We had a Phyllis Diller impersonator crash one of our parties once. No idea who was. He got super stoned and stopped impersonating Phyllis Diller and was just a guy in a frumpy dress and boa staring into space.
People kept asking me who’s the guy in the dress. I said he’s a celebrity impersonator. Who’s he impersonating? Phyllis Diller. Phyllis Diller? But Phyllis Diller is funny, they said, and all that guy is doing is sitting there. He’s stoned, I said. Phyllis Diller smokes pot? I couldn’t answer. I have no idea if Phyllis Diller smoked pot. I just found recently out she played the piano. I doubt the celebrity impersonator played piano, though you never know, this is Hollywood.
Well, this is Silver Lake, actually, part of Greater Hollywood. A suburb of Hollywood, on Hollywood’s eastside. East Hollywood remains as it has always been, working class, the opposite of its glitzy westside opposite. But just beyond East Hollywood were Los Feliz, full of movie stars, and Silver Lake, full of character actors and gay bars. It was in a Los Feliz rock’n’roll bar on Hollywood Blvd that an old queen in eye make up and billowing floral print fell onto the stool next to me and told us all the story of his life, how he’d been raised just down the street by Tallulah Bankhead, and what a wonderful, mad, sodden old lust bucket she’d been and how he still missed her every day, and then surprised me with a kiss on the mouth and departed. Sorry about that, the bartender said. I shrugged. It’s Hollywood. Not long afterward a bunch of us were hanging out in a living room after a raucous weekend at the Sunset Junction Street Fair. Someone fired up a joint. Is that pot I smell? came a loud voice, and a drag queen flounced through the door. Someone handed her the joint and she took a deep hit and exploded in giggles and sass. She used to be a dancer, or do wardrobe, or make up, I can’t remember, and there were some hysterical Chaka Khan stories. She loved us girls, the drag queen said. He took a few more hits off the joint and fled in the night, thanking us for the hospitality. Never saw her (well, him) again. You know, I could go on with drag queen stories. I never knew I had so many. That’s Silver Lake. Or was. They’re few and far between now. I can’t remember the last time I saw a guy in a dress, actually. I have no idea if they’re congregating somewhere else or if they’re a dying species.
Phyllis Diller left after a couple hours. Had a great time, he said. He took the stairs a little uneasily, but made it to the bottom and wobbled off into the night. He left his boa. I’d have returned it to him, but there was no internet then. Nowadays you can google Phyllis Diller impersonators and there he’d be, available for parties and bar mitzvahs. Back then they just disappeared, stoned, into the night.