Hollywood had a lot of entertaining attractions—after all, it’s the entertainment capital of the world. The entertainment was mostly for the tourists but I have to admit when I was in high school in the 60’s, my future wife and I would cruise Hollywood and stare at the hippies and flower children. We never got out of the car. We figured they would think we were freaks!
Hollywood has attractions for the police officers as well. The aforementioned hippies as well as the numerous other freaks (my opinion) that frequented Hollywood, always provided entertainment. Another entertainment for cops was mistakenly called the “Errol Flynn Estate.” It’s now called Runyon Canyon Park.
History: Runyon Canyon stretched from the north end of Fuller to Mulholland Drive, the crest of the Hollywood Hills. Carmen Runyon bought the canyon in 1919 and that’s where it got its name, “Runyon Canyon.” In 1942, it was bought by Huntington Harford and Errol Flynn stayed at the pool house. It became known as the Errol Flynn Estates. He never owned it! The 160-acre park was bought in 1984 by the City of Los Angeles. It now has a 60-acre dog park and has many hiking trails that are popular with thousands, including celebrities who live nearby. Some of the celebrities you won’t recognize because without make up and fancy clothes they look just like us!
The area is hillsides covered with brush and is home to many wild animals, skunks, coyotes and rattlesnakes. There were also a few decaying foundations, including the cement pool on a hillside plateau which overlooked Hollywood. The views were of the LA Basin and all the way to Catalina on a clear night. In the late 70’s, the so-called Errol Flynn Estates was overrun by kids and punk rockers after midnight. Soon the calls came into the police department from the nearby residents of screaming women, breaking bottles, and fires. Besides the noise and vandalism the neighbors were mostly concerned about the chance of a wildfire burning down their house.
I’m guessing the first incident at the Errol Flynn Estates our Communications (dispatch) sent one two-man police car to handle the disturbance. The patrol car had to park at the Fuller Gate and hike into the canyon. They were met with thrown rocks and empty beer bottles. It sucks when the bad guys have the high ground. Rocks and bottles are easier to see in daylight. In a dark canyon, they are almost impossible to see. As a bottle whizzed past your head you’d know how close it was to hitting the target and giving you a nice scar that you’ll be explaining for the rest of your life. Of course, one of the officers had to run back to the police car and radio for help. This was before officers had radios on their belts.
Soon the entire division arrived and the officers with adrenalin surging through their veins, charged through the canyon looking for someone to arrest. Ok, maybe inflict some sort of justice. As the encounters increased the need for more police officers also increased. Have you ever thought of chasing game through 60 acres of dark chaparral?
The big problem is a cop’s mental state—we never give up or surrender!
Next a game of hide and seek and an adult game of tag!
Hal is a thirty-five year veteran of LAPD. We are pleased he is sharing his stories with us.
I’ve often said a bored cop is a dangerous cop! We’re used to living on the edge, adrenaline coursing through our veins—oh, I can’t believe I wrote that crap. We do have our moments but quite often we spend hours looking for something to do. Someone once described being a cop as hours of boredom followed by thirty seconds of sheer terror.
When the criminals, who really pay our salary, don’t cooperate, we invent our own entertainment. Have you ever left a puppy alone for a few hours and then wondered how he could get into so much trouble? Cops of any age are the same as puppies—entertain us or we’ll get into mischief. My apologies to dog owners everywhere.
I know you’re tired of hearing I worked Hollywood Division on the grave yard shift, the entertainment capital of the world. I’ll admit, most days it was the busiest division in the city of Los Angeles. Every so often, things got slow. Sometimes, it was due to the weather and sometimes, because of the misalignment of the planets. Heck, I don’t know, it just happens.
So you’ve spent a few hours looking for crime. You saw a car slowly moving down a residential street with its lights out. You stopped him and found it was the LA Times delivery man, again. That’s it. It’s too early to eat and we’ve already had six cups of coffee. Then one of you says, “Let’s do something fun!”
How cops amused themselves depended on where they worked and who it involved. You could amuse yourself, or involve other cops, or the citizens who think they pay your salary.
My experience in working different divisions was very limited. In a 35-year career I worked 33 1/2 years in Hollywood, and 15 months in Watts. I don’t know what officers in other divisions did for entertainment but I heard rumors. One famous story is two LAPD Officers drove to Las Vegas in the middle of the night and had their picture taken in front of Caesar’s Palace, police car and in uniform then drove back before end of watch (EOW).
Let’s start with amusing ourselves. Hollywood had a lot of interesting businesses. Ever heard of Frederick’s of Hollywood? Hey, had a large display window with scantily clothed mannequins. It was first light and what better way to end a slow night than check out the new window display. February was the best month, Valentine’s Day. One morning as we stopped in front of Frederick’s we saw this old homeless man admiring the display. He was intently looking at a mannequin that was lying on her side. As we watched, he pretended to stroke her ribs down to her thigh. We laughed but decided we didn’t want to watch what he was going to do next.
Another favorite spot was Trashy Lingerie on La Cienega. They also had nice window displays. The city even assisted us when they built wheel chair ramps so we could drive right up on the sidewalk to get a closer look.
In an earlier Ramblings I described how two cop cars raced from Sunset and Vine to Laurel Canyon and Mulholland. Why? To relieve the boredom. Another game I played was “Have you ever been on this street?” Randy Witkamp and I walked a foot beat on Hollywood Boulevard. We walked from 11:30 to about 5 A.M. After 5 AM even the prostitutes called it a night. We would grab a bite to eat then look for something to do. We’d both been in Hollywood for a long time and often found ourselves on obscure side streets. Some in Laurel Canyon were only dirt roads with one or two houses!
Whoever was driving would head up into the hills and find some small street and ask, “Have you ever been on this street. You got extra points if you remembered the house and the radio call you handled there.
Wild animals were always a nice diversion. We once caught an opossum and put it our Watch Commander’s patrol car. Another time I chased a coyote down the middle of the street with my police car. I probably saved a neighbor’s cat.
Sometimes we would watch a citizen run a red light and follow them for miles. We’d bet on how many times they would look in the rear view mirror. Loser had to buy breakfast. The expensive neighborhoods were the most fun. They were already thinking of all the important people they know to get out of a ticket. We never wrote them a ticket, just entertained ourselves.
Sunrise was always a treat when watched from above the Hollywood sign. It took a while to drive up there and involved opening and closing locked gates. If you had a partner new to Hollywood you gave them the tour of the division. I had a much better map of the stars home than they sold on street corners on Sunset. Another favorite was the Bronson Caves, better known as the Bat Cave in the Batman TV series.
Another treat was driving up to the Sunset Ranch Horse stables in Beachwood Canyon right at sunrise. Keying the radio microphone just as the rooster crows. The dispatchers always enjoyed that!
If you read any of my past Ramblings you’ve heard of the practical joke cops play on each other. Rocks in the hub caps, a snowball fight in the watch commander’s office. Pigeons in my police car! Dale Hickerson and I once screwed a cops tennis shoes to the bench in front of his locker. How about the time a patrol cop lined the detective’s desk drawer with a plastic trash bag and filled it with water?
Any stories from long boring graveyard shifts out there?
The following stories are true. I use to change the names to protect the embarrassed, but since I have not been paid to be quiet, I’m going to use real first names. Of course some of these stories are 30 years old and my memory is only so good.
I figured since we’re in a dry spell, I would write about some incidents I had working in the rain. Now, most of my non-police friends like the rain. At night or on weekends, they would cuddle up in front of a fireplace or pull the bed covers up tight at night. They would listen to the sounds of the rain and drift off to sleep. Hell, they even sell machines that have the sound of rain to help people fall asleep.
To a patrol cop working during a storm, it can be a day from hell. Southern Californians can’t drive on dry streets. Add a little water and the thought that they are going to be late and it’s a disaster in the making. Traffic accidents increase and burglar alarms on every closed business are activated.
These all cause a patrol cop to get out of his car and get wet. Think about standing in a flooded intersection, directing traffic for thirty minutes. The streets are blocked and some citizen pulls up to your flare pattern, rolls down his car window a 1/4 inch and says, “Can’t I drive through, I always go home this way?” Your mind is racing: can I drag this dumb ass out through that 1/4 inch opening and will anyone see me if I do.
In the late 70’s, I was working A.M. Watch (grave yard) and we expected a storm. My partner, Randy, and I loaded up on sunflower seeds and prepared for eight hours of being wet. Only rookies wore a clean, un-mended uniform on a rainy night. Sometime around midnight it started raining. Then, it rained harder than I have ever seen it rain. We had to a pull into an elevated parking lot. The streets flooded. Worse yet, our sunflower seed source, Lime-Lite Liquor, had three inches of water inside. This was getting serious.
The entire city went on tactical alert. Laurel Canyon was a raging river. There were reports of citizen being swept down the street. We were designated as the Hollywood Damage control car. We responded to calls of stranded citizens, houses sliding off their foundations and closed streets. The damage was enormous. Cars were stacked five deep at the bottom of Laurel Canyon. They used a skip loader to move mud, rocks and cars to check for missing motorists.
Two officers, Dave and Dale, were assigned to traffic control at the top of Laurel Canyon at Mulholland Drive. They were standing in three inches of water at the top. It was rumored that an actor gave the officers a small bottle of brandy to fight off the cold. At 3 P.M., we were told to go home. This eight hour day turned into a sixteen hour marathon. When I took off my uniform, my white J.C. Penney’s t-shirt and underwear were LAPD blue. I had to work that night so I was back at work at 10:30 P.M. My boots were still soaking wet.
A few days later I was working with Dave. We were assigned damage control and security for some of the abandoned houses due to slide damage. There was one house high in the Hollywood Hills that was wide open in the rear. The slide covered the back yard as well as knocking a two foot hole through the back of the house. Actually, a hole was not an accurate description. The two feet was all across the bottom of the rear of the house. There was 2 feet of mud inside the house.
Dave and I were checking on the house to make sure no one was walking away with the resident’s valuables. It was midnight and very dark as we walked through the side gate. We were halfway in the back yard, ankle deep in mud, when I froze in my tracks. I spotted a swimming pool filter in the corner of the yard. Oh crap, somewhere under this mud there was a swimming pool. I don’t know if mud over a water filled pool would make quicksand, but I didn’t want to be the “Breaking News” story. We backtracked our steps and left.
A few nights later Dave and I were driving northbound Cahuenga Boulevard where it parallels the Hollywood Freeway. There’s a section where the road drops down then rises to enter the 101 freeway. Where it drops down, water collects if the drain is clogged. The city put up some barricades so sober folks wouldn’t drive into Lake Cahuenga as we dubbed it. The lake was about five feet deep and sixty feet across.
Dave and I drove up Cahuenga to make sure the barricades were still in place. The barricades were missing and we could see the roof of a submerged car. I hoped no one was inside, I was wearing my last dry uniform. As we approached we could see this man bobbing in and out of the window of the car. We called him over to dry land and he badged us. That’s right he was a Deputy Sheriff with the L. A. County Sheriff’s Department. A lieutenant at that.
Dave and I fought to hide our amusement, but it was a waste of time. The Lieutenant’s story went like this. He met this girl in a bar in North Hollywood and he was giving her a ride home. He was southbound on Cahuenga when he drove into Lake Cahuenga. As the Lieutenant and his female companion swam out of their car they saw three guys laughing and driving away. The guys had removed the barricades and stuck around to watch the fun. The Lieutenant was bobbing for her purse in the front seat. We arranged for a tow truck.
The lieutenant asked us if we could drive the young lady home, which was two blocks away. His bigger request was that we not tell anyone in the sheriff’s department. We agreed. A few days later we got a phone call from the Lieutenant. He wanted to meet with us. Uh oh, now what. We met at the scene of the crime. Lake Cahuenga had been drained by then, the fishing sucked anyway.
The Lieutenant showed us a large proclamation, promoting him to Commandant of a U-Boat in Lake Cahuenga. He told on himself. He asked about his lady friend and we told him that driving into the lake was the best thing that happened to him that night. Oh yea, he tried to bribe us with two bottles of cognac.
This might have been an honest mistake, but I have my doubts. It had been raining on and off all night. About dawn a short police pursuit occurred in Hollywood. The suspects fled on foot and were hiding in the neighborhood. The rain had let up and the sky was clearing. We removed our rain coats and we were formed into search parties. I was one of the senior officers and led my group. The helicopter was overhead directing officers to likely hiding places. The helicopter observer directed me into a back yard with a huge weeping willow tree in the corner. He said the suspects might be under the tree. I walked under the tree with gun drawn. The helicopter dropped lower, I assumed to watch me.
Ok, do you know how much water collects in a weeping willow tree after a night of rain? Have you ever stood next to your dog when he shakes after a bath? The prop wash from the helicopter immediately dropped all the water in that tree—you guessed it, on me. I might as well have taken a swim in Lake Cahuenga. Another day with blue underwear.
The following story is true. I didn’t change the names because I never knew their names. If you remember, I spent most of my career at Hollywood Division.
Right behind Hollywood Police Station was Los Angeles Fire Station # 27. Fire station #27 is a battalion station, which means it has 2 engine trucks, a hook and ladder truck, 2 paramedic trucks, a haz-mat truck and a battalion chief. That’s as big as it gets in the inner city. I once heard that #27 was the busiest fire station in the world.
Remember Hollywood never sleeps. I use the term firemen because I’m not sure what’s the politically correct name for firepersons. No offense intended, I’m just a dinosaur.
Police officers and firemen are brothers in arms. When a policeman gets shot or hurt, it’s a fireman who saves his life. Our pay, benefit and contracts with the city, are usually fought together. Our pensions are similar but most important we have the same views of dirt bags and celebrities.
Firemen have taught me valuable lessons in life. If you’re at a fire, conducting crowd or traffic control and a fireman drops his fire hose and runs, try to keep up with him. If it’s a big fire and their cantina lunch truck shows up, it’s your lucky day. Firemen eat good.
Recently, there was big news about an L.A City fireman who sued his department because he said he was discriminated against, because he was black. He was fed dog food as a practical joke, because he claimed he was the “Big Dog”. After a civil trial he was awarded 1.5 million. During the trial he admitted he participated in practical jokes against other firemen. Firemen and police officers have been playing practical jokes since the earth cooled. I have some first-hand knowledge with firemen and their practical jokes.
The first incident I was not involved in but learned from other officers. There’s a fire station on Mulholland Drive near Laurel Canyon. It’s a small station and not that busy. A Hollywood Senior Lead Officer was known to frequent the station house and play ping pong with the firemen. He was usually accompanied by a rookie officer and showed up around lunch. The firemen would welcome the rookie into the fire station and usher the rookie into a seat at a table. The seat was rigged with a small waterline that would squirt water onto the crotch of whoever was sitting at the table. Your tax dollars at work!
The next incident involved a homeless man living in the hills in the Cahuenga Pass. He was preparing his dinner, BBQ pigeon over an open fire. A resident called the fire department, concerned about a brush fire. Fireman are fun loving people until you mess with them about fire. The homeless man was quite a ways up the hill and it was a hot day. The fire department has those water dropping helicopters and one just happened to be in the area. The helicopter told the homeless man over his loud speaker to put out the fire. Homeless are not your touchy-feely sort of people and generally men of few words. The homeless man gave the helicopter the one finger wave.
The helicopter again warned the man to put out his fire. The homeless man gave a two finger wave this time, one finger on each hand. The helicopter dropped thousands of gallons of water on the man and his camp. Fire out, campground closed due to flooding.
Have you ever noticed that all fire trucks have big numbers on them? Those numbers indicate which station the fire truck comes from. #27 comes from fire station 27, etc. Now, I spent a lot of time conducting traffic control at fires. See, firemen park anywhere they need to fight the fire. I understood that, but what bothered me was that it took them longer to pick up their hoses and clear the streets than to fight the fire. Sometimes they would stand around and BS with a friend from another station. I couldn’t leave until they did. Back to those numbers, they are metallic. You can change 27 to read 72 or put them upside down or sideways if you wish. Just don’t get caught. Firemen are obsessive about of their equipment.
I was walking past the rear gate to FD #27 one day and saw a firemen lying on his back. He was washing the underside of the fire truck. I guessed that only an unfortunate pedestrian would notice and remark, “Wow, the underside of that fire truck is clean.” I envy firemen’s equipment. I had to bribe our garage attendants to wash my police car once a month.
If the above seemed juvenile, let me tell you about the fishing pole. The new #27 fire station was a two story beauty right behind the back door to the police station. On warm summer evenings the firemen would sit up on the roof, smoking expensive cigars and watching the coming and goings of police officers. They especially liked nights when we ran prostitution task forces. They would sit up there with binoculars watching the girls as they were marched through the back door in their skimpy outfits.
OK, back to the fishing pole. There was a 10 foot wall that separated the police station from the fire station. On the police side, we had a carport and a narrow driveway. The firemen would tie a 3 inch rat-looking piece of material to the end of the line. They would then cast it over the wall between parked police cars and wait. When an unsuspecting officer walked toward the back door they would reel in the line until the rat ran across the officer’s feet. As the officer jumped around and sometimes screaming the firemen would burst out in laughter. They particularly liked female officers. They screamed the loudest and had the best moves.
Another variation was tying a $5 bill to the fishing line and when an officer attempted to pick up the bill they would reel it away. I once watched a young officer chase that $5 bill for 30 feet, 1 foot at a time. I made it a practice to check the roof top of the fire station when entering the police station parking lot.
And you thought I was slow. Again, your tax dollars at work.
As you saw at the beginning of this story, not all practical jokes turn out good. One night Fire Station #27 was assigned two female paramedics. They were classmates and it was their first shift together. It was during the midnight to dawn shift that they got bored. They were driving around Hollywood and spotted two Hollywood officers parked. They thought it would be fun to throw water balloons at the officers. Instead of balloons they threw saline IV bags. Everyone laughed and drove off in different directions. Only, the officers wanted revenge.
The officers contacted their Sergeant. A dozen eggs were bought and a deserted parking lot was found. A request for an ambulance was made and the two female paramedics arrived. Ok. Eggs were thrown and everyone agreed that payback was a bitch. At 3 A.M., the paramedics drove back to the station and began washing the ambulance. Unfortunately, the Battalion Chief woke up and wanted an investigation. The female paramedics admitted their guilt and were punished. The involved officers were never identified. Before any of my former partners check the statute of limitations, I was working that night but wasn’t there.
I love firemen, just like my fellow officers. Were different but very much the same. Police officers will run to gunfire but won’t go near a burning building.
In future stories, I will discuss the 3 days I spent with firemen during the riots. Yea, I said riots, I was there and trust me it wasn’t civil unrest!