I was on the program. But was I really? Sure, I had abstained from alcohol but I was still smoking a little pot. Not really working the twelve steps to the best of my ability, but I felt better and my health was turning around. I had quit the booze on December 26, 1987 and was alcohol free for more than a month and a half. Then cometh the crash—literally!
AA was the Facebook of its time. It seemed to me to be the watering hole where sober and some pretending to be sober folks got together to meet and greet and exchange hard luck stories. Whatever works right? For some it did and others? Not so much. I remember seeing rock stars like Steven Tyler and Joe Perry at some of the meetings in Hollywood or Beverly Hills. Steven was telling the crowd of peers and fans that he loved AA and would use it as a temporary safe house to trying and get sober before going on tour. He knew, as well as the rest of the band knew, that once out there in places like Cincinnati and Akron, he would eventually pick up the pipe or the shotglass but he wouldn’t go full throttle, thanks to AA. It kept him relatively in check so he could make it through the tour. I shook my head thinking, “I guess it’s cheaper than Betty Ford and if it works for him, great.”
I was lonely and was still missing Maria who I hadn’t heard from in over a year. Sure, I had a few dates and casual sex, but it wasn’t fulfilling me in the least. I met this cute blonde by the name of Jacqueline at a meeting who invited me back to her apartment in West Hollywood afterwards. She asked me not to judge her too harshly when I saw her hobby. It would be self-evident. She turned the front door key and invited me inside. Normal place so far. No strangeness yet. She made some herbal tea and we sat on the couch in the living room talking and sussing each other out. She was maybe a few years older than I was but looked in great shape. To me thirty-five was older. Now if I had a thirty-five year old girlfriend I would be robbing the cradle. Plus, I don’t think my wife would be too happy about it either—just theorizing. Then she invited me into her den. Holy Shit! There were whips and chains and every imaginable torture device plucked out of the S & M shop dating all the way back from the Spanish Inquisition forward.
“What is all this?” I asked, not wanting to come to grips with what lay before me.
“What does it look like?” she responded without any defensiveness or animosity.
“Actually it looks like something out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”
I tried to be open minded, I always do. Who am I to judge somebody for their hobbies or interests? But what I saw turned my stomach. She could tell I was a bit put off.
“I am a dominatrix. I have a few clients— some of them were at the meeting tonight.”
“Jesus! I guess you have to do something to fill the void.”
“Do you want a demonstration?”
“Uh, I think I’ll pass.”
I couldn’t wait to get out of that dungeon. My hands were sweating and I’m sure my face was fifty shades of red, maybe gray, too. I looked at my wrist even though I wasn’t wearing a watch and feigned some excuse to leave. She looked hurt and a bit disappointed. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre—don’t want to know and I don’t care. I was gone like the cool wind.
I was now almost forty-five days sober, well alcohol free anyway. It was Valentine’s Day and I was at my parent’s house on Canton Drive playing the piano and waiting for my folks to leave to go out for dinner. My dad had left half a glass of scotch on the coffee table in the den. I was depressed and in a very vulnerable position. I should have called someone, Fieger, Terry Kirkman, even the operator, but I didn’t. I looked over at the glass of scotch and I swear it was like Alice in Wonderland. I thought I could hear it say “Drink me, drink me.” I succumbed. Big mistake.
I figured I had already broken my sobriety so why not go whole hog. I went to my dad’s liquor cabinet and poured myself a tumbler full of Chivas Regal. Then I went upstairs to my mom’s medicine cabinet and plucked out a few Ativans. I took one, then and wrapped a couple more in a tissue for later and stuck it in the pocket of my jeans. I thought I’d better get back to my apartment before the drugs and alcohol kicked in. I gathered my things, rounded up my two dogs, Bridget Bardog and Ginger and hopped into my maroon TR-6. I only lived about five miles away on Camrose Drive. I mapped out my route. I would take Berry Drive to Wrightwood and then left On Lankershim to Ventura. Easy-peasy. I would be home in twenty minutes and have a good buzz on, maybe watch some TV or play some music. The last thing I remembered was waiting at a light on Ventura and Lankershim in Universal City right near the Baked Potato. I must have taken off when the light turned green but had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel. I didn’t even hear the metal crunching when I smashed into a parked car on the right side of Ventura right in front of a playhouse with a crowd of people standing in line waiting to go in to see the show. I could have easily killed somebody maybe a whole slew of innocent bystanders. I guess I was lucky in that respect.
I was sitting on the curb totally whacked out of my brain. I didn’t even realize that the front end of my car looked like a metallic, Italian accordion playing the Apocalyptic Waltz. I knew I was busted. I wondered where my dogs were. Then I remembered I had the Ativans in my pocket and clumsily reached in and tried to dislodge them. I heard a woman’s voice shouting, “He’s taking something out of his pocket!” Maybe she thought it was a gun or a knife. I wasn’t sure and was too fucked up to do anything about it. My mind was a melted cheese sandwich on stale rye. The police finally came and read me my rights then handcuffed me. Someone had spotted my dogs on the sidewalk. They were okay and I gathered they must have jumped out of the backseat—I’m glad the top was down. They said for me to watch my head as they lowered me into the back seat of the black and white. I said, “I don’t really care what you do to me, but please can I call somebody to pick up my dogs.” They let me. I called Larry Harrison. He said he would be there in twenty minutes.
I spent a week in L.A. County Jail getting ready for my hearing. How did a nice Jewish boy end up incarcerated with gang members, dope pushers, murderers and rapists? Would I survive and make it to the hearing? Would my dogs be waiting for me when I was released, if I ever would be released? What would my parents say? Would they disown me? If it weren’t for Ernest, the six foot four and two hundred and eighty pound, black leviathan in my cell who read verses from the Bible, I would have been dead meat. I pretended to show an interest in the holy book and after awhile the stories perked my interest. I always thought Jesus Christ was just all right with me, but with my upbringing I could never accept him as the SON OF GOD. The jury is still out on that one. I always felt that if I was told I would lead a bunch of fisherman through the desert, walk on water, make the blind see and heal the sick, then to know that my best friend in the world would sell me out for thirty pieces of silver and end up with nails hammered through my palms wrists and ankles—I don’t think I would have taken the job. But I guess He had no choice. Or did He? It was a lot to think about but I had nothing but time—as I was doing time. I couldn’t wait to get out of the cacophonous confines of L.A. County jail and rush right over to the nearest liquor store and buy a bottle of the hardest booze I could find. I wasn’t quite ready to be sober. I felt betrayed by my forty-five days of sobriety only to be hit with the hammer of reality right in the face. It would take time to come to the decision that would lead me on the path of the straight and narrow, but I knew I would someday. I didn’t think it would take ten more years. One thing was for sure, if I was going to get drunk, I would never get behind the wheel again. At least I kept that promise—sort of.