Life at The American Hotel
Living in The American Hotel was a bit like living in a fucked-up dorm for down-and-out writers, artists, junkies, and has-beens. Most of us became friends and our living room was either the cafe downstairs, the hallways, or the punk rock bar in the basement.
You could often find us gathered on the floor in the halls, outside our apartments, smoking cigarette’s and singing along to someone’s guitar. My new boyfriend would lead up the impromptu jam sessions singing songs, such as the Eagles “Peaceful Easy Feeling” or Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright.” We would all sing along and smoke and drink with our backs against the walls until the crazy janitor would stumble by with his mop and bucket and tell us to go to bed.
“Whores!!” he would shout in his Mad Hatter way. “Don’t you have homes?”
I guess he didn’t quite get it.
Life at The American Hotel truly boils down to the people who lived there. Today I’m going to briefly introduce you to Stuart, Melissa, and Cafe Girl, who worked downstairs and lived on the second floor.
Each morning, I swung by the cafe downstairs for a coffee from Cafe Girl. Her huge, inky black eyes were almost always darkly ringed with smudged black eyeliner and smears of last night’s lipstick stained her lips.
“I haven’t slept yet,” she would say with an innocent smile.
She had gobs of thick, black curly hair — probably the biggest thing about her tiny person. When invited somewhere she’d say, “I’m down for it, man.”
Sometimes when I came in, she would take her break and confide the details of her rambunctious sex life. Most of it began when John and Joe — corn-fed, wholesome lads from Iowa who worked as bike messengers in downtown L.A.— moved in on the first floor.
Cafe Girl — a hipster Chicana who danced at street fairs wearing exotic costumes and bells on her ankles — fell hard for blonde, farm boy John.
I was privy to unwanted tidbits about their sexual escapades. Then it got even more interesting when Cafe Girl’s friend, K, a six-foot-tall black girl who would kick your ass as soon as look at you, invited herself into the mix.
At first it was fine, Cafe Girl didn’t mind sharing her man, but soon it ended up that K and John were often having fun without her. Feelings were hurt and friendships destroyed. But Cafe Girl, with her indomitable spirit bounced back and found a new guy to crush on.
Stuart, a lean black man with crazy dreads and a huge guffawing, infectious laugh, filled his tiny cubicle room with guitars, amplifiers and woofers. When he wasn’t bartending at Al’s Bar downstairs, he was trying to blow the doors off our rooms with the same droning, single guitar riff over and over. And over.
In self-defense, Dennis, down the hall, would sometimes try to combat the noise with his own guitar and amps, but nobody could compete with Stuart’s ear-shattering, mind-pounding guitar riff. One night, Stuart locked himself in his room and began his usual tirade. But this time it went on longer than ever before.
Pretty soon, nearly every resident at The American Hotel was outside his doorway, scowling and bitching. Even the ex-cover model Noelle came out of her room to complain. Across the street, at the artist lofts, one man leaned out his window with a megaphone shouting over and over “Shut the fuck up!!”
We pounded on the door, but Stuart was oblivious.
But it got better. Enter Melissa.
Melissa, a pushing-40-something who worked at Club Fuck, doing God only knows what, made her appearance of the decade; her Academy Award-worthy debut, if you will. Her best performance ever.
But first, let me give you a tiny snapshot of Melissa, the bondage queen. I had heard tell, but never saw, that she was extremely motherly, taking care of residents who were sick and passing out medicine and hot tea. All I knew was she kept a human-size cage in her tiny room. When men showered and then returned to their rooms with towels wrapped around their waists, she would pose in her doorway and leer at them.
Despite this, I liked to think of her as the motherly nymph: when she wasn’t trying to fuck you, she was trying to mother you. You had to admire her in some ways.
She often gave her own shows. Once, Greg, a sound guy from the bar downstairs came into the cafe theatrically retching and gagging saying, “Ohhh, I’m gonna puke. I just saw Melissa in the hall.”
Apparently, Melissa had only a small towel wrapped around her and seeing Greg, decided it was time to bend over in front of him.
Well, today Melissa had a full audience. Almost all the residents of The American Hotel were gathered on the fourth floor trying to get Stuart to put his guitar down and shut the hell up.
While we watched, Melissa stormed out of her apartment at the opposite end of the hall with her flaming orange hair flying behind her and stomped down the hall wearing a tank top and g-string underwear with her abundant backside displayed in all its glory. And in case we missed anything, all was revealed when she stopped at Stuart’s door, lifted her leg high and proceeded to viciously kick the door.
To our surprise, Stuart opened it.
Melissa said something to him, such as “I’m going to kick the living shit out of you if you don’t shut the hell up.”
His response was something to the effect of “Shut your c—t!” before he slammed the door in her face. He then played for about another hour before he finally, mercifully gave up.
Oh, so many people to write about. I haven’t talked about some of my most favorite neighbors yet … dear reader, please stay tuned for more.