Tennessee in Los Angeles: An Excerpt from "Follies of God"

Los Angeles in 1943 was Tenn's   next mental destination. On the corner of Coliseum and Constantinople, Tenn found himself mentally on Fountain Avenue, in front of the El Palacio Apartments, an explosion of broad strokes and architectural overstatements, enormous trees and hedges, overgrown and overheated. He was drawn there by its gaudy glamour and was dismayed that its cost was beyond his reach, even as it was close to so many men he had met and for whom he had fallen. ("Everybody," he told me, "has had a lover on Fountain Avenue.") Tenn would close his eyes and remember being driven around Hollywood or driving in a borrowed car up Fairfax until it passed Hollywood Boulevard and then crept up the hills, blooming into a series of zigzagging streets, and it was there that he knew a wealthy young man, an inheritor of money, who had come up to what he always called "the Dream Factory" and whose house bulged with beautiful men, premium alcohol, and drugs. There did not seem to be a war raging anywhere, or shortages of any kind. The fabrics of the house were rich and clean, the food was abundant, and it was there that Tenn first tasted cocaine, which the host bought from a dealer out on Crenshaw, when he didn't buy it out of a slab of limestone on Argyle, or he had to make a call - a long distance call, the ultimate extravagance - to someone in the art department at Columbia who had connections, and who also, deep in the night, utilized the sets of The Three Stooges soundstage to make high-end pornographic films with hopeful starlets and beautiful men, mostly black and Latin, "supremely sculpted" and frequently available to those, like the generous host, who wanted his guests happy in every way. High in those hills ("in every sense, I assure you!") you could stand in a curve, on the soft shoulder of that street, with its fragrant, rich name, and look out over all of downtown Los Angeles, and you could see it twinkle, and the lights were bright but they carried no sound, and everything seemed bathed in a lovely blue shade of night.


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