I heard the sound of a Theremin quivering up the back of my mind, raising the static in my weather charged hair. From an inside window of the Music Box Theatre, I looked out at the wet Hollywood boulevard. Something in the cold brought about the ghosts, and it became 20 years ago - the 80’s came back, with his coke-chaffed grin and empty eyes, and shook the panes in my chest.
Even then the ghosts were old.
When I was 8 years old in height, I felt the tall dreams lengthening me. Dancing me upward, above the thigh-high stilettos in the passing glass. “Fred and Ginger” kinda raptures, man. Floodlights on the smog-line, kid. Glitter in the gutter, child. It was in the ethers of the street, and it was already a part of me.
Tonight, standing on the flanks of another red carpet premier, I saw an actress. This is not out of the ordinary – to be on a red carpet and to see an actress – but this one, at this moment, seemed to draw generously from the ingénue reservoir. She turned her left shoulder across her body, and shrugged it up towards her chin. As she completed the movement, she winked one kitten eye, and smiled with the same side of her kissed on lips. Her hair was frozen in an inter-dimensional, mid-bounce geometry. Her knee bent inward, and her foot turned to follow. Her heels were vertical. And suede. All at once, she was fresh as a hothouse Orchid, and completely derivative.
But more than derivative. She was a specter, and I felt a hush of echos when I looked at her. I felt the shadows of all the ones who have been frozen in the camera flash, and left their blackness on the wall. I felt their negative space in grayscale consciousness all around me. This moment will happen forever.
From the window here, at the Music Box Theatre, I can see down to where the carpet was, and I can see that it is gone now. The street is just the street, throwing up its hands in ignorance that there was ever anything that happened there. It’s such a liar – or maybe it just forgets, so many things come and go.
The grenadine dripped red on black lacquer tables in 1988, but I wasn’t always present in the moment. I have been known to drift. I was in 1938. I was a half-shadowed, torch queen when I sang on Saturdays, I was a dame. Hell, I was a zoot-suited, slicked cassanova, I can play that game. The very air was a costume closet, and as I breathed I donned a presence, and as I sang I rang the essence out into the tune, and my essence would become the essence of the room, and if you’d dare pierce my cocoon? Don’t fuck with me when I’m weaving. Leave me at my loom.
The halogen lights would laugh, buzzed with delight as I walked home. The neon stained the glass like a church all its own. And though I was small, the desperate dreams of entire lifetimes followed me in the soot, in the exhaust, in the movement of it all.
And here I am now behind this window, nyloned up and fragrant, smiling like I’m home, though I’ll always feel a vagrant. Breathing like the ghosts are new, like their breath has never passed through me. I guess it’s been a while since I felt old Hollywood, and since it’s felt me…
Since those neon whispers, those vespers hung from lips and whiskies, jazz-time swung, I’ve sworn my tearing lyrics up and flung them ‘gainst the midnight sun.
Now these vapors, phantom sons and sons of phantoms, every one, are pressed against my thumb, are pressed against my tongue, a wafer graced with prayers of bedlam.
Still I see the shapely crease of leather switching hip to hip.
Still I feel old spirits, longing still, along the strip.
I used to fear the shade, where old stone buildings stand,
But these streets are not filled with ghosts.