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.
On 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.
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.
The 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!