Saturday, February 6, 2016

SLEAZY AFTER DARK (MEMORIES OF MELROSE)



 Melrose at Sunset

More of my Hollywood memories. A few parts of this might be offensive to sensitive readers (I thought that would pique your interest)


Melrose Avenue was just another nondescript L.A. street when I knew it in my youth. It runs parallel with Hollywood, Sunset, and Santa Monica Boulevards, but wasn't nearly as upscale or flashy. In more recent years, Melrose has been invaded by snake oil entrepreneurs who've opened semi-swanky restaurants and fancy boutiques with cutesy names that offer pricey junk. The new and "improved" Melrose has become a new wave shopping area and a touristy haven.


 One of the many new cutesy-type shops on Melrose

I, of course, prefer the old Melrose Avenue that I knew - which was largely unobtrusive by daylight but offered  plenty of after-dark sleaze.

Paramount Studios is on Melrose - - almost unrecognizable with the tawdry Tinseltown face lift that it was subjected to in recent years. It seems to be only a paltry parody of the powerful studio it once was. I had a few jobs as an extra at Paramount. Nothing worthy of mention - but, what the hell.


Paramount Studios in its heyday. That's the famous gate which was used in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, when Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) regally entered the studio in her 1931 Isotta Fraschini Landaulet limousine.

Incidentally, that phone booth (on the right) was there for at least 45 years and I used it many times (but it was a newer phone booth when I knew it).  I actually broke up with a lover on that phone. We had an after-midnight shouting match. 

 



"I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."




Paramount with face lift -
the old phone booth is now gone



The famous Western Costume Company - outfitters for hundreds of films -  used to be on Melrose, adjacent to Paramount Studios. It's still in existence but has moved to Vanowen Street.

Directly behind Paramount Studios (actually on Santa Monica Blvd.) is Hollywood Memorial Cemetery - home of the deceased stars. When your contract is terminated at Paramount, they open the back door and dump you in Tinseltown Boot Hill.
In 1998 the cemetery was renamed Hollywood Forever Cemetery - which, in my opinion, is annoyingly tacky and tasteless.

Speaking of tacky and tasteless, I had a "romantic" midnight tryst with someone in the cemetery ( a live person, not a buried one) - - near the crypt where Rudolph Valentino is ensconced. We had to sneak in - - not an easy undertaking (no pun intended).

 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The infamous Drake Theater was located on Melrose. It went through numerous changes through the years - starting out as a "straight" porn movie house and  later switching gears as a gay one. Two live nude shows were featured every night (between the porn flicks). One of the nude gay dancers had a major crush on me. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying.

I'd love to detail what went on in the notorious back rooms of that theater, and reveal some of the people I met there, but it's probably best to save it for my memoir. Let your imaginations go rampant.

I will admit that I was there the night the Drake was raided. At least a dozen uniformed cops burst in, turned on all the lights, and scoured the place for illegal activity. Fortunately I wasn't doing anything illegal (not at the moment, anyway) and they let me go.
The raid happened at around 9:00p.m. If they would have waited until after midnight, things would have been very different.

  An old ad for the Drake, long before it was gay
(and it wasn't air conditioned when I knew it)
It cost five bucks when I went there, and sometimes I'd sneak in the back door for free...

A few blocks away from the Drake was the Melrose Baths. It's still in existence, now totally revamped and known as the Melrose Spa. In my youth, it was probably the sleaziest bath house in Hollywood. The first time I ever went, it took nearly an hour - and a very generous supply of whiskey and malt liquor - before I could summon the courage to go in. 

Friday nights were the best time to experience Melrose baths. A lot of  campy workers from Paramount Studios would be there and the gossip was delicious.
I suppose I shouldn't mention that there was an orgy room......or that one night I had an extremely bad experience with drugs there...... 

 Melrose Baths
two doors
IN (left) and OUT (right)

I could tell about the after-midnight cruising areas in the alleys behind Melrose Avenue, and some extreme adventures that would boggle your baubles......but I think I've said enough for one post. After all, I have my reputation to think of. Even if it's already in shreds.

The few discerning people who read my free  blog are getting their money's worth. Think about that for a moment. It will eventually amuse you.

This is merely a very timid warm-up for my memoir.  

 

21 comments:

  1. the face lift/name changes suck. and it must be a bad part of town if ya gotta grate the windows.

    but if those bath house doors/paramount gates could talk...

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    1. Heck, I've seen grated windows on Hollywood Boulevard. Nothing's sacred anymore.

      Ah, yes - if only those doors and gates could talk. There's so very much that is left unsaid. That's why I love resurrecting the past.

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  2. Jon,

    The biggest problem I have reading your posts is that I am a very curious...that is...nosey guy. Reading this is a little like going to the peep shows they opened on Rittenhouse Square in Philly back in the 1960s. Just as something was unsnapped, the screen would go dark and you had put another quarter in the slot. I keep wanting to feed quarters to your post.

    Larry

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    1. I never thought of it as a two-bit peep show, but you're exactly right! And you have every right to be nosey. I'm always selective (and stingy) about what I reveal. I often think that others will be bored with my stories. It's encouraging to know that you're willing to ply my posts with more quarters....

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  3. Where to start...Melrose Avenue now is kind of a dump, at least the shopping area between Fairfax and La Brea. I don't know anybody who shops there except for the tourists and high school kids. Back in the 80's it was the hippest place to be, but not anymore. There are still some fun places, but I don't frequent it.

    Paramount has always been my favorite studio. Back when I was doing craft services deliveries for the studios, I always loved driving onto the Paramount lot because it most resembles a classic golden era studio. MGM has totally been changed, and though there are still some of the old buildings the facade is gone, and that is the same with Warner's in Burbank. But Paramount, despite the facelift (done because the street was set back--as you know it used to go to the gate), retains its allure for me.

    The cemetery is now a hipster hangout where every weekend during the summer they host outdoor movies shot against the coliseum wall. I used to go 15 years ago when there would be 200 people, now there are 2000 and you have to start lining up 3 hours before--forget that! But at least the new owner has saved it from falling into disrepair, which is a good thing.

    I have never been to Melrose Spa. Back when I would go to bathhouses I preferred Flex, which is also on Melrose. These days I am not fond of the atmosphere in bathhouses, and they are not really that safe sex wise, as you can pick up all kinds of pesky critters there. But it is indeed still there. I do wish I had experienced the bathhouses when they were more social, now they seem to be a bunch of methed out zombies roaming the halls not saying anything. NOT sexy! Anyway, things change, as you know.

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    1. I really appreciate your insight. I've always hated change, even though it's inevitable - and often necessary. I suppose the Paramount renovation has done its best to keep the original intent in mind, although I'm not fond of it. MGM has completely changed, to the point that it's not nearly the same. One of my cousins works there (actually, she's my second cousin). I was never familiar with Warner's.

      It's hard to imagine that outdoor movies are now shown at the cemetery. Talk about tacky! I remember looong ago when it was a very reserved and sparsely populated place (except for the "stiffs", of course).

      I don't remember Flex on Melrose, but it's very possible that it wasn't there until after I moved away. The bathhouses were always sleazy and very risky (at least the ones I frequented). At the time, I liked the risk and danger. Do you remember the Midtowne Spa in downtown L.A.? (it's still there, I think). That was the creepiest place ever....and do I have some stories to tell.....

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    2. I never went to Midtown Spa, and not sure if it still there. Oh, I just checked on the internet, and it is still in existence. I had a period when I liked the bathhouses, but it was during a brief amount of time in the early naughts when I had my hands on good ecstasy. Those days are over! I prefer my shenanigans to be in privacy now.

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  4. Jon,
    Pat and I were on Melrose Avenue and the boulevards (Hollywood, Santa Monica and Sunset) during our stay in Los Angeles. Now because of this posting I will know more about the street where we will be walking. By the way, did you ever frequent Mel's Drive-In on Highland Avenue? It looks like a cool place. I think I have some videos of Melrose which I will post on my future blog postings. Thanks for the tour!
    Ron

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    1. In the good old days of Hollywood, many of the stars lived in the vicinity of Melrose, because it was so close to the studio. A lot of famous people lived in Ravenswood on Rossmore (which is right off of Melrose). Only a few blocks south of Ravenswood is the El Royal Apartment building. Lots of stars lived there also, including Judy Holiday and William Frawley.

      I've heard that Ravenswood and El Royal have changed drastically from the Golden Era. They now both have greedy foreign owners, whose only interest is making a quick buck. All the glamor is gone and both places are deteriorating. What a shame!

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    2. Thanks for the information about this area Jon. Next year we will visit this area and try to capture the vibe.
      Ron

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  5. I had no idea Paramount had changed so drastically. I have never discussed on my blog my times of shall we say very, sexual background, but I use to go to baths in Philly and one in DC. I was very found of the orgy room they had. Probably good I was never in that part of LA. I still go to San Fran, which the lifestyle there suits more personality more. While I still date 3 guys, I like my independence. But I feel very lucky to have never been caught with anything. Am miracle really. I actually have to post a few,questions I received. But I will and am looking forward to your memoir. Your post of late are fascinating.

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    1. Unfortunately, I'm always very careful about what I write on my blog - because I don't want to offend anyone (and also because my relatives read it). It's only lately that I have become more open about myself and my sordid past.
      I'm basically a very private person (believe it or not), but I had a very colorful past and sometimes I enjoy flaunting it.....

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  6. I got stuck on the photo of Red Balls, Jon. I know it's an honest clothing store but I was immediately transported, by its reflective convex-sphere facade, to Tijuana in the 1960s. There were these roadside stands covered with stolen hubcaps wired to each other maybe 15 feet tall. I thought it was an eye-catching arrangement and am gratified someone in the LA storefront design business thought so too!

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    1. Gosh, I remember a lot of those old hubcap-decorated places - - especially in Arizona and New Mexico (and some still in Texas). Actually, I like the idea. It has some artistic merit.
      I just don't think I'd ever want it on my house.....

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  7. The 'new and improved' Paramount appears soul-less.
    ... and Hollywood Forever? Is that code for Hades? I think somethings are better left to our memories.

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    1. The original concept of Hollywood - in its golden era - has been completely destroyed in recent years, by a ceaseless influx of greedy foreign investors and young "entrepreneurs" who know NOTHING about its history and - quite frankly - couldn't care less.

      The beginning of the end was already occurring when I lived there, and it's one of the main reasons I got out. I'm a traditionalist and I love the past, and I couldn't tolerate watching Hollywood (and all of Southern Calif.) being ruined.

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  8. You have had a lot of adventures in life, very worth reading.

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    1. I never thought my life was particularly interesting until I started looking back and remembering. Then I was astonished.

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  9. Dang, you've left me speechless *not so easy a thing to do* Frances Farmer and phone booths all in one post! Yes, these are two of my favorite things. Paramount really did a number on her (pun on purpose)during the 1930s. She wanted to act (not just be a movie star)so they made her suffer for it big time. She was a true rebel with a cause. Anyway, I have an essay on my blog about phone booths in the movies. Two all time favorites: A PATCH OF BLUE and THE ROSE. Heartbreaking stuff :-(

    P.S. I know you didn't mention Frances Farmer in your post, but she sure as hell made Paramount a lot of money (during the Depression). COME AND GET IT was a huge critical and public success :-)

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  10. Before I forget - I read your post about phone booths and liked it a lot. It's really unique. Ah - where do I begin talking about Frances Farmer? She is one of my all-time favorites. Paramount certainly did kick her in the ass. And so did her bizarre and twisted mother.

    "A Patch of Blue" is a great film - - and Shelley Winters was queen of the Bitches in it!!

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