Hearing about someone else’s panic attack, I’m well aware, is every bit as much fun as hearing about his dream or acid trip, but for what you’re being paid to read this, maybe you can try to muster a little patience.
I’d been in a rock and roll band called The Pits (as in “You’re the Pits,” my answer to Cole Porter’s “You’re the Tops”). If I’d been a much better singer, we might have given Cheap Trick a run for their money. If I wasn’t much of a singer, though, I was really good at posing for group photos (I'm on the left), and an Australian TV producer was so impressed with The Pits’ publicity photo that he offered me a job hosting a music program he intended to shoot in the UK. During the shoot, I became friendly with the lead cameraman, though he too was Australian. Several weeks after we’d completed the shoot and returned to Los Angeles, said cameraman threw a party, at which the shyness that had plagued me earlier in life paid me a surprise visit, and I didn’t lower the boom on the attractive Asian woman guest I fancied. What I did do was smoke a great deal of very potent pot, which I can always rely on to make me some combination of wildly self-amused, horny, or paranoid.
I left the party alone, mentally kicking myself for not having approached the attractive Asian woman, and headed home. I got about a mile, heading west on Wilshire Blvd., just east of the big Veterans Administration cemetery, when I found myself unable to catch my breath, drenched with sweat, and holding my hands over my ears to keep from being deafened by the gigantic — and we’re talking continent-sized — bass drum my heart had become.
My sister and her dental student new husband lived nearby at the time. I managed to get myself over to her place in something resembling one piece. As she drove me home to Ocean Park, I resisted the temptation to grab the steering wheel and point us at oncoming traffic. As I retired, I was pretty sure I’d gone crazy, but when I awoke nine hours later, it was business as usual. I was crazy only to the extent that I was terribly depressed, swamped by feelings of worthlessness and dread.
It’s remarkable that I’ve suffered only that one episode, as I spend around 100 days in a typical year so frantically miserable as to be unable to conceive of getting through the next 10 minutes.
As I write this, on the second floor of the spectacularly gorgeous West Hollywood public library, with its fantastic floor-to-ceiling windows, I am looking at the 9000 Sunset buidling, in which I did my banking when I was young and rich and pretty, and Internet banking was a million years away. Two sexy tellers used to seem to try to compete for the privilege of handling my transaction (did you see what I did there?). A few weeks ago, for no good reason, I recalled that one of them was called Sue-Robin L—. I googled her name and discovered that she’d died a couple of years before, at a grandmother’s age.
Sometimes one longs to return to a time before Google.
I don’t think it will be very long before I am able to remember a particular sexy bank teller’s name from decades before, but not my own room number in some mercilessly beige convalesent hospital, in which no one expects me actually to convalesce. This paragraph’s for you, Glen Campbell.