Unless you live under a rock you probably heard that Merv Griffin passed away this week. I worked for Merv for a few years in the early '90s.
I was a pool boy at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills that Merv owned.
At the time, I had given up on the prospect of finding full-time employment in the film industry and had taken the age old task of working part-time shit jobs and working as a freelance journalist part-time.
I had spent the better part of two months working as a bicycle messenger in downtown Los Angeles ferrying documents back and forth between law offices and the district and superior courts. I loved being on my bike all day and loved the outcome of that: I had legs of steel and lungs the size of the Grand Canyon. But the company I worked for treated us messengers like pawns and paid a wage that was barely livable(I think I was making like $6.50 and hour - in 1993 - in LA!). So one day while waiting for a delivery I scanned the Help Wanted classifieds and saw that the Beverly Hilton was hiring for valet drivers. I had spent the better part of my college days working as a courier in DC so I knew how to drive a car. And I figured the tips would be good.
I called in work late the next day and then went to the hotel and filled out application before arriving at work several hours late. The next day I got a call saying that while I wasn't qualified to be a valet because I didn't have experience with models like Bentleys and Rolls Royces. No shit! But the girl in HR did say, "we are looking for a pool attendant."
A couple of weeks later I found myself poolside at the Beverly Hilton passing out towels to guests and cleaning the Olympci size pool in the mornings.
This was the hotel that had the storied Trader Vic's.
This was the hotel that held the Golden Globe Awards.
This was the hotel that Heidi Fleiss got busted running her prostitution ring in.
There we a lot of odd happenings going on around that place and many stories - too many to delve into at this moment.
But I will tell the Christmas Tree story...
One year during Christmas, there was a celebrity tree auction held in the hotel of the lobby. Essentially, this meant that famous people sent their assistants over to one of the several ballrooms designated for tree decoration to do their work. For two weeks the hotel ballrooms were filled with queeny bitches and uptight wenches all trying to "outdo" each other with their fashion sense.
Rosanne was currently bitch of all bitches at this time so she had her personal assistant cover her tree in black roses.
Whoopi Goldberg was currently in some Star Trek movie so hers was appropriately themed.
We pool boys were called in to help move the trees to the lobby since we were under the guidance of the Maintenance Dept. A few assistants made the blunder of not considering the fact that the doorway out of the ballroom was 8 feet so their 10 foot trees had to be leaned through resulting in ornaments and decorations taking the plunge.
One tree in particular caused us a great problem: it was Bob Hope's tree and it was decorated like Carmen Miranda and had all this fruit on top of it thus making it top heavy.
So me and my co-worker very carefully guided this tree down the hall into the lobby where our boss, Rick, Merv Griffin, and a photographer from somewhere were discussing placement of the said trees.
We stood and waited as they labored over something truly not worthy of laboring over and at some moment in the conversation I saw my co-worker place his leg on the dolly. Then in the kind of slow motion you only see in movies, we all watched helplessly as the Bob Hope tree started to slowly fall. I glanced at the faces around me, then back at the tree, then back at the faces.
Everything not only appeared to be happening in slow motion but in total silence as well. A silence broken by the loud pop of ceramic bulbs exploding on impact.
I laughed. Not a giggle laugh. But a hardy bellow and then immediately had to cup my mouth, turn my back and try not to let them see my shoulders shaking.
"Well don't just stand there boys!" screamed Rick. "Clean that up!"
The damage was too hard to overcome and Bob's tree ended up nestled in a corner because that was the only way it could stand up. We wondered how much it went for in the auction.
It was truly one of the funniest and most surreal moments of my life.