W e stumbled out of the Hotel Roosevelt. The heavy glass doors stood open all night so Hollywood Boulevard could witness the ruckus and hysteria of our senior prom, enthemed 'All Night Long.'
My date and I were Rhett and Scarlet. (Though I penciled in a last minute mustache after being mistaken for Chaplin, while Scarlet in her red satin, black-trimmed antebellum gown looked more like Jezebel. The Bette Davis version, that is.) Two of us went as 'The Gatsbys.' (Redford and Farrow) The remaining two--dateless guys--came as Carmen Miranda (fruit and all), and the other in a blonde wig and white ballgown a la Alice Faye. The two had convinced the chaperones they were the entertainment.
We escaped onto Monto Orange Avenue where the bronze sidewalk stars no longer shined underfoot. Carmen and Alice staggered together, laughing from spiking the punch with liquid LSD. Alice licked the last red droplets from a tiny wax vial. The Gatsbys basked in the afterglow of the thousand mice they released into the ballroom„after the hallucinations began.
Scarlet and I led our band towards our parked limo, but stopped: urine and dimestore perfume. A black girl, maybe ten or eleven, in a torn coat too big for her scrawniness, sat crouched over an older woman covered by a brown blanket; red bloomed across the woman's chest. Sticking out from beneath the blanket, shiny-black nylonned legs ended in gold stilettos, and around her neck, wisps of a pink boa. A mottled whippet wagged its skinny tail and lapped at the woman's face.
"When the dog barked twice, which he never do," sobbed the girl who wiped a tear lost against her muddy face, "I knew sumpins wrong. I find ma's just lyin here in the open, all night."
Scarlet leaned down, as Bette Davis actually did at the end of "Jezebel," and put one hand on the girl and another on the woman's long neck. "She's dead."
The Gatsbys turned pale, rushed to the curb, and banged on the limo door. Carmen shut his mouth to suppress inappropriate giddiness. Alice looked nervously around.
Scarlet massaged the girl's shoulder and pulled her closer. The Gatsbys grabbed Scarlet and half lifted, half lead her to the limo. Alice Faye wrenched my arm with his sweaty, gouging hand, and pulled me to the car. "Hurry! Hurry up already! The gang's all leavin'!"
I watched the girl through the limo's tinted glass. She ran her hand along the blood. The dog looked like he barked twice again, but I couldn't hear him.
The limo rushed us out of Hollywood, back to the suburbs, where we took off our costumes and tried hard to plan the next day's trip to Disneyland.
First published: July 1996