California Dreaming

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Volunteer Memories

Volunteer Memories

By D. "Darteo" Sommese

I guess I haven't said much about the volunteer job on Bogey's Corner, the consumer affairs segment of KCBS News, here in Los Angeles. I think it is because I am a bit embarrassed to be volunteering my time to a multi billion dollar TV network, especially when I am unemployed. In reality I am working for the local Los Angeles affiliate, KCBS News, but Los Angeles is no longer a little berg out in the desert, near the ocean. Our school system is the largest in the United States and has as many students as there are people in the city of San Francisco. You would think CBS could afford to pay us something. I am doing this because I am a natural born consumer activist, but I would also love for it to turn into a paying position.

The CBS 'eye' logo is familiar to me and brings back memories of my youth. Then I was just a mere youngster, I worked as a mail boy for the national CBS Network across town at what they call CBS TV City. In those days Red Skelton, Carol Burnet and the Smothers Brothers were doing their respective shows from there. I used to ride up the elevator, me and my little mail cart, with Carol Burnet and a very young Steve Martin who was a writer for the Smothers Brothers show at the time. I ran Dickie Smothers over with my mail cart one day in the artist entrance. This is a true story. On my run I had to pick up mail in a small office adjacent to the Artist entrance. Across from that office was the guards desk where there was also mail to be picked up. As I was shooting across the space between the office and the guards desk, I slammed right in to Dickie Smothers. I knocked him right on his ass. There he was sitting on the floor looking up at me. I was frozen in fear looking down at him. He could have had me fired r ight on the spot, but he didn't. I can still see the look on his face. He considered it, but after he saw the look on my face, I could see that he knew I was just a kid. It was a dumb accident. I rushed over to him and asked him if he was all right. "Yeah", he grunted and he just got up and continued down the hallway.

KCBS, is where they do the local News and I do my volunteer work, it is a block away from the famous intersection known as Hollywood and Vine. It is right across the street from an equally famous music and dance venue know as the Hollywood Palladium. Anyone who was ever anyone in music, has played there It goes as far back as the late 1930's. Across from the KCBS gate, outside on the sidewalk that runs along side the Palladium, I was beaten to a pulp one night during a Rod Stuart Concert. I was a long haired hippie then, working for a counter culture newspaper known as the Los Angeles Free Press. The free Press was the preeminent West Coast alternative voice in news reporting for the time. It was 1973, I worked in advertising sales. I sold ad space in the paper. I was hired because the switchboard operator thought I was cute. It must have been the hair.

One of my clients was the promoter of the Rod Stuart concert, Pacific Presentations. My contact with Pacific Presentations had promised me a backstage pass to see the concert. When I arrived the pass failed to materialize as was often the case in those days. Rock and Roll promises are always rather flaky. I didn't have a car then, but I was living close by, so I just started walking home on the sidewalk that runs alongside the Palladium across from the KCBS gate.

Two hulks/bouncers, who were in reality UCLA football players acting as security guards, stopped me and said I could not walk on that side of the street without a ticket. I knew my rights! I was on a public sidewalk! So I Just kept on walking in my brand new all leather shoes. The shoes were so new, the soles were still really slippery. In a flash I was spun around and punched hard in the stomach. It bent me over. Next I was hit with an uppercut that stood me back up again. The guy that was hitting me was not one of the guys that told me I could not walk there, so I was really bewildered as to why he was hitting me. He was like a Brahma bull. The only thing I could do was call him a "pig' which was what we used to call people like him in those days. My assailant was really no older than I was, and not any taller, but as a former football player he outweighed by about 50 or 60 lbs.

I could tell he was definitely not of the same peace and love variety of youth I was. I told him he was sick and that he was getting some sort of sexual thrill out of hitting me like he was. He didn't like that very much. The truth always hurts, but in this case it was hurting me. Meanwhile a crowd had gathered, but no one helped me. I fought him with words as he skillfully battered me like someone who had been trained in the art of mayhem. I went down on the ground and the bastard kicked me in the solar plexus. I went out like the proverbial light. I was unconscious. I didn't realize a kick in the solar plexus could do that to a person. The sound of sirens woke me up. Well.... it was what I thought were sirens. As I became more conscious the sound grew louder and louder. I realized that it wasn't sirens at all. It was me screaming in pain. There was a large crowd gathered by this time. I pulled myself up on a parked car and the monster came at me again. All I could do was steel myself for the onslaught. This guy was a smelly animal, lost in his own rage. He could hit me, but he couldn't make me submit and that was killing him.

He rushed in for the kill and out of the blue, a woman in a vintage 1930 flowered dress threw herself in front of me like Pocahontas defending John Smith and said. "That's enough, leave him alone". She actually shielded me with her body. The crowd finally did something! They rushed in and started asking my assailant his name. Two guys jumped in and said they were law students and they were going to prosecute him. He mocked them, by saying, "My name is Fig, Fig Newton" and ran into the Palladium where no one could get at him. The police would do nothing. This was the first concert the promoters did not use off-duty policeman as bouncers. The Police, even though they were off-duty, kept busting the concert goers for smoking pot, which was bad for business. The police hoped there would be so much trouble, the promoters would be forced to use the off-duty police again. I walked to police substation nearby, where I gave a report. Some doctor that was there patched me up a bit and I walked home.

My adrenaline was pumping and of course I could not sleep, so I wrote the story down. The bouncers, all current or former UCLA Bruins, called their service "Peace Power". Leave it to a bunch of jocks to use an oxymoron to describe themselves, when a simple moron would have been enough.

Art Kunken, the then and now editor of the LA Free Press, known to us all as the Freep, ran my story on the front page under the headline " 'Peace Power' Bullies Stopped by Pocahontis" (his spelling not mine). It was my first published piece. He was being very kind. The story generated lots of calls from angry parents. Fig Newton was a sick puppy. He could not stop himself from beating up concert goers. One mother called me in tears. Her daughter caught up in the moment, ran toward the stage. Daemon hit her in the head so hard her eye popped out of her socket. There was a class action suit and he lost his business, thank God. I was interviewed on local TV and in an odd turn of events ended up working for Pacific Presentations after a while. I called Rod Stuart at his hotel room and spoke to him. I told him what was happening and asked him how he could be up there on stage and see all his fans getting beat up and not say something? He said, "I'm just a singer in a rock and roll band, man." As if this explained everything. He invited me to come down to the hotel to meet him and his manager for a drink. When I got there he could not see me for some reason. Rock and Roll promises again. I think of all this every time I drive in the KCBS, Columbia Square gate to do my volunteer work. It's funny how time speeds by.....when your having fun.

To read other stories from CALIFORNIA DREAMING click on the underlined titles below.

"Queenie and the Racoon" "Ships Passing in the Night" "Summer Journey" s "A Surfers Gift" "Volunteer Memories" "HOME"
Copyright D."Darteo" Sommese 2017

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