Monday, October 9, 2017

Jay and the Americans - The Trip

In early 2016, I wrote Jay and the Americans. I call it a fictional memoir. Most of it's true, like 90%, though I've stretched things a bit here and there. It's what storytellers do. Jay and the Americans is now available on Amazon and CreateSpace and also for you Kindle. In celebration, and in the hope that you, my loyal readers, may find Jay intriguing, I'm continuing this series on defunct venues. Here are the links if you'd like to purchase (please) Jay and the Americans: CreateSpace   -OR-   Amazon 


More than once we went to the Trip. Laura and I weren't allowed in, 21 and up, and so we'd sit in the back and listen. I'd color, and Laura and I would Ouija. I liked the Ouija. It pointed to the moon a lot. It spelled my name. David Crosby played with us; I didn't really know who he was, but he looked like a walrus. He asked a question and it pointed to the no, then he colored with me.  I don't think he liked the Ouija's answer, but he colored real nice. Laura always asked the Ouija if her mother would ever come home. Once it answered, "Yes, No, Goodbye," and Laura cried.

The Trip was little and dirty, but there was always good music. There were fights and people were odd at times, and the police would come or an ambulance, but that was just part of it.  The Byrds were there a lot. That's who we went to see. Lots of songs about change and freedom and how things were supposed to be, all in pretty harmonies. 

Yes, No, Goodbye
Carl would sit in at times and play a pretty melody.  I liked a song called "Dolphin Smile" that Carl would play on, but "My Back Pages" was my favorite.  Laura and I would sing, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now."  I was six years old, but that made perfect sense to me.

Laura and I would snuggle up on the couch in the back. The gig would end and they'd sit around and the room would fill with smoke and it would smell like someone was cooking, like they were making really good spaghetti sauce.  I'd sleep with my feet on my mother's lap.  The sun would be coming up when she walked me out to the car.  Carl would shake Laura on the shoulder and say, "Come on, you want breakfast?"

o o o

It was six o'clock in the morning. Everybody looked real tired, all droopy eyelids and just kind of out of it, like it had been a rough night. We were in Ben Frank's.  

The waitress was taking our order when my father walked in and sat at the counter. He was doing the billboard above the Trip (the cosmos are chock full of coincidence). He ordered coffee and a pancake sandwich without looking at the menu, and then he went into the restroom. He didn't see us; we were in a booth in the corner. Carl threw a ten dollar bill on the table and we left, though all we'd had so far was coffee and water.  My father never saw us. 

It was the kind of thing my mother would do. She'd say, "Don’t you talk to him." She'd say, "Don’t mention this."  She'd say, "We don’t want to bother him." But I think he saw us as we drove away. That day he painted Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, the pretty girl in the whipped cream dress. It wasn't one of his best.

Carl got my mother an audition with the Ray Conniff Singers. He'd laid down some basic tracks for an album called The Happy Beat, and he talked up my mother for a new album called It Must Be Him. It was the kind of music my father would appreciate. Of course my mother saw it as lowering the bar, singing dirges in a chorus, kind of beneath her, based on her experience. "Music to Watch Girls Go By" was one of the songs. I liked it. Carl played guitar, and the chorus sang, "Die, dut da, die, dut da, die, dut da, die dut dut dut die di da."  I liked it: "The boys watch the girls while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by." What's not to like? My mother was awfully fussy, but like I said she'd mellowed out since she'd met Fat Alice, and she took the gig. I thought it was kind of jazzy.
On the day of the sessions, my mother dropped me off at my father's. Small talk at first, and then he said, "I saw you at Ben Frank's."
"Oh, when?" she said.
"You know perfectly well when."
In the old days it would have escalated from there.  She said, "Bill, I'm sorry, I didn’t see you."
"Well I saw you."
"Breakfast, you know? You're a man who appreciates his breakfast."
"I don't want Jay up in the middle of the night."

Joey Heatherton
"I don’t want to talk about it, she said, "It was breakfast," and she enunciated the br in breakfast, made it a whole syllable unto itself, because somehow that made it clear. "Gimme kiss, I'm leaving.  I'll pick you up Sunday. D'you pack your toothbrush?" She kissed me on the forehead.

The Trip had been a popular jazz nightspot since the late 1940s (check out an unusual LP called TC Jones, Himself, recorded live at the Crescendo (The Trip in its glory days). Jones was a sweet transvestite who did impressions and sang, stylizing the likes of Edith Piaf and Katherine Hepburn). Most of the supper clubs suffered because the old Hollywood crowd and homeowners from the Valley didn't want to share the strip with the hippies. Only Dino's (Dean Martin's club/restaurant) would survive well into the 70s and restaurateurs like Bruno Petroletti, who owned LaRue, would soon pack it in. "It's not a pleasant thing to see them walking around," he said in 1968. The incidents in 1966 at Pandora's Box at the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset, had chased away the nightclub crowd. Another successful survivor was the Playboy Club, a high rise next to The Trip. It was there that in the early 70s that Hugh Hefner would host Playboy After Dark, an unusual variety show/party-crash that Hef hosted. The show ran for two seasons in 1969 and 1970, and featured guests like Joey Heatherton (my 13 year old heartthrob) and Steppenwolf.

The Trip seemed an anomaly when it opened in 1965, a precursor to what would come; clubs like Ciro's had not yet changed guard, so to speak. It would champion the small rock venue leading to clubs like The London Fog, where The Doors would become the house band and The Sea Witch, not to mention The Roxy and The Whiskey. Future club owner Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco) said, "I'd like to see the '60s happening again." Rodney was a part of an older set who got the hippie vibe and was around when you might have seen Joan Baez and Dylan at Fred C. Dobb's coffeehouse (demolished - 8537 Sunset Blvd.). He recalled when Dylan joined The Byrds at It's Boss, a teen club that was Ciro's Nightclub and is today The Comedy Store. "I remember him playing 'Tambourine Man' on the harmonica, which is a different memory of Ciro's than most people have. The building that housed The Trip was demolished in 1973.

The Byrds at The Trip