From time to time I've been featuring excerpts from my book about growing up in the San Fernando Valley -- THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (available here.. PLEASE BUY IT). One prompted a comment from fellow classmate Alexis along with a request:
contrary to what you remember, I remember thinking you were cute, funny, and...well, cute and funny will have to suffice.
You should relate the "Helene" story...
I'll settle for cute and funny. Here's the "Helene" story. Remember names have been changed to protect me from physical abuse.
My actual dating life wasn’t much to speak of. I thought there was some promise with Helene Papadakis but that didn’t turn out swimmingly. A good start though. I took her to see “Thunderball” and then Bob’s Big Boy. She let me put my arm around her during the underwater fight sequence. She ate a French fry off my plate (always a sign of intimacy). And at her front door – the BIG moment – she let me kiss her goodnight. It was not a big kiss mind you. And lips only. But it wasn’t the handshake and “I had a really fun time, thank you” and the subtle door slam.
I was so confident I called her for a second date on Monday. Usually I needed at least three weeknights to get up the courage. She accepted and all was right with the world.
But on date #2 I met her father. These are always awkward encounters. They look at you like you’re going to knock up their daughter, get her hooked on heroin, and coerce her into joining a cult. We are always assuring them that we’re really nice young men, we wouldn’t dream of touching their daughter (much less do any of the things we fantasize about while masturbating nightly to them), and we all want to be astronauts. Still, I sensed a hatred that went beyond mere suspicion and apprehension. I started getting the vibe of Jew Hater.
Helene and I were hitting it off though, so I chose to rationalize that he wasn’t anti-Semitic, he just preferred suitors of any other religion in the world. On date #3 I drove her home (arriving safely before the midnight curfew), kissed her goodnight, got back into my 1960 Comet, turned on the ignition… and the car wouldn’t start. Shit. Probably a dead battery but maybe I had flooded the engine. So I waited five minutes, tried again, and still nothing. I went back to the house, tapped lightly on Helene’s bedroom window, and told her I needed to use the phone to call the Auto Club. She let me in but by now was wearing a bathrobe. Nothing sheer, just a big comfy terrycloth robe. I called the AAA and we sat in the kitchen waiting for the tow truck. About five minutes later her dad entered the room and almost had a seizure. There was his daughter in a state of disrobe (even though she WAS wearing a robe) with this…this… red sea pedestrian!! I hastily explained why I was there, trying desperately not to use any Yiddish expressions. Finally, I said, “My battery is dead” and he snarled, “It better be!”
With that he dashed out to the car and told me to start it up. I turned the key just praying it wouldn’t start. Thankfully, it didn’t. He stomped off to the garage and returned a moment later with jumper cables. In short order he got my engine to turn over.
I politely thanked him very much and then he leaned into me and said, “Your fucking car is blocking my driveway.”
That was the last time I ever went out with Helene.
Now flash-forward two years. I'm a student at UCLA.
I also took “Abnormal Psychology,” which proved helpful years later in dealing with actors. One of the assignments was to do some inappropriate behavior in public and study everyone’s reaction. This seemed stupid to me. You knew what their reaction was going to be. Based on the behavior, either anger or discomfort. So I figured, if I’m going to do this pointless exercise I might as well have a little fun with it.
So I put on a jacket and tie, grabbed my trusty broken briefcase, and set out once again to sell Amway products.
Except, this time at 11:00 at night.
Knowing that homeowners would be furious, I figured why go door-to-door and disturb them? I didn’t have to repeat this behavior twenty times. I really only had to do it once. So I got in my car, headed to one house in particular, marched up to the front door, and at about 11:30 rang the bell.
Helene’s anti-Semite dad answered the door and was practically apoplectic when he saw me. I launched right into my pitch. “Hi, there, Mr. P. Sorry to bother you so late but I’m trying to make as much money as I can. I really love money. And I have two other jobs, because like I said – I really love money. So could I show you some miracle products that…?”
I think that’s as far as I got. He literally chased me off the property. Mission and assignment accomplished.