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Breakfast at Denny's

by Sara Jacobelli

In Hollywood to do some filming for Rowena's Workout Video, we sat at Denny's counter in search of a cheap breakfast. As usual, we got more than we bargained for.

Rob ordered coffee, I drank some hot tea. I eagerly read The Dagger's review out loud from Burping Lula, a zine I found while rummaging around in Peter's office. "Easy to read and always packing a punch, The Dagger stands out as a quality zine." "What the fuck is Burping Lula?" Rob asked. "Beats me." I stirred sugar into my tea. "It's published out of Richmond, Virginia. Hey, you think it's easy getting a good write-up in Burping Lula? Some of these reviews are as tough as Dorothy Parker's."

The waitress handed us the menus. "Take you time, OK?" she said. A sixtyish guy sitting on the stool next to me suddenly spoke. "Just remember," he said. "Dinero, Pacino, all those guys. They got it made. But---they gotta watch out! Remember---Joe told ya!" His accent still sounded vaguely Jewish, Brooklyn---though he probably hadn't been to New York in forty years.

"Oh yeah?" I looked at Joe. I liked him. He reminded me of the old time barkers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. A vanishing breed. Larry Fontaine. Joe Howard. Bourbon Street Red. Little Al DeMarco. Big, sad brown eyes in friendly, worn-out faces. Tired stories, corny jokes. Guys who'd been around the fringes of show-biz forever. Singers, dancers, comedians, actors. You couldn't call them has-beens. More like never-weres. Tough guys, good guys, rough around the edges guys. I remember asking Joe Howard for a dollar once. I was a gopher, running errands for the doormen and strippers. "Here kid," he said, handing me the buck. He looked sternly into my eyes. "But don't ever ask again." Good advice. These guys knew Life like they knew show business. Just a hustle to survive.

"Dinero. Pacino. All them Big Stars. They gotta watch out," Joe continued. "They gotta watch out fer one thing. They gotta Watch Out fer the Overlords. The OVERLORDS can take everythin you got. You---" He pointed at us. "You guys. Yer makin a movie. They could take your cameras, movie cameras, tape recorders, typewriters, everythin." Joe waved his arms with excitement. He looked at me. "She knows."

"Who?" Rob and I asked, simultaneously. "The IRS?"

"No, nah. BIGGER. Bigger then all that." Joe shook his head. "She knows."

"The government--the police--the CIA---the FBI?" Who?" I kept guessing.

"Bigger," Joe said. "The Overlords. Dinero. Pacino. All them guys. They got money, power, success...everything. But they still gotta watch out fer one thing. The Overlords. Remember--" he winked. "Joe told ya."

"Well--I guess I don't haveta worry, Joe. I don't have money, success, power...any of that." I shrugged. "Maybe I'm better off."

I scanned the menu looking for the cheapest breakfast.

"You will though." Joe's voice was suddenly soft. "You will. You'll make it Big. Remember,Joe told ya." I fantasized renting a funky Hollywood apartment, writing day and night without being disturbed. Like Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett staying at the Garden of Allah, when Nathaniel "Pep" West was the manager and they could charge the cheap rooms and awful food. I pictured myself wandering the Hollywood streets at all hours soaking up atmosphere and dialogue.

"What are you gonna get to eat?" Rob asked, breaking into my reverie.

"Well," I said, "This cheddar cheese omelet for $2.99 looks like the best deal. It comes with hashbrowns and toast. Not bad."

"Yeah---I'll get that too," Rob said. He drank his coffee while flipping through Burping Lula.

I knew what he'd say later. Something about the nuts always finding me.

"Yeah--cheddar cheese omelet fer $2.99. Good deal. I'll get that too," Joe said. "She knows."

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