Sunday, September 06, 2009

Boom and Bust
(It's not about economics!)

Today I read of the passing of Al Gordon, a true hero in a great way and his tribute is in the LA Times.

On one day he was my own personal hero, but I confess, this story is much more about me than him. I only met this gentle warrior briefly when he got me out of the Hollywood Jail, and I've never had the opportunity (or thankfully, the need) to see him again.

But a posting about Mr. Gordon's passing, provoked some questions, so here is the whole story:

One summer day in 1982 the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence went on a tour of Hollywood. We made a pilgrimage to Frederick’s thereof and Boom Boom got a new bust.

Actually we’d been invited to speak to the Los Angeles chapter of Dignity and had a nice long weekend, half a dozen of the impish and possibly impious nuns in the City of the Queen of Angels. We were Sister Missionary Position, Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch, Sister, Mary O’Stop, a couple of others…. Oh, dear, forgive me, but it was 27 years ago… and of course, your own erstwhile Sister Boom Boom. One day was spent as a pilgrimage to various holy sites. We started our tour at a grand cemetery where we saw the columbarium that included what was left of Marilyn Monroe. A demure little plaque in the wall marked her spot.

A much grander and utterly poseworthy tomb held the remains of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and adding splendor to his bier was a long reflecting pool. The sisters, processed along the pool, the others in traditional robes, Sister Boom Boom bringing up the rear in fishnets and a black and white polka-dot bathing suit, accessorized with a chain for a belt, on which I had my big, multi-colored baby’s rosary, keys, and handcuffs. (Never leave home without them!) Swiss tourists went frantic with their cameras, yelling at each other (auf Deutsch) “Look over there! Look there! It’s Fellini!!!!”

From there we were conveyed to Hollywood Boulevard where we caused a huge stir. In San Francisco people would always engage with the Sisters, ask us questions, chat and joke with us. In Los Angeles they crowded and stared, preserving the show-biz tradition of the fourth wall. After just a few minutes admiring the impressions at Grauman’s (now “Mann’s”) Chinese Theatre we were asked to leave – for upstaging the cement? Well, we’ve been kicked out of better places… or have we? Hmmm… Out on the sidewalk of the stars, Sister Boom Boom sat by a star making a leggy cheesecake pose while another Sister took pictures. But, wait! I should have checked first. Whose star was that? Zsa Zsa Gabor??? Thank you very much, I’ll have my own star! Pulling out my lipstick I autographed a blank star and Sister Boom Boom was briefly a meteor on the sidewalk of the stars.

The pictures taken, we processed to our pick-up truck where a few of Hollywood’s Finest (so to speak. Actually they weren’t too bad!) came up to us asking, “OK, who defaced the sidewalk?” Seeing where this was going, and to save trouble (and as there were too many witnesses to deny anything!) I raised my gloved hand and admitted to the “crime.”

This wasn’t my first arrest (That was at the Pentagon with a group of Quakers when I was 14, at a war protest.) so I knew to co-operate, take the full rap and keep the other Sisters clear of trouble, so they could do what was necessary. Of course, the tourists were having a field day, crowding around with their cameras and asking Sisters at the periphery if we were making a movie. The police were very professional, polite and gentle throughout. (Thank God for all those people and their cameras!) When it came time to handcuff me one of the cops saw my accessories and asked if he should use my handcuffs or theirs. “Yours, Dear,” I answered., “Let’s keep this professional.”

Sister Mary O’Stop was careful to get pictures of the officer with his badge name and number. It’s the usual smart thing to do when your friend is getting arrested, but I had that info burned in my brain. The number I’ve forgotten in the many years since, but I’ll never forget Officer Tabak. He was a real cutie! Anyway, I later told Sister that instead of focusing so much on him, handsome as he was, she should have been getting pictures of me for Sisters’ archives. Sigh! God bless the novice!

While the police read me my rights, the tourists were snapping away and I was giving the cameras my best, reaching my arms out from behind, the best I could to show my cuffed wrists. The officers told me to stop posing for pictures, and I protested that they were taking the photos, shouldn’t I be polite? Cuffed and put into the car we drove off to Hollywood Station. The cops were joking all the way and I joined in the jolly banter. Rule one when getting arrested: be calm and co-operative. Rule #2: show no fear. Truth is I was more than a little nervous, but I wasn’t about to let anyone see that.

They lectured me like a child, with silly questions: “Do you know how many thousands of dollars it will cost the taxpayers to clean up your damage?” Right. A little lipstick on the sidewalk. I offered to tackle the job with a soapy rag. “What if somebody steps in it?” They might get a little lipstick on the sole of a shoe? People step in much worse all the time. I kept responding to silly questions with sensible answers, and they kept shrugging acceptance of my replies, but they persisted. Oh, well. It was Hollywood. They had their role to play and I had mine. Working with these gentlemanly professionals was a true pleasure, and I’d like to thank the academy…

Once at the station I was put on a bench with a chain across it, my cuffed wrists behind me locked to the chain. It wasn’t really uncomfortable, but in the time I was there (It felt like hours, but I couldn’t look at my watch) chained to a bench in my fishnets and bathing suit, not a one of the handsome, rugged policemen took advantage of me. That wounding of my pride is really the worst that happened all day. Never mind the continuing silly questions. (“What the hell are you?” I’m Sister Boom Boom from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, in San Francisco – always answered with a bright, cheery smile.) But while I was chained down, a policewoman – of course it would be a woman – asked the one sensible question I heard all day: “What shade of lipstick was it?”

“Loganberry Frost” I announced, “It’s the only shade I ever use!” (Actually it was Ming Rose, but I had to offer tribute to our most fabulous Sister Loganberry Frost!)

Some poor girl was chained down next to me. I think she was on drugs, and given our bondage and location I don’t blame her at all for not offering to share. They’d pulled her out of a stolen car where she was a passenger. Where the driver of said vehicle was there was no indication, but the poor dear was just a passenger, and apparently she had a record. The poor thing was panicking very loudly and I tried offering her comfort. “Keep, cool, Honey. Save your energy, and don’t let them see you panicking. It only plays into their hands.” Of course I was talking to myself as much as to her.

They took my belongings and inventoried everything, fingerprinted me and took my mug shots. The photographer was disturbed by my photogenic smile and told me to stop smiling so big. Just as I was about to be put into a big cage with a very colorful collection of fellows (and here’s where I really got nervous!) the word came down that I was to be released.

My wimple, purse, and waistchain were returned to me and I was released due to the kind efforts of Al Gordon, a darling, softspoken, grandfatherly figure who had gotten me out on recognizance and later got the charges dropped. As for his charges, it was all pro bono – icing on the cake! God bless Al Gordon!

The other sisters met me telling how they had gotten a bucket and towel and cleaned the sidewalk – getting before and after pictures – saving the taxpayers of Los Angeles the onerous costs of cleaning lipstick off a sidewalk. We were far from the police station when I realized they had taken my handcuffs from my chain! How dare they! Well, we had to head back to San Francisco. It would be much easier to replace them than to go back and make a fuss, and we certainly didn’t want any more trouble with the police.