Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: An Overwhelming Traffic Collision

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Barham off r universal-city-ramp-002-jpg-20150104Did you ever have a traffic accident that was just overwhelming? This occurred in the mid 70’s and as usual I’m working graveyard shift. I’ll describe the scene for you. The Hollywood Freeway (aka 101 Freeway) winds through the Cahuenga Pass.  Cal Trans has closed the entire southbound lanes for pavement repair. Everyone has to exit the Cahuenga Boulevard exit which has a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Cal Trans has started closing down lanes at Barham and funneling everyone down to one lane by Cahuenga.

 About 2:30 AM, a semi-truck loaded with strawberries from the Central California barrels down the Cahuenga off ramp. About half way down, the driver realizes there’s a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Now, this truck is still at freeway speeds when he attempts to make a hard right turn. Well, you guessed it—the trailer flipped over on its side. The driver was ok but the load inside the trailer began to smoke. Of course, the fire department came out and sprayed that foam that they carry in the fire truck.

Isuzu_truck_overturnedNow the trailer is open, and the concerned citizens didn’t want to see the free strawberries go to waste. The fire captain advised me that the foam they have sprayed will give anyone who eats the strawberries a bad case of diarrhea.

My partner and I chase off the strawberry lovers, but we now have a new problem. The entire Hollywood freeway is still coming down the off ramp. Now, they can’t turn right on Cahuenga. We start directing them northbound. That seemed to work for cars and small trucks. Semi-trucks couldn’t make the turn, so we had to have them back up Cahuenga. This turned into a traffic nightmare.

To complicate matters some of the fine Hollywood citizens were stealing the strawberry flats. Hope they have more than one bathroom and lots of toilet paper. 

We decide to have Cal Trans open the freeway. The foreman tells us he can’t open the freeway until 5:00 AM. That’s 2 1/2 hours away. We need another plan. Hey, lets close the freeway off ramp at Highland Avenue.September_26,_2007_accident,_highway_9,_CT,_flipped_truck

Bill Barren, my partner in hell that night, and I jumped into our lowest-bid city police car. We drove north on Cahuenga to head off the morning rush hour traffic jam. Now, Bill and I have never attended the Cal-Trans lane reduction class. And we have only two boxes of flares. We throw out a bunch of flares and traffic begins to brake sharply and swerve to avoid a bigger traffic collision.

We suddenly feared for our lives. After a few near misses, we abandon our plan and exit the freeway. We get back to the overturned semi and just when we think things can’t get worse we notice that the truck load is again starting to smoke.

Of course, the fire department again responds and now Cahuenga Boulevard is completely blocked. The good citizens of Hollywood have abandoned the strawberry picking season. I heard the freeway was backed up to the Canadian border.

CHP patrol carOk, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was a mess. We figured that was the problem of the California Highway Patrol. Bill and I disappeared and made a bee line to Winchell’s.


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings, part 3 of 4, On the Desk


By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.   

The following story is true. This is the third and what I thought was last episode of the Hollywood Desk until I had a lucid moment and remembered other incidents that might jog the memories of old retired Hollywood cops. Some of my non-cop friends just find them funny.


Hollywood Station front desk
Hollywood Station front desk

I was pretty lucky. I only worked the desk during my first three years on the job, or when I got hurt and couldn’t work patrol. I remember one week I worked five days. Two at the desk, one in the jail, and two on station security. These were called the terrible three’s. This was not exactly what a young cop who’s going to save the world signs up for.


In my last Ramblings, I reminisced of the little old lady who came in to the station to get her juvenile grandson. This story is about an adult who made a big mistake, first by being arrested and second by being a Marine at the time. It was common for new Marines to come from Camp Pendleton to Hollywood on their first leave from boot camp. They weren’t hard to spot, short hair, a tattoo and a t-shirt with USMC on the front.


I worked with Bill Barren, a former marine. Sometimes he’d see a group of marines walking down Hollywood Boulevard. We would stop the group, line them up at attention, and ask who was in charge. Bill would then lecture them about the evils of Hollywood, things like not everything in a dress is a girl. He would send them off advising them not to tarnish the name of the Marine Corps. Once a marine always a marine. “Semper Fidelis”


diOk, back to my desk story. This marine gets drunk and is arrested in Hollywood. He’s placed in a holding tank and the shore patrol is called. Military personnel arrested for being drunk in public are turned over to the Military Police. The shore patrol will give the marine a stiffer sentence than any court in L.A. The marine was being a jerk and yelling things about the Marine Corps that he would never even think of saying sober. He also had a photo album, with pictures of himself in his “dress blues”. In some of the pictures, he was holding the American flag in one hand and his manhood in the other. No explanation needed.


The marine is yelling for over two hours when the Shore Patrol arrives. The guy in charge, a staff sergeant I think, walks up to the desk. He asks, “Is that my marine making all that noise?” 

The sergeant is escorted into the Watch Commanders office. He is looking at the photo album and you can see his face muscles getting tense. The sergeant asks if he can see his marine now. The holding tank door is opened and the marine jumps to attention. The sergeant knocks him out cold. The Marine is dragged outside unconscious and thrown into the back of the Shore Patrol’s paddy wagon. I’m guessing that the marine will regret coming to Hollywood and with that photo album.


On the bright side, we had a Watch Commander, Bryce, whose pet peeve was officers hanging their car keys from their gun belts. If you walked into the station with your keys in your belt, Bryce would grab the keys and throw them out the front door. I learned to take my keys out of my belt upon walking into the lobby. I only chased my keys out into the street once. I saw another officers keys grabbed from his belt, tossed to a citizen sitting in the lobby, who tossed them out the front door as directed by Bryce.


I showed up for work one night and passed Jane Fonda in the lobby. She is one of my least favorite people. She was advising some woman that she has rights and you don’t have to do what the police say. I would have liked to see her in the custody of the shore patrol.


In the old Hollywood station, you walked through the lobby to get to your police car after roll call. I remember one night as the line filed down the hallway toward the desk, some of the officers started turning around and back tracking. I wasn’t sure why until I reached the desk. There was a woman of suspicious reputation standing at the desk with officers. I guess some of the officers didn’t want to be seen by this women. Ha ha, I wasn’t afraid. 


Of course, there was Gracie Wilde, a homeless girl who lived in a doorway near the station. Gracie wasn’t a bad person, loved cops, and a few officers gave her money for food. Gracie just needed to take her medication regularly. Birdie was another woman who would come into the lobby and look for cans to recycle. She lived in a motor home on the corner. Some of the desk officers saved cans for her.


Drum majorThen there was Linda. Rumor said that Linda was a model and came from a rich family. Once a month she would get a check from a trust, clean up, buy some nice clothes, and then get drunk. Linda was an alcoholic and often slept in the lobby during the night. The first few days of the month, Linda looked normal. By the end of the month, Linda was dirty and obnoxious. Actually, Linda was usually obnoxious when drunk and the first thing the day watch desk officers did was throw Linda out. I remember one week, Linda was dressed in Band Majors uniform. 


Think policemen are heartless. I remember a young boy, about eight years old, racing into the station lobby, crying, that his new bicycle was just stolen by a bigger kid. After a search proved fruitless, the desk officers replaced the bike with the help of a local bicycle shop. 


I wonder what ever happened these characters. These people all existed and helped pass the time on the desk.   


Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Miscellaneous, part 6-Extortion Can Be Fun

By Hal Collier

Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.


The following stories are true to the best of my memory, which is suspect at best. I sometimes sit down at the computer and think of an amusing incident that occurred and write it down in my bullets (like normal people use a list—Thonie). When I pick a subject I go over my bullets and see if any will fit into my Ramblings. These are short and didn’t seem to fit into a story. Anyway, here goes. 


photo from
photo from

One night my partner, Bill Barren (RIP) and I were assigned to a Z-car. A Z-car means you don’t have radio calls and you can go out and look for bad guys all night long. It means you can go elephant hunting as we use to say. Just big time bad guys, no traffic warrants, drunks, or petty thefts. When assigned to a Z-car you want to show the Watch Commander that he made the right choice in picking you for this pinnacle of assignments in patrol. You stop everything that moves; you even skip coffee breaks and eating. 


This night there wasn’t any crime in Hollywood. Ok, none that we could find. About 6 A.M. we’re getting desperate. We see this car on a dark side street with a license plate light out. We stop the car hoping to find a body in the trunk or a back seat full of stolen property. We get the driver out, a young black man, and ask for his driver’s license.  


As he’s flipping through his wallet I see him pass by a California driver’s license and then produce another California driver’s license. His license say’s his name is Cleophus Whitehead and he’s 18 years old. Ha ha, we got him; I’ll bet he’s wanted in three states. I ask to see the other driver’s license. He produces it. Same picture, same address, but the name is Rene Whitehead and he’s now 21 year’s old, and of drinking age. Of course, I ask him, “Who’s license is this?”  


Ok, you think you’re ready for the answer. He says with a straight face, “It’s my brother. It’s the only picture I have of him.” I fall back against my police car laughing. Bill hunches his shoulders and says, “I give up, let’s go eat.” I give both licenses back to Mr. Whitehead and send him on his way. No elephants tonight. You can’t make this stuff up.



It’s a nice quiet Sunday morning and I’m the assistant Watch Commander. Yea I’m working day watch. I get a call from Tony Diaz, a great cop and now a detective assigned to Homicide. Tony asks me if the janitor has emptied the trash cans in the detective’s room this weekend?  Huh, I haven’t a clue and should I know what the janitors schedule is?


I reverse the scenario; I interrogate the detective. “Ok Tony, what’s up?.” Tony tells me the following story. He got into an argument with Russ Custer (RIP), the OIC of Homicide, on Friday afternoon. During the argument, Tony took off his badge and threw it in the trashcan, proclaiming, “I quit!” Tony was always getting into arguments with Russ and they soon made up over drinks after work. I suspect they were alcoholic drinks.


Cool, I got a confession with one question. Tony tells me he went home and didn’t remember until Sunday morning that he left his badge in the trash can.


I ask, “Tony, are you asking me to go through the trash cans, looking for your badge?” Tony hems and haws. Oh yea I’ve got him, but Tony doesn’t have anything I want. I don’t need a plea bargain, or a get out of jail free card. Yet. I also haven’t given Tony his Miranda Rights, so his confession is no good in court. Tony says he’ll wait while I go look. I tell Tony I’m pretty busy, I’ll have to call him back when I get a chance. This is so bizarre, a patrol cop sweating a homicide Detective. This is more fun than the time my captain asked if I had a key to his office for the third time.


I like Tony, so I go back into the detective room. I dig through the trashcan that Tony described and I find the badge. I call him back and make a ransom demand. Tony laughs and tells me where to put his badge. Tony got his badge back and I got this story.



dogintoupeeHave you ever been driving around and you see people driving with their dog in their laps standing looking out the driver’s window? We’re driving down Hollywood Boulevard about sunrise and stopped at a red light. I love dogs but I don’t think that dogs belong in the drivers lap. I’m the passenger and I look to my right. There’s a 60+ year old man in the car next to me. On the headrest is something close to a large rat or a very small dog. Yea I said on the headrest, right behind the drivers head. The dog or whatever it was, is giving me that mad dog look.  I’m bored and we’ve had a bad night.


HairpieceI stare at the dog and pretend to be barking at the dog. The real dog goes berserk, jumping around and barking. The dog dislodges the driver’s hairpiece. Now tell me that wouldn’t make you laugh. I start laughing so hard my partner thinks I’ve lost my mind. The driver looks over at me and gives me that I hope you’re not getting a raise this year. When the light turns green, he drives off with a yapping rat and a dislodged hair piece. 


It’s hard to believe they paid us for doing this job!

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