A Ho Story

Daniele Watts, playing the Ho

Daniele Watts, playing a Ho

Media scenario: Up and coming starlet makes out has sex with boyfriend in a Mercedes with the door open on a busy street next to a studio in the entertainment capital of the world.  In the middle of the day.

Workers in adjacent office building suggest the couple get a room.  They don’t.

Someone calls the police to complain.

Police arrive, tell them their performance is interfering with business. Ask for ID’s.

Actress refuses to comply with the request. Police detain her.

I have a publicist, she warns.

The officer has encountered many people with publicists. They show ID when asked, he explains.

Boyfriend begins taping incident for Facebook.

‘I serve freedom and love, you serve detainment.’

Viral marketing ensues:

 The police presumed she was a prostitute because she was black! 

You won’t believe what the LAPD did this time!

They think black women are streetwalkers!

Django Unchained actress  arrested handcuffed in front of her workplace! For kissing while black! Authorities investigating…

From Buenos Aires to London, the pistons begin turning the great cam shaft of public outrage. Ferguson II! Or Trayvon III, if you prefer, but without the chalk outline on the sidewalk.  Even better, a sex angle.  A showbiz angle, too. The trifecta! Get this girl on the set!  We can all be outraged together, without guilt. No one has to take shelter in his ideological bunker.  A freebee. The promise of weeks of good cable TV, sexy B-roll footage, and pop culture Deep Think explaining What It All Means.

Grab your remote. Start clicking those links. Why not? It’s not like there’s an election going on. Or a war.  To be more precise, a resurrection of the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror authorized by a Congressional Resolution denounced by the President before he was President, which will have war-like features but none dare call War.   No wonder we love the tabloids.

Daniele Watts being 'treated like a Ho'. Allegedly.

Daniele Watts, ‘presumed to be a Ho’.  Allegedly.

Here’s the bottom line: LAPD as a matter of departmental policy does not make prostitution stops off a black and white patrol car.   All interdiction is handled through vice, working undercover in unmarked vehicles.  Two overt acts are required to bring departmental action. Consequently, patrol cars roll past working hookers on Sepulveda every day, in full regalia, leaning into car windows…and don’t even give them a glance, much to the consternation of residents of Van Nuys. Which is to say, there is pretty much no chance uniformed LAPD officers rolled up on Ms. Watts in the teeming slum of Studio City, across the street from Trader Joes and Laurel Tavern and just up the block from CBS studios and said to themselves: ‘hmmm, black lady/white man having relations…if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck…cuff that b***h.’

But here’s what’s interesting.  In Django, Daniele works at a brothel called the Cleopatra Club which offers pretty young black women up to wealthy white men who first arouse themselves by watching gladiator-like death matches between black slaves.  At the coup de grace of one of the more brutal scenes of recent American cinema, she coquettishly spills her gumballs across the floor in a kind of sexual release, a moment worthy of an essay of its own.   Back into the pop culture ether went Daniele Watts, and now this sudden reappearance two years later, accusing Los Angeles of treating her like the character which launched her career. Which for the moment, has resurrected it.

Is she acting in one of these photographs or both of them?  I say it’s all performance art.

At the Galpin Auto Show

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…the torch is passed to the next generation.

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…they argue the value of an original Shelby Cobra.  Which was apparently an argument over what criteria one should employ before deeming it an ‘original Shelby’.   These two were a million dollars apart in their estimations. The owner kept pointing to the sign on the windshield: “Yes, it’s real”. It was 105 degrees in the parking lot…what better venue to settle the issue?

Cholo Heaven

Cholo Heaven

Old white guys wiping the finish

…old white guys wipe the finish

The Scooby van, always a big hit with the ladies

…the Scooby van is always a big hit with the ladies

Funny car-inspired re-enactment

….and funny cars inspire re-enactments

Night Soliloquy

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Do not forsake this woman, whatever you do.

Forget cheating on her.

If you do, do not fall asleep with pruning shears in the house.

Don’t tell her she needs to lose weight.

When asked for the truth, tell her what she wants to hear.

If you’re becoming bored, feign delight.

Cause there is no way you are breaking up with her.

She will have something to say about that.

Like she did the last guy.

Rounding out a life with grace

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My dear friend Andy Hurvitz, of the indispensable HereinVanNuys blog, has been writing beautifully this past year about his mother’s twilight surrender to cancer, her denial of her illness, and their relationship to each other as he cared for her.   The Dark Wit, he called her.   Louise passed away last week. They had a wake for her yesterday at his brother’s house in Marina Del Rey.    I had never been to a wake, so my sense of what to expect was informed by films, and in this case I was misled.  No one was shrouded head-to-toe in black.  No murmuring organ. No flasks hidden inside of jacket pockets.   No receiving line of weeping well-wishers kissing the hand of the bereaved.  There were tears, but they were of the authentic, cathartic kind.

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It was more of an in-gathering of celebration.  There was a surfeit of delicious food, and no shortage of good wine, and bittersweet joy was the prevailing mood.   Look closely and you will see a teen-aged Andy with Louise on the screen in the left hand corner, his Andy-ness already evident in protozoa form.

Rick and Andy

Rick and Andy

First her sons spoke.  Then her friends.   Two women who were her sorority sisters at Delta Phi Epsilon, University of Illinois, sixty years ago spoke. I don’t even follow my college friends on Facebook. I can’t imagine a friendship of sixty-four years, but apparently she had several. Two brothers who hadn’t spoken in years were there, and they sat together and ended up talking to one another.    I learned she was a feminist before there was a word for it.  That she ran an office in an era when female college graduates worked the steno pool.  That she once sold airplanes.  That she worked for CBS news during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. That she read the New York Times cover to cover then hoarded all her back issues. That she enjoyed making prank phone calls. That she loved denying that which displeased her to the point of arguing to a judge the woman in the red-light camera photograph was not herself.

She had three sons, a long marriage, and a front row seat to American history, spanning WW II to Barack Obama. The people she loved also have people in their lives in turn, for whom they care and who get drawn into the circle of memory, and so after eighty-plus years, you have quite an eclectic group of people sharing the pathos under a rubber tree on a postcard beachside afternoon.   Exit ghost.

A lull in the conversation

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They say a marriage can withstand anything except contempt.

There are several ways of looking at this picture.  One, she’s pissed at him. Really pissed. Alternatively, he’s weary of her, and she’s just coming to that realization.  Mrs. Upinthevalley has decided not to get in the middle of it, and immersed herself deeply in the broccoli slaw.

Another interpretation might be they have just made an unspoken decision to ditch their relatives and go back to the motel room for frolic.

Another might be they can’t quite figure out what to say about this spicy vegan cooking which has been forced upon them, and have decided for reasons of familial peace to say nothing at all.

Or, none of the above.

They’re not actually married, just a young couple from Albuquerque, off on their first road trip, and they’re head over heels. There was no motel. They slept in the guest room.  Everybody had a lovely time:

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These two photos were taken about two minutes apart.  Light and shadow and facial movements captured in a 1/60th second window of time can distort as much as they reveal.

Man, my lawn is dying.