Hollywood New Ride
Lunch at the Hamburger Hamlet on the Strip, doesn’t get much better than this. Hot blue sun in a yellow sky, sparkling cars and cuties cruising by. Billy finds us a platter-size table on the rail, which means outside next to the narrow sidewalk about two feet below. Up the boulevard walks Davy Jones (no, not the Monkee Davy Jones). This was totally random to see him up this side of town. I’d just met him and Billy a coupla weeks ago at Los Angeles City College east of Hollywood on Vermont Avenue. We’d all enrolled for the same dubious reasons; it was cheap as hell (something like $5 a class, used textbooks you could sell back for 80% unless they’d gotten pissed on or had a bullet hole) and it was a cool place to hang and meet hip people; Black Panthers, La Raza, musicians, dancers, artists, poets, Weather Underground, AIM, parolees and super-fine women, some of them charter members of NOW. The grassy Quad between Jefferson and Da Vinci Halls was a hot bed of revolution, dope deals and hookups of all kinds.
Davy bounds on in and joins us at the table which is, seriously, about big enough for half a person. We’re having a great conversation and Davy is simultaneously keeping visual tabs on every chick within a quarter mile, heavy-flirting the waitress, and charming the hell out of the two middle age bottle blondes at the next table. The boy has talent. He is, in the parlance of the day, a chick magnet. Effortless, irresistible, handsome as any actor, speaks in a Louisiana drawl that oozes good times. What I notice is that there is no phoniness about this. He’s not just “trying to score”, whatever that is. The wild thing happens as naturally as water flowing downhill. The guy genuinely likes people and the sex is blood chemistry, or DNA, or some kind of instinctual metaphysics.
Lunch is over and Billy’s got to be at Cedars of Sinai because his older married sister attempted suicide again last night or early this morning with a razor blade and the entire jewish tribe that is his family is crowded into the hospital waiting room. The nurses have been through this movie before and know that Billy is the only one who can wrangle some order out of the near riot of shouting and praying and passing around of foil covered food bowls. Davy leans over to me and says, “gonna get a new car today, y’all know anything about cars?”.
What I know about cars is based on having to keep the broke down beaters I always owned running. But I did offer that I know of a car lot down off Crenshaw. We could hop a bus and look at what the old guy had, plus I could pick up a used starter for the last car I’d bought from him that was parked on a side street out in the Valley. He says, “Naw, I’ve got something else in mind” and we walk west on Sunset. There we go, talking about rock&roll and what bands are in town. We look like a coupla rock and rollers ourselves, broke rock and rollers, and in fact all the money I have in the world is bunched up in my pocket. Davy’s clothes look a little nicer than mine, as though they haven’t been slept in as much as mine, but there we are, a coupla long hair freaks and we walk into the Jaguar dealership at the corner of Doheny and Sunset, right on the border between Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
IN THE PALACE
The salesman walks over and his radar is on high alert. He looks like Robert Vaughn in perfectly creased gray slacks and a blue blazer, open neck crisp shirt and, I kid you not, an ascot. He cocks his chin to someone I can’t see as Davy runs his fingertips down the gleaming line of a car probably worth more than everything every generation in my family ever owned. I stand back and scope out the two dudes who are now standing on the other side of the showroom. I want to back Davy’s play, whatever it is, but I’m doing the calculus and I want to be closer to the door than anyone in the room.
Davy gets into another model, a convertible, that’s on a low platform in front of the 20’ high glass windows fronting the outside world. This machine is so long and sleek it looks like it could deliver a nuclear warhead all the way to Russia. “Is this the engine with . . .”, he cites some gibberish about the engine and pushes his sunglasses up on his head. “Why, yes sir, this model . . .”, more incomprehensible nonsense, when Davy says, “I’ll take it”. “Curt, get in. Waddya think?” The two dudes teleport to positions directly in front and back of the vehicle. I open the door to get in and resist slamming it into the kneecaps of Robert Vaughn, I’ve got better breeding than that sort of thing.
“Will you take a check?” The silence is deafening, like everyone’s heart has stopped except Davy’s, who gets out of the car and pulls a check out of his wallet. “My bank is right across the street.” I am in an altered state breathing in the opiate aromas of new leather and polished wood, falling, falling into the luxury seat like the lap of a fat and perfumed, satiny old whore. For some reason I remember the bag of magic mushrooms in my pocket, pull it out and munch on a few. Seems appropriate.
GOT THE KEYS
My pal is filling out papers while the salesman is still on the phone and the muscle brothers are for some reason staring at Davy’s bare feet in thin loafers. For the first time I notice his pants only come down to his calves. The salesman’s off the phone, hands Davy the keys, and he bounds in the air toward the car grinning like the Cheshire cat. Robert Vaughn has his hand out to shake, so when Davy lands he spins around on one leg, stretching the other out behind full length, and reaches back to shake the guy’s hand while pulling his sunglasses down on his face. Good southern gentleman manners, “thankyouverymuch”. Nureyev couldn’t have pulled it off any better. He hops over the door into the driver’s seat and fires up that British Beast, then carefully follows the dude in the impeccably pressed and starched grey mechanics cover-alls out the back door.
We’re humming west on Sunset and I hand him the shrooms which he dumps into his mouth. The Boulevard of Dreams rolls under our wheels.
Curtis McCosco © 2015