SHALLOW END OF THE BEVERLY HILLS POOL


In this segment I am in my mid-twenties, living alone in a sparse studio apartment in Westwood, and I do not have a boyfriend. On Saturday mornings, my father would call me before I had decided what to do.

“Irv has room in the cabana today. What time do you want to go over?”

Irving was my father’s walking partner. Whenever my father wanted to walk, he called Irv. They discussed business deals, and talked a lot about Marvin Davis. That meant nothing to me, because I did not want to know my father’s business. Irv could have been a pinup for everything Beverly Hills. He was George Hamilton, evenly tanned all year, dressed in seasonal custom suits, Gucci loafers, carried a Gucci attaché, drove a Cadillac and like my father, dined out five nights a week. Irv reserved a poolside cabana at the Beverly Hills Hotel most weekends to play rummy, maintain his tan and watch the women.

“Daddy, I was going to do something else today.”

“Yea, like what?”

“I wanted to see a movie.”

“Well, you can see a movie anytime, Irv doesn’t always have room for you and I’ve made special arrangements, so for Christ’s sake take advantage of it.”

“Who else will be there?”

“Friends, I don’t know who exactly, what the hell does that matter.”

“How come you never go?”

“What the hell do I need to go for—I’m not looking to meet anybody, and I can’t take the sun anymore, you know that.”

I conceded in going, otherwise my father would slam the phone down on the receiver and refuse to talk to me the rest of the weekend, or maybe the whole week depending on his mood.

The first few times I went, it was educational, on the art of superficiality. After that, I denounced the routine charade of women imitating movie stars and men mimicking movie moguls.

Reluctantly I submitted to the agony of my own disguise. I dressed up in a ghastly bathing suit ensemble I bought at Saks, and presented my forced smile to Irv on Saturday.

“Hey, there she is–come in sweetheart, that’s Al Smiley’s daughter,” he said to his friends, and without looking up from their hands, they shouted hello. Irv stood up in his Clorox white shorts and matching shoes and kissed me on the cheek. His skin smelled of coconut oil and cologne.

“Luellen honey, take a lounge, the towels are in the dressing room, what’s Dad doing today?”

“I don’t know, why doesn’t he come here?”

“I’ve asked him a million times, haven’t I Sammy, why doesn’t Al come over here. You can’t argue with Al, right Luellen?”

“Right Irv.”

“Tell your Dad I saw Jimmy here today.”

“Jimmy who?”

“He’ll know, OK, Luellen, you all right – I gotta get back to my hand, before these guys start cheating,” and the laughter of all three filled the room.

I undressed in the dressing room, lathered up with sunscreen, applied more make-up, and wrapped my hair in a terry cloth bandana. Then I self-consciously stretched out on the yellow terry cloth lounge and closed my eyes. The sunlight bounced off Irv’s sun reflector, and within minutes, my entire body was steam bath wet.

“Sun’s great isn’t it?”

“It’s hotter than Las Vegas in here, I’m going in the pool.” The men laughed again, without taking their eyes from their cards.

Only a handful of bathers broke the surface, almost everyone waded. Even under water, I could hear the faint resonating echo of the paging operator, calling guests to the telephone. From the shallow end, I watched the poolside games people play in Hollywood’s desirable circles. Some girls were my age or younger, and they gleefully participated in the poolside masquerade. Beneath my scorn and disapproval, I imagined myself wearing a strapless bikini, tanned and glowing in my strut around the pool, calling out ‘darling, let’s have lunch,’ to some handsome actor.

From the pool, I would then return to the cabana, dry off, slide the lounge upright, and try to read. All of my actions discouraged interest, because I was positive, I would not like anyone, and if someone did come over, he’d have to cross over Irv, and eventually my father, and none of this seemed to have a happy ending.

At the end of the day, I reported to my father on the days events.

“Well, did you meet anyone?” he asked.

“No, not this time.”

“Well you keep going, you will if you give someone the chance.”

“Daddy, I have other things I like to do on the weekends too.”

“Yea, like what?”

“I like to be with my friends.”

“Well, this is an opportunity to meet a different caliber of person. You haven’t had much luck on your own.”

“Daddy they’re all so phony, it’s not like it used to be when you went there in the forties.”

“How do you know? You’re something else! You think you know better than I do? Do you know how many young girls would chop off their leg to be sitting in a private cabana at the Beverly Hills Hotel? What do you think I’m doing this for? It’s not for my benefit; I’m sitting over here trying to keep things going, amidst all this turmoil. I want you to meet the right sort of man who can help you, and introduce you to some real advantages.”

“Daddy I’m doing fine, I like my job and….”

“Yea, yea, I won’t ask you again. I won’t even think of it, you don’t deserve it. I’ll invite a girl who will appreciate the offer.” While he tried to ensure my financial security, I molded myself into an idealistic, rebellious fool.

What I did take advantage of were my father’s dinner parties. The men that we dined with did not go to an office, or meet in conference rooms with secretaries taking notes. They took their meetings in restaurants, and delicatessens. They never ordered off the menu, and fought over the check. They witnessed corruption the rest of us do not even know exists, and they killed one another. They are far more interesting than the Gucci men at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Between the two groups, I favored the gangsters, which was of interest to any therapist I have met in the past.

Recently I have learned that during the time of these cabana visits, many of my father’s friends were under investigation with the government. My father was also under federal investigation, and that is why he did not join us at the Beverly Hills Cabana.

Any dice to throw Email: folliesls@aol.com.

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