Photo by Mark SavageJeanne Carmenis the Queen of B Movies. E! Entertainment Television said so, so it must be true. She was best friends with Marilyn and had sex with both Sinatra (she says he was a lousy lay and boring as hell) and Elvis. She's 71. She's hot and blond, says "fuck" a lot, and talks about men's packages. I love Jeanne Carmen.
Miss Carmen settles into a booth at Aztecawith her son, Brandon, and a hanger-on or two, and proceeds to get plowed. We both do, actually—she on margaritas and I on dirty martinis. As JJ, the tanned and suave manager (Azteca is his aunt's place), fetches more drinks, he tells me, "She could have me any time she wants, and she knows it." He is lit up like a schoolgirl. He loves Jeanne Carmen, too—really loves her.
Carmen and Brandon live in Laguna Hills; they go out all the damn time (a favorite place is the Ritz) and never pay for a thing. Instead, people like Jerry Dunphy buy them bottles of Cristal. The mother/son relationship is bizarre: Brandon acts as her manager, which entails lugging around a folder of old glamour shots, in which his mother is generally nude or just shy of it. He shows a stack of photos from their outings in the past couple of weeks; in each one, he is arm-in-arm with a different buxom friend. He hits on me. I pretend not to notice.
Carmen talks smack about Ava Gardner and Ethel Kennedy(something about Carmen and Marilyn double-teaming Bobby Kennedy on a Santa Monica beach, the attorney general wearing a hat and beard to elude detection) and Sinatra, who she says made her get on her knees when he proposed to her. Did she mention he was a lousy lay? "He had this giant package, but he didn't know what to do with it," she explains. Why not? "Because from day one, there were all these girls who just wanted to blow him, who did all the work for him. He never had to learn how." As for her, she shrugs: "I'm not a teacher. You either know it or you don't." We nod sagely. But she stayed with him—on and off—for seven years.
Elvis karaoke is occurring loudly in the other room. A Social Distortion song comes on, and Trish, the young woman who arrived with Carmen and Brandon, says brightly, "Mike Ness is the best kisser ever!" We ignore her.
I ask Carmen her advice for getting and keeping a man. "Well, I've never kept one," she says. "I lived great in between husbands." But she thinks about the question for a bit and then answers, "You can't be subservient. You have to be aloof and a little bitchy. It drives them crazy. You can be a little sweet and loving—at the right time. Don't ever cook, and take as much of their money as you can because they like to be near their money. If you've got it, they'll never leave you. My first psychiatrist told me that!"
What about offering to pay once in a while, as a sign you're not just on the take?
She gets heated. "Do not ever pay!" she admonishes. "You are the woman! Do not ever pay!" From her lips to your ears, ladies. And if that makes you uncomfortable in Y2K1, remember the good feminist rationalization for that: you're making 72 cents on his dollar. Live it up!
The next day, in dire need of juice (I had weird dehydrated dreams about V-8 Splash), I drove—somewhat muzzily—to Anaheim's The Shack to show the Nazis a thing or two. Rumor had it that a Costa Mesa-based skinhead group called Blood and Honor would be hosting some kind of White Power fund-raiser, but the Shack was denying anything had been scheduled. When I got to the parking lot, 17 people (mostly old Jewish Defense League guys and a couple of libertarians) were standing around by the door, reading the notice taped to it: "Sorry for the inconvenience. The Shack would like everyone to know there is no show of any kind scheduled for Aug. 19, 2001, and never was. We were not aware, nor can we control what people put on the Web page." (According to reports, it was the police who persuaded the Shack to cancel the show, which had been scheduled as a private party.)
As I was jotting down the notice, Dr. Howard Garber kept interrupting me to promote himself. See, he's a pro-choice, conservative Republican who's against Nazis and is running for Congress! His big, pretty brochure folded out to reveal colorful glamour shots of houses with vato graffiti on them. He's for closing the borders, he told me. His first claim to fame was that he was the Southern California chair of the Committee to Recall Rose Bird, the gentle California Supreme Court chief justice whose principled opposition to the death penalty ended her career. "She overturned 61 out of 61 death-penalty cases! I was born in the late '20s. You could walk down the street then!" Garber yelled. I interjected, softly, that death-penalty countries now comprise basically us, China and Iran. "I am making a speech here! You do not interrupt!" he yelled again, his finger in my face. Howard Garber is an asshole.
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Within a few minutes, about 20 Communists showed up from LA to protest the Nazis with signs that read, "Smash Racism Through Communist Revolution." And they were all Mexican. The JDL and Garber started getting Bob Dornan levels of crazy. A little man in a USS Missouri cap kept whining, "Who invited the Communists down?" while his partner, a woman with an accent of indeterminate origin, kept murmuring, "Let us go. We have nothing to do with Communists."
"Communists are not allowed here!" Garber yelled through his megaphone, as if he had a monopoly on stupidity. Someone—I believe it was Irv Rubin of the JDL—responded heatedly that everyone was entitled to his opinion, and then told Garber to keep his political opinions to himself. "Don't you dare restrict my vocal cords!" Garber shouted. Everyone was yelling at everyone else—even the libertarians were starting to get into the act, especially when Garber chanted, "Shut down the Shack," which wasn't the purpose of the gathering; it was pretty well accepted that everyone—the Shack and Nazis included—was entitled to his opinions, and we were there merely to make ours known as well. And there weren't even any Nazis there.
Garber finally left when the Black Bloc showed up—three sweet suburban anarchists in Joy Division T-shirts—as did some dirty hippies with bongos and some Mexican guys who were turning it into a La Raza rally. (One poster showed a fierce Aztec, his finger pointed like Uncle Sam, and the legend, "Who's the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?"). But Garber didn't go far; he hung out across the street, where, like Yertle the Turtle (who's the king of all he surveys), he could be the King of the Protest from afar. It was a delightful fiasco, cooking in the August sun. And Howard Garber is an asshole.
Bring it on, Howard Garber: CommieGirl99@hotmail.com.