EL COYOTE & THE “TATE TABLE”
Before embarking on Camella’s semi-annual “Scary Halloween Tour” in a rented silver 8-passenger van, we stopped for dinner at El Coyote on Beverly Avenue, the restaurant where Manson family murder victim Sharon Tate (unfortunately) ate her last meal. Having been to this Hollywood institution on numerous occasions (the place is well known for its relatively inexpensive and, to be charitable, so-so Mexican food, along with cheap, but particularly strong margaritas), I knew about the infamous “Tate table”, but had never been (or asked to be) seated there before.
Greeted by a Hispanic host who asked if we wanted a table inside or out on the patio, I heard Camella utter “Sharon Tate table”, to which, without saying a word, we were promptly taken to. As our scary tour leader produced some color photos from the gruesome crime scene, coincidently enough, bowls of salsa arrived and the fifteen or so of us wasted precious little time ordering those potent - some would even say, notorious drinks. Glad that I got a chance to see the photos before dinner, I ordered the same so-so burrito that I’ve had about 50 times before (a real testament to those margaritas).
When we were finished eating, Camella whispered to me that her and I should order some shots of Patron. I agreed, knowing that we could use it as an excuse to get out of our turn at driving the passenger van. Before I could pull out my wallet (the tequila made me a little slow), Danny threw down his black AMEX card to pay the entire bill. Goddamn, if I had known that I would have ordered some jalapeno poppers as an appetizer (like Kevin “ESP” Willis did). While saying our goodbyes to those who weren’t continuing on the scary tour, Camella wanted to take a couple of photographs of the table. Even though I believe that that particular table might be cursed, will all those who sit there eventually dying, I nevertheless went ahead and sat down. Somebody then asked if we were going to the house on Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate and the others were slain by Manson’s clan in 1969. “No”, said Camella, as it was recently demolished. “Possibly because the guys in NIN had lived there”, I guessed…
“EDDIE, COME OVER”
Putting in a CD of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, we headed to 5620 Harold Way, the modest Hollywood apartment building where “horror-god” Bela Lugosi lived and died during his “Ed Wood” days (his death being on August 16, 1956). On the way, at the behest of the girls seated in the back (Adele and Roxy), we stopped to get a bottle of Cazadores tequila and peppermint schnapps. With this necessity out of the way, while proceeding with the scary tour, Camella informed everyone that Lugosi died from complications due to years of drug abuse, a real shame I thought, because had he lived longer (perhaps if Doctor Phil had been around), “Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” with Lugosi cast in the starring role would have been a much better clinker (I remember seeing this B gem, rubber bats and all, made by Ed Wood-like director, William “One Shot” Beaudine at a matinee in Evereux, France in 1967. Coincidently, one of my school classmates in France at the time was Shep Stevenson, the bass player in Pigmy Love Circus, although I don’t know if he went to see the movie on that Saturday.)
As we stopped to check out the apartment on Harold Way, I didn’t know it at the time, but there would be a “6-degree” connection between Bela Lugosi and the ‘Sharon Tate’ murders by Charlie Manson’s family members. In the film “Billy the Kid Versus Dracula”, the character “Mrs. Oster”, played by Virginia Christine, in a continuity foul-up, is sometimes called “Mrs Olson”, the character that the same actress played in the famous Folger Coffee commercials. Now, as you might recall, the coffee heiress Abigal Folger was one of the persons brutally killed at Cielo Drive!
Strangely enough, there was to be another connection between Lugosi and the serial killers who once lived at the next destination on the scary tour – that address being 1950 Tamarind Ave…
THE HILLSIDE STRANGLERS
“Who remembers the Hillside Stranglers’ bloody reign of terror?” Camella asked while shining a flashlight on her face. Within minutes we pulled up to the apartment where either Ken Bianchi or Angelo Buono (but NOT Danny Bonaduce – I want to make that perfectly clear) lived, unable to find a parking space (“I know where all the parking spaces are”, I told Joe… “They’re in Houston, Texas!”) Finally finding one, we piled out of the van to have a look at the place. Standing there, Camella had us pass around a rather disturbing photo of one the two sick-os’ female victims, possibly even the one who was dumped next to the “No Dumping” sign. The girl in the photo had a broom shoved up the rather delicate part of her anatomy… the broom appearing to be a plastic O-Cedar angular broom with flagged bristles I mentioned to Isis drummer Aaron Harris, an important clue save for the fact that the case has already been solved.
But as for the Lugosi connection I mentioned earlier: At Lugosi’s funeral, as friends Peter Lorre and Borris Karloff viewed the body (laid out complete with a Dracula cape as Lugosi had requested), Lorre is believed to have joked as to whether or not to drive a stake through his heart just in case. Well, as it turns out, Lorre’s daughter, Catherine, was almost abducted by the Hillside Stranglers who were posing as cops at the time. It was only after learning of her identity that they decided to let her go.
After leaving Tamarind Ave, Kevin Willis spotted an Arbys. Joe wanted to stop (of course), but I told him that there wasn’t time. Actually, I didn’t want him to wash down a “Big Montana” or two with swigs of peppermint schnapps just to get out of driving. But at the time, something was puzzling me, and that was: how’d Aaron know just where to find a parking spot? Come to think of it, he also knew right where the closest liquor store was to Lugosi’s place. Was it possible, I wondered to myself, that he had for some reason taken the scary Halloween tour on his own the night before? He would have had Camella’s e-mail invite with all the pertinent info. But why would he do it? It seemed crazy. My imagination must have been getting the best of me, I quickly decided.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself the same thing that I was thinking: Where’s Diablo? Well, just because El Coyote’s food is cheap (and margaritas strong) doesn’t mean that they allow Great Danes to come in and dine… (That’s the only thing I could think of, besides the fact that we had an 8-passenger van, and not a 12-passenger one.)
HOLLYWOOD NOIR: THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER MYSTERY
“What, no Black Dahlia Martini at Boardner’s on Cherokee?” Was the tour leader slipping a bit? At any rate, it was time to put in Wendy Carlos’ haunting CD “A Clockwork Black” as we drove towards the home on Franklin where Dr. George Hodel once resided. According to a recently published book entitled “ Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder”, the Los Angeles physician (allegedly a friend of Man Ray) was the most likely murderer of wanna-be actress Elizabeth Short, who’s body was literally cut in half and horribly mutilated in 1947. Short was later called the “Black Dahlia” by the Hollywood press because of her raven black hair and her habit of wearing black clothing and black undergarments. The crime is still one of Hollywood’s most notorious unsolved murders. Once we found the opulent ‘fortress’ (again, thanks to directions by Aaron!), I must say that there was a rather sinister vibe to it (others felt this, too), although it’s hard to say if Dr. Hodel really did commit the grisly crime based on the existing evidence. (Note: After reading a book written by George Hodel’s son Steve, a former LAPD homicide detective, Head Deputy D.A. and Manson family prosecutor, Steven Kay, came to the conclusion that George Hodel was indeed the killer.)
There was a 6-degree connection between the Black Dahlia murder and the Manson murders that I was to later discover. In a book written by Donald Wolff, the author claims that Marilyn Monroe knew Beth Short, and in yet another book, its author claims that both were even secret lovers (as well as Hollywood hookers, although this is most likely a gross fabrication on both accounts) before Marilyn Monroe signed a movie contract in 1947 (the year of the “Black Dahlia” murder). And so you ask, what’s the connection? Ever heard of Marilyn Manson?..
Next it was on to Beverly Hills and the site of the Menendez murders. Remember Lyle and Erik with their stylish haircuts, toothbrush and cinnamon molestation tales, and the Porsche they just couldn’t wait to buy after someone turned their wealthy parents into hamburger as the result of 16 shotgun blasts at close range? Aaron suggested that our best bet was to take Fountain to the mansion at 722 Elm Drive. And then on the way, he tells us about a particular house to watch for that has really elaborate Halloween decorations. Hmmm… At that point, I wanted to ask him if by chance he had already taken the scary tour, but, again, the idea seemed crazy. Anyway, once we parked across the street from the multi-million dollar house where the murders took place, I thought it was interesting in the least how the current owners seemed to really get into the spirit of things. This was evident by the huge demonic figure with fiery orange glowing eyes erected near the doorway. However, scariest of all was that we were parked in a quiet Beverly Hills neightborhood with a couple of open containers inside our 8-seat passenger van that wasn’t built by Maserati, BMW, or Ferrari. At any moment I expected a Beverly Hills motorcycle cop to jump out of the bushes and give us a ticket.
Think there’s no connection between the Menendez murders and the Manson family murders? Think again. Lyle and Erik’s mother was named Kitty, and Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski’s hairdresser friend Jay Sebring (also murdered at the house on Cielo Drive) once appeared in an episode of “Batman” which was a Julie Newmar “Cat Woman” episode!
Since we were so close to Brentwood, I suggested that we drive to Nicole Simpson’s house on Bundy Drive. Even though it wasn’t on Camella’s list, I thought it fitting. Maybe we could even drive to O.J.’s old house since we weren’t necessarily only visiting the homes of murderers (as in the case of Bela Lugosi). According to Camella, there wasn’t enough time if we were going to make both haunted houses. (Damn, I just knew that if we did go to Bundy Drive, Aaron wouldn’t know the best way to get there.) Also, had we visited the Nicole Simpson murder site, we could have talked about the connection with Charlie Manson’s clan. Back in 1969, police officer William Walley was one of the first to arrive on the scene at the Tate house. This was his first “big case.” Many years later he was one of the first to arrive at Nicole Simpson’s house – his last “big case” before retiring!..
SPOOKY HOUSE 16
Rated one of the top 25 haunted attractions in the U.S., the haunted theme park in Northridge was next on Camella’s list. And proud of it they were, at $25.00 a ticket, this being, perhaps, the scariest part of the whole thing. Before we were allowed inside the haunted house, our guide informed us that a simple red light, green light system was in effect, meaning that if a particular door was framed by a red light, we were not to enter until it turned green. Much to out horror, when type-A personality Camella started through a red light-framed door, we all shouted for her to stop. But then out of the shadows appeared another guide of sorts who told us that there was a glitch with some of the lights and audio, and therefore it was safe to proceed (despite the containment problem we were headed towards). This malfunction of lights and sound reminded me of how the angel Moroni would disappear mid-sentence to Joseph Smith while imparting to the bumpkin certain revelations that led to the founding of the Mormon Church. Only, I’ll bet he didn’t shell out $25.00…
JACK-BE-LITTLES OF FRIGHT FAIR
Our final destination was “Sinister Dreadford’s Mansion of Lost Souls” which we had approximately 5 minutes to get to before closing time. As Joe speeded towards the dusty fright fair near Pierce College, I felt somewhat compelled to explain to him about the red light, green light system involved with traffic lights. With seconds to spare we managed to purchase tickets, and rushed towards the entrance of the attraction with its “high voltage effects, strobes, motion control simulators and high impact scares” (although even a pregnant woman, an epileptic, or a person with a heart condition would be a bit disheartened to see some of ghosts and such leaving the place through the back door for home or for the nearest In N Out burger drive through).
Not surprisingly, to me least, Aaron didn’t appear to be startled or frightened at all by the motion control simulators (kind of like Cartman in “Cartman Land” when he points to the ‘frights’ before they appear). And I think I knew why, but still I bit my tongue. Afterwards we decided to skip the cornfield maze despite its collage-educated maze-masters in case one gets lost. “Just walk right past the decorative gourds, Aaron! Maybe you’re not interested in them… along with the Jack-be-Littles! (Tiny pumpkins for sale)… Could this possibly be because you’ve already seen them? Like maybe last night!” Why else would he show such little interest in all the agricultural goodies on display? I couldn’t prove anything, but still I had my suspicions. Yet, it still seemed crazy - the idea of him taking the scary tour before the rest of us. Oh fuck it. It was time to head back.
After dropping the others off at El Coyote, Camella, Joe, his date, and I stopped at the pub for a couple of beers, toasting another very successful scary Halloween tour. Let’s just hope we don’t visit your place next year (with the drummer in Isis going the night before as well).
A FEW OTHER SCARY THINGS IN THE NEWS FOR OCTOBER
“Chili John’s” in Burbank is now open on Mondays and accepts major credit cards!
Mercury retrograde until November 17!!
KLEE-TV test signal (identification card) once again seen on television sets in England, and this time followed by a “SONIC” commercial!!!
I recently overheard a ‘psychic’ at the Psychic Eye Book Shop talking about some kind of tragedy involving the pregnant celebrity Anna Nicole Smith (the new Angelene) in the state of Florida. O.J. Simpson’s name also came up during the reading, but I didn’t hear how this was connected with Anna Nicole Smith (perhaps both like to play golf) as I wasn’t really that interested with what was being said, and don’t put much faith in those Psychic Eye Book Shop ‘psychics.’
BUT SCARIEST OF ALL: I miss the Isis record release party at the Silverlake Cha Cha Lounge just so I can write this piece!!!!