Picture It: Studio One In West Hollywood. 1980

26 Apr
Gary Mortimer tending bar at the Backlot of Studio One with Liza Minnelli the night she bought out the room for Chita Rivera. (Photo by Gary Mortimer)

Gary Mortimer tending bar at the Backlot of Studio One with Liza Minnelli the night she bought out the room for Chita Rivera. (Photo by Gary Mortimer)

So, I’m going through my book, I Can See Clearly Now, looking for typos and whatnot. I’ve really had an incredible life. I’ve been at the top, and I’ve been so far under the rubble that I couldn’t see daylight. I’ve dated multi-millionaires (one of them was the nephew of the former owner of the New Orleans Saints), and I’ve seen the inside of some of the country’s most violent prisons. I’ve dealt with the horrors of bipolar disorder, and I’ve defeated the demons who whispered suicidal thoughts in my ear.

Looking through the book, I go from cringing in horror at some of the memories (I do have a conscience) to laughing out loud. There was the time in 1980 I returned to LA to visit some college friends, and I went out to Studio One, a famous gay club in West Hollywood. I was standing outside the club, waiting for a taxi when this guy came up and asked me if I wanted a ride. Of course, I’m Jethro and think nothing of accepting a ride from a complete stranger in a big city. More sophisticated people would have raised one eyebrow, a la Joan Crawford, at the question and sent him on his way. But me? I’m from the Texas Panhandle where we wave to everyone and bring them home for supper. So I say, suuure. Once inside his car, he invites me to his apartment. Again, I say sure. Why the heck not? I mean it’s not like I could get strangled and dumped on the side of the highway in Los Angeles, right?

So I go to his apartment on Sunset Boulevard. That should have been a clue. I walked into this gorgeous apartment, and there were framed gold records on the walls. Several of them. I thought, “Oh those are cool,” like they were some kind of Bradford Exchange commemorative plates. Then later I saw something on his nightstand (yes, was I naive enough to be moved to the bedroom) that stopped me in my tracks. It was a letter, and the return address was from Elizabeth Taylor. So, I asked, “Who the hell are you?” Turns out, he was one of the members of Three Dog Night. Honey, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I never liked that group. So I spent the night. The next day we went to the beach in Santa Monica. Then he invited me back for dinner. He cooked chicken. Can you believe it? Chicken. He was a member of Three Dog Night, and he served me chicken. And then, get this, he started to get dressed to go out and told me I could see my way out. Oh, but he didn’t know that 35 years later I’d write about it. Didn’t see that coming, did ya?


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