Thursday, July 23, 2009


“So what’s with this facebook thing?” My friend Freddy who lives in one of our nation’s secondary cities asked me this question in an email the other week. I wrote back telling him that even though “I’m on Facebook, I’m not so enthralled with it, and only signed on after one of my nephews told me how terrific it was.” “You can put up your art, stay in touch with old and new friends, It‘s really great Uncle Ira. “I still don’t get it“, I told Freddy, “I mean who are all of these people who want to be my friends?” I don’t want to be friends with people I don’t know, and do I really care that X had a cheeseburger yesterday, or that Y is out walking in the woods? And then the scary part is that people from my past are popping up all over the place. Are you the Ira who lived on 12th avenue in Brooklyn, are you the Ira I went to New Utrecht High School with? Old girlfriends and boyfriends I haven’t seen or heard from in 40 or more years email me now. High school classmates who live in Israel, Buffalo and Jersey City are constantly bombarding & bothering me. But as I told Freddy I did get one “be my friend’ request from someone who I was kinda friendly with in the early 80’s that made me sit up and take notice. So take my hand if you like as we walk down memory lane and I tell you the story of Louise Miles my old prostitute friend.

It was in the very early 80’s and I had a job working in a movie memorabilia bookstore in Greenwich Village. It was a fun job, not much money but back then we didn’t need so much. The rent on my loft was $300.00 a month and I had a roommate to boot. I generally worked the stills and posters dept., so when someone came in and asked to see photos of a certain movie star I would pull their file and the customer would peruse it. “Do you have anything new on Judy? Or Lana? Or Doris? Many of the eccentrics would not even use the last names of the stars, and many of the eccentrics were big pains in my ass. Some of them were even downright creepy like the guy in the dirty raincoat who would come in every Saturday and ask to look at all these young starlets from the 50’s and 60’s who were forgotten by most but beloved by the dirty raincoat guy. He would spend at least an hour looking and drooling over the likes of Deborah Walley and Sandra Dee, and maybe just maybe he would pick out one picture for $2.50 to buy and then creep out until next Saturday. One of the areas of collectibles that the store sold were magazine and newspaper clippings on all the major and minor stars of the golden era and beyond. These were huge files brimming over with all sorts of paper items such as articles from movie magazines, ads, and much more that the staff including myself had to file away for a rainy day. I had paper cuts for days. Someone would come in and ask for the clipping file of Lon Chaney Jr. and I would pull out this chunky file filled with good old Lon’s entire career. Every Saturday (that was eccentric day in the store) this middle age small sparrow like blonde woman with a nice thick British accent would come in. Quite pleasant I thought as she pulled up a stool to spend an hour or so looking through clippings. I didn’t mind pulling 20 or so files for her because she was nice and I liked her accent. Her name was Louise and as I later found out she was a high priced call girl. I found this out by accident from one of her homosexual friends, a cartoonist who would usually accompany Louise on her visits to the store. One day Mitchell came in without her and we got to talking. “Is she a lesbian” I asked Mitchell who was deeply absorbed in the Tab Hunter photo file? “Oh God no Ira Joel. Louise is a whore.” Just like that, that’s what he said. I was shocked. So the next week Louise came in, smiled and said “No Ira Joel I’m not a lesbian I like men. For money dear, lots of money. So that’s how I found out about Louise. After my face stopped turning red, we both chuckled. Never ever gossip with a homely pock mocked Jewish homosexual, because the dirt will fly right back to the person you are talking about. This is advice that I learned the hard way. “You know dear, you must come over to my place for a proper meal and I can show you all my scrapbooks.” That would be swell and wonderful, as I would love to see all your books of scraps“. When? “Well doll face how about I give you a call up next week, will that do lovey.” “Oh yes Louise I would love that just plain and fancy.” “Here’s my number“. The next week Louise made good on her promise and invited me to her abode for a light vegetarian dinner. Louise lived in a big pre-war apartment building right off Hudson street in the heart of Greenwich Village where from early spring to early fall, one of the tenants an old lady would lie outside on the sidewalk in front of the building and sun herself from early morning to when the sun finally went down. She was as brown and wrinkled as a Goober chocolate covered Raisinet the kind that I use to love when I was a kid. And sure enough there she was lying on a towel in the dwindling summer sun when I arrived at Louise’s carrying a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the latest tell all movie star autobiography that I thought Louise might like. “So you live in the building with the sunbather” I said as soon as Louise opened the door to me.” “Oh yes dear Ira Joel that’s Mildred, and if she doesn’t get skin cancer no one will.” “Come in come in” and I entered her spacious pre-war apartment. I liked her place right off the bat, and told her so. There were lots of bookcases filled with books of course but also the famous scrapbooks. Movie posters nicely framed filled practically every wall, and there was a nice and comfy couch that I promptly sat down on. “Oh wine how sweet of you, would you like a glass now.” “I’ll say I would.” Louise went into the kitchen and I followed her to take a look around, I love peeking into other people’s kitchen’s, I’ve had this habit ever since I was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn. My mother tried to break me of it, but she failed big time in her endeavor to rid me of this habit that she said was annoying and rude, but I continue with this rude and annoying habit of mine to this day. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that I don’t have too many friends. Louise’s kitchen was not too small, and there was a table set with plates and eating utensils for two. “I hope you like vegetarian Ira Joel” “Oh yes indeed” I said lying through my teeth. “I made lovely cold vegetable soup, and I got some of those marvelous vegetable dumplings from Mama Buddha‘s. “Oh I just love Mama’s I eat there all the time.” “And for desert I picked up a carrot cake from Jon Vie”. “Oh I love that bakery Louise.“ We were busy making slurping noises with the soup, but in between the slurps Louise managed to tell me her story of how she met an American in London in her early twenties and he brought her over to this country to marry her, which he did, but shortly after he fell in love with another man, and left poor Louise in the lurch with only her green card to keep her company. “I didn’t know what to do, I mean I knew no one, had no money and no prospects at all, so I decided to become a whore. At that comment I started to choke on my soup. “Louise I don’t see you nor think of you as a whore, I prefer call girl.“ “Well that’s sweet of you dear boy, but let’s call a spade a spade.“ ‘Getting back to my tale I.J. I liked the money I got as a call girl the hours were good, and I had plenty of free time to pursue my hobbies, going to the movies and of course my dear scrapbooks“. “I have a few good clients and every so often they recommend someone to me, and they join my very exclusive roster. So life is good.” “Would you like to see a few of the books, as the hour is getting late?” “Oh yes, lets do.” And suddenly there were 3 or 4 of these large books laid out in front of me on her faux marble and glass coffee table. “Oh wow” Louise Madeleine Carroll. I loved her in the 39 steps.” There was also one on Blanche Yurka, Vivien Leigh (of course Louise would have one on Viv) and Rita Hayworth among many others. Most of them were devoted to the female stars with maybe a couple devoted to some of her favorite male stars. “Bill Holden I love Bill Holden, any good clips of him young and without a shirt?” This looking and commenting must have gone on for a good 2 or 3 hours, and before I knew it time had flown and it was time for me to go home. I don’t know what happened to Louise after that. She stopped coming into the store, and I never saw Mitchell again either, so I had no idea what had happened to her, until I got the facebook invite from her where she is living in one of our nation’s secondary cities. I hope she has her scrapbooks with her.


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