When Jamie first began running the studio he lived at The Beverly Hilton. It was nice, clean, stylish, and an easy commute to Culver via Motor Avenue.
Because he chatted with me every morning as I drove to work, he was generally awake at four a.m. and continued his days on East Coast time. I did the same whenever I was there but it worked differently for me: He merely began work extra early but I was nearly arrested.
Every morning after Jamie left I rose and dressed in black yoga pants and a white t shirt. After breakfasting in the poolside restaurant I began a long, early-morning walk throughout the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills. Sometimes I watched the kids enter the schools. Sometimes I stared at the houses and tried to recall which Golden Age of Hollywood star had lived where. Sometimes I petted dogs held on leashes by housekeepers. Sometimes I just walked and thought or listened to music. Every once in a while when I grew tired I would plop on a curb (there are no bus stop benches to speak of in BH) until my heart rate had decreased enough for me to continue. One morning after a late film premiere the night before, I set off rather lethargically for my post-dawn walk; soon l ran completely out of energy and I collapsed on the curb in front of 730 North Bedford Drive to catch my breath. The house was the one in which Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, is said to have knifed gangster Johnny Stompanato in defense of her mother. Gazing absently at the house’s facade I daydreamed about 1940’s Los Angeles and wondered what that night had been like. I must have sat there for quite a while, staring at the house, lost in my own reverie, because I nearly had cardiac arrest when I felt a tap on my arm and heard a voice ask, “Can I help you, ma’am?”
After I returned to earth, I turned and saw two shiny, young, Beverly Hills police officers. “Can you help me? Only if you know how to give CPR! You scared me practically to death! And help me with what?”
“You have been sitting here for over twenty minutes, ma’am. Are you all right?”
I squinted in the morning light and shaded my eyes with my left hand as I gazed up at the officer. “Sure, I’m fine. I’m just thinking, sitting and thinking.” I considered for a moment. “How do you know I have been sitting here for over twenty minutes?”
The officer didn’t answer my question but continued asking his own. “Do you have business here, ma’am?”
“Business? Here on this curb?” I tried not to sound incredulous.
“At this house, ma’am.”
“That house?” I pointed toward the beautiful white colonial.
I shrugged. “No, not really. I was going for a walk and I had been walking rather quickly for about an hour and I was tired and wanted to rest. Finding myself in front of Lana Turner’s old house – it seemed as good a place to sit as any other – I just plonked down and started thinking about the murder there of Johnny Stompanato.” Tired of peering upward into the sun, I stood: At my sudden movement, his and his partner’s right hands both jumped to deliberately rest on their guns.
That scared me. When NYPD officers pulled their guns, they intended to shoot. “Officer, have I broken some law?” I was growing nervous and began to babble. ” I walk every morning. I need the exercise and I like to watch the world. I’m just . . . I’m just . . . walking.”
The young policeman stared at me for nearly a minute. “You’re not from around here, are you, ma’am?”
“No, I’m not. I’m from New York City. My husband recently took a job running a studio out here and I am visiting.” He continued to stare and never smiled. “I’m a writer. I’m a teacher. I’m walking just to see the sights, to absorb local color.”
“No one does that here, ma’am.”
Growing peeved, I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “I have no malicious intent, Officer. I just like to walk.”
He pushed his hat back slightly and glanced over his left shoulder at his partner standing closer to the squad car.
“Do you have any identification on you, ma’am?”
My heart sank. Who carried i.d. to go for a walk in the safest suburb in America? I grimaced and shook my head.
“What studio does your husband run, ma’am? And what is his name?”
I told him.
“Where do you live, ma’am?”
“In New York?”
He raised one eyebrow. “No, ma’am, here.”
“Well, nowhere yet; he has only had the job for a month and we haven’t found a house or apartment. We are staying at The Beverly Hilton.”
“Let us drive you back there, ma’am.”
“I’m not sure I want to return to The Beverly Hilton in a squad car, Officer.”
“Well, ma’am, that may be true but it is also true that you cannot continue to sit and stare at this private home.”
I sighed. Even I know when I have lost. And this LA policeman didn’t seem to find me as appealing as the one in SoHo who had stopped traffic for me. “Sure, drive me home. But could you please drop me on the Wilshire side? It will be really embarrassing if you hand me over to the doorman like an errant school girl.”
So that is how I was escorted back to the hotel by two of Beverly Hills’ finest. True to his word, they dropped me on the Wilshire side so no snooping doorman or nosy tourist could wonder what kind of criminal I was or, to use the British euphemism, with what enquiry I was assisting the police. As soon as the shotgun officer opened the back door I trotted, mortified, into the hotel without looking over my shoulder once.
I never learned whether they called the studio and asked for Jamie or checked my residency at the Hilton. Beginning the next morning, I walked on the treadmill in the hotel gym then lounged and read by the shimmering blue pool. There was no point in pushing my luck. I cannot expect to charm police forever.