I didn’t just move into a room, I moved into a subculture when I was handed the keys to 2777 Francis Avenue.
Our house, with the double dead-bolted, iron-barred screen door, was a haven for artists. I soon found out that Bibbe was the daughter of a famous performance artist. A picture in a book on Andy Warhol showed her dancing next to Edie Sedgwick at The Factory.
Her husband, Sean Carrillo, was ultra hip in the art scene, too, and had some super cool film background. This couple knew everybody. EVERYBODY. I’m pretty sure Bibbe was Whoopi Goldberg’s maid of honor or something like that. And this couple was friends with everyone and anyone who were famous and cool in the Chicano arts world. It was all a bit mysterious, glamorous, and vague to me. The husband’s sister, a girl my own age, stayed in the nonfiction library. Another bedroom housed one of Bibbe’s sons and not long after, his Danish girlfriend. Before long we were all good friends. We lived at the house, but we also hung out at the cafe, Troy Cafe, that my roommates owned in downtown L.A. on the border of East L.A. in Little Tokyo.
Rolling Stone Boy
One day, I met Bibbe’s older son, who was a year younger than me. He was browsing through the fiction library in what I think was a big straw Panama hat, and what appeared to be an old man’s shirt and pants. A few years later at one of his concert’s, I would see a crowd filled with boys dressing just like him (minus the hat). I’m fairly certain he dressed that way because he didn’t have any money and didn’t give a shit, so he shopped at thrift stores and spent his money on demo tapes to send to record companies.
About a month later, this cute boy musician moved into the room next to mine, a small space overlooking the street. At first, he was really hard to get to know. He would hole himself up in his room and play guitar. He didn’t have a guitar strap, but used a piece of rope he found on the ground. Whenever he would venture out from his room, I would rush to be near him just so I could listen to him play. One day, he was playing guitar on the front porch and a bunch of stray cats gathered around to listen. Magical.
Then one day I had a dream about him. I dreamed we kissed. I told Bibbe about it and she thought it was great. She thought I should marry him and become her daughter-in-law. It sounded good to me. But he was very, very, very shy. And I wasn’t the type of girl to make a move so it never went anywhere.
Within two years, his face was on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.
In addition to the feral cats, we also had a neighborhood rabbit. We told Bibbe about it. For some reason, one of the cats had adopted the rabbit. They hung out on our urban street together. They were inseparable. You usually saw them at night. One day, we spotted them across the street and ran to get Bibbe. She opened the door, saw the rabbit and the cat snuggling and said, “I’ll be. It is a goddamn rabbit!”
Artists and musicians of all types dropped into our place all the time. I’ll never forget meeting Jack W. He walked in with a crisp white shirt on, skinny black tie and black shorts. He was a beautiful, impeccably groomed Asian boy. He sat down at the piano and played like a superstar, singing and playing for us like he was born to perform Frank Sinatra songs.
Jack and I became friends. I soon noticed that he always wore a tie. He even slept over at our house once and his silk pajamas — as my redheaded roommate would say — had a goddamn tie. “I’m never without a tie,” he told me.
Jack and I would often go watch old movies, such as Brazil and Chariots of Fire on the big screen at the New Beverly Theater. He would always drive us in his BMW. One time, I opened by bag and pulled out my lipstick to apply a fresh coat. I was just pulling down the visor to look in the mirror when Jack swerved to the side of the road. At first, I was confused, but then realized he was being Jack: He pulled over so I wouldn’t smudge my lipstick.
And forget being a woman and trying to light your own cigarette around him. If you happened to beat him to the punch before he whipped out his Zippo, he would pout and act hurt, saying “Please let me light your cigarette for you.”
Same goes with opening doors. He took it personally if you opened your own car door.
My favorite memories of living at 2777 Francis Avenue are the simplest ones. The days we all sat on the floor in the kitchen, lighting our cigarettes from the gas burner, and talking about music, philosophy, books, movies, and art.
Or the nights we sat around singing, drinking, and smoking and laughing deep into the night. Our faces lit by candles and the licking flames of the fire in the hearth nearby. But we had many more adventures than just those …
Dear Reader, will you stay tuned for more?