This annual holiday tradition in Los Angeles happens today. It used to be called the Santa Claus Lane parade, then the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Now, it's the Hollywood Santa Parade. Whatever the case, this was once a big deal and star magnet. From the days when they got the likes of Bob Hope, Lucy and Desi, and Jack Benny to ride on floats, all they get now is the overnight jock at Hot 97 and perhaps some empty-headed bit player from "The Bold and the Beautiful." I can remember watching it in syndication when I was a kid in NY. This year, it's probably going to wind up on public access next to a repeat of last month's City Council meeting.
But, whatever the case, nobody is going to take away from me the experience of actually working at this travesty for about five years straight when I first moved to Los Angeles. I was a volunteer. A community organizer, if you will.
A friend of mine from church (now sadly deceased) used to be in charge of the parade volunteers. So, I was sucked into this "insider's" look at the parade. Except the first year, my assignment was less than plum. Armed with a walkie-talkie that I couldn't figure out, I was stationed as "crowd control" in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. To make matters worse, I was forced to fear this hideous red vest that made me look like an accident flare on the 405.
While I was not exactly sure why, I allowed myself to get vacuumed up into this disaster the following year. Except this time around, I was put where I indeed belonged. In the celebrity gathering area---the so-called "green room." Which happened to be conveniently located in the bar of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This is where the D-listers fortified themselves for the upcoming drive down chilly Hollywood Boulevard. I saw Santa Claus poised on a bar stool sucking down a beer. The "renowned" Lorenzo Lamas was there with his whole family and was screaming at his nanny. Comedian Rip Taylor sauntered in and, almost immediately, a parade official pointed discretely at Rip's head. This was the signal that his wig was crooked. Rip gave it a slight tug at the side and recreated his hair styling feng shui.
This would be my perch at the parade for the next three years and nothing could have been sweeter. Watching celebrities behave badly and then slap on an instant smile for the hordes of adoring fans lining the gutters outside. And, of course, this parade offered the location of what would become one of my most ignoble celebrity encounters. I've written about here before, but it bears a repeat reading.
The last year I worked the parade, I was stationed at the door to the "green room." My job was to welcome the celebrities as they drove up and entered the hotel. So, a car pulls up on schedule and out comes two heralded TV moms. Marion Ross from "Happy Days" and Florence Henderson from "The Brady Bunch." Why these two were carpooling is still a mystery to me. But, nevertheless, out they popped and approached the door. Unbeknownst to me, there were three 10 year-old girls lurking about---probably hotel guests. As soon as they saw Mrs. C and Carol Brady, they ran over for autographs.
Marion Ross was a total pro to these kids. Ever gracious, she thanked them for recognizing her and personalized autographs for each of them. Florence did the same, but I could see only the faintest glimmer of a smile.
Now, it was my turn. I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for their entrance.
Marion Ross came over first. She wished me a good evening, a Happy Holiday season, and thanked me for holding the door open for her.
Florence Henderson approached next. Once again, I held the door open, ready with a smile and a hello for her.
Except Flo scowled at me.
"You needed to do a better job keeping those kids away from me."
Huh??? I was stunned by her brazen nastiness. All I could mutter was a voice-cracking "Excuse me."
"You heard me. We can't get blindsided by autograph hounds when we show up for these things."
In my own world of suitable responses, I wanted only one. "You fuckin' bitch!" But, I needed to be professional, even though I doubted if I would ever work with her, since she really hadn't done anything new after The $100,000 Pyramid in 1985. I also felt compelled to say something as a semi-representative for the parade.
I responded. "I am sorry, Miss Henderson. I did not see them. And I am sure they are very excited in seeing somebody they have enjoyed on one of their favorite reruns."
She dismissed me with a frown and a wave of her clenched fist. I hoped that she would choke on her Polident-cleaned dentures. Or maybe somebody would bash her skull in with a bottle of Wesson Oil. This woman had parlayed a career out of some crappy TV show that was almost 30 years old. She owes any celebrity to those kids who are, for some bizarre reason, one more generation enamored with that pre-teen-targeted sitcom.
I didn't work the parade the next year. Not if I couldn't live up to Florence Henderson's high standards.
Dinner last night: Asian steak at the Catalina Bar and Grill.