By Hal Collier, LAPD Retired
We are happy that 35-year veteran Hal Collier is sharing his ‘stories behind the badge’ with us. This was originally posted 7/24/2013. Thought you might enjoy it again.–Thonie
The following stories are true and I’ll use real names as long as it doesn’t get anyone indicted or divorced. Several posts ago, I talked about how my favorite job on the LAPD was walking a foot beat. I never worked Vice but I did do a three month undercover tour in an elite West Bureau unit whose chain of command was a sergeant, then the Bureau Deputy Chief. I still had more fun on the foot beat than any other job.
You ever watch a movie or TV show and the Captain threatens the officer that he will have him pounding a foot beat? I’d have volunteered in a heartbeat. I snowed my Lieutenant into letting me walk a Morning Watch foot beat, but first I have to learn how to walk a foot beat. They assign me to Mid Day Watch with J.J. Brown. Cool, J.J. is a Hollywood legend on the Boulevard. He’s been walking for over 28 years, so how hard could this be?
I show up for work like I’m working a radio car, I carry my 40 lb. gear bag with riot helmet, extra ammo, tools, street guide and every report known to the LAPD.
J.J. just laughs at me and says, “We walk little lighter!” My first lesson, we only need one traffic citation book, one parking ticket book and one handheld radio. The radio was a Dumont and it only worked on a nice day without any tall buildings between you and the radio tower on Mt. Lee. Everything you needed, you carried in your pockets or on your belt. Hats were a must, department policy and you carried a baton which often became your best friend in a fight.
We get out of the car and J.J. asks, “Where’s your flashlight?” Lesson 2: You need a flashlight for dark bars and the very dark porno theaters. Ok, I’ve got my pockets stuffed, I’m ready to start walking. J.J. said, “Where are you going?” I’m starting to walk eastbound with traffic. Lesson 3: Foot beat officers always walk against traffic. This walking might be harder than I thought.
J.J. and I start walking, facing traffic. I’m thinking how cool I must look in my fresh uniform and in front of all these business people and tourists. Three buildings later J.J. grabs me by my Sam Brown Belt and says, “Slow down, we’re going to be walking for the next 6 hours. You’re walking like your late for dinner.” J.J. tells me, “You walk at a much slower pace and stop every so often.” OK, I’m wondering if I need to write all this down. J.J. is very patient with me. I feel like a rookie. If I find myself walking too fast I stop and find J.J. 30 feet behind me and laughing. I’ll learn, maybe.
I soon find that J.J. knows everyone on Hollywood Blvd and everyone knows him. We stop at various businesses and J.J. introduces me to the owners or managers. I have worked Hollywood for over seven years and I don’t know any of these people. We stop at London Britches, a clothing store and J.J. introduces me to the manager. I don’t remember her name but I’ll never forget that smile. She was gorgeous.
I remember another group of businesses, Artisans’ Patio. This young sales clerk walks out to talk to J.J. She is also very pretty, I’m beginning to like this Day Watch foot beat. J.J. is talking with the young lady and I glance over, she is wearing a white cotton full length dress. When she stands in the sunlight I can see that she isn’t wearing anything under her dress and I mean nothing. J.J. asks, “Ready to go?”
I said “Ah, not just yet, I have to, ah, catch my breath.”
J.J. also introduced me to some of the Boulevard people, Bill Conkey & Tillie who were street people. J.J. and the other foot beat officers took care of them. Giving them money, buying them clothes and taking them for medical care. You don’t see that much anymore. The less friendly street people are advised of the rules of Hollywood Boulevard, known as the “Boulevard Rules.”
Remember the movie, “Pretty Women” where female prostitutes worked Hollywood Boulevard? Boulevard Rule #1, no whores on Hollywood Boulevard. They were always politely directed to Sunset. The tourists were on Hollywood Boulevard. I soon learned that there were all kinds of rules. Businesses couldn’t put signs on the sidewalks, no blaring music and most important don’t piss off the foot beat cops. My second day, we did bar checks and wrote parking tickets.
The Nest Bar was on Hollywood Boulevard and was a known biker hangout. Not so much on day watch but at night the bikers and the cops were always in conflict. Parking regulations for motorcycles were simple. Back tire must touch the curb. If a foot beat cop can slide a thin piece of paper between the back tire and the curb, the motorcycle got a parking ticket.
I was told that on occasion a passing car would throw something at the foot beat officers. The foot beat cop would write down his license plate and issue him a parking ticket. The motorist found out six months later when he tried to renew the registration to his car. I never did that or saw it done, could be a legend, I just don’t know.
Bar checks—how hard could that be? Well, you don’t just walk into a dark bar from the sunshine of the Boulevard. Pause inside the door and let your eyes adjust to the light. One officer walks to the back and the other stays by the front door. The foot beat officers didn’t enforce ABC (Alcohol, Beverage & Control) violations, like serving a drunk or bugs in a bottle. We mostly wanted the owners and patrons to know that the cops were around.
My favorite bar was the Tourist Trap. The Tourist Trap was a dive and certainly not for tourists. It was a bar frequented by black pimps and drug dealers. I loved walking to the back where the pool table was. I would stand next to the pool table, in front of the pocket where the pimp was going to shoot his next shot. They always missed the shot.
There were other bars on Hollywood Boulevard, like The Powerhouse, The Alley bar, The Frolic Room and a few others I have forgotten. There were also a couple of porno theaters. The Cave comes to mind. It had a live strip show during the day that packed the house. Porno theaters are not my cup of tea. They all have the same smell and sticky floors. Use your imagination.
I remember one girl who approached us walking on the Boulevard. She was sweet and I thought, what a nice girl, I’ll bet her parents are proud. Later that day I caught her show at the Cave. Now, I hope her parents don’t know.
I enjoyed working with J.J. a Hollywood Boulevard Foot Beat legend. J.J. has read this chapter and approved its contents.
Next chapter: The following month I’m assigned to work mid PM’s. A different set of Blvd rules and new partners…