Ramblings: Dorothy, the Button Lady, Characters 10

By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us.

The following story is true and the “Character” is real.  The character might still be out there, but I doubt it—Dorothy, the Button Lady

These stories involve naked women. Nothing can get a policemen hurt quicker than a radio call of a naked women. The radio code is “311 woman.” Male officers will race all the way across a division to see a naked women. I’ve handled a lot of naked men calls but none of them bring back any memories. Must be a guy thing. Female officers are smarter.

My thirty-five years’ experience taught me that most “311 women calls” were not worth the effort or risk. After reading two of the three examples of incidents I’m going to describe, you’ll probably agree.

Its early Day Watch and rush hour traffic has the streets of Hollywood clogged. Most of the cars contain business men and women on their way to a low paying, boring desk job. This story is old, before everyone was on their cell phone. The only entertainment was the car radio and what they saw on the way to work.

A call comes out of a 311 woman at Franklin and Beachwood. Let see, I’ve had my coffee, I’ve got nothing else to do, why not go see a naked women? I fight traffic and drive East on Franklin. I see a police car ahead. Traffic westbound is stopped dead. I get out of my car walk up to the other police car. Standing in front of a convalescent home is a 60+ yr.-old naked woman. She’s dancing around and flopping her shriveled up boobs at traffic. I look over my shoulder at the backed up traffic. There’s nothing but smiles or a bewildered look on their faces. In today’s cell phone world it would have been videotaped and on You-Tube before I got my second cup of coffee.

The officer in charge, Wendi Berndt, is ordering the female to turn around and put her hands behind her back. This lady could be from the convalescent home or high on drugs, it’s never easy to tell and both can be dangerous. Wendi again tells the lady to turn around. The naked lady complies, then shocks everyone within eye sight. She bends over and spreads her ample butt cheeks and moons everyone. If I’d had that second cup of coffee, I’d have peed in a clean uniform. Yea, she was from the home and refused to take her medication. I would have loved to hear some of the conversations in the office that morning. “You’ll never guess what I saw on my way to work this morning.”

The second incident also involved rush hour traffic. Radio call, “311 woman at Santa Monica and Highland; school kids in area.”  It’s my call so I respond. Yep, there she is, a 70 year old homeless women standing behind the bus bench. Her pants are around her ankles and she has relieved herself on the sidewalk. The traffic is stopped and everyone is watching us. I tell the lady to pull up her pants. She tells me to do something that is anatomically impossible. I tell her I’ll arrest her and she says, “Go ahead, I’ll crap in your car.”

Just then, I get a brilliant idea—something new to me. I tell her she will go to jail and I’ll throw away everything in her shopping cart. She says, “Officer, don’t do that.” She immediately pulls up her pants. I tell her to walk westbound on Santa Monica Boulevard to West Hollywood. I follow her into the county’s jurisdiction. Let the sheriffs deal with her.

This last one is the exception to the “311 woman” curse. I’m working Morning watch and it’s about 3 A.M. We finish handling a radio call and drive slowly down the street as my partner is writing in his log.

The only car on the street stops us and asks, “Are you looking for the naked lady?”

Huh? “What naked lady?”

The driver says there’s a naked lady running around on the next street.  OK, my interest is piqued and my partner has put down his log. We turn the corner and see something duck down behind a parked car.

I drive up next to the car and get out.  This twenty-something, drop-dead glorious young lady stands up. She’s not even wearing shoes or earrings. I’m a trained observer.

I ask her, “Why are you running around naked in the middle of the night?”

She says her parents don’t want her to sleep in the nude and she wants to feel free. She asks me my opinion as she stands in front of me, unashamed.

I just swallowed my gum.

I beginning to understand this young lady has some mental issues.  We put her in the back seat of our police car and drive around the corner to her house. We wake up mom who brings out a blanket and takes her daughter inside. Those are just a few of the incidents of naked women I’ve run across in Hollywood.

Character:  Dorothy, the Button lady

I became aware of Dorothy in the 80/90’s.  She got her name from the numerous buttons and pins she had on her coat.  I would see Dorothy walking westbound on Hollywood Boulevard early in the morning. She would sit on a bus bench in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and wait for the first tour bus to arrive. When the tourists saw Dorothy they wanted to take a picture with her. She would oblige for a small donation. Dorothy preceded the costumed super hero’s that now clog Hollywood Boulevard.

For the most part Dorothy was not a problem, but if anyone tried to encroach on Dorothy’s territory, she would call the police. One morning, I’m a Field Sergeant and a radio call is broadcast. “ADW (assault with a deadly weapon) suspect in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Suspect is attempting to hit tourists with a chain.”  I drive up and Dorothy points to a male who is skipping rope. He’s a boxer and is doing the fancy rope skipping.

The tourists are taking his picture and not Dorothy’s. Dorothy wants him to leave. I tell Dorothy that he has every right to be there and I leave. I drive to the station and I’m in the Watch Commanders office when Communications Division calls and says that there’s a lady on the phone who wants to make a complaint. It’s Dorothy and she says that she called the police and the police (meaning me) didn’t do anything. I adjudicated my own complaint in five minutes.

Under Chief Parks it would have been a four week investigation.



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