1960s, California, Cheap wine, Church, Exploitation, Flower Children, Freeloaders, Hippies, Hollywood, Homeless, Los Angeles, Poverty, Uncategorized, Victorian homes, Wild parties


© PJ Hayward, New York 2008
First Published 2008 by Hold On Publications
Revised © PJ Hayward New York 2013

Now, being homeless wasn’t such a bad or unusual thing for young people in California in those days because we were in such a warm and sunny climate. Many people found little places in Griffith Park or one of the other parks where they could keep a sleeping bag or blanket rolled up during the day and just go there at night to sleep.

In the case of many of us working for the Church – our office floors, closets, hallways and basement became our homes. I myself scored what I considered to be the best of all arrangements when I claimed ownership of the ladies room. There I found a nice comfy couch to sleep on, several sinks and toilets and a big mirror. My few belongings I still kept in that same pillow case Mack and I had brought from Miami, stuffed behind the couch cushions.

BUT – at a certain point in time a directive came down from the Head Honcho at the church, declaring that it was unprofessional to have people crashing all over it. It was after all a business establishment and we needed to display a proper professional image.

So alas, although I was perfectly comfortable living for free in the ladies bathroom, I along with all the other freeloaders at the office was forced to find a new abode.

Eventually I found a teeny furnished attic room in one of the many L.A. communes and I settled in there. The rent was $25 a month and between me and the 4 or 5 other roommates who shared the tiny space with me – we had trouble coming up with even that rent.

Not only was the room microscopic but it looked almost like something out of some old cartoon. The plaster, where there actually was some, was just kind of like shards of yellowed white standing out here and there from those wooden slat kind of things that old houses are made of underneath the plaster. You know – what they used to use way back in the day before sheet rock was invented.

So in this room I had a very narrow old iron bed that even had the remnants of a mattress still upon it, an old AM radio that I picked up from somewhere and an old chest of drawers. The drawers were actually superfluous since I didn’t own anything to put into them. Furthermore the only clothes I had were 1 or 2 of my wing-dresses and since none of us ever invested precious dollars buying useless items such as underwear, I doubt that I even had any at that time.

Not that it has anything to do with this story but just as an interesting note, the attic hallway was stuffed with old antique trunks, pictures and other forgotten family memorabilia belonging to the owner of the house, who lived somewhere else. We sometimes rummaged through the old trunks just out of curiosity. They were filled with Victorian clothes and interesting paraphernalia of long forgotten life, such as high top ladies shoes, packs of old letters tied with fraying ribbon and intricate keepsakes woven out of hair. It was like looking at life frozen in time – but simultaneously a tragic scene. Because these things – precious to someone in some bygone day – had just been forgotten and left in these old trunks – abandoned to a house full of strangers.

Anyway, eventually I could no longer afford even my teeny portion of the $25 per month rent. Coincidentally around that same time, my friend Brandi who lived next door, had lucked into a free apartment bequeathed to her by some boyfriend who was leaving town. She could stay and use up the rest of his lease.

So Brandi rescued me by inviting me to share her newly acquired rent-free place – a gorgeous, modern, huge apartment fully furnished with everything a person could ever wish for! It turned out that the boyfriend had actually skipped out without paying the rent for months.

Brandi was a young girl of about 17 who worked as Receptionist at the church Learning Center. She was a really beautiful girl who in fact looked exactly like a young Elizabeth Taylor. She even had the same famously incredible eyes. Brandi also had her own very unique personality; very bubbly, warm and friendly, greeting everyone with a bright and happy smile. Beaming with youth and vitality, she welcomed all newcomers and oldcomers alike as if they were long-lost relatives.

Well my birthday rolled around and now that we had a great pad with couches and chairs where people could even sit down – and since it was Friday – Brandi decided to gather a small, intimate group of friends to celebrate. Translated to real life – an invitation extended to EVERY person who walked through the front door of the Learning Center.

Before the party that night I went out for a celebration dinner with this guy I was seeing at the time. We got back to the apartment about 11pm and we could already hear the music blasting from way down the hall. We knocked and eventually pounded on the door, which finally opened just a tiny crack, to reveal wall-to-wall people inside. So many people in fact that it was impossible to open the door to let us in. Through the mob of people I could see one of our friends sitting at the kitchen table. In one hand he held an empty bottle of Night Train and his other hand was resting on top of a half empty gallon of Red Mountain wine.

An unseen voice from behind the crack in the door asked who we were and I said, “I’m PJ – this is my birthday party”. The voice answered back that the place was so stuffed it was impossible to open the door and could we try coming back in a few hours?

Okay, so we came back at about 2am – same result – except that now the gallon of Red Mountain wine could be seen sitting empty on the kitchen table, where our friend lay snoring with his head resting on the Night Train bottle. In the end, we returned again about 4am and at long last we could get through the front door. We danced a bit, had one last celebration drink (because we had already been celebrating all night long) and then went to the back room and crashed along with about a dozen other passed out people, while the party rolled ever onward.

About 6:30am I woke up, stumbled out to the front room and surveyed the damage. There were people laid out just everywhere. There were bodies lying on the couch, the kitchen table, the chairs and all over the floors. Here and there you could detect an eye trying to open, but for the most part people were either just passed out or they were moaning.

Even though it was Saturday we had to go to work, so I made Brandi wake up. The two of us began gathering what seemed like hundreds of bottles and cans, not to mention the ten thousand empty Frito, Cheeto and potato chip bags littering the place (of which I got none, by the way.)

We dragged all the stuff down the hallway and started dumping this ton of glass and metal down the garbage chute. Oboy….from inside every apartment, shouts and screams poured into the hallway: “Shut the fuck up already, willya??!!! What the hell is wrong with you people?? Dontcha know what time it is? Ya maroons!!!

Not surprisingly, when we returned home from work that evening there were eviction notices plastered all over the front door and so sadly, our short lived life of luxury ended just that quickly. I have to admit though, I never had any regrets about it.

Being faced with the unknown yet again, I did a lot of thinking about my situation and realized I had become very disillusioned with our Church.

It seemed they were never going to be able to teach me the Secrets of the Universe – or even ANYthing really. In actuality the only thing happening was that I was working long hours and eating potatoes every day and never really having any semblance of a home. I realized that I was only one of many young people who were earnestly seeking knowledge but ending up only giving the church either all of their time or all of their money, which ever they possessed more abundantly.

It was definitely time for me to move on.

6 thoughts on “BUT THEN – THE LEGENDARY PARTY!!”

  1. You really make me laugh when I think what you went through in your youth but thank God for your strong character otherwise you could have been brainwashed and sucked into some cult..


  2. I have heard someone say a day without laughter is a day wasted. Since I have got older I try not to take life so seriously any more so I do try and laugh every day. In my forties I went to see a psychologist for the very first time in my life and she told me I take life too seriously and that I should make an effort to be less serious. She was very good and she did help me to sort out a lot of problems. Lovely talking to you my friend…


    1. Yes it’s true. I can’t actually quote any studies or names but I have read that positive thinking and humor is being used successfully as part of patient treatment in some hospitals. They say recovery times are faster and recovery is better through use of those aids. As far as what you experienced in your life, there had to have been immense tension in South Africa in those days, even for non people of color. Coupled with the family health issues you have had to deal with for so many, many years – it’s not surprising you have had such a serious nature. Those are things that can’t be escaped, which obviously makes them unlike any other negative influence. I know in my own life I discovered that I just have to back away from negativity wherever possible – especially now that I am old. Yes, it’s good to laugh!


  3. I can’t understand how your Church could be so unfeeling and cold-blooded towards young people, making them slaves and not giving them a decent wage. I’m glad you survived your early hardships and maybe that contributed to your being a wonderful human being now.


    1. First of all Rose, thank you so much for your beautiful compliment. But I have to give credit where credit it due. If I have actually learned something in this life it is due to one person, God in Heaven. God sent me a beautiful son to show me what true love is, God sent me a good family who stayed by my side no matter what awful things I did or said, and God showed me the way to value the gift of Life. I give all the credit to Him.

      As far as the church, you said it! Well we were young, altruistic and stupid I guess. Virtually all my friends who were working there with me left also. I guess there are always going to be unscrupulous people who take a general idea, say they are a religious organization, and use that platform to exploit people. It’s done in so-called Christian churches all over the world. The important thing was that we all learned a good lesson!


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