our friend just got to Hollywood and is dead broke. Kin ya whip up a few tacos fer us?”
The burly guy behind the counter turned away and in a couple of minutes presented me with a platter of rolled tacos.
“Thanks, man. Ya saved me.”
“Y’all don’t look so desperate, but I don’t want ya sellin’ yerserf jist to eat.”
“That’s exactly what Jimmy suggested,” I pointed at the miscreant.
“Don’t trust anyone ya jist met in Hollywood,” he advised.
I gave my friends the evil eye.
“Good boy. Now yer learnin.’”
This street education seemed much more practical than anything Harvard had taught me. But then, I was just a freshman.
“Wanna check this gay club? It’s called Paradise. It’s all ages and more’n a disco, with a coffee bar and even a library to jist hang out.”
“What’s all ages mean, kids under 18 can get in?”
“Jeez, Iowa. This ain’t the sticks. Ya gots ta be 21 to go to clubs where they sell alcohol.”
“Don’t mean shit to us. Tony here gets us in anyways. But at Paradise, there’s regular kids there. They jist can’t go into the bar area.”
“Check it out,” I agreed.
Back in the Datsun, we tore down Highland, past Arthur J’s. We found street parking near the club. Sitting in the car, we hit another joint to ramp up our excitement about disco dancing. We waltzed in with an Acapulco Gold high. There was no bouncer checking IDs. The disco floor was right inside the door. All three of us danced with each other. We were fresh meat to the sparse Sunday night crowd, several of whom joined us on the empty dance floor, circling us, looking for an invitation to join our three-way boogie jam. Jimmy was quickly picked off, and once someone chose Tony, I figured I was not putting out an available vibe. I went and stood against the wall.
An older guy, at least 30, asked me if I wanted him to buy me a drink.
“Just a beer’s cool.”
“Meet me in the library,” he had it all plotted out to ply me with alcohol. He didn’t seem to notice I was high from smoking weed.
The library was in the back with several secluded nooks to make out. I was amused by this seduction. He came in with a single beer, going back to the bar for his own drink. He had the corruption of my morals down to a routine.
“You by yourself?” he asked once he returned.
“My two friends got picked up quickly. They’re somewhere around.”
“You seemed uninterested in being picked up.”
“Just having a good time. We were at the Whiskey, Okie Dog and ate at Two Guys and Top Taco. Making the rounds.”
“Not your first time in Hollywood? How old are you?”
“You seem more mature than the usual teens in Paradise.”
“I’m not hustling. How old are you?”
He paused, then told me what had to be the truth, “42.”
“You’re not married or anything, are you?”
“This is not a job interview. But, no. I was married but not for several years now.”
We relaxed, and he smiled once he knew I wasn’t rejecting him. I trusted him enough to know he had no secret agenda. It was Sunday night.
“Do you go out most nights and usually alone?”
“My friends are around, probably laughing at my lame pick-up technique.”
“We just broke up. We were roommates at college but only got together after we both came out.”
“Guilty jack-off sessions in college while you told each other you were straight.”
“Yeah. I felt so guilty, that I was perverting him. He told me he loved it but was afraid to tell me.”
“Life in the closet. It’s claustrophobic. My boyfriend and I are roommates”
He laughed. “It’s so much easier now.”
“Except we have a third roommate who makes fun of us. He calls me Gaybo.”
“What’s he call your roommate?”
The guy broke up. He was cool for knowing about cartoon characters.
My name’s Jake, Gaybo.”
“My real name’s Tim, but you can call me Andy. Just don’t call me Timmy. There’s no Lassie in my life. There are a couple of Bossies, though.”
I told him about my country life in Iowa, the twins and ‘Gator. He got me several more beers and took me home with him. I left my bag in Tony’s trunk, without telling them I was leaving. I knew they wouldn’t care. Jake lived in the top floor apartment of an Art Deco 1930’s building on the corner of Western and Glendale Blvd, right where Western went into Griffith Park. It had this great round window looking out at the whole city. After we did the deed, he took me onto a roof garden to look at the stars. I sang “Up on the Roof’ to him, getting choked up thinking about Tina watching the same stars on her Bronx tenement rooftop, probably with Pete.
“Why are you crying?” Jake asked, wiping away a single tear.
“I’m a sentimental fool.”
We went back inside. He had the NY Sunday Times spread out on the coffee table. I had to check out my article in the magazine section.
I laughed and pointed to my name on the byline. Jake didn’t doubt me but found it too incredible.
“You write for the Times?”
“I’m an intern at the Lampoon. I had to prove I had talent in order to get a job out here. I start in the morning on a movie.” I explained the whole Dakota band thing.
He pulled me into a hug and read my article to me. I found it cute to be snuggled while he read my words. I realized what genius Gorey was to make a fable of the whole article. Jake led me into his bedroom. I let him fuck me for the longest time. He was a good fuck. All my ego and id was satisfied. Who needs a super ego?
He let me spend the night and made me coffee in the morning, complaining I woke up so early.
“Jist used to havin’ ta milk the cows in Iowa.”
“I thought you went to college?”
“Hard to break old habits.”
“You sure don’t seem 18.”
I soon was on my way to my first day at work. Jake gave me his number. I knew I was a good fuck. I’d call Tony later about my suitcase. I felt guilty not really wanting to stay at Doug’s. Also, I had to borrow five dollars from Jake for bus fare to Universal Studies, up Cahuenga Blvd, halfway to the Valley. He laughed that I wasn’t getting rich writing for the Times. I showed him my royalty check to prove I wasn’t a hustler. He suggested I get it into the bank, kissing me goodbye.
My new boss, John Landis, treated me decently, kidding that he had received a letter from PJ recommending me for the job he had already given to me. While we were chatting, that Chris Miller guy interrupted us to complain about some detail in the script.
“That won’t get any better once you start shooting,” I lamented with Landis, after Miller ran off about something else bugging him.
“I’m 18 now. I have to behave myself.”
“That’s the first good news of my day.”
“Let me get you coffee,” I was in intern mode. I still had $2 from my bus fare. I flirted with a secretary who told me where to get decent coffee. I even bought a donut to go with it. She told me that Landis took cream and excessive sugar. When I got back, he was pleased to have an intern slave. I made him promise to tell the staff I was exclusively his slave. Jake had given me his copy of the Sunday Times magazine. I let Landis read it while I went to the bank, where he recommended I start an account. He gave me a note saying I was employed by the Studio. They allowed me to get a $100 advance while my check cleared. I was no longer homeless and broke. Not bad for my first day in LA.
Once I returned, I continued my intern chores. Since I was on payroll, I was promoted to assistant producer, which in Hollywood terms meant intern slave to the director. I was an experienced slave. I called PJ and explained that I had been hired. I described my impression of Chris Miller as a pain in the ass. PJ was so pleased. In my enthusiasm I told PJ how Andy had negotiated my position by getting Landau to vouch to Landis. PJ’s advice was not to get into any arguments about music with Landis but to use our shared love of music to double-team Chris Miller. I knew it was a plan. Miller was the interloper. I’d ingratiate myself to my boss. We’d assert his director’s authority over the writer’s sense of ownership of the script.
“I wanted to thank you for the fine fucking last night. Also, I cashed my check and have your five dollars.”
We both laughed.
“Don’t worry about it. You want to go out again?”
“Yeah, of course. But not tonight. I have to find my clothes and a place to stay.”
“You’re welcome to stay here,” he offered. It was too soon to move in together, if ever. He was 42. My same age rule may be tested in Hollywood.
He sounded relieved. I really liked him. Oh, god.
After lunch (takeout for Landis and me), I called Tony, who was just getting up.
“I saw you leave with Jake Stern,” Tony smirked. “You sure know how to pick ‘em.”
“Is he a notorious sex fiend?”
“Just the opposite. He seldom bites, just wanting to chat in the library.”
“He’s a regular?”
“No. Just an enigma. People think he’s not even gay, just a tourist to the scene.
My butt reminded me that he did more than looking.
“Are they gonna make you a star?”
“I’m a lowly PA. Hopefully they’ll promote me to music coordinator, choosing the songs and band for the movie.”
“You’re not, Mr Club Manager?”
“Ain’t it great, teenage moguls in Hollywood.”
“Where all your dreams come true.”
“And then come crashing down.”
Back in Landis’s office, he put me through my intern chops, running errands, filing and handling the phones. Miller seemed to appear at regular intervals, just his rounds of annoying everyone. I overheard him arguing with Landis about the onscreen band performances. Miller thought having a DJ play disco would save them the cost of hiring a full band for party scenes. Their exchange got heated as Miller challenged Landis on his musical knowledge.’ Landis called me into his office.
“Tim, how many times did your band play frats at the U of Miami?”
“About a dozen times,” I exaggerated since it was LA.
“Did those frat boys like disco?”
“Maybe a few. We’d play Jackson Five and old 50’s dance hits to get the girls dancing. Usually it was either Metal or English blues that they wanted.”
“Who are you?” Miller looked at me.
“I’m Tim. I just started today. I’m Jon’s PA.”
“You have a band. How much to play in our movie?”
“We’re in Miami. Get some local band to play. Any band would die to be in a movie. Some bands would pay to play.”
That stopped Miller and he walked out. He didn’t look like a disco boy, but the flared jeans and bodyshirt seemed weird on someone at least 30. Landis winked at me, glad to be rid of Miller until the next crazy idea.
“You should never have said he’d get a band for free. Now he’ll find some horrible cover band and I’ll have to fight him on it,” Landis complained.
“Ask your buddy Landau about Springsteen?” I winked at him. I got a sharp look from the boss.
“Best to avoid old wounds, son.”
“Get outta heah.”
“I’ll take Miller clubbing,” I suggested.
“Stay away from him. He’s just a writer.”
At five, Tony walked into the office, ready to pick me up.
“You need a car, dude,” he warned me that he wasn’t about to be my regular taxi.
“No dinero, dude.”
“No money. No problem. You need Rent-a-Wreck.”
He drove me down Highland past Beverly. The whole place was a wreck. Their business model was broken if they were renting to penniless 18-year-olds. Apparently it was, as I drove out in a ten-year-old gas guzzler. I followed Tony to Doug’s, parking down the block to avoid Doug’s dismay at a wreck in his driveway.
“It’s Monday night,” Tony announced. “The club is closed and we cook dinner for Doug.”
“No pizza from Dan Tana’s?”
“No. Steak on the BarB.”
“Perfect after a hard day at work,” I declared.
“The 9 to 5 blues?” Doug asked.
“It’s okay. I’m a PA, slave to the boss. He’s not a music producer, so I havta convince him I have some musical talent. We’re hiring a party band to play in the movie.’
“Animal House? You’re working for John Landis?” Doug never stopped being a music hustler.
“You know a sixties band that can play party music and not sound like disco?”
“That sounds like every band that tries to get me to book them.”
“They havta be willing to play for peanuts. The budget is tight.”
“They know where to find me. I’ll put out the word.”
“Can I audition them at the Troubadour?”
“I’m not going to book them, but you can audition them in the afternoon, like you did this spring.”
I was becoming the hardest working music coordinator in show business.
I settled back into Doug’s arms, getting his two boys’ attention. We all jumped into the hot tub au naturale. Tony and Jimmy were on either side of me, licking my ears while both jerked me off. I lay back into Doug’s arms, happy to feel his dick ready to invade my ass. The stimulation had me squirming, trapping Doug’s dick between my butt cheeks. I luxuriated in the memory of our first hot tub encounter, two years prior. Soon I felt his pole-like dick deep inside my ass. The boys’ attention to my dick had me throbbing as my climax approached. As soon as I felt Doug tighten and his dick spurting inside me, I geysered like a fountain with Tony and Jimmy standing up and jerking toward their climaxes.
Suddenly Tony jumped out of the hot tub. He ran over to the barbecue which was smoking excessively, from overdone steaks. He turned the meat over and left the lid off the grill, smearing butter on the blackened sides of the steaks. The rest of our four-way laughed at his panic. Soon we were eating tender beef with a crispy skin, reminding me of the catfish Tommy and I had grilled over the open fire at our camp in the Everglades. As we sat eating our repast, I related the story of the Panther fucking we had done, going at each other’s butts until Tommy came and his ass relaxed so much that I slid completely inside him and went off myself.
“What about the panther?” Jimmy asked.
“A perverted pussy,” Tony laughed.
“He was our protector, like a jungle godfather.”
“I’m your Hollywood godfather,” Doug proclaimed.
“Naw, yer Fagin from Oliver Twist,” Tony laughed.
“Yeah, my fag godfather.”
We all toasted Doug, our Hollywood fagfather.
Tony wanted to go out after dinner. Jimmy decided to stay with Doug; he still was avoiding his dealer and the debt he’d run up. Tony said he knew about a gallery opening near the Design Center on Beverly.
“Yeah, go chase those arty farts,” Jimmy gave us his blessing.
Soon the beat-up Datsun deposited us next to the Blue Whale, a futuristic (in 1976) mall for designers across from the Beverly Center. It was still in West Hollywood, but the owners wanted buyers to think it was Beverly Hills. We were going for the free wine and cheese. The opening was at Martin Lawrence Gallery, with a new series of lithographs by Salvador Dali. The show’s title was ‘Love’s Trilogy.” It was somewhat surreal. Tony and I were laughing at the first painting, a naked girl with wings of fire in deep earth tones. It was facing an ink drawing of a Picasso-like woman with distorted features.
“You can have her,” Tony joked referring to the grotesque drawing. “I’ve got the babe.”
“Right,” I mocked him, “until you havta figure out what to do with a vagina.”
“Yer a big pussy.”
“And yer not?”
A young sales associate came over as we mocked the painting.
“Please sign the guest book. You should add any thoughts you have about these Dalis.”
“Cary Canada,” he answered.
I went to the guest book and jotted down a short lyric:
Young woman’s wings
Suspends youth’s hopes
Toward strife and falls
Time’s crutches brings
“That’s cool,” Cary enthused. “Sign your name.”
I signed ‘ Andy Iowa.’
“Let me show you some untitled Dali’s in the back.”
I followed him, winking at Tony, who let me go off with the innocent sales clerk.
“It’s a series on Time,” Gerry explained as he brought out a series of lithographic prints with warped watches and clocks. They were surreal. As he turned to place the prints against the storeroom wall, I took his elbow and drew him close, kissing his luscious lips. His eyes popped open in surprise. With just a slight hesitation, he kissed me back passionately.
“Am I that obvious?” he joked.
“No, just irresistible.”
“How old are you?”
“18. And, you?”
I’m 20. Are you really from Iowa?”
“I go to school in Boston now. They’re so up-tight there, I couldn’t resist hitting on you.”
“I go to UCLA, but I dropped out and now work.”
“I’m at Harvard but I came here for a job. I’m probably dropping out too.”
“Perfect,” as he led me to a couch in the back. He stuck his hand down the front of my jeans and popping the buttons with his hand. I’d been hard since we’d kissed. Surprised by my size, he knelt down and took me down his throat, choking as the tip passed his gag reflex. I held his head against my groin so he couldn’t retract. Slowly he was able to breathe through his nose. Staying deep down his throat, I rocked back and forth. He was frantically trying to undo his jeans. I grabbed his hands and placed them on my rocking butt cheeks. I undid his buttons, and took out his doubled over half-hard-on. It quickly sprung to full alert. I double-handed his dick while rocking back and forth into his mouth. We both came within ten minutes, Gerry first. Leaning back on the couch, we caught our breaths. He smiled and commented on my four lines of verse.
“Harvard teach you to write poetry?”
“Naw. Their classes are mostly useless. I’m in a band. We always write what’s on the tip of our tongues.”
“Let’s go get some wine. I need to look like I’m working.”
“Don’t think I’d buy one of these prints?”
“They’re $1800 to $2100 each.”
“It’s okay. They’re not even originals.”
“You sure you’re a salesman?”
He laughed. “I’m more the stock boy. I havta drive out to Vegas this weekend to deliver prints to our new showroom.”
“They sell art at the casinos?”
“It’s the new Vegas. No more free drinks and $5 dinners. Wanna come with. It’s a long lonely drive.”
I visualized giving him head as we tore across the desert. Maybe next time.
“I’ll check at work and see if I’m off this weekend. Give me your number.”
He handed me a card with his personal number scrawled on the back.
“That was fun,” I told him as we joined Tony, who had a real customer in thrall with his open availability. “How about we switch,” I whispered to Cary.
I pulled Tony away and Cary took the customer to show him more private stock.
Tony straightened my clothes for me and we left the gallery.
“Oki Dog,” we both shouted as we ran to the car.
Sitting at a picnic table on the parking lot, we enjoyed our dogs, which I actually paid for.
“So, disco on one side and punk on the other. No rock?”
“They try from Wednesday to Saturday but not much market for sixties retread clones.”
“That’s kinda like my band in Miami.”
“Disco and Salsa rules there. KC and the Shake Yer Booty Band.”
“I guess I’ve given up on going back there. We felt we ruled our neighborhood but the only regular gig was frat houses.”
“Miss yer friends?”
“I never look back – always sumthin’ coming from around the next corner.”
Just then, Jimmy came up with two dogs and a big grin.
“You wore out Doug already?”
We had a crowd once the aroma wafted across the parking lot. Monday night was locals only; all the tourists stayed home in the Valley, safe and sound in their own beds. A tall kid named Dave was shy about approaching us. Once he hit the weed, he was all talk and somewhat annoying. He was a freshman at Hollywood High.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Fifteen,” he seemed proud of his youth.
Someone gave him a beer, as he made the rounds of tables. Soon he was gesturing and talking loudly. When he returned to us, I asked, “How come yer folks let you out on a school night?”
“My mom’s cool. She thinks I’m studying at a friend’s.”
“You have friends?”
I had a flashback of my lost youth. Déjà vu all over again. Hollywood was quickly making me feel old. I had to work in the morning. Better than skipping class and working at the Lampoon. Maybe.
Soon Dave slowed down and was sitting on the bus bench in front of Oki Dog. He was a light-weight. A few minutes later, I looked over and he’d fallen into the gutter. What a cliché, except a bus was bearing down on him. I jumped up and pulled him to the curb. He barely woke up. We threw into the back of Tony’s Datsun and drove him home. He lived in an apartment in East Hollywood. His mother yelled at him in Spanish. I tried to catch the colloquial expressions for future use, but they were Ecuadorian. I had no frame of reference for their swear words. We got thanked for our trouble. As we walked away, I could hear her continued yelling at Dave, the degenerate.
We went back to Doug’s. I took Joey’s old room, despite the overdose memories. There were two twin beds. Tony said he’d stay with me if I promised not to wake him when I went to work. Jimmy followed us, moving the twins together to make a double, capable of fitting three skinny-assed teens. No one professed horniness. It took me awhile to adjust to being the meat in our cuddle sandwich. Every time I shifted, both of them had to readjust. I tried to remember when was the last time I had slept alone.
I felt I was ‘king of the road,’ driving my rent-a-wreck to work at Universal Studios in the morning. My driving skills had barely handled Ames, Iowa streets. I quickly slowed my speed as traffic streamed past me in an LA rush hour stop and go traffic jam. I jumped onto the Hollywood Freeway, knowing it was just two exits to Universal Studios. That was a mistake as the traffic was worse and the drivers were more impatient with my lack of freeway driving skills. Somehow I was in the wrong lane for my exit. Desperate neck twisting and false starts didn’t get me into the right lane, so I just turned the wheel and prayed. It almost made me religious when I found myself exiting the freeway. I approached the studio gate expecting to be waived through like I was expected. Blocking traffic , I was greeted by a cacophony of horns from real stars behind me, while the guard tried calling Landis. I laughed when Jack Nicholson drove up the curb to get past. Oh, to be entitled. I was finally directed to another entrance, told to look for a sign saying ‘peon parking.’ It was a long walk back up the hill. My only satisfaction was that my rent-a-wreck took up two parking spaces. Maybe I could switch cars with Tony for commuting. I was a bit frazzled before even starting my day at work. Landis was not in yet, so I brewed coffee and found my way to the employee canteen for donuts. I had to go back after I ate both donuts myself – breakfast for the working peon. I moved a desk outside John’s office and fiddled with the phone lines until someone showed me where the phone jack was, just inside John’s door. The office boy who was helping me found a line splitter. I had access to John’s line. I began taking messages and dealing with staff who wanted my intern services, politely declining to run around on errands as I had to man the phones while Landis was ‘in a meeting.’ I relaxed, knowing everyone lies in LA. I had yet to learn the traditional ‘stuck in traffic’ excuse. I was blocking that idea as too close to my own paralyzing traffic experience.
When Landis appeared, he gave me back most of the messages, telling me to call them and find out what they wanted. He sent me to the props department to get a double line phone, so I could screen his call and buzz him on his back line if it was important. On the way back, I stopped in the canteen and got two more donuts. With fresh coffee and donuts, we sat in his office and discussed the day’s business. I briefed him on my discussions with Doug about auditioning local bands at the Troubadour. When Miller burst in with some detail he wanted to change in the script, Landis sat him down and explained that I was now in charge of the band casting. Miller got red in the face, so I told him to meet me at the Starwood that night so we could scout local talent. We scheduled Friday afternoon at the Troubadour to hold auditions.
“You’re free to audition any disco band or DJ you are considering,” I offered as a sop to his loss of control.
He said he’d get back to me. I gave him Doug’s number at the club, telling him to ask for Tony. He stormed out, forgetting what he wanted to tell John. We both laughed and high-fived. We were a team.
I spent the day running errands and keeping Landis off the phone. We shared lunch in his office.
“How much are we paying you?” he asked me at five o’clock.
What had I done to get demoted? “$200 a week,” I ventured.
“Well, you’ll get $210 now. I got more done today than all last week. Keep Miller out of my hair and you’ll get another raise.”
I was such a good PA slave.
“How did the bank treat you?” he asked.
“They took my money and gave me $100 cash back until my Lampoon check clears.”
He picked up the phone, called the bank, then told me not to worry about waiting to spend my money. I had a promotion and $2400 more to spend. What 18-year-old couldn’t handle that?
“And get a different car. I got a note from security that they’ll tow you away if you don’t park in a regular space.”
Back to Rent-a-wreck, I guessed. Maybe Tony would lend me the Datsun. And, maybe I could get my own place. My horizons were expanding. I could hardly wait to tell Tony.
“Can I park in the upper lot?” I asked.
“Don’t push it. You need the exercise if you’re gonna be sitting at a desk all day.”
That wasn’t my experience so far, but I wasn’t about to argue. He was my new dad. He was 26. I called PJ and told him I had been promoted. Then I called Kurt and detailed how I had taken over the casting of the movie’s band. Both said I deserved the promotion.
Tony insisted we celebrate my promotion by going to Tommy’s Burger on Beverly Boulevard in East Hollywood, close to Downtown LA. It was a step up from Oki Dog. Iknew it was good, as there was a dinner hour rush, with a line at the order window. Again we ate outside at a picnic table. Al fresco dining ruled LA. It was $10 for the three of us. They ladled Mexican chilli (refried beans) on a large burger. I still prefer greasy burgers but Tommy’s Burger was a total meal. Cheese fries was another surprise. We sat there contemplating our night.
“Punk Night at the Starwood,” Jimmy declared
Punk was just becoming known as a fashion style, from the music magazines coming out of London: stories of kids mocking Pete Townsend of the Who, by chanting ‘My Generation’s’ dictum, ‘before you get old,’ at him in clubs. From a musical point of view, the New York scene, with The Dolls and Ramones as progenitors, seemed to be adapting the kids’ attitude that anything before 1975 was old. With disco capturing the Glitter scene of Bowie, T-Rex and Mott the Hopple, rock n roll seemed to be splitting into opposing camps. I had called Minehan a punk, more as an observation of his age than as a rock style. He hadn’t even heard the term in Boston. The mod Modern Lovers were style setters in Arrowsmithland. Old roots buried deep in New England. Jimmy liked punk because it fit his image as a kid selling himself on the streets to anyone with twenty bucks. 1977 was around the corner, to be exploited in the Clash’s breakout album of the year. For kids, LA didn’t seem to have changed from the Beach Boys heyday of the early sixties. Why were the kids going to change when all they wanted was to go surfing. What did I know? I liked Roy Orbison.
Hanging out in the Starwood parking lot, the first thing I noticed was there were so few actual kids. Maybe because it was a school night? Did punks obey the parental unit’s curfew? Best to keep an open mind. I had to wait for Chris Miller to show up.
“What are you looking for?” Tony asked.
“A guy from work. I told him to meet me here. He’s a disco queen.”
“We better tell the bouncers to keep an eye out. He’ll get beat on just by showing up,” Jimmy claimed.
“That’s okay. He needs to know he knows nothing about music. I’m keeping him out of my boss’s hair.”
“You really have job?” Tony asked.
“Yeah, for my sugar daddy.”
“I got a raise today – $10.”
“Woop dee woo,” Jimmy cracked. “I’ll make that in 10 minutes at Oki Dog.”
“The way you’ve been slutting around, you should be charging the big bucks.”
I shivered, thinking about my hitch hiking sign, ‘Blowjobs for McDonald’s.’
“Not for me, boys. I’m just a slut, having fun.”
“How many guys have you done since you left Boston?”
“I don’t kiss and tell,” but I did realize it had been quite a few – Bill Burroughs, Monte, Paul, even Andy (sort of), Doug, Tony, Jimmy, Jake, Cary. I refused to be slut-shamed – a true indication that I was a slut now. Life as an 18-year-old was so different from how I had imagined. I decided to hang out by the door, to keep Miller from getting beat on. Tony got me an in and out stamp, after which he and Jimmy went inside. The bouncer was cool. When Miller showed up, they waived the cover charge. I was one of Doug’s boys now.
“Hey, thanks a lot.”
“You owe me a drink,” I laughed. I was relieved he wasn’t wearing a leisure suit, although his hairy chest was over-exposed.
“I guess I should have dressed down,” Miller remarked, observing the jeans and tees crowd. The ripped knees and deconstructed tees fads had yet to arrive.
“There’s a disco room on the other side,” I pointed to a door at the right of the stage.
“I thought you hated disco?”
“Not really. I love dancing to salsa. KC & the Sunshine Band are from my hometown, Miami.”
“Yeah! ‘Shake shake, shake yer booty.” He actual started shaking it, a lot. It was going to be a long night.
“I thought we were checking out new bands,” he asked.
“Well, if the band on stage sucks, we can escape to the disco,” as I pointed out the terrible band now playing. I realized it was my new friend, ‘Safety’, running around mumbling while his groupies tried to play.
There was a black kid on guitar who was trying to keep it all together. At least they were young.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I dragged him away from the bar where we had been planted after getting drinks. There was a VIP area with seating in the balcony near the office and ready/green room.
No one stopped us and we joined Tony who had lost Jimmy. I saw him in the scrum of punkers jumping around in front of the stage. Safety was exhorting their efforts with nonsensical lyrics, bending over to get his head at their level. The Starwood had a decent stage, rising two feet above the open floor. The only seating was in the balcony, so it was all action everywhere, mostly bunches of people ignoring the band.
“What’s the name of Safety’s band?” I asked Tony .
“I don’t know. They don’t have a name yet. I think they call themselves ‘Forming.’
“Cool.” I liked the lack of needing to call yourself something. They certainly were just starting. I wondered if they even practiced. They were finally done.
“Let’s go to the disco,” Tony ordered. Miller smiled.
The dance room was large with a DJ booth on the far wall. Rodney Bingenheimer spun the records on Tuesdays. On Sunday night, he hosted his own radio call-in show on KROQ, a new station where each disc jockey could play whatever they liked. Boston’s WBCN was similar. Rodney had recently closed his “English Disco,’ on La Cienaga, near the Design Center. He was playing mostly Glitter bands and favored the Bay City Rollers, known strictly for their plaid outfits. Miller was distressed that more current disco was ignored, but it didn’t stop him from getting on the dance floor and shaking it by himself.
“This is work for you, babysitting middle-aged hipsters?” Tony remarked.
“Yeah. Working day and night.”
“He’s pretty boring.”
“He’s just a writer, but because the movie is his idea, he tells the boss what to do. My job is to cut him down a notch or two.”
“He’s twice your age. So, you blow him, he falls fer ya, and y’all break his heart, his Hollywood dreams crushed like a million schmucks before him.”
I laughed. “I wish it was that easy. He’s absurdly straight. I have to convince him he knows nothing about music, so I can choose the bands for the movie.”
“Secret agent man,” we started singing the theme.
Rodney must be watching, as he motioned to us, and we reprised our a Cappella performance from the DJ booth. All the younger girls were surrounding us. Rodney called several up and asked what they wanted to hear. Naturally it was The Runaways. Tony and I joined Miller, who was looking impressed.
“We’re ch ch ch ch cherry bombs,” we shouted. The girls had stayed with us, so we got them all dancing in the middle of the dance floor. Rodney kept his groupies in the booth as he spun their requests.
It was time for the main attraction on stage, the Weirdo’s. All the girls followed us, crowding the front of the stage. The singer, John Denney, put on a great Iggy Pop act, singing some repetitive song about what sounded like Bob Dylan.
He was strutting around the stage, lunging at the crowd. We lost all our new girlfriends after about 30 seconds. Miller went after them as they disappeared back to the disco room. Jimmy grabbed us and we went crazy on the floor. Pushing those who were just standing there, transfixed by Denney’s stare. Jimmy was bouncing up and down with his hands at his sides.
“It’s the Pogo,” he shouted.
Okay, but it reminded me of the Irish Step dancing we did at the Ritz in Boston, substituting aerials for the tap dancing.
“Here’s our 45, coming out soon,” Denney announced, “We Got the Neutron Bomb.”
Maybe they were the new Bob Dylan, pursuing peace through strength. We were going crazy in front of the stage, pushing each other. Jimmy’s pogo was easily tripped up and he ended up on his ass while we pushed anyone near us into a big doggy pile. We called it doggy style dancing. John Denney just stared at a pile of twenty kids laying at his feet. They ran off stage. We ran upstairs and intercepted them as they escaped into the Green Room. Only their drummer, Nicky Beat, would talk to us. He looked more like a jock than a rocker, tall, muscular, with a big head and bigger nose. Both Denneys were scary looking. The long stare was their trademark way of connecting with the audience.
“We’re auditioning bands for a movie. You were great. We want you, guys.”
He looked at me like I was a teenager. “We don’t do home movies, kid.”
“No. No. It’s a Universal Studios film, ‘Animal House.’
“That’s us. When’s the audition? Is there an adult involved?”
“This Friday afternoon at the Troubadour. Let me get Miller. He’s the main writer.”
That got his attention. I ran downstairs and found Miller looking dejected after being rejected by all our groupies.
“Hey. I got the band interested in auditioning. They won’t talk to me ‘cause I’m too young.”
“That band sucks. All the girls ran out in the first minute.”
“It proves they’re great. Disco sucks.”
He looked offended.
“Just come meet them upstairs. I’ll tell them they’re great. Did your fraternity have girls.”
“See, why should we care what girls think?’
My misogyny won the day. The Mower 3D girls would kill me.
All four of us invaded the green room. The Denney brothers were as manic as they were on stage. Miller made the case to Nicki . “Whatever,” was his response. They weren’t busy on Friday. Tony was introduced as Doug’s manager of the Troubadour. The band went into obsequious mode, which was disconcerting, considering they had just sung about ending the world as we know it. Mission accomplished. The Weirdos got their audition at the Troubadour. Maybe they could play there in 40 years or more.
Also hanging out were the openers, ‘Forming’.
“Don’t call me that. I’m Bobby Pin,” he gave me a smarmy look.
“You prefer being stuck in a girl’s hairdo?” I looked at his coterie of chubby groupies.
He laughed. “Here, you refused my ciggie burn. You prefer safety pins?” he pulled a large one off the bleached Levi jacket he wore. He grabbed me behind the neck and pulled me close enough for a kiss.
“No. Let’s see how much you like safety.” He grasped my right ear lob and punctured it with the pin.
“Ouch,” I exclaimed. “I guess y’all ain’t a sissy.”
Tony and Jimmy rushed over.
“How’s it look?” I posed for them. Their concern turned to amusement.
“You’re bleeding,” Jimmy noted, licking the stream of blood and winking at Safety.
“Tim’s blood is holy, consecrated by the Church. Better than the Eucharist,” Jimmy smirked. My descent from sainthood accelerated.
“This is not the side of Hollywood I know,” he reflected from his Acapulco Gold high point of view.
“Standards are very low on Santa Monica Blvd,” Tony replied.
We all laughed. It was the story of my life. I had no interest in turning him gay. It was after midnight. With only gay bars to turn to, we opted to climb the Hollywood sign. After another joint, Miller relaxed atop the W. “Someone should change the lettering to “Hollyweed.” He was a convert.
I got to bed around 4am but was able to make it to work at Universal by 9. Landis was not in yet. I placed his coffee and donut on his desk and manned the phones. Miller showed up around 11, brushing past me, feeling entitled to disregard our budding friendship.
“Where is he?” Miller asked, disappointed that he had crashed an empty office.
“Taking a comp day?” I joked. “A little grumpy yourself today?”
“Even though we hung out, you need to treat me with respect.”
“And what kind of respect do I show when you brush past me to interrupt my real boss.”
He gave me a dirty look and turned to leave.
“Any message?” I asked.
I get no respect. Looked like our writer had a little too much partying the night before.
I needed to find a more appropriate band than The Weirdos, to actually fit a 60’s party scene. I called Doug at his house.
“I never see you,” he complained.
“Just the hardest working musician in rock n roll. I do need your help and advice.”
“That’s all I’m good for?”
“If you’re going to be a whiny little bottom all the time.”
“Humf,” he wanted to dispute his sexuality but he knew I was playing him. “What do you need?”
“An r&b band for the movie that can play soul but not so good they think they should be paid more than union scale.”
“That’s half the bands that besiege me to put them on a bill.”
“Can you chose two to do an audition on Friday afternoon?”
“And where will this audition take place?”
“Your club, of course.”
“Of course. Do I have to extort an evening with you to make that happen?”
“Tony’s easier to extort. I prefer to believe I’m not a rent boy. I’ll be sure to show up with him.”
“Whatever floats your boat. Sounds like another session in the hot tub.”
“I’ll bring my rubber ducky., dad.”
“You are so bad.”
We both laughed.
I was bored taking the occasional call. I decided I should actually read the current version of the screenplay. Not being a movie junky, it all seemed inane and lacking in direction. Like a silent era Keystone Cops feature, it was all set-ups with little character development. It told the story of a bunch of college boys who were unable to live up to frat boy misogyny. It had ‘loser’ B movie written all over it. Maybe Marty’s movie aesthetic had rubbed off on me. In an era where there was no ‘straight to video’ option, it seemed destined to after midnight television for terminally bored insomniacs.
I put a call in for Marty. His assistant sent me straight to a message. Marty was busy trying to garner awards nominations for ‘New York, New York.’ Good luck.
Next I called my ‘john,’ Jake Stern. At least, he seemed normal. When I complained about Chris Miller, he seemed to understand.
“You have a music background?” I asked
“Just classical. I’m a composer.”
“Yeah. You seemed to play the flute pretty good.”
He laughed. ‘You’re a tramp.”
“And you’re my Lady?”
“No. We’re both dogs. Wanna grab lunch. I’m not that busy.”
Nobody ever says that in LA.
“I’m over the hill at Universal. Is that too far?”
“Naw. We’ll go to Du-Par’s. They have great pancakes.”
Jake knew how to pick up my spirits. He gave me directions and said to meet him there at 12:30. Of course, Landis finally showed up. I briefed him on the messages and Miller’s aborted visit.
“How did your evening out together go?”
“I didn’t get home ‘til 4am. I showed him all the lowlights and he met the lowlifes of Hollywood .”
“So you can keep him out of my hair.”
“He was a different person in the morning, probably hung over. Keeping him out of your office is a work in progress.”
“Do your best.”
“I’ve got a lunch date at noon. Is that okay?”
“’Course. How’s the band search going?”
“A band we heard at the Starwood we’re auditioning on Friday. And Doug’s lining up some hungry bands he knows, to be at the audition.”
“Yeah. I’ve known him forever.”
“They said you have connections. I want to finalize the band as soon as possible.”
Marty called before lunch.
“I’m coming to LA, but it’s strictly business. How’s your movie career working out?”
“My role is to line up music talent. But the script is a bomb.”
“You haven’t change. Jesus, can’t you avoid interfering.”
“My job is to show these LA types they need Harvard guys like me to add class to shitty work.”
“Yer worse than ever.”
“No doubt. Can you spare time when you’re out here?”
“I’ll be at the Beverly Hilton. I’ll call you when I have a break.”
“Thanks, Marty. It meant a lot to me when you came to St Patrick’s.”
“Don’t get a big head. I wasn’t gonna miss the Beatles.”
I laughed. “Tell Bobby I said hi.”
“No way. Stay away from my stars.”
“Thanks, Marty. Say hi to your mom.”
“Jeesuz.” He hung up.
Jake was right about the pancakes. I felt like a little kid, eating pancakes for lunch. Jake only finished one, watching his middle-aged waist line. I ate what he didn’t want. We grinned at each other. We discussed shop – the movie and music biz. He had done scores for arty movies. I told him he was too good for my movie. I laughed when I called it that. I was so LA. We planned to get together for dinner soon. He wasn’t into physical contact in public – a different generation. It left me wanting him – good tactic.
I brought Landis a BLT and fries from Du-Par’s. I had recommended a patty melt but he knew it would be cold by the time I returned. I handed him back the script I had read. He wasn’t sure I should be taking things from his desk.
“I just want to be able to tell people what’s going on when they call.”
“Okay. But ask next time.”
“Sorry. I wasn’t busy, so I just grabbed it.”
In marched Miller, ignoring me, and speaking directly to Landis about some location issue. He wanted it shot at his old Dartmouth fraternity. Landis said they needed a building that was unoccupied. They went back and forth.
I went back to my desk, still able to hear their argument.
Landis asked, “How did your night with Tim go? I understand you lined up a band for an audition.”
“That’s another thing. You didn’t tell me he’s a homosexual and a drug addict.”
“He told me you got the lowlife tour of Hollywood. How long have you been in out here? You don’t know gay people?”
“I avoid degenerates.”
“That explains why you write about the 50’s.”
“My script is set in the 60’s.”
“Not the 60’s I know. So, you won’t work with Tim?”
“Ya got that right.”
“Then from now on, you are no longer involved with the movie’s music, the soundtrack and the band that will be cast.”
Landis went to a file and pulled out Miller’s contract.
“You see that sign on my door. It says ‘Director.’ This is your contract. It says you are a screenwriter. It doesn’t say you have artistic control. It says you are paid to put your ideas on paper and to change the words as the Studio sees fit, specifically how the Director wants them.”
“These are my ideas. I lived them. Without me, you’ve got crap Hollywood fantasy.”
“Truthfully, your ideas are crap. I’m sick of listening to you whine about every detail. You see that gay man sitting by my door. If you want to see me on anything, you will ask him nicely if I am available and wait until he tells you to come into my office. Do you understand?”
Miller, sputtered, unable to get a word out. He turned around, red-faced, and walked out.
He gave me a nasty look. “Get that stupid thing out of your ear,” referring to the safety-pin. He was a slow learner. He marched off to other battles.
I looked into Landis’ office.
“You heard all that? Sorry. But what did you do to him last night? You said he had a great time.”
“He did. I think he smoked too much pot and has a hangover. I didn’t hit on him, for god’s sake.”
“It’s alright, Tim. You were just doing your job. And what is that in your ear?”
“Just a safety-pin. It’s a trend from England, to show that you’re tough. I forgot that the right ear means you’re gay, but you already knew that.”
“No big deal. Just don’t hit on straight guys.”
“They usually hit on me, some without realizing it. Can I really keep him out of your office?”
“That’s exactly what I need. He was never going to make decisions about the music.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Keep a record of any time he tries to enter.”
We won that battle. I hoped it wasn’t the start of a war. I logged Miller’s earlier visit as entry number one. Office politics was such fun.