There are times (actually many times) when I'm concerned that some of my writing will be mistaken for fiction - - a good example is my previous post Notes on a Sultry September Night
I can assure you that fiction isn't on my agenda. I have far too many interesting true stories to tell.
I've never considered myself to be a good writer, but I do have a knack for making mundane things sound interesting. That's because I'm a keen observer. I always absorb the events in my life with photographic precision, and with the shrewd intention of eventually transforming them into words. It's either an artistic gift or complete insanity.
In Sultry September Night I tried to convey what it was like being a piano player (not a pianist) in an after-hours Hollywood club. I was in my early 20's - - reckless, adventurous, intrinsically romantic, perpetually horny.
I've always believed in the delicious allure of mystery. When I write, I sometimes purposefully omit (or shade) some details - - simply to buffer my readers from the sobering rawness of unnecessary reality. I'll be surprised if that makes any sense.
I didn't reveal who the Ancient Gardenia was, and I only hinted at the relationship between waiter and pianist (me).
Here are some facts:
The club on Fairfax where I played piano is long gone. The apartment building where I lived on Hollywood Boulevard is also gone - - demolished in 1984.
It was the Garden Court Apartments, located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard - one of my absolute favorite historic buildings in Hollywood. Designed by architect Frank Meline and opened in 1917. In the 1920's it was a posh residence - inhabited by such luminaries as Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, Mae Murray, Tom Mix, and Mack Sennett.
(Marilyn Monroe supposedly lived there early in her career, but I can't confirm this).
Old photo of the Garden Court Apartments
located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard
When I lived there (in my early 20's) it was an ancient, deteriorating relic - - hopelessly outdated and largely forgotten. I had a great love for the place simply because it had such a rich, glamorous history. After the Garden Court Apartments was closed in 1980, it became a creepy haven for derelicts and drug addicts and was aptly dubbed "Hell Hotel".
Me - and a few other hardcore Hollywood aficionados - desperately tried to keep the building from being demolished. Actress Debbie Reynolds attempted to buy the place and turn it into a museum. All of our pleas fell on deaf ears and the building was demolished in 1984.
Rare photo of the front of the Garden Court, looking out towards Hollywood Boulevard
I remember the very last time I saw the Garden Court Apartments. It was late at night when I walked past it. A temporary chain link fence had been constructed around the building to keep people out - but I saw a few ghouls lurking in doors and windows.
Some of the ornamental figurines along the outside top of the first floor had already been knocked down. I really wanted to have one as a souvenir, but I didn't want to climb the fence and risk getting caught by a derelict or a cop.
What about the mysterious Ancient Gardenia who used to frequent the cafe where I played the piano? Who was she?
All I know is that she was once a famous silent movie actress. It was rumored that she was Alice Terry, wife of director Rex Ingram. Terry had starred in films with Rudolph Valentino and Ramon Novarro.
The "Gardenia" was in her 70's (at least) when I encountered her.
Alice Terry, 1920's
And what about the intriguing Arabian waiter?
Let's just say that I was very familiar with the waiter. At around the same time, I was also very familiar with an Italian chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Am I telling too much? Am I tarnishing my sterling reputation? (grinning sarcastically)
Incidentally, I wrote a poem entitled Notes for an Ancient Gardenia, which is in my book Love Letters to Ghosts