My bother Charles and his wife Joan had just moved to California. Charles was writing music for film and that was where the films were made, so they moved. They were living in an apartment on a street called La Cienega. La Cienega intersects Sunset Strip. Their apartment was only a few blocks down the hill from the intersection.
I was a young guy just getting out into the world. I went to LA to visit them. Sounded like a good trip to me.
I understood that Sunset Strip is supposed to be “pretty hot” in the late 60s. I’m OK with all that and figure I’ll just go out and meet some people. It’s maybe 7:30 PM, and I figure I’ll head out.
It only takes ten minutes to walk up the hill to the intersection. I turn right on Sunset and it doesn’t seem to be so busy. Certainly it was not like I expected. What did I know? I didn’t realize that the Strip didn’t start till about 11:30 at night. All the bars and clubs were completely empty. It was only 7:30, and not even completely dark yet.
Still, I did expect to see some celebrities. They were supposed to be everywhere. But every bar was empty. After a few tries I wandered in a bar and there is another person there.
It was Martha Raye.
Yup, the famous Martha Raye that had done shows for the GIs and TV specials and much more. She was a movie star, a comedian, a singer, and all over the TV in the late 50s. She was a Broadway actor too.
I was still a kid, but that wasn’t going to stop me from talking to her. It was almost my right of passage to stop and talk to her. At the time she must have been 40 years my senior. I went up and asked if I could buy her a drink.
She accepted and we talked. After a while she said “there is only one thing you have to know about Los Angeles.” I waited for the “What I have to know”. She gestured with her arm. She said, “God took the United States and tipped it up on its end. Every thing that was loose rolled into L.A.!” Whether exactly true or not, it was a very memorable line.
I had a fun evening talking to her.