Part 47: The Red Shoe
It's Sunday, October 11, 2020. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe that the Chinese government created the Corona Virus as a weapon and others think the media and Democrats exaggerate the threat of the virus to make the president look bad. There's a rabbit hole some people (not just Americans) have gone down, and it's called QAnon. The followers believe that Bill Gates is hatching evil plans to control humans, Democrats have a child sex ring, and they believe there are "lizard humans" disguised as corporate leaders. All these evil-doers, according to believers, are conspiring to use the virus for their own dark purposes. Meanwhile, a group of men in Michigan hatched a plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but their plans were foiled by the FBI. President Trump should be in quarantine, having fallen ill from COVID-19, but he's on a cocktail of steroids and experimental drugs (some contain human fetal tissue) and claims he feels better than he did 20 years ago.
Let's focus on art instead. This painting hung in our apartment for many years in Hollywood on Selma Street, and the image is one of my earliest memories of my mother's work. I had thought this one was a re-do of the original, because I remember it differently. Wasn't her hair less "fluffy"? When I asked my mother about it, she said no, this is the slide of the original work, and she never re-painted this one after it sold. Memory is strange like that, I could swear this image isn't the original. I think this one sold before I turned seven years-old. The nude reminded me of the "Chicken of the Sea" cartoon mermaid on the tuna can when I was a kid, so maybe my mind combined the two images.
Anyway, we'll call this painting "Blonde" by Jan Svetlik. The naked blonde is stuck in my mind as an appropriate image for our time in Hollywood. It still reminds me of how women are expected to look in some parts of Southern California, whether they be 16 or 60. The older women pay hundreds of dollars for blonde hair extensions, thousands for botox and fillers, and sometimes it's hard to tell them apart.
In this blog, I'm returning to my father's porn writing career, so the painting is perfect for that, too, not only because it's a naked woman with massive amounts of long, blonde hair, but also because it hung in our house around the time my father was writing his sex books.
My mother has no memory of Dad writing the "Through the Ages" series. She knew about the other porn books he wrote under the name Zachary Quill. I mentioned in a previous blog that if he made money with these books, we never saw any gains.
In 2015, I bought one more sex book Dad wrote for Wiz. It has the same kind of "I'm an expert on these matters, let me tell you about this" narration and tone. This one is called "A Swingers and Swappers Manual." I think my book collector friend Mathew found it online and sent me the link. I don't remember what I paid. I took some snaps for you, and then we'll be done with this series, although there are two more out there somewhere.
Let's look at the cover and inside:
Feel free to skip over these pages, it goes on quite bit.
That last page is revealing. My father wasn't into wife swapping, he simply kept multiple girl friends on the side and made my mother feel like she was horrible for accusing him of cheating. Anyway, this book reminds me of learning about "key parties" which I think I found out about late in life... from watching the film "Ice Storm." Wasn't there a creepy key party in that film?
For a long time, I held onto an early childhood memory regarding my father's office and his work. I'll take you with me, back to the actual event. Like many people, I remember things from an early age when either a drama unfolded, when I was feeling high emotion, or because something else out of the ordinary occurred. I was upset for a long time after this particular event, mostly because once something was lost or destroyed, we couldn't afford to simply replace it, and I knew that.
OK. Here we go. I'll tell you why I'm taking you on this trip in the next blog.
I’m four or five years old and someone just gave me a new doll. The doll is a cheaper and smaller version of a Barbie Doll. Later, she ended up easily melting on the hot pavement behind our apartment in Hollywood on a sunny day, her plastic head transformed into a Salvador Dali painting.
Today she is brand new, still smelling of plastic, her blonde hair is shiny and long, she has little red shoes that can come off and on. I love snapping them off her deformed feet, then popping them back on again.
Dad’s taking me with him to his office at Hollywood and Vine, we are walking from our apartment on Selma. I neurotically check to make sure my doll’s shoes are still on for the trip. We arrive, and ride up the elevator. Dad takes my free hand and leads me into his office. The first area of Dad’s office is where all these ladies are typing. There are half-a dozen of them, their fingers flying over the keys, looking down at something, typing, looking, typing.
We stop in front of them.
This is my daughter, Stacy,” Dad says, taking a big puff of his cigar.
The ladies pause for a moment and smile at me.
“Say hello, honey,” Dad looks down at me. I feel shy and give an awkward, half-hearted wave. As soon as I drop my hand, they are back to typing, almost as if in a frenzy to make up for the lost time during the introduction.
We walk into a back office, where I see Dad’s old desk that used to be inside our apartment, and soon will be again. His Corona typewriter is perched in the middle, and all around are stacks of books, papers, and his big glass ashtray full of cigar butts.
I sit down on the floor with my cheaper-than-a-Barbie doll, and make myself at home on top of something that I later learned was called wall-to-wall shag carpeting. It was all the rage back then, trust me. The carpet has long, yarn like strands that are all shades of pink, orange, and crimson.
“Stay here,” He says, and he wanders off. My ritual begins. Snapping my dolls shoes off, I let her walk through the sea of stringy carpet, which is like a jungle for her, the long strands go up to the middle of her stiff legs. It’s fun to make her wobble around on her freaky feet.
If you’d been with little five year-old me on that day in 1970, I’m sure you would’ve helped me look through the acres of shag carpeting when I realized that I’d lost one of her shoes. But who knows where you were then. Or was it 1969? Perhaps you weren’t even born yet, or a child yourself. I like to think that I’ve grown up to be the kind of woman that would take time to help a child find a lost item, no matter how tiny, cheap, or easily replaced. The red shoe is smaller than an eraser on the end of a pencil, and is just the right color to blend in with the colors of the carpet. I’m running my five year-old fingers through the strings of the carpet, first calmly looking for the shoe (it was right here!) but now my heart is pounding, and a familiar panic floods every cell of my body. The darkest strands of the rug match my doll’s high heel. It’s like trying to find a pearl in a snow storm.
I glance around the office and scramble up from the floor. I can smell my father’s cigar smoke, but he’s gone. Time stretches out. Years from now, when I’m middle-aged, moments will go by so fast that I’ll joke with my friends, “soon we’ll be dead.” But at age five, moments go on and on. I’ve been looking for the red shoe forever, and my father has abandoned me. I’m frantic, although it's probably been less than a few minutes.
I step out into the main room, the typists tap, tap, tapping, the carriages zipping. I stand in front of the women, they don’t notice me at first, standing there with my sad face, with a one shoe doll dangling from my right hand. I stare at them, waiting for them to notice my mood. When they don't, I decide to speak.
“Can you help me find her shoe?” I feel my lower lip quaking.
The women look up at me. A few of them look at each other, but they don’t make a move to get up to help me, their hands hovering above their type writer keys, frozen. Are they confused? They look uncomfortable.
“I lost something in there,” I point to Dad’s office, to make myself clear.
There is a long pause.
“Are you sure you lost it here?” the lady closest to me says, her head tilts to one side.
I came in with the shoe, lady. I just had it, and then it vanished. I won’t say that, though, because I’m shaking all over. I’m getting pissed off. What's so important about the typing? I’m missing my doll’s other shoe. Now I only have one.
There are six of them, and if we all got together, we could crawl around the carpet and find the shoe much faster, if they’d only snap out it and get going.
Dad strides into the room and does a double take. “What are you doing out here?”
“I want them to help me find her shoe,” I say, holding up my doll.
“Well, they’re busy.”
I can feel my face get hot. I’m enraged. A lump forms in my throat. I'm going to lose it.
“Why won’t anyone help me? You help me find it.” I’m frowning at him now, his cigar smoke is burning my eyes.
“Don’t worry, it’ll turn up. We have to go,” Dad pats my head, which is dangerous. My head is like a land mine now, I'm going to blow this whole place up. I'm pretty sure I cried at that point. Mainly, though,I don’t believe him. It won't turn up. I look back towards his office, knowing that somewhere in that sea of carpet is a tiny red shoe that I’ll never see again.
Next up, we'll find out about this book, "Glowing Heat." I get my actor friends to do a "table read" of Riley's seriously porn sex book. It doesn't go as planned.
Thank you to Mark Staben for finding a typo! Fixed.