TOM WAITS IN THE BOOK STORE: HOW I DIDN’T GET STARTED, PART III
Early 1980s. Dawn and I made the move out to L.A. for one reason – they had Crown Bookstores there. My brother John was one of the executives in the chain, so he could get me employment as clerk in a store. Voila! I had a job!
CROWN BOOK So Dawn and I started work as clerks in the Crown Bookstore on Pico, opposite the Westside Pavilion. The store isn’t there anymore. Actually, the Westside Pavilion wasn’t there yet. L.A. has gone through a lot of changes over the years. So I was a clerk in bookstore. It was the first real job I ever had. It was the last real job I ever had. Other than, I’ve just worked in show business. Of course, working at that store, in L.A. was a gateway drug to show business. I refer to the customers. The celebrity customers. They didn’t come in every day. But when they did…
The great singer-song writer came shambling up to counter, wearing his trademark pork-pie hat (way before the hipsters adopted it as their own.) I’ll never forget his questions, uttered in that gravely voice I knew from a hundred songs: “Do you have any books a pre-natal care.”
J.D. CANNON He was one of those character actors whose face you know but whose name you can’t quite recall. Dennis Weaver’s boss in MCCLOUD. ‘Society Red’ in COOL HAND LUKE. When celebrities came to the counter, I never ‘recognized’ them – I let them shop in peace. But I had to say something to him. I’d really liked in last week’s MOONLIGHTING and I told him so. “I wasn’t in it,” he said gruffly and left. Then I remembered – he’d been in REMINGTON STEELE not MOONIGHTING. Damn.
COMIC WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS
A frizzy-haired comic who shall remain nameless came into the store. I remembered him from when I was a kid. He picked up a men’s magazine (we stocked them – nothing too ‘dirty’ but filthy enough). He brought it to the check-out counter and said, with a certain amount of embarrassment, that he was buying it as a gag gift for a friend’s bachelor party. I laughed. He came in the next month and bought one again. Again he said it was a gag gift for a friend’s bachelor party. I guess he didn’t recognize me, or he would have come up with another story. Don’t worry; your secret’s safe with me.
This was my closest brush with fame – English theater royalty fame. I still wonder if I dreamed it. Richard Burton came to the counter – and bought a paperback copy of HAMLET. I had to ask, “Don’t you have this?” “Not with me,” Burton replied. Incredible.