Not The Grace You Been Waitin’ For……

As soon as I dumped my closeted gay boyfriend who hated my body even more than I did at the time, a personal revolution began. I was living in Huntington Beach with a couple of pot-smoking, pagan theater types, Josh and David.  Josh, David and I were in the full-time business of having grandiose ideas about ourselves (I was an aspiring filmmaker and writer) and the part-time business of doing local theater productions together. I discovered at this time that I had a talent for directing plays. On the closing night of one play, we had a big cast party at our place. I was talking/drinking/smoking/mingling when out of the corner of my eye I saw a stout, elderly woman sitting on our couch by herself. She was beaming at me. Being the hostess that I have always been, I introduced myself. She had worked on the show as an assistant stage manager.

Norma desmondGrace had actual stubble on her chin (I came to find out later that she preferred to shave her hormonal hair rather than wax it away).  Incongruently, she spoke in the Old Hollywood style, elongating her vowels like Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard , calling me “Jennifehh, deahh.” As in: “Jennifehh, deahh, bring me my tuhhban.”  She would say this occasionally, her eclectic fashion choices including a turban and other things like her“kaftan” (really, a mumu) which sounded so much grander when pronounced in this way.

No sooner had our conversation on the topic of jazz and its sub-genres started, than I found myself agreeing to come to her “Coach” to check out her vinyl collection. Grace had a gift for referring to even the humblest of things – like her trailer – in a grandiose way. Hence, “the Coach.”  The Coach turned out to be a cozy little double-wide with a step-up porch in one of the nicer mobile courts in Garden Grove. It also turned out to be my next place of residence.

Though it had been fun, my living situation with Josh and David had dissipated in a strained but mostly amicable haze of pot-smoke and packing boxes. The reverse Three’s Company sitcom that was our domestic life had reached its final season. Mr. Furley was long gone, and Mr. Roper was on his way out.

Grace and I were never alone at the Coach. As at Josh and David’s place, quite a few other bohemians, local theater types, pentacle-sporting witches and the odd PA working on the fringes of the film industry found their way to the Coach. Grace was a generous woman with a penchant for hanging around “Young People” so she didn’t mind sharing her space and relished the attention and the company.

If you were to visit the Coach during that time you would be as likely to encounter a pagan rite as you would a medieval-themed role playing game (not really my thing). In either case, there was much talk of daggers and mead. There were frequent field-trips to the Renaissance Fair. It had become the Coven of the Coach.

Because of my access and proximity to film industry people, it wasn’t long before I found work as an extra in movies and television. I was what they called a “specialty extra” because I could act a little bit and could play a wide range of ages. I found that I could also get work for a few of the (other) weirdoes who hung around the Coach.  It occurred to me that Grace would make a smashing “character extra,” so I decided I should introduce her to my agent. Though she feigned modesty, I know she was tittering like a teenager at the prospect of being discovered.

I dragged the falsely reluctant Grace to my next meeting with my agent. She waited in the reception area while I was in his office. Unfortunately, Grace suffered from a condition I like to call Narcissilepsy: the condition of falling asleep when you are not being lavished with attention. If the conversation should ever turn to a topic other than what she was interested in, mainly herself, Grace would almost immediately fall into a deep slumber. Predictably, a waiting room chocked full of self-involved showbiz types nearly put her into a persistent vegetative state. When I was finished with my agent, I came into the reception area to find a small crowd, murmuring in concerned tones, huddled around a near-comatose Grace. She was sprawled on the floor with her dentures several feet away.

Grace also developed a series of really awkward (and some downright creepy) crushes on a few of the elves and dungeon-masters who hung around the Coach. Invariably, they were far too young for her. This never resulted in anything good. I decided for the Good Of The Coven to help Grace find love with someone a little closer to her age. Sadly, this also did not result in anything good.

It did, however, result in a series of weird encounters.  One fellow she met at the Denny’s down the street asked her to give him her bra for whatever unimaginable purpose.  Another wanted to borrow a few bucks. After too many of these episodes, we arrived at a seemingly benign gent who had sadly just lost his mother, loved jazz music and was a couple years older than Grace. Compared to the bra-sniffer and the beggar, this guy was a prince.

We arranged a meeting at the Coach, where I would serve as chaperone. The Prince arrived with his mother’s death certificate and a “prescription” of coke. Being desensitized to weirdoes from the previous encounters, and given the baseline strangeness of the people

we hung around with, we welcomed him.  Grace and I gave our condolences and informed him we were not interested in the coke (in all my wild times I have never done the stuff, never even wanted to). We had visited a while when he pulled out some pot which I thought was a great idea, it might loosen things up a bit.  In retrospect, I realize that when you’re in a trailer with a coked-up Norman Bates and a horny old lady in a turban, “loose” is not really the direction you want things to go.

Having smoked, Grace passed out almost immediately leaving me to entertain the fellow. Because the rest of the Coven was at the Renaissance Fair that day, it was just he and I. He asked me if I’d like to see pictures of his family and I said I did, though really what I wanted to see was him leaving.  The pictures of his “family” were, in fact, terrible Polaroids of seedy-looking women in various states of undress and horrendous lighting.  I told him that was quite enough to which he replied “You are a panther and you better sing like Judy Garland right now or I am going to shoot you!”

I had been held at gunpoint before (that’s another story). In that situation, the perpetrator gave no warning and instead just grabbed me and put a gun to my head. So I knew from first-hand experience that Prince Norman was either bluffing or at best, he was an abysmal amateur.

“Where is your gun?”  I challenged.

“Out in my truck,” he replied.

“Well you can go get it then, because I am not going to sing for you!”

As soon as he was out the door, I locked it.  I tried to wake Grace who was still sleeping. Dreaming, perhaps, of one day soon becoming the Film Actress she was born to be. When she finally came to, I apprised her of the situation. She went all Rambo style saying she was going to “stand her ground” and “fight to the death.”  I could tell that she was really enjoying the drama of this particular role!  During her soliloquy, the phone rang.

I thought it was one of the Coven calling to check in, and I began breathlessly rambling about the nut-job outside with his mother’s death certificate, a vial of coke and a gun in his truck.  When I got to the part of the story about those horrible Polaroids of his “family,” the voice on the other end of the line began to laugh and said, “well did you like them?”

normanbatesIt was the creepazoid calling from outside the house. I hung up and dialed 911 as I shoved Grace out her back door to her carport and into her truck.  We raced out of the mobile park faster than anyone who lived there had ever driven.

The following week after the police report had been made (they really couldn’t hold Prince Charming on anything) he called and asked if he could please come by and get his mothers’ death certificate. We said sure, but we also made certain that we had a full complement of elves and dungeon-masters there and that the police were coming too. So he came by, apologized and said he had been really depressed and didn’t know what came over him. One thing I learned from that experience is that it is extremely dangerous to meddle in the affairs of others.