Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Legend in His Own Mind-4


Dear Lázaro,

I'm doing a TV show! Okay it's for Public Access cable but it's still TV. And I'm on every week. You'll never guess what I'm playing? A Brooklyn guido disco dancer named Donny who lives in this run down Hollywood apartment with all these other star wannabes.

This show is taped in back of an antique store in Studio City. The producer, Merrick, says it's the best way to break into television. He says since there are no sitcoms on public access so we're breaking new ground. He already has two half-hour slots and is working on a few more.

Everybody in the cast gives a hundred dollars a week to Merrick. For expenses like tape or camera repairs. But we're on half-hour shows on television. Anybody important can see us.

The color on the cameras isn’t balanced properly so when you switch from one to the other the color changes too. Merrick says it makes it look psychedelic. He says that it worked for "Laugh-In."

There's this big guy named Slovak who looks like Herman Munster. He plays our landlord. This is great casting 'cause I'd be scared to skip out on the rent. Wendy is this real funny lady from San Francisco. Johnna is Merrick's girlfriend. She's writing a musical about her experiences with the downtrodden of society. Working title, "Danny Drop the Gun." Gary is this guy who actually says he's gay. Can you believe that? I've never heard anyone say that before. Totally open about it.

I mean out here it's totally cool. I've seen guys walking holding hands down the street. And I mean guys! Not the velour and paisley crowd stepping out of Greenwich Village bistros. These guys look like lumberjacks. Buzz cuts, moustaches, muscles and jeans. That's fascinating to me. And nice. Very nice.

Then there's this woman, Megan, who acts like she just had a Spanish Fly martini with an oyster chaser. She just doesn't stop. She grabs and gropes every guy on the set. And she's always talking about her husband, Dudley.

I thought she was lying about the husband. You know how Maria Porcari used to invent a boyfriend in The Tombs whenever she wanted to scare away any guy who was getting too hot and heavy for her? But she didn't act like she was entered in the Xaviera Hollander marathon either.

Anyway, I met Megan's husband. He came to do the show also. Skinny, wimpy blond guy. And she didn't stop doing anything. She even did things in front of him. I hate to sound provincial but you know back home that kind of behavior would have gotten you a lot of wailing old ladies at Dimitri’s Funeral Parlor.

Well after a night's shoot, Merrick gathered the whole cast and lit up a reefer. I figured that's what it was since everybody sat in a circle and passed it around. It finally came to me and I saw this teeny tiny cigarette with a flattened out tip. I grabbed it and put it to my mouth making sure that my fingertips were covering its tip. Then I passed it over.

I figured they would all be so stoned that they wouldn't notice that the reefer never touched my mouth.

All I kept thinking about was that I couldn't put anything in my mouth that had been in all those other mouths before.

How gross! That's unhealthy too, right?

A Legend in His Own Mind-3

July, 1980

Dear Lázaro,

Remember that I told you about my proficiency with the stick shift? Well the other day on the freeway the car jumped back at least twenty feet. I totally freaked. What did I do wrong now? But when I look up in front of me I see that the whole freeway looked like a slinky. Better yet, remember how Mirta used to shake her rugs to dry them when she hung them on the clothesline? Just like that!

It was an earthquake! I just felt my first earthquake! And I didn't even know it. I mean I expected to see buildings quaking and Charlton Heston running through the streets. This was wild. Now I'm scared to drive on the freeway in case it happens again. What if I fall off? But then again driving on the street isn't safe either. What if the freeway falls on you? Tell me, what should I do?

Can you imagine the headline? Young actor’s career dramatically cut short when he was flattened by an off ramp.

The other night I was on Sunset Boulevard at this Pioneer Chicken stand. And there were two windows. One with a whole slew of people and one with just one woman. She looked like Pam Grier in "Foxy Brown" but hey, this is West Hollywood. So I stand behind her. She turns around, pouts her orange lips, juts out a silver-spandexed hip and says, "Do you want a date?"

I said, "No I just want some chicken."

So she says, "You're on the wrong street for that, chil’. You need to be on Santa Monica."

I didn't know what she was talking about. I was in front of this chicken place already. But I walked away to start down the hill to Santa Monica Boulevard. I turned around and looked in her direction one more time. I noticed that she was bent over quite seductively over the windowsill and above her was a sign that said Pick Up.

Do you think she was a hooker? They're all over Sunset Boulevard you know. It's wall to wall girls in these frilly outfits waving at you as you drive by. It looks like the inside flap of Donna Summer's "Bad Girls" album. Nothing like those Gestapo Broadway hookers who grab you as you come out of the subway station.

You remember that day we went to Final Vinyl to get that crazy Buddy Holly album that you just had to have or you would die? Remember how we ended up walking by the Christopher Street piers? Well, buddy, that's Santa Monica in triplicate. Wall to wall boys in skintight jeans and tank tops. They all looked like they just finished pitching hay to their horses in the barn down in Oklahoma somewhere. None of those tough Brooklyn guidos or PR street kids that hung around the West Village.

No wonder this is the film capital of the world. The whole city has that gloss of a movie. You know, make the bad seem glamorous and the ugly pretty.