HEARTBREAK KID: on the streets of Hollywood in the 1960s
Dear Yolee, Linda and Peggy,
I am currently finishing up the editing portion of my new memoir and there is a section about all of us and Shades of Dawn. I'd like you all to read the section below and let me know (on Facebook messenger) if this all is okay with you, is correct as to how you remember it, and if there is anything you'd like me to omit or add concerning this time. Just so you know, I have changed the names and characterization of some of the characters in the book, to protect the guilty...lol. But I have left all of your names intact. If you'd rather I give you a pseudonym, just let me know. Also, I've included more of the story following the part about you, just so you can see how it is developing.
Chapter 3 excerpt:
1967 was a lot about music. My love of dancing got me involved with a band named Shades of Dawn, a local band who played at one of Hollywood's teenage nightclubs, Gazzarri's West. I hung out there a lot and I found out they were looking for a new drummer. I told Jessie about it, as he was the best drummer around, in my opinion. I told him he should audition, but he was reluctant because he was only 17 and a runaway at the time, from a California Youth Authority detention center. I finally convinced him and got him an audition. They hired him on the spot! One night while they were playing, the club auditioned another band, a local band named Spirit. They were turned down by the owner as being too out there, too strange. If only he knew!
Jessie and I started hanging out with two Shades of Dawn members, Pat and Sterling. Pat was the rhythm guitarist, and had a knack for chicken-pickin' that really rocked! It was a unique guitar picking sound in rhythm-n-blues and he was really good at it. Sterling was the lead singer of the band. He strutted and sang in a similar manner as Mick Jagger—the way he shook his legs while playing his maracas, and the way he played with the microphone and mic stand as he sang. Later in life, he created The Musician's Contact Service in Hollywood, a business that helped other musicians find gigs in town. It was very successful and he still has it online on Facebook.
I became like a roadie to them, helping the band load and unload their equipment, as well as helping them set up on stage. Some of us who were regulars at Gazzarri's West started hanging out together more as a group, in support of the band. Sometimes we'd go behind the club in the alley and smoke joints when the band was on a break. There were several people in our core group, and we would often travel wherever the band was playing to support them.
There was Peggy, who I also went to high school with. We were in art class together at Hollywood High. Her sister, Katie (not my Katie, a different one), also hung around with us sometimes. They were both really cute and had blonde hair. Peggy was taller, so everyone always thought she was the older one, but she was younger than Katie.
Then there were Yolee and Linda, two beautiful sisters of Spanish heritage, with silky, long black hair. Their brother, Bob, became the band's keyboard player later on. He had played for a while in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, and he was married to folk singer, Judee Sill. Jessie and I saved their lives once and I wrote a long poem about it years later, but that's another story.
Yolee and Linda came from a musical family and later on they both married famous musicians. Their grandmother was Pilar Arcos. In the 1920s-1930s, she was a famous Spanish recording artist and actress, in New York City and around the world. Yolee would go on to marry Slyde Hyde (Dick Hyde), the well known trombone player and session musician, who played with, among others: Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Beach Boys, Supertramp, The Temptations, Ringo Starr, Carole King and Madonna.
Linda liked to create things with leather. She handmade a leather wallet for me that was just right on! That was so cool of her, and I still have it. In the previous year, the summer of ’66, Linda and I had entered a dance contest at Gazzarri’s, where the prize was two tickets to see The Beatles at Dodger Stadium. We won the contest. Linda sold her ticket to help her buy a Volkswagen, but I went to the concert. It was my second time seeing The Beatles and it was the first ever concert at Dodger Stadium, on August 28th, 1966. The 56,000 seat stadium would be home to many more rock-n-roll concerts in the future, but I was there—at the first!
Later in life, Linda married Chuck Findley, the well known trumpet player and session musician, who played and recorded with, among others: Jimmy Dorsey, Buddy Rich, B.B. King, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Elton John, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and The Rolling Stones. He became a regular player in the Tonight Show Band led by Doc Severinsen. Both Slyde Hyde and Chuck Findley were members of the famous Wrecking Crew, who played behind so many of the hit songs of the ‘60s-‘70s.
But, back to our own group in ’67. As I said, we'd all support Shades of Dawn at their gigs. Peggy and I, along with Linda and Yolee, would always be the first ones on the dance floor and the last to leave it at the end of the night. We loved to dance and always helped to get the crowd going. We had our own special saying when we were excited and having a great time: WORK!!! It was our own secret saying, that said something special had just happened.
One day Jessie told me that he and Pat had recently hiked up to a place called Tahquitz Falls, outside of Palm Springs. He said it was Indian reservation land and a very cool place. He asked if I wanted to go and check it out. He said Pat was going to camp out there for about a week and asked if we wanted to join him. I said, sure, and we planned it out. Jessie said it had seven waterfalls and at the top of the canyon was Idylwild. He said if you started at the bottom of the canyon in Palm Springs, it would take you over a week to climb all the way up the canyon and see all seven waterfalls. We decided to join Pat for a couple of days and see how it went.
I had a canvas backpack from the Boys Club summer camp, that I had also used when I was in the Cub Scouts for a short period of time. Jessie found one at the Army Surplus store. We packed stuff to get us by for a few days: dried fruit and nuts, chips and crackers, canned fruit and stuff—and of course, some pot. Pat told us there was plenty of fresh water up in the canyon, so we didn't need to worry about that.
We met up with Pat in Palm Springs, then we all drove out to the southwest side of town. You had to park and hike a mile or two in the flat desert to reach the mouth of the canyon. We did that, then started up the canyon path. Soon we had to rock hop to continue along the path. There was a fallen tree to use as a bridge to the other side of the water, where it was easier hiking. Once there, we made good time.
Eventually we came to the 1st waterfall, which was huge and spilled into a large body of water, forming a deep pool. Several people were there swimming, and there was a large rock on the south side that you could jump off into the center of the pool. People were climbing it and jumping off.
We didn't stay, but continued on. At that point, though, we had to rock climb up one side of the 1st falls to get to the top of them. Once there, we could still see the people below, and at the top of the falls was a river leading further up the canyon. We followed the river. At one point we had to cross it again, but it was shallow, so easy to do. Right there in front of us was a large painting of Jesus on the side of the canyon wall. Pat told us it was known as Jesus Rock, but he didn’t know who had painted it.
Further along, we came to a rock cave. We went inside and it was awesome! There was a solid stone fire pit in the middle, with stone seats around it. Someone had actually carved a shelf out of the rock cave wall and there were sacks of flour and grain that had just been left there, I guess for whoever came along. Pat told us that Timothy Leary had stayed in this cave while he was on the lam from the law. Wow! This was truly a unique experience.
We continued our trek up the canyon, coming to a small waterfall (the 2nd falls), then a larger one (the 3rd falls). What a beautiful canyon, full of clear running water and gorgeous waterfalls. We had been hiking for several hours now. When we got to the 4th falls, Pat told us this is where we would be camping. It was unbelievable—over time, the force of the falls had carved a huge, solid stone pool out of the rock mountain. Pat said it was called the Square Pool and, yeah, it was kind of square. It was crystal clear, deep and blue. You could see all the way to the bottom and Pat said it was about 15 feet deep. In front of it was a small beach-like area, with sand, which is where we set up camp.
Pat proceeded to pull cans of fruit and some beers out of his pack and threw them into the pool. He said that being on the bottom of the pool would keep everything cold. When you wanted something, you could swim to the bottom and grab it. Jessie and I laughed, then tossed what we had in there too, except for the cans of food that didn’t need to be cold.
It was an amazing place to camp—magical! We were hanging out, when we heard a noise that sounded like crickets. Pat told us that, yes, they were a special kind of cricket, native to the canyon, but they were also a warning signal. He told us to climb up on a rock where we could see the canyon below us. Way down the canyon, maybe a half mile below, we could see some people hiking up. Pat said that the crickets always sounded off when people were coming up the canyon, so you would always know way before anyone came near. Wow!
Just before dusk, I saw another phenomenon. To my right, on the south side of the canyon, way up high on the canyon’s rock wall, there were hundreds of little birds flying into a crack in the wall. It was like a funnel. They just disappeared right into the cliffs. It was another amazing site in this magical Indian canyon. The next morning, they came funneling out of the crack, the same way they had gone in. There were no cell phones in those days and, unless you were toting a camera with you, you just had to put these images in your mind and remember them. The fact is, it was so memorable that I can still picture it to this day.
As if that weren't enough, later that night when I was asleep in my sleeping bag, I was suddenly awoken by a noise in the camp area that sounded like something scratching around. I woke Pat and Jessie. Pat had a flashlight and when he shined it around we saw these little ring tail cats. I couldn't believe it! I'd never seen anything like them. They were small cats, like a house cat, but with very long tails, and their tails actually had rings around them! Pat said they were part of the canyon critters that live there, but they were harmless. They lived in canyon areas where there was water. My mind was blown!
The next day, we were hanging out, swimming, then laying on the huge canyon rocks in the sun to dry off. Pat was brewing some tea. He told us to come and try it. He said there was a natural weed that grew in the desert there, that the Indians would sometimes use for spiritual journey ceremonies. He said he had picked some on the way up and offered the tea to us. We were game for a spiritual journey, so we drank some.
It was like frying on mushrooms or a mild form of acid. I was trippin' out for a long time. At one point, I climbed up and behind the waterfall. There was a little cave behind it, just big enough for me to crawl into, but not stand up. I sat in there for the longest time. I could see through the waterfall, to the square pool below. There were also some spots above me where the sun peeked through the rocks, creating sun rays around me. I sat in there and felt like I was one with nature—like I was a part of everything. It was comforting and revealing, almost like an epiphany or something (you are the sender . . . I am the mender . . . we are the mind blender).
I climbed out and sat on a rock just above the waterfall, enjoying the afternoon sun and listening to the water, while observing the beauty of the canyon, with its giant rock walls on both sides of me, hawks and other birds flying above. I was sitting there watching my friends below me and I suddenly felt very serene—yes, serenity is what I felt. I pondered the connectedness of all things. I felt connected to Mother Earth, to the creatures I had seen, to my friends and to my fellow man in general. I came to the realization that we are all one—a part of everything and everything is a part of us. I felt it deeply in my soul.
Later, Jessie and I dove to the bottom of the pool and got some fruit and a few beers. What a glorious time this was. I did not even want to leave the canyon. I wanted to stay up there in Tahquitz Falls forever, maybe live in the cave where Timothy Leary had slept. But Pat wanted to move on, climb higher, to see the other falls. He planned to hike all the way up to Idylwild. Neither Jessie nor I wanted to do that, so we decided it was time to head back to the real world. The next morning we packed up, said farewell to Pat, and headed back down the canyon.
I'll never forget Tahquitz. I really believe I became one with the universe up there, at 17. Years later, I heard they fenced off the canyon so you couldn't hike up any more, as people were trashing it and leaving all kinds of garbage there. It was Indian reservation land, after all, and the tribes wanted it protected. Yep, people have a tendency to ruin a good thing.
It is hard to explain how much music meant to me. The Beatles, particularly, influenced my entire generation. It wasn't just that they influenced all music going forward. We all knew that would happen, because we could see it happening in front of us in real time. But we also knew we were in the midst of something truly phenomenal.
There had never been anything like The Beatles before, and there has not been since. Everybody copied them and everyone wanted to be like them. Boys grew their hair long just like The Beatles. Girls screamed and giggled and talked about which one they wanted to marry: Paul, the pretty boy; John, the sly jokester; George, the quiet one; or Ringo, the silly one with rings all over his fingers.
It is hard to express to people now what it felt like then; to know that, not only in the US and UK, but all over the planet, kids of every nationality waited, literally with bated breath, for the next hint of a new Beatles record. It didn't matter whether it was a new single or an album. People just waited anxiously for anything new.
Everyone yearned! Everyone was impatient! And when a new single or album was about to come out, the news spread like wildfire. Girls just about peed their pants and boys pretended like they didn't care. But we all did. We all cared a lot! Then, in 1967, something happened that would really change everything.
Pat lived with his old lady, Mary, in an apartment in Hollywood. It was the central gathering place for several members of the band, along with our core group.
We would often sit in a circle in the front room or around the dining room table, with lit candles and incense, smoking pot while we listened to the latest albums that had just come out by our favorite bands. We would all sit quietly, passing a joint and listening to a whole album at once, all the way through with no interruptions. It was almost a spiritual thing. This is what Hippies all over the country and world were doing.
Hippies didn't really sit around watching TV together—that was something you did at home. When we gathered we would sit quietly, getting high, while listening to groovy music, and especially listening to albums all the way through. Of course, there was much partying too, but listening to music was a ritual.
I hope you can picture that, because that is the setting where we all first heard Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in May of 1967. Listening to it was like being transported magically to another dimension. We had never heard anything like it! We listened to it over and over, from beginning to end, transfixed. The music traveled through you, around you, back and forth, side to side, completely engulfing you. It was incredible! Absolutely mind blowing!
So much has been said about Sgt. Pepper's through the years. Many believe it was The Beatles masterpiece, maybe even the greatest rock-n-roll record of all time. But instead of trying to get into any of that, I will just leave it here, with my own personal experience of how it happened into my life. I'll never forget it! Like all The Beatles records before it and after it, I played it repeatedly and never grew tired of it.