By Hal Collier
The following stories are true and I remind you I never worked vice, or PED (Prostitution Enforcement Detail). I was a street cop who got dragged into the underworld of prostitution. Come to think of it, I got paid, so I guess I was a member of the oldest profession. I just didn’t have a pimp or have to take off my clothes.
This is the third part of a trilogy, or what I thought was a trilogy until I received comments from part 1. I get, “Hey Hal, remember what’s her name or did you ever hear about this or what about the contests?” I also get questions about the “Green Box.” Some of these comments spark a memory, so please feel free to pass along your stories to me.
Lets talk about “Drag queens,” as most street cops refer to them. The politically correct call them transvestites, transsexuals, cross dressers, or a man trapped in a woman’s body. I’m old school and not paid to be politically correct anymore, so I’ll refer to them as Drag queens. If this offends you, I’m sorry. Drag queens may take two or three Ramblings to fully explain. They’re very complex. We’ll see.
My first experience with a drag queen was an eye opening experience. I had a whole three days out of the academy. I responded to a radio call of a stabbing at Franklin and Cahuenga. We get there before the ambulance and see this girl lying on the ground. She’s bleeding from a stomach wound. This other young girl, hysterical, is kneeling over our victim. My partner, a senior officer, tells the second girl to move out of the way. The hysterical girl refuses and pushes my partner. He slaps her across the face and knocks her down. I’m shocked! I was brought up to never hit a woman. Later, I was told that neither of them was a woman. Now, I’m really shocked.
It takes a while and some training to tell who is female and who is male, especially in Hollywood. This training is not a one or two day lesson, it takes years and even decades to become an expert. Some men still can’t tell the difference, or so they say. Unfortunately, I’m considered a department expert. No extra pay, no ribbon to wear on my uniform, like pink sock-filled bras. It was just determined by a couple of captains during a trial board. I’ll explain later.
Guessing a person’s gender is a slippery slope at best. Guess wrong and you get sued, guess right and you still get sued. It’s not an exact science. The first trait I was taught was to look for an Adam’s apple—only men have them. Bet the men check that on your next night out at a bar. Better to find out in a bar than in the backseat of your Chevy. Next, look at their hands, women usually have smaller hands and slim fingers. Third, look at their feet. Did you ever see a man try to fit his size 12 foot into a women’s open toed shoe. The toes bunch together like sardines. Last but not least, women don’t get a 5 o’clock shadow after 3 A.M., well, unless you’re dating a female Russian athlete.
Ok, now you have the basic knowledge for gender classification. You think you know their sex and something goes wrong. I had a partner, Randy, who had booked this drag queen a half dozen times. Always a man, this time the queen had the sex change operation. Male officer strip searches a “now legally female” spells lawsuit and became the lead story on the 5 o’clock news. Drag queens now have the Adam’s apple shaved, electrolysis, and breast implants. Some of these medical changes were paid for with your tax dollars.
During the early years of my indoctrination to the, “women trapped in a man’s body” life style, I saw some amazing sights. Subjects with no breast implants, used to stuff their bras with dirty socks. The wigs they wore still had the shards of glass from the window of that wig store on Hollywood Boulevard. Smash and grab.
Some of the queens put a lot of effort into their dress. Others, like Eddie Johnson, didn’t have their heart into it. I’m going to finish up this segment with Eddie Johnson. Eddie could fill up a whole page but I’ll just hit the highlights with my encounters. Eddie was a young black man who scratched out a meager living as a prostitute. Eddie wore an ill-fitting blond wig and a pair of cut off Levi’s. Eddie passed for a women to only the most inebriated tricks. Oh, by the way Eddie was also an alcoholic.
I once got a radio call of a woman down in the ice plant. It was just getting light and the call was up in the hills near the Hollywood Reservoir. I was met by this doctor on his way to work when he saw Eddie face down in the ice plant. He said the girl was breathing but probably drunk. I recognized the blond wig and cut off Levi’s. I yelled, “Eddie, wake up.” Eddie rolled over and said, “Good morning, officers.”
I put Eddie in the back seat of my police car and headed downtown to the drunk tank. I asked him, “how in the hell did you end up in the Hollywood Hills?” Eddie slurs something like, “last thing I remember I was sitting in the back seat of another police car!”
Last time I saw Eddie was downtown. I had just finished booking someone at PAB when the B-Wagon (drunk wagon) backed up to the ramp. Out steps Eddie, blond wig on sideways and the same cut-off Levi’s. Yes, Eddie was drunk. Eddie moved from the glamour of Hollywood to the alleys of skid row.