© 2018, Mirror Image Edutainment. This post has not been edited. I offer no apology for missing or misplaced commas, or excessive use of the words have, had, that, and exclamation marks.
‘I had a job. Jerry had a career’
Alan Obermayer ©2013
A long, long time ago, I can still remember when I was young, sometime last century, I met a very handsome stranger on a big rock in the park. I had just traded in a house in Santa Ana (and one of my two small retirement funds) to finance the move to L.A. when a friend on the beach offered me his 350 square foot apartment in Silver Lake.
“I’ll be in D.C.,” he told me “you can stay here for three weeks while I’m out of town.”
“Yes” I immediately said and in the pouring rain, I moved in. The next morning around six o’clock, a major earthquake rocked his little Silverlake Hills home. The street was filled with neighbors in pajamas and slippers. Car alarms were going off. The next day my friend had a fight with his boss and three weeks turned into three days. Then a Koreatown apartment manager offered me free first months rent in exchange for a blow job. This is odd business practice, I told myself as I signed the rental agreement. I had learned something, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I’m glad I passed.
I paid my rent and waited three weeks for L.A. Unified to complete their paperwork before they would allow me to teach. As soon as they had cleared me, I was up every morning at six, ready to accept any subject assignment at any school, any grade K through twelve. I learned they did indeed need Spanish speaking substitutes in L.A. Unified — on Mondays and Fridays. The rest of the week I found ways to keep myself out of trouble, mostly driving up the coast and familiarizing myself with all the beaches. The shrewd apartment manager already had a construction crew earthquake proofing the building, which meant deafening noise from eight to five. My new apartment building was the perfect setting for the business minded manager to orchestrate a couple of porn movie shoots, meaning twinks were going in and out before they were even called twinks.
After the heat of the day was behind me, I drove to Griffith Observatory, parked and got out to join the crowd of people. There atop a big boulder, in the setting sun, I saw this tall silhouette of a man. Then he turned, walked toward me, and introduced himself. I could detect a bit of a German accent when he told me his name was Jerry Schmidt and I began to connect dots. Somehow, I suspected he had a father who had served in Germany in WWII and a German born mother.
He told me he was a hairdresser in one of the most shi shi foo foo salons on Rodeo Drive. I don’t remember whether it was José Ebert (pronounced Zhozay A-bear), Herr Robert (pronounced Hair Rowbear) or Juan-Juan (pronounced Zhwahn-Zhwahn), but I certainly remember the salon experience. Jerry’s first step in developing a relationship with me was to set up an appointment for a three hundred dollar shampoo, cut and perm; courtesy of the house. When the shampoo girl said, “we’re done” he slipped me a ten dollar bill when he saw how unprepared I was. Then, while clipping my mane, Jerry filled me in on all the “office” gossip, in German. With my perm set, he then took me to Fred Segal’s to slip me into some new clothes. Looking back, I imagine he saw me as an accessory and he wanted me to look good. This is like an early experience with Mummy I told myself, she always wanted me to look good too.
At the time I was teaching los primos (the cousins) in East Los Angeles, and had jumped through several hoops to be among the privileged to be allowed to do so. Spanish language, history, culture, reading, methodology, and language acquisition, the list of competency exams I had to jump through goes on. Jerry lived on the other side of the tracks, or the L.A. river — in a deluxe apartment overlooking Runyon Park. One day he drove me back to my apartment in Koreatown to pick up some things.
“How do you put up with all the trash on the streets?” I asked him. I had been living in Orange County and was in disbelief when I saw the trash in the streets of L.A..
“You avoid driving there” he told me.
I began spending my time in Jerry’s white apartment with the white carpet, the white furniture, and the three-foot white vases filled with white seaoats. Night after night, Jerry came home around six and emptied his pockets onto the kitchen counter. Out of his pockets he pulled twenty, fifty and one hundred dollar bills.
“Look at this” he said “can you believe all this from just cutting hair?” He wasn’t boasting. It was more like he was just being realistic about the world, as if suggesting I give up teaching to follow in his footsteps by becoming a hairdresser. I had a job. Jerry had a position and in his presence I was made very aware of the difference.
Jerry’s clients could afford hundred dollar tips. Among doctor’s wives, Hollywood industry widows and others, his clients included Katharina Brahsels, who along with her two siblings, had inherited major BMW stock. She liked Jerry and Jerry became her money magnet.
Time revealed Jerry was an only child of a Berliner mother and an American father. Like me, he was a Germerican, though at the time I had not yet figured myself out. His parents had twenty-four years age difference between them, while mine had only twenty-three. Both our mothers were blonde, (every three weeks), Berliner war brides who suffered from PTSD but hadn’t a clue and never would find one. Jerry and I bonded in German.
Then he arranged to have both our mothers fly into LAX from different destinations. We picked them up at close intervals, waiting the ten minutes in between in a white Mercedes limousine filled with helium balloons. With everything loaded, we drove off for brunch in Marina del Rey. When we got home Jerry handed the driver a hundred dollar bill and sent him on his way. For five days we had a grand time sightseeing as Jerry introduced us to the best Los Angeles had to offer.
Everything Jerry did was big. He even had a hands-free car phone in his new convertible Jeep.
“Just say ‘dial home’” he told me. My answering machine picked up but I was in the car with him so I left myself a message I loved myself. I put my sunglasses on, one of several choices of three hundred plus dollar sunglasses Jerry had received from appreciative clients who walked into his station with stressed out exposed roots and walked away feeling like movie stars who had just had a terrific therapy session. Literally, Jerry didn’t know what to do with the abundance but to pass it along. And I was happy to be there.
This man was only two months older than I. He was a tall, handsome, blue-eyed blond and for whatever reason, he thought I was hot. But then he would turn and make fun of me.
“You’re wasting your time teaching” he told me. To prove it, he draped me in a complete new wardrobe then took me to Mortons for dinner. Then he took me away for a weekend in Big Bear where we kindled the flame. He showed me San Francisco through the eyes of Janis Joplin in a Victorian bed and breakfast room she had once slept in. When it got hot we drove to Palm Springs to drop our clothes, with Jerry all the while on his new toy, even then — the hands-free car phone. I often wonder if Jerry man not have been right about teaching.
Who wouldn’t want to spend more time in an environment where everything was white but the four foot round mirror and the paintings on the walls. Then Jerry began introducing me to his friends. We met at Kate Mantelini, il Duomo, Belle Epoque and I was never allowed to pay. There I stood, just four centimeters shorter than Jerry, when he invited me to his client Katharina’s wedding. I was excited to be invited anywhere, especially to a wedding where most of the guest list spoke German. I hadn’t spoken German since Mummy had last reprimanded me for wearing jeans when I got off the plane.
“Yes” I said. Jerry draped an expensive suit over me and said “Let’s go!” After the wedding he told me to keep the suit; he had several more. Not only was Jerry personable and very generous, he was charming. His clients confided in him and money being a good motivator, I’m sure he was a good listener. He even kept (some of) his clients’ secrets. I should know. I could throw in some dirt but Mummy raised me to be an orphan, so I’ll stay nice.
If anyone had the “It” factor, it was Jerry with his charming way. He just seemed to know he was worthy of living an abundant life. To use a description Terry Cole Whittaker might choose, Jerry understood, prosperity was his divine right. On the other hand though, he must have been a troubled soul. I could understand his judgements, I had lived with these same judgements, in German as well. I could even understand some of the mean things he said because I didn’t allow his words to affect me.
In 1986, the bride, whom I’ll call Katharina since that is her name, bought Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house in Bel Air with the mint green and gold everything from asbestos to wallpaper. By late 1987, the crew had gutted everything green and gold (the entire house) and remodeled it in exquisite splendor. With the house complete, Katharina was now ready to walk down the aisle with her boyfriend, the sixteen year her junior actor named Whatzizname Iforgot. Whatzizname was just eight years older than Katharina’s older teenage daughter. The age difference seemed perfect. Katharina was thirty-five, Whatzizname was 21. Jerry’s clients would certainly agree; it was a perfect match.
The day arrived when Katharina and Whatzizname (whom I never again saw in any role other than shorts) got married in the post Zsa Zsa newly gutted and remodeled (to the tune of two million dollars) casa. In the foyer stood a silver alloy four foot long 747 jet, light emitting from from thirty-two cut out windows with an alloy beam grounding the jet to the ground. I put this lamp on my “Must Buy Before I Die” list where it has remained since.
Apparently BMW stock had done so well that year that Katharina gave sixteen of her best friends BMW cars for Christmas. Forget the cars, I just wish I had the sixteen friends and Jerry was one of them. Though perhaps famous only in the board room, Katharina and her entourage lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous, entertaining in a living room three times the size of my apartment. In the open garages sat Katarina and Whatzhizname’s his and her 1966 red and blue convertible Mustangs, as well as a Bentley, an XKE, and an olive colored Land Rover.
One hot summer day, several of us walked into Thrifty’s drug store to pick up a few items. Katharina’s oldest daughter wanted a stick of gum, her younger son and daughter wanted peppermint sticks. Katharina wanted Certs, so she placed the boxes of gum, Certs, and mints on the belt, being certain to get enough variety to make everyone happy. One item after another, the checkout band was filled; “I’ll take this. I’ll take that. I’ll take one of these, one of those.” At checkout, the sundry bill came to around two hundred dollars and everyone, including some strangers had something good to suck on or chew.
At the wedding, I met Katharina’s best school friend, Mrs. Ilona Hilgenstock. Ilona had just left Mr. Hilgenstock in the beautiful village of Bad Homberg, just north of Frankfurt, renowned for its healing water and baths.
“Scheiß auf Deutschland” Katharina told Ilona, “was du brauchst ist Sonne” – Screw Germany. You need sun.” It’s like a sitcom treatment: Ilona grabs her kids and says good-bye to Germany’s drab weather and hubby. She packs up her out of control, materialistic and manipulative enough to get anything they want out of her three teenage kids, tosses her beautiful gray hair back, and flies into Los Angeles where Katharina picks her up in a Land Rover and delivers her to a three million dollar rented house in the sunshine drenched hills of Bel Air. The three million dollar home was really not that impressive other than the security alarm and the aqua and salmon leather furnishings, but it had a pool and an amazing view overlooking the hills. Apparently the neighbors across the canyon always went out to swim or toss a tennis ball, but it sure looked good. Never once while walking down Linda Flora Lane did any one of the neighbors ever say hello to me. This is odd, I thought.
Well, Ilona just thought I was the hottest thing since spreadable Leberwurst, and after a few drinks (too many) she was no longer shy. So Ilona flirted with me and tried to inspect my throat with her tongue while her children celebrated freedom from father Hilgenstock in the next room. Then, while her three teens were out and about with Katharina’s three (semi-out of control) teens, creating a ruckus wherever they went, Ilona tried to mosey me into her rented boudoir retreat. But I maintained my chastity when it came to Ilona and my apartment manager, only because Ilona was a bit troubled. For Ilona, everything seemed to be too much.
That May, just as I had come home to Koreatown after a day subbing, the phone rang.
“Would you like to stay on Linda Flora while we’re in Germany?” Ilona asked “you can even drive the Jeep” — with the hands free voice activated car phone I remembered. Of course, I said yes, packed my toothbrush, locked my Koreatown apartment and took off for the hills. For three months I enjoyed the peace and quiet Koreatown could not offer. Ironically, I had been subbing close to West Hollywood and now that I was house sitting on the west side, I accepted a long term position in Koreatown. Every day, on my way to Linda Flora, I drove past my fifth floor Koreatown studio.
Soon the sun was too much for Ilona, so Katharina grabbed her new son, I mean new husband 22 year old husband Whatzizname, Ilona, the six teens, two dogs, and an entourage of staff who boarded a flight east in anticipation of benefiting from the mild German sunshine and it’s pleasant seventy-two degree summer days. All they really needed was less sunshine and a stress-free day at the health club without kids.
By Christmas, Ilona had made up with husband Hilgenstock and gave up on either the heat, Katharina, me, or L.A. all together. She grabbed her kids, and feeling invigorated, flew back to Germany to stand trial as Frau Hilgenstock. A couple of years later, while staying with my friend Michael in Frankfurt, I learned he had attended grammar school with Ilona.
“Bad Homburg ist beautiful. Hol Deine Jacket. Let’s go visit Ilona” he told me as he grabbed his keys. We got into his VW Golf (known in America as the Rabbit) and Michael drove us to the Hilgenstock residence to spread good cheer. I always like Ilona, and I thought she liked more than my throat and butt. Unfortunately, Frau Hilgenstock was not able to let me in because the beds hadn’t been made. This sounds petty but we were in the land where you are asked to “ring the bell silently” – bitte leise klingeln.” I imagine Ilona felt no need for her husband to meet me so the three of us had a friendly little visit at the door, then Michael drove me to play antthropologist at the Roman bath ruins outside of town.
To be continued in Part II
Jerry Comes Home With News