“Are you the Gestapo?”
I was standing on the corner of Fountain and Wilcox in Hollywood. The year: 2002. The time: 2pm, sun high in the summer sky.
I had recently arrived in Los Angeles from Cleveland, Ohio, for my first trip to the Southland after many visits in the Bay Area.
This was definitely not San Francisco.
The low-slung Los Angeles skyline offered zero shade. The unwavering heat lamp in the sky was putting me on edge after a long morning of sight-seeing and no sunscreen.
In one hand I had a big-ass glimmering blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire. In the other ice, limes, and tonic water sweating through a plastic sac. I could feel the blood pump through the vein near my temple. I was stunned stupid—I couldn’t even exist again until I got some shelter.
I was looking for Nondor.
Back before smartphones and web on the go, the underground ran on rumors and out-of-date information. Nondor was a Chicago guy who I had drank until dawn with on a number of occasions. Man could he party. He could also bash the drum line for “We Are The World” and sing all the parts, all the while dressed head-to-toe in leather and 6-inch spike wrist bands.
I needed someone who could rage with me in LA and Nondor seemed like a prime candidate. But where was he? I knocked on this glossy-painted black door, and a porthole slid open. Two heavily mascaraed unblinking eyebrow-less eyes stared back at me.
“Well are you? The Gestapo?” The person intoned with a touch of mysterioso.
“Uhh…no,” I replied looking around and over my shoulder.
“Well grr-reat!” The voice morphed into that of radio DJ circa 1978—all warm ‘n jolly gravitas and booming bass, sellin’ stuff and makin’ deals. “COME ON IN!”
The door swung open and the blackness was so total, and where I was standing was so sunny, that I could see nothing at all. I licked my lips warily, gulped and stepped into the void…
Blam! shuts the door.
“Well, hello there,” said the personage, a slight creature of indeterminate age and gender who was wearing a black furry hat that would have made the Queen’s Guard proud, a pill-y black shrug, a cut-off t-shirt that jauntily read “GOT METH?”, black skin tight leggings that showed off surprisingly athletic gams, and the tallest platform shoes this side of a rave (called “mammoth combaticons,” as I would later learn). It was like a movie—and I was meeting Yoda in his lair. Or the Scarecrow in the Wizzard of Odd.
“Pleasure to meet you,” he proffered a floppy handshake as he eyed the goodies I brought, “Bolles, Don, at your service. How may I assist?”
Wait. Don Bolles? The Don Bolles of the Germs and (my favorite) 45 Grave in the flesh—really?!?!?
“I came to see Nondor….” I trailed off as my eyes grew accustomed to the dark and I saw that the space—an ample old storefront—was filled with what looked like a permanently grounded cirrus cloud of trash from wall to wall. The junk had to be two feet deep or more in places. Ah, that’s why he needs those tall shoes.
“Nondor?” Bolles’ face immediately turned to eww. “He’s not available. He went for a sundae. What did you bring me?”
“Gin and tonic and limes,” I beamed like an idiot.
“Oh uh thanks,” Don said with no gratitude at all. He took my gifts—expensive for a young-ish bohemian like myself—and set them definitively aside. “Got anything stronger?”
“Uh no—no,” I stammered. Humph, he sighed heavily.
“Well let’s smoke some pot. I just got my records out of storage. Some REALLY good ones. Like, white power country 45s from the ’60s. And heavy German fist-fucking techno. Great stuff. Follow me!”
I was impressed that Don’s alcove, in the back of the space, was the only untrashed oasis in the entire domicile. In fact, he had two really nice turntables and a gregarious manner.
As we smoked a bowl out of pipe that looked like some kind of auto part, I got a better look at Bolles’ face in the half light. I was a marijuana lightweight back then, and as he started drawing and re-drawing his eyeliner WITH A FREAKING SHARPIE PERMANENT MARKER I began thinking, he’s actually not bad looking—like if early ’70s Eno (the best kind) had grown up without changing his look. Super decadent and dangerously femme. Kinda…attractive.
“By this time time I got to looking for a kind of substitute
I can’t tell you quite how, except that it rhymes with dissolute (oh naughty, naughty)” -Eno
The techno surged and crashed, the weed smoke billowed, Bolles was recounting what seemed like the entire history of pirate radio in Arizona…. I was making a new friend!
And then—ominously—came the knocking. Or, bashing might be a better word. Measured. Calculated. All business. LOUD.
THUD. THUD. THUD.
Like an elf from planet of No Pussyfooting, Bolles leapt spryly back to the doorway and slid the porthole open. “Are you the Gestapo?” he intoned. I was seeing things from the inside this time—how wild!
“YES,” stated the man on the other side of the door.
Don unbolted three locks and slowly opened the portal. Blinding sunlight was aimed right at my face. I squinted mutely.
An over-6-foot-tall man clad all in black leather with a black out motorcycle helmet on, visor down, no features visible, strides in confidently. The man held out his hand as if to raise the dead.
Imagine to my surprise when something stirs in the garbage on the floor and a young woman, with grayish skin, runny mascara and Pris-like tattered clothes and hair levitates up and takes the Gestapo’s hand. What the fuck? Where did she come from? Wordlessly she allows herself to be lead by the helmeted man out the door which Don slams with a loud CRAACK behind her.
Then suddenly I notice Nondor—my friend—flopping like a fish out of water, face down in the rubbish near where the girl had been. He had been home all along!
“Uhhhhhhgghghgh,” is all he could mumble. (Obviously Nondor is getting into something a lot heavier than gin and tonics, I thought, I am so silly and naive.)
“Welcome to Hollywood,” leers Bolles in his best mock-scary-yet-kinda-truly-frightening voice as he reveals terminally discolored toofie-stubs with a smile that was defiantly—make that definitely—loveable.
We’ve been friends ever since.
Happy birthday, Don, I love you.