It was the middle of the afternoon when Chas dropped me off in the driveway at 6826 ½ Camrose Drive. Big Al Fohrman, my landlord, was peering out from the crack in his blinds at me through the apartment downstairs that was littered with floor to ceiling newspapers and storage boxes. He was the last person on earth I wanted to speak to at the moment. I was alone in Hollywood in my shabby one room apartment. My dogs weren’t even there to greet me since they were up on Canton Drive. My parents, as usual, were taking care of them while I was out gallivanting in the mountains of Aspen with movie icons and rock stars.
I was depressed. It was a long way down from the heights of that mountain to the foothills of Highland Avenue. I had twenty dollars left to my name, no job and no car. I knew I had to do something since I had dissolved my partnership with David George and sold him the rights to Independent Data Supply and all that money was gone— eaten up in the European extravaganza the year before. My money, my fiancé, my Porsche all gone; at least I still had my two dogs and my health, but that was starting to fail from all the drinking and lack of nutrition.
I began checking the want ads for employment and one thing for certain was I didn’t want to go back on the phones. I saw an ad for a company called Great Expectations. They were a dating club, one of the forerunners of that ilk. I called and they told me to come down for an interview the next day. I got all spiffed up in a sport jacket and black slacks with a striped tie. I looked good, like a preppy pimp, after all that is what I was going to be if I got the job. I thought the interview went well and I returned home thinking they would call back in a day or two inviting me to be the newest representative of their elite club of matchmakers. Three days went by and no call. After a week I was beginning to think I didn’t make the grade. I couldn’t even get a job at a dating service. I called my mom and dad and told them I was at the end of my rope. Then the tears started to flow and once they did the damn had burst. I couldn’t stop. I became hysterical. My mom tried to console me saying things like: it’s alright, things will get better and the darkest hour is always just before the dawn, but none of those aphorisms seemed to help. But I thought a bottle of Jack Daniels would, but even that didn’t.
The next day Great Expectations finally called and told me I had gotten the job. My self esteem was on the rise. It wasn’t my dream job by any stretch of the imagination but it was a start. At least someone was willing to hire me. I went into a training session where the management shows the new recruits the tricks of the trade. One of the more laughable things was the role playing. After you sign a client up, if you get that far, they have to be qualified. They have you call the office after the sale and you speak in code as not to offend the prospective client since you are using their phone and are probably sitting in their living room or kitchen right in front of them.
My first appointment was in a not so good section of Altadena. She was a divorced African American woman with three kids all under the age of four. When I parked my Mom’s Mercedes in front of the prospective client’s house, got out and I saw a German shepherd get run over by car at the end of the block. I rushed over to the poor dog that was bleeding badly and I knew it was mortally wounded. It died in my arms—and I was wearing my best outfit. Not an auspicious start. I gathered myself and went into the house and asked the lady if I could clean up before the interview. She obliged and a few minutes later I was seated on her couch while her three screaming kids ran back and forth around the room in their soiled diapers. I had to ask her general questions such as: age, race, what they were looking for in a mate, you know, the usual profiling. When it came to the question if they had ever been arrested she answered yes. I had to ask what the charge was and she said it was prostitution. I knew right then she would never qualify. I went on with the interview just going through the motions trying to be affable and good-natured. Then I had to make the phone call to the office. She handed me the phone and the role playing began. The girl on the other end of the phone went down the line with each question and I gave positive responses to each one until it came to the arrest question. I had to say some code that indicated there was a problem. I think the code was something like: Yes, she is wearing a red dress which meant there was a red flag. After the interview was over I thanked her for her time and interest in Great Expectations and left knowing I had made a sale but it was going to be rejected. I pulled away from the street and saw the dead dog on the sidewalk and figured it would stay there until hell froze over.
I think I had three, maybe four more appointments after that and I actually sold one or two but I knew I wasn’t cut out for that line of work. I quit after two weeks. A little while later Larry told me that Sean McNamara had started a phone room in Santa Monica selling office supplies. Sean was a guitar player that lived in the hood and spent a lot of time with Stephen and Larry, me, not so much. I knew I could make some fast cash and I still had all those clients from the Virgin Islands that I could bring on board. He hired me at a very high commission. I soon realized that it was a rip-off company called Premium Services. It was another generic and misleading name like Central Supply and they were using tactics that were just this side of barely legal. I didn’t want to be Jim Phillips anymore. Jim was a sneaky, underhanded persona of mine that I used when I wanted to justify my unethical business tactics. I had to. It was the name on the past invoices from Independent Data and Central Supply and I had a great rapport with these wonderful although gullible folks. They weren’t going to like me very much longer when they didn’t get the color TV they were promised and got a bill for three or four hundred dollars more than I had promised. I had to leave Premium Services and take back my leads and my integrity. A month later Universal Data Supply would be hatched. It would be a one man operation where I would wear all the hats. I would be salesman, shipping clerk, secretary and customer service agent. Before that would happen I had one last thing to settle. There was a fellow salesman who worked there by the name of Jeffrey Van Der Byl. He was a dark complexioned young man with a proper English accent. He also spoke fluent German. I had found a Berlin phone book in the storage closet and I knew the last name of the current boyfriend Maria was living with. He was a fellow named Rudiger Koch. I found a few listings under that last name and called them all. I would hand the phone to Jeffrey when I go through and he would speak to them in a decent German dialect. When I came to the name Gisela Koch the phone rang and of all things, Maria had answered the call. She was shocked that I was able to reach her and I was amazed at my detective work coming to fruition. I needed closure.
She poured her heart out to me and explained what she had done and why she had abandoned her four month old child in a car then hitched a ride to Berlin from Frankfurt. I tried to understand but I just couldn’t. It was the last time I ever spoke to her until twenty years later when she had found my parents number and tracked me down to thank me for my help. By that time I was married with two boys and a third one yet to be born. If there was a lesson to be learned from that I wasn’t sure what it was at the time. In retrospect i can see that it was one of those relationships that were meant to build strength and character. Maybe it worked. I hope so.