There were several remarkable benefits about being hooked up to the social scene of my black LA. The first and most obvious was that there were some awesomely good looking young ladies and gents. As I peek into my Wayback Machine, I remember so many different trends of fashion that it's almost embarassing. The second was our association with celebrity - we were always arm's distance from the truly famous, if not rich, blackfolks in LA. The third was that, well, you were hooked up. Every party you went to, you were likely to see and be seen by somebody you know, or knew you by reputation.
Although I brag on it mostly now, throughout my association with the People of the Dons, I was more or less ambivalent. Rather I should say that I was conflicted. On the one hand, I knew that I wasn't one of the true core members of actual rich kids. I lived on Wellington, not Northridge, and it wasn't even the best part of Wellington. When lots of young adults had a huge room to live in at an attractive address and allowed to save money for their own condos after college, I was paying rent. And I also knew that we had more of our share of cokeheads and dealers, and all of the other dysfunctions of life in the fast lane. Still, I didn't miss an invite if I could help it.
Fame, as I said, is the great plum prize of the scene. And while I myself was somewhat comfortable in the second tier of the broad black LA pecking order, I wasn't often far from the hubs. The problem with fame is that it's all relative. Being the homecoming queen at Dorsey or Crenshaw High meant nothing to the white kids in the Valley, but it meant everything here in the 'hood. I can only communicate what seemed to be those excellent pinnacles at the time. Well, actually, I might as well get some of my own piece out of the way if I'm going to be the John Cheever of View Park. First off, I would say that having some reasonable good looks myself I was part of Makasi Sharo which was widely acknowledged as having put Alpha Phi Alpha back on the map. What's this you say? Makasi Sharo was the name of my pledge line at Cal State Northridge back in 1982. It was the first line at that school's new chapter, Pi Kappa, and established from Gamma Xi at UCLA. We started off with a Jewel Line, meaning seven pledges, just like the number of the original founders. The line was an unusual combination of talents including the star and captain of the track team, the president of the Black Student Union, the president of the Black Business Association, the top pianist at the school, and the three who eventually crossed, myself, D and B. D is The Spy and B is Baby Boy from my profiles of them in The Regulars. We were roomates, line borthers and ace boons in the early 80s.
As it happened, Makasi Sharo, was pledged up and down the state of California. We got the party started wherever we were paraded, but the fact of the matter was that it was 80% Spy. Spy was cursed with killer good looks - not just rock star good looks, movie star good looks. And he had the extraordinarily double-edged quality of saying exactly the truth of every situation. Cracks me up just thinking about it. Anyway, you couldn't be Spy and not be famous - so we partied everywhere. As I often found myself as his negative wingman, keeping the floo-dogs at bay, Spy grew tired of the club scene that still occasionally fascinated me. Of course he was the one that had to remind me to obey the dress code, something I was often unprepared or unwilling to do. I couldn't quite do it right - I actually liked dancing with chicks better than talking to chicks in clubs. Me, I wanted to talk politics anyway.
Of all the party people we encountered over the years, the most notorious was Jim Brown himself. I didn't find myself at a Jim Brown party until I was in my early 20s, but some people I knew had been there as teens. The last one I went to was at the beginning of my association with the Babeless Crew, brothers I hadn't seen since summer at Paul Revere. Some readers at Cobb may know that I happened to skateboard with some of the innovators of that sport back in the summer of '73 on the asphalt berms of Paul Revere Jr. High in Pacific Palisades. I was next in line to get some kid named Peralta to shape me a new wooden board in wood shop - or at least I think that was his name. But I didn't end up at Pali High. Still, that summer I met Tony and John and the man I called Slim along with my old best freind Ebon Grant, who has disappeared somewhere along the way. That summer we were fanatics, as 12-13 year olds tend to be, about Bruce Lee, soccer whistles and those brand new sneakers called Nikes. We ran things at Revere and parted ways - I didn't see them again for 14 years. I was the insult king of Revere that summer, and I still felt it necessary to apologize for that behavior more than a decade later.
That night at the Golden Tale as I apologized to Slim, who would later introduce me to my wife, we reminisced Paul Revere and recalled our P.E. teacher Mr. Merryman who died of a heart attack, not long after he was fired for licentious behavior. I wasn't the only boy to have his ass pinched by the notorious 'Merryfag'. While on the subject of sex, nobody could tell if Baum's real mother was Linda Lovelace as he claimed. But they did recall him having the Z Channel and porno at his place. I never got out to Baum's house, and I never could make the party at the beach that he threw complete with overnight camping. He was going to hook me up with Flip Wilson's daughter. It was one of those sad moments when I realized that I was always so close and yet so far from being top dog in a social scene. There was, of course, no way that my parents would let me go to a sleepover in Pacific Palisades 30 miles from home.
Later, when Bret Easton Ellis wrote 'Less Than Zero', I recalled my close encounter with white rich kids in Palisades, and how we bussed blacks were some of the first outsiders encountering the complete freedom, even anarchy that they enjoyed. How they wore beat up clothes like surfers to disguise their wealth and how they chose insouciance as the form of their privilege. I never forgot how jr high school teachers deferred to them, coming as I had from Holy Name where we could be swatted for showing up out of uniform. Half a world away, we pledged allegiance to the Delco of the United States of Delco and to the Delco for which it stands, one nation under Delco with Delco and Delco for all. Why? Because it was funny as hell and Mr. Schutze in electric shop couldn't do shit about it. We actually played cards in class. The game? Bullshit.
By the time the Cosby 80s were in full swing, Moleman and I had established GDZ Productions. We threw beach parties and I was the marketing manager. My access to all the coolest electronic publication technology at Xerox where I worked allowed me to make some uber-cool flyers. At least I thought so. The significance of the stars we were at arms length from now grew. I mean it seemed like everybody knew Todd Bridges' family back in the day. But now, we knew the Partners In Crime, aka Robert Townsend's homies including David Alan Grier and all them. One dude close to the ambit of the Babeless Crew, Rusty Cundieff was the writer of one of the funniest and smartest black comedies of all time 'Fear of a Black Hat'. Around that time, I was chasing after a young lady who was basically not having me. I tend to be ridiculously intense and when I'm really deep into a babe, I give off stalker vibes. Only my casual flirtations bear fruit. Don't ask me why. Anyway, she was working for HBO and allowed me to hang around some so it was at that time that I got backstage passes to rehearsals to Townsend's upcoming HBO special over at the Wadsworth Theatre. Had you known me at the time, I would have told you that Bobby Brown has this new look and new song called My Prerogative and it's going to blow the roof off. Yes that Bobby Brown.
That was the golden age. For that brief moment in the late 80s, men like Townsend and Cundieff and Spike had attention in the right places. Bands like Tony, Toni, Tone were hot, Janet Jackson was doing "Diamonds", Prince was playing jazz with Madhouse, Miles Davis was playing hiphop, Quincy Jones put Back on the Block in rotation, and GDZ was morphing into The Black Chill, renting cabins up at Big Bear and Jet Skiing. Black people? Jet Skiing? It seemed like an era where we People of the Dons were finally going to get recognized not playing downscale roles, but more like we were in the society we created for ourselves. We had made it through the Crack Wars...
But alas it was not to be. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy E and NWA saw to that. Los Angeles, in the end, became their town, not ours.