“Fuck it,” I jump up. It was Tuesday night, 10 pm – punk night at the Starwood is just getting started. I run to Nicky and Alice’s room, banging on the door.
Alice opens the door. Seeing me wild-eyed and disheveled from the shower, she steps back. “What’s wrong with you. Are you high on speed or something?”
“No. No. Let’s go to the Starwood.” I order. “It’s punk night.”
“Just art fags tonight,” Nicky is not interested. “The Berlin Brats.”
“Who cares. I can’t sleep. We’ll hang out at Oki Dog if it’s lame.”
“Why not. Oki Yoki owes me anyway.”
I had left the top down. Nicky warns me again that I’m daring someone to steal the Wreck. I start to cry.
“I’m not on drugs, just tired from work and overwrought from everything else. I have to go back to college this weekend.”
“Why?” Nicky is incredulous. “You already paid for the whole month.”
“I havta pass my finals, and there’s a Christmas pageant at Church.”
“You still in high school?”
“No. I’m 18 and in college.”
We all sing Alice Cooper’s ’18’. I let Nicky drive the Wreck. Running down the road with the top down and shouting the lyrics. It calms me down some more.
‘Took eighteen years to get this far
Don’t always know what I’m talking about
Feels like I’m in the middle of doubt
Eighteen, I get confused everyday
Eighteen, I just don’t know what to say
Eighteen, I gotta get way’
Songwriters: ALICE COOPER, DENNIS DUNAWAY, GLEN BUXTON, MICHAEL BRUCE, NEAL A SMITH
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
We pull into the Starwood, leaving the Wreck in the upper corner of the parking lot. Nicky knows how to take charge. We walk past the bouncer, getting in and out stamps from the door dude. As usual we split up; Nicky and Alice going upstairs to hobnob; I go into the disco to find Tony and Jimmy. I also need to see OC Jim for directions to the Crowd’s backyard party in Newport on Saturday. I know I have to search for him. He usually stays out-of-the-way, hating everything and everyone. I don’t see Tony or Jimmy in the disco room. Several of Joan Jett’s silent posse approach me.
“Can you get Rodney to play the Runaways?” they beg.
None of them is nubile enough to get Rodney’s attention. I spot Gerber dancing with some kid at least three years younger than me. She’s a hottie in Rodney’s eyes. I drag her away.
“You should avoid jail bait,” I tell her.
I instantly started vibrating again. Oh, No!
Apparently my cat murmurs are a turn-on. She remembers how I left her wanting more after we humped in the corner of the Whiskey on Sunday.
I drag her up to Rodney’s booth, telling her to get him to play the Runaways. He makes her sit on his lap. He is about the same size as she is – sex dwarfs. I escape to join the Joan groupies. When ‘Cherry Bomb’ comes over the speakers, they all dance and point at me whenever the firecracker reference comes up.
Still the Cracker from Alaska. At least I wasn’t turned on by fat girls in leather. My shaking calms down.
“You’re vibrating,” Jimmy notes, putting a hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah. I can’t stop. It’s the second time it’s happened.”
“Same guy?” Tony asks.
“Yeah,” I confess.
“I bet it’s that old guy from the Paradise,” Tony and Jimmy discuss my sex addiction.
We’d finish the joint. I don’t stop vibrating. My friends keep rubbing up against me and purring. I jump up and all three of us burst into the band room upstairs. Nicky is showing the Berlin Brats’ drummer some fancy drum rolls. Alice has the faggy members under her thumb. Rick says he’s the leader. I tell them I want to do their introduction.
“Can you play ‘Welkommen’ from Cabaret?” I ask.
“We play rock n roll,” Rick brags. I wonder.
“Well, just play random chords while I recite the lyrics. It’s in German, French and English.”
“Wow,” Rick is impressed I can speak three languages.
“It’s just a Broadway song.”
“Cool, dude,” Rick doesn’t have much to say.
“What’s the name of your first song?”
“The truth is out.”
“Then let’s go,” I order them to descend to the stage below. They all have long hair. Nicky warned me they are arty farts.
We wait backstage. The stage manager comes up and asks who I am.
“I’m going to introduce the band.”
“Should I introduce you?” assuming I need my moment of punk fame.
“Oh,” realizing he wasn’t one of everyone.
“Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Fremder, étranger, stranger
Glücklich zu sehen,
Je suis enchanté,
Happy to see you,
Bleibe, reste, stay.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
I’m Cabaret, Au Cabaret, To Cabaret!
Meine Damen und Herren
Mes dames et Messieurs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Guten Abend! Bon Soir! Good Evening!
Wie geht’s? Comment sa va?
Do you feel good?
Ich bin eur confrencier!
Je suis votre compère,
I am your host!
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Leave your troubles outside.
So life is disappointing, forget it!
In here life is beautiful.
The girls are beautiful.
Even the orchestra is beautiful.
“We know,” some wise-ass yells. I throw down the mic and jump into the pit. My harasser tries to melt into the scattering crowd. I have him a headlock and whisper, “Thrash around as I pretend to punch you.”
He starts squirming as I pull several punches to his head, lifting his feet off the ground. He’s skinny and weak, but his friends jump in to save him, unaware of our act. I beat a swift retreat out the door. They chase me all the way to the Wreck, where I stood my ground from the open back seat. The skinny guy tells his friends to cool it.
“It’s all an act.”
I pulled out a joint and shared. My vibrating has stopped. All I needed was to be on stage. My attention addiction has reared its ugly head. All four of us are in the back seat, passing around the joint.
“Where are you guys from?” I ask.
“The beach,” they all answered.
Do you know Jim from The Crowd? He told me they’re playing a party this Saturday. I wanna go.”
“Yeah. In Newport Beach. The owner’s a dick.”
“Everyone in Orange County’s a dick,” I repeat Jim’s assessment. “Can I get directions. I’ll bring my Hollywood friends. Everyone’s cool here.”
“You’re not. You tried to beat up our friend.”
“Are you a fag or something.”
“I’m something alright, something else.”
“Well, your weeds cool. Ennis give ‘im a flyer. It has directions,” the leader orders the kid I attacked
“Thanks. We’re missing the band,” I observe, wanting to go back inside.
“We’ve seen them before. They suck.”
“What do you like?”
“English punk,” they all agree.
I started singing the Sham 69 song I’d learned from OC Mark
‘If the kids,,, are united,,, they can never,,, be divided.’
They all knew that one. We kept repeating the chorus. Nobody knows the words to the verses.
“You sing good,” the leader admits. He’s bigger than the rest, an obvious leadership quality.
“I like that you all stick up for each other.”
“We have to. The surfers hate us and beat us up.”
“At least in Hollywood, everyone’s different.”
“The fags are always trying to pick us up.”
“On Santa Monica. We can go there after the show, if you want.”
“Santa Monica’s all fags. You are a fag, huh?”
“It’s a place to hang out and see what it’s like to survive on the streets. You can watch from Astro Burger across the street, if you’re afraid of fags.”
“They just bother me.”
“What’s your name. I’m Tim.”
“Cool. I’m Eddie. We’re all from LaMirada.”
“I heard they got gangs there.”
“Yeah. We call ourselves LMPs, LaMirada Punks.”
“You have a band?”
“Naw. Why bother? We just like to go to shows. When we cut our hair, the school freaked out. They called us gangsters. The real gangs started attacking us. I got expelled for fighting. Now all my friends ditch. We just deal weed. I guess we really are a gang. Your weed’s pretty good. Can we score some.”
“I’ll introduce you to Jimmy. He’s my source.”
“You rich? You’re pretty generous with the bud.”
“Naw. I work. That’s how I can afford this luxury car,” I point to the Wreck.”
“Wanna go look for Jimmy?”
“Got another joint?”
I pull one out and we get totally baked. They’re all high schoolers. I feel like Robby turning on the junior high crowd.
We find Jimmy. I left them to discuss their mutual business interests. Alice is sitting upstairs by herself.
“Hola chica. Donde tu novio?”
“Did you see me on stage?”
“Yeah. For ten seconds. Then you jumped into the crowd, beat up a kid younger than you and got chased out the door by his friends. Was this your Hollywood debut?”
“The band wasn’t impressed.”
“How was the band?”
“They droned on and on.”
“I made friends with the kids who chased me. They’re from LaMirada.”
“Hey. Eastside. That’s my turf.”
“They said it was Orange County.”
“Yeah. But it’s Mexicano territory. I wanna meet ‘em.”
We wander back to the disco. The LMPs are standing by themselves, hating enemy disco dancing.
“Not into disco?” I kid.
“This is Alice. She’s in a band and is from East LA.”
“Montebello,” she corrects.
Eddie’s eyes light up. “You’re Alice Bag.”
“You’ve heard of our band?”
“When will they let you play here?” he asks.
“Can you come and play a party in LaMirada.”
“Sure. But the police will be there in 60 seconds flat.”
“Why don’t we all go to the party in Newport on Saturday,” I suggest.
The boys look doubtful, always hating anything OC.
Alice is in. “Yeah, the cops won’t be so quick to respond. There’s bigger backyards in Newport.”
I know she wants to play anywhere at anytime.
“I know the Crowd’s singer. I’ll get him to let you play.”
I thought how poor kids never have any place to play, to get started. No wonder they don’t wanna be in a band. Rich kids have garages and backyards for parties. I think how privileged my band was to have Michael’s music room. I remember Joe/Jose, the Cuban Peter Frampton-lookalike. He wanted to be in our band but his parents wouldn’t let him join.
Plans are made at the disco to invade the Beach. Nicky shows up, asking Alice why she was at the disco. After he hears our plans, he promises to get the Weirdos to show up. He insists they had to get paid. I promised to pay them $100 if they finish their set. I doubt John Denney will lower himself to play a party at the beach. The LMPs are all excited to be included. They promise to start their own band. I suggest they contact OC Mark from Fullerton, the Sham 69 fan, who had sung with us at Oki Dog. It got them even more excited to learn that you could play at Oki Dog.
“But we hate Fullerton,” is the typical response about OC Mark.
We missed the final live band and everyone piles into the Wreck or into Tony’s Datsun, heading to Santa Monica Blvd. The LMPs enjoy riding in the back of the Wreck. When we pull into Oki Dog, they are intimidated by the street cruising in front. We stay in the parking lot, with joints to dull their allergy to gay prostitution. Oki Yoki tells me not to perform that night. It’s business as usual. He doesn’t want the police returning. He agrees to provide free Oki Dogs to the crew, who are paranoid from everyone being so nice. Nicky uses the pay phone to call John Denney, convincing him to play at the Newport party. My hundred-dollar offer is impossible to refuse. I’m the godfather of punk. Nicky’s tight trousers makes him the object of several cruisers who stop and shout out how much they would pay for his dick. He flashes his middle finger and ignores their pleas. Alice is laughing at him. She calls her bassist, Patricia, who promises to line up the other Bags for Saturday. I love being a promoter. It’s 2 am when the action peaks as the bars close. By 3 am it’s dead. The LMPs say they had to wait for bus service to start-up in order to get home.
“You take the bus to Hollywood?” I’d forgotten my days of using Joey’s bus pass to get around.
“Better than walking.”
“You can crash at my place,” I offer. They look suspicious again, but my victim, Steve, says, “Why not.” We all pile into the Wreck and head for the Canterbury. Alice whispers to me that it isn’t a good idea to encourage suburbanites to stay over, as they might never leave. We laugh. She and Nicky quickly leaves me alone with the OC haters.
“Not bad,” Eddie compliments my one room residence. I had put away the Murphy bed, creating a sense of unused space where it usually sits. I pull out a joint, while Steve investigates my fridge. He retrieves the six-pack of Budweiser that Jack bought when we furnished the place. Knowing that it’s too late to buy more beer, we all nurse our single cans. The pot provides a sufficient high. Everyone relaxes knowing there’s a plentiful supply. Soon the boys were practically comatose. Eddie relates how Steve’s nickname is ‘Battered Housewife.” Steve turns red. I wondered if he’s their permanent whipping boy. At least, he has a mouth on him to fend off the insults. I noticed he’d applied mascara, to l look like he has two black eyes. He’s a wise-ass playing the victim.
Finally, I turn the Murphy wall and lower the bed. They’re amazed at 1930’s technology. Jack purchased multiple blankets at Sears when he had furnished my place. I toss them out so each one had something with which to create a nest. I strip down and jump into bed. Steve gives me a look which can mean anything. He’s an anything goes kind of guy. I’m not going to encourage him. I also am afraid I’ll start vibrating again. I go quickly to sleep. Waking up at dawn, I tiptoe to the bathroom and get ready for work. I leave them all asleep in separate little piles of blankets.
“You’re not your chipper self today,” Landis notes when he finally appears at eleven.
“Tuesday night is punk night at the Starwood.”
“How late did you get in?”
“4 am. Not in bed ‘til 5.”
After my morning chores are done, I drive back to my apartment, finding the LMPs awake, smoking my pot and drinking coffee.
“The bus service not working today?”
“We’re about to leave,” Eddie explains.
Steve runs around, in housewife mode, cleaning up and looking embarrassed. “We can stay, if you want.”
“I’m just on my lunch break. Wanna go to church group tonight?” I know how get rid of sloths.
“No thanks,” they all say. Steve folds all the blankets. We all exit the Canterbury. I gave them a ride to Sunset and the 101 Freeway where they knew the OC bus will take them home.
“Can you give us a ride to the party on Saturday?” Eddie asks.
“I promised Alice I’d pick up her band and bring their equipment.”
“That’s cool. Steve’s dad will give us a ride.”
I leave them standing at the bus stop. The future of rock n roll. Once back at work, Landis laughs at my confused state. I don’t explain how I’d had the brains fucked out of me and let five gangsters spend the night. I need church group to get back on track. It’s like I was writing my own screenplay. I needed a Belushi character to make it funny.
“You seem to have cheered up,” Landis observes as I whistle the Sham song while I work.
“Yeah. I kicked out my new friends over lunch hour.”
“Worse. East LA gangsters.”
“Oh, my. You may need a cleaning service.”
“One of the gangster is an abused housewife. They left the place spotless.”
“Can you answer these calls for me. Someone forgot my lunch.”
“I’ll run and get something now.”
“No. I need to get out of here myself. Let’s go to Du-Par’s. Did you eat?”
“Not yet, I guess,” I laugh. Nice that my straight boss doesn’t make me vibrate. I realize I had been lusting after the abused housewife, Steve. I need to do confession before group tonight. As we wait for our pancakes, I’m thinking about what to say at the Dignity group.
“Are you still out of it,” Landis asks.
“Just thinking about what to say at Church tonight.”
“Seriously, you’re leading a Catholic service tonight?”
“It’s group of lost gay souls. I don’t know what to say.”
“Just sit there. Let them tell you why they want to be your boyfriend.”
“My reputation has proceeded me. They think I’m Teen Jesus.”
Landis laughs into his coffee cup which goes all over his shirt.
“Shit,” he exclaims. “Teen Jesus? That’s a perfect title for my next movie.”
“Seriously, we have the Franciscans setting up homeless shelters for teens in New York.”
“That’s a recipe for disaster.”
“Yeah. We’ve run into some conflicts of interest. The wrong kind of interest.”
“Sounds like every pedophile priest’s wet dream.”
“At least in West Hollywood, the kids fend for themselves. If you have no place to go, there’s always Santa Monica Boulevard. There’s safety in numbers.”
“Yeah. I heard about a club called Numbers. It’s private membership. All the waiters are underage.”
“Now I know where to go when you fire me.”
“Why would I fire you? You’re the perfect PA.”
“Martin Scorsese fired both Jack and me last summer when we hijacked Liza and De Niro to come out here and perform with Elton John in the middle of shooting ‘New York New York.’”
“That wasn’t in your resume.”
I don’t explain.
“What are you planning for the gay Catholics?”
“Something about getting over Catholic guilt complex?”
“San Francisco is way ahead of West Hollywood in political satire. They’re queer nuns, drag queens in habits. You need to check out the Castro District. Teen Jesus may be shocked. There’s a guy there who calls himself ‘Jesus Christ Satan.’
“Let’s go after the holidays.”
“I doubt Debbie’s going to let me loose for a gay weekend.”
“She can come, too. It’ll broaden her costume design horizons.”
“I’m not going to try to convince her. We are going to Portland in early January to do a location check of a small college for the frat set.”
Our pancakes come, ending our semi-serious discussion.
No one at Doug’s would accompany me to St Viktor’s Dignity meeting. I feel I was back at CCD class in Alaska when I walk into the downstairs classroom. I know it isn’t in Kansas anymore when I’m besieged by flirty twenty-somethings. I click my heels but nothing happens. Father Luke takes me under his wing. He is so pleased to rescue me.
“Let’s not overwhelm Tim tonight. He somehow found mass on Sunday and promised to join us. Let him speak before you boys chase him away. Remember we’re here to support each other, not find new boyfriends.”
There was an audible moan from the crowd of about twenty young gays.
“Y’all know what a gaggle is?” I revert to my country persona.
“A flock of geese,” someone answers.
My lame country joke goes over their heads.
“Seriously, I need this group to screw my head back on after yesterday’s events. I know it will require deep penance when I say confession.”
“You still go to confession?” a voice in the back calls out.
“Yeah. I have Father Frank, a Franciscan who believes the love between my boyfriend and me is natural. It makes it pure and innocent even when we tell him how we go at each other.”
Several are shocked. Others start laughing. Father Luke looks perturbed. I realize he expects a lecture about Jace’s Place.
“Enough about me. You guys want to hear about Teen Jesus, right?”
I see the open-hearted glow appear above many of the attendees, as well as Father Luke. If this were a kids group, I’d invoke the ‘Jesus in your heart’ routine. With young adults I feel I should try to bamboozle them into implicitly trusting me right away. Jace looks disappointed. My heart tells him to be patient.
“How many of you feel Jesus was in your heart after your first communion?”
No one raises their hand, but many nod.
“Anyone not feel that way anymore?”
A lot of nods.
“My complaint with the Church is that the innocent love you knew when you were a child gets lost due the strict rules and dogma the Church insists we live by.”
“As adults we realize the Church is keeping kids safe and sound with all its rules. It only absolves children who sin and repent if they ‘go and sin no more.’ Then creed says they are cursed by original sin. Priests tell children that Jesus hates them when they sin. It destroys their love of Jesus, believing they have betrayed Him.”
I wondered what degree of heresy I’m espousing, but Father Luke looks more approving.
“Paul wasn’t even an original apostle. When he converted on the road to Damascus, he immediately started a long list of rules to keep everyone in line.”
Father Luke can’t believe I’m attacking a saint.
“Anyone here a convert?” No one raises a hand. “If you know one, you know how dogmatic and fanatical converts become, trying to ‘catch up’ for the years they weren’t Catholic.”
Even Father Luke laughs.
“Learn to trust your heart, the place that Jesus remains, no matter what anyone has told you. Your heart knows right from wrong. Even your conscience, which sits in your head, only knows what it has been told – ideas. Ideas are easily changed. Your heart feels what is right from wrong. Feelings take a long time to change. It is not always clear what your heart wants. That is when you trust Jesus to tell you. Also, those friends and family that you really trust are also in your heart and they can tell you what to do. Just ask them. If it is someone you’ve lost or has died, your heart will tell you what they would do. Even if your head rationalizes that it is okay to do something wrong, those in your heart will not lie.”
“What if someone you love is leading you astray?”
“Jesus and all the other people in your heart will tell you the truth. Your heart knows who the haters and deceivers are. If you are open and trusting, there will be a whole chorus in there to tell you who to trust.”
“Yeah, the Gay Men’s Chorus is so innocent.”
“Don’t be sex-negative,” I advise.
Jace is discouraged that I hadn’t used his personal magic. It’s time to take a break.
“Let’s take a break. I trust that Father Luke has some refreshments.”
“Maybe you’re too trusting,” the good father responds. But there is coffee and donuts in the back.
I’m instantly surrounded, trying to avoid answering personal question:
Yes, I have a boyfriend.
Yes, I do fool around, but not right now.
No, my boyfriend is not a sugar daddy; I explain the same age rule.
Yes, I sometimes break my own rules.
Yes, my dog was more famous than me.
No, I’m not going to be a saint. Too many years living a sin-free life is impossible for me.
That answer stops the questions. Everyone wants to see Teen Jesus.
It’s time to do the trust exercise.
“I can see a specific glow surrounding those who believe me and are trusting enough to accept Jace into their hearts. Those of you who are more skeptical can still learn to trust. All you need is to believe your friends who already accept him. Trust is what you share with each other.
I look around and realize there were a few who fear the closeness and trust needed to accept Jace into their hearts.
“Now comes what I call the Baptist Revival Meeting part of my talk, the part that the priests find most objectionable. All I can say is Baptists and Catholics are little different from each. We all love Jesus, just in different ways. It’s the same Jesus.’
I go around and chose the six guys who already glow to come up front.
“Jace is going to touch you. Let us know if you feel him.”
Jace hovers above the group, touching each one on the head. Each one acknowledges what they felt. One youngster gets kissed on the cheek.
“He kissed me,” the boy is shocked.
“It’s okay,” the boy admits. “I liked it.”
I chose another group of six who seem less accepting or who’s glow is faint. I have them stand in front of the original six. There’s some jostling as some guys are more popular than the others.
“If you want to have Jace in your heart, be open-hearted to the person in front of you. Remember that we all have Jesus in our heart. Don’t keep him alone in there.”
I tell the original group to touch the one opposite, just as Jace had touched them. All of the new group smile as Jace’s spirit is passed between them. I forgot about the youngest boy who Jace kissed. Once he kissed an older guy opposite him, they both turn red. Then they hug each other. Catholic boys are more innocent than Catholic girls
I repeat the exercise with the next group of six, the least accepting. It all goes well, except several guys want to be kissed.
“It’s not a rule set in stone. Does anyone want to kiss these two who are hoping for a kiss?”
Finally, there are the last two. They admit they doubt Jesus was in their hearts still. One confesses he was raised Jewish.
“Well, Jesus is Jewish,” I argue.
The other says he didn’t mind being a sinner and doesn’t believe in Hell.
“Do you want to trust other people?”
“When Jace and I first became friends, it took a while before he would get undressed when he slept over. One night we fell asleep listening to Pink Floyd. In the morning he kissed me because we had held hands all night. It got much better after that. It’s natural not to trust but you can’t go around not trusting anyone. Jesus is easy to trust because he’s been dead almost two thousand years.”
They all laugh. The last two are surrounded and admit they want to be trusted. That’s the end of the trust exercise. They all want to know details about why Jace was sleeping over and what else beside the first kiss happened.
“Come back after Christmas and we’ll talk. I have to go back east next week. Go out and find who you can trust. I want stories, too.”
I stay to be interrogated by Father Luke. Actually he’s disappointed not to have Jace in his trusting heart. It takes about five seconds and no kiss is necessary. Now he’s really smiling.
“I may get excommunicated for allowing your Baptist ways to be worked on me and my boys, but you definitely raise the bar here. I heard what you said about not wanting to be a saint. I know the Church wants to put you into seminary. Do you think I’m a fool for being jealous that you could be canonized?”
“Well, don’t give up on yourself. Jace is an ally that you can call on anytime you need spiritual help. In my freshman religion class, the old prof was spouting his contention that the Bible is merely literature. Jace tore up the professor notes in front of the whole class while we sung our version of the Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed.’ We were almost expelled. We claimed the prof was ‘Not What We Needed.’
“Doesn’t Harvard have a divinity school.”
“They’re confused. They separated Jack and me. That’s why I’m here but still getting credit for the whole freshman year.”
“You’re a trip, Tim. I’m so glad you chose our parish. Where are those other boys? And how did you get Doug Weston to come to mass?”
“Let’s get something to eat,” he suggests. Going out to eat was a Hollywood religious ritual.
“We can go to Astro Burger and watch the boys turn tricks across the street at Oki Dog. I sense you’re not gay.”
“I really am a priest. I couldn’t minister to these boys’ spiritual needs if I wanted them sexually.”
“That’s all I need, a saint in love with me. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
We enjoy just watching the action from Astro Burger. Father Luke explains how difficult seminary was for him in San Antonio TX. He was besieged by gay priests in training. Finally, as a graduate, he was sent to St Viktor’s because he had so adamantly rejected so many advances. The Cardinal knew he’d be able to remain sin-free in West Hollywood. At first, Father Luke believed it was further punishment for being so straight. He grew to realize how impossible it would be if he had been attracted to his gay parishioners.
“You think the Church hierarchy is finally responding to gay Catholics?”
“Your friend Father Frank may not be the only understanding priest. It’s hard to minister to anyone gay or straight if you insist on celibacy. I’ve never wrestled with it, unlike many priests. I just figured I was asexual.”
He totally gets me.
“How did Church go last night?” Landis asks as he walks in at eleven.
“Gay Catholics are an endangered species. At least the priest didn’t try to hit on me. I eventually had twenty converts to Teen Jesus. It explains everything to them.”
“My next movie?”
“Except Belushi can’t be the star. Maybe Scott Baio.”
Belushi could be Arnold.
It all makes sense except I know that Hollywood is the dumping ground of all good ideas. We could always recycle it later.
Jack sent me a care package of all the class notes he’s taken since I’d left Harvard, plus sample test questions to prepare me for finals. I know he hates how I dismiss anything the professors profess. I’m tempted to blow off any preparation for tests, but it sn’t fair that I blow up his dreams of rooming in college for four years. It isn’t fair to saddle him with Minehan as his new best friend for life. I know David has greater plans. I tell Landis I needed to study during work hours. I still answer the phone, take his lunch orders, and keep Miller at bay.
I quickly organized the notes around the sample questions. It’s the liberal 70’s and Harvard allows ‘open-book’ testing. I use all the notes Jack prepared. I just need to answer in my own way, so it doesn’t seem like Jack is taking the test for me. The only exception is Religion, as Professor Rhinehart claims the Bible isn’t an open book. I decide that Teen Jesus should flunk Religion at Harvard on principle. I’ll have to do a good job on the Business School case study to make up for the flunked course.
Once I organize the notes, I set them aside and start on the case study. I have no clue where to start. It was not enough to discuss the challenges, failures and successes we encounter in producing a Hollywood movie. My role in corralling the head writer’s interference with the director’s ability to supervise the script is my prime focus. A more inclusive report will describe how the director manages the challenges presented by the studio executives, their legal department, the budget restriction imposed upon the hiring of cast and crew, plus the need to support and control the creative talent. External factors would be the politics between the Harvard and National Lampoon, as well as the pending acquisition of the National Lampoon by a large multi-media company. I set aside these external factors until I’m back in Cambridge. I don’t want anyone in Hollywood to know I have ulterior motives beyond my role as Landis’s Production Assistant. I need to concentrate on Landis’s role while I can pick his brain at the office.
I begin by writing up the turmoil of dealing with Chris Miller. I know Landis will see what I was doing and want to put his spin on our under-mining of his head writer. I type up a short synopsis of Miller’s obnoxious behavior leading up to his breaking down Landis’ office door. Sure enough, John is soon reading over my shoulder, making corrections and suggestions. This soon leads to a joint analysis of his overall management style. I explain that a case study needs teaching moments for business school students to generalize specific strategies into a comprehensive management style. Landis loves the complexity, which he instantly gets. He also loves that his high school knowledge and common sense will be taught to grad students. He’s smug that two high school grads will be teaching MBA candidates. We’re so subversive. I chalk it up to our belief that we’re so smart because we don’t know anything. By glorifying our exploits, I get into Landis’ head. I can tone down the gloating and be more analytical when I prepare the final draft. I call Jay in Miami for advice. At least, he has a doctorate in jurist prudence. He relates what he had been taught about business school studies: ‘it is a concise comprehensive introduction to concepts and processes required for analyzing/interpreting business challenges and goals.’ I have a handle on the actual processes, but concepts are beyond me. I decide to find actual B School students in Cambridge who can tell me what concepts I need to explain in my case study. Charm and my newly acquired Hollywood sluttiness will find willing grad students to make my case study accurate and current. Jay tells me that there were few entertainment industry case studies. How music, movies, books etc. are created is beyond text-book analysis. Maybe I’ll get my doctorate and never have to attend classes again. I doubt that Professor Feldstein can be easily bamboozled. I just need to get credit to make up for my failing grade in religion. My self-righteousness knows no end after a night of preaching at St Viktor’s.
After work on Friday, Landis invited our staff to his house for a holiday party. We celebrate my return to Harvard and the upcoming location visit to Portland in early January. Jesus’s birthday is verboten in Jewish Hollywood. Debbie outdoes herself in providing every type of teen comfort food I crave – burgers & fries, Mexican food, Chinese take-out, and pancakes. She knows how to satisfy teen needs. She also has sushi, fondue, and shell-fish platters for the adults. John announces that the final draft of the script has been approved by the studio. Everyone is getting a $1000 bonus for Christmas. He passes out checks, telling us individually that we need to take time off for the holidays. Once January comes, we’ll be working seven days a week. I find an acoustic guitar and sing the Beatles’ ‘Eight Days a Week’ to Debbie, just to annoy him.
Everyone smiles at me, the team teen jester.
“That’s great, Tim. But I hope we’ll all enjoy my surprise entertainment,” as Debbie ushers in Tom & the Heartbreakers. They play old style rock n roll so the adults can dance and reminisce.
It’s a great party. I stay until it’s so late, we needed to make a run to Tommy’s Burgers in Echo Park. The Wreck is full of drunken movie staff. I have to drive them all the way back to the Valley, so they could get their cars. The greasy food soaks up excess alcohol. Nobody gets arrested for DUI.
Saturday morning and again I’m up too early. Blueberry pancakes at Doug’s is expected, as is joining the three of them in bed to satisfy our host. With my own place, I can go for what I want, rather than having to please Doug and his ‘houseboys.’ Jimmy is pleased when what I want is him, while Tony pleases Doug. Jimmy squeals as I ride his ass, making Tony and Doug pause their coupling and become my audience – another manifestation of my performance/attention addiction. Once I finish with Jimmy sprawled in front of me, I jump into the shower before preparing our pancake breakfast. I got Du-Par’s at the Fairfax Farmer’s market to sell me their unique pancake batter. With added blueberries, it makes for a gourmet breakfast. While standing in the shower, I have a momentary guilt trip for all the times I had violated my sex pact with Jace. I feel him shrug in my heart and tell me, ‘you don’t want to know all the times I’ve violated it with Tommy.” It has been good while it lasted, but sex pacts should have an expiration date. We both shed a tear. He promises to show up for the Newport backyard show later that day. We knew how to party.
Back at the Canterbury, Alice is very business-like as she prepares for a performance that evening in Newport. Nicky has been pressed into service as the Bags’ temporary drummer. He refuses to wear a bag over his head after difficulty breathing at our Oki Dog performance.
“You aren’t going to start crying on us again?” Alice needles me, but also checking me for signs of nervous breakdown. I hate to think I’ve reverted to my Ames persona.
“Naw, I was working on your sympathy,” I profess. I break into the Stones’ ‘19th Nervous Breakdown,”
‘You better stop, look around,
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes.
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown’
Songwriters: KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER
© Abkco Music, Inc.
“You always sing away the blues?” Nicky asks.
“Can’t have the blues when you’re just a teen. Maybe when I hit 20, I can be a bluesman.”
I had bought the Sham 45 at Tower Record. I play it for them. Nicky instantly picks up the English pub/football chanting rhythm.
“If the cops don’t shut us down, we can end the show with all the Beach and LMP kids singing along,” I’m planning ahead. We don’t know if they’re even letting the Bags and Weirdos play. I look at the flyer that Steve had given me. It had a crude map and a phone number for directions. My phone has been installed. I call the number on the flyer. An adult answers, probably a parent who may not know that their home is going to be invaded.
“Hi. Is your son home?”
“Who’s calling,” I get the second degree.
“My name’s Tim. I’m Jim’s friend from the band.”
“Kurt,” I hear the dad yell. “One of your weirdo friends is on the phone.”
“Hey, Kurt. The Crowd’s Jim told me about your party. We wanna come.”
“It’s only a few people. Do you live in Newport?”
“Naw. Hollywood. We got a flyer at the Starwood. That how we got your number.”
“You’d come all the way to Orange County? Hollywood people hate us.”
“But we like parties. I got the Weirdos and the Bags coming. Can we all play with the Crowd?”
“What did Jim say?”
“He just told me to come for The Crowd but the other bands wanna play, too.”
“When are you starting?”
“We have to stop playing when it gets dark. So, 4 o’clock?” He gives me directions.
“We’ll be there. We’re all excited. Can we bring a keg?”
“We’ll just buy a couple a cases of Brew 102. Everyone will be under age. I ain’t goin’ to jail.” Alice is my age, 18.
She makes a few calls and arrangements are made to pick up the Bags’ guitarists, Craig and Rob, and bassist, Patricia. I call Jack on the Mower House’s public phone to let him know I’m flying in the next evening. I suddenly realize that this was my last day in sunny, warm California. I shiver thinking about Boston and cold, dreary New England.
“Let’s go to the beach before the party,” I suggest. My tan-less friends are aghast.
“We don’t do beach,” Nicky explains. “It’s where you get cancer.”
“I gotta go to Boston tomorrow. It’s so far north, I don’t think the sun even comes up this time of year.”
“We don’t go out during the day due to the LA smog,” is the next excuse. They only go out at night. Their rule was if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
“Com’n. You like riding in the Wreck. I just wanna feel warm for one last day.”
They give in. We packed up the drums and go to find the other Bags. Craig and Rob in downtown LA and Pat on the eastside. Pat was extremely tall with jet black hair. She reminds me of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Craig was older and a graduate of Cal Arts in Valencia. I can tell he is totally taken with me. I’ve already broken the same age rule and can invoke it if need be. He’s nice but a bit solicitous. Since he’s Jewish, I couldn’t refer him to St Viktor’s. Rob is my age, tall and quiet, a perfect rhythm guitarist. No one but me is excited about hitting the beach.
“You’re all vampires,” I accuse them. Patricia takes it as a compliment.
We cruise PCH from Long Beach and park on the street in Huntington Beach, a dumpy surf town with a pier. Everyone refuses to join me on the sand, claiming they’ll watch me surf from the pier. I do a quick beach change into my old Speedo. As I walk toward the water, several girls giggle and point at me. Naturally I flex, which makes everyone laugh. I notice that only middle-age men wear Speedos. Maybe they’ve been to Europe and think it’s cool to have their expansive bellies hang over the skimpy nylon that holds their manhood. One gives me a thumbs up.
Checking the waves, I realize they are bigger and steeper than the ones at Zuma Beach. I swim out, diving under the white water rolling toward the beach. I quickly learn to lay flat on the bottom as the waves pass over me. I come up each time and take as many swim strokes as possible before the next wave of white water reaches me. It takes time, but eventually I’m out far enough in the ocean that the waves are still forming. I think about Forming, Safety and Gerber. Maybe it’s rapture of the deep. I’m pretty winded. I wave to the punks on the pier. Then I notice I’m swimming with a group of surfers on boards. I recognize the OC hater looks they give me.
“Don’t get in my way,” One of them says.
“Okay. But don’t run me over,” I answer.
“That’s your look-out,” he says.
OC is so welcoming. I roll over and swim parallel to the beach to another spot where the waves are cresting. As luck will have it, I approach the perfect take-off spot. As I quicken my stroke to ‘catch’ the wave, I hear behind me, “ My wave. Look out.” A board surfer s overtaking me. I put my head down, dig in and pop out into the break just as the surfer comes up next to me. Still laying on his board, he reaches over and hits me on the head. I roll sideways and push him off his board. The six-foot wedge of plastic flips up into the air as the detached rider’s leash jerks it backwards. I rolled back on my stomach and catch by the wave’s lip as it crashes several feet below me. I turned to the right and rode it for a couple of seconds before tumbling into the white water. When I come up, my friends hoot and holler, excited that I bested the board surfer who tried to ‘steal’ my wave. The vanquished surfer is not about to let me get away. He rights himself on his board and is paddling furiously in my direction. He’s oblivious to the oncoming wave. Just before he reaches me, I dive to the bottom then push off the sand directly beneath his board. Again he is knocked off his board and goes tumbling with the breaking wave. The loose board drags him down the beach. I swim in the other direction.
“Yer a swim team kid, ain’tcha.” One of the surfers who observed the confrontation says.
“Used ta be, yeah,” I answer.
“Ya just can’t come out here and steal waves,” he believes he is being helpful.
“I was in the wave and he hit me on the head to steal it. He didn’t expect me to object.”
My new friend roll off his board, showing me the skag on the bottom. “You don’t wanna be run over by this at 25 miles per hour.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“Take a hint, kid. The other side of the pier is black-balled for swimmers and boogie boards only. You’re in the way here.”
To confirm his opinion, the lifeguard tower comes alive with a personal announcement, “Attention, swimmer in the water. This area is reserved for board surfing only. Exit the water and walk to the south side of the pier. If you do not exit immediately, you are subject to arrest.”
I’m not about to repeat the long swim out through breaking surf. I turn and swim toward the pier, twenty yards away.
“Attention, swimmer. Do not. I repeat. Do not swim through the pier. You will be subject to arrest if you do.”
My, surfing has its own police and its own laws. I swim back to the break where four or five guys in their twenties are sitting on their boards, with their hands on their hips, glaring at me. I take a small wave that they are too far outside to catch. I go straight ahead, getting my upper body fully out of the water, I keep my hands at my sides for balance. I come almost all the way to the shore. As I walk out of the water a life guard runs up and upbraids me for breaking all the rules.
“There’s a code,” he explains when I professed my ignorance of their rules. “And board surfers are the top of the food chain. Swimmers are subject to arrest for flaunting the rules. That’s why there’s a black ball area south of the pier.”
His blank look indicate he hasn’t heard of civil rights or just doesn’t care.
“Sorry,” I apologize for having too much fun.
My fans run down from the pier as I approach the boardwalk, drying off and getting dressed..
We all laugh. I look around and see a sign for Wimpy’s under the pier. Hamburgers! I’m back in teen heaven after a journey to surfer hell.
Nicky and I have a contest to see who can eat the most. Nicky wins hands down. He’s had more experience. They all want an explanation of how I dominated the poor surfer on his board. As I explain and everyone laughs, the unhappy surfer comes upon us, instantly recognizing me as the enemy. He’s about 25 and buff. He starts yelling at me across the open eating area.
“What do we do?” Nicky is my only reliable defender.
“Run,” I yell. We all hightailed it out of there. Being chased is even more fun than fighting. The five of us dive into the Wreck and we tear out of HB. Looking back, the surfer has recruited another five of his ‘brahs’ to thrash us. I drive slowly enough that they keep chasing us on foot. The girls are in a panic screaming that the hot-footing surfers are gaining on us. I floor the Wreck. We’re soon in Newport.
Kurt is having the party. His dad is rich and their house enormous. No inside music room, but the backyard had a pool and a pagoda. The patio had ample room for the band to set up. Kurt is about 16 and his eyes, already wide-set, pop open when the five of us arrived. We’re early due to the quick exit from the beach. He claims to be a surfer and thinks he knows my enemy.
“Why didn’t you fight him at the pier?”
“No shame in running when you have nothing to prove.”
He smiles. I’m learning ‘brah’ hood.
“Why don’t you say ‘bro?’ I ask.
“All the Malibu surfers have these fake English accents. You havta make everything sound like you’re upper class. So ‘bro’ becomes ‘brah.”
“For shure, for shure,” I quip.
“Where’s the keg you promised?” Kurt knows how to get a party started.
“Nicky’s the only one who’s 21. He’s afraid he’ll get busted for buying alcohol for minors. We’ll go get a couple of cases and just put them out. No one needs to know where they came from. It’ll be your folks responsibility. It’s their house.”
Kurt gives us directions to the liquor store. Just Nicky and I went. He was still amused by my show in the surf.
“You totally dissed that surfer. How did you up-end him on his board. He got dragged a hundred yards away.”
“It’s your money. Oh, and I told Craig that you’re paying the Weirdos. He wants you to pay the Bags.”
“Tell him you’re playing for twenty bucks.”
When we get back and put out the beer on ice beside the house, I see that Jim and his band has arrived. He’s pleased that the Bags were there, he believes, to hear his band. When he sees Nicky, he gets concerned. I run over and assured him we’ve all come to make their party a success.
“Nicky’s filling in on drums for the Bags. The Weirdos said they might come, too.”
“I thought they hated the beach.”
“Hate works to make a party spectacular. All energy is good.”
“Alice says you beat up a surfer at the beach,” his eyes glows with admiration.
“Not really. I just stole his waves. When he confronted us at Wimpy’s, we all ran.”
“Oh. What if he shows up here?”
“It’s our party,” he contends. “We should go on last.”
“The Bags are so thankful they can play. I’m sure they’ll be happy to open for the Crowd. If the Weirdos don’t show, I’ve got a couple of English songs I can do with the Bags. Then you’ll be the headliner. Is it okay that we use your amps. All we brought were guitars and drums.”
Nicky and I bring the drums and equipment in and help setting up. The kids have discovered the beer and lose some of their shyness with us Hollywood types. Nicky starts doing the drum intro to Sham’s ‘If the Kids are United…’ I show a kid how the guitar part goes, getting him to sing the one line chorus over and over. Some of the kids know about Sham 69 and join in singing. I let the kid use my SG. He plays while his friends sing. They actually appear to like one another. They’ll never be surfers. By 4 o’clock there were about thirty people here. The LMPs showed up. Kurt instantly recognizes interlopers. I interrupt his door bouncer routine, giving Eddie twenty dollars to go purchase 3 more cases of PBR tallboys. As they leave, I explained to Kurt that they were the ones who put out the word at the Starwood about the party, showing him the flyer Steve had given me.
“I guess they’re okay,” Kurt is hedging his bets on the survival of his parent’s home.
“Also, they’ll back me up if that surfer dude shows up.”
We wait for the LMPs to return with the beer. When they appear, everyone cheers and there is a rush to grab a 16-ouncer. Alice taps the mic and thanks everyone (now about 40 people) for coming. She really beams at getting to play.
Maybe it’s the beer. More likely it was the witchy/twitchy Mexicana gyrating on stage. The crowd of beach kids responds in kind, throwing themselves around. Anyone who pogo’s gets their feet cut out from under them.
Next Craig comes up and plays what seemed like a Journey song, until Alice jumps back to the mic: ‘Survivor’
In the middle of the song, Craig again goes into stadium rock. Alice looks disgusted, taking over again. Once she ends, Craig reasserts his classic rock roots. I’m confused if this is an actual difference of opinion. She lets Craig finish ‘Survivor’.
Next came ‘Babylonian Gorgon’. This time Craig ripped what sounded like rockabilly guitar on speed
The kids are going crazy. There are two dog piles of writhing boys. The few girls there look terrified from a corner of the patio. Inside the patio doors, Kurt’s horrified parents look on as the boys thrashed about. Luckily there has been no damage. One kid grabs an unopened beer, shakes it up and sprays the band with 16 ounces of PBR. I fear that the parents are about to panic and call the cops. I run over to Alice after they finish ‘Gorgon,’ and are watching the chaos they inspired.
“Way to go Alice. I think they like you.”
“They love me.”
“Let me do the English Oi song to get everyone back in harmony.”
“Fuck the English,” she shouts, breaking into ‘We don’t Need the English’
“I can understand you feeling that way, Alice,” I grab the mic. “But some of us feel differently.”
I motion to the boy who has learned the Sham chords to come up as I sing the opening verse to ‘If the Kids are United’
‘ For once in my life I’ve got something to say,
I wanna say it now for now is today.
A love has been given so why not enjoy,
So let’s all grab and let’s all enjoy!’
I motion for Craig to give his guitar to the kid. He shakes his head but complies. The two of us play and sing together
‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
‘Just take a look around you,
What do you see?
Kids with feelings,
Like you and me.
Understand him, he’ll understand you;
For you are him, and he is you.’
Again we all sing the chorus, exhorting all the kids to join in with us. Jim joins me on stage, feeling left out at his own show.
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
‘I don’t want to be rejected,
I don’t want to be denied.
Then its not my misfortune,
That I’ve opened up your eyes.
Freedom is given,
Speak how you feel.
I have no freedom,
How do you feel?
They can lie to my face,
But not to my heart.
If we all stand together,
It will just be the start…’
Everyone sings the final chorus
‘‘If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.
If the kids are united,
Then we’ll never be divided.’
ALEXANDER WILKE, D. PARSONS, J. PURSEY
Lyrics © CACOPHONY LIMITED
Everyone is bouncing up and down. The two of us keep playing, Patricia holds her own on the bass, with Alice singing next to her. We finally get everyone to calm down.
“Still don’t need the English?” I kid Alice.
Jim takes the mic, “kay. Time for a break. The Crowd will be up next.”
In walks John and Dix Denney, stunned to find complete chaos going on.
“Get up here, if you’re ready to play. Where’s Cliff?” I shout into the mic.
The kids start jumping around again, knowing who the Weirdos are.
“You better get paid twice,” he asserts.
Jim looks concerned. “This is a party. No one’s getting paid.”
I whisper to Jim that I promised to pay them twenty dollars to get them to come.
“I really thought they wouldn’t show up.”
Jim glares at me. He has to decide when or if the Weirdos would play. His vanity is conflicted by reality.
“Let them go on now,” he decides.
“Get up here, John. You’ll get paid, like I promised,” I announce to everyone.
We huddle around Nicky.
“Look. I told them you’re only getting twenty. I promised a hundred but you have to finish your set. Just tell anyone who asks that you’re just getting twenty.”
“Okay. Say what you want. I will pay a hundred bucks but I’m saying it’s only twenty.
“Jesus. You’re an asshole.”
Nicky pipes up. “This is better than any show in Hollywood. The Bags were spectacular. Don’t let these kids down and get us shown up by my girlfriend’s band.”
John grabs the mic. Pat gives me her bass and I give Dix my SG. I worry that he’ll abuse it. Jace appears, promising to protect his guitar.
Someone threw an open can at him. It goes all over us.
“Fuck you,” John shouts. The beer came raining down on us.
“You know what I think of all you beach punks?” he launches into ‘Neutron Bomb’
“The cops are on the way. Get your band up there if you wanna play.”
He runs to gather them. I grab John and stuff five twenties into his hand.
“You’re done; the cops are at the door.
“Cool,” he pockets the pay and walks off. I grab my SG, running out to the Wreck, and locking it in the trunk.
I walk back in. Jim is at the mic.
“Okay. I hear the cops are here but I want my friends to hear what we can do. Thanks to the Bags and the Weirdos for supporting us today. Here’s ‘Right Place, Right Time.’ I think that’s appropriate. There’ll be other parties. We love our fans.
It’s more like pop than the eclectic Weirdos. The kids start jitter-bugging. They were supporting their local band. The energy drops but the vibe is fun not violence. Two uniformed Newport officers walk in, listening to the music and nodding their heads. Kurt’s parents rush out to inform the police that they had missed the violent gangsters.
The Crowd starts a second song, upping the sound with ‘Modern Machine’
The cops tell the parents that the party needs to stop by ten o’clock and leave. I pat Jim on the back for rescuing the party. He just shakes his head.
“You hijacked my party. No one will remember us. The Bags and Weirdos are too extreme for OC.”
“We need to make another beer run. The Weirdos wiped out the supply.”
“You gonna pay us?”
“Sure,” as I give him a twenty. Everyone is happy.
The Crowd plays on. It’s only 8 o’clock. Partying is a daytime activity in the OC.
Nicky and I make a third beer run. My twenties are running out. We hit the ATM on the way.
“You are a rich bitch, ain’tcha?”
“I work, Nicky. Anyone can live on the cheap in LA.”
“Don’t I know it.”
After the party ends at ten, I insisted we drive to In n Out in West Covina. Punks require calories. Sitting there with a double-double, I reminisce about my night there with Belushi, and at the Pomona College sorority. I never followed up with those girls who appreciated my hetero side. I wonder if Nicky would be shocked if we paid them a visit. But I don’t want to piss Alice off and doubt that Craig and Pat will come along. I’m leaving tomorrow for Boston. How did I ever end up there? Who knows, but I do know I want another burger, animal style, with grilled onions this time. ‘It’s the right time’ – The Crowd.