And the Beat Goes On

When someone asked W.C. Fields if he ever got D.T.'s from drinking too much, he replied, "I don't know. It's hard to tell where Hollywood ends and the D.T.'s begin."

I thought about that over the weekend as I observed with a child's innocence life on the periphery of that strange and compelling state of mind known as Hollywood.

There is very little left to attract anyone to Hollywood the place, unless you are drawn to more primitive forms of sexual entertainment, but the state of mind continues to intrigue.

One is lured to the glitter like Dorothy to the Land of Oz.

Before we go any further, however, let me say I did not spend the weekend with anyone you are dying to meet or whose autograph you would treasure.

The closest I got to a celebrity was comedienne Phyllis Diller, who has had so many face lifts she is beginning to look Chinese.

She said hello to me in the detached manner of a woman addressing an aphid, shaking my hand but looking off to see if, perhaps, someone of a more substantive trade were in the vicinity.

We were in a Westside restaurant called Matteo's, which was a bedlam of noise and movement. Heads swiveled to get a better look and patrons table-hopped like bees in a rose garden.

There was something oddly psychedelic about the overlapping sound and movement that distorted reality and created a kind of robotic animation. It was a little like being in a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

But I get ahead of myself.

Preceding that evening in bedlam was a night with Nick Edenetti. Nick is a saloon singer who performs in places like Burbank's China Den, which is a long way from Carnegie Hall.

When I heard he was at a hotel called the Beverly Plaza I thought he was finally making it big, but that is only because I had never been to the Beverly Plaza. Trust me when I say no one will ever make it big at the B.P.

Nick was performing on the second floor in what appeared to be a series of adjoining meeting rooms whose separating walls had been temporarily removed. For $37.95, you got a dinner ticket and two drink tickets. I felt like I was at a charity bazaar.

The program advertised it as "the only show of its kind in the world" and quoted Tina Sinatra as saying, "I definitely heard my father's voice when he sang." The he, of course, was Nick, who specializes in sounding like Old Blue Eyes.

I should have known something was amiss, however, when the gourmet dinner mentioned in the program turned out to be meatballs and a potato salad. That may be gourmet in Omaha, but not in L.A.

At any rate, Nick gave it his all until the lights failed.

He was belting out "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" when we were plunged abruptly into darkness and silence. His voice, bereft of amplification, could be heard fading in the darkness, and then asking in bewilderment, "What the hell's going on?"

We never did find out. Nine times the power failed, but thank God it didn't affect the gourmet dinner. The meatballs were only lukewarm to begin with. I borrowed a drink ticket from my wife and had another martini.

The next night at Matteo's continued the . . . well . . . whirlwind of events. We were at a table next to the mothers of Sylvester Stallone and Cher, the latter of whom announced she had been celibate for six years but assured me that though she was shy and lackluster, Mama Stallone was colorful and flamboyant.

To prove her color and flamboyancy, Sly's mom (in bangles and beads and a rhinestone sweatband), spoke in gag lines. A modest example: "Men lift weights, but I lift men." Everyone laughed (I mean laffed), of course, because This Was a Stallone, and we all know the horror of a Rambo run amok.

Mrs. Stallone expounded at some length on her latest project, the Hollywood Hit Girls, who are to boxing what mud wrestling is to sport. The H.G.s are women with decent bodies who delight in displaying them while pounding each other with gloved fists. At last, the perfect marriage of sex and violence.

Ex-boxer Joey Barnum, self-proclaimed bail bondsman to the stars, was there. So was his pal Joe Seide, whose baby-doll wife looks so young that Seide had to keep explaining she was 28 and he was not a pervert who dated little girls.

"This is some place," Joey assured me several times. "One of these nights I'll introduce you to Shelley Winters."

"No hurry about that," I said.

"You needle him," my wife whispered, "and he's going to punch your lights out."

I sighed, ordered another drink and waited for the D.T.'s. W.C. Fields was right, but at least I didn't need drink tickets to find out.

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