Vampira, 1954 or ’55
Yeah, she got a nice send off, Vampira did. The funeral, the media, the long, beautiful researched obituaries. She became again a major figure in death. Reborn in death, almost. With a name like Vampira that’s fitting, I suppose. I used to see her about…she lived not far from us. In one of those old bungalows on what used to be Cecil B Demille’s studio. Where Silver Lake drops into East Hollywood there, it’s all old studio land. Silents, mostly, so if there are ghosts about you couldn’t hear them. A friend of ours used to talk to Vampira as they both waited for the bus on Sunset Blvd. It’s funny, after all the obits and stuff I read I still could not remember who Maila Nurmi was. She was always Vampira here. And she was considered absolutely way cool. Even revered in some circles. Ed Wood helped. The dame playing her did a good job, all that cleavage threatening to spill out of that dress. A black dress that looked like it could explode any minute and alabaster tits and thighs and ass would fill the screen. The male animal watched closely, hoping, hyperventilating, waiting for mother or the wife to go to bed. A man needed his private time, especially when Vampira broke into some old Universal horror flick for a couple wisecracks, some heaving bosom and scary music. There was no internet then. There was Vampira.
Vampira. Funny how show biz names become real names in this town. Hence I am still called Brick by nearly everyone. I never told people to call me Brick. It was just a stage name from my punk rock daze, and everyone naturally just uses stage names, or pen names, or just crazy names they came up one drunken night. In fact…I have friends I have known for years and years whose real names—even their last names—I do not know. I only know their nicknames. My favorite example of this is an old friend of ours, an eccentric–well, that doesn’t capture his essence, eccentric. Let’s just say he’s a character. The sort of character who, at a BBQ at our place back in the 90′s, announced that his name was now the Panther. It was a pen name, I think, a nom de plume, but a full time nom de plume. Don’t call me Jeff, I am the Panther. I don’t know if he’d thought of it beforehand or if it just hit him there, a revelation fueled by beer and coffee and a loud stereo. However it happened, just like that he became The Panther. Not Panther, but The Panther, like the Hague or the Bronx or the Dude abiding. So everyone immediately began calling him The Panther. They still do. He was Jeff coming up the steps to our place, The Panther going back down. A lot of people don’t even know his given name.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Panther. He tends to appear suddenly and mysteriously at our Christmas parties. It’s the Panther someone yells and they crowd around and say hello and laugh and not ask any questions about where he’s been or what he’s doing or what his real name is. Hours later he slips away just as suddenly. No one sees him go. The Panther.
So here’s to all the one name people, the Vampira’s and The Panthers and the zillion others in this town. Yeah, they almost never get famous. You need a last name (or is it a first name?) to get famous. But ya gotta admit, having just the one name is way cooler. You think we’d even be writing this if her name was Vampira Smith?
Well maybe. That was some bosom she heaved.