Before twitter there were fan letters: Dear Mr. Redford

November 12, 1973
Dear Bob Mr. Redford,I just had to write to tell you how hot and sexy talented, I think you are. 
Laura and I bickered over who was more desirable — Robert Redford or Clint Eastwood — with as much fervor as we girls once debated who our favorite Beatle was, Paul or John, George or Ringo. Laura's mother, tiny Corky, curled up in her easy chair with a ciggie and a cup of tea, pronounced both actors 'tall drinks of water'.

This was so long before water became such a desirable commodity that we actually had to buy it by the bottle, back in the seventies when water was still free even in the once desert lands of Los Angeles, that I never quite understood the praise. But yes, Redford could put his shoes under my bed any time, as our mothers might have said, mostly about men whose paths they would likely never cross.

I had it so bad for Robert Redford after seeing The Way We Were; wishing I were Barbara Streisand with her impossibly long elegant hands and nails, bru…

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On Sunset [Listen FREE on iTunes and SoundCloud]

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#7 in the series of stories about that old boyfriend from the 1970's.


On Sunset


When you hear Sunset Blvd, you think of the Strip, the section of the boulevard that curves along the northern ridge of West Hollywood, snaking its way down Sunset from the Chateau Marmont at La Cienega to Doheny, past the clubs that in 1973, I’m still a year too young to get into and I’m too chicken to have a fake ID: the Comedy Store, the Rainbow Room, Gazarri’s, the Whiskey A Go Go. But Sunset doesn’t stop at the Strip. Sunset straightens up and leaves the Strip behind when it comes to Beverly Hills with its mansions and maids waiting for the eastbound bus that takes them home at days end. The road winds westward past the pink Beverly Hills Hotel where stars in convertibles turn in for drinks at the Polo Lounge, slides past the edge of the UCLA campus that I’ll transfer to in another year, swoops over the 405, beyond Bel Air and finally deep into the comfortably upscale neighborhood of Brentwood before it twists and curls its way to the ocean. That’s the Sunset I know best, the portion south of the 405, driving round the bends on warm summer nights in Derek’s GTO. 

Something isn’t right. We’re deep into that comfortably upscale neighborhood of Brentwood, on our way to a party at a friend of Derek’s but he looks away when I ask him ‘what friend?’ ‘whose place?’  

“You’ll see.” Like the location of the party is suddenly a surprise, a secret he’s guiltily guarding. 

We sit at the light at Sunset & Kenter, it’s so quiet along this stretch of Sunset—except for one understated motel on the corner there’s nothing but houses and trees all around—that the clicking of Derek’s left hand turn signal is like the ticking of a cartoon time bomb. It’s so loud it blocks out ‘Nights in White Satin’ playing in the background on Derek’s 8-track tape player. Derek slowly makes the turn then pulls over to the side of Kenter and parks. 

“Are we here?” I don’t see or hear a thing. No lines of parked cars indicating a party, no house alive with music and raucous laughter. Just darkness and a hush. “So where’s the party?”

“Shhh.” Derek takes my hand. “It’s here but we have to be quiet.” He leads me past some bushes down a driveway.

Looking around, I see where the party is. It’s the motel. Derek is taking me to a motel and the party is us. 

He takes a motel key out of his pocket, a blue plastic diamond shape with the number on it in white and makes sure we’re in the right spot. All the rooms look like little cabins, the kind of place I stayed at with my parents when we drove up the coast of California, through Oregon and Washington, to Canada. I’ve never been inside a motel room with anyone but my parents and my brother and sister in my entire life.

Derek pushes open the door and steps aside to let me in first. I half expect him to pick me up and carry me over the threshold but he doesn’t. Inside is an ordinary room, a double bed, a dark red spread. On the pillow a matching red rose. One gently glowing lamp on the bureau lights up the motel’s plastic ice bucket with a bottle of champagne in it. It’s cheap stuff, Andre, the champagne we drink at my house every holiday, laughing that it tastes like a fart, but drinking it anyway. A couple of plastic click-together champagne glasses are set out next to it. 

“When did you do this?!” 

I find I’m as blown away as if he’d strewn a thousand red rose petals in a path from the car to the bed, or hired a pilot to write my name in the sky. 

“Is it okay?”

“It’s more than okay,” and I close the door behind him.



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I’ve been revisiting this old boyfriend in several posts.
Derek's story starts with Boys and Black Coffee.
 Or you can read the whole story in one piece. 

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