The Skilled Raconteur

I have been in LA long enough to learn that, if you shoot up Cahuenga out of Hollywood, you don’t have to merge onto the freeway unless you want to and can ride the surface street all the way to Barham, my magic carpet home.

For all practical purposes, LA is a big speakeasy, full of codes and secret passwords, hidden entrances, great mysteries…ghosts. All that amazing Ray Chandler stuff didn’t come from nowhere.

Foggy lately, and I like it. Gumshoe weather. Seems to fit the season and water the poinsettias, even as we wait-wait-wait for another good and much-needed rain. The fog greens things up, which is a sign of the holidays in Los Angeles. That and all the fried Christmas decorations in the parking lots at the malls.

Is everything better fried? Not Christmas wreathes.

In the name of hydration, I had a couple of gin martinis with my pal Roswell the other night, deep in the belly of the beast, at that new place Musso & Frank, which is sort of a clubhouse of Old Hollywood.

We warmed our hands on gin martinis. Roswell is a raconteur, spinner of tales, teller of jokes. He orders a martini as if reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, with reverence, and olives on the side and citrus along the rim. The barkeep got it mostly right.

Roswell and me, plus a couple of martinis to keep us warm.

Then he told an Oprah Winfrey story that made her come across as both a bit of a monster and a bit of a genius, and you could see from the story why she’s had a career.

The short version: A TV producer, in describing how slender a little house was, said during the taping of a local show that “this house is so skinny you actually have to go outside to watch ‘Oprah,’” or something to that effect, which is a great line, but apparently displeased the empress.

The punch line, as delivered by Winfrey, was “elephants never forget.”

I’ll tell you the full story some time over a martini at Musso & Frank. If the place lasts. In LA, the first 100 years are always the easiest.

Ran into my old pal Glover there too, and there was a guy ordering wine who looked like George Lucas.

Roswell, meanwhile, is personal chauffeur to a Very Important Person. And I think to myself, “I feel sorry for rich people sometimes, they’re so isolated. But if you can have a chauffeur like Roswell, that might make all that money worthwhile.”

He’s a sagacious sort, can read the mood, and knows when to chat with a passenger and when to shut up. He’s the sort of driver you’d find in an old Katharine Hepburn movie, the kind she’d pour her heart out to when Clark Gable duped her.

And he orders a good martini, then picks up the check and saunters down Hollywood Boulevard like he owns this town.

And tonight, he did.

Cutting it a bit short today as I race off to Vegas with my buddy Marky-Mark to catch a football game. As it happens, my sister will be in Vegas too. She’s been married to John Madden for nearly 40 years. So there’ll be some stories. Not good ones. Just stories. Mostly, my goal is to keep Marky Mark out of the sports books and the seedier clubs and not to wager the mortgage on Syracuse basketball. Wish me luck. I’ve failed at lots of easier tasks. Meanwhile, have a great weekend. Please don’t forget that we’ve re-stocked the gin & tonic glasses, this year’s hottest holiday gift. Info here: ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!

14 thoughts on “The Skilled Raconteur

  1. Great photo; you’re a handsome dude. Time to find a mate. Not me..I’m 87 and
    somewhat happily married. But you are a catch! Love reading your e-mail
    columns.

  2. Cahuenga – surface street to Barham – that was my way home for 10 years when I worked in Hollywood! Had to leave work early once because I was sick….I threw up all over my car at that traffic light where you turn right on to Barham. Thanks for another great story!

  3. Good luck in Vegas, always cover the spread and bet red. Wish us luck too, we’re on the “preferred subscriber” Ticketmaster list to get Adele tickets. The El Segundo hike was great fun – though I punked out on the Mai Tais and had a beer, but Monika made up for it and had two. I’m gifting some of your G&T glasses this year, they actually work for Baileys and Brandy just as well (my pre-dinner cocktail of choice) Sending love and blessings,
    Your pal,
    Judy
    PS sorry about Oregon, there’s always next year…
    PPS John Madden is your brother-in-law?for real?

  4. Anyone who knows what George Lucas looks like, has an affection for an alley of traffic lights like the Caheunga to Barham connection, Mussos at Franks watering hole, then has to run off to Vegas on a game errand in The World Capital of Games is a man for the times: busy integrating a dis-associative world. If he can spell Omichron(!), he ought to consider running for president when el senor Biden has decided he has had enough. Such a man would name The Chicago Cubs our national team, Gin our National spirit, cooking our national pastime, and Oprah our queen in residence. All those perpetually confused would do well to listen to him, which is quite a few million, so it seems.
    On second thought, he might even do better on The Supreme Court. Now there’s a place where such a man could really make a difference. I wonder how many, if any, of the august justices have ever lived with a wolf ? I rest my paw. Christmas is coming and I don’t want to miss the parade down Caheunga; nor do you.

  5. JAYZUS, Erskine. And here I thought, after 71-and-a-half spins around the Sun, I was finally flying UNDER the radar! What was Bill Murray’s great line? … “Stop it! You’re scaring the straights!”

  6. All right. The guy is losing it. Bench him. Who else we got. That new kid? Finn? Bring her in.

  7. Chris – just got back from Vegas over T-Day week with, among others, JoJo beau, Jason, who is a sports [mainly football and basketball] betting nut – we went to Circa – huge TV along the entire pool – an got a “free” seat to watch a billion games the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day – I lost a shirt and part of my pants, but then made it back at digital Black Jack at the Venetian – go figure. Also, I bought your gin club glasses years ago and upon arrival back in CA, used them at a surprise visit from some friends and they were a great hit – straight up Crown Royal over the rocks was a real beauty in those glasses. Stay well. Bobby B.

  8. I get nervous when Caroll is not the first commenter. Should I call the hospitals? Police? In the end everything is better with a Mount Gay gimlet. Even peanut butter on stale crackers. Just sayin’….

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