Like most New York actors who think a move West will magically revive their fortunes, I find the trajectory of my L.A. career to be somewhat less than meteoric. In fact, 1981 finds me working as a security guard in Happy Valley Hospital just outside Los Angeles. It sounds like a “funny farm” but it isn’t. You’re thinking of Camarillo State Hospital – the insane asylum that housed Charlie Parker and other jazz-junkies. That’s where Parker wrote his tune Relaxin’ At Camarillo.
My job at Happy Valley entails walking around in a pretend-cop uniform to reassure people of something or other while carrying a clipboard, jiggling a few doorknobs and reading a few gauges. I have no idea what the fuck I’m reading but I tap the gauges with my pen, nod sagely and pretend to write something on my clipboard. I also have to raise and lower the American flag. This duty is taken seriously by the numb-nut who trains me to be his replacement. He’d been in the National Guard and knows a thing or two about flag raising and flag lowering and especially flag folding – “Now, do it agin and git the triangle-fold tight this time.” He is a Moron First Class.