By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
The following story is true. This is the third and what I thought was last episode of the Hollywood Desk until I had a lucid moment and remembered other incidents that might jog the memories of old retired Hollywood cops. Some of my non-cop friends just find them funny.
I was pretty lucky. I only worked the desk during my first three years on the job, or when I got hurt and couldn’t work patrol. I remember one week I worked five days. Two at the desk, one in the jail, and two on station security. These were called the terrible three’s. This was not exactly what a young cop who’s going to save the world signs up for.
In my last Ramblings, I reminisced of the little old lady who came in to the station to get her juvenile grandson. This story is about an adult who made a big mistake, first by being arrested and second by being a Marine at the time. It was common for new Marines to come from Camp Pendleton to Hollywood on their first leave from boot camp. They weren’t hard to spot, short hair, a tattoo and a t-shirt with USMC on the front.
I worked with Bill Barren, a former marine. Sometimes he’d see a group of marines walking down Hollywood Boulevard. We would stop the group, line them up at attention, and ask who was in charge. Bill would then lecture them about the evils of Hollywood, things like not everything in a dress is a girl. He would send them off advising them not to tarnish the name of the Marine Corps. Once a marine always a marine. “Semper Fidelis”
Ok, back to my desk story. This marine gets drunk and is arrested in Hollywood. He’s placed in a holding tank and the shore patrol is called. Military personnel arrested for being drunk in public are turned over to the Military Police. The shore patrol will give the marine a stiffer sentence than any court in L.A. The marine was being a jerk and yelling things about the Marine Corps that he would never even think of saying sober. He also had a photo album, with pictures of himself in his “dress blues”. In some of the pictures, he was holding the American flag in one hand and his manhood in the other. No explanation needed.
The marine is yelling for over two hours when the Shore Patrol arrives. The guy in charge, a staff sergeant I think, walks up to the desk. He asks, “Is that my marine making all that noise?”
The sergeant is escorted into the Watch Commanders office. He is looking at the photo album and you can see his face muscles getting tense. The sergeant asks if he can see his marine now. The holding tank door is opened and the marine jumps to attention. The sergeant knocks him out cold. The Marine is dragged outside unconscious and thrown into the back of the Shore Patrol’s paddy wagon. I’m guessing that the marine will regret coming to Hollywood and with that photo album.
On the bright side, we had a Watch Commander, Bryce, whose pet peeve was officers hanging their car keys from their gun belts. If you walked into the station with your keys in your belt, Bryce would grab the keys and throw them out the front door. I learned to take my keys out of my belt upon walking into the lobby. I only chased my keys out into the street once. I saw another officers keys grabbed from his belt, tossed to a citizen sitting in the lobby, who tossed them out the front door as directed by Bryce.
I showed up for work one night and passed Jane Fonda in the lobby. She is one of my least favorite people. She was advising some woman that she has rights and you don’t have to do what the police say. I would have liked to see her in the custody of the shore patrol.
In the old Hollywood station, you walked through the lobby to get to your police car after roll call. I remember one night as the line filed down the hallway toward the desk, some of the officers started turning around and back tracking. I wasn’t sure why until I reached the desk. There was a woman of suspicious reputation standing at the desk with officers. I guess some of the officers didn’t want to be seen by this women. Ha ha, I wasn’t afraid.
Of course, there was Gracie Wilde, a homeless girl who lived in a doorway near the station. Gracie wasn’t a bad person, loved cops, and a few officers gave her money for food. Gracie just needed to take her medication regularly. Birdie was another woman who would come into the lobby and look for cans to recycle. She lived in a motor home on the corner. Some of the desk officers saved cans for her.
Then there was Linda. Rumor said that Linda was a model and came from a rich family. Once a month she would get a check from a trust, clean up, buy some nice clothes, and then get drunk. Linda was an alcoholic and often slept in the lobby during the night. The first few days of the month, Linda looked normal. By the end of the month, Linda was dirty and obnoxious. Actually, Linda was usually obnoxious when drunk and the first thing the day watch desk officers did was throw Linda out. I remember one week, Linda was dressed in Band Majors uniform.
Think policemen are heartless. I remember a young boy, about eight years old, racing into the station lobby, crying, that his new bicycle was just stolen by a bigger kid. After a search proved fruitless, the desk officers replaced the bike with the help of a local bicycle shop.
I wonder what ever happened these characters. These people all existed and helped pass the time on the desk.