My football weekend at Harvard is a blast. Jack outs me in front of the packed football stadium during halftime. He is 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 relax and laugh my ass off at all the skits, especially the tigers being chased around the cheerleaders’ pyramid. It reminds me of the Sambo’s restaurant where I sat with Jimmy Olson for hours after escaping from the Fort Lauderdale hospital. Trudie is right by my side, relieved that I showed up. The Smith girls don’t object when Jack and I spend Saturday after football fucking like rabbits. Girls can be jealous when their boyfriends are having sex without them. We make it up to them that night. Trudie and I get distracted by Jack’s aggressive love-making, worried he’s overwhelming his 17-year-old virgin. Once they finish and go instantly asleep, we spend the rest of the night with more mutual loving-making. I’m not as exhausted from my busy week as I thought. After seeing our ‘dates’ off to Smith, Jack has a minor meltdown taking me to the airport for my flight to LA. A flamboyant goodbye kiss in the departure lounge solves his broken heart. We both love putting on a show. LA is going to be Showtime for me. I’m primed and ready.
Tony and Jimmy meet me at LAX. We go directly to the Whiskey a Go-Go. Every Sunday afternoon they put on local bands. It’s a scene. The audience is more interesting than the bands, who need more stage presence. They’re just a backdrop to the action on the floor. The crowd looks like they had just came from the midnight showing of ‘Rocky Horror’ at the Rialto in South Pasadena. To the left of the stage is a corner where you can spark up a joint and not be seen by the bouncers. Jimmy introduces me to a tall girl called Suzie Chap Stick. Her father is Belgian and has an import-export business. He smuggles Moroccan hash inside wax candles. One hit and my head explodes. With the hash pipe still in my hand, I crash backwards through the crowd, creating an open space between me and the stoners who want their pipe back. They look aghast as I spotlight their illegal activity. It’s all good as my head deflates enough to return the pipe. Tony laughs that I had to make a show of my entrance to the scene.
We hang out with a group of high school kids from the Westside, Westwood and Santa Monica. Their leader is a morose boy with spiked bleached hair, calling himself Bobby Pin. I start calling him Safety, upgrading his transgender persona.
“Just you can call me that,” Safety decides. “Wanna join our clique. I’ll mark you on the wrist.”
He grabs my arm and is about to burn me with his cigarette.
I pull away. “Not ready to be scarred for life,” I decline.
“You’re no fun,” as he walks away, followed by a coterie of five girls. He looks back and winks at me. I guess he’s cool.
“Don’t fall in with those suburban punks,” Jimmy warns. “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 responds, thinking a blow job is a household chore, like taking out the trash.
I laugh at him, thinking about the Dolls’ ‘Trash’ song. It’s where it all started for me when I was 14.
I follow him and Tony back to Suzie Chapstick and her suburban group for more hash. They refuse to give me the pipe. I’m not cool enough. I’m so high I’m happy not to indulge any more.
Soon we are at Oki Dog, watching the street action. Sunday night is last call for the trolls picking up boys on Santa Monica Blvd. before going back to their straight lives. The tricks go crazy trying to get the attention of cruisers who drive 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 is the going rate; the actual sex act is negotiable. The nicer the car, the more the trick is willing to perform – a reversal of trickle-down economics. Jimmy is hot to go. He promises to bring back a joint after scoring a trick. I encourage him as my hash high has receded and a joint seems like a good way to chill out.
Tony asks me if I expected to see Joan Jett, saying that The Runaways are returning soon from their Japanese tour. I conffirm I’m hoping to see her, ‘to practice my Japanese.’ Tony laughs. Jimmy quickly returns and I get my fix. I feel 14 again. I tell them about my adventures with Joey and how getting high led me to be a degenerate. The three of us sit at a picnic table at Oki Dog on Santa Monica and sing the Dolls’ ‘Personality Crisis.’
It all comes back to me. Pot works like reverse time travel, taking you back and keeping you from going forward into adulthood. I realize that Robby’s maintain strategy is his way to stay a 14-year-old forever. I ask Tony if Doug will take us to Dan Tana’s for pizza. I needed my pizza fix.
“Dan Tana’s not the place for good pizza,” he demurs.
We jump into his Datsun and drive to Hollywood proper, Yucca and Las Palmas, Two Guys from Italy. It’s tucked into a strip mall, just a joint. With low expectations, I’m surprised it was tasty and fits the bill. They call me a snob for ranking pizza places. I tell them about the Pizza Pit in Ames.
“I thought Iowa was just one big pit,” Tony jokes.
“Now you’re the snob,” I accuse him.
Jimmy pulls a dead cockroach out of his pocket and sticks it on the last slice. When one of the two guys comes over with the bill, we all point to the roach.
“I’sa so sorry,” the Guido apologizes. “We justa fumigated. It musta fallen from-a the ceiling.”
We leave without having to pay. I leave five bucks as a tip. Tony and Jimmy laugh at me. I have picked up Jack’s entitled habits. We walk around Hollywood Blvd, bumming quarters from the tourists. Looking into the Gold Cup, Jimmy pulls 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 don’t believe him. They laugh at me when they find out that the five dollar tip leaves me with zero cash.
“Get yer ass out there on Selma,” Tony orders. “We ain’t carryin’ another homeless teenager.”
I need to get my Lampoon check cashed in the morning.
“You need to see Top Jimmy,” our Jimmy decides.
We walked over to La Brea and turn south toward Sunset, stopping at Top Taco, a sidewalk stand.
“Hey, Jimmy,” Tony speaks 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 turns away and in a couple of minutes presents 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 point at the miscreant.
“Don’t trust anyone ya jist met in Hollywood,” he advises.
I give my friends the evil eye.
“Good boy. Now yer learnin.’”
This street education seems much more practical than anything Harvard has taught me. But then, I’m 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 agree.
Back in the Datsun, we tear down Highland, past Arthur J’s. We find street parking near the club. Sitting in the car, we hit another joint to ramp up our excitement about disco dancing. We waltz in on an Acapulco Gold high. There’s no bouncer checking IDs. The disco floor is right inside the door. All three of us dance with each other. We’re fresh meat to the sparse Sunday night crowd, several of whom join us on the empty dance floor, circling us, looking for an invitation to join our three-way boogie jam. Jimmy is quickly picked off, and once someone choses Tony, I figure I’m not putting out an available vibe. I go and stand against the wall.
An older guy, at least 30, asks me if I want him to buy me a drink.
“Just a beer’s cool.”
“Meet me in the library,” he has it all plotted out to ply me with alcohol. He doesn’t seem to notice I’m high from smoking weed.
The library is in the back with several secluded nooks to make out. I’m amused by this seduction. He comes in with a single beer, going back to the bar for his own drink. He has the corruption of minors’ morals down to a routine.
“You by yourself?” he asks once he returns.
“My two friends got picked up quickly. They’re somewhere around.”
“You not interested 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 pauses, then tells me what has 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 relax, and he smiles once he knows I won’t reject him. I trust him enough to know he has no secret agenda. It’s 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 tell each other you are straight.”
“Yeah. I felt so guilty that I was perverting him. He now says he loved it but was afraid to tell me.”
“Life in the closet. It’s claustrophobic. My boyfriend and I are college roommates”
He laughs. “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 breaks up. He’s 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 tell him about my country life in Iowa, the twins and ‘Gator. He gets me several more beers and takes me home. I leave my bag in Tony’s trunk, without telling them I’m leaving. I know they don’t care. Jake lives in the top floor apartment of an Art Deco 1930’s building on the corner of Western and Glendale Blvd, right where Western goes into Griffith Park. It has this great round window looking out at the whole city. After we do the deed, he takes me onto a roof garden to look at the stars. I sing “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 asks, wiping away a single tear.
“I’m a sentimental fool.”
We go back inside. He has the NY Sunday Times spread out on the coffee table. I have to check out my article in the magazine section.
I laugh and point to my name on the byline. Jake doesn’t doubt me but finds it too incredible.
“You write for the Times?”
“I’m an intern at the Lampoon. I had to prove I have talent in order to get a job out here. I start in the morning on a movie.” I explain the whole Dakota band thing.
He pulls me into a hug and reads my article to me. I find it cute to be snuggled while he reads my words. I realize what genius Gorey is to make a fable of the whole article. Jake lead me into his bedroom. I let him fuck me for the longest time. He is a good fuck. All my ego and id is satisfied. Who needs a super ego?
He lets me spend the night and makea coffee in the morning, complaining I wake 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’m soon on my way to my first day at work. Jake gives me his number. I know I was a good fuck. I’ll call Tony later about my suitcase. I feel guilty not really wanting to stay at Doug’s. Also, I have to borrow five dollars from Jake for bus fare to Universal Studies, up Cahuenga Blvd, halfway to the Valley. He laughs that I wasn’t getting rich writing for the Times. I show him my royalty check to prove I’m not a hustler. He suggests I get it into the bank, kissing me goodbye.
My new boss, John Landis, treats me decently, kidding that he received a letter from PJ recommending me for the job he had already given to me. While we’re chatting, that Chris Miller guy interrupts us to complain about some detail in the script.
“That won’t get any better once you start shooting,” I lament with Landis, after Miller runs off about something else bugging him.
“I’m 18 now. I have to behave myself.”
“That’s the first good news in my day.”
“Let me get you coffee,” I’m in intern mode. I still had $2 from my bus fare. I flirt with a secretary who tells me where to get decent coffee. I even buy a donut to go with it. She tells me that Landis takes cream and excessive sugar. When I get back, he’s pleased to have an intern slave. I make him promise to tell the staff I’m exclusively his slave. Jake gave me his copy of the Sunday Times magazine. I let Landis read it while I go to the bank he recommends to start an account. He gives me a note saying I’m employed by the Studio. They allow me to get a $100 advance while my check clears. I’m no longer homeless and broke. Not bad for my first day in LA.
Once I return, I continue my intern chores. Since I’m now on payroll, I’m promoted to assistant producer, which in Hollywood terms means intern slave to the director. I’m an experienced slave. I call PJ and explain that I’ve been hired. I describe my impression of Chris Miller as a pain in the ass. PJ is so pleased. In my enthusiasm I tell PJ how Andy negotiated my position by getting Landau to vouch to Landis. PJ’s advice is not to get into any arguments about music with Landis but to use our shared love of music to double-team Chris Miller. It’s a plan. Miller is the interloper. I’ll ingratiate myself to my boss. We’ll assert his director’s authority over the writer’s sense of ownership of the script.
“I want to thank you for the fine fucking last night. Also, I cashed my check and have your five dollars.”
We both laugh.
“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 offers. It was too soon to move in together, if ever. He’s 42. My same age rule may be tested in Hollywood.
He sounds relieved. I really like him. Oh, god.
After lunch (takeout for Landis and me), I call Tony, who is just getting up.
“I saw you leave with Jake Stern,” Tony smirks. “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 reminds me that he did more than look.
“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 puts me through my intern chops, running errands, filing and handling the phones. Miller seems to appear at regular intervals, just his rounds of annoying everyone. I overhear him arguing with Landis about the onscreen band performances. Miller thinks having a DJ play disco will save them the cost of hiring a full band for party scenes. Their exchange gets heated as Miller challenges Landis on his musical knowledge.’ Landis calls me into his office.
“Tim, how many times did your band play frats at the U of Miami?”
“About a dozen times,” I exaggerate since it is 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 looks 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 will die to be in a movie. Some bands will pay to play.”
That stops Miller and he walks out. He doesn’t look like a disco boy, but the flared jeans and bodyshirt seemed weird on someone at least 30. Landis winks at me, glad to be rid of Miller until his next crazy idea.
“You should never have said he’d get a band for free. Now he’ll find some horrible cover band. I’ll have to fight him on it,” Landis complains.
“Ask your buddy Landau about Springsteen?” I wink 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 suggest.
“Stay away from him. He’s just a writer.”
At five, Tony walks into the office, ready to pick me up.
“You need a car, dude,” he warns me that he isn’t about to be my regular taxi.
“No dinero, dude.”
“No money. No problem. You need Rent-a-Wreck.”
He drives me down Highland past Beverly. The whole place is a wreck. Their business model is broken if they’re renting to penniless 18-year-olds. Apparently it is, as I drive out in a ten-year-old gas guzzler. I follow Tony to Doug’s, parking down the block to avoid Doug’s dismay at a wreck in his driveway.
“It’s Monday night,” Tony announces. “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 declare.
“The 9 to 5 blues?” Doug asks.
“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 stops 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’m 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 are 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 has me squirming, trapping Doug’s dick between my butt cheeks. I luxuriate in the memory of our first hot tub encounter, two years prior. Soon I feel his pole-like dick deep inside my ass. The boys’ attention to my dick has me throbbing as my climax approaches. As soon as I feel Doug tighten and his dick spurting inside me, I geyser like a fountain with Tony and Jimmy standing up and jacking it to their climaxes.
Suddenly Tony jumps out of the hot tub. He runs over to the barbecue which is smoking excessively, from overdone steaks. He turns the meat over and leaves the lid off the grill, smearing butter on the blackened sides of the steaks. The rest of our four-way laughs 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 sit eating our repast, I relate the story of Tommy and the Panther fucking, going at each other’s butts until Tommy cums. His ass relaxes so much that I slide completely inside him and go off myself.
“What about the panther?” Jimmy asked.
“A perverted pussy,” Tony laughs.
“He was our protector, like a jungle godfather.”
“I’m your Hollywood godfather,” Doug proclaims.
“Naw, yer Fagin from Oliver Twist,” Tony laughs.
“Yeah, my fag godfather.”
We all toast Doug, our Hollywood fagfather.
Tony wants to go out after dinner. Jimmy decides to stay with Doug; he’s still avoiding his dealer and the debt he’s run up. Tony says he knew about a gallery opening near the Design Center on Beverly.
“Yeah, go chase those arty farts,” Jimmy gives us his blessing.
Soon the beat-up Datsun deposits us next to the Blue Whale, a futuristic (in 1976) mall for designers across from the Beverly Center. It’s in West Hollywood, but the owners want buyers to think it’s Beverly Hills. We go for the free wine and cheese. The opening is at Martin Lawrence Gallery, with a new series of lithographs by Salvador Dali. The show’s title was ‘Love’s Trilogy.” It was surreal. Tony and I are laughing at the first painting, a naked girl with wings of fire in deep earth tones. She faces an ink drawing of a Picasso-like woman with distorted features.
“You can have her,” Tony jokes referring to the grotesque drawing. “I’ve got the babe.”
“Right,” I mock him, “until you havta figure out what to do with a vagina.”
“Yer a big pussy.”
“And yer not?”
A young sales associate comes over as we mock the painting.
“Please sign the guest book. You should add any thoughts you have about these Dalis.”
“Cary Canada,” he answers.
I go to the guest book and jot down a short lyric:
Young woman’s wings
Suspends youth’s hopes
Toward strife and falls
Time’s crutches brings
“That’s cool,” Cary enthuses. “Sign your name.”
I signs ‘ Andy Iowa.’
“Let me show you some untitled Dali’s in the back.”
I follow him, winking at Tony, who lets me go off with the innocent sales clerk.
“It’s a series on Time,” Cary explains as he brings out a series of lithographs with warped watches and clocks. They are surreal. As he turns to place the prints against the storeroom wall, I take his elbow and drew him close, kissing his luscious lips. His eyes pop open in surprise. With just a slight hesitation, he kisses me back passionately.
“Am I that obvious?” he jokes.
“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 leads me to a couch in the back. He sticks his hand down the front of my jeans, popping the buttons. I’ve been hard since we’d kissed. Surprised by my size, he kneels down and takes me down his throat, choking as the tip passes his gag reflex. I hold his head against my groin so he can’t retract. Slowly he’s able to breathe through his nose. Staying deep down his throat, I rock back and forth. He frantically tries to undo his jeans. I grab his hands and place them on my rocking butt cheeks. I undo his buttons, and take out his doubled over half-hard-on. It quickly springs to full alert. I double-hand his dick while rocking back and forth into his mouth. We both cum within ten minutes, Cary first. Leaning back on the couch, we catch our breaths. He smiles and comments 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’ll 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 laughs. “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 visualize giving him head as we tear across the desert. Maybe next time.
“I’ll check at work and see if I’m off this weekend. Give me your number.”
He hands me a card with his personal number scrawled on the back.
“That was fun,” I tell him as we join Tony, who has a real customer in thrall with his open availability. “How about we switch,” I whisper to Cary.
I pull Tony away and Cary took the customer to show him more private stock.
Tony straightens my clothes for me and we leave the gallery.
“Oki Dog,” we both shout as we run to the car.
Sitting at a picnic table in the parking lot, we enjoy 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. We felt we ruled our neighborhood but the only regular gig was frat houses.”
“Miss yer friends?”
“I never look back – always sumthin’ coming around the next corner.”
Just then, Jimmy comes up with two dogs and a big grin.
“You wore out Doug already?”
We had a crowd once the aroma wafts across the parking lot. Monday night is locals only; all the tourists stay home in the Valley, safe and sound in their own beds. A tall kid named Dave is shy about approaching us. Once he hits the weed, he was all talk and somewhat annoying. He’s a freshman at Hollywood High.
“How old are you?” I ask.
“Fifteen,” he seems proud of his youth.
Someone gives him a beer, as he makes the rounds of tables. Soon he’s gesturing and talking loudly. When he returns to us, I ask, “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 have a flashback of my lost youth. Déjà vu all over again. Hollywood was quickly making me feel old. I have to work in the morning. Better than skipping class and working at the Lampoon. Maybe.
Soon Dave slows down and is sitting on the bus bench in front of Oki Dog. He is a light-weight. A few minutes later, I look over and he’s fallen into the gutter. What a cliché, except a bus is bearing down on him. I jump up and pull him to the curb. He barely wakes up. We threw into the back of Tony’s Datsun and drive him home. He lives in an apartment in East Hollywood. His mother yells at him in Spanish. I try to catch the colloquial expressions for future use, but they are Ecuadorian. I had no frame of reference for their swear words. We get thanked for our trouble. As we walk away, I hear her continued yelling at Dave, the degenerate.
We go back to Doug’s. I take Joey’s old room, despite the overdose memories. There are two twin beds. Tony says he’d stay with me if I promise not to wake him when I go to work. Jimmy follows us, moving the twins together to make a double, capable of fitting three skinny-assed teens. No one professes horniness. It takes me awhile to adjust to being the meat in our cuddle sandwich. Every time I move, both of them have to readjust. I try to remember when was the last time I slept alone.
I feel I was ‘king of the road,’ driving my rent-a-wreck to work at Universal Studios in the morning. My driving skills barely handled Ames, Iowa streets. I quickly slow my speed as traffic streams past me in LA rush hour stop and go traffic jam. I jump on the Hollywood Freeway, knowing it’s just two exits to Universal Studios.It’s a mistake as the traffic is worse and the drivers are more impatient with my lack of freeway driving skills. Somehow I’m in the wrong lane for my exit. Desperate neck twisting and false starts doesn’t help getting me into the right lane. I just turn the wheel and pray. It almost makes me religious when I find myself exiting the off-ramp. I approached the studio gate expecting to be waived through like I’m a regular. Blocking traffic, I’m greeted by a cacophony of horns from the real stars behind me, while the guard tries calling Landis. I laugh when Jack Nicholson drives up the curb to get past. Oh, to be entitled. I’m finally directed to another entrance, told to look for a sign saying ‘peon parking.’ It’s a long walk back up the hill. My only satisfaction is my rent-a-wreck takes up two parking spaces. Maybe I can switch cars with Tony for commuting. I’m a bit frazzled before even starting my day at work. Landis is not in yet, so I brew coffee and find my way to the employee canteen for donuts. I have to go back after I eat both donuts myself – breakfast for the working peon. I move a desk outside John’s office and fiddle with the phone lines until someone shows me where the phone jack is, just inside John’s door. The office boy who is helping me finds a line splitter. I have access to John’s line. I begin taking messages and dealing with staff who want my intern services. I politely declined to run errands as I have to man the phones, telling all callers that Landis is ‘in a meeting.’ I relax, knowing everyone lies in LA. I have 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 appears, he gives me back most of the messages, telling me to call them and find out what they want. He sends me to the props department to get a double line phone, so I can screen his calls and buzz him on the back line if it’s important. On the way back, I stop in the canteen and get two more donuts. With fresh coffee and donuts, we sit in his office and discuss the day’s business. I brief him on my discussions with Doug about auditioning local bands at the Troubadour. When Miller bursts in with some detail he wants to change in the script, Landis sits him down and explains that I’m now in charge of the band casting. Miller gets red in the face, so I tell him to meet me at the Starwood that night so we can scout local talent together. We schedule Friday afternoon at the Troubadour to hold auditions.
“You’re free to audition any disco band or DJ you are considering,” I offer as a sop to his loss of control.
He says he’ll get back to me. I give him Doug’s number at the club, telling him to ask for Tony. He storms out, forgetting what he wants to tell John. We both laugh and high-five. We are a team.
I spend the day running errands and keeping Landis off the phone. We share lunch in his office.
“How much are we paying you?” he asks me at five o’clock.
What had I done to get demoted? “$200 a week,” I venture.
“Well, you’ll get $210 now. I got more done today than all last week. Keep Miller out of my hair. You’ll get another raise.”
I’m such a good PA slave.
“How did the bank treat you?” he asks.
“They took my money and gave me $100 cash back until my Lampoon check clears.”
He picks up the phone, calls the bank. He tells me not to worry about waiting to spend my money. I have a promotion and $2400 more to spend. What 18-year-old can’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 guess. Maybe Tony will lend me the Datsun. And, maybe I can get my own place. My horizons are expanding. I can hardly wait to tell Tony.
“Can I park in the upper lot?” I ask.
“Don’t push it. You need the exercise if you’re gonna be sitting at a desk all day.”
That isn’t my experience so far, but I’m not about to argue. He’s my new dad. He’s 26. I called PJ and tell him I’ve been promoted. Then I call Kurt and detail how I’ve taken over the casting of the movie’s band. Both say I deserve the promotion.
Tony insists we celebrate my promotion by going to Tommy’s Burger on Beverly Boulevard in East Hollywood, close to Downtown LA. It’s a step up from Oki Dog. I know it’s good, because there’s a dinner hour rush, with a line at the order window. Again we eat outside at a picnic table. Al fresco dining rules LA. It costs $10 for the three of us. They ladle Mexican chilli (refried beans) on a large burger. I still prefer greasy burgers but Tommy’s Burger is a total meal. Cheese fries is another surprise. We sit there contemplating our night.
“Punk Night at the Starwood,” Jimmy declares.
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, seems 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 seems to be splitting into opposing camps. I called Minehan a punk, more as an observation of his age than as a rock style. He hasn’t even heard the term in Boston. The mod Modern Lovers are style setters in Arrowsmithland. Old roots bury deep in New England. Jimmy likes punk because it fit his image as a kid selling himself on the streets to anyone with twenty bucks. 1977 is around the corner, to be exploited in the Clash’s breakout album of the year.
For kids, LA doesn’t seem to have changed from the Beach Boys heyday of the early sixties. Why were the kids going to change when all they want is to go surfing. What do I know? I like Roy Orbison.
Hanging out in the Starwood parking lot, the first thing I notice is there are so few actual kids. Maybe because it’s a school night? Do punks obey the parental unit’s curfew? Best to keep an open mind. I have to wait for Chris Miller to show up.
“What are you looking for?” Tony asks.
“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 claims.
“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 asks.
“Yeah, for my sugar daddy.”
“I got a raise today – $10.”
“Woop dee woo,” Jimmy cracks. “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 shiver, 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 do realize it has been quite a few – Bill Burroughs, Monte, Paul, even Andy (sort of), Doug, Tony, Jimmy, Jake, Cary. I refuse to be slut-shamed – a true indication that I really am a slut now. Life as an 18-year-old is so different from how I had imagined it. I decide to hang out by the door, to keep Miller from getting beat on. Tony gets me an in and out stamp, after which he and Jimmy go inside. The bouncer is cool. When Miller shows up, they waive the cover charge. I’m one of Doug’s boys now.
“Hey, thanks a lot.”
“You owe me a drink,” I laugh. I’m relieved he isn’t wearing a leisure suit, although his hairy chest is over-exposed.
“I guess I should have dressed down,” Miller remarks, observing the jeans and tees crowd. The ripped knees and deconstructed tees fads have yet to arrive.
“There’s a disco room on the other side,” I point to a door at the right of the stage.
“I thought you hate 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’re checking out new bands,” he asked.
“Well, if the band on stage sucks, we can escape to the disco,” as I point out the terrible band now playing. I realize it is my new friend, ‘Safety’, running around mumbling while his groupies try to play.
There’s a black kid on guitar who is trying to keep it together. At least they’re young.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I drag him away from the bar where we had been planted after getting drinks. There’s a VIP area with seating in the balcony near the office and ready/green room.
No one stops us. We join Tony who lost Jimmy. I see him in the scrum of punkers jumping around in front of the stage. Safety is exhorting their efforts with nonsensical lyrics, bending over to get his head at their level. The Starwood has a decent stage, rising two feet above the open floor. The only seating is in the balcony, so it’s all action everywhere, mostly bunches of people ignoring the band.
“What’s the name of Safety’s band?” I ask Tony .
“I don’t know. They don’t have a name yet. I think they call themselves ‘Forming.’
“Cool.” I like the lack of needing to call yourself something. They certainly are just starting. I wonder if they even practice. They were finally done.
“Let’s go to the disco,” Tony orders. Miller smiles.
The dance room is large with a DJ booth on the far wall. Rodney Bingenheimer spins the records on Tuesdays. On Sunday night, he hosts his own radio call-in show on KROQ, a new station where each disc jockey could play whatever they like. Boston’s WBCN is similar. Rodney recently closed his “English Disco,’ on La Cienaga, near the Design Center. He plays mostly Glitter bands and favors the Bay City Rollers, known strictly for their plaid outfits. Miller is distressed that more current disco is ignored. It doesn’t stop him from getting on the dance floor and shaking it by himself.
“This is work for you, babysitting middle-aged hipsters?” Tony remarks.
“Yeah. Working day and night.”
“He’s pretty boring.”
“He’s just a writer. Because the movie is his idea, he tells my 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 laugh. “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 start singing the theme.
Rodney must be watching, as he motions to us over. We reprise our a Cappella performance from the DJ booth. All the younger girls surround us. Rodney calls several up and asks what they wanted to hear. Naturally it’s The Runaways. Tony and I join Miller, who looks impressed.
“We’re ch ch ch ch cherry bombs,” we shout. The girls stay with us, so we get them all dancing in the middle of the dance floor. Rodney keeps his groupies in the booth as he spins their requests.
It’s time for the main attraction on stage, the Weirdo’s. All the girls follow us, crowding the front of the stage. The singer, John Denney, puts on a great Iggy Pop act, singing some repetitive song about what sounds like Bob Dylan.
He’s strutting around the stage, lunging at the crowd. We lose all our new girlfriends after about 30 seconds. Miller goes after them as they disappear back to the disco room. Jimmy grabs us and we go crazy on the floor. Pushing those who are standing there, transfixed by Denney’s stare. Jimmy is bouncing up and down with his hands at his sides.
“It’s the Pogo,” he shouts.
Okay, but it reminded me of the Irish Step dancing we do at the Ritz in Boston, substituting aerials for the tap dancing.
“Here’s our 45, coming out soon,” Denney announces, “We Got the Neutron Bomb.”
Maybe they are the new Bob Dylan, pursuing peace through strength. We ‘re going crazy in front of the stage, pushing each other. Jimmy’s pogo is easily tripped up. He ends up on his ass while we push anyone near us into a big doggy pile. We call it doggy style dancing. John Denney just stares at a pile of twenty kids laying at his feet. They run off stage. We run upstairs and intercept them as they escape into the Green Room. Only their drummer, Nicky Beat, will talk to us. He looks more like a jock than a rocker, tall, muscular, with a big head and bigger nose. Both Denneys are scary looking. The long stare is their trademark way of connecting with the audience.
“We’re auditioning bands for a movie. You’re great. We want you, guys.”
He looks at me like I’m 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 gets his attention. I run downstairs . I find 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 looks 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 wins the day. The Mower 3D girls will kill me.
All four of us invade the green room. The Denney brothers are as manic as they were on stage. Miller makes the case to Nicki . “Whatever,” is his response. They aren’t busy on Friday. Tony is introduced as Doug’s manager of the Troubadour. The band goes into obsequious mode, which is disconcerting, considering they had just sung about ending the world as we know it. Mission accomplished. The Weirdos get their audition at the Troubadour. Maybe they can play there in 40 years or more.
Also hanging out are the openers, ‘Forming’.
“Don’t call me that. I’m Bobby Pin,” he gives me a smarmy look.
“You prefer being stuck in a girl’s hairdo?” I looked at his coterie of chubby groupies.
He laugh. “Here, you refused my ciggie burn. You prefer safety pins?” he pulls a large one off the bleached Levi jacket he wears. He grabbed me behind the neck and pulled me close enough for a kiss.
“No. Let’s see how much you like safety.” He grasps my right ear lob and punctured it with the pin.
“Ouch,” I exclaim. “I guess y’all ain’t no sissy.”
Tony and Jimmy rush over.
“How’s it look?” I pose for them. Their concern turns to amusement.
“You’re bleeding,” Jimmy notes, licking the stream of blood and winking at Safety.
“Tim’s blood is holy, consecrated by the Church. Better than the Eucharist,” Jimmy smirks. My descent from sainthood accelerates.
“This is not the side of Hollywood I know,” he reflects from his Acapulco Gold high point of view.
“Standards are very low on Santa Monica Blvd,” Tony replies.
We all laugh. It is the story of my life. I have no interest in turning him gay. It’s after midnight. With only gay bars to turn to, we opt climbing the Hollywood sign. After another joint, Miller relaxes atop the W. “Someone should change the lettering to “Hollyweed.” He’s a convert.
I get to bed around 4am, barely able to make it to work at Universal by 9. Landis is not in yet. I place coffee and donut on his desk and man the phones. Miller shows up around 11, brushing past me, feeling entitled to disregard our budding friendship.
“Where is he?” Miller asks, disappointed that he crashed an empty office.
“Taking a comp day?” I joke. “A little grumpy yourself today?”
“Even though we hung out, you need to treat me with respect.”
“How much respect should I show when you brush past me to interrupt my real boss.”
He gives me a dirty look and turn to leave.
“Any message?” I ask.
I got no respect. Looks like our writer had a little too much partying the night before.
I need to find a more appropriate band than The Weirdos, to actually fit a 60’s party scene. I call Doug at his house.
“I never see you,” he complains.
“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 wants to dispute his sexuality but he knows I’m 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 laugh.
I’m bored taking the occasional call. I decide to read the current version of the screenplay. Not being a movie junky, it all seems inane and lacking in direction. Like a silent era Keystone Cops feature, it’s all set-ups with little character development. It’s the story of a bunch of college boys, unable to live up to frat boy misogyny. It has ‘loser’ B movie written all over it. Maybe Marty’s movie aesthetic rubbed off on me. In an era where there is no ‘straight to video’ option, it seems destined for after midnight television for terminally bored insomniacs.
I put a call in for Marty. His assistant sends me straight to a message machine. Marty is busy trying to garner award nominations for ‘New York, New York.’ Good luck.
Next I call my ‘john,’ Jake Stern. At least, he seems normal. When I complains about Chris Miller, he seems to understand.
“You have a music background?” I ask
“Just classical. I’m a composer.”
“Yeah. You seemed to play the flute pretty good.”
He laughs. ‘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 knows how to pick up my spirits. He gives me directions and says to meet him there at 12:30. Of course, Landis finally shows up. I brief 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 low lights of Hollywood. He met all the lowlifes .”
“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?”
“We’re auditioning a band we heard at the Starwood 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 calls 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 stop 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 laugh. “Tell Bobby I said hi.”
“No way. Stay away from my stars.”
“Thanks, Marty. Say hi to your mom.”
“Jeesuz.” He hangs up.
Jake is right about the pancakes. I feel like a little kid, pancakes for lunch. Jake only finishes one, watching his middle-aged waist line. I eat what he doesn’t want. We grin at each other. We discuss shop – the movie and music biz. He’s done scores for arty movies. I tell him he’s too good for my movie. I laugh when I call it that. I’m so LA. We plan to get together for dinner soon. He isn’t into physical contact in public – a different generation. It leaves me wanting him – good tactic.
I bring Landis a BLT and fries from Du-Par’s. I recommended a patty melt but he knows it would be cold by the time I return. I hand him back the script I read. He isn’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. I just grabbed it.”
In marches Miller, ignoring me, and speaking directly to Landis about some location issue. He wants it shot at his old Dartmouth fraternity. Landis says they need a building that’s unoccupied. They go back and forth.
I go back to my desk, still able to hear their argument.
Landis asks, “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, including the soundtrack and the band that will be cast.”
Landis goes to a file and pulls 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. You will wait until he tells you to come into my office. Do you understand?”
Miller, sputters, unable to get a word out. He turns around, red-faced, and storms out.
He gives me a nasty look. “Get that stupid thing out of your ear,” referring to the safety-pin. He is a slow learner. He marches off to other battles.
I look 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 know 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 smiles and shakes his head. “Keep a record of any time he tries to enter.”
We win that battle. I hope it isn’t the start of a war. I log Miller’s earlier visit as entry number one. Office politics is such fun.