It was my first time back in Los Angeles in at least a year. I could hardly wait to get back to the Queen Mary. That evening I was an early arrival but I was not the first. There was another girl sitting alone at the ‘corner’ end of the bar. She smiled at me and I smiled back as I slid on to a stool beside her. She seemed very sweet and friendly. She was slim and pretty. Soon we were getting to know each other.
Actually I was getting to know Stacey as she seemed to know quite a bit about me. She knew I had been coming to Los Angeles to visit and party at the Queen Mary for several years. She knew I came from Canada and that I liked to stay at the nearby Sherman Oaks Motel. For a while I assumed I’d met Stacey before but I couldn’t remember her.
No matter: she was wearing a soft leather mini-skirt and lace long sleeve blouse. Her high heels matched the small purse draped from her shoulder. They both had a distinctive and stylish, for the time, look. “Let me buy you a drink,” she said, “rum and coke, isn’t it?”
That was uncanny. “Have you been stalking me?” I asked.
“Hardly,” she replied as she motioned to John to bring us a round of drinks.
‘Hi hon,” said John, a long-time bartender at the Queen Mary, “rum and coke, isn’t it?”
I smiled and turned to Stacey “Have we met before? I usually don’t forget a face or a name.”
She answered my question with a question, “Do you remember a guy named Steve?”
“Several,” I replied truthfully.
“About a year ago in March; you played pinball together and you talked about getting together for a game of golf.”
“Yes, very well.” I knew from experience where this was going, “are you Steve?”
“That was me. At the time I didn’t dare tell anyone I was in to dressing but thanks to our chat I started to experiment and finally this evening I got up the nerve to come out as Stacey.”
“This is your first time out? You look great!” I exclaimed truthfully.
“Well I had a lot of help from Jim Bridges next door but thank you,” she replied.
“Jim’s a genius but he can’t create that gorgeous figure and lovely smile.” I found myself surprised to be flirting with her. I didn’t think it possible that this was her first time out en femme but she swore it was true.
As the back bar continued to fill with the usual crowd of t-girls and admirers, Stacey and I talked on about our experiences and about how her perspective was rapidly changing. “Until this evening I would come here and be one of those guys,” she said as she gestured to a man standing against the wall looking — no leering — at the various girls walking by. “I was afraid to talk with anybody so I leaned against the wall and occasionally played a little pinball.”
“You know if you guys only knew how easy it is to meet us…” I let the sentence hang.
“I know that now,” she replied and a year ago it was you that showed me the way. I’m glad I got the chance to thank you. Let me buy you another drink.”
I didn’t really want another drink but I accepted it. I guessed Stacey was on to her fourth or fifth cocktail.
As the evening progressed we parted ways. I wanted to chat and dance with some old friends. At one point I saw Stacey heading for the pinball machine.
It was an hour later that Stacey came up to me in a panic. “Linda, I’m fucked!” she exclaimed.
“Why? What’s the matter?” She had an expression of sheer panic.
“I was playing pinball just like I’ve done a hundred times before. I put my purse on the back of the machine so it wasn’t on the glass. Just like always when I finished my games I walked away. But usually my wallet and keys are in my pocket. I don’t have to think of them. This time they were in the purse. I left the purse on the back of the pinball machine. A few minutes later I returned but it was gone. I can’t find it anywhere.”
“Did you ask John behind the bar? Maybe someone put it there for safe-keeping.”
“I checked both bars. Nothing has been turned in,” she replied.
“Did you have much in it?” I asked, assuming that her answer would be ‘no.’ Regulars at the Queen Mary knew to carry only a little makeup and their cash for the evening in their purses. We all had different techniques but I liked to keep my keys in one cup of my bra under my breast form, my money in the other cup.
“It had everything, my money, my credit cards my car keys, my I.D., my apartment keys, everything,” she said with that continuing look of panic in her eyes.
“Oh shit!” I replied, “We’d better get you home before it’s invaded. What will they find at your apartment?”
“My roommate is there with his girlfriend. I told him I’d be away for the weekend. I got dressed at a fleabag motel up the street.”
“Is your car still where you parked it?”
“I haven’t checked,” she replied.
I grabbed her hand and headed her to the door. “Let’s go look.” On the way I alerted one of the security personnel of the problem.
To Stacey’s and my great relief her car was still where she parked it.
“Well that’s a good sign,” I said, “Whoever took your purse wasn’t after the grand theft. I’m going to ask James on the door or one of the other security guys to stake out your car in case someone comes for it. But I have an idea where we might find the purse.” Again I took her hand and we headed back to the club. Stopping briefly to look in garbage dumpster, I then apprised James of the situation.
“Did you check the waste baskets?” he advised.
“We’re just heading there now.” With Stacey still in tow I was heading to the washroom nearest the pinball machine.
“Excuse us,” I said to one of the girls who was probably applying her sixteenth coast of lipstick for the evening. I manoeuvered around the tight space to open the lid to the wastepaper receptacle. For a moment all I saw was wads of beige paper towels. I reached in to feel around. “Aha!” I said, or maybe I said ‘Eureka’ or ‘We’re in luck’. My hand had felt what could only be the strap of a purse. I pulled it up and there emerged the missing black and white purse. The zipper was open. I could see a set of keys. I handed the purse to Stacey who took a look through it.
“All my keys are here and so is my makeup but the wallet is missing. I’d better call VISA and American Express,” she said in a tone both relieved and business-like.
“Just a minute,” I replied as I put my hand back in the container. A few seconds later, I felt and retrieved the unmistakeable shape of a wallet. “Here, take a look.”
Stacey checked the contents of the wallet. “Only the cash is missing. My cards, my driver’s license, they’re all there.”
“Looks as if someone just needed some cash to get her through the evening,” I commented. “You could use a drink. Let me buy you one. Manhattan, isn’t it?”
Stacey and I stayed close together the rest of the evening. We went together to the Yukon Miming Company restaurant on Ventura for an early morning breakfast and back to my hotel room where she was able to change back to being Steve.
I never saw Stacey or Steve again. However I would say that few people have learned such a valuable lesson so cheaply. I trust she continued to enjoy the Queen Mary in whatever role she chose, just a little more carefully.
Category: Fun & Entertainment