Lenny came Into Canter's delicatessen on Fairfax, where I was sitting with Gena and some others from the Unicorn tavern one a doper pal of Jack Nicholson's who was bragging about a chunk of opium he'd wrangled from some pusher. We'd driven down Fairfax in a couple of cars, my red Ford convertible and someone's beat-up Chevy, blowing grass on the way from the Strip. I wasn't a real pothead or into smack, coke or mushrooms so I was the oddball, sitting next to my estranged wife, who'd been balling half the guys at the table. They all knew a lot about one another, things they thought I didn't know. It made me jealous and angry and sad. I kept thinking about the New York days with Gena after she'd split up with Steve McQueen her face like the face of a Hindu princess, reflecting candlelight in the little Italian joint where we'd eat spaghetti and drink Chianti while we talked about Fellini or Jean-Louis Barrault or Marcel Marceau. Now I didn't know the person I was sitting next to in Canter's. I wasn't really with her anymore. I had been labeled a "square," the butt of their hip jokes. Only a part of me was sitting there the rest had already walked away. I knew it wasn't going to be long before the other half of me followed. Lenny saw that other half in a flash. He was sharp, like he was walking around with his antennae out, like one of those sacrificial characters, a human pincushion. When he walked into Canter's and spotted us, he said, You're all a bunch of sissies" and winked at me Gena and I had met Lenny in New York. I was already stoned, just floating by, when he slid into the booth beside me. Looking across at Gena, he said, "Why don't you and Jonathan come back to the closet with me and get a shot of something good?" I didn't know what he meant, but he took my hand like I was a child and led me through Canter's kitchen, Gena behind us. Someone said something to him about his not being allowed back there. Lenny said, "It's okay, it's okay. I'm Jewish."
A guy in a dishwasher's hat passed Lenny a bottle of 12-year- old scotch, and we all stepped into a small area around a time clock and shared a drink. A guy named Gordon who'd come into Canter's with Lenny found his way to the kitchen and told Gena her friends were splitting. Lenny quickly passed me the bottle, and when Gena left, he said, "You want to get high with me and the bunny?" I asked who the bunny was, and he said, "A girl I know, but don't tell my wife." Then he said, "Oh-oh, I don't have a wife I mean, I did but I don't. You do. But you're a cute guy, and the bunny likes cute guys, so it's okay if you want to get high with us. Or do you want to go back in there for a little more matrimonial crucifying?" Grateful to be singled out for a mission, I left Canter's with Lenny and the other guy. Once in my car, Lenny kept looking at his watch and screwing around with the car-radio buttons while Gordon slumped on the back seat. We picked up the bunny on a side street off Santa Monica, then drove to a house on Larrabee, a couple blocks south of where Maila Nurmi Vampira had rented a house. It was a small, dark house, empty when we arrived, and we just walked in. The curtains had faded red-block designs on them, and the kitchen was painted an emerald-green enamel. When Gordon pulled the chain on the bulb above the sink in the kitchen, everything took on a greenish glow. The bunny was a big girl with a lot of brown hair and high cheekbones, a wide, pretty mouth with thick lipstick, and enormous false eyelashes. She was as tall as I was, slim, but with very large breasts held up in a black brassiere under a sheer white blouse. She was as tall as one of those women in Amazon movies all shoulders and tits. Some patio furniture and a big portable television sat in the other room, where Gordon had snatched up the bunny's purse and was digging through it. She paid no attention. Lenny watched eagerly as Gordon gathered together a few crumpled sacks and a small yellow box. They broke into broad smiles that looked green from the reflection off the kitchen walls, and Gordon let the purse drop to the floor. He and Lenny snuck down a short hall and disappeared into a bathroom. The bunny scooped up her purse, and flopped into a round wicker chair, her legs spread apart and her breasts almost coming out of her blouse. She nodded toward the bathroom. "What the hell are they doing in there so long giving each other blowjobs?" She stared into her open purse as though it were some object she didn't recognize. "You like Gorgeous George?" she asked, her eyes moving in thought. "Do like him or don't you?"
I said I hadn't watched wrestling for a long time, but that I remembered him and the Baron and Argentina Rocca. She asked me to turn on the television because she was too tired to get up and her chest hurt. After several minutes I got the picture to stay still on the wrestling channel, but the set hummed and dull shapes flickered across the screen. Then the screen went black and there was only the sound.
"What did you do to it?" she asked. "You bust it?" I said I hadn't done anything. I tried to adjust the set, but the screen kept going black. I noticed her reflection in the screen she had her breasts out of the brassiere and blouse, just lifting them out like she was trying to figure out the weight. I turned around, staring at her as she cupped them, comparing one against the other. I said, "Very nice," but she didn't seem to hear me. Her nipples were large and pinkish amber, her skin two tones lighter within the outline of a bikini top.
"Shit, man," she said. "Shit!" I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I got to piss and they're hoarding the fucking John." Scooping her breasts back into her brassiere, she said, "What the hell are they doing back there?"
Finally, Lenny came walking down the hall, then sat down on a chair. He passed me a joint, which I nursed to be sociable, sitting half-stewed by then and sick to my stomach. The bunny stayed in the chair watching the black television screen, listening to the sound until she passed out, pitching forward out of the chair. Her head made a hard, thud-ding noise as it struck the floor. Lenny laughed. He was a bright-eyed new man since his visit to the John. "Well, well," he said. "She's out of it, eh?" He stirred, and I thought he was going to pick her up and put her on the couch, but instead he was only settling deeper into the chair.
"Are you high?" he asked. "Or should I say, do you want to get higher?" I told him I was pretty high already. "You've never shot any real shit, have you?" he asked. I said no. He said, "It's the closest you come to seeing the face of God without kicking the bucket. There's no experience like it," he said. "Simply as a sensitive, intelligent guy, you should try something once to see what it does ..." I said I was kind of afraid of it. He liked that. "Afraid of getting sick," he said. "I still get sick. I'm sick half the time, but there's times I don't get sick and I can go a long time without getting sick. Then I get sick. Oh, man, I get so sick and bang! I'm like dead and laid out with silver in my shoes. Not dead like you think dead, man, but dead like to what's unimportant. Dead even to sex when you're looking into God's eyes, you don't want Him seeing dirty pictures in your head ..."
The bunny's lips were parted and she was gasping, hands opening and closing, sort of fluttering like her eyes. We both stared down at her. Lenny's eyes were like glass.
"You get so deep, man," said Lenny, "you got to come out the other side of things. That's what's happened to the bunny you go caving, man, you go digging deep, and then getting in, and you lose sight of where you got in . . ." He started to laugh, then coughed, then laughed and coughed, and I asked him if he wanted some water, he said, "I'd appreciate it, man, 'cause I'm too stoned to move." I found a glass in the kitchen. It was dirty and I rinsed it a little in the cold water, which looked rusty. When I brought the glass back, Lenny was already on the nod. Spit dripped from his month, and the way he was sitting chin on his chest and his hands curled in he looked like a photo I'd seen of someone executed in the gas chamber. The bunny hadn't moved, except for the muscles of her wrists and hands, still flexing like little shudders in her tendons. She and Lenny were both out of it, so I went to look for Gordon, who hadn't come out of the bathroom. I found him on the tile floor lying in his own vomit. He looked green, like he'd absorbed the green color from the sticky kitchen walls. I thought he was dead, and when I felt for a pulse, I heard a clicking noise in his throat like a chicken. Then he started changing color, from green to a sort of dead man's gray, a cardboard shade, and his eyes were rolling up into his head.
Back in the living room, I shook Lenny and told him Gordon was going belly-up in the John. I had to shake him pretty hard, so his head was snapping back and forth. Then he jumped up, springing into action. "Call the fire department!" he said.
It took me a minute to find the phone. As I dialed, Lenny walked outside, saying he was going for help. A minute later, when I followed to tell him the fire department was on the way, he was gone. He'd walked out of the house and down the street, leaving me with the conked-out bunny and Gordon croaking in the can.
I had visions of being stuck there with these two when the cops arrived, trying to explain what had happened without implicating Lenny or myself. There was nothing I could do for Gordon, hut getting he bunny out of there seemed the next best idea.
Putting her on her feet wasn't easy.
I found her purse and steered her out of the house and into my car. She was neither light nor maneuverable, all dead weight on rubber legs. I turned the car around as a fire truck pulled south on Larabee, then I headed toward Santa Monica looking for Lenny. He'd disappeared.
What to do with the bunny was the next problem. I kept shaking her and asking her which way to go. She'd point one way and I'd go that way, then she'd say, "No, no" and point me in some other direction. We were going in circles. Finally, we drove to Huffs restaurant, off the corner of Fairfax and Sunset, where 1 helped her out of the car because she said her legs had gone to sleep. I asked if she wanted to eat, but she just drank coffee poured it into herself. She was shaking, and I asked if she was cold. "No," she said. She needed to get straight. "Where's that scotch we were drinking?" It surprised me she remembered the bottle. I told her I thought it was gone, and then mentioned Gordon turning gray in the bathroom. She said she didn't care he wasn't going to be a loss to anybody. "I gotta go to the John," she said. She got up shakily, and I wondered if she'd make it. I ordered some toast, something to put in my stomach. The bunny was gone for at least 10 minutes. 1 imagined she'd passed out, and I was about to ask someone to check on her when she came back, made-up and looking less like a zombie. She sat back down and said, "Lenny didn't give me any of that shit, did he?" "No," 1 said. "He hoarded it," she said. 'That asshole. When he split he took the rest of it with him. That's what he does. The asshole! He's a fucking asshole . . ." She gulped the coffee. "Give me a cigarette. The cocksucker left me without any money I had money in here! He took the fucking money out of my purse and left me without any dope. That asshole." I gave her a cigarette. "I wish I could take you somewhere," I said. "Where do you want to go?" "To fucking hell," she said. "You want to go to the beach'?" "What beach?" she asked. 'What the fuck's there?"
"A friend of mine's got a place, and he's usually got a stash. There's a big bed, one of those round ones, if you want to catch up on some sleep. My friend's in New York right now. I mean, it's okay. It's in Malibu."
"Yeah . . . Malibu," she said. "But do me a favor and don't talk about Lenny anymore. I never want to see the son of a bitch again."
We got in the car and I turned the radio on. Frank Sinatra's "Witchcraft" was playing. The bunny snapped her fingers. She had a fair voice and sang for a while before falling asleep again, tipping over with her head on my leg the rest of the way to the beach. Once she put her hand in my crotch and felt around, touching me in her sleep.
I woke her when we got to Malibu. She followed me dutifully out of the car and along a kind of gangplank to where the key was hidden. Inside the house, she didn't even look around, wasn't curious at all, but went straight to the liquor cabinet and grabbed the nearest bottle. We both took a few swigs, and it burned all the way down. I showed her the bedroom, and she took the bottle with her. I figured she'd crash, but she turned to me and struggled out of her skirt fought, actually, to get out of it and then her blouse and brassiere. She pulled down her black tights, kicked them off and, only in her panties, stood looking at me." I don't even know who you are," she said and laughed, "and I like that. That's the best part..." She took a few more swallows of booze and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open to stare out at me as she peed. I sat on the bed, and when she finished she dropped her panties aside and lay down on the bed.
With my pants still on but unzipped, I got on top of her. She didn't move much while we fucked and I thought she'd passed out, but she was sort of conscious, her hands above her head, the fingers opening and closing again. When I finished, she didn't seem to have noticed that anything had happened.
I saw her again a couple of times at the Unicorn when Lenny was around. She was still hanging onto him, as was Gordon. The fire department had saved Gordon, who'd spent a few days in jail. Lenny said he was sorry for taking off, but couldn't get into any hassles because of his pending legal matters. He was getting the bunny a job downtown as a stripper, where she had some kind of floral, beaklike things affixed to her breasts.
It was called "exotic" dancing because of the music, Lenny said. It had nothing to do with the way she danced.
From LAID BARE: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives
and the Hollywood Death Trip