It had been a nice dinner party at Le Dome. I had attended it with my girlfriend, Viva, at the time, an Elite model, who was bi-polar and epileptic. I really loved her sleek, eurotrash disco look, at 5’ 10” and the sharp brunette hair style, cut short in back, long in front, so it resembled those Nagel models. She was feeling the mix of her meds with the booze and her friend from work, Nina, an eastern block cropped haired blonde with a butch demeanor and sexy accent, was going to take her home to our little bungalow on the corner of Gardner and Hollywood Blvd. I had just put them in a cab and kissed her good-bye when I was almost shoved out of the way by a bear sized hand with a growly voice, “You ladies need any extra attention this evening?” It was Lee Marvin and he had been drinking. I addressed him respectfully but curtly, “No, Lee, the ladies are retiring early. They are not feeling well”, as I shut the door on the cab and it sped off. He gave a “harumpf” as he proceeded to put his paw on my shoulder again to turn me his way and said, “Well, then drinks are in order for a man who is so willing to let good pussy take flight so easily.” I considered knocking the ol’ Cat Ballou on his ass right there on the sidewalk, but knew I was out of my element in Beverly Hills and needed to keep it moving. It was his town still, regardless of the fact that he had not starred in a picture in some years and was considered washed up and off the wagon. His state was somewhat predictable, considering all the press he had gotten in the palimony case he had recently lost.
“Look, Lee, I gotta meet somebody up on The Strip. I appreciate the offer of a drink, but I will take a rain check until I see you in my part of Hollywood, where I would gladly take you up on such a welcome and distinguished offer.” I proffered this up in my best diplomatic voice with a half smile and a twinkle in my eye. I was getting good at it and my incursions into Beverly Hills were starting to show in my temperament. I could almost walk among them unnoticed. But Lee had been sizing me up and he was no Johnny-com-lately, wanna be studio exec, he smelled a party and an adventure, and he was bored. ”Its not like Hollywood ain’t my town, pardner, and I imagine you could use that drink now, so if you drive the Rolls, cuz I’ve had a few, know waddImean?, and we can settle up and maybe you could point us the right direction of some more of those woman parts like you just put in the cab…” I took a calm breath as he handed me the keys to the Rolls.
I had to meet one of my more notorious nocks at the time at a recording studio on Santa Monica and Vine. He was just finishing some work on a project he was not completely happy with and he wanted to get loose that night. I had spoken to him on the phone while the girls were doing their bonding thing and deciding to make it an early night at the restaurant. Iggy Pop’s mind was in the doldrums and he was very unhappy with the images the record label publicists were trying to push. I told Lee I had to go to the recording studio in the vicinity of Vine and Santa Monica before we wheeled the Rolls up to the strip. All he heard was a rock stars hotel suite was involved and he knew what that could mean. Lee had a one track mind as I wheeled the Rolls out of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica Blvd began to transform around us. As we pulled up to the curb I sensed Iggy would need some calming as his intensity level seemed to be even higher than his publicity pictures proclaimed.He was gnashing his teeth at me on the sidewalk as we stepped out of the car and Lee was not too impressed with his demeanor.
“You guys get more pussy thrown at you than a Tijauna Taco stand and you always find something to brood about, like your some fucking prisoner of fame or something, get the fuck over it, life’s too short and show biz careers are shorter, you should be burning your laurel’s in a pipe like Bob Mitchum, not whining about what the suits are doing.” I could sense Iggy wanted to deck the old man, same as I did earlier, but he was realizing, just as I had, that maybe a spin in the old rummy actor’s Rolls was just the ticket. And besides, I knew his protests about the record label were a prelude to him disclosing that he didn’t have any money for the dope that he wanted. All he had at the moment was a suite at Le Mondrian paid for by the label. I had a no front policy at the time. I thought it was low class street dealer style to give a taste for free in order to get a customer’s attention back then. With people in this world, however, one had to be creative and set it up just right to get the payoff. I was ambitious and I figured upward mobility in Tinseltown in 79’ meant acting as if I was meant to be in the room, so I told Iggy I knew somebody who could help him out up the street. He seemed to grin a little harder as he opened the rear door to Lee’s Rolls and slide into the custom leather seats.
The Firefly was just up the street a few blocks from Santa Monica, on Vine, past Sunset, right before Hollywood Blvd. It was a gateway to hell back then, an area of broken down has beens and never weres that were covered in the grime of desperation and failure. New York might have been going belly up, but Hollywood was running on fumes and the distant memory of a golden era that had turned to dry parchment and blown down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams in a Santa Ana wind condition. We sidled up to the bar and Lee immediately did a search of the room for loose women or hookers. It was a little early and there was a broad leaving as we came into the bar and a guy at the bar called after her, “I’ll be waiting here, baby!” in a lost, but familiar voice.
Right away I realized it was none other than John Belushi, the reigning clown in town at the time, sitting at the bar and holding what appeared to be a black orb in one hand while waving to the hooker who was already gone out the door. I knew right away he had just been beat for some cash and was not going to be fulfilled by the chick who just bounced out the door. I sensed the opportunity to make a buck that I was hoping for and since Iggy was on the temporary busted list, I figured chatting up Belushi was my answer.
The Firefly was my base of operations back then and I had no problem clearing away enough space for me and my incongruous entourage and letting Lee order us all a round. He asked if the bar took plastic and the bartender said no, so he immediately turned to me and said “Look, kid, I don’t want anything stopping my momentum right now, and I am not going to call it a night this early, so I got this Oyster Sub-Mariner right here for whatever you think is fair”…” I interrupted him, “Look,” I said, “I could give you a cash loan for the night, I figure your good for it, I got a map to the stars homes, so I know where you live.” I ended with a knowing smile that emphasized his offer of collateral was definitely necessary to get anything from me. Lee laughed, “Why you shifty Mother Fucker, I knew there was something about you that smacked of WOP or something. Look, I figure you just hold the watch and then I don’t have to worry about it, and I’ll know you will settle up right since you wanna keep bringing that pussy out to Beverly Hills for dinner.” He was right on the money and I took the watch and slipped it on for a sizing after slipping him five crisp hundreds out of my pocket. Lee sat one of the c-notes on the bar and said, “I want a fifth of Cutty Sark and a high ball with ice and give the bar a round on me.”
The Firefly was a den of vice and dope, but if you were a mark it would be a lesson in futility trying to wrest a high out of there. Belushi had given an order and his cash to the hooker with a heart of gold who had made a beeline for the door as we arrived, and after talking with him for a couple of minutes I had figured out why. He had been on a bender for days and was barely able to make sense. It seemed he was in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont on The Strip and his dealer had cut him off and he was certain that he was under surveillance. He had come down here looking for some action and none was willing to deal with Mr. Obvious until the girl, who was probably given the green light by one of the Samoan Brothers who ran the place, took the initiative and his bread and won’t be back until tomorrow, with a story of some hardship that involved losing all the cash, if the trick was still around. I broke the news gently, and it wasn’t hard given his near paranoid state, that the girl wasn’t coming back and if he made a scene this bar had a habit of putting people in cabs headed for the emergency room. I figured if he had enough sense to be talked down from that I might be able to serve him something and send him back to the Strip. Problem was, all the money he had brought with him had been given to the broad that marked him. All he was holding on to was one of those Magic 8 Ball’s that kids play with. The crazy streetwalkin’ chick had given it to him as collateral. He was obsessed with the damn thing, actually looking down at it and giving it jerking shakes while asking me, in a tone that belied his own answer echoing in his frazzled mind, “So, you think she won’t come back with the dope to get this?” I just shook my head and out of the corner of my eye I noticed that my china white connect had moved through the front door and was making her way to the back of the bar where the bathrooms and payphone were. As I rose up to move toward her, the bartender shouted, “Bottoms up or burn em’!” and poured about a pint of 151 down the length of the bar and lit it with his Zippo. A burst of flame blew heat through the smoky bar and diminished into an eerie bluish illumination that sputtered into blackness as the keep wiped down the bar.
I walked up on Alexa as she fumbled through her purse and looked for some more change to make a call. I walked up behind her and growled, “You can save the dime cuz I am right behind you.”, right into her ear. She made her best noir purr and reached over her shoulder to grab me by the back of my head and pull my face into her neck. I instinctively bit down and slid up to her earlobe. She whipped around and put her finger over my mouth as if to shush me and block a kiss. “Bizniss firs, Chagall” she said in her bad girl French, looking through me with obsidian eyes that she inherited from her anarchistic Algerian father who wrote seditionist poetry and was assassinated by the O.A.S. She was the most beautiful homicidal black marketeer I had ever met. She had the best South East Asian in the area and I needed some from her personal stash. She called me Chagall ever since a day we spent out at the Getty and then all night in Topanga Canyon smoking opiated Thai Stick and fucking our brains out. I had commented on how demented Chagall must have been and she said I was her Chagall and that I should paint her nude with a horse or something, and I told her I only painted walls and cars with spray paint. She laughed like a mad dervish and her laughter still echoes in a spinning dance within my memory of that night.
“ Look, baby, I got a couple of live ones over there, but I need some of your personal best to lubricate the event”, I told her with my best puppy eyes looking deep into hers, “make this happen for me and I will move mountains for you tomorrow, oui'?” It wasn’t like she was a light touch, I really wanted her to feel me on the desire and get a lil’ bit of a smile out of her at the same time. And I was more than willing to make it happen however she wanted tomorrow if she did me this favored trading status deal right now. I knew she was holding it and she needed something from me tomorrow, so I knew I was going get my way, I just wanted to play her up for kicks. She was always good for kicks.
“Par vouz, Chagall, I know you will be thinking of me when I dance across your eyelids in the morning, mon frer.” She slides a vial in my pocket as she pulls me closer and kisses my mouth very gently. Her breath smells of French cigarettes and anise and her lips are covered with the essence of the sweet liqeurs that she chases her Absinthe with. I just slowly pull away and breathe back, “Tomorrow.”
She gave me that sideways crazy French chick look and walked away. I fingered the vial in my pocket and knew she had done me justice. It was the longer, sleeker 3 gram type. I figured I would lay off it and call home to see how the girls made out and check in with the news that I would not be around until tomorrow. It kept coming up busy and after about 3 or 4 tries, I surrendered to it.
However, I was now armed with something that was going motivate me to bring this little adventure that had been forming to a head. I saw the pattern before me, Lee was a desolate old soul and wanted a full house, so to speak, booze, drugs and sex, while Iggy was a turbulent beast looking to sharpen his desires and release some demons on the night, only he was cash broke and looking for some opportunity first, and then Belushi was hammered down and spent, he just needed to know he could do a lil’ bit more and run his act into the ground so he could finally get some rest. I figured I had the night to spare, no old lady, no real biz to handle and this was my best opportunity, seeing that I already had a Rolex, the keys to a Rolls and, invariably, the keys to two suites on the strip. It was just a matter of mixing the ingredients and shaking well. Something would loosen up and rise to the top, no worries. Upon approaching my compatriots at the bar, I was feeling an inner confidence that could not be shaken.
As we drove down Hollywood Blvd. in the Rolls and the gents kept their banter up, I figured I might as well drop by on Viva as we approached Gardner heading for Fairfax. I stopped the car and told the gents to wait a minute. I ran up the walk and let myself in the door. I knew I wasn’t going be back until the next evening and that I was going be spent, so I figured I would check in with the little lady and see how she felt in order to ease any guilt that might build up later. It was flimsy, but I figured it would do for the shallow waters of the modeling world. To my surprise the girls were caught in naked embrace on the couch and they slid to the floor and looked up at me like a couple of kids discovered playing doctor. I was a bit uncertain at what my role should be and I didn’t want to give away that I was aroused, that is not any help at all in these situations, unless the recipricoral statement has been made by the ladies first.
“Nina and I were in love before you came into the picture”, Viva muttered at the ground.
“Viva don’t look down, he’s fucking every slut in town. He’s the one that should be ashamed and ask our forgiveness.” Nina burst in before I could say anything to Viva. I knew who was wearing the pants anyway. I was stuck for a second, and kinda wished I had the time to cultivate something out of Nina’s anger, but I couldn’t let this be the reason I took my eyes off the prize. I figured living with a model, especially one as unstable as Viva, was not the answer to any questions about life’s mysteries and would only lead to a “situation” at some point. I just hadn’t figured on this discomfort in particular. I really did like Viva, especially her beauty, of course, but her mind was an amazing thing to behold when I was coming down and wounded from the hustle. She had once taken hours to explain unconditional love to me after I had been out for a couple of days with no sleep. She was a practicing Japanese Buddhist that kept a shrine under her Gohonzen in the bedroom and chanted every day. She baffled me with intellectual contradiction and amazed me with her vigorous spirit and scared me with her psychotic duality. I knew I had little ground to stand on and sentiment had not really been that solid yet, so I just said what came to mind, “I don’t know how to sort this out with you two right now, I need some time, I’ll be back tomorrow. I am very confused right now. “ I turned and headed out the door and ran back to the Rolls. Iggy and Lee were outside the car, Iggy was smoking what at first appeared to be a cigarette, but as I approached, I realized it was a joint of Mexican weed, and Lee was talking to him with arm waving gestures and his loud baritone while holding the Cutty Sark by the neck in one hand and a big Cuban in the other. John looked like an apprehended felon in the back seat of the Rolls, appearing both despondent and sweaty. As I got closer I noticed he was engaged and mumbling slightly at the Magic 8 Ball. I knew I had to get these guys to a hotel room and libations flowing before they turned into pumpkins. That was my purpose. That was how I would get my payoff.
I figured it was time I got myself under control and driving a Rolls around was for the birds right now. I needed to have some intrusion into the world of the three marks. I was going need a limo or a driver. I would rather get the Rolls gone because the flighty Lee might get a wild hair up his ass and cut out into a headline grabbing DUI or, even worse, a car accident that so many of his ilk have achieved posthumous Thalberg awards with. I went back into the apartment, walked in and tried to not even notice the girls on the couch in a tearful embrace. I had to give it to Nina, she was more of a giver and taker than I was. I was not able to be what Viva needed, and I felt a calm come over me with that thought. I was off the hook, as was the bedroom phone. I knew why it had been busy earlier now. I hung it up and dialed the number to the Berdoo Kid, who was going to help me sort out Alexa tomorrow. I called him the Berdoo Kid on a count of the primo crystal that he brought out from his hometown, made by his Uncle who ran the Red and White out there. He was only 16, but sharp as a razor and real quiet on account he smoked weed like a mad Jamaican gangster. He said he was going be at the Firefly in 15 minutes, which meant at least 20 in this Kid’s language. As I hung up, I got an idea about transportation. Before I could make the call, the chant of "Fucker, fucker, fucker!" was coming in from the living room and getting louder each time.
"Look, Nina, the fucker needs to use the phone one more time and then he's gone, so can you give the fucker a fuckin' break right now!"
The moment of silence gave me a glimmer of hope for some making up in a couple of days.
I called Bruno, this limo driver I knew who owed me a favor already. I bounce out of the house followed by the sweetest “Fuck you’s” as I close the door behind me and have the 3 Guvnah’s jump in before I screech back toward the Firefly.
On the way back, I pitch the limo idea to Lee and he abides well enough so as to reassure me he is down for the all nighter at one of the hotels. The term hooker comes up and I assure him I can supply the best. He tells me he has a taste for Asian tonight. I say, “No problemo” and keep it moving. We are back at Hollywood and Vine as the conversation ends.
Bruno shows up at the Firefly and he’s a bit shaky. “You gotta help, man, I’m all crossed up with the guy. I need a break and I need some time. I know I fucked up and I think you’re the only one that can help. I don’t trust anybody else with him.”
I knew he was talking about Eddie Nash and I knew that it was not a place I wanted to be. Eddie liked me, which meant he didn’t shake me down. Which also meant other people thought twice about fucking with me. But, I never acted as if I was in any way able to influence the man. That, I knew from experience, could be suicidal.
I signaled to the barkeep and pointed to Bruno. “Just have a seat over there and we can talk it out.” I told him as I turned to survey the motley crew I had gathered. I knew I had to resolve the issue with Bruno fast and get this show on the road. I wasn’t the only guy plying the trade of social director in the Firefly that night and a hammered celeb of the status of any one of those guys was enough to draw a competitive spirit out of the woodwork, let alone an attempt at a passive-aggressive kidnapping. I could see a couple of sharks circling already. A week prior I had been in a dispute with a pimp who fancied himself a record exec because of his contacts up the street at Capitol. He tried to loud talk me and I told him he was not going do well for himself talking to me like that. He got out of line and they asked him to leave the bar. He went down to Sunset and Normandie and got himself shot by a White Fence cat and everybody was talking about it. Hector, who was in CYA with me a few years back and was currently the defacto sergeant of arms for White Fence, came by the bar and bought me a round afterward. It was one of those things that was really just a lucky coincidence for me. I had no knowledge prior that this guy was going run afoul of White Fence. I don’t think Hector coming by had anything to do with the dude getting smoked. But to patrons and matrons of the Firefly to the Frolic Room to Playboy Liquors to the News Stand on Cahuenga it was rumored that I had White Fence hit the guy. The beauty of it is that’s it’s the type of thing where talking about it too much could cause the kind of problems no one needed, so it was a little bit of breathing room for me, as nobody wanted to find out one way or the other. It was that little bit of drama that gave me the time I needed to make a phone call from the pay phone in the back of the bar so as to get a message to Eddie that I was in pocket with the problem of Bruno and that I was going work out a solution and get back to him, just let me have a night with his limo. I figured if it was bigger than I could handle I would just make the gesture of paying Eddie what a night in a limo would cost and walking away, but I figured, knowing Bruno, that it was some minimal cokehead drama and it would just take an uncomfortable afternoon to work out and I would have a free limo for the weekend.
The Kid shows up and I prep him on what I need from him tomorrow so as to make the deal with Alexa happen. The Kid says he’s got it handled and he had a bindle of blow for me as well. I was always happy and amazed with this youngster’s ability to come up with requests and the results of the phone call was even better than I had expected. There was some money coming to me if I found out some info from Bruno and helped to recover something. It was easy picking and I had until the following Monday to sort it all out. Bruno had to stick with me for his sake and I needed him anyway. I laid it all out for him and got the gents together to make the move over to Iggy’s room he had mentioned at Le Mondrian. Lee asks Bruno what he’s got decanted in the limo and Bruno says he’s out so Lee buy’s another fifth of Cutty Sark from the bar and we all move out the back to the limo. I ask Sammy the Samoan to get Lee’s Rolls-Royce back his agent’s building in Beverly Hills and park it in the back. Lee gives him a c-note for the job and Sammy smiles as he walks off with the keys. We pile in the Limo and Belushi says something about some food along the way and I dismiss it. I know I am not breathing easy until I get these guy’s into the hotel room and get the finances for the evening straight. I know that Iggy can probably get a cash advance from the concierge and I will be able to sort out Belushi and Marvin’s end better once they are in touching distance of their desires. You have to get fish in the barrel before you can shoot them, and I don’t know how much ammo its going to take until I see the size of the barrel.
The barrel in this case was the corner suite looking out to Santa Monica and over the west side. It was a nice view, but I could tell Iggy was agitated. I called over to the Body Shop when we got settled in and told my friend Hassan to send over 4 girls who knew me. They were bored and I figured they could have some drinks before they had to go work the rest of their shift out, since it always picked up a little for them on nights like this toward and after 2 a. m. I have about a gram and a half of blow in a bindle and I know I am gonna throw it down as a teaser in order to get these guys to agree to invest in more, but I know I gotta have some women at least in eyesight for them to really just drop any conservative approach, in other words, stop bullshitting. The girls come up and Belushi is on the couch mumbling to a drink and a Magic 8 Ball while Lee is trying to explain something about Cowboys and Indians to me and Iggy, who is looking around as if someone who owes him is about to appear any minute.
The girls come in all noisy and wild like girls working on the Strip hafta be just to hopefully get noticed above the din of the ego machines revving up and down Sunset and in and out of the all the hotel valet entrances. They notice Iggy first and pay homage to the sinewy rockstar by the casual two on one forearm massage and gratuitous mention of how much they loved his last record and or concert performance. Iggy sneers it off and takes the one who looks the closest to rough trade for a walk to one of the bedrooms. I look at Belushi across the room and figure he won’t be able to handle this with out some Peruvian Spine Fish, so I move past the girls and dump the bindle on the glass coffee table in front of the leather sofa. I stripe out a rail for everyone, girls included, and slice a slurpee straw in half and hand it to John Boy. He hammers one and then takes another, he hands it off to one of the girls and she does the same. I should have figured it would go like that, so I walk over and split the remaining two lines into four. It’s a delicate ballet, I got to get the chum to the fish that serve well on the menu first, without losing it all to the minnows and mackerels that only do well canned. I motion for Lee and the two ladies he is chatting up, but he waves me on and the two girls roam over and take the turns and the last of the booger sugar up their nose.
Now, I have cool nerves on the outside, but inside I felt a little bit of a sinking and crunching feeling at the same time. Lee turning down the chalk point to the nose could prove to be really bad for me. He’s the main roller in pocket, the oldest influence on the room, meaning that Iggy and Belushi would pay up on fat IOU’s to have a debaucherous session of blow, booze and hookers with Lee Marvin, who needed a night of it now more than ever, considering the headlines and media frenzy over his loss of the palimony suit. If Lee went into isolation mode on me and crawled in a Cutty Sark bottle, well, I don’t make any profit off of sales of scotch, so I needed the stakes to be raised and the roof to come off. I knew Lee wanted it, too, or else he would not have engaged me back at Le Dome. He made me for an acceptable source of what he needed and he knew if I was blowing cash on models in Beverly Hills I needed what he had, a bunch of money that he wanted to spend on vice to flip the proverbial bird at the system that had publicly humiliated him. The whole episodic unraveling of the legalese that came with his palimony trial was the death rattle of the bygone era of Hollywood studio execs and their stars having it their way and leaving piles of human wreckage in the wake. The casting couch will never disappear, but the conditions under which the semen drenches it have been somewhat exposed and notarized over the years so as to dictate how casual fucking will take place in an industry of representative contracts that give percentages to lawyers and managers on both sides of every deal.
Girlfriends cannot be taken for granted as easily because they may, after too much exposure to the false power and money and bullshit that comes with Hollywood fame, retain their own representation and pursue their own contract. Lee was a larger than life legend that night and a doorway into a past of decadent capitulation of innocence and artistic excess that we would never know in our shallow technologic blockbuster world that was looming into the 80’s ahead of us. I knew if I could get him to man up then I could get a profitable weekend and a safe place to hide with three other guys that needed to hide out as well. They had all the reasons and I had all the answers to the questions that their reasoning would inspire. As I began to realize the hash I had eaten with dinner was wearing off, along with the fact that I had a vial of high-grade heroin in my pocket and I was going need some more coke and some drinks pretty soon myself, a crashing noise came from the room Iggy had gone into with the girl and a scream followed soon after. The rough trade looking stripper came out in a hurry and Iggy came out after her.
I had forgotten about his mood and the sudden realization that this was going to be a moment of truth came next. It was all I could do to get the girls together and get them out the door as Iggy started to tear paintings off the wall and send them in different directions crashing into furniture and nearly people.
I figured he might burn out on this quickly, but just in case I approached Belushi with the proposition that we might hastily move down the way to the Chateau. He asked me if I had anymore booger sugar and I told him I could get some more, but that meant getting Lee and Iggy in on it and over to his room. “You get the rockstar and I’ll talk to the Sarge.” Belushi spits back in an anxious cokehead burst. I hadn’t realized that John Boy had taken to calling Lee “Sarge”, but the disclosure made me smile and I approached the flailing Iggy with a zen-like attitude that I derived from the humorous moment.
As I watched Iggy struggle with the television and then lumber towards the window, I move in and grab a corner. “I’ll help you toss it out, but I don’t think you can get a cash outlay from the front desk for the downtown train if this comes hurtling down into the pool right now, follow me?” He hesitates for a minute, I could see he was in the grips of insanity, and the thought that I was just another opportunistic shark that should be the next thing out the window definitely crossed his mind, but I had smelled the right blood in the water this time around, that was for sure.
“Fuck it, help me throw this into the coffee table then.” And without missing a beat I aided in sending the TV crashing through the glass coffee table in the sunken living room. It felt good and Iggy looked around at his handy work and then turned to me and said, “I want some real fucking dope, no baby laxative, and none of that stripper coke that bitch tried to give me, I want some real Peruvian fish scale. Now let’s get some cash and get over to the Saturday Night Guy’s hotel. This place is making me sick.”
Sometimes it's just that easy.
I had Bruno bring the car around as I went to the front desk with Mr. Pop and he got a cash advance on the room with some story about the record company sending a Money-Gram tomorrow. He handed me 600 bucks and put 400 in his pocket. It was the same amount last time I set him up with an all night entertainment and refreshment package, and he probably figured I was going collect from the other two, so I didn’t say anything, but I made a mental note that I wasn’t going to let on that I had the CW in my pocket until he released the other 400. If he knew I had that in my pocket he might have jumped me. The guy is from Detroit, after all.
Belushi had done a great job of wrangling the boisterous and incoherent Mr. Marvin to the limo. That fifth of scotch was more than half way gone and Lee was a large, inflatable float in a holiday parade by the time we arrived down the Strip at the Chateau. I knew all of the staff here, as well as the owner, so plying my way to Belushi’s cottage was not difficult, even with my troops in tow. John Boy had been recovering from shooting 1941, which was finishing up and going to come out before Christmas. The guy had been on a severe roller coaster, shuttling back and forth from New York and Chicago. He had a reputation at the hotel for being a good tipper and a voracious party animal. It wasn’t the first time I had been to a cottage blow out that turned out to be his. He got around pretty prodigiously on the Hollywood cokehead circuit. The cottage was orderly, the staff having had put it back together while he was out on his copping run. As we entered, John’s eyes glazed over and he immediately went on a mission looking through all the rooms shouting, “Fuck!” every so often. I could tell he was certain that a stash that didn’t exist had been taken. I had to remind him that I had found him looking for drugs and it was highly unlikely he would have been out looking in his condition had he left something behind. He just glared at me, “It’s not the drugs, its my stuff.” Before it could register completely, I heard him exclaim “A-ha” from one of the bathrooms. He came down the hall with a smile and a little black case in his hand. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Someone had turned John on to the spoon and he had his own hype kit. I was no angel, but I was certain this was the last person who should be in possession of such powers.
I shook it off and looked to over to Lee and Iggy in the main room. I just had to get some cash from Belushi and sort Lee out, get him to agree to a price and set it before he blacked out. There is no palimony route for a dope dealer to take in these cases. I approach Lee with the proposal, “I am going to get some party favors for the gents, what’s your angle on all of this?”
By now Lee was attempting to kill off the last of the Cutty Sark on his own and talking in some sort of sign language backed by an occasional gutteral wail. I concentrated and deciphered that he wanted nothing more but cocaine and chilled vodka from here on out. Belushi saw this and got wise to the whole thing real quick. He knew his night hinged on this old burned out legend manning up and putting up something. Lee grabbed me with his bear paw around the back of my neck and growled “I don’t give a good god damn, keep the watch, I was gonna give it to you anyway. I have one speshific request and you got to make it right for me. I want a hooker,” I had seen this coming, “ a pretty lil’ 12 year old Ashun hooker.” I had not seen that. It wasn’t completely out of the question for other entertainment directors around Hollywood, but I had limits. Still, a ten thousand dollar watch with a promise of cash on top of it was at least worth the hustle. Maybe he would be blind by the time I found an 18 year old that could play the role. It was a long shot. I mean, I know he wouldn’t lose two palimony suits in the same week easily. But I had come this far and it seemed foolish to not hit the Strip and dig. And I knew right where to go to begin my excavation.
It was do or die for John Boy, but he was able to cough a grand and a 500 dollar Traveler’s Check to keep him in the game. The way I saw it I was up pretty good, all I had to do was deliver and babysit until dawn. Then I could take the profit and my limo driver and beat it before any agents, attorney or assistants got wind of my connection to the debauchery. I hopped in the limo outside the Marmont Bar where I told Bruno to wait for me. I told him to head to the Rock N’ Roll Denny’s on Sunset at Vista. I went in and to my relief, I saw the kid. He had told me he would be here later and he was always straight with me. He was sitting at a big table with some people that looked like some local punk rock musicians and a hooker who was trying to stick her tongue in his ear constantly. He had re-upped and had all the blow I needed and a dozen ludes to boot. I figured what the hell, can’t hurt, “Does your friend with the ear fetish have any Asian friends that want to make a fast buck and play 12 year old for me?”
“She might have a wig in the car and little silk geisha top. She’s a lil’ bit hammered, but I have it on good word that she needs to turn a buck tonight.” I look at her real good. If I don’t do this as diplomatic as possible I will have Lee Marvin bad mouthing me, maybe even telling the West Hollywood Sheriff that I stole his watch. A bunch of crap I don’t need right now. I tell him to think about it and see if he can do better as I walk away to the bathroom. The place is seething with pimps, hookers, players and scavengers of all types. Nobody I trust as far as can throw them is in sight. It's a real Denny's of iniquity at that moment. I decide to walk out the door to get some fresh air instead of the toilet. I am stressed and I am aching for a taste of the top drawer number four in my pocket. I figure its on a reward basis at this point, and I am far from earning it yet, so I roll out the front door and exhale fast and breathe in slow and deep. As I let it out, I catch the most out of place sight I might have ever seen that time of night right there on the corner. An adolescent girl in a girl scout outfit plying cookies to a couple of pimps by the newspaper machines. I couldn’t believe it, she was even making the sale. The two men in the mohair suits and wide brims paid her with a crisp 5 spot each and made off with their cookies, slapping skin and laughing. I approached with a mixture of awe and caution.
“Excuse me, are all those cookies for sale?”, I asked in a way that was cordial and attempting to hide my disbelief.
“I have to get cash for these to get out of some trouble I’m in,” she said in an almost demure voice that gave her up as calm, which meant she didn’t know how deep she was in it on this corner, at this time of night, or she was missing the parts that would make her care, “the orders got screwed up and I need sell these before I go home tonight.” I look down at the shopping bag with about a couple dozen or so boxes of Girl Scout cookies. It had been a long time since I had actually seen Girl Scout cookies, let alone a genuine Girl Scout holding on to them and let alone her slinging them on what I considered my little chunk of real estate in Hollywood. “How would you like to have it all done, so you could feel free of the worry and help me out at the same time?” I knew I was crossing a serious line, this was someone’s little girl, someone's daughter, but there was something so matter of fact about her being there right then that I just had to make the pitch. Her eyes narrowed in the most unexpected way, my hair stood on the back of my neck. “Look, Mister, I am just selling cookies. You think you’re the first person to make an offer for me?” I dropped back in shock a little, but I didn’t let it show, I had reflexes, she hadn’t cracked my veneer yet, but she sure was amazing. I honestly didn’t know where I was going to take it. Then it just came to me, what the hell. Give her the bottom line and be done with it. I’d buy her out just to see her get the hell out of there, but I couldn’t escape the idea that she could be the perfect ruse. I heard a voice in my head saying something like, “I wouldn’t let him go through with it, just dangle her past him and then have the kid’s blow job queen step in while she was safely in the limo and on her way back to Los Feliz", which I had observed on her uniform’s badge. The craziest thought overcame me just then, don’t waste this kids time with small talk, make the proposition to her, she can take it or leave it, either I have to stay in motion. It was crazy, but something was skewed after all I had been through that night, anyway.
“Look, I got an actor who is drunk and wants to see a little Asian girl right now back up the Strip at a hotel. I fix you up in a minute with some make up and a costume, you pass for the Asian girl, 15 minutes in and out, you get a ride in a limo back to Los Feliz and I buy out all your cookies and give you 20 bucks. Nobody lays a hand on you, you have my word and you will be home within an hour.” I almost forgot to breath, I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation. And then it got weird.
“I think you give me forty bucks, and I want a root beer float and if anyone tries anything you will live in a world of regret for the rest of your life, so help me God.” Now I am floored, like never before in my life. I can’t believe I am about to agree to these particulars and attempt this. All of sudden I see how this could go wrong in so many ways, but I know its got this outside chance of being some weird personal triumph if I pull it off. My inner world is that twisted. I am hooked like a fish and I can’t shake it now. I do what I always do at this juncture, and I offer my hand as I look around to see if anyone might notice I am about to commit the most serious felony in all my experience. She takes it in a firm yet childish grip and shakes it. Done fucking deal. My path to hell is lit with blazing torches.
As I rush her in the Denny’s and straight back to the bathroom, I motion for the Kid and he jumps nearly over the table and almost knocks over a nodding out tranny hooker. He catches up as I slide in the bathroom past a complaining drag queen that I give a ten spot to and exclaim my daughter has to “go” before she has an accident. I pull the kid in and grab him by his collar, “Look, I need your broad to give me one of those scant silk geisha numbers and I need some black shoe polish, mascara, blue eye shadow, red lipstick and gloss and a pair of chopsticks pronto.” The Kid looks at me in disbelief. He bolts and returns with the stuff and the hooker in what seemed like seconds. I go to work on her hair and the hooker helps her off with Girl Scout uniform, which she puts in the bag with the cookies. She slips on the top and the hooker applies the eye and lip make up. As the transformation is occurring, she looks at the bag of cookies and I can tell she is thinking something. I am internally awestruck. She is almost perfect, like she was fresh off of a slow boat from China, and the chopsticks in her hair set it off just right.
"I want to be an actress when I grow up, but not one of those dumb ones.” She says this as she keeps glancing down at the bag and her uniform. “This is just like a professional acting job, right?”
“Yeah, Sweetie, I’m an actress, too.” The hooker opens her mouth, which was a relief to me because I was really feeling like this was the worst idea I had ever had and I wanted out of it already. I knew the score for a guy like me in Chino with the jacket that this case came with. I almost called the audible to opt out, when she came back with,”I thought you were a hooker. Are you bullshitting me?”
There was an uncomfortable pause of silence and the Kid’s girl did the most redeeming thing I could imagine. “Yeah, hun, I’m a hooker. But I have had some background parts here and there.”
In a dirty, grimy Denny's bathroom on Sunset, a little honesty is like a box of some ultra-powerful Glade air freshener.
The bullshit at the end was forgivable, it sold me. No audible, we were doing God’s work. I was shaky, stood back turned around in the cramped bathroom and did a little toot of the heroin. Nobody noticed, it seemed. I felt the warm gush as it ran down the back of my throat in its burned sugar after taste. This was the goods, primo dopa. I was starting to drift and then she said, right to me. “I want to keep the cookies and you still pay for them.”
I was stunned. She was renegotiating and I was in a vulnerable spot. I had to keep it moving, “Fuck it, at least give me four boxes.” I could feel her sizing me up, it was starting to give me the creeps. “I’ll give you two, that’s it. Final.”
“Final?”, I would have cracked anyone else in half for backing me in a corner like that, “Fine, fine,…final.”
“Shake on it.” She said as she reached out her hand, her shake seemed a lot firmer this time, almost making me withdraw. She was looking directly into my eyes, which were starting to swim away like sharks becoming minnows. “I think we’re ready", said the kid’s hooker. I suddenly became aware I didn’t know her name. I figured she would just offer a fake one anyway. Keep it moving was my theme song, so I opened the door and we made for the parking lot and Bruno, who was really taken aback by what he saw. He was in no position to judge me for anything, but anybody would be a little apprehensive about the sight of a 12 year old Asian prostitute coming out of Rock N’ Roll Denny’s and getting into their limousine. He easily was weighing whether or not the trouble with Eddie Nash was easier to beat than the beef he was suddenly an accomplice to. I shot him the look. I meant business like a motherfucker now. No backing out, the deal was sealed and the messenger was en route.
On the drive down the Strip back to the Chateau, I worked on all the particulars. I gave the girl, who said her name was Beth, the money and some to the kid’s girl along with their instructions. Beth would be introduced to the burley actor in his stupor, the drugs would be a distraction and when I gave the signal, Beth would slide out the door and the hooker would come in. The kid was going be outside the door and whisk young Beth away to the limo, no one the wiser. I just needed what they called an establishing shot in the film biz. Once it was done the drugs came out and the lights went down and the switch was made. It was foolproof in my mind, which was softened by all the activity and the opiates, which, by the way, was turning into a terrible itch. I was so sold on my genius so much that I was rewarding myself in my mind many times over already. The sideshow of drug obsession was in full effect in the wings of my one act theater of a brain.
As I entered the room, Lee was blind and ready as ever to play the greatest role in the greatest script he would never really know he was a part of. Beth had tried some broken English accent out in the car and she was working it to perfection. I was so pleased with how it was going so I snuck another blast of the China White. Belushi looked at me like I was the reincarnation of Fagan himself and just kept his distance. Iggy grunted like an animal and went to the window. He asked about the “goodies”. I produced the sizeable bag of yayo and did the Hollywood baggie service of dumping it all out on the black onyx table top. Iggy came in and did a bump, then a bigger snort and choked on the drainage in approval. He looked at the scene and seemed disinterested. I watched across the room as Lee marveled at his diminutive mamsan. I slid the ludes out on the table. Something inside clicked for a second and I told Iggy that the dope would be here momentarily, but he could have a qualuude for now. He took one and snorted his brash attitude at me, swallowing the lude as he walked into the front room down the hall and looked out the huge French floor to ceiling window like Lord Byron in exile.
It was about time to do the switch, but Beth was keeping the old man at bay pretty well. My itch was a full blown ache and I figured this moment had reward written all over it, I was a genius. And fuck what Iggy is going through. These celebrity types always want the world for their easy come, easy go money and I felt like he was holding out on 400 bucks, anyway. Well, Mr. Pop was going to have to wait until I took care of me for a change. It was a small victory, but I was going to take it. I took out my personal kit and walked over to the other side of the table from where John Boy was already working his coke up. “Fucking amateur,” I thought as I went to work and poured a glass of water from a bottle of French stuff on the table. I took an issue of the blow, which I had coming, I needed a rush as a payoff for the job well done, and then I took the vial from my pocket and tapped out a good enough hit to where I would feel the warm rush, but not boot my Le Dome dinner menu all over the room. I look toward the front room to make sure Iggy was still preoccupied with the voices coming from the curtains. The dope was so high grade, I didn’t need to cook it, really, which was perfect because that would tip off Iggy that I had something other than blow in my spoon. Suddenly Belushi is sweating and moving closer to my side of the table in his comedic stealth mode, which would have been funny under any other circumstances. “I want some of that now, please.” I was in sudden disbelief, as this could turn into an incident very quickly. I had to think, but Belushi was yammering away before I could think. “Alright, alright, you got me, I held out, here is my last 500. Just give me a taste now, please, dear God. Dear God.” He was saying God with the clenched teeth of an evangelical. He was a genius and larger than life most of the time, but hunched over with his sweaty mitts holding out that SNL/1941 petty cash he looked small and weak. I noticed the Magic 8 Ball on the table and I picked it up and gave it a whirl. I didn’t need to know how it bubbled up, I just gave in and dumped a little match tip of the China White in his spoon that he had brought closer. I looked up at Beth across the room and I shouted, “Hey, Mama San, catch this and put it in your bag after you tell me your fortune.” She makes a great catch, but it stirs Lee in a strange way. “Fuck it, almost done, reward time now,” my little mind tells my big mind.
I look at Belushi, who is getting ready to draw it up in his own rig like I had done in mine. I scooped his money into my pockets as I looked out for Iggy. All clear, so I clench my fist, hit my vein and send it home without even tying off. I noticed Lee slowly lunging out of the chair towards Beth as I sent the shot home. Even with the helicopters beating their props in my head I could see he was intent on groping her. The warm rush of the downtown train was beginning to roll through every station on my spine, making it difficult to reconnoiter the situation. My reflexes somehow kicked in through the intense waves of the rush and I slid forward and kicked an ottoman across the room and right into Mr. Marvin’s shin, tumbling him to his face. He grumbled something that sounded like, “Sommabitch.” But I couldn’t be sure. I was in the depths of my own speedball psychosis and it was going take a second or two to shake it off.
As I came back to reality, I saw that Beth had moved too close to Mr. SNL and he was trying to get her to hold him off so he could fix. He was about to corner her and she looked like she was about to scream. “Fucking punk ass.” I thought. Then out of nowhere Iggy slides in between John Boy and Beth and fixes Belushi quicker than I could spit and licks the blood off his arm and then off the tip of the point on the syringe as John nods backward to the floor. “There’s a two thousand dollar high for a movie star if I ever saw one.” Iggy cackles as he just fixes his gaze on me. It’s a knowing glance, like he could smell the Chinese medicine in my pocket. I realize at that moment, he’s known I’ve had it all along.
I move as quickly as possible for a creature in my state, over to Beth, grabbing her by the arm and rushing her to the door. “Scram, Kid, and don’t ever look back.” I notice the Magic 8 Ball in her hand as I scoot her out and the hooker rushes in. She looks back over her shoulder and I almost kick her in the ass, but I know what she saw in that moment had wised her up beyond her years and she had had enough for now.
As the door closes behind her and the hooker moves over to the crumpled Lee on the floor, I lock eyes with Iggy again. I know I am going to have to break bread with him now, but it’s worth it to keep him from breaking shit up for a moment and having some type of peacefulness for a change. Belushi is down for the count, the Magic 8 Ball has left with Beth and Lee rolls over and mumbles out loud, “Give me some spackle for my nose and some vodka for my gut…and call another hooker, that bitch wasn’t even Asian.”