A Pasadena 4th of July or Babe’s in Hollywood-Land Part Two

English: Rose Bowl
English: Rose Bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

**All of the folks I talk about here are, as they say, real people but as I don’t know their whereabouts to ask permission to include them in my little story I’ve changed their names.**

My first wife and I wound up living in the old Pasadena Music Conservatory. This old clapboard house, just one block over from N. Los Robles Avenue on the north side of the Foothill’s Highway, had been turned into a ‘four-plex’ a long time ago. The house itself was large and quite pretty. It had a huge covered veranda that ran all along the front of the house. The apartment next to ours had double French doors that the occupant used as a front door.

Our apartment was a two room affair. It boasted a huge kitchen (it had actually been the kitchen of the original house) a bathroom and the front room, which was huge, had a sofa-bed. Behind the house was a separate little house on the plot. The area between our house and the little one was our communal back yard. It was bare of any grass, mostly dirt with a few weeds here and there to give it a bit of character.

It was a perfect place to start us off. We met all our neighbours within the first few days of living there. The first neighbour we met was Nathan. It was the Fourth of July and we were sitting on the front porch watching the sporadic ‘illegal’ fireworks that dotted the sky. Nathan came wandering down and introducing himself, gave us both a Coors and said, “I’ve got some rockets up stairs, I’ll get em and we’ll celebrate your  first Southern California Fourth of July.”

We sat sipping our beer and waited for Nathan to return. While we were waiting we met Martin, the guy who had the cool French Doors as his entrance, he was only passing by, but he wished us a happy fourth and said that if you went around the back of the block you could see the Rose Bowl fireworks for free. Nathan came back looking a bit dejected. His rockets weren’t there and he decided he’d have to go buy some. With promises of a speedy return he drove off.

We decided to go around the block and see if you really could see the Rose Bowl fireworks. We locked our front door and walked around the corner. The house sat on the front corner of a city block that was divided into two different territories. The ‘top’ of the block was ‘ruled’ by the Diablos and our section by the Bloods. We weren’t aware of this quaint little gang custom until later. But appearances to the contrary, this was one rough neighbourhood.

There were a few other people out and about when we walked to find a good Rose Bowl viewpoint. They all spoke and we sort of meandered up the sidewalk. We kept stopping and looking at the occasional sky rocket and talking excitedly about our first ‘Fourth’ away from home. We kept an eye out for a new apartment complex on the corner. That building was our cue to turn right and start looking for the free fireworks.

We stopped just before we reached the corner. We could see what we thought might be the Rose Bowl display and we talked about how cool it was that we could see it for free. While we were talking, two little old ladies chattering like magpies passed us and went around the corner we were about to turn down. Seconds after they turned up the road and out of sight, we heard screams.

My wife and I stood frozen for what seemed like ages. We then bolted around the corner. One of the ‘little old ladies’ was lying on the sidewalk blood streaming from her forehead. Her friend was anxiously darting around her as one or two  people came running our of their houses.  As I ran up to the little group, one of the men looked at me suspiciously. “Did you see anything?”  This was asked as he advanced menacingly towards us.

“No, no. They were around the corner. They didn’t do anything.” This was from the friend of the unconscious lady. After giving me a look of disdain the man went back to the ladies and said he was going to call the police. We stood there feeling helpless. This was outside of our limited experience. We did find out that as the two old dears turned the corner a man jumped out of the dark and smacked one of the ladies in the forehead with a brick. He then grabbed both their purses and ran.

While we stood waiting for Pasadena‘s finest to arrive, we realised that if we had not stopped when we did, we would have gone around the corner before the little old ladies. We both went a little shaky at that thought. It should have been one of us lying on the ground and bleeding. After talking to the police just long enough for them to realise that we would be no help. We walked back home.

The lovely glow of the place we’d just walked up had changed. We walked slowly and looked carefully at the shadowy areas by the path. When we got back to our little apartment, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. It would be another two weeks before my brush with the gentleman with the black robes and scythe. He was very interested in me on that night, offering me two chances to take a trip with him.

Starting Out Part One or Babe’s In Hollywood-Land

Years ago when I was a whole world younger and (I thought anyway) a lot smarter about what I was meant to do with my life, my first wife and I moved to Arcadia in southern California. We moved there because I wanted to be a professional actor. The way we chose Arcadia was unique. We got out a map of southern California and closing our eyes we stuck our index fingers on the map.

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The area midway between where our fingers hit the map was where we were going to live. That turned out to be Arcadia. You might be wondering why we did not just live in Los Angeles. Good question. The reason was simple, we felt the cost of living would be too high for a young couple just starting out.

We flew out to the Los Angeles International Airport via a “champagne” flight. When we landed we then had to figure out how to get to Arcadia. We wound up booking a limo; it was, somewhat amazingly, the cheapest way to get there. That limo ride was our first experience of what living in southern California would be like. The chauffeur was very chatty. He explained that he was self-employed and that this was only one of his three jobs. He was divorced and his ultimate goal was to be an actor.

Everybody, it seemed, in southern California wanted to be in the entertainment business. I mean everybody. Right up to the guy who owned a paint store that I was trying to get a builder’s discount from. When I rang him and asked about the discount, he started chatting while he was working out my discount. He asked if my business was going to grow. I said I didn’t really expect it to get too big as I was only doing it while I was trying to get work as an actor. “Great,” he said, a lot more excited than he had been working out my possible discount. “Have you got a Publicist yet?” I answered that I had not as I hadn’t really gotten any work yet. He thought about it for a second or two and said, “Give me your address. I’ll send you my business card. Keep me in mind when you start working.”

Like I said everybody seemed to want to be part of the Hollywood dream machine.

For a few weeks we stayed in a Dollar Inn. It was the cheapest hotel we could find. I still remember cracking up when the desk clerk informed us that for seventy-five cents extra we could get a key that would unlock the television in the room. I had never heard of locked televisions before and said so. The clerk then solemnly explained that as they were part of a cheap hotel chain, they had trouble with people walking off with the television sets. I think the inference was that because they catered to a “lower class” clientèle everything in the rooms was locked down tight.

While we were there we discovered the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. This was where they filmed part of the Fantasy Island television show. The early Tarzan films were also shot there. In fact it was used a lot for television filming. We also discovered the Santa Anita Race Trackwhere the high rollers of Hollywood came to lose their money.

Screenshot of Walter Matthau from the film Charade

We had a lovely chat with the desk clerk at the Arcadia Holiday Inn. This was conveniently located near the race track. The desk clerk informed us that when racing season hit they were always fully booked. He even showed us the exclusive bungalows behind the hotel where the rich and famous liked to stay “in the season.” We also found out that the hotels favourite customers were the actors Jack Klugman and Walter Matthau,  who were very heavy betters. They both booked bungalows for the entire season.

Unfortunately we soon realised that Arcadia would not be a place where we could live. The rent for this little suburban paradise was way more than we could afford. Of course the other thing we found out was that rental properties were nigh on impossible to find. We finally had to join an agency that would “find” properties for you. We then discovered that southern California actively practised what can only be called reverse ageism. Every place we looked at turned us down.

Finally after a lot of frustration, we had a “heart to heart” with our property agent. “You’re too young,” was the information he imparted. When we started to protest (we were after all twenty and nineteen years old and married for crying out loud), he held his hands up and said there was nothing he could do about that. He did eventually take pity on our situation and told about a property that he had to rent.

So that was how we wound up living in one of the most historical buildings in Pasadena, California and how I almost got killed twice in the same night.

English: Former campus of Ambassador College i...
English: Former campus of Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
%d bloggers like this: