I’m cheering for the L.A.Kings in these playoffs. Not because of any player, or who they’re playing, or because they’re behind in the series, or any of that nonsense.
It’s because Los Angeles is where the Sunset Strip is. A great street. Where I got busted and spent a week in jail for doing something so despicable, so heinous, it makes Al Capone look like Scotty McCreery.
The Sunset Strip is part of Sunset Boulevard, a big honkin’ main drag which runs from downtown L.A., past Dodger Stadium, and all the way through Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to the ocean. The Strip is just a small part of the boulevard in West Hollywood, beginning at the Chateau Marmont hotel to the east, and ending just beyond the Roxy Theatre and Rainbow Bar and Grill, a mile or so away.
It’s a street of clubs, giant billboards, some real fancy restaurants, and a fair amount of good-looking women in short skirts.
Lots of great music. Lots of history, from the golden days of Hollywood, when Humphrey Bogart got the daylights beaten out of him by his third wife Mayo Methot on a sidewalk outside a Strip restaurant; through the crazy sixties with protests in the street; and into later years when John Belushi and River Phoenix died and where celebrities have always gone to be seen; and where the sordid Phil Spector mess began at the House of Blues.
Unfortunately, it’s also the place where I was picked up for breaking an 11 p.m. curfew set for anyone under 18, which isn’t exactly a horrendous crime, but it was enough to spend a week in jail for.
There was an 11 p.m. curfew in place for anyone under 18, because of riots there the previous fall. I was stopped by a cop at the curb, just after I’d come out of Whisky a Go Go, and when he saw I wasn’t 18, he cuffed me and took me to the local cop shop, and the next day they shuffled me off to this place with large walls where they gave me some institution clothes and said I’d get my stuff back when I was released.
So I found myself doing this. One minute I was on the Sunset Strip, movin’ and groovin’, and the next minute I was in a juvenile hall playing checkers with my new Chicano friends.
A week later they called out of the dining room and told me my parents had sent money for a plane ticket back to Toronto. So I got my own clothes back and a man drove me to the airport and actually walked me right to my seat on the plane.
When I landed in Toronto, I could’ve kissed the ground. Maybe I did.
I was 17. I had taken a train to Vancouver, and a bus to the border. Custom guards thought I was a runaway, but I told them I wasn’t and if they didn’t believe me, phone collect to Orillia and ask my parents. And they did. And when my mom informed them that no, I wasn’t running away, I just wanted to go to Los Angeles, they said okay and let me go.
From there I started hitchhiking, sleeping near the side of the highway every night, and I can remember the sound of cars zooming by as I lay in my sleeping bag with my eyes closed or looking up at the sky. I got lucky at one point when a potato farmer going through Oregon picked me up and took me all way down past San Francisco to Watsonville.
We hardly talked. Maybe he didn’t speak English very well.
Eventually I made it to L.A. I took a bus in from some point, and I was excited and anxious. Probably starving too. Probably smelled pretty bad. But it was all okay. It was the sixties.
I’d always wanted to go there, ever since I was a kid. Ever since I’d watched The Shaggy Dog and Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons and cheered for Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and rest who played at Dodger Stadium, where palm trees rose behind the outfield bleachers.
Then when the Strip became one of the hippest areas in the country, with club bands like the Doors beginning to explode worldwide, I decided I finally had to go there and I did.
Two weeks later I was in jail.
Last fall Luci and I spent a week on the Strip, and I took some pictures of some of the clubs, including the legendary Whisky a Go Go, the Viper Room, Rainbow Bar and Grill, and the historic Troubadour, which is down the hill a block or two away.