Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My summer home

That summer I was still looking for a new place to call home. The Perkins once again came to my rescue. As the family vacationed on Cape Cod, I was left in charge of their home.  
My main focus was looking after their dogs, Charlie and Gregory. Both mutts, Charlie looked like a collie of some sort and Gregory was part black lab. They were both friendly to Blondie, which made the situation even possible. 
I left the three dogs at home every day when I went to work. By that time, Charlie and Gregory had entered their mid-life and Blondie was starting to age so they slept most of the day. But when I came home, the three amigos, as I called them, were ready for a long walk. The walks in the canyon allowed me the time to take stock of my situation. All I knew was that I never wanted to go out with an alcoholic again. Especially one that was as abusive as Bobby.
Instead, I wanted a partner, an equal. I didn't know where to begin to find that someone but I did know couples that seemed happy. Tony and Berry, for one, had a loving and lasting marriage that I admired and they were wonderful parents. Although Tony's life prior to Berry was confusing when it come to his sexuality, he did try to cure his homosexuality in therapy. This was way back in the day when an actor like Tony had to stay in the closet to keep his acting career as the hunky "boy next door" intact. The studios would arrange dates for him and the gossip columns would photograph the tall, lanky actor with aspiring starlets
During therapy for what he believed would cure his homosexuality, Tony flipped through a copy of Vogue Magazine to determine what type of woman attracted him. That particular issue had a spread of Berry and her sister Marissa, with lots of photos. Tony pointed out the tomboy Berry as his perfect match. 
Turns out that Berry had a crush on the actor during her time in Switzerland at boarding school. She had clipped out photos of Tony and pasted them into a scrapbook. 
In 1972, the couple met at a New York party. Berry told me that she knew Tony was going to be at the party and was excited to finally meet the man who she dreamed about since boarding school. She didn't see him at first but could feel his presence. Tony saw her right away and struck up a conversation. The two began dating. 
They married a year later on the grounds of his Cape Cod home. She was 17-years his junior and absolutely head over heels for the man. Tony's dog at the time, Murray, who looked a lot like their current collie, Gregory, was the ring bearer at the ceremony. Berry still had the pillow she made to hold their rings, stuffed with Gregory's fur. She was barefoot at the intimate ceremony.
I remember attending a high school play that Osgood was starring in and Tony was there offering encouragement to his oldest son. I heard people in the audience whispering that Tony Perkins was there. Tony tuned them out. He wanted the attention to be on his son. That was Tony. He didn't want the attention to be on him. He wanted everyone to see the miracle that he and Berry had conceived together. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Perkins

The Perkins house was originally built as a barn, the old stalls converted into bedrooms with a long hallway connecting to the kitchen, dining room and living room area. I was staying in one of the upstairs bedrooms that summer with the rest of the house empty except on occasion when Tony came to town to promote the latest Psycho movie that was in the Theater that year. He was tall and handsome and very much into health and fitness. I would prepare for his arrival, stocking the refrigerator with fresh juice, his favorite fruits and vegetables, goat cheese and a special blend of coffee. I made sure his favorites were waiting for him when he came home to be on The Tonight Show.
I can still remember the first night I met the Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning American stage and screen actor, best known for his role as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and its many sequels. He and Berry were going out that night. My friend, their usual baby sitter, couldn't make it at the last minute and asked me to step in for her. I jumped at the chance to meet the woman whose photographs I had studied in journalism school, Berry Berenson. She was a cult icon and her husband Tony was more than a movie star, he was a legend. I couldn't believe my luck.
When I entered their house, Tony was seated behind their kitchen counter drinking a bottle of water, long before it was something everyone did.
“Would you like some goat cheese?” the tall, lanky actor asked as he stood, smearing cheese on crackers. I had never tasted goat cheese before and it sounded very fancy to this simple valley girl.
“Sure,” I said as he motioned for me to take a seat across from him on one of the kitchen bar stools. He looked right through me, as if he could see right into the heart of me. It was a bit unnerving at first.
“Here, try this,” he gave me a cracker with cheese and they were delicious. I happily crunched away. “So tell me about yourself,” he asked, I was surprised that he put the spotlight on me. Then I became nervous. I mean, he was a movie star and he was asking about me. I didn't expect this at all. 
As I opened my mouth to answer, the goat cheese, along with my nerves made my mouth so dry, I could barely talk. He sensed the problem right away and jumped to my rescue, opening the refrigerator to get me a bottle of water. “Here, have some water.” “Berry will be right out.”
Berry came down the hall wearing a red Byblos pants outfit that looked amazing on her. She was such a natural beauty who had a confidence and warmth that immediately made me feel like part of her family. She was so unpretentious, generous in time, spirit and love. At the time, she drove a 67 Chevy, took care of her husband, her kids, their two dogs and two bunnies. That day, I didn't imagine myself being on that list but as luck had it, Berry soon took care of me too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rat heaven

They say that when one door closes, another door opens. In my case, the door belonged to Berry and her family. They asked me to house sit for them that summer while they relaxed at their home in Cape Cod. This gave me some time to heal in beautiful surroundings. 
Their house was located in Laurel Canyon, an eclectic residential area with homes ranging from mountain retreats and English Tudor cottages to Mediterranean and Cape Cod style architecture. Living at their Spanish Hacienda fashioned family home tucked away in the hills allowed me to stay completely away from Bobby because he didn't have a clue where I was living. 
Blondie and I looked after the Perkins home and their dogs, mutts named Charlie and Gregory. It was relaxing and I felt blessed to have the opportunity. 
There was only one problem. Rats.
They kept me up all night. Dancing inside the walls. They came knocking in the kitchen. They haunted the house in the Canyon. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leaving everything behind

I ran outside and down the stairs, hoping that maybe I could catch something, anything, before it shattered. But from the street below, I realized that was a stupid idea.
“Take this,” he yelled as my clothes came dancing down in slow motion. Next, he threw pieces of that small dining room table, already smashed to bits, followed by the two mismatched chairs. Neighbors came out of the apartment building across the street where Sean Penn and Madonna lived; the building that looked like a castle. Now, my belongings lay in front of it smashed and broken to bits, compliments of Bobby, the man I tried to help.
“Do you want us to take care of that guy?” One of the neighbors asked, flexing his arm muscle.
“No, I just wanna get out of here.” I left everything behind.
I thought later, why did I say “No” to the neighbor. Why did I let Bobby get away with hurting me and ruining my things? The answer is that somewhere, deep inside I've always had faith. I may not have known it but somewhere; there has been a speck of it because even though Bobby had ruined my life, I couldn't bear to sink to his level. I would let God or karma or my higher power take of care of him. 
Bobby stayed in my flat for the rest of the month. I never did get my deposit back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crash and burn

Things were totally out of control with my boyfriend Bobby. He got so abusive one night that I ran out before things could go from bad to worse. I knew I couldn't get him out of my flat. I had tried before but he wouldn't leave. So the very next morning, I decided to move out myself. I rented a U Haul and came back to get my possessions and move them into storage. I didn't ask anyone to help me because I felt too embarrassed about the situation. For the time being, I was going to live at my friend Berry Berenson Perkin's Laurel Canyon home. I left my pound mutt Blondie there just to ensure her safety.
I opened the door and was surprised to see him already awake. He was standing at the window that looked out to the castle building where Sean Penn and Madonna lived. I started shaking, unable to look at him directly. "Bobby, it's over. I'm moving out," I told him. 
“You're moving out?” Bobby said as he took a swig of beer. The place smelled like stale cigarettes and I noticed beer bottles scattered about and several of my antique saucers filled to the brim with butts.“I’ll give you your things.” 
One by one, he threw out the entire set of my grandmother's wedding china from the second story window. I cringed at the sound of the delicate grey and white porcelain plates with the gold trim crashing to the pavement below. Then I noticed; he had a pile of my belongings stacked up in front of the window. I stood frozen, not knowing what to do. He looked at me with a sinister smile then picked up my prized Nikon Camera that I had since college with the zoom lens my father gave me for Christmas one year. It too went soaring out the window like trash.
I was stunned. Growing up with my little dog Siesta as my guide did not prepare me for life with a crazy alcoholic boyfriend. In fact, I had no idea what an alcoholic was until then. In my naivete I still thought how could he be so cruel to me? I didn't yet know that his actions had little to do with me. No matter how much I loved him, he had a disease; alcoholism. No amount of love from me would make him better. He had to decide to get into recovery for himself

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dog groomer

 I was pleasantly surprised that Bobby, my live in boyfriend, kept his word and stopped drinking. He  attended AA meetings daily and started his own recovery. There was hope. Bobby and I made sense, I told myself. After all, Bobby loved my pound mutt Blondie almost as much as I did. He started doing more than just cleaning up around my flat, including waking up early to see me off to work with a hot cup of coffee. He even bathed Blondie in my tub.
“You should think about becoming a dog groomer,” I told him while he was rinsing the suds off her. “You’re really good at that.”
“You think so?” He asked, now drinking in the approval instead of booze.
“Well, look at her, she seems to be relaxed, don’t you think? I bet Berry and Tony would pay you to bathe Charlie and Gregory. You could get lots of clients just from people we know.” 
He shook his head in agreement, then took Blondie out and proceeded to towel her off.
But he never did try and get grooming clients and his recovery didn't last long. Less than a month later, he started drinking again. That was bad enough but to add insult to injury, he bathed Blondie while intoxicated, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“Please don’t smoke and bathe my dog,” I told him. He was leaning over her, the tip of his cigarette dangerously close to her eyes as she sat in the tub covered in suds, looking up at me shivering, not because she was cold, because she wanted out of there. Blondie was not happy. 
“In fact, do us a favor and stop giving her baths completely.”
“What? You told me I was good at this. She likes it,” he protested speaking in slurred speech.
“Not when you’re drinking,” I said.
“I’m not drinking, I’m perfectly sober,” he lied.
Bobby didn't listen, he did what he wanted when he wanted, the exact behavior that drew me to him in the first place now repulsed me. Nine months after Bobby had not really moved in with me, I had to move out in order to get away from him.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's a nice girl like you doing in a relationship like this?

Early Sunday morning I returned to my flat to find Bobby still passed out on my bed. He looked like he hadn't moved since I made my get-away the night before. I left Blondie at my friend Berry Berenson Perkins house, where I had escaped the previous night, just to ensure her safety. I didn't know how he would react when I broke up with him but I was determined to get him out of my home once and for all. 
"Wake up, Bobby," I said, leaving the door open behind me and staying as far away from him as I could.  Sleepily, he rolled over, opened his eyes and held out his arms to hug me. He had obviously sobered up from the night before and was feeling remorseful. 
"I'm sorry I scared you," he said, his voice shaking. "Please don't kick me out. I won't drink any more, I promise." 
I didn't know what to do at that point. He did seem to truly regret his actions from the previous night but I couldn't trust him. I had never been attacked like that before. I kept saying "what's a nice girl like you doing in a relationship like this" over and over in my mind. I told him I would think about our relationship but I wanted him to move out that day. 
Having said my peace, I headed back to my friend Berry Berenson Perkin's house to spend another night there. I got up early and headed for work, leaving Blondie with Berry's dogs Charlie and Gregory. I was hocked when Bobby entered my office, looking all disheveled, his eyes forlorn in self pity, his body shaking from alcohol withdrawal. I quickly ushered him outside to talk, hoping this would be the end of it. I stood defiant in the otherwise empty parking lot next to the dried grease marks on the asphalt. I’d finally had enough. My mind was made up. I wanted out.
“If you break up with me, I’m afraid of what I might do to myself,” he said, his eyes welling up in tears. “ I've never loved anyone as much as I love you.”
“Bobby, are you threatening to kill yourself?” I felt angry that he was manipulating me like this but I was moved all-the-same.
“Without you, what do I have to live for?” He turned his back sobbing, hunched over, his hands hiding his face. Would he really do something like kill himself? Over me? I was too scared to find out the answer to that question. How could I ever live with myself knowing that I caused the death of another human being? It was up to me to make things right between us.
“Bobby, it’s going to be all right. We’ll work it out. You don’t have to kill yourself. You've got to stop drinking and start taking better care of yourself,” I said, my own voice breaking from tears. I would help him become the man I knew he could be, I told myself.
“I will, I promise I will,” he said, teary eyed.
"You've got to go now so I can get back to work," I told him. 
"Okay, thank you. I'll make it up to you. I'm going to stop drinking and get a job. You watch. I'll do whatever it takes to keep you in my life."
I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No way out

There were many times I felt threatened and scared of my live-in boyfriend Bobby.. The last of the frightening episodes I remember started with us arguing over I don't know what and ended with him blocking the door so I couldn't leave.
“So, you want to leave, do you?” Like a hunter after his prey, he held out his arms, crouched down, forcing me back every time I went for the door. He was so much stronger then me when sober and brutal when he was drunk.
“No you don’t,” he pushed me hard away from the exit.
“Bobby, let me out,” I pleaded. That’s when he grabbed me and forcefully threw me on the bed, straddling on top of me, holding my arms down with such force that I had finger bruises after the terrifying event.
“You’re not going anywhere,” his face in mine, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. It was like he was another person all-together. I didn't know what to do. There was no way out. I lay perfectly still, my head turned away from him, afraid to even breathe. He was a wild animal so I did what you’re supposed to do when you encounter a bear in the woods; play dead. I didn't moving an inch until he passed out on top of me. Quickly I grabbed Blondie and ran out of there headed straight to the arms of my friend Berry Berenson Perkins. She wouldn't judge me. She would just offer her unique kindness and love. I couldn't believe I had to leave my own home. It was time for Bobby to go. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Timing is everything

Things were getting complicated with my live-in boyfriend. He was completely living off me, drinking and causing all sorts of drama in my otherwise peaceful life with my pound dog Blondie. But I wasn't ready to give up yet. I still needed to be needed by more than just my dog, or so I thought. Bobby did what he could to keep me happy including cleaning my flat daily. I appreciated his effort and told him so but a clean apartment was just not enough to make a relationship work. To top it off, Bobby didn't always have the best timing for things, especially in the romantic department.
One of the times that sticks out in my memory happened just as I returned from my father’s emergency open heart surgery, depressed, worried and exhausted. Sex was the furthest thing from my mind that night. When I walked through the door, Bobby had created a romantic setting; soft music was playing from his boom box as candles lit the room. He was lying naked on my bed, ready to tear my clothes off.
“I’m so sorry to hear about your dad,” he said and motioned for me to join him. I just rolled my eyes and shook my head. We hadn't had sex for weeks and he chose that night? I didn't think so.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Eddie Show!

There I was, hooked to this guy who I felt certain I could help. I wanted to help him. I knew that deep down inside, Bobby was a good person. It was his rough upbringing that was holding him back from living his true potential.
His dysfunctional family of origin made mine look like the most supportive and loving family on the planet. Originally from Oregon, Bobby had not been home to see his mother in years. His dad was a total deadbeat and Bobby had just met his half brother who he didn't even know existed. I didn't know that sometimes, when a person is drowning and you hold out your hand to help, instead of saving them, they bring you down too. 
Back then, I didn't feel that helping Bobby was actually putting me in danger but in no time I did feel completely drained by his drama and heartache. Pain or not, that didn't change the fact that while I was going to work holding down a full time job, Bobby stayed home and got trashed on drugs and alcohol. His behavior was totally erratic. I never knew who would greet me when I opened my door.
“Welcome to the Eddie Show starring Eddie!” Bobby’s voice boomed from behind a makeshift curtain as I entered my tiny flat after a long day at the office. The curtain was really just a couple of sheets held up on a rope tied across my living room. Bobby was hiding behind the sheets, his dummy, the one he didn't know how to use properly, was perched on his left hand, front and center. I was not a happy camper at that moment.  I had been looking forward to coming home, sitting back and relaxing but when I saw the spectacle in front of me, I knew that wasn't going to happen any time soon. Instead, Bobby had a puppet show in store for me. This wasn't any puppet show. Bobby had a second character in his act. He had drawn a face on a plain old dirty sock and placed that over his other hand. I could tell he was drunk (as usual) because he was slurring his words. 
“Look, this is Eddie’s dog,” he said as the sock puppet and Eddie collided in front of the so called curtain. “His dog is named Blondie too!” He fell back in hysterics, the curtain dropping on top of him, covering Bobby, Eddie and the Blondie sock puppet. It was all I could do to help him get untangled from the complete mess he had created.
"That's some show," I commented.
"The show must go on...." Bobby replied trying in vain to get his ventriloquist dummy to work. He tried to stand but fell down, laughing in hysterics. I felt like crying.
"How about some coffee, Eddie," I asked.
"Eddie's not old enough for coffee," Bobby answered. "It'll stunt his growth." At that moment I knew being with Bobby was stunting my growth. But how would I get him to take Eddie and move on?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In search of a father

I witnessed several occasions when Bobby left to search for his father and came back distraught. On one of these dad seeking journeys, he met a half-brother he never knew he had.
“What was that like?” I asked.
“The kid looked just like I did at four-years old,” he said as he pet Blondie and kissed her nose. “My dad disappeared from his life as well. The kid just sat there looking at me. It was strange. I think he thought I was his dad.”
That just about tore my heart out. I never met anyone in search of their father before. I couldn't even imagine the torture he must have felt. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hooked on Bobby

               There we were, dining at a new five-star French Restaurant in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The setting was beautiful, the food delicious and the company, well, the company was interesting. I was invited to try out the restaurant because of my connections with "foodies" in Los Angeles. "Foodies" are people who love food and eat out frequently. When a new restaurant opens, bringing the right people to the establishment is almost as important as the menu. Back then, we didn't have computers or Facebook  Restaurants relied on word of mouth. Apparently, my mouth had clout in the city of angels.
               I brought my boyfriend Bobby with me and he brought his doll Eddie. Luckily, the waiters were good sports and went along with Bobby's eccentricity. During dinner, the conversation quickly became serious, even though we were sitting across from a ventriloquist dummy. I learned a few facts about Bobby that explained his erratic behavior and what I would later learn was his addiction to alcohol. Back then, I had little knowledge of the disease of alcoholism or co-dependency.
                Despite all the issues I had with my parents over the years, I did appreciate the fact that my mom and dad were dedicated to each other and stayed married until my mom died in 2000. Bobby, on the other hand, shared with me that his father had been married several times. In fact, Bobby’s band played at his dad’s last nuptial ceremony.
“That must have been weird,” I speculated, thinking about how I would feel performing if my parents ever got divorced.
“Nah, it was one of my band’s last shows before we split up. We got totally wasted with my dad. He even sat in with us on a few songs and played my guitar. I don’t remember much but friends still talk about it, we were that good.”
That's all I needed to hear to hook me. I would be the one to help Bobby. 
When we left, Bobby actually strapped Eddie into a seat belt.
“I don’t want anything to happen to the little guy,” he said, grinning.
“Maybe you should get him a child’s car sea,” I suggested.
“That’s a great idea,” he answered. But he never did get a car seat for his doll. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Eddie the puppet was well dressed in his black top hat and miniature tuxedo with a white button down shirt and bow tie. I thought it was funny that his mother picked out a dummy that resembled her son but I never shared my observation with Bobby. He never did learn how to use the dummy like a proper ventriloquist but Bobby became increasingly attached to the little puppet, carrying Eddie around with him everywhere. And I mean everywhere. When I was invited to dine at a new five-star French restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, Eddie came.
Actually, we brought the whole family along for the ride, Blondie, Eddie, Bobby and I. When we pulled up to the valet, there was a little confusion. I didn't want to scare Blondie, leaving her in the car while a strange man parked it.
“Do you mind if I park my own car and pay you anyway?” I asked the attendant, motioning to Blondie in the backseat.
“You can just pull up to the front and I will watch your dog for you,” he said with a wary smile. When Bobby got out of the car with Eddie, the valet shook his head in disbelief.
As we entered the elegant space, our laughter turned into hysterics over the fact that Eddie was joining us at this fancy eatery. Quiet and romantic, it did not look like the sort of place that would welcome wooden dolls as patrons. With its gigantic coats of arms decorating the walls and marble floors that gleamed in the candlelight, it was elegant beyond compare. 
Much to my surprise, the staff was playful and welcoming. Luckily, the restaurant was so new that it was relatively empty. French waiters greeted all three of us and welcomed Eddie as if he were our son, not just a dummy. They actually brought a booster seat and set a place for Eddie. When they poured the doll a glass of champagne, I almost lost it, laughing so hard champagne came out of my nose. Bobby finished Eddie’s champagne after pretending to have Eddie sip some. He gave Eddie pretend bites of his dinner throughout the evening too. It was like dining with a mad three-year old.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eddie and Blondie

 It was Christmas morning in Beachwood Canyon. My boyfriend, who had unofficially moved in with me a couple month's earlier, had just opened a mystery present from his mom. Bobby was thrilled with the ventriloquist doll she sent. Blondie was curious. I could see the wheels turning in her head as if to say: that looks like a small person, sort of. She cautiously walked over to Bobby to sniff the thing he was holding so tenderly. 
The doll was a replica of the famous Charlie McCarthy dummy, the side-kick of vaudeville actor Edgar John Berggren. The duo's popular radio show was credited with saving the world in 1938. When Orson Wells "War of The Worlds" radio hoax caused wide-spread panic, most people were busy listening to Edgar and Charlie instead. Now Bobby's puppet was creating panic with my dog.
“Get away, this is mine,” he said in a menacing tone that scared both of us. I pulled Blondie close to me and we both watched as Bobby put his hand in the puppet and tried to work the mouth and the eyes, moving his own like they too were being manipulated by someone else.
 “I always wanted to be a ventriloquist. She remembered,” Bobby shook his head in joyful disbelief.
“What will you name him?” I managed to utter under my breath, trying to ease the tension in the room.
 “I shall call him Eddie,” Bobby proclaimed. Placing his hand back inside the dummy, Bobby made Eddie bow and shake his head yes and no, sending Blondie immediately into high alert. Someone or something was in her home and she didn't like it. She started going crazy, barking and snarling, lunging at Eddie. Bobby stood up so that Eddie was taller than she was and chased her around the apartment, scaring her until she dove for safety behind me.
“Stop it. Do you want her to like Eddie or not?” I asked. “Let her smell him and see that he won’t hurt her.” Bobby stopped the chase and put Eddie in his lap motioning for Blondie to approach. Hesitantly, Blondie crouched down and walked over, nose first, and sniffed Eddie while Bobby watched. I don’t think Blondie ever did trust Bobby or Eddie. She saw how stressed I was with my live-in boyfriend and I saw how tense Eddie made her feel. But who could blame her with an introduction like that?