Breathing deeply, my mouth opened wide, yearning to receive his essence, feeling him in my very core. This…thing we had together went on at least twice a week and lasted for years, from the late 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. It wasn’t a booty call; it was a ritual.
Around midnight, I’d steal through the always-unlocked gates in of Hollywood Memorial Park, and head directly to Douglas Fairbanks’ monument. Bounding down the stairs and trotting the length of the magnificent reflection pool, my anticipation grew, knowing I was about to commune with the star of Robin Hood, The Thief of Baghdad, Zorro.
I needed his devil-may-care, swashbuckling, adventurous spirit… so I’d cram my entire face into the vents of his tomb, open my mouth as big as a Great White Shark, and inhale deeply until I almost passed out. I was valiantly trying to absorb his silent movie star DNA, hoping it would affect my genetic makeup by changing my chromosomes. Though I’d ingested copious amounts of controlled substances in my life, none were as potent.
The vents on Douglas Fairbank’s sarcophagus have been cemented shut for decades, and the cemetery gates are now padlocked at dusk, but in the ‘70’s, you could just walk right in after dark- and several people did. Back then, not only were the main gates carelessly left open, the entire place was in such dire disrepair it looked like a set from a mid-sixties Hammer Films B-Movie Vampire flick. All that was missing was Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
The baroque wrought iron doors on the Edwardian Era mausoleums were rusted and hanging from their hinges; some had been pried off and lay on the ground. A few of the mausoleums had visible-and severely vandalized- wooden coffins inside, surrounded with broken beer bottles and covered in “R13” spray paint tags from the local gang The Rebels. Pre-1920’s grave stones tilted at crazy angles due to the ground settling; weeds grew rampant; the grass was rarely mowed. Bouquets of weather-worn cheap plastic flowers and fading, shredded miniature American flags stood forlornly on the markers. A few pieces of statuary were missing hands or the tips of their angelic wings, others were defaced with graffiti.
In those days, the cemetery was like an after-hours hot spot for juvenile delinquent punks like me: it was free to get in, no one carded you, and you could make all sorts of noise cause the neighbors… weren’t alive! I spent more time, did more drugs and had more sex in the graveyard than I ever did in my house. I actually considered Hollywood Memorial Park my bedroom. My favorite spot for dead-of-night (pun intended) erotic encounters was the island monument. I’d bring my leopard print flannel sleeping bag, a handful of qualuudes,and a hot squeeze. Sometimes we’d actually pass out there, waking up as dawn broke.
I had sex with humans with the dead as voyeurs: sprawling on the markers for Jayne Mansfield, Tyrone Power, Cecil B. DeMille and on the marble floor under Rudolph Valentino. Raised as a feminist, I avenged Fatty Arbuckle’s rape of Virginnia Rappe by copulating on her grave, leaving her a paper cupful of Cold Duck and an earring as an offering. I hooked up with a cute goth guy I’d just met at a show on Mel Blank’s monument while we were both on acid. When he said “What’s Up Doc?” in a Bugs Bunny voice after we were done, I thought for sure we could build a long term meaningful relationship…but I never saw him again. THAT’S ALL, FOLKS!
The following incident took place during the very rainy Spring of 1978. I’d just turned nineteen and was once again tripping my brains out on LSD. The Mumps were in town from New York City. Darlings of the Lower East Side CBGB punk scene, The Mumps were lead by the infamous Lance Loud, who’d come out on national television on the PBS show “An American Family”. I’d interviewed The Mumps for Slash Magazine, and they’d just been on the cover of Lobotomy: The Brainless Magazine a Xerox fanzine I did with my buddy, photographer Theresa Kereakes.
She was one of the only people in our crowd with a car-a little Honda that had recently transported a load of crazies up to San Francisco to see The Sex Pistols at Winterland. One night, Theresa, my roommate Kid Congo of The Gun Club (and later,The Cramps, Nick Cave, etc.etc.)) and I too The Mumps bassist Kevin Kiley to get a whiff of Douglas Fairbanks.
We cracked bottles of illegally purchased Mickey’s Big Mouth as we sloshed through the muddy overgrown grass, showing Kevin our favorite monuments. Though I was appalled so many graves had been vandalized, I thought nothing of plucking Easter Lilies from the bouquets the living had left for their dearly departed. I loved fresh flowers and couldn’t afford them…plus, the recipients were dead. Kevin helped me gather up a big bouquet as we chanted over and over in a Katherine Hepburn voice,
"THE CALLA LILLIES ARE IN BLOOM!"
Somehow I fell behind the group, stopping at a life-sized statue of a weeping woman, her hands covering her face. I watched in morbid fascination as the collected water from the recent rain slowly dripped through her fingers like tears, splashing onto the granite pedestal. I thought I heard a low whistle, but chalked it up to being freaked by the spooky statue, until I heard bushes rustling…and then footsteps. Stiffening in fear, I went as alert and still as a hunted doe. I heard men’s voices mumbling; they seemed very close by, and were definitely not wildlife, a ghost or a hallucination. I felt their eyes on me and knew it wasn’t my imagination, so I walked away swiftly, but as casually as possible to find the others.
“There’s people here,” I said in a breathless whisper, “They’re hiding and I think they’ve been watching us…and…we should go…like now!”
Kid rolled his eyes. We’d taken acid together so many times, he knew I was prone to outre thoughts and obsessive behavior. Once, at my insistence we spent hours examining the entire contents of a box of Ritz Crackers individually to see if they really had SEX stamped onto them as a subliminal suggestion.
“ You’re just being paranoid,” Kid said patiently.
“ No, I swear!”, I gasped, trying not to flip out. “We gotta get outta here!”
There was a loud whistle- we all heard it and whirled around in unison.
A tall, heavy set man appeared from behind one of the mausoleums. He had wild long black hair and crazy eyes and was brandishing a long length of lead pipe. He ran towards us as a second man, also armed with a pipe, closed in, coming from the area near the front gates.
“Run!” Kevin yelled.
We all took off, instinctively sprinting for the east wall of the cemetery, the one bordering Van Ness, because Theresa had parked there. Kid was already on top of the wall, extending his hand as I threw my Easter Lilies over before climbing up. Getting a boost from Kevin, I used the thick ivy to hold on but it was slippery with dew. Though Theresa was last to scale the wall, she unlocked the car with miraculous speed. As we pulled out, the first thug grabbed the door Kid was closing, and with abnormal strength, kept it open until Theresa backed the Honda up abruptly, knocking him to the sidewalk.
We sped south on Van Ness, the thug’s late model Impala in hot pursuit. For nearly thirty minutes, we darted in and out of small, quiet side streets at high speed, trying to lose the men, but they followed so closely it was impossible.
Meanwhile, I was having a legit panic attack in the back seat because there were giant slugs crawling all over the lilies I’d stolen. As we lurched around corners, I started screaming…not at the situation, but from Slug Panic. In a phobic fugue state, I shoved every stalk that had a slug on it to Kevin, who, to humor me- and probably to make me shut the fuck up- started stuffing them out the small window vent. Non-stop lilies flew onto the Impala’s windshield, like floral missiles. There were , nine or ten huge Calla lilies plastered on it, and in hindsight, I’m reasonably sure that the lack of visibility they created was the only reason Theresa was able to make it onto Melrose Avenue. She hung a left, and with a squeal of tires, made a huge donut, driving illegally on purpose hoping to attract the attention of the cops. Finally, we lost the thugs and jammed down the deserted street going 90mph all the way to La Brea.
Completely shaken, we exited the car and gratefully entered her apartment. The Mumps’ drummer Paul Rutner, who’d opted out of the cemetery excursion in favor of rest, was shocked when he saw our faces.
“ What the hell happened to you guys? “ he asked, adding without a drop of irony,
“You’re as white as ghosts!”
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