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Monday, July 14, 2008

Chlorine, Sunscreen and Steve Miller

The smell of those three combined will always and forever conjure up memories of my days as a pool boy.

No shit.

I was a pool boy at the Beverly Hilton back in the early '90s.

At the time, I sort of hated my job.

You see I moved to Los Angeles to get into the film business but after a short foray doing p.a. work I landed a gig being a gopher-turned-copywriter. The office was full of characters but this isn't a post about working at Davis*Glick.

After I left that job I bounce around doing more p.a. work and even had a stint working as a fact checker and proofreader at Sassy's little bro publication Dirt before finding myself as a bicycle messenger in downtown Los Angeles - which quite possibly could have been the most interestingly shitty job I've ever worked.

Looking to get out of the messenger racket, I skipped work one day and applied for a job as a valet parking attendant at the Beverly Hilton. I had spent semester breaks and summer vacations as a car courier in the Metro DC area driving various makes of cars along the way. After I filled out my application I sat in the Human Resources office for an interview in which I was politely declined that position because of my inexperience driving Bentleys and Rolls Royces.

The next day when I got home from 10 hours in the saddle, there was a message on my answering machine which asked if I wanted to be a pool attendant.

I said yes.

My first day on the job I found out the hotel was the place Heidi Fleiss got busted.

I soon would discover that the place was ground zero for a lot of things.

The hotel was owned and operated by Merv Griffin and I was told, in no uncertain terms, that Merv liked to eat pool side everyday and that he had a batch of CDs that you were required to put in rotation on a daily basis. Two that I remember were Steve Miller's Greatest Hits 1974-1978 and Elton John's Greatest Hits 1976-1986. And if you didn't have these CDs in rotation or had switched them out for something else (I once brought in Dinosaur Jr.), you would get a visit from management.

Management hated me because they thought I had the best job in the world because all I did was hang around the pool all day. That's because they weren't there in the early morning to see me take the better part of two hours to clean the tiles, sweep the deck and vacuum the Olympic-sized pool.

I also had to clean the fountain.

And of course service the need of every douchebag who stayed at the pool from celebrities and wanna-be celebrities to contestants on one of the many shows Merv created or produced.

Oh and toss in some soccer hooligans.

A few months into the job it was obvious why I had gotten hired: I was white... and Merv liked boys. But there was a hitch at the onset - I had a tattoo on my calf. I'll never forget the hilarity at having to bandage up my calf every morning for two weeks before I finally convinced the assistant managed that a sore that doesn't heal is far more offensive than a tattoo on the calf of a young man working at a pool in Beverly Hills.

One day while I was sweeping the deck of the ever present flower pedals, I heard the sound of a band coming from the ballroom. The hotel is the host for the Golden Globes and several other industry events so it wasn't unusual to see celebs walking around or hearing noise coming from the ballroom as it readied itself for some monstrous event. But on this day I had to draw myself closer because I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The band was sound checking with Spinal Tap's Big Bottom.

The next day I read in one of the trade magazines that AFI honored director Rob Reiner the night before and that - yes - it indeed was Spinal Tap that performed.

There are many stories, too numerous to tell in one blog post.

I wrote about the Christmas tree fiasco last summer after Merv passed away.

And there was the time Dr. Ruth demanded I get her an LA Times which found me running all over the hotel trying to find a copy (it was late afternoon and most of the comp issues had disappeared) only to return to find Dr. Ruth asleep and shortly thereafter, the LA Times in the deep end of the pool.

In 1994, California - and its Rose Bowl in Pasadena - hosted the World Cup. This was a nightmare for me. During that World Cup I would come to work to find the entire contents of some one's fruit platter floating in the pool (thrown from the balcony I assumed), ejaculate in the gym bathroom, or broken glass at the bottom of the pool.

Good times.

Although Argentinian women were a sight to behold.

The Germans were rude and poor tippers.

And the Columbians all wore mock afros like Carlos Valderrama. But they soon would morn another teammate who was murdered for having scored a goal on his home team. Legend has it that the gunman hollered "Goooooooooooooooooooooooooool!" for each of the 21 bullets he shot into Escobar's body.

Another time I had a visit from la mafioso, the mafia, when one guy paid me handsomely to make sure his wife never stayed into the sun too long while he was handling some business throughout the day and then there was the Saudi-American kid George - a liaison for some sheik who was pissing away his oil money at the hotel - who approached my fellow pool boys and I and asked if we would be male strippers for the ladies in the sheik's entourage. It seemed the ladies had grown tired of the men and their strippers and wanted to do something as payback. The hilarious thing was that we didn't even have to get naked, rather just show some skin that was deemed inappropriate to be seen by their beliefs.

I passed on that one, as well as the numerous propositions I got from old men(most "straight" men from the Midwest or deep South) for "massages" and by the Costa Rican hairdresser who worked at the salon on-site who wanted to know how big my "pee pee" was on a almost daily basis.

My colleagues and I had develop a certain pool boy speak that would allow us to openly comment on guests without them having a clue as to what we were talking about. One of the others guys would routinely order room service out by the pool and sign the number of the suite of one of the guests. Unlike my recent gas station attendant confession, these will remain secret only to be reveal within the pages of a book or through the courier font of a screenplay.

Looking back, it wasn't all that bad of a job. I made close to 30k, had health insurance and great benefits, two free meals a day and could stay at any Hilton for free if not really cheap. I also used my job to set up a complimentary dinner at Trader Vic's the night I proposed to my wife although since she suspected I would propose during that dinner, I gave the double-pump fake and waited until we drove out to the beach at Malibu after dinner to get on my knee.

But it was the tediousness of fighting boredom that got to me. During the non-summer months, there'd be a string of days upon days where you wouldn't see a single person to give a towel to, place a cushion on the lounge or sell overpriced Coppertone to yet you we confined to your post lest some guest did miraculously appear and expect to find some 90210 cast-off waiting to serve them hand and foot.

I've been told recently that the hotel is slanted to be razed and subsequently erased from history so that they can erect something else in its place.

Because that's how Hollywood sends its loved ones out to pasture...


Matt said...

"I saw a wolf with a Chinese menu in his hands." Awesome

greg said...

drinking a pina colada from Trader Vic's no less.

AMR said...

Did Merv ever ask to sink you with his pink torpedo?

How old were you? Sounds like a dream job for a twenty-something but

Anonymous said...

The celebrity voyeur in me either (a) hates you or (b) wants to be you, although I suspect the reality of the job wasn't everything I'm making it out to be in my head.

Besides, I have a vagina so I probably wouldn't have lasted long there.

Suggadelic said...

Damn, man... A cool thing indeed to add to your already impressive resume of life. It may even be worth enduring Merv the perv just to be in close proximity to a live performance of "Big Bottoms," (not to mention poolside attendance for hot Argentinian women )...

Dan E said...

What does Steve Miller smell like?

greg said...

ha! leave it to an editor to ask that question.

the answer would be "ass."

steve miller smells like ass.

Whit said...

Right across the street is the park that George Michael got busted in. That place his too important to get rid of.