HOLLYWOOD TALES FROM THE OUTER FRINGE
Excerpted from the beginning of "The Guardian"
Murphy looked like a stereotypical Irish cop from his bald head with it's fuzzy fringe of brown hair at the sides and back, to the square jaw, once cute turned up nose, bushy eyebrows, and eyes that now looked squinty in a slightly puffy 44 year old face. The gray pants and matching shirt with pleated breast pockets and epaulets, together with the shiny black shoes, wide leather belt and holstered 38 caliber revolver, rounded out the cop image. The silver badge over his left breast pocket and the yellow and blue embroidered shield emblem on his upper left sleeve restricted that image to being an employee of the leading Hollywood private security company. The crowning element of the cop image was the gray cap with its shiny black leather visor, although Murphy, contrary to the behavior of most bald men, rarely wore it. At least when he was driving around in the unmarked car, without the cap he didn't appear to be a security guard to the casual observer. Because Murphy was not particularly proud of his career guarding the opulent homes and spoils of success of his Hollywood peers.
As the only son of a successful film character actor, Murphy had been born into a Pasadena family with show biz expectations. Although his father's most famous role was playing the Indian sidekick of a TV cowboy, a pretty far stretch for a red headed Irishman, his mother's brief years as a beautiful aspiring starlet and her continuing role as the trophy wife of a successful actor meant Murphy's youth was spent in a vain search for some kind of performing talent that constantly eluded him. Dancing and singing classes were embarrassing, and acting classes became psycho analytical sessions where his relationship with his father became even more strained. From Death of a Salesman to King Lear, Murphy found himself identifying with the victim son of an obsessive father.
Murphy parked the plain black two door sedan at the first of a strip of Hollywood Boulevard houses he would visit in his nightly rounds. He reluctantly donned the visored cap so he would be identifiable as a security guard with the right to enter the well manicured lawn of the white mission styled house that stood out starkly against the tall cedars on the hill that rose behind it up to the starry night sky. He looped the black leather strap of the black leather encased timeclock over his shoulder and headed toward the keypost in the back yard where he would punch in the record of the time and location of this first destination in his nightly circuit.
As Murphy approached the keypost some twenty feet outside the open rear kitchen door, the resident, as usual at this early evening hour, could be seen seated at the kitchen table talking to someone. Charles Coburn was an elderly character actor of English descent, a supporting actor in dozens of 'A' films and the leading actor in a few 'B' films. Coburn spotted Murphy inserting the key in the timeclock and called out in his distinctive raspy old man's voice, "Hi, young fella'," Then Coburn pulled out a pocket watch from his bulging pants waist and glanced at it before looking back at Murphy and saying, "Right on time, as always."
Before Murphy could respond, Coburn's guest, Conrad Veidt, a tall white haired handsome distinguished character actor who most always played sophisticated villains, peeked around the door. Seeing a man in uniform, he struck a surprised pose, then said dramatically, "Oh, my God, Charles, they've finally come for me."
Murphy forced a smile, turned the key in the timeclock, and joined the men in a good natured chuckle at Veidt's wry humor. Then he responded to the client, saying, "Yes, Mr. Coburn. I've checked the grounds and all's well."
Coburn 'harrumphed' and replied, "Good man. Carry on," then returned his attention to his guest.
Murphy got in his car and headed for the next destination. Orson Welles and his wife, Rita Hayworth, were a few blocks further down Hollywood Boulevard, but enough further to notice a considerable increase in the size and opulence of the real estate. As sometimes occurred when approaching this particular house, Murphy heard the sounds of domestic discord. Welle's distinctive voice was raised in protest, sounding to Murphy like a recreation of Welle's role as the tyrannical media mogul from his masterpiece, Citizen Kane. As Murphy approached the keypost at the rear of the house, he heard the front door slam as Welles exited to enter a Jaguar sedan parked beside two other cars in front of the separate garage at the side of the house.
As the throaty roar of Welle's car faded into the distance, Murphy could see Rita Hayworth through the leaded side windows of the front room. Her sad expression belied the beautifully coiffured red hair and dazzling tightly fitted orange and black satin gown she wore. She strode over to an elaborate cellarette, stared at the set of cut glass decanters for a long time, then impulsively grabbed one and filled a tall glass with the amber liquid.
Murphy felt a tug at his heart as he identified with the beautiful woman staring at the amber filled glass in her hand. At forty-four, Murphy had drifted in and out of bouts of alcoholism lasting several years at a time. The end of an early four year childless marriage had initiated his first losing battle with alcohol. His wife had been more impressed with his show biz family than with him, and, when she had an affair with his father, it did not seem a deal breaker to his wife or his parents, but it was enough to push Murphy over the edge.
Since then he stayed on the wagon for years at a time, falling off the wagon a couple more times when life threw him too great a curve. Because he had to wear a sidearm for the security guard job, he had remained sober for the past five years he had worn the uniform.
Murphy watched Rita Hayworth raise the glass to her lips and empty half its contents before stopping and, once again, staring down into the glass as if she were looking for something there. Murphy sighed deeply and shook his head negatively as he returned to the unmarked car.
His next stop helped lift his spirits a little. Dan Duryea was a solid but lesser star than Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, but he was also a family man married to the same woman for life and a good father to his two kids. The house was more modest, but, as Murphy looked through the windows on his way to the keypost, he saw what appeared to be a Norman Rockwell painting. Husband and wife and children were seated for dinner and being served by a stout handsome black woman with silver white hair, and everyone was smiling and laughing. Murphy turned the key from the keypost in his timeclock and returned to his car as quietly as possible, not wanting to disturb the idyllic dinner scene.
Murphy worked his way West on Hollywood Boulevard until it curved up to Laurel Canyon. There, in the winding tree shrouded nooks and crannies of the canyon, were the 'nouveau riche' clients; younger, less affluent, and less famous. Where the troubled among the old guard reeked of alcohol, here the troubled among the newcomers reeked of marijuana. Where the old guard were long standing established film icons, here the trendy crowd became overnight successes in the new medium of television, and fell into oblivion just as fast because they were not rated for talent, rather by Neilsen and the questionable journalism of scandal magazines.
Murphy pulled into the drive of a famous drummer whose big band had headlined for over a decade. Although drug arrests had toppled him by the end of the 'swing era,' the 'golden age of television' in the 1950's had given the drummer's career a new lease on fame and success. Still, like most Laurel Canyon residents, his ranch style home was tucked away in a small level pocket of ground and there was no garage for his one car, a little MG (Morris Garage) sporty roadster which shared the small circular drive this evening with a Volkswagon 'bug' and, now, Murphy's unmarked sedan.
As Murphy squeezed himself out of the narrow space between his car and the 'bug,' he noticed the 'peace' symbol and an imitation plastic cannabis leaf dangling on beaded strings from the rear view mirror. Through the heavily curtained windows, he could see the eerie glow of 'black' (ultra violet) lights and hear the excessively loud playback of one of the drummer's gold selling albums. The sound of a young girl's laughter could be heard during the brief pause between the recorded musical numbers, and, as Murphy waved back the overgrown banana tree leaves covering the keypost on the small rear patio, he safely guessed the VW bug belonged to a young groupie the drummer had brought home from his current Sunset Strip appearance.
As he turned the key in the time clock, his peripheral vision noted a surreptitious narrow parting of the curtains and he knew he was being observed by the paranoid drummer. This famous musician wanted the protection of a uniformed guard, yet lived in fear of the police. Murphy turned and walked slowly past the slit in the curtains so the 'Security Guard' emblem on his left sleeve could be clearly seen by the nervous resident.
The unmarked black sedan twisted and turned its way up the crevice of Laurel Canyon, snaking through the Hollywood Hills until it came to rest beside a two tone lavender and purple convertible Lincoln Continental in the brick set driveway of a Mission style house. As Murphy exited the sedan, he heard a thumping sound coming from the open convertible. Unable to see anyone near the car, he considered the possibility that a thief might be attempting access to the car trunk or stripping parts from the far unseen side of the car. He quietly retrieved his large black flashlight from the front seat of the sedan and, removing the revolver from its side holster, he began to creep around the front of the car and down the passenger side.
He realized the thumping sound came from the back seat of the car. With his heart racing wildly, he pointed his revolver and flashlight into the wide purple leather upholstered backseat as he snapped on the powerful flashlight. His brow knitted into a painful frown as he snapped off the flashlight and pointed the revolver skyward, wailing his regret aloud, "Oh no! Oh God!"
The famous middle aged actress stopped thumping her hips up and down and covered her eyes with her hand, angrily shouting, "What the fuck!"
Murphy averted his eyes skyward and babbled apologetically. "I'm sorry....jeez....I'm really sorry, Ma'm. I thought I heard a car thief."
The actress, who owned the Lincoln and the house, rose up on her elbows, her long silky blonde hair rising from the leather seat and falling into perfect waves down to her shoulders. She grabbed her skirt, which was gathered around her waist, and threw it down to cover her naked pelvis, almost covering her partner's head as they rose from a kneeling position to sit beside her. At first Murphy had thought her partner a male, being dressed in pin stripe pants and a man's white shirt. But, as the equally famous slim young actress brushed her severely short blonde hair back with both hands and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt, Murphy's jaw dropped momentarily and he turned his head slightly sideways, looking skyward again. The young actress spoke playfully, a slight slur in her voice. "No sweat, man. No car stealing here." Then she turned and smiled mischievously at the older woman. "Just stealing a little kiss."
The car owner sat upright and rearranged her skirt, giving the younger woman a half hearted backhand across the chest as she shouted, "Shut up!" Then she turned her attention to Murphy. "And you..."
The young woman touched her companion's lips with her finger. "Chill, Sweetie. The man's just doing his job."
Murphy seized the opportunity. "Yes, Ma'm. If everything's okay here, I'll just go check the grounds and punch the timeclock at the keypost." He turned to leave, had a second thought that the owner might have other guests on the grounds, turned back to her, but did not make eye contact. "Er, if that's allright with you, Ma'm?"
The young woman leaned toward her companion, her finger tracing a line from her companion's mouth to her ear as she teased, "I love the way he keeps calling you Ma'm." The older woman closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and held it.
Murphy coughed, turned away again, and said to no one in particular, "Yes, very well, then. I'll just go punch the clock." He walked cautiously through the grounds to the keypost in back, fearful that he might disturb possible guests, but found no one. He took a circuitous route back to his sedan to avoid disturbing the two women in the car.
Murphy's schedule prescribed two visits to each client location in the course of the night. His route was planned so that he would end his first circuit of clients at the very top of the Hollywood Hills, then work his way downhill to complete the second circuit. In a way, the client at the top would be compensated for only having one visit by the fact that Murphy would stay on her grounds much longer than any other. This was more than just a practical routing pattern, it was also because Murphy wanted to spend time there.
This lady enjoyed a beautiful view from the mountaintop of glittering Hollywood in one direction and the Pacific ocean miles away in the other. Her modern ranch style home was lushly landscaped and very secluded. The master bedroom at the rear of the house looked out on a kidney shaped pool and a large patio dotted with Grecian urns and one concrete replica of the statue Aphrodite, the goddess of love, from the Library of Alexandria in Egypt.
This lady was famous for one outstanding feature, she had what was considered the most beautiful, the most perfect body of any woman in the history of Hollywood. However, she was not famous for anything else. She had never been nominated for awards. Critics had been unkind about the caliber of her performing talents, be it acting, singing, or dancing. Nonetheless, her sheer beauty was reason enough to cast her in dozens of major successful movies, and her image had become an icon of Hollywood glamour.
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