Dolly was quite a thing to see.Dolly was one with the neon of the 1980s. Dolly was always kind to me, but word was, when she leaves, count the cutlery.
[audio:http://www.rayayarbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/dollypreview.mp3|titles=Dolly Was Out Of Her Mind (sketch)]
-music & lyrics excerpted from “Dolly Was Out of Her Mind” © Raya Yarbrough 2009 (Let me know what you think of this clip! It’s lo-fi and kind of creak-tastic in that “recorded in my bathrobe” way, but you know… I recorded it in my bathrobe.)
There were snips and half-stories of Dolly being questionable in character, but up to this point, I simply knew her as a Thai Ice Cuisine regular.
My dad would talk with her between sets. She would usually hang out with another regular, a man who always wore a sailor cap. I’ll call him The Captain. I never actually knew his name. I’ll sing a dark shanty fer him in a later blog, aye, there be a tale of The Captain…
(If you’re just joining in, you might want to pop back over to the previous post to get the entire picture up to now.) So I, needing a grown-person to take me to the bathroom, hopped down from my stool, and bobbled over to the bar – blue balloon still tied to my wrist.
Dolly, Venus of Vodka, folds of reds and leathers draping, cascades of black braids following suit, turned to see me padding up, flopping with shoelaces.
She cooed a greeting, followed with a bashful laugh. Her tone of voice was like a forceful Diana Ross impression, but within the soprano plush was the severity of crushed glass. Her eyes would open wide when she spoke, she would lean forward. She generally spoke in short sentences, but every sentence had a gesture, or the punctuation of chirpy muted laughter, effusive. I was comfortable with her because she was colorful, energetic and immediate, like a kid. I thought it was fun, but now it seems more pathological.
One time, we were sitting at the bar, and we went on a field trip through her purse. She was very open with it – she showed me countless perfume bottles, nail polishes, make- ups, tissues, and the coup-de-gras for me, her lipstick. Dolly was about 4 shades darker than me, which places her at a nicely warm chocolate hue. I thought she was pretty. Her lips always shined, I never saw them bare – so when I saw her lipstick I was shocked, it was orange! Totally orange. But on her it looked like a coral or a deep pink. It was the same orange as her manicure.
On Hollywood Blvd in 1987, the sound barrier was broken on a Saturday night. This would be accomplished by a little girl…
On this evening, at this bar, I leaned towards the goddess - I raised my non-ballooned arm, and spoke into her ear. Her falling braids were rough and thick against my face, they formed a tent of climate by her cheek, and her perfume gained several decibels. From within her aura I whispered “Could you take me to the bathroom while my dad’s on stage?”
“Oh of course!” Her soprano exclamation disbursed the floral microclimate around her. She rose from the bar stool and her drapery fell around her, layered and uneven around high heeled, dark purple slouch-boots. As we crossed in front of the stage, she gestured to my dad in blunt sign language and silently over-enunciated: “We-Are-Going-To-The-Bath-Room!” Dad nodded approval mid-verse.
Now come, peer through the lens with me: from the center of the ceiling, in a turquoise walled bathroom, the camera moves downward, turning as it descends in a slow 360 degree rotation. We see one toilet in the back left corner, a sink to the left of it with a mirror above – and we’re spiraling over three heads, one braided in countless rows, one bobbing blue with a plastic sheen, and one small and fuzzy, with legs out in front of it dangling over the potty-seat edge. Snapping to ground level, we see two saddle shoes hanging 4 inches above the industrial-chic cement floor, and two purple boots facing them.
Dolly waited patiently while I took care of business, it was a one-person bathroom so there were no stalls. I wasn’t old enough yet to be embarrassed by this, and Dolly didn’t seem to be embarrassed by anything. She asked me about our trip to the beach, what we did, was I learning any new songs etc, and as I answered her I began to pick at the blue balloon string. Dolly noticed.
“Oh” the concern in her voice, ratcheted her usual pizzicato up a few keys, “are you trying to get that off?”
“Yeah, I can’t cut it or bite it.” I pulled at it as I spoke.
“Oh,” the light bulb of an idea, cracked and snapped through her voice, “Well let’s try this…”
Dolly reached into her psycho-treasure-hunt purse, and pulled out a cigarette lighter. At first I didn’t register her plan, didn’t get what she was gettin’ at. Then, she flicked the starter with her left hand, and with the right hand took my wrist.
“Wait, wha…” I couldn’t finish my question, because I felt the heat of the orange flame singeing my few little arm hairs. She planned to burn the string off of me. I pulled away.
“Oh?” Dolly seemed surprised at my response. Surprised, and then instantly amused. A smile flashed across her face like The Joker with Batman in a trap. “Are you afraid of fire?”
“N-no I’m not afraid…” Before I could finish my answer, Dolly flicked the starter again and wooshed in close to my face, unfurling her long fingers into a full open hand. As the lighter glow extended to the pinnacles of her orange acrylic claws, the aura of the lighter flashed up to her face, open mouthed and overwhelmed by the whites of her eyes.
“Haaaaaaaaaa!” she hissed. I pulled away again. “Oh! You’re afraid of fire!” She lit the lighter, and whooshed in again, “Haaaaaaa!” and cackled.
I tried to get a sentence in, “I’m not afraid of fire I just…don’t think this is a good idea…”
I didn’t want her to think that I was afraid, because it was very apparent that she was feeding off this idea, it was funny to her. On the other hand, I definitely wanted her to stop.
She pulled in again, “Haaaaaaa!” and giggled.
I pulled away again, partially out of concern for burns, but mostly because it was dawning on me that I was locked in a bathroom, pants around my ankles, with a crazy person -- a person twice my age, with less than half of my maturity or sense of personal conduct. This was bad. Time for evasive maneuvers.
“Dolly, I think I want to keep it.”
“You want to keep the balloon?”
“Yeah, I like it.”
“Oh I think we can get it.” The orange flame was back at my wrist, nails and eyes illuminated.
“No! I-I think I want to take it home. And I think I can make it back to my table ok too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Alright, but you be careful ok?”
Just as quickly as Dolly had become a pyro, her maniacal universe collapsed back into a crooked Donna Reed leitmotif, and she and her fabrics receded, like demon shadows, out the door.
On Hollywood Blvd in 1987, the sound barrier was broken on a Saturday night. This was accomplished by a little girl launching herself from a toilet seat to a bathroom door, to turn a door-lock faster than a door-lock had ever been turned in human history. To keep out a crazy woman. Then the little girl walked back to the potty, and on the strength of that adrenaline, ripped the blue string off her wrist. In one pull.
(So boys and girls, let me know what you think about the song excerpt! Can you hear any of the story imagery in it? This post is the first example of what I really aim to do with this blog – to directly link my music-in-progress with the narrative and characters of North of Sunset West of Vine, and to bring you with me in the process…)
Tune in next week! When I digress with some navel-gazing reports from The Walking Dead / Caprica recording sessions at Capitol Records!