I never saw a camera crew, or even Geraldo Rivera, which surprised me, considering the magnitude of the evening. It was, indeed, the happening of the year, "a real hoo-haw," as my dear friend Daffy would refer to it in the years thereafter. Of course, technically, I wasn't invited; I never was. I just happen to know a lot of bouncers. Nonetheless, that night I knew everyone in the room. They weren't familiar with each others' accomplishments, in many cases, but I knew them all very, very well. Best of all, for once, everybody seemed to know me. I belonged; that was new.
The haze had already become knife-worthy by the time I arrived, nine-thirtyish, with the master sleuth at my side. Holmes and I had split a cab on the way over, as I recall, although he graciously permitted me to tip the fellow, as per his usual practice. Once inside, however, his instinctive curiosity led him to all corners of the establishment, occasionally seeking me out for background data concerning "... the blatant mating rituals of the somewhat chemically altered and totally plowed -- inclusive," or to leech an ale or two from my eternally party-stricken pocketbook.
The airwaves were graced with an abundance of old Sinatra and Nat King Cole hits -- everyone said so -- and the two crooners couldn't move without some teary-eyed female offering, at the very least, her heart to one or both of them. Frank, who was sipping Manhattans with one hand buried in his suit pocket behind the DJ booth most of the evening, staged an emergency press conference after My Way was played for the third time in twenty minutes to announce that he wished to purchase a round of drinks for the house, with special attention paid to many of the ex-wives of Mickey Rooney, who was a little short that night.
"Unforgettable ..." the Nat-man warbled, as I noticed our beloved sixteenth president sitting alone at the end of the bar, slumped over what appeared to be one of the most potentially lethal strawberry daiquiris I'd ever seen. Lincoln was cursing Dewey and his decimals in the key of R at the top of his lungs, never taking his eyes off the blonde, two stools down. Honest. He was tipping in pennies, which didn't exactly have the bartender clicking his heels in glee, either. And the more Norma Jean ignored him the more ol' Abe drank -- silver-tongued devil, he --until she finally left with some other ex-chief-of-staff. Sigmund Freud and Rod Serling were standing a few feet away, hiding behind Peter Lupus, taking notes. Michael Jordan was buying shots of anything red for those showing an interest in purchasing a pair of sneakers from the fine selection he kept on hand in the trunk of his Jag.
As mentioned, smoke was getting in everyone's eyes that night, but Bogey told me he saw Steve McGarrett on the other side of the pinball machines, giving a temperance lecture. Word is, he had Danno tied up on a leash near the dance floor, where the Five-O second-banana enjoyed a fulfilling evening of scratching himself where you're not supposed to and barking at girls. Bo Derek thought he was oh-so-cute and tried to rub his belly, which probably wasn't the most intelligent thing she'd ever done, since Danno is, and always will be, a cop. Bo was booked before she could count to 10. She acted like she was angry (although it was hard to tell) and tossed her cocktail at him, glass included, and instinctively began to disrobe. I distinctly remember this because I'd been discussing pre-Cenozoic east-Asian drug refinement techniques with Holmes over a go at the dart board, at which he took two games out of three. About that same time there was a confrontation by the door.
"... I'm terribly sorry, sir, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to check your hat and ..."
"But as I told you, young man, it is not a hat. First you make me leave the boy wonder in the Bat-car because of some archaic liquor law, and now this. What a lousy party."
"I truly am sorry, Mr. Batman ..."
"Hell, Robin's been dipping into the Bat-fridge for years. I had a few belts with him before we left. Just last night he and Aunt Harriet got downright batty sweeping out the wine cellar while Bat-girl and I were ... well ..."
"Please try to understand our policy ..."
"Policy, schmolicy. I hate going to parties with Alfred. He doesn't use deodorant."
"... all hats ..."
"It's not a damn hat!"
"... masks, hats, headgear, whatever ... ya gotta check that stuff, sir."
"Aw, that's a crock a' bat-beans ..."
And so on. Ali showed with a couple ex-con buddies of his; things sorta mellowed out after that. He spent a good portion of the evening ducking Howard Cosell and introducing himself to anything that moved.
"Hey, nice to see ya," he'd say. "Ya know, y'all is one lucky dude. You is havin' the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the greatest. Joe Frazier ain't the greatest. Uh-uh. Jerry Quarry sho' ain't no damn greatest. You be toastin' the greatest of aaaaaall time." Then he'd order you a drink and walk away without paying for it. Everybody liked him.
Holmes was singularly spunky that night. He and Cosell got into it over something with many, many syllables but I have my doubts as to whether or not anybody ever figured out what the big deal was. Even Noah Webster looked confused. He accused them both of making up words and bawled his eyes out in the can for forty-five minutes. Thoreau stuck his head into the conversation between the two thesaurus-heads, thinking he might shed some light on the topic at hand. He was soundly ignored as well, got steamed, and left. Harpo "told" me later that everyone hated Henry, partly because he was walking around fishing garnishes out of ladies' drinks with his lips, but mostly because he was weird. I found Groucho making a pitch for Cher out on the dance floor. They were doing the fox-trot. Well ... he was.
"... candlelight dinners, soft music, booze ..."
Cher gagged as politely as she could muster on short notice. She was doubled over for a minute-and-a-half, Groucho patting her lightly on her back the entire time, feeling for the hook. Unfortunately, she was clad that evening in a lovely sequin shoulder holster and a strategically adorned roll of stamps, and was struggling with her return address.
"... midnight strolls, twelve-thirty strolls ... come to think of it, it's been years since I did the stroll ... dip!"
"Ouch!" Cher coughed. "What the hell?"
"Why don't we run off like two fools in love ... or, if you prefer, just like two fools. In fact, let's not even run." Groucho assumed the Romeo stance. "Oh my sweet, sweet petunia ... will you marry me?"
"Can't you see that I love you?"
Cher regained her composure. "Hey pal, whad'ya think ya got here, some kinda desperate schmuck? I ain't no wide-eyed kid, ya know. Just what do I get outta this deal anyway? You?"
Groucho didn't miss a beat. "Oh, so you wanna know what you get outta this deal, eh? Alright honey, you bet your life. George ... oh George ... tell this little doll what she's won."
Of course, he was half in the bag when he got there. He and Letterman had been washing down amino acids with Robitussin in the parking lot since noon and neither was in any danger of being mistaken for normal any time soon. And Herrs Hitler und Dracula should have been ashamed of themselves for some of the unusual grief they were putting Miss Piggy through; very abnormal pork behavior, indeed. Marlon Brando got into a particularly physical debate with himself concerning the tipping of elderly cocktail waitresses with flabby triceps during happy hour. I still maintain he was grossly overacting but he did bring up several excellent points. Robin Hood and his merry men (they stretched merriment to its limits that night) found it difficult finding worthy beneficiaries of their line of work during the evening's festivities, so Robin -- crafty devil he -- stopped swiping gratuities off the bar about midnight, paid off his Carte Blanche bill, treated the boys to a night at the local brothel, and spent the remainder of the evening snapping bra straps and engaging himself in other acts of radical merriment. He and Paul Bunyan were slam-dancing with a couple biker types last I saw and don't think he didn't escape that little rug-cutting without multiple fractures. My Consolidated Splint stock rose nine-and-a-half points the next day and Little John sucked his thumb for a week after visiting the big cheese in intensive care, with Robert Young at his side, taping a coffee commercial. It was sad.
Naturally, like all wing-dings of such dimension, there were other, more subtle casualties of the evening. Pee Wee Herman played DJ most of the night and offended many, many people. Suffice to say, we were never quite sure what we might be treated to next (aside from Sinatra's Greatest Hits on a regular basis) and Pee Wee was doing some pretty disgusting things with the microphone to Gladys Knight and one other big Pip. Ed Sullivan bitched constantly about the entertainment and was overheard telling Beethoven that he wished someone would "... turn the damn trash down a few hundred decibels ..." so he could hear himself be boring. Ludwig indicated that he didn't understand, then screamed, "CRANK ON DEM TUNES!" much louder than was necessary. Somehow, Peter O'Toole and Timothy Leary managed to stumble into the DJ booth at one point of the evening, held Pee Wee and the Pips hostage with their breath, and demanded the international destruction of all disco-scented pre-amps sold between '77 and '84. They also wanted a jet filled with marijuana, two cases of Jack Daniels, Leon Redbone's phone number, and insisted that Colombia be declared our fifty-first state before last call, or they threatened to blow up the world by breathing on the Middle East. The brave mountie, Dudley Do-Right, briefly intervened but was largely ineffective, due primarily to his persistent irrational wailings of "I'll save you, Nell!" to the dumb-struck Herman who, by that time, was so weirded out he seemed normal. Fortunately for all involved, O'Toole passed out in less than five minutes and Leary forgot what he was doing after siphoning disc cleaner through a straw and he wandered away, blessing us as he passed, which was a nice parting touch, but altogether meaningless. When I chatted with Darwin later he mentioned that, earlier, he'd whipped "... some saggy-eyed hippie ..." twenty-seven times in a row before his opponent so much as blinked, much less scored; it had to have been Leary. Charley was also socially butterflying his new book, Alcohol And Other Theories Of Anebriation, due out later that month, often politely excusing himself in search of the more glandular of the species, with Leonard Nimoy. He eventually ditched ol' big ears by ducking behind Peter Lupus until the coast was clear, then proceeded to run into Cher, who had long since given Groucho the secret word and was perched on a bar stool in front of the men's room offering "Pick me! Pick me!" to every high school quarterback that walked by. The Fonz had taken a whack at her earlier, only to be told that he reminded her of some other greasy character she used to hang out with and that if he didn't leave her alone, she was going to hum the theme from "Shaft" to his groin through a silly-straw; she was running 'em through a revolving door that night. She did think that Bullwinkle was "... kinda cute ..." but, after all, Bullwinkle is a moose. Rumor has it she ended up with Shakespeare. I suppose she got caught up in his charm, mesmerized by his eloquence, swept away by those old world manners ... although I couldn't help but notice that his fly was open all night.
As one might well imagine, I was having the time of my life. Even the normally subdued Holmes emitted a hoot or two or three when Martin and Lewis showed up, not only together, but sporting dry-look perms and sipping root beer from specimen bottles. Hef and a few gals from the home stopped by to alter the atmospheric pressure in the room. Don Juan and I were swapping prom night lies by the ladies' biff when Miss' June through October, 2009, went in for a powder, or to write a novel, or whatever it is they do in there.
The mind reels.
"Hi," glibbed August, the hottest of the months.
"Oh ... yeah, nice to see you," I managed, catching Don in a dead faint, a fraction of a second before he would have absolutely flattened an understandably squeamish Mr. Magoo, who -- unbeknownst to us -- had been loitering next to Don the whole time, trolling for leftovers. James Dean saw the whole thing and laughed so hard I thought he was gonna swallow his toothpick. At least I think he was laughing. Sal Mineo must have thought he was laughing because he started to laugh, too, but then, Sal hadn't been out of the house in months. Mary Tyler Moore, ultimate trooper she, offered CPR to Don (and the rest of us; "What the heck? As long as I'm at it ..." she said), so she could qualify for her senior girl scout CPR meritorious conduct badge award medal plaque thing. I declined, but admitted that it was definitely one of her funnier lines. J.D. didn't think it was funny at all and started sulking. Sal wet his pants and whimpered away. But it woke up Don. Nobody saw him after that.
The obligatory card game took place around a big round table in the back of the joint. I'm not sure who ended as the big winner but Houdini was up by a lot, last I checked. Vanna White was losing her shirt and asked if Perry Mason had left yet. Hawkeye was sitting between Loni Anderson and Jayne Kennedy and wasn't doing very well, either; "Can't concentrate ..." he repeatedly muttered through a smirk. He horribly misdealt the cards (more than a few times) and regularly misquoted Shakespeare, which wasn't very nice considering he owed the old Bard over two hundred bucks by the time we left. Colonel Klink played for awhile but could never remember which was higher -- the five or the seven. Kruschev sat in on a couple of hands after Klink bowed out but was asked to leave because he kept looking at everyone else's cards. Even Napoleon tried to get into the game.
"Nosirree, Nappy old pal, old buddy, old chum," vetoed Daffy, on behalf of all present. "Nosirree, bub."
Indignantly, the little general stood tall and bumped his head on the bottom of the table. "And why is this, Monsieur Duck?" he prided.
"Why? Did ya hear that? Why, he says ... hoo-hoo! That's rich! That's a hot one! What a comedian! A reg'lar Bob Hope! Why ... hoo-hoo! What a riot! Ya really wanna know why? Do I really gotta tell ya? Huh? D'ya really, truly, cross-yer-heart-hope-to-die wanna know? O.K., Nappy old pal, I'll tell ya why ... BECAUSE YOU'RE SHORT, THAT'S WHY!!! Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo!!!"
Napoleon blew a fuse, a reg'lar fuse du jour. "And you, Monsieur Duck, are ze DEAD DUCK!"
A potentially ugly National Geographic scene (frog vs. duck) was effectively policed by some of the further in debt. "Hey it's getting' kinda late, see, and ah ... either somebody deals dem dere cards right now or I plays all yuz bums a tune on my violin, see."
Hawkeye, forever in search of peace, with Leonard Nimoy, snatched up the cards. "O.K., Mr. Hoffa, I'll deal. Let's be a good little bad guy and put the gun down. Atta boy. Well! What shall we play next? Ladies? Any requests? Perhaps an intimate little fling at hearts?" he said with a wink.
Playfully glancing over each shoulder at the beauty that sandwiched him, he emitted a contented sigh and proceeded to deal the entire deck face up.
"Ah, to sleep; perchance to dream," he romanced, oblivious to the world outside of an arm's length in each direction. "Ay ... and then maybe a little rubdown back at the swamp."
As someone once said, all good things must come to an end. Actually, that guy was there that night, too. Nice fella. Likes Boilermakers.
It was sometime early the next morning, although I had no clue as to the exact hour, when an affected Pee Wee Herman mumbled something about drinking up or dying into an already grossly overworked microphone. Slowly, reluctantly, the honored dignitaries began to file out. Greg Morris and MacGuyver had thrown together a few impromptu explosives out of Green Chartreusse and used coffee grounds in case the Caped Crusader got lippy on his way out. Fortunately, he left without incident, with Dracula at his heels, their capes clashing dreadfully. No doubt it was inevitable that Vanna White and Noah Webster would see I to I on a few things. They ended the evening over at his place for a BLT and alphabet soup late night snack.
Hitler and Eva Braun hot-wired one of Lee Iacocca's cars, kidnapped Klink, and told him if he didn't get them to a 24-hour Bavarian fast food joint by the count of zwanzig, they were going to eat him. Brando, Dean and the Fonz were out in the parking lot, throwing ice cubes at chicks as they left. Woody Allen was out there too, with his ball glove, making all sorts of spectacular catches. McGarrett was offering a sober-cab service for those in particular need; Lennon, Letterman, and Herman were amongst his first customers. They hauled Lincoln away in a rubber truck. He was whistling Dixie by the time it got there. Honest. Nobody saw Serling or Houdini leave; they just sort of disappeared. When Jim Henson and Mel Blanc left, half the crowd went with them. Bullwinkle, after a great deal of difficulty, finally made his way to the door, but of course, as we all know, Bullwinkle is a moose. Freud was one of the last to leave; he was still taking notes. By the time I reached the exit Holmes was waiting for me, his eyes fixated on his beloved pocket watch.
"... twenty-nine ... thirty ... thirty-one ... mark!"
"What was that?" I asked.
"Extraordinary. Quite singular, actually. I must write this down," he said, producing a tattered note pad from his inside coat pocket, and doing just that. "It has been precisely four hours, seventeen minutes, and thirty-two seconds since my left interior phalange entered this structure until the moment, mere seconds ago, when your right heel exited same."
"Funny," I remember telling him as we left the haze behind.
"How so, my lad?"
I thought back. "It seems like we just got here."