Summer ’86: Part XXIII

My next insertion would be in La-La Land where I hoped to look up Bernard Sachel, not exactly an old friend but an acquaintance that I had met via my friend Bonnie Miller at a party in Denver.  From Huntington Beach I had made my way through a web of freeways to Hollywood Boulevard where I found the Holiday Inn Hotel. It was the first time and probably the last time I would ever check into a high-rise.  I could only rationalize my unnatural behavior by the fact that I wanted to be at “ground zero”, that is, close to the action.  The hotel was truly in the middle of things as I took an afternoon stroll down the famous boulevard past the historic Grumman’s Chinese Theater with its handprints of movie stars imbedded in the concrete sidewalk. I knelt down and discovered Gary Cooper and I had the same size hand.  As I walked back to The Inn, I noticed that the fabled streetscape seemed to have deteriorated somewhat into a strip of tawdry retailers, but its downward spiral had obviously not stemmed the tide of tourists and locals who were still flooding the sidewalks where even hookers were plying their trade.

After elevating to my tenth floor room, I stood at the window gazing out at the incredible sprawl of Los Angeles.  I couldn’t help but recall that 60 or 70 years ago the verdant valley below was once only a smattering of small towns connected by an interurban trolley system operated by the Pacific Electric Company. And just like the railroads that literally spawned new towns during the country’s westward expansion, the interurban tracks were laid first and then development followed suit, reaching as far east as San Bernardino and as far south as Long Beach. Sadly, the interurban’s usefulness lasted barely forty years, and as the saying goes, “The last day the last trolley track was ripped up was the first day the smog settled in” (referring to all the freeways that superceded the trolleys).

I finally got around to calling Bernard and he offered to come by and pick me up. Out of curiosity, I asked him where he lived and he responded, “I’m in Inglewood and should be there in fifteen minutes.” I checked my map to find he was a good ten miles away, a relatively short distance by LA standards.  Once in his BMW he gave me a tour of the exclusive Rodeo Drive with its glitzy Rolls Royce, Chanel, and Gucci storefronts. Mr. Sachel was nattily dressed for the occasion, but then I figured he was still in his dress dudes from his daily stint as a commercial realtor.  I myself was duded up in a sport jacket and slacks so we were ready to roll.  We stopped for a drink and hors d’oeuvres at a place called GRECO’S that was teeming with the handsome of Hollywood, especially on the distaff side.  I said to my friend, “Bernard, now this is what I call a target-rich environment.”

We then cruised Sunset Boulevard that was like a parade of the absurd with weirdoes strutting their stuff along the sidewalks in unimaginable attire like glossy jeans, flashy multi-colored T-shirts, and Mohawk-style haircuts.  Bernard, noticing my goggled-eyed expression, said, “Welcome to LA. You would never find this in Denver.”  We stopped at one more nightspot on Sunset Blvd. where there was a “stretch” limo parked in front.  Just for the fun of it, I paced off the length and found it to be a little more than 22 feet bumper-to-bumper!  I was aghast and Bernard said, “Hey, this is just standard issue in Hollywood.” I figured that incredible length had to be supported by a couple of 18 inch deep steel I-beams.

Once inside the very fashionable bar/restaurant I noticed more of Hollywood’s finest were patronizing the place where most of them appeared to be in their 30s and 40s. Bernard met several of his cronies with back-slapping glad-handing smile-flashing greetings in his own inimitable style.  I had my own game in mind which was conducting a survey of how many miles some of the patrons had driven for a night’s entertainment.  Naturally, my interviews were restricted to the female sector and I found all the young ladies very receptive to my questionnaires.  My stock opener was, “Excuse me, I’m from out of town and was just curious as to where you lived in the LA area one how far did you drive to get here.”  I have found that nine out of ten Americans have an obsession with traveling times and would respond to such a question in terms of minutes (or hours) rather than miles, which most of my acquaintances did.  However, they all told me where they lived that were predominantly in far-flung towns such as Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Newport Beach.  I mentally calculated that they had driven astronomical distances as far as I was concerned.  I asked one lady, “You mean to tell me you’d drive 50 miles for a couple of drinks to find Mr. Right?”  She politely replied, “You darn right I would. This is where the action is. Honey, welcome to LA.”

Well, after all the posturing with pretty women, I had to settle for a ride back to the hotel with Bernard.  I couldn’t have cared less because Bernard had really gone out of his way to show me a good time.  As we parted, I had to say, “I just want to mention, Bernard ol’ boy, how much I appreciate you taking me around to the glamour spots of Hollywood. I couldn’t have known where to go without you.  You’re a good friend to have in LA.”  He replied, “It was my pleasure.  I’m so glad you took the time to look me up.”  I retired to my room and took one last look out at the glittering cityscape of LaLa Land. As I reposed in my king-size bed, I could only think about what a beautiful day it had been.