Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings Reprise: Foot Beat Stories 3

The following are a reprise of Hal’s favorite posts–Foot Beat Stories. Today’s is 3 of 4 first posted in 2013. Next week will feature the wind up of his foot beat stories and the week after, readers will enjoy new material from Hal Collier. –Thonie

I’m re-posting this as it didn’t go out over social media on Sunday as it’s supposed to. –Thonie

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

The following stories are true to best of my fading memory.  I only worked a foot beat for 3 1/2 years but boy, did I pack a lot of fun into those 42 months.  I just spent a month learning how to walk in the daylight. Now, I’m off to mid PM’s which is a little different.  I’m going to work with “Dan”—another long time foot beat officer.


At the time, Hollywood Division had two officers name Dan. One was referred to as the “crazy” Dan.  Lucky for me I worked with the other one, but there was some debate on that.  Ok, I’m going to be working in the dark. I’ve got the walk down, I can do bar and porno theater checks, but I’m going to miss London Britches and the Artisan’s Patio.


Dan was a lot different than J.J. Brown.  Dan was younger, had less patience and was quicker to anger. This should be fun and a challenge. Dan was working his way up to the Gene Fogerty style of a foot beat cop: my Boulevard, my rules and no questions.


Dan carried a straight baton just like the rest of us, but he attached a leather thong which allowed him to spin it as he walked along. It was right out of the 50’s.


My first night walking with Dan, he suggested we eat at Ernesto’s, an Italian restaurant next to the Egyptian Theater. You know, working nights might be nice. On Morning Watch we only had few places to eat, Copper Penny, Copper Skillet and Pinks if you ate before 1 A.M.


We sat in a booth at Ernesto’s and the waiter greeted Dan like a brother. He brought us each a cup of coffee, but no cream. I’ll suffer. I took a sip, it’s not coffee–it was red wine. I don’t want to spoil the mood but I don’t drink wine and switch for a cup of coffee.


A few weeks later we finish a meal at Ernesto’s, lasagna and garlic bread. I’m going to need an hour to walk off dinner. It’s Saturday night and Hollywood Boulevard is packed.  Traffic is bumper to bumper in both directions. We see this jerk in a pick-up truck let the car ahead of him move up 30 feet.  He then pops the clutch, spinning the tires then slams on the brakes.


Dan says, “I’ll show you how we handle these type of guys.”  We walk between cars and up to the truck that’s stopped. We both approach the driver’s window.  Dan reached in and removed a 40 ounce bottle of beer. Dan then grabbed the driver’s hands while I reached in to shut off the ignition. Traffic in front of us cleared and the driver popped the clutch. The truck lurched forward spilling Dan and me into the middle of Hollywood Boulevard.


The truck made a quick right turn on Mc Cadden and almost hit a guy on a motorcycle. The guy on the motorcycle is pissed and he says to Dan, “hop on” and well go get him.  Dan declines—see, he’s not the crazy one. The guy in the truck sped up and slammed into a light pole. Guess he couldn’t drive without a 40 ounce of beer between his legs.


This is where it really got fun. The guy in the truck staggered out of his now wrecked truck and was planning his escape. This stranger on a motorcycle tells the truck driver hop on, the cops are coming. The truck driver jumps on the back of the motorcycle and the motorcycle guy turns around and dumps the felon at our feet. Bet you never saw that on Adam 12. No one would have believed it. 


A week later Dan and I were standing in front of our Captain. Apparently our foot beat tactics and Boulevard Rules were not the same as department rules. We both got a notice to correct.


I learned many more lessons on walking a foot beat and now I’m ready to fly on my own, on Morning watch.


Dan and his partner Tim’s police careers were cut short a few months later when their police car was rear ended by a drunk driver. They both suffered back injuries and had to be pensioned off. We lost two good cops and a wealth Hollywood Boulevard foot beat experience.


Next chapter, it’s my foot beat and I’ll have to prove I’m worthy.     Hal 

More Street Stories

Ramblings, Characters, part 4–Boulevard Rules

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


Hollywood Blvd 1970's
Hollywood Blvd 1970’s

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.


George Kennedy as Bumper Morgan in the 70's police series, "The Blue Knight"
George Kennedy as Bumper Morgan in the 70’s police series, “The Blue Knight”

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.


Pretty Woman 1990-Julia Roberts
Pretty Woman 1990-Julia Roberts

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.

Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: Foot Beat from Hollywood Boulevard Stories

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.

Cop walking the beat
Cop walking the beat

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.”

From the movie, Pretty Woman--hooking on Hollywood Boulevard
From the movie, Pretty Woman–hooking on Hollywood Boulevard

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…

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