I had finally gotten a start in Hollywood…sort of. I had done a demo with Ruthann Friedman and The Poor almost had a hit with one of my songs. But things had rapidly slowed down. There was the occasional gig in Newport Beach and I managed to sell the publishing on a couple of my songs but that was about it. It was a scary time. Waiting for a publishing company to send me a check for $125 seemed like forever. Fortunately there was a pawn shop down on Santa Monica boulevard where I could hock my guitar until the check arrived. But, by any stretch, that was a hard one. I never needed to hock anything before and I couldn’t write music until the check came and I could bail out my guitar. It was a horrible time.
Michael and I were living around the corner from each other. Michael lived on the street just south of Sunset. I had found a place on Plumer Park about a block away. It is hard to forget the first night I moved into this tiny place. Like so many places in that funky part of West Hollywood, it was a small house behind a house. My next-door neighbor was Jimmy Messina, later of Loggins and Messina who, at the time, was working as an engineer at Sunset Sound. My yard backed up to the park, bordered by a fence and a gate that gave me access to the one place I could get away in this seedy part of West Hollywood.
As I was checking out the neighborhood that first night a strange-looking guy playing the flute came dancing and twirling down my street. “Ok. I’m not in Ohio anymore.” Upon returning to the house, I decided to check out the park. The fence by my house was covered in ivy but I managed to find the gate and walked into the park. There, in front of me, was a kids slide. The stairs that went up to the top were covered in a metallic shell to make it look like a rocket ship, all yellow with a green nose cone. There was a small platform in the nose cone where one could sit, look out on the park through portholes, and smoke a doobie or two which was exactly what I was doing. And as I gazed out at the long ivy-covered fence that separated the houses from the park I saw a small gnome-like figure dart out of the ivy, run down a way, and dart back into the greenery.
I had been smoking but not that much. Not enough to begin seeing gnomes darting in and out of the bushes. It was several days before I got the picture. I had moved into a place where people coming to Hollywood to make it big were living. People like me. A couple of doors down I found a house that was a boarding house for little people hoping to work in the movie industry. Munchkins in waiting so to speak. So the question of the gnomes in the park was answered. My next step was learning the rest of the neighborhood. My house was just about ½ a block from Santa Monica boulevard and on my corner was The Pink Pussycat. A club where guys would go to see young women dance with no clothes on. A strip club. I had noticed that my block was full of an unusual number of extremely good-looking young ladies. Starlets in waiting who, like me, were doing whatever they could to put dinner on the table. I had never been a strip club kind of guy but the young ladies who lived on my block did add a touch of beauty to an otherwise dreary neighborhood.
Michael was living in the front house on his street. The house behind him was another story. Once, in the past, it had been Lenny Bruce’s place. There were so many “stashes” in the house they would have been impossible to count. The resident at the time was a fellow named Barry Friedman. Barry had started out as a clown and once had a business called “Puck’s Rent A Fool.” He was a record producer, an agent, and all the other things business guys in Hollywood do. Once, years later, as we were recording somewhere Barry showed up out of nowhere and borrowed a couple hundred bucks from Michael. Barry disappeared only to be seen by Michael on the TV news several years later. It was a story about a fellow in Canada who had a place called Puck’s Farm. Barry, who had changed his name to Frazier Mohawk, had a herd of dairy cows in a field next to the freeway and managed to paint and sell advertising on the side of his cows. That was Barry.
When I was in Hollywood, Barry was pretty famous for putting things together. Like the Buffalo Springfield. I bring up Barry because he had an important role in my career. Obviously he knew Michael, and I believe he was doing some business with him. I was writing, not only with Michael and Ruthhann, but a lot on my own. Barry helped pull together a demo session for me for a song I had written called “It’s Just The Dawn Comin’ On.” The purpose was to get a publishing deal for me with MCA records. It was my first solo session and I was pretty tense. There were a lot of cool players on the session including Jesse Colin Young who I knew from the folk days. When the session was finished, Barry started his wheeling and dealing. He got an offer for me from MCA to become a signed songwriter to their publishing company with a weekly salary. How cool was that? I had been hungry for a very long time.
Michael already had a similar publishing arrangement with A&M but we had started writing songs together. Hollywood publishers were loath to split the publishing income at the time so they made a similar offer to me and Brewer and Shipley were now signed songwriters at A&M’s Good Sam Music. Now I had a regular income which completely changed my life. I no longer had to make the decision to continue on in music and starve, or give it up and become an earth scientist like it said on my diploma from Baldwin-Wallace College.
Life was good. Brewer and Shipley had become an official songwriting team and I had a real income. When I looked back at my days at La Cave and traveling the folk circuit I realized it was a dream come true. Now nothing stood in my way but my talent, ability, and how hard I was willing to work. It was more than a young singer/songwriter could ask for.
And I waited to see what Hollywood Part 3 would bring.
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