By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
Another short story and then a story about a Hollywood Character. The “character” will be known to only some of the Hollywood cops of the 70’s, but it will give you an insight of the way foot beat cops functioned in the old days.
I worked AM’s for fourteen straight years and often worked out after work. After my work out, I would shower at the station, use the city’s water, and save myself some money. I would put on clean clothes, drive home, and go to bed.
One day, I finish my work out and take a shower. After toweling off, I try to put on my underwear. They won’t go up past my knees. These underwear belong to my son. I grabbed the wrong pair from the laundry basket. Bob, my son, was about six and we both wore white Penny’s underwear. Ok no problem, I’ll drive home commando (that means no underwear). I place Bob’s underwear in my jean pants pocket and drive out the station parking lot. I’m half way home when I see a police car behind me. It dawns on me, I have a small boy’s underwear in my pants pocket, and I’m not wearing any. Working Hollywood I know that spells pervert. I obey all the laws and make it home. I go through my underwear drawer and check all the tags.
It was easier when Bob wore colored Superman underwear.
Hollywood Character: Bill Conkey
Bill (and I’m guessing on the spelling of his last name) was a Hollywood Boulevard fixture. I saw Bill walking, or better described as limping along Hollywood Blvd during the 70’s and into the 80’s. I knew that Bill was begging but I never got any complaints. Bill was a friend of the foot beat cops. Some nights I’d see Bill asleep on a bus bench and other times I saw him eating food from a trash can. I was told that Bill was a lawyer who lost his family in a house fire and went kind of crazy. I asked J.J. (a foot beat legend) about Bill and this is what he told me. I believe J.J.’s version, after all, he knew Bill better than I did.
Bill worked at a vegetable stand on Hollywood Boulevard in the 40-50’s. He also lived in the back room. Bill was drafted and served in the Korean War. There’s some question on whether Bill was a bit slow before or after his service in Korea. When the vegetable stand closed, (it’s probably a souvenir shop now) Bill became homeless and a panhandler on Hollywood Boulevard.
During the good old days, foot beat officers ran the Boulevard. They knew all the store owners, the beggars and the trouble makers. The foot beat cops advised the trouble makers of the “Boulevard Rules.” They complied or left Hollywood. Bumper Morgan, a Joseph Wambaugh character, was based on old foot beat cops. These kind of foot beat cops have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
J.J. told me this story:
He was walking his foot beat and a police car stopped and this officer walked up to J.J. The officer said that when he was working undercover, J.J. advised him of the Boulevard rules in an aggressive manner in front of a bunch of dope dealers. The officer now thanked J.J. and said he never had any trouble buying drugs after that.
Contrary to what you saw in the movie, “Pretty Woman” prostitutes were not allowed to work on Hollywood Boulevard. They were sent to Sunset Boulevard—”Boulevard Rules.”
Bill was never a problem and the foot beat officers would buy him meals and clothes. When Bill’s health deteriorated, the foot beat officers would ask Bill, “Are you ready?” If Bill wasn’t ready to go to jail he would answer, “No.” If Bill said “Yes,” he was arrested for begging. Bill would spend the next week or so in jail. He would get cleaned up, fed well, and given clean clothes. Bill was sometimes taken to the Veterans Hospital and treated for his ailments.
I could always tell when Bill had been to the hospital. He had new shoes, walked upright, and had a fresh haircut. A month later Bill would be shuffling along the Boulevard begging for change. Bill, like Tilly, just disappeared.
I walked a Hollywood Boulevard foot beat for almost three years. I still think it was the best job I ever had. Today’s Hollywood foot beats ride bikes or drive around in cars. They don’t know the shop owners, or the characters who made walking the foot beat fun and rewarding. The “Boulevard Rules” have disappeared and it’s kind of sad. The Hollywood Foot beat legends are gone but not forgotten thanks to officers like Gene Fogerty, Jim Conrad, Frank Hintz, Dan Lewis, and J.J. Brown. There were lots of foot beat officers but these few set the standard in the old days.