Sunday, August 31, 2014


Spin & Marty 

I flattened myself out on the green-painted deck of Veteran’s Memorial Park Pool, abandoning myself to the sun, to the summer heat, daydreaming the afternoon away. Vet Mem was from another era—even in the late ‘60s.  It belonged to an America that was slowly slipping away with incidents like Kent State, Altamont, hippies and Black Panthers becoming a sleekly mainstream watermark of current events like the  bloody footage of Vietnam on the news every night, “our” boys at My Lai.   But in Middletown, Connecticut, at Vet Mem Park, veterans were still treated with respect, and old values steadfastly clung to the wooded, landscaped grounds. Spring water bubbled up from a pipe, fresh and freezing cold.  There was a petting zoo with goats, lambs, chickens, bunnies and four or five beautiful fallow deer, butting each other and rubbing their newly developed antlers up against tree trunks to ease the itching.  They were the kind of deer that looked like fawns all their lives, with white flag tails and Bambi spots on their backs.  When you’d hold up some weeds or a carrot brought from home, they’d shove their wet obsidian, squared-off noses through the openings in the Cyclone fence, nudging almost desperately at your hand.

The pool itself was located in an ugly post-World War II cinderblock building, painted a jarring, chalky, Atomic Age turquoise.  For a quarter you rented a locking wire-mesh basket to your bathing suite and held the key while you swam. I’d watch the older girls and women change, trying to get a glimpse of heir bodies, and imagine what it would be like to look like that, or touch grown-up flesh not quite as taut as my own.  The women I spied on all had swaying breasts, thighs milky white in the light filtering through the screened-in windows.  Still just a kid, I’d carry my rolled-up towel to the snack bar and buy Jujubes or Snow-Caps or Junior Mints—movie candy, really—for a dime.  Then I’d spread my towel out on one of the splintery wooden chaise lounges, or maybe just keep it balled up on the grass so it wouldn’t get wet, while I spent the next three or four hours racing, doing cannonballs off the sides of the pool, or if you were old enough (and I was just getting to the), flirting with the lifeguard on duty.  I was at “that awkward age” –still wanting to dunk my little brother, race with the boys, but just beginning to notice the mating dances going on all around me.

There were a couple of lifeguards and  they were almost interchangeable.  Both were cute, bronze, with shaggy, Sun-In bleached Bobby Sherman hair.  They were lithe and tan in baggy, faded swimming trunks, with shiny silver whistles on lanyards, dangling onto their thousands-of-yards-of-Mark-Spitz-Butterfly Stroke pecs.  The lifeguards were perfect objects for testing the waters  for real flirting, and  I spied on the girls who tried to get the lifeguards’ attention, as well as spying on the lifeguards’ girlfriends, who were really pretty.  

The sun was still high at four p.m., but by that time I’d be a little whipped from all the chlorine and fancy diving, remembering to keep my legs together and as straight as possible, toes curled, chest out and back arched.  Exhausted, I’d get as flat as possible, deeply inhaling the intoxicating summer smell of pool water on hot concrete, mixed with the cocoa-butter smell of Coppertone lotion which had been seeping into the concrete and floating on the water in a thin film all summer long.  It smelled good enough to eat.  There’d be laughter in the background, blasts from the lifeguard’s whistle, and, of course, staticy Top Forty coming from someone’s small, tinny transistor radio.  I’d be covered in little droplets of chlorinated water in my snugly fitting royal blue one-piece with the nautical red star hanging just above my belly button like a military decoration.  I was daydreaming of what life would be like as a teenager.

Time seemed to move slower back then, but my body could sense adolescence was approaching rapidly.  My friends in school were already giggling about boys—though I couldn’t see being interested in my classmates when there were lifeguards around.  My mother worked in the Theatre Department at Wesleyan university, and I had a number of crushes on Theatre Majors, mostly artsy, scruffy hippie-types.  Even though the Summer Of Love wasn’t too far in the past, the lifeguards at Vet Mem held a different sort of fascination for me, in a Tiger Beat magazine kind of way.  The lifeguards seemed all about Teen Promise, proms and shit like that.  The boys in my class looked like Timmy from Lassie in their drip-dry Sears plaid shirts, and the J.C. Penney’s jeans that had elastic insets in the back of the waist panel were hardly what one would term “attractive.”  Most of the boys looked like they hadn’t figured out how to wash their own ears yet, and many of the girls towered over them, even in sneakers.  They were just boys –little kids.  I didn’t want Timmy from Lassie, I wanted Spin and Marty – long, tall dangerous teenagers with musclely arms and flat stomachs under clean white Hanes t-shirts and faded, baggy Levi’s. 

Spin and Marty were in a black and white Disney series and lived on a dude ranch.  They were always on horseback.  They looked strong and capable, gentle when they handled livestock, more interesting when they handled rope lariats and rifles.  Spin was wilder, Marty a little more compassionate, but they both had sun-bleached butch buzzcuts under their trashed straw cowboy hats.  They dragged their boots and mumbled, looked like they knew how to smoke, swear, and especially kiss.  Annette, Darlene, and Doreen from The Mickey Mouse Club always guest-starred as either Spin or Marty’s love interest.  I hated Annette, was jealous of Darlene, but Doreen was attractive in a slutty, back-seat-of-the-car-at-a-drive-in way.  When she kissed Spin on a hayride in one episode, I got an immediate stomachache.  I didn’t have the foggiest notion of what desire was at that point, I just thought the butterflies were because of something I’d eaten.  Still, I watched Spin and Marty religiously, and the stomachaches became more and more frequent.  Boys my own age were out of the question.  Lying by the Vet Mem pool that summer was almost like being encased in a chrysalis, sleeping, waiting for adulthood.  It was palpable.

Nowadays, all lifeguards look young and callow to me, too straight arrow and blank, like the good-looking boys and girls on Baywatch.  Except for Pamela Anderson—who had that awesome  Doreen/drive-in movie whorey look.  Spin and Marty are a faded black and white memory from the past.  When was the last time I saw one of their episodes, before Watergate?  I realize how they helped to shape my perception of sexual attractiveness—long limbs, pretty faces, smooth androgynous chests… and sometimes, in moments of sheer perversity, I can’t help but imagine the fate that befalls  the black and white  era ex-Disney stars, those clean cut, adolescent Midnight Cowboys.  Maybe it was Doreen that I’d heard had been in jail for writing bad checks, I’m not sure.  And poor Annette, Rest In Peace.

I imagine Spin old and haggard now, perhaps living in a one-bedroom dump in Tujunga, skin red from years of outdoor work, a few divorces, a failed Country and Western career, an  alcohol problem.  Maybe he got into Meth or something.  Marty probably grew up fey and latent queer –maybe he hustled when the agents stopped calling and the parts stopped being offered.  Did some hardcore porn in the ‘70’s.  Maybe I’d even bumped into one of them at a K-Mart or bought something from one from them at a swap meet!  You never know.  And whatever happed to Timmy?  Child stars, childhood.  We really were innocent back then.  Nobody would even make a kid’s show about a dude ranch anymore, no way.

These days, the idea of going to a public pool is repellent to me, and not just because of athlete’s foot and pee-water.  Drugs for sale, gang violence, molestations, petty crimes in the locker rooms.  If I had kids, I wouldn’t let them go no matter how hot it got.  They’d have to be satisfied with seeing Baywatch reruns.  And look who Pamela Anderson Lee is with now.  She probably preferred Spin to Marty, too.  Even the beach is too polluted to visit.  Do they eve even show Spin and Marty anymore?

Oh man…those long, lazy preteen summer afternoons at Vet Mem—suntan lotion and candy, lifeguards, covert spying missions, waiting for my period to come, waiting for some kind of indefinable action.  Testing the waters of my own undiscovered sexuality.

 And as for daydreams?  Well... who has the time?


 The story you’ve just read is from my book Escape From Houdini Mountain ,  signed copies available here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I’m sitting in the airport lounge at Orly, waiting for a plane down to Nice, on my way to the Cannes Film Festival  because I have a song in a movie that’s premiering there. This is a long-anticipated trip to the French Riviera for a week of glamour and glitter and the languid turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. I'm expecting  endless parties, shots and yachts and Bain de Soleil-covered Euro-trash slime with expense accounts, their pockets full of designer drugs. 

The only problem is, I’m a basket case, a complete and total wreck.  I’ve just been cruelly abandoned by my Swiss lover in Paris, left in a tiny Eight Arrondissement hotel room with a broken shower and I can’t stop crying.  In my thoughts, I feel as though there’s been an attempt on my life, so  I’m now  referring to my  horribly sadistic now-ex lover as The Assassin.

 As Murphy’s Law would have it, on the plane I’m seated next to a woman with a squalling toddler who won’t stop screaming and throwing spit-covered cookies the entire way, no matter how many times she slaps him and yells, “ARRETE!”  I’m feeling like screaming out loud myself, chain smoking in the lav and popping what little crumbs of Xanas I can find left in the bottom of my make-up bag.

The only good part of this situation is that I am meeting Steve, the film’s director, and even thought I don’t know him that well, we had an instant rapport—more like a psychic bond. He can make me laugh, and we both have the exact same taste in men.  Steve’s waiting   for me with the rest of the cast in Juan-Les-Pins

   When we land,  I have the option of taking a cab for $96.00 American dollars, or a bus for , like six bucks. I opt for the bus due to finances. The bus makes God-knows-how many stops on the way to Juan_Les Pins, and isn’t air conditioned. Needless to say, the crying hasn’t abated.   Finally the bus dumps me and my suitcase off in the middle of the town square nowhere near the hotel so of course it’s ninety degrees at four in the afternoon and I have a hoof it.

By the time I finally get to the hotel drenched in sweat, the crying has stopped, having been replaced by a growing rage, a by-the-book classic case of Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. A mere twenty minutes ago, I’d been contemplating suicide, but now I’m having a miraculous epiphany similar to what Helen Keller must have experienced at the pump when Annie Sullivan spelled out the sign language for “water” into her hand.

 It dawns upon me:  what I need is another cock in me as soon as possible to erase any trace of my beastly beloved Assassin.  I mean, if one can’t get laid on the fuckin’ French Riviera, one must really be a loser, baby!  With game resignation, I steel myself for what is sure to become a one-woman slutfest, “Debbie Does Cannes”!  If I can’t get a tumble or two during the Festival, there’ll be plenty of time for suicide later!

The hotel is sumptuous, a converted old villa surrounded by wildly colorful exotic gardens, and my room has a view of the water with a massive yacht on the horizon.  A good omen, I think, as is the huge bathtub with a working shower.  I run a bath, guzzle a couple of cocktails from the mini-bar, lick up the Xanax dust from the bottom of my pill box, and relax on the gigantic soft bed, a cool washcloth over my tear –swollen eyes, the sea breeze from the open French doors gently caressing my body. With utmost care, I apply super-vixen make-up and select a skintight, midriff-baring royal blue crushed velvet dress with a hip-level slit up one side, earrings that would put any chandelier to shame, fishnets, and disgustingly high platforms.  I feel like Brigitte Bardot on a lost weekend and get down to dinner just when everyone is being seated.

We have our own private dining room with a full staff of tuxedoed waiters just for us hovering anxiously, pulling out the chairs for each woman present.  There are freshly cut, sky-high bouquets of flowers everywhere—the room is redolent with their heady fragrance.  The place settings feature nine million forks, fine china plates stacked on top of each other and way too many wine glasses and goblets for a crowd of Americans.   On top of the floral notes in the air is the tantalizing aroma of Provencal cuisine.  Taking it all in, I’m  now a ringer for Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:

 “A girl like I could get used to this!” 

In fact, I’m feeling so good, all thoughts of murderous revenge on The Assassin have temporarily been banished from my head.  I’m actually participating in small talk, able to put aside my obsessive, pathetic psycho-drama and be the scintillating dinner conversationalist I was pre-Paris.  Steve is being brilliant, sarcastic and witty, and as the encyclopedia-sized, calligraphed menu finds its way into my hands, I’m not even forcing myself to laugh at what he’s asking for “dangerous” vin rouge.

When I look up to see the wine stewards’ reaction (when, if ever, is expensive wine referred to by a diner as dangerous?) I’m momentarily stunned.  Isn’t a sommelier supposed to look like a French  version of W.C. Fields, a fat, balding old man with a Dali-esque mustache under a gin (or perhaps vin rouge) blossom nose?

 Well, this one didn’t.  Mais non!

 This sommelier couldn’t have been a day over twenty-four and, to be perfectly frank, adorable can’t begin to describe him!  He has a shiny midnight pompadour more elegant than hoody, a swarthy sun-kissed complexion, slanting liquid black eyes, dazzling white teeth, and excruciating cheekbones.  His lips are full and it’s clear he’s amused at Steve’s comment, trying unsuccessfully to maintain decorum and not let his mischievous smirk show. 

My menu fell—by accident?—from my hands onto the table and knocked a couple of forks onto the marble floor with a loud clatter, which happily focused the wine steward’s attention on little old  moi.  Steve immediately shot me a knowing glance which no one at the table caught, but which the wine steward didn’t miss.  Thus begins a three-way flirtation, a ballet of veiled glances, raised eyebrows, lightning-quick smiles and half-French, half-English double entendres, which lasts for the duration of the dinner.

Halfway through the third course, I get out a cigarette and, just as I expected, the wine steward is, at the speed of light, holding a flaming match before me.  Like a 1940’s movie star, I steady his hand with mine, and gazing into his eyes, slowly French (how utterly apropos!) inhale.

Man, what’d ya do to rate that? asks Steve’s sister, the star of the film, sounding vaguely annoyed.
  “I’ve been lighting my own smokes all night!”

Steve beams approval from across the table, then gets out his own cigarette, to see if he warrants the same kind of service.  Happily, he does.

After dinner, stuffed to the gills and more than a little tipsy due to the endless variety of wines Steve just happened to order, we repair to the hotel’s bar to drink more.  As luck would have it, our gorgeous sommelier is our server there, too.  In between  bringing little wire baskets housing bottles of finely  aged wines for Steve’s approval, we speculate upon the sexual orientation of our mutual crush, exclaim over how dashing he looks in his tux and crisp, starched’n’spotless white calf-length apron, and make good-natured bets on who can pick him up first.

  Much to the amusement of the film’s entourage who’ve by now picked up on our hijinks, this goes on for three nights of us sitting in the bar, giggling like maniacal sex-crazed teens, flirting and being flirted with shamelessly.  Midway through the third night, I’m just impatient -and drunk- enough to make my move.

“Encore de vin rouge, Mademoiselle?”  asks the sommelier, his eyes intent upon mine, one eyebrow raised in a question I’m surely not imagining.

“Oui merci, Monieur,”  I reply, breathlessly, daintily holding my empty glass to be filled, the very picture of Finishing School Etiquette.  Then, momentarily abandoning my pidgin French and turning into Ms. Hyde, lapsing into the All-American hoarse whisper of a john soliciting a hooker, I say,

 “So… what’re you doing later?”

Steve practically chokes on his vin rouge, while Mssr. Sommelier’s eyes open wide, and he whispers back,

“I am off… eh…at eleven, but… eh… we must meet in the park across the street.”

Fortuitously, it’s 10:30, so Steve and I finish our wine and to go lurk in the shadows, under a eucalyptus tree shrouded in fog for our Liason Dangeruese.  Presently the wine steward appears in his street clothes—Euro-Trash Au Go-Go—and we walk to a nearby tiki bar called Pam-Pam.

  Seated on rattan chairs with Hawaiian print pillows, our conversation nearly drowned by the incessant techno pounding from the speakers,we order Perrier menthes because we’re too drunk to ingest any more liquor.  We grill our conquest, discover that his name is Gregory, he’s been working at the hotel for only a few days, has two tattoos, and is straight.  With that last detail revealed, Steve gracefully bows out, with a  You Win shrug.  Greg and I hang out for awhile, conversing mostly in pantomime, halfway due to the techno, but mainly because neither of us is too adept at each other’s native tongue.  We leave the bar and walk along the beach, then go back to his car so he can drive me to the hotel.

By now, the ocean fog has become thick and murky, I’m wearing Greg’s jacket over my slinky dress to ward off the chill.  It’s so damp that the windshield of his car is covered in condensation, and he can’t get the motor started.  We sit inside the car as he tries over and over to fire the engine, the whole time muttering “Aaaah, merde!”  under his breath.

 To me, the car sounds suspiciously like my own back home when the weather is wet.  In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I’d called AAA because my car wouldn’t start, and when the tow-truck arrived, the driver told me to turn my key in the ignition, and whacked my distributor cap sharply with a wrench, which started the car immediately.  Just inebriated enough to think I could save the day by employing this technique, I rummage in Greg’s back seat and discover a kid’s wooden baseball bat.  Grabbing the bat, I get out and open the hood.

“Try starting it now,”  I instruct,, miming a key turning in the ignition, and as he does, I wallop the distributor cap as hard as I can.  A shower of sparks worthy of Bastille Day sprays up from the engine, and the car starts immediately.  Amazed, Greg jumps from the car.

“Incredible!”  he says.  “How… eh… how you do this?”

Tottering on my red patent leather heels and hefting the bat like a crazed cross between Babe Ruth and Mamie Van Doren, I yell victoriously,


We head off to my hotel, and just inside the heavy iron gates,  he stops the car and  we engage in what is known in archaic American slang as “parking.”  Greg gently traces the contour of my jaw line, caresses my hair, and then draws my face towards him in the first genuine French kiss I’ve ever had.  His technique is so good, it’s all I can do not to burst into rousing rendition of “The Marsaillez,” or at the very least, “Frere Jacques.”

 After a few more breathless moments, he asks if I’d like to go back to his place, and although tempted, I realize that even though The Assassin didn’t kill me, I’ve been severely maimed.  Perhaps I’m not anymore quite the harlot I’ve always thought I was, maybe I should think this thing through, sort out my feelings before leaping into bed with yet another years younger Euro-trash Don Juan.  All emotions aside, my experience tells me that waiting always makes thing hotter.  WE make a date for the next evening.

Staggering through the lobby, high on mixture of liquor and lust, I have to wake up the night clerk to get the key to my room.  It’s not until I’m about to brush my teeth that I notice the reason why the clerk gave me such a strange glance:  there’s crimson lipstick smeared all over my face and chin.  “Coquette the Clown,” I say to the mirror, right before passing out.

Word travels fast—over petit dejeuner, everyone involved in the movie is snickering, elbow nudging, and grilling me for details.  Apparently, I’m the only one of the entire lot of us getting any Cote D’Azure action.  Even Steve’s mom, a perky mother hen with a Pixie-cut, shakes her head and comments upon how cute Greg is.  Now, it’s almost like I’d have to follow this thought even if I didn’t want to.  The think is, I do want to, and right now, I’m kicking myself for not having cast caution to the wind last night.

            My rationalizations—as if I need them—are many:  Greg is tres jolie, The Assassin can go to hell.  I will definitely not get attached to Greg and  will probably never see him again after this week, The Assassin can go to hell.  I will undoubtedly be merely the first in a long line of summer flings for Greg, so his feeling won’t be hurt, The Assassin can go to hell.  I’m on vacation, goddamit, and it’s de r in the South Of France,  it’s de rigeur to give into whims like this… The Assassin can go to hell.  I’m not getting any younger—or richer, for that matter—and there is, therefore, a limited window of time when tryst like this will still be available for me to take advantage of, The Assassin can go to hell.  In fact, The Assassin can eat shit and die before going to hell, and I’ll be wearing a skimpy bikini with lots of clunky jewelry, high hells, Jackie O. sunglasses, my shoulder blades itching from the angel wings about to sprout therefrom.  There will be a Cartier halo over my head, and I’ll be sipping a champagne cocktail while cheering loudly as The Assassin fuckin’ fries for his transgressions against me.

 I cannot wait until tonight!

Greg and I meet in the same place but immediately take off for his place in Golfe Juan.  He lives right on the water, the marina in front of his building is a veritable forest of sailboat masts.  His apartment, in a quaint old house, is furnished in bare bones, simple bachelor pad accoutrements:  heavy carved ‘70s furniture, a few pieces more modern and nondescript, a smallish collection of CDs, mostly techno and reggae, many books on wine.  Not too many clothes in the closet, nothing interesting in the medicine chest.  He immediately fires up a huge spliff, puts on some music, and begins opening wines for me to sample, telling me about his recently completed thesus on the vineyards of France.

 We engage in a bit more small talk, smoke a little more hash, and taste more wine before settling onto the couch, which, in my state, has me singing the chorus LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” in my head.  “Voulez-vous chouche avec moi, ce soir?”

I hold my  disposable camera up and snap a photo of us looking stoned and beatific, and he finishes seducing me, not a difficult task at this point.  Fondling me and whispering in French, we move to the bedroom, have a great little romp in the pitch darkness, and fall asleep.

I wake up with sunlight streaming into the bedroom, no sheets left on the bed.  Greg grabs me from behind and asks in a husky, sleepy voice, “Ca va?”

“Oui, ca va bien, merci!”  I answer, running through pretty much the entire  extent of my French vocabulary.

“How about you, are you okay?”  I ask, twisting around to look at him.

He grimaces, and simultaneously lighting a cigarette and slipping on his shades groans insolently, “I hate to speak English in the morning!”

Far from being an off-putting remark tome, I consider this the sublime epitome of Euro-trashiness, and have to conceal my delight at his heartfelt statement.

“Oh, me, too!”  I assure him in perfect English, amending it to “Moi aussi!”

Casting me a baleful glance, he begins to get ready for work, offering me  the  first use of the shower in a gentlemanly way.

Back at my hotel, everyone is eager for details, which I’m far too much of a lady to give out, although I do tell them about Greg’s fabulous early morning  comment, which results in the entire cast and crew groaning over breakfast everyday, “I hate to speak English in the morning!”

We see each other a couple of more times before I leave, and it’s fun—a perfect little vacation romance.  The morning after I arrive home, I hear French being spoken on my answering machine, and pick up, amazed he’s calling me, especially so soon.

 It turns out to be The Assassin- God only knows why- and with satisfaction I inform him that the only reason I answered was because I thought he was Someone Else.  Later that day, I get my photos back and send Greg a copy of the one I took of us on the couch, along with a first-grade/primary-reading-level note about what a good time I’d had with him.

The Assassin continues calling, and even thought I’m ignoring his many contrite messages, one day I pick up the phone without screening and we have an illuminating conversation.  I can’t fight the fact that I’m still desperately, ridiculously in love with him, and a few weeks later, we have a glorious face-to-face reconciliation.  As for Greg, naturally, I never heard from him. Our little rendezvous was mutually beneficial, lots of fun, and I’m endlessly grateful to him for helping restore my injured self-esteem.  Not only that, I have to point out that he made me realize a profound fact of my own life:  I, too, hate to speak English—or any other language for that matter—in the morning.


  The story you’ve just read is from my book Escape From Houdini Mountain. Purchase it on paperback or Kindle here:

Sunday, July 27, 2014


It was the summer "The Macarena" became a hit- no matter where you went, it was playing.

My pals Adriana, Pam and Libby, my boyfriend Jeff and professional Hollywood party gal Boozy- and I were devoted regulars at a wild Mexican bar in downtown L.A. called Jack's Placita, where they featured an afternoon Happy Hour and drag shows on Saturdays. The scene there was surreal; Jack's was like a big barn, the front opened up like an industrial garage door, the ceiling was festooned with Tecate and Corona banners, piƱatas, plus decorations from every holiday that had taken place in the past decade. 

The stage was lit only by a black light and had a shimmering Mylar backdrop. Inside Jack’s, there was a bar and two taco stands, and rows of picnic tables where entire families would sit, drinking and cheering, watching a parade of beautiful Hispanic pre-op trannies prancing around, doing impersonations of Alejandra Guzman and Gloria Trevi. Grinning abuelitas revealed gold bridgework while inebriated men in mechanic's uniforms held toddlers up to the stage to offer tips to the queens. Jack’s was wilder than any trendy club could possibly be, or even a Quentin Tarantino movie. It was our favorite place.

But all of a sudden, it closed down abruptly. Throughout the other trannie clubs we were frequenting- Las Estrellas, La Pantera Rosa- the whispered rumors had it that the owner's wife and his cousin, who been having an affair, were   the victims of a double murder.  Apparently their bodies were discovered in the meat freezer at Jack's…  after both had been reported missing for nine months. Soon after, this lurid story was verified in the LA Times.

  Sad that our favorite place had been shuttered, we knew we had to do something for summer fun, so we all decided to go to Mexico for the Fourth of July weekend.
We'd gone on many long weekends South Of The Border before. Pam and Adriana usually picked the place we'd stay, deliberating over two Ensenada motels; one that featured a swimming pool, the other a dentist's office. That was a running joke - swimming or getting your teeth drilled.

 Boozy mentioned a terrific, affordable hotel where she was a regular. She'd been talking about La Fonda for ages; it was located right on the cliffs above a private beach on a lonely stretch of Baja highway, a way south of Rosarito Beach.  Evidently it t used to be a chic movie star hang, back in the days when they discovered Rita Cansino dancing in a Tijuana cabaret, took her north, dyed her hair red and gave her the new last name Hayworth. Nowadays, it was a cool secret spot for those in the know, a cross between a ramshackle pit stop for fisherman, surfers, and sailors, and a funky, romantic boho vacation spot, a little run-down, but with character. There were a couple of rusting trailers where the surfers would crash, and most of the rooms were furnished with a hodge-podge mix of carved wooden '70s furniture painted in ridiculous shades of lime green, electric orange, and fierce magenta, with battered secondhand seascapes, copies of Old Masters, and vintage bullfight posters covering the walls. Some of rooms had fireplaces, some had shower stalls and bathtubs made from rocks, adding an exotic touch. Boozy said it was a good place to have a secret affair or to bring a bunch of pals for a rowdy seaside lost weekend because the staff always "looked the other way." There was a bar, a restaurant, and no telephones at all- you even had to write in for reservations. It sounded perfect.

We assembled for the trip armed with blenders and three huge coolers chock full of alcohol, practicing our Spanish ("Yo soy muy nervosa!") for when we planned to visit the quack in Rosarito to score Valiums without a 'scrip. Boozy was resplendent in a flowered sundress, orange platforms and a tiny '60s faux leopard suitcase stuffed with bikinis, Jeff brought his “boy clothes” and a separate set of drag queen duds, and the rest of us were more concerned with getting hammered than we were with our appearance.

The hotel was everything Boozy had said it would be- remote and awesome in its crumbling grandeur, all thatched roofs, sandy windswept decks, and psychedelic furnishings. Both our rooms faced the sea, but Boozy's Suite 24 (spelled "Sweet") was upstairs, so it had more of a breeze, plus a huge balcony and a big rock bathtub that could fit five or six adults, so naturally, Sweet 24 became Party Central. We immediately hit the bar, getting wrecked on margaritas and watching the sunset, while Adriana showered the mariachi musicians with cash.

"My Mexican guilt!" she'd always say, rolling her eyes as she vastly over-tipped the band to play songs like "Martina" and "Cielito Lindo."

That night, we drove to Ensenada, directly to the seediest part of town. No Hussong's Cantina for us, no way. The bars we wanted were dives, the ones tourists would never go to. Not only were they vastly more interesting, the beers were forty cents each.

The first place was called Gato Negro 13, and apparently it was a hooker bar. This became obvious shortly after we walked in and ordered. Jeff immediately started getting attitude in the form of macho posturing and nasty, menacing stares from a gigantic guy in a loud Banlon shirt and vinyl vest with scorpions and Durango stitched onto the back. At first, it wasn't clear why the guy was staring such daggers at Jeff. When I saw the women the man had with him - hefty, "mature" blondes and skinny, out-of-it pimply chicks decked out in bright, form-fitting cha-cha wear, it clicked. Though Pam, Libby and Adriana looked like dykey Girl Scout Camp counselors in khaki Bermudas and t-shirts, Boozy and I were both wearing heels, mini dresses and make-up… and why would a guy come into a bar like this with five women unless they were working, and he was working them? Worse yet, what gringo would have the balls to bring his women onto somebody else's turf?

 Jeff, bless his innocent, former-Deadhead heart, was absolutely clueless, oblivious to the entire thing. I tried to ignore it, thinking it was just paranoia. After all, why would a  “pimp daddy” be struttin' his stuff in a faded lavender gauze shirt, ratty cutoffs, and grungy sneakers, sporting a freshly picked flower behind his ear?

Soon it became increasingly clear that the man’s discontent and barely concealed rage wasn't a figment of my imagination.

"That guy is.... um.... getting sort of upset that you're here," I whispered into Jack's ear, trying to make it look like a lover's caress so as not to attract more attention.

 "Maybe you should buy him a drink, or, like, make out with me or something."

"WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" Jeff replied loudly, whipping his head around in a really obvious way.

"I think that guy thinks you're a pimp!”, I continued, seeing that the man was getting ever more agitated over our presence.

Eyes unwavering, he slowly started to move his hulking mass in Jeff’s direction. Finally, Jack understood the scenario, and taking a leisurely sip of his drink, put his hand up, cupped in a gesture that was flirtatious and child-like, and gave the man a little wave. Fortunately, this looked so ridiculous; the guy couldn't help but laugh. We bought him a drink, and everything was fine, he assumed after all that we were just bumbling tourists who had lost our way off the main drag.

We took off to The Lido, where they featured a floorshow on a stage that resembled a small circus ring. Strippers performed in white pumps and ratty bathing suits adorned with plastic beaded fringe while surfers crocked on Modelo Negro hooted and threw crumpled dollar bills. A pre-op tranny came out to the delight of our table, and completely horrified a couple of young American frat boys. As they hastily got up to leave, one of them stopped by our table to warn us, motioning at the stage,

 "You guys! Look - onstage? That's a dude!"

"NO SHIT!" Pam hooted, "THAT'S WHY WE'RE HERE!"

I went to the bathroom, and a souvenir kid's wrestling mask that I’d bought on the street and stashed in my purse almost fell into the toilet. Lit enough to try it on, I admired myself in the mirror. As I left the bathroom, I noticed Jeff waving a dollar like a tiny Flamenco fan, walking along the ledge that surrounded the stage, in the midst of a sexy mating dance with the tranny.

Impulsively, I donned the mask and ran out onto the stage, screaming what I hoped was a Lucha Libre style war whoop, and tackled Jeff.  Before we even hit the ground and began rolling around kissing, the tranny, completely taken by surprise, shrieked bloody murder and jumped up onto the railing, hand on her heart as though she was having palpitations. When she realized it was just a joke and not a direct attack, that the masked maniac was really a female customer who just moments before had been tipping her, she began laughing so hard she started crying, moaning.

 "Ay, ay, ay!" over and over, blotting her face with a napkin.

"You guys sooooooo scare me!" she moaned, hiccupping back her tears and trying to pat her wig into place as the manager strode over to throw the lot of us out.

The next day, as we relaxed in the sun nursing our hangovers with more been and Catovit, which Libby swore was over-the-counter Mexican speed, some people checked into the room next to ours. Within an hour, they were uproariously drunk, crashing into furniture, yelling, and belching loudly. Adriana spied on them through the woven mats separating our balconies.

"Jeez, they're even worse than we are," she reported, downing what was left of her Tecate.

"Those people are out of control!"

As if to back up her statement, our new neighbors began firing bottle rockets off their balcony. We watched for at least fifteen minutes while the rockets hit the sun-dried thatched roofs of other parts of the hotel. We couldn't believe that other guests - or the staff - weren’t aware of the display, fiery, noisy and dangerous as it was.

There was a knock on the door and one of the neighbors, a red-faced, bleary-eyed and five o'clock shadowed man, staggered in. He headed directly for our coolers and started rummaging around.

"I'm Tracy," he slurred, loudly, to no one in particular. "Got any booze?"

Ever the businessperson, Adriana traded him booze for fireworks, which we launched on the beach. Presently, Tracy and his whole group, all supremely bombed, joined us. It was rapidly getting dark, and the whole waterfront was obscured by smoke. Bottle rockets were going in every direction, and even in our condition, we knew this wasn’t exactly "safe and sane". We decided it was a good time to bail when one rocket went out of control and a woman started yelling,

"Oh God, where's the baby?"

Our Silverlake friends Nancy and David arrived with mushrooms, so we all repaired to Sweet 24 to eat them. The plan was to visit the hotel's bar that night, but by the time we got our shit together, we were all tripping. David was wearing a stunningly ugly, garish plaid '70s leisure suit and dancing like John Travolta, and Boozy was at the bar trying to score Crystal Meth from a drunk. Jeff was in full make-up, his hair up in a Geisha bun ornamented with bottle rockets, stockings and garters in place under his jeans.

The house band was blasting "The Macarena’ of course, and everyone in the place was doing the dance except Nancy and Libby who were lying in one of the booths, knocking drinks over, their legs on the table, laughing hysterically, placing paper flowers and tortillas with eye-holes bitten out over their faces like masks.

 I entered a  " Macarena" with a bunch of teenage girls in sarongs- and won. The next thing I knew, a couple of surfer boyfriends were trying to pick up on me, and I played along until they got boring. I had a genius way of making them scatter all at once- I merely said loudly, "Who's gonna buy me a drink?" and it worked like a charm!

Hearing a commotion, I spotted Jeff in the middle of the dance floor, pants around his ankles, strutting proudly in his fishnets. Adriana was the only one who seemed cognizant of the fact that we were about to get kicked out, so she suggested we all go back to the room. On the way, an American guy approached me, speaking to me in broken Spanish, thinking I was Mexican. He wanted, as he said, “a little kiss."

"Ask her pimp!" Adriana bellowed, pointing at Jeff.

The boy, brightening over the news that he would be able to hire my services, didn't seem to think it was odd that my "pimp" had on lipstick, eye shadow and a hairstyle full of unlit fireworks, so he started trying to make negotiations. At this point, Jeff wasn't altogether too eloquent in his command of the English language, but somehow, it was decided that for a fee, I would bring the guy up to Sweet 24 and pee on him in our huge rock bathtub.

He nervously followed Jeff and me back to the room, where the others were all congregated on one of the beds in various states of undress, babbling nonsense, staring into candle flames. The guy's eyes darted back and forth skittishly as I announced I would pee on him for free if everyone could come into the bathroom to watch.

"Oh goodie!" Nancy squeaked, clapping her hands like a preschooler at a birthday party,  "A show!"

Tracy picked that very moment to clomp in through the open door, bellowing for more booze, took a bottle of tequila that was handed to him and promptly dropped it, sending liquid and shards of glass everywhere. The poor guy I was supposed to give a golden shower to be almost beside him in fear as I dragged him into the bathroom.

"I just wanna kiss you," he whined, as everyone crowded in to see what was going to happen. "Please don't do anything else to me!”

When it became apparent he wasn't going to be a willing participant, he was eighty-sixed, probably glad to have escaped with his life. The action returned to the main room, where everyone was regarding an incredibly ugly painting, a homemade version of a Van Gogh-like vase of sunflowers, loudly blue and yellow with some incongruous cubist aspects thrown in for good measure. There was a big white space at the bottom, a rectangle that looked as though it was left blank for the artist's signature.  When Pam opened one of the coolers to get a beer out, I spied a squeeze bottle of French's Mustard, and all of a sudden I had a mission. I would sign the painting in mustard; it was just what it needed! Everyone was enthusiastic as I removed the canvas from the wall, and took my medium in hand. I realized I had no idea what Van Gogh's signature looked like, but I did a pretty fair Picasso, if I do say so myself. Nancy helped me get the painting back on the wall and we both retired back down to my room to join Jeff and David.

The next morning, Boozy went ballistic. She couldn't believe I'd signed the painting in mustard, and was furious that the room, which was in her name, had been defaced. The mustard was completely dry and stuck to the canvas like Crazy Glue. It wouldn't come off no matter how hard I scrubbed.

"Great, just great!' Boozy said through gritted teeth.

"If I get charged for this, you're the one that's going to pay!"

"Oh," I said, way too hung over to be dealing with this sort of hysterical behavior, noting loud vomiting noises coming from our next door neighbor's room.

"Like anyone would believe a hotel guest would sign a painting in mustard! Who does shit like that? No one will even notice!"

"The maid will see it,” Boozy said miserably, "and then I'll be fucked.

"Why, " asked Adriana, rolling over, awake for barely thirty seconds and yet always the Voice of Reason, "…would a middle-aged, probably illiterate Mexican cleaning lady working out here in the middle of nowhere think some hotel guest would be insane enough sign a painting in mustard? Besides, what do you think that masterpiece is worth?"

"Stay out of it!" Boozy said, stomping onto the balcony.

"The whole room smells like mustard," Pam cackled. "I think you did a superb job!"

Boozy drove off to Ensenada to get her car's ceiling-liner redone, and the rest of us continued drinking. Tracy and his crew left, but not before stopping by to bum more booze in trade for fireworks. That night, we all had lobster at Porto Nuevo, and were up bright and early the next day, ready to hit Rosarito and the Valium quack.

The office was in a dingy storefront on a dusty side street, littered with garbage, potholes, and mangy Pit Bulls with over-used teats hanging almost to the ground. The office was tiny and cramped; with stacks of old newspapers and Mexican movie magazines piled high on every surface. The doctor, in a stained lab coat and glasses held together with Scotch tape, asked us what we needed.

Boozy started to stutter, Yo soy muy nervosa, but before she even got it out, the good doctor cut her off by whipping out a prescription pad and asking in perfect English for our names/ Five minutes and thirty bucks later, we each held a shiny new bottle of ninety blue Valium tens.

"Man," Boozy said incredulously as she stuffed the pill container into her purse,

"I thought he'd at least…like…take our blood pressure or look in our eyes or something!"

Of course, we had to stop in Tijuana for an early afternoon beer at our favorite strip club, The Bambi. The border crossing was smooth and the ride back up to L.A. was uneventful, not even any traffic as we approached the city.

Many months later, after buying a house, Adriana called me up laughing so hard she could barely speak.

"I just got off the phone with my new insurance agent," she said gleefully.

 "And after I hung up, I kept thinking something sounded familiar about his name and his voice. Guess who it was?”

I wracked my brains and couldn't come up with anything.

'TRACY!" she screamed, "IT WAS TRACY!"

"Who the hell is Tracy?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"You know the guy next door to us in Mexico from Fourth of July, the lush with the fireworks?"

As if that wasn't crazy enough, that sauce-headed pyromaniac being an insurance agent, six months later Boozy reported that she’d sent another friend down to the same hotel for a romantic getaway.

"She had a wonderful time,” Boozy said dreamily. "She loved it! So I asked her if she got one of the wild rooms, like with the pink furniture and the bullfight posters, and guess what she told me?”

Once again clueless, I could tell by the tone of Boozy's voice it was gonna be a lulu.

Relishing every second, Boozy gasped,

"She told me, I didn't have a bullfighting poster.... my room had a Picasso!"


 The story you’ve just read is from my memoir, Escape From Houdini Mountain that you can purchase as a paperback or for Kindle here:

 Purchase a signed copy of my latest book, Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road  (Punk Hostage Press, 2013) here:

Friday, August 8, 2014 Atlanta, GA
I’ll be reading from and signing my books at:
500 Bishop Street North Suite F-6 Atlanta, 30318
 21 or older, wine will be served with price of admission $7
FOR MORE INFORMATION: or 404-550-4692