Flashback time. I’m siting here with our new puppy Zappa. Nope I’ve not been taking psychedelics, even though I did, way back when I was adorable, skinny and sexy with curly hair (that hasn’t changed much, except for the color) and platform shoes, yep, those days when casual sex and rock n’ roll were part and parcel with the territory. Those were interesting and mostly fun times.
It was the time of my life when I was a model, volunteered at the LA free clinic and lived in Laurel Canyon with the crazy daughter of my dad’s business partner. Rent was cheap in those days; we had a small 2 bedroom house with a teensy back yard and a one car garage that was just big enough to park my Fiat 124 sports coupe.
My then boyfriend, Lee, (since deceased) was bass player in the Iron Butterfly and we mostly hung out with other musicians and their girlfriends. There were many occasions when we happened to be at the Log Cabin, home of Frank Zappa, at the corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon Blvd., smoking pot with Frank and a bunch of others but I’m not sure who else. You see, at the time marijuana cost $30 for an ounce of the good shit and this was really good, so it is no wonder my memory fails as to the other who’s who.
All this is relatively unimportant except for the time that stands out most in my memory. Halloween…and don’t ask me exactly what year …maybe it was 1969? Anyway there we (about a dozen of us) were, sitting on the large sofas in this cavernous living room with a giant stone fireplace, and tall ceilings, munching on god know what, (but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been hash brownies), talking about music, the Hollywood scene and upcoming tours. When all of a sudden, Frank says, “Hey, you guys ready to go under the street to Houdini’s castle?” If Lee had mentioned this before I can’t be certain but whatever. We all said sure. We were also totally stoned.
Now let me tell you, I was a relatively saavynative Los Angelina, who even then, at the tender (slightly) age of nineteen (or so) knew the rumors about Houdini’s ghost and the creepy caretaker guarding the estate which stood behind the rock walls along a good stretch of Laurel Canyon. So I wasn’t particularly concerned even if it was Halloween! What could go wrong? I also didn’t scare easily.
We continued to talk, passing and relighting joints, all laughingly meandering our way down, down, down the steps of a darkly lit stone staircase (it was noisy with the lot of us). Clopity clop, shuffle, scrape we went until it was announced we were going to begin our trek through the tunnel which linked the cabin (log) to The Castle (of Houdini) under the street.
The tunnel was large with cold to the touch concrete or stone walls, fortunately we could comfortably stand up and walk two or three across. Several of us held flashlights, otherwise there was very little light to guide us. More laughter ensued…and the nervous type of chatter. We moved, some arm in arm, along the pass under the boulevard. Frank spoke in theatrically measured tones as if he were rehearsing for an upcoming show…for those who knew him it was neither surprising nor particularly ominous, but we all were exceedingly high and the sounds of footstep echoing off the walls, ceiling and path combined with the Frank’s rhythmic speech caused most of us to begin to take more measured steps, our talking now quieted, while couples held each other as we approached the wrought iron gates at the end of the tunnel.
You could’ve heard a pin drop. That is until we heard footsteps…not one or two but many clickety clackety feet approaching the gates. All who had flashlights quickly focused them on the gates. As if frozen in time we paused, peering at many pairs of eyes and lots of teeth. Dobermans? German Shepherds? I don’t know what kind of dogs they were or if they were indeed dogs… it could’ve been wolves for all we knew, but as far as our little messed up brains could fathom we were gonna go back to the cabin, and fast.
Someone (probably Frank) yelled run and enmasse we hightailed it, some touching the cold walls to steady themselves as we all passed quickly back through the tunnel, noisily up the way too many steps, into the giant living, reseating ourselves on couches, chairs and laughing, nervously to one another. I peaked at Frank, leaning against the fireplace with the biggest grin on his face, his fingers twisting his moustache.
I remember little else of that fun evening, but it was enough upon which to flashback..
There are other stories.