Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: NYE at the Manhole Cover

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

New Year’s Eve: I was one of eight uniformed Metro officers who along with a sergeant was assigned to Hollywood and Vine. I have never been good at estimating crowd size. I just know we are packed solid on all four corners.

The crowd was in various stages of drunkenness but generally well behaved.  It consisted mostly of people who by now were probably tired of standing, wondering why they are here, asking themselves when they are going to start having fun but most of all, where’s then nearest rest room? Needed soon.

In the center of the intersection was a man hole cover. Custom and tradition said, to stand upon said manhole cover exactly at midnight would mean what?

It was sort of a “king of the hill” thing.

Vehicular traffic had been moving at a snail’s pace but was now shut down and diverted off the boulevard.

On his bull horn, the sergeant tells the crowd that it is 11:55 and they can have the intersection for 10 minutes.

The crowd who had been standing numbly on the sidewalk is now in the street thinking the same thoughts as before. But for a few this may very well be the most exciting or daring thing they have ever done in their lives.

Some can probably see their obituary: “The deceased Mr. Beanie Watros, in addition to his 40 year service as assistant manager at the Widget Factory, was somewhat of a local legend having on one occasion actually stood in the center of Hollywood and Vine at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve until rudely pushed to the curb by a large police officer with a stick.”

The sergeant begins the countdown……one minute………30 seconds……..10-9-8…….

Hollywood and Vine in the daytime.

Now the attempt to “take” the manhole begins.

There are always 8 or 10 ready to do battle.

Now, we have two types of fighters—those who fight like 12-year-old girls (sorry ladies) and those who learned from watching silent movies where everyone “swung   roundhouse punches arms fully extended.” If they connected, everyone went down.

Miss and they went down.

At 12:05 the sergeant’s whistle tells us to take the street back. We commandeer the “standing” drunks to move the “down” drunks to the sidewalk.

“But officer, I don’t even know this guy.”

“Neither do I friend. Now put him over there.”

The crowd is now back where they started wondering, “what just happened?”

“Did I have fun or what?” 

They mill about for a bit until someone comes up with the best suggestion of the night. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.” 

Not to long after we are released so we can drive to Pasadena and work the Rose Parade for the princely sum of $25.00.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: New Year’s Story

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Somewhere throughout the land there are probably a handful of old men who can claim the title connected to this Hollywood icon.

On the east coast in New York City every New Year’s Eve since 1907 the ball has dropped in Times Square. People come from great distances to be there and be part of the action.

3000 miles to the west however, we have the holy grail of locations—Hollywood and Vine. Famous the world around. If Hal had a dollar for every time he drove through this intersection he would have more money than Bill Gates.

I think I can say without contradiction that Hollywood has more strange, unusual, weird and bizarre characters than any place else in the city. If that is not enough thousands more are imported for New Year’s Eve. 

Hollywood and Vine circa 1952

Without having specific instructions, the new comers and maybe some locals too, are largely engaged as follows:

They are required to drink tremendous amounts of alcohol (mostly beer), to wander aimlessly in small groups or herds, to argue at the tops of their lungs with anyone and everyone, to challenge all comers to fight, “You want a piece of me buddy, come on.”

And then either lose interest or forget what they were doing, usually throwing up on anyone within range or themselves, and last but not least to fall down and sometimes fall asleep.

The following is true, so help me. I once saw one of our coppers walking while pulling on a piece of rope, holding on to the rope were 4 or 5 real, real drunks. He said with a straight face that he was taking them to get coffee and if they didn’t have the rope, they would fall down.

I swear.

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