Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Still In Hollywood

And on the bus today I met the Queen of LA -
At least she said she was, and who am I to say?
... Concrete Blonde

Today I'm going to write about Torrance.

Torrance is the doorman at the Burgundy Room, a bar that's been in the seedy-now-swanky part of Hollywood (Hollywood is a really trashy place, so swanky ain't all that). The Burgundy opened its narrow door in 1919, became a speakeasy during the Dark Ages, and was bought by a very dear friend of mine several years ago. I used to DJ there regularly, and still do sometimes.

Torrance has been working the door for many, many years. He is a tall (like, 7 footer) thin black man, with thick broken glasses and a cap. He has a long face and long hands and a voice so low the ground rumbles a bit beneath you when he talks. He's a bit of a drunk, and he's wickedly intelligent when he wants to be (Howard grads often are), but he's also convinced that the toy skeletons hanging above the bar speak to him.

"Mo, why don't I see you anymore?" he often asks me in that beyond deep baritone of his. "Because I have a real job now, Torrance; it's hard for me to stay up drinking with y'all like I used to when I first moved here." "Well, yes, yes..." he rumbles, "but I sure did appreciate you being here. You know how to play black music for black people." He'd shake his head sadly.

When I DJ'ed at the bar, I always made sure to sneak in some old school soul for Torrance. Toss on a little Lyn Collins or the Temptations, and he's sure to come in and boogie. But at the end of the night, after a few shots of tequila and once the doors are closed, he'd put on my headphones and listen to the Rolling Stones do "Wild Horses." And sing along.

I guess it makes sense then, in a way, that Torrance got snatched up to do some shows with local country thrashers, Soda and His Million Piece Band. Their recent turn with Torrance on college station KXLU got rave reviews and earned them a house packed with hipsters at the Echo in fashionably dingy Echo Park. You know how people say the BellRays are like the MC5 fronted by Tina Turner? Well, this is a bit like a rowdy Squirrel Nut Zippers fronted by Lou Rawls.

And Torrance will be back at the bar tomorrow, doling out his street wisdom to anyone who will listen, and letting only the right people in the bar. If he knows your face, and likes you, you're golden. And he's actually quite a doll.

When I got dumped while I was still working there, Torrance's comment to me was, "Uh uh, if that ex-boyfriend of yours comes around here, you know what I'm gonna do? You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna treat him like a customer." Whoa. Ultimate dis.

Hollywood takes all kinds; Torrance doesn't.