Writer's Notes

Ramblings, Hollywood Characters



By Hal Collier, LAPD, Retired

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

This story is true and the characters are real. I ran across many memorable characters during my 33+ years working Hollywood. Some of the background comes from other old time Hollywood cops. J.J. Brown worked the Hollywood Boulevard foot beat for years and is a wealth of information. J.J. was a legend in Hollywood and his contribution was invaluable. I’ll start with a short story and then describe a well-known Hollywood character, Tilly.


I’m working Day Watch, after fourteen years on A.M.’s, that’s graveyard, for my non-police friends. I would get up at 4 A.M. and drive into Hollywood and workout or go for a 3 1/2 mi. run.


arcoOn this particular morning, I noticed I was low on gas in “Old Blue,” as my truck was affectionately known. No problem, I’ll stop at the all-night ARCO gas station at Franklin and Gower to fill up. While pumping gas I was once offered sex for a few dollars by a woman with oozing sores on her face. Gas at that time was $2.00 a gallon and she was asking for five gallons worth. I always had my gun close by and a firm “no” was sufficient to make her go away.


I pulled up to the pump and began pumping gas. I heard a shopping cart approaching. A young hype-looking guy is pushing a shopping cart with a large brown paper bag in the cart. He approaches me and asks, “You want to but a stereo?” I look into the open shopping bag and see five car stereos, with the wires dangling. Ok, even a rookie just out from the academy knows these were just ripped out of car dashes. I tell the hype, “No, thank you.” He walks off. I make a note of his description and watch him leave.


This story is old and I didn’t have a cell phone. (Hell, I had to be dragged into the technology age. I now have a cell phone but I never turn it on and I don’t even know my cell phone number.)


I drive to the station and tell the watch commander about my encounter with the car burglar. He sends two officers out to search for my suspect. I complete my workout, shower, dress, and go to roll call. As I’m walking out the back door to go to work, I run into the officers with my suspect. I look at the suspect and ask, “Want to buy a stereo?” The “oh shit” look on his face was priceless. He admitted to breaking into eight cars and even showed the officers which cars. It could have been a TV episode of stupid criminals. You can’t make up this stuff.


Hollywood Characters:  Tilly


Any street cop that worked Hollywood in the 70’s and 80’s knew Tilly. Tilly was an original bag lady. She must have been in her 70’s. She wore a 3/4 length coat, day or night, winter or summer and a pair of black 3/4 top men’s work shoes. Tilly pushed around a shopping cart full of her worldly belongings. She didn’t beg but people felt sorry for her and gave her money. Tilly looked like everyone’s grandmother, only dirtier.


Sunset Strip
Sunset Strip

During the day Tilly would walk Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards pushing her shopping cart. At night when I was working, Tilly could be found at the “International Hot Dog” stand at Hollywood and McCadden. The “Hot Dog Stand” as it was known to Hollywood cops was an all-night dive, where you could buy dope, sex or discuss world events with a drag queen. I think they even sold hot dogs.


Tilly would stand in the corner and mind her own business. I remember once a guy offered to buy Tilly a meal. Tilly lashed out at this guy, telling him she didn’t need his money or charity.


old woman pulling shopping cartThe truth of the matter is that Tilly had money and according to some officers, she had lots. Once, J.J. a Hollywood foot beat officer, took Tilly to the hospital for a mental evaluation. They found $600.00 in small bills in her shopping cart. Another time an officer was in line at the Bank of America and Tilly was in front of him. Tilly deposited a handful of money into her bank account. Tilly could probably afford a motel room but like a lot of homeless people, she chose to live on the streets.


They tore down the Hot Dog stand in the 80’s and put up a strip mall. After that I would occasionally see Tilly sleeping on a bus bench on Sunset.  I didn’t even know her real name and like most Hollywood Characters, Tilly just disappeared.




Epilogue:  After I wrote this three years ago I received additional stories about Tilly from former Hollywood cops. Mike Castro mentioned the time he booked Tilly. She had $2,500 dollars in cash in her shopping cart. The officers almost threw it out with her trash.


Paul Anderson also related the following story:   Somewhere around the early 90’s I was driving westbound Beverly between Crescent Heights and Fairfax when I see this very nicely dressed elderly lady walking eastbound on Beverly. I abruptly stopped my black and white, backed up, and said to myself, “That looks like Tilly.” (Years prior she told me her real name was Mary Marlow). I got out of my car and walked up to her and asked, ‘Tilly?’” She says, “Sergeant Anderson, how are you?” I asked her why she left the Boulevards (Hollywood and Sunset) and she responded, “Someone told me it was dangerous, so I went to a retirement home.” This is coming from a “street person” of 10 to 15 years literally sleeping on the streets. Anyway, it was nice to see her and that she was alive and safe.


Another Hollywood success story. No wonder I loved worked Hollywood!


So I have to ask: any of you cop-types reading this have stories about your “characters.” Send a comment to this post and we’ll see how many characters we can accumulate!



Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: AM Watch, part 5


by Hal Collier

Click on the link in paragraph third from the bottom to read about how cops are trying to improve issues surrounding tired cops.

Who knew that working Morning Watch was so involved?  Morning Watch was that 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift. There’s also a reason it’s called “Grave Yard.”  As I said previously some cops never worked Morning Watch or worked it so seldom that still believed the human body was meant to sleep in the dark.  I once had a day watch officer, Bob Plassmeyer, come up to me, shake my hand and thank me.  I asked why and he replied, it’s because of guys like you that I don’t have to work Morning Watch.  Thanks Bob, but I’d rather have a gift card.

photo from
photo from

I loved Morning Watch. It wasn’t too hot in the summer and when it got cold you wore thermal underwear.  It was basically you and the bad guys.  Patrol cops seldom saw the brass and supervision was a little more lax. One of the drawbacks was that you were always eating breakfast.

When I graduated from the academy I was assigned to Morning Watch and I was ignored as far as watch changes. In fact my first fourteen years on the job I worked Morning Watch.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it but I first told my wife I didn’t have enough seniority to ask for a change of watch.  If I worked overtime, I would complain that day watch sucked and I would hate it.  I think she knew.  She just wanted me to be happy.

There were some preparations that had to be made if you’re going to sleep during the day.  First, you had to buy blackout curtains for the windows.  Another option is aluminum foil on the windows. The foil not only kept out the light but it kept the room cooler in the hot summer months.  If you were a little crazy as some suggested, the foil also kept out the radio transmissions from outer space.

A window air conditioner was another good investment. It not only kept you cool but it blocked out the noise of the neighbors barking dog.  The third and the hardest preparation was your beloved family.  Some cops think that the officers who worked Morning Watch were the ones who suffered.  It was their families who suffered.  My wife often packed up the kids and left the house for at least four hours so I could get enough sleep to get through the night.

Sleeping in shifts became normal.  You get off work at 7 A.M. go to bed for a few hours then get up take your children to one of the many programs you signed them up for, go home sleep for a few more hours, get up and go to work.  Then, there were those hot summer days, even with an air conditioner you just couldn’t sleep.  Sleep a little in the morning, then sleep a little in the evening.

imagesWMA3EG59Every so often, you were so tired that you slept all day.  I once got up at 5 PM well rested.  My wife asked if the next door neighbors jack hammering up their sidewalk kept me awake.  I never heard them.

Anyone who doesn’t know cops will never understand the next phenomenon unique only to Morning Watch cops and alcoholics.  That’s right drinking alcohol while the sun is rising in the East.  Most cops rationalize it like this: businessmen get off work in the evening and stop by a bar for a drink to unwind.  Some go home and have a drink before dinner.  Morning Watch cops do the same thing. They get off work and have a drink to unwind, then they go to bed.  The only difference is the looks you get when you stop at the store to buy a six pack of beer on the way home.  I once saw six Vice Officers who had worked overtime waiting in front of a 7-11.  By law, they couldn’t buy beer until 6 A.M. and they were ten minutes early so they waited with the above mentioned alcoholics.

I’d get home at 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning.  My kids would be up and meet me at the front door.  We would discuss world events and I’d have a beer while watching cartoons and eating a bowl of Raisin Bran.  One morning, I was on a day off and my son Bob brought me a beer for breakfast.  Try explaining to a 4 yr old that his father doesn’t drink beer in the morning on a day off.

In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.
In December 2011, a study was released by Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.

Even as I gained seniority, I worked Morning Watch.  I found that Morning Watch cops in Hollywood were there to do police work and I liked that.  My last years, my age and body caught up with me.  I found it harder to read drivers licenses in the dark, even with new glasses.  The end took three months.  It started with sleeping during the day.  After four or five hours, I would wake up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  This happened before and after a few days I was so tired I could sleep eight hours.  After starting my third month of only getting four or five hours of sleep a day I came to the conclusion that sleeping during the day was for the younger crowd.

I used my seniority and went to Day Watch.  I stayed on Day Watch until my retirement.  Once, my captain called me at home on a day off and asked me to go back to Morning Watch.  I refused and explained that I had done my time and my wife had already spent too many years sleeping alone.  My seniority protected me from watch transfers and I finished out my career sleeping in the dark and drinking beer at sun down.

I loved the years I worked Morning Watch and had a lot of good memories.  I worked with some of the best cops on the LAPD and made friends that last today.  Morning Watch was not for everyone but it sure worked for me for a long time.


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