California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Lenore – She Who Comes Bearing Gifts

This girl I worked with asked if I would meet her friend for a date. I’m always apprehensive about these sort of things. But I had a great work relationship with my friend at work. So I took the friend’s number and called her. We chatted on the phone a few times. One topic of conversation was me always eating Pringles potato chips when we were on the phone. One of my bandmates worked at a supermarket, and we would clip a few items occasionally for his poor bandmates.  (this becomes relevant later). She seemed like someone I’d enjoy spending time with, so we decided to meet for dinner.

I was excited to meet. In hindsight, there were a few warning signs that this might not turn out well for me.

1. In one phone conversation, the topic of butt size came up, and she said something to the effect of, “don’t be scared by how big mine is.”

2. When discussing our dinner date, she said, “You have to promise me that no matter what, we’ll meet again after our date, even if it doesn’t work out, we can have drinks and laugh about it.”

3. When she was describing how I’d recognize her outside the restaurant, she said, “I drive a purple Camaro.”

Being young and naive, I didn’t think much of it all, and arrived at the restaurant that evening with an open mind. How soon things changed. After waiting outside a few minutes, up pulls a purple Camaro convertible. If you’ve ever seen the movie Friday, where Smokey gets set up with “Janet Jackson”, you know what comes next. Back then I weighed about 118 lbs. and am 5’9″. That’s a lean build. This girl had at least 50 lbs. on me, if not more. “HEYYYYY!!!” She greeted me, and I did my best not to look scared to death.

In addition to her purse, she was carrying a brown paper bag. I didn’t really want to know what might be inside. We went in and got seated at our table and after a minute or two of uneasy conversation, she said, “I brought you something.” Out comes the paper bag, from which she pulls out a Ken doll, dressed as Superman, with “Mr. Pringles” written on the cape. My face felt like it was on fire and I could feel everyone in the entire place staring at me.

After ordering dinner, I excused myself to go to the bathroom. On the way back to the table, I passed the front door and seriously considered making a run for it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Defeated, I slowly walked back to the table and we had our dinner.

We had also planned to go to a comedy club afterwards. I intended to offer to drive us both there, but instead told her to follow me in her car. Again, I considered maybe trying to drive fast and lose her on the way, but figured my VW minibus couldn’t outrun her Camaro. Fearing getting heckled by the comedians all night, I found a table in a dark corner towards the back and the rest of the evening was fairly uneventful. After the show, we said our goodbyes and before I could turn to go, she grabbed me and, giving me a giant bear hug, whispered, “Make sure you call me.”

Needless to say, that was the last I ever saw of Camaro girl. I learned a lot about dating the “friend with the great personality” that night. But to be totally honest, I would have hung out with her again, but that whole “Mr. Pringles” thing really creeped me the fuck out.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Audrey – Polar Opposite

I went out for a going away party for a friend at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. There, I met some chick Audrey that a bunch of my friends know. We got pretty trashed, and had fun. Did shots. Danced. Did shots. Sang karaoke. Did jagerbombs. Chatted while smoking cigarettes on the patio. Did shots. Smoked a bowl on the patio. Drank beers. Did more shots. Really liked each other.

So we exchanged numbers before leaving, and said we’d go out next week. Now, 20 minutes after leaving I literally passed out and landed on my face, because I was fucking trashed. So I was in prime condition this night. This girl knew I liked to party. (As only young people can, and horrifies me now- how did I survive?!)

So, next week comes, and we line up a date. Since we don’t know each other super well, we’ll go to that same bar, where a bunch of mutual friends will be. We sit with them on the patio, and we chat. She’s cute. But, that’s all she has going for her. I find out we are absolute polar opposites. Her dad’s a preacher, and she loves Jesus, and she doesn’t like art, and she’s waiting for marriage, and she doesn’t like fishing, and hunting is cruelty, and the outdoors are icky, and I’m getting one word answers saying she doesn’t like anything I talk about, while she doesn’t even try to make conversation. It’s so awkward that our mutual friends are bailing, shifting further and further away from us, until there are only three of us left in our section and everyone else is on the other side of the patio.

After about 45 minutes, I decide I’m going to need like 8 more drinks to make it through this. I ask if she needs another drink, and go inside to the bar. While I’m waiting, I say, “nope, fuck it.” And I leave. I bail right out the back door. I don’t even care, I don’t say goodbye, I just leave. I stagger to a friend’s house, explain that I was on the shittiest date ever, and proceed to get blackout drunk.

Three days later, a mutual friend Kevin says, “Man, that date was pretty brutal, but it wasn’t right how she treated you.” “I know man, right?” “Yeah. I can’t believe you went to get her another drink, and she left before you got back. That was really shitty.”

That’s right. This date went so poorly we both bailed without telling the other person, and neither of us ever tried to contact the other one again!

I love it!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Arielle – Part 1

NSFW! Do Not Read this one at Work. It’s Filthy but all true!

Here’s a memory from Cali I absolutely love. Here I am in my band Haightwayten, rocking out whenever we can on the strip, and just living the dream in L.A. in the early eighties. I was working as a cashier and then they taught me how to be a cook at a really cool bar and grill in Santa Monica.

I couldn’t make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I moved out of my parents house in ’82 but I learned so much going out in the world. I found that I loved to cook and have become and expert at cooking dinner for anybody I care about in my life.

When I got divorced from my wife in 2001 the one things she said she’d miss was my cooking.

She married another guy that was also deadly behind the grill but she destroyed that relationship too and now he’s back in Phoenix Az and hopefully happy to be away from her.

Anyway… It was 1982, and I was living in Santa Monica and rocking out and doing my thing. A friend of mine from the restaurant I worked for asked if I’d house sit for them while they were away in Vegas.

I of course agreed and it was easy money for me and I could just hang at their place in Brentwood for a week. Their house was gorgeous and I was honored that they trusted me with their place. They had a pool and I figured I could just hang and play guitar and work on songs while I was there.

I was sitting by the pool one day, just chilling. I was I think 19 at the time. I was just jamming on the acoustic and sipping a margarita.

The pool area was super private. As it should be. The place is secured and nobody is coming to see anybody in the pool area.

I was just soaking up the California rays and chilling when a pretty girl entered the heavely fenced area. She opened the gate cautiously and was surprised to see not the owners but a lean, blonde long haired guitarist sitting on one of the lounge chairs banging out some chords.

I wasn’t expecting anyone, so I was naturally surprised. I just wanted to drink, jam, and take a few dips in the pool to kill time. It actually felt good to be away from the band to be alone and create some new songs.

Well apparently their neighbor Arielle always came over and got to use their pool. She was surprised to see the tan shaggy haired guitar player sitting by the pool instead of her neighbors.

“Hey.”

“Hi.”

“Who are you?”

“Umm… I’m Arielle. I live next door. The Williams let me swim in their pool. I’m sorry is it okay?”

“I’m Chaz. I work with Shane at Merlin’s. They’re in Vegas this weekend and asked that I hang here.

She approached me. I don’t know how old this girl was when this all transpired. Arielle was only a bit over 5 feet tall. Dark hair, tan and very petite and fit. She was lovely. I feel that I should leave age out of this because it was 40 years ago, and I still don’t remember because I was a kid at the time when I think about it.

Maybe 16 or 17.  But I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.

“Well it’s nice to meet you, Chaz. They let me swim in their pool whenever I want. Is that okay today. Cause if it’s not I get it.”

“No go ahead.”

She was smoking hot and I don’t give a shit. It’s not my pool and I get to jam on my guitar and just met this baby.

Arielle placed her towel down and quickly jumped into the pool. I watched her out of the corner of my eye as she swam back and forth and dove in and out of the pool. After a little while Arielle got out and laid down on her towel to to work on her tan. She was already nice and tan from her summer of swimming.

I looked at her carefully as she laid on her stomach with her head turned to the side. I examined every inch of her body. Her cute little toes and her nice tan muscular legs. Her butt was nice and round and her chest was pressed against the pool deck with her hair laying across her back and neck.

At 19 and being the fucker I was back then I decided to run the program.

“Did you put any sunscreen on Arielle?” I asked her. “No I couldn’t find some” she replied, and added “My parents went out of town for the weekend” and I think they took it with them. My mind began to work overtime as I imagined this sweet young girl left without any adult supervision.

“I have some here if you want to use it” I offered as I walked over to her. “Thanks” she replied. Taking it from my hands. She put some on her hands and then I offered to help her out. “Can I help you and get your back?”

“Yes” she replied.

 

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Side Piece

One evening I was just hanging in my front yard in Santa Monica when I noticed a girl pull up and park. She sat there for a few minutes too long and looked quite frazzled. I was half-tempted to go see if she was alright, but sat back and let her be until she got out of her car and approached my front gate.

In disarray, she was trying to meet up with someone nearby but couldn’t remember the exact address and asked if she could use the phone inside my place. (Years before the first cell phone!)

Now normally I wouldn’t let just anyone into my house without knowing them, but let’s just say she was without a doubt attractive, not to mention had a pretty revealing top on, and I figured what’s the worst that could happen? So I let her in and we both engaged in conversation on my couch. She makes her phone call and whoever was on the other end says they’ll have to call her right back. I give her my number and she relays it to the party on the other end of the line.

She seemed alright, but I kept getting the vibe she had something more she wanted to say, which is when she eventually let me in on the fact that she was sorta seeing someone. She went on, ‘Yeah, but he’s kinda famous, and it’s not suppose to be known that we’re hanging out because he sorta has a girlfriend.’ I said alright and wasn’t even going to press who it was, but she finally revealed that the “kinda famous person” was lo and behold Rob Lowe and that she was reluctant to meet up with him at this party she was headed to.

The phone rang and she answered it. She abruptly grabbed her things, and awkwardly stood there. I must have been making inappropriate eye contact at one point or another, because she then went ahead and goes, ‘You could touch ‘em if you want, for letting me use your  phone and all… ’ Yep, she was talking about her boobs. However, I got the feeling she was crazy, plus they clearly were fake, so I sent her on her way.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Merlin McFly’s

In June 1979, a bar “with a magical theme” opened in Santa Monica. It was called Merlin McFly’s and was notable for its décor: nine stained glass windows depicting Merlin, Aladdin, Houdini, a fire-eater (below) and other notable names from the history of magic and sorcery. It was part of a chain of bar/grills across California, the other “family members” – Maxwell, Maestro, Maggie, Sly and Sky – also offering imaginative décor (heavy on the stained glass windows of course) and definitely looking to entertain their customers.

I worked there in 1983, first as a food cashier for the kitchen. I’d take the food orders, ring up the sale and pass the ticket to the cooks. I later was trained as a cook, and for the first time in my life started cooking meals. Before I came to Cali, I lived with my parents so all of my meals were cooked by my parents or I ate out somewhere. Usually fast food.

But this is really where I learned to cook. I still consider myself the “king of the fire pit grill.”

I remember there were two managers. I think their names were John and Renee. I don’t know if either of them had spouses but I know for a fact they were doing plenty of coke up in the office and were totally banging each other.

Oh, there was this other guy that managed for a short time. He was a fat clown. I remember he went on a game show, called Dream House. You could win a house if you crushed all of the questions. he’s bragging to the whole staff about when he’s going on the show and tells us all to watch him win. We’re all like, whatever.

So the day comes and we all crowd around the TV set in the office. He’s on there looking all goofy and cocky and they ask him this question: “If you fed a cow cocoa beans she would give chocolate milk.”

Him: “I agree.”

And like that he was off the show. In and out. We ripped him apart when he returned to work.

There were roaming magicians in the restaurant and would come to your table while you ate or drank and would do close up magic for you and your guests. It was such  cool place to work.

The wait staff were all hot women, that were dressed all in black. Tight lycra low cut body suits. Stockings, either fishnets or nude. They all wore a black skirt that revealed one of their legs. (Of course it was my mission to work there) They all looked like magician’s assistants.

I remember this especially hot one. Heather was a tall blonde that everybody loved. She looked like my ex girlfriend Michelle but 24 years old and long blonde hair.  It was my birthday and Heather walked up to me and French kissed me sensuously on the lips. I was shocked and stunned and turned on all in the same moment. Everybody loved it and laughed as I limped back into the kitchen. Nothing ever happened but it’s just something Heather could get away with anytime she wanted. Like a tigress that couldn’t be caged ad lived by her own rules.

One night I was emptying the dirty fat from the fryer. This was done but attaching a nozzle to an opening on the lower part of the fryer. Then I would get a big metal pot. Huge. Two feet tall. Like a huge metal bucket with metal handles on the side. I’d stick the metal pot under the nozzle and then turn on the spigot. This was done a few nights a week. The oil would get dirty and you have to change it so your fried foods don’t come out all brown and gross. Those fries need to be crisp and golden!

So I’m letting all of this hot empty out of the fryer and into the big pot. It’s the end of the night and the kitchen is closing. So it’s after midnight. The fryer has been off for a bit so the 350 degree oil has cooled down a bit. Plus it’s dirty so it will cool faster because it’s not as pure as fresh fat.

As you know, metal is a great conductor. So when the oil enters the pot it heats up the metal. You have to put towels around the two handles on the side to carry the pot. When it’s full, you have to pick it up, and carry it through the slippery floored kitchen and therough the dishwashing section and out the back door to outside. This thing is very heavey, awkward to carry and is filled with hot oil. I hate this part of the job more than any other part.

I get the pot outside and I have to pour the hot contents into a big metal upright barrel. Usually that goes with out a hitch.

But not tonight. I leaned the big pot against it and started to pour it in the barrel when the barrel tipped towards me and the contents of the barrel splashed back into my face!

I’m freaking out. It’s burned my face and gone in my eyes and I call for help.

The good news is. It had rained earlier so there was a load of cool water down in the bottom of that barrel. So that cooled the oil down from whatever nightmarish temperature it was was when I carried it out here. So I was okay, but I couldn’t see because the oil had gotten in my eyes. One of the Mexican dishwashers came out to help me get inside.

The manager and one of the waitresses, Holly came over and sat with me. They cleaned me up and asked if I was okay. I could see just fine but my face was a bit red but I’d live. They asked if they could get me anything. (Thinking about it now I think they were afraid I’d sue or something) I told them I wanted a 151 and coke. Done. I was all better.

We had this huge doorman named Ivan. When the employee meal went out I always gave him and extra load of whatever was on it. Extra chick, steak or whatever. I would call his name to come pick up his meal and he would always smile and drop a couple of joints next to the plate on the rack as he picked it up. It was like one fluid moment. Hand off plate, joints dropped, snatched, and slipped into my pocket. Thanks to Ivan there was never a shortage of weed.

I would do the same for a few of the girls that worked there and they would bring rum and cokes to me and the other chef. So even back then I knew how to get the hookup. Learned from the best…my Dad!

I’ll write in other posts about my celebrity meeting at this fun establishment.

The great thing about doing a bunch of different jobs in your life is, it gives you a different perspective on life and you really do learn a lot of skills in a variety of environments.

A Merlin McFly’s advertisement promised it was a place of “madness, magic and friendly spirits” and that their menu offered the delights of their “mystic burgers” and “wizard ribs”. “Fun is the password” said another in 1984, which had a hand-drawn picture of “P. Eye McFly” and report of the “The Great Restaurant Mystery”, an “investigation” into the McFly’s family tree and their restaurants.

By that time though, Merlin McFly’s was having some trouble. (I was gone by then so I missed all of the trouble.) There were local problems with drug dealing, the city of Santa Monica had an ancient licensing rule about “Dance Halls” that meant McFly’s theoretically had to impose a cover charge, and then there was the issue that hit many singles bars very hard: the rising awareness and fear of HIV and AIDS.

When the bar closed, there were dozens of calls when it was announced that the windows would be on sale – at a price of $325,000. Steve Spill at the nearby Magicopolis magic theater bought the windows a year or two later and then sold them to a collector who put them in a stained glass museum in Washington, DC.

Today, Sly McFly’s in Monterey is the only one left, and their website’s amusing “story” of aspiring race car driver Sly mentions how he finished second at the Trophy Race in Ulster – a connection to Finn McCool’s Irish Bar, which is owned by Belfast-born Geraldine Gilliland and is now at that spot on Main Street.

Geraldine wears funky glasses and has long, red hair, and originally started out working at a restaurant in her native Northern Ireland. She grew up during the early days of “The Troubles” – “I used to fall to the kitchen floor when the bombs started going off” – and like many others she moved away, eventually finding herself in Los Angeles:

“I found LA very exotic – they spoke a different language, even though it was English! It was very scary actually – I didn’t know anyone at all, (but) I fell in love with Santa Monica after I drove from New York. When I saw the beach I cashed in my Greyhound bus ticket and my return ticket to Ireland too.”

As soon as she arrived, she started working over the grill and has continued ever since. Gilliland’s Cafe opened its doors in 1984, and she began her own catering company soon after. It was an immediate success, providing Christmas puddings to Bloomingdales, Dean & Deluca and Balducci’s in New York, but it was her mix of California and Irish cuisines that really established Gerri’s reputation on a national scale.

The cantina-style Lula Cocina was next in 1991, and 1994 saw Jake and Annie’s American-Irish Café, which eventually become Finn McCool’s and officially opened under this name a few days before St. Patrick’s Day in 2002.

As for any ghosts or strange stories, Spill hadn’t ever heard anything about Merlin McFly’s, but Gilliland – who has now been here for nearly 20 years – had:

“There were ghosts in the bathrooms. It was said that every time you washed your hands and looked in the mirror, an apparition appeared.”

The bathrooms at Finn McCool’s are in the same place as they were when Merlin was weaving his spells, but after emailing John Forbes at Bonny Doon Art Glass I found out exactly where the ghosts came from:

“The bathrooms had special effects in them; the mirrors were one-way and when the lights in the bathroom dimmed, the light behind the mirror came on illuminating the figure of the “ghost”. It made for startling looks on people’s faces as they saw the ghost figure appearing in the mirror!”

There was no further archival evidence of any strange events or stories here, so it seems that since this ghostly story has an earthly explanation, you’re safe in the smallest room. Still, it’s kind of a shame that the “ghost” special effect isn’t there anymore.

Forbes also recalled the Merlin stained glass image:

“The back bar had a stained glass image of Merlin and at midnight lasers would turn on, shooting red beams across the room – it looked pretty cool as it pierced through the drifting smoke. Wow, that took me back! Merlin’s was a really fun project, a lot of creative energy.”

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Work it Grandma!

One of our guitar players lives just a couple of blocks from a micro-sized bar and I must emphasize micro. This was fall of 1982. Our band was only a few months old and this was our first time there.

They literally move a pool table for the band and that’s about how much room you have to set up. But it’s a fun little place with a loyal local crowd that loves to party and packs it in.

About half-way through our gig a crowd of older women come in obviously already enjoying themselves. I’d guess early 50’s to some blue hairs. Turned out they were celebrating one of the ladies 80th birthday.

Despite our hard rock repertoire they were loving us and dancing to every song.
At the end of a song the birthday girl politely asked me if she could say something over the mic. I was like “sure it’s your birthday have fun.” Now mind you this lady is 80 years old tonight and looks like a typical great-grandma. Well she grabs the mic and screams at the top of her lungs: “I AM FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKED UP!” Our jaws hit the floor. That was the last thing we were expecting from her mouth. But everyone was cheering and laughing and after we got over the shock we were laughing too. Man I wish we had that on camera.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – That’s Not a Guitar. Put it Down

I was with my bandmates passing through Santa Barbara CA. headed to Orange County where we had a gig the next day. While walking around browsing stores and enjoying the nice day we found ourselves in this huge store that had a little bit of everything including a lot of used items. I ran across an odd sized guitar case that was leaning up against the wall so I opened it to see what it contained. Turned out to be one of those latin style instruments with the courses of 3 strings together, can’t think of the name at the moment, but I had never seen one in person and was kinda thrilled and excited to mess with it.

I was plinkin’ away and about that time this kinda dumpy old Hispanic man came up and tried to take it from me. He couldn’t speak English and though not getting especially angry or too physical he was obviously trying to get it from me. I’m like “Hey gramps, I saw it first”. But he wouldn’t let up. I finally gave him a pantomime of “Dude, back off”. With that he walked away and I look at my buddies like what was that all about? A few minutes later the guy comes back with a younger man that could speak English. Turned out the old man was a street musician and that was his personal guitar. He was friends with the store owner and he would set it in that particular spot whenever he took a break.

I was so embarrassed. I told the young guy to explain what happened and that I was very sorry. He was actually pretty cool about it smiled and shook my hand.
But I got ribbed about that the whole weekend. My band mates were all “You big bully stealing an old man’s guitar”.

 

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