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LIVING IN AN ALTERED STATE
I was born in San Diego, Calif. and lived in Boyle Heights from age 1-4. Later we moved to West L.A. where I went to grade school and attended Hamilton High. After high school I had a job delivering fur coats. Then I got into show business, singing, dancing, and doing comedy routines.
In my 30's I was maliciously given a dangerous drug as a "joke" and suffered brain and heart dysfunction. Over a ten-year recovery period, in the last few years, I've regained to some extent, my former function and am writing a book about my experience.
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LIVING IN AN ALTERED STATE
In 1977, I was driving my car, four days after my overdose. Driving past the airport was so strange and depressing, feeling like the PCP toxin was still in my body from head to toe, unable to expel itself, and again, came the depression of asking myself, why I hadn¹t I become more suspicious of the so-called friends who had given PCP to me disguised in a glass of water.
I say to myself at this point‹while trying to get out of myself‹why, why, why... didn¹t I just look, just think for one moment that something might have been wrong... then walk out of there a free man... To have nothing to do with those horrible rotten people ever again.
But now, here in the traffic, I am forever tied to these people whether I see them or not... moment by moment every pain connected to what they did and my horrible trust and gullibility. How would I function at work; what will my life be like? The horrible unknown was too much to bear. I should not be going to work. I should be in the psych ward or under medical supervision.
But I couldn't let them take my job from me, take my life, or whatever possibilities I could have in show business. And this point I feel strange as I look up a little: The building, the sky all seem more of a figment of my imagination, not something real. My focus is more inside the feeling in the right side of my brain than part of a once beaming mind. My mind seems unable to coordinate itself... like it's cut off or shaved off from the top... it is no longer the same.
A shadow of its former self... with everything else reflected in this shadow... I scream inside, I want to get out, but I can't... I want to go to a park... or to be with nice people... and get that secure feeling I used to have.
And my heart doesn't feel right either. It feels prolapsed and I'm worried about what damage it's sustained. My head seems separated from the rest of me. My arms, my legs, and the various functions of my body and mind... the brain no longer seems connected to itself or my mind. It's just like jelly. That's the way I feel at this point as I press on the gas pedal. My whole body no longer feels a part of me. And it is beyond words how scary this is...
Everything in front of me looks like a kaleidoscope and I'm unable to feel any sense of where I am.
As the years passed, I still tried to get out of myself, to fantasize what might have been.
One time, at the merry-go-round on the pier in Santa Monica, I was rehearsing a pantomime to the music for a scene in a skit. I was walking back and forth doing strange motions and gazing oddly at the carousel when all of a sudden the manager came up to me and said, "Can you please leave?" I stopped what I was doing, a little surprised at this confrontation. "Oh, what..." I mumbled.
"You're scaring the customers," he stated. It was in a sense funny but I left. Yet it was I who was scared. I wanted to say to the guy, "Do you know who I am? Do you know what I'm going through? Help me."
Down below I had noticed the people at a café-bar laughing and joking. Who knows where I went? Maybe I walked along the pier, gazing out at the ocean, trying in some way to connect myself to it. If it was legal or more secure, I wouldn't have minded sleeping at the beach with maybe a lounge chair and a pillow and a little flashlight to read to if I wanted to. Oh, I needed that...
I didn't want to go back to my stuffy, cluttered apartment. So I would stay at the beach when I could. Sometimes I would bring this little beach chair -I didn't like getting sand on me. I would watch the waves go back and forth and watch the kids go plowing into the ocean -so carefree like and young. Did they have enough brain waves to feel that connection to what they were doing? Or did they have numbness of the brain like me?
I could go plowing into the ocean if I wanted. Maybe there would be a little escape, but there would still be that terrible numbness that keeps me from letting go, even as I splashed in the water.
So I just sat there at the beach trying to affect some kind of serenity. I would find myself hanging out a lot in restaurants and little eating places reading the paper. Sometimes I would cut out what I read and save it for reference. When you live in a cluttered bachelor apartment you tend to go out more, I think.
Sometimes I would hope that a single girl would be dining in, but I noticed this wasn't usually the case. A single young lady was usually with someone, or they ordered To-Go. So I continued to read the paper or eat as cheaply as I could.
Once in a blue moon I would go to a dance. At one dance, I exchanged phone numbers with a young lady. After we danced, I said, "Well, here's my business card. Do you have a business card?" She just said, "Well, I'll give you my number."
In late 1998, that constant feeling of churning in the right part of my brain subsided somewhat. It was still not right, but there seemed to be a little more mending there or connecting synapses. I would hold out my hand in front of me again focusing on it somehow and it felt like I was a little bit more "there" or like I had broken through that veil which had separated me from the world.
In January of 2001, I felt even more brain connections. The numbness was still there but it was less than before. Now that I felt more "hooked up," my brain needed to function better, I thought. Although I had been functioning to some degree, it was a miracle that I was able to go on all these years and even prevail somewhat in my various activities.
And then, in April of 2001, something in a part of my head felt like it was "taking over" more, connecting more and I noticed a feeling like something has been lifted, less sense of compression and more functioning. I noticed more within the following week, it was as if a big load had been taken off me.
I was still a little spacey at times but there was less feeling of deadness and compression. It was like I had a little life. Then, the following week, I was functioning at a different level. I could cope a little better because there was less to cope with. Psychologically I was better. I didn't seem so hemmed in -a little more of an over-ground perception, like I was here; that was there; a little more space or breathing room or elbow room, not so much like everything was on top of me like a kaleidoscope that I could not control or change.
At my high school reunion in May of 2001, some people even gave me compliments on how I looked and I asked them how they were doing or what they were doing. My skin condition I noticed was less blotchy and had gotten better. My mother mentioned this to me at a family gathering. "Have you been putting on the cream for your face?" she asked. "No," I replied.
My high school reunion held at the faculty center at UCLA was nice overall. I had taken a good shower, shaved and had gotten some new clothes, which also helped. When I walked in the place a little early, I noticed the memorabilia board. They were still setting it up and there was a picture of me, a photocopy I had sent, of myself in the movie, "Wayne's World."
I thought, "There I am ... they have me posted up." It actually showed me with Wayne and Garth's cardboard cutout in that funny pose they had. In the bottom of the same photocopy, it actually showed me in the movie, where I was sitting at the donut counter with my head turned a little, in the scene with Wayne's ex-girlfriend and Wayne (Mike Myers) himself, trying to hide his face. And then I noticed on the reunion board the tally sheet for Governor of 1990, with my picture and my twelve votes next to the other candidates, including Pete Wilson, who beat me out by a few million. I had run to express some of my views.
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In late 1968, I decided to stop by a Jack in the Box after playing tennis. Was it a coincidence that I started to get to the door just as a young girl did? I felt almost immediately drawn to her. "Oh here, let me open the door for you," I said, but it was as if I was saying, "Let me open the door to your world." Or was it, "Let me open the door to your heart?"
Once inside, as we got in line, our eyes met as I managed to say, "Hi," with her nodding back, and I was saying to myself, "If I let this one go I will never forgive myself." I started to ramble on about anything-her schoolwork or how she was doing and she told me about being some kind of honor student.
And I'm thinking, "What?" She didn't seem to be all that studious. Maybe it was because I was leading the conversation more and she was just giving brief responses, yet there was something about her that was so irresistible. And then, observing her a little more, I began to wonder about her age.
If she was 13 or 14, oh brother... I, at 26, would have to head for the hills. But this was too special and when she told me 16, I felt a little sigh of relief. Still a little young but not too young as long as I maintained myself as a gentleman.
She would have to feel something for me too-or at least I hoped she would. Sometimes these things are one sided. I hoped she would at least like me a little bit.
She told me her name was Gloria, and I noticed her look more, her dark brown hair rolled back in a bun, the symmetry of her forehead and features, more from another time and place. She was somehow drawing me more into her as I found myself standing on air, or some far-off cloud. I wanted to take her in my arms and embrace this work of art, this Mona Lisa, but I had to hold back. I wanted to touch her somehow and I couldn't be too forward. Was it love? How could I say to someone I just met, "I love you?" Wasn't that being too forward? Would that scare her off? But maybe I should have said, "I think I love you" or "I don't mean to be too forward but I think..." What would she have said, what would she have done, if I had said that? Maybe she would have known where I stood right away and responded, "Whatever" or maybe I should have just said "I feel like I'm on this cloud," and that would have conveyed something to her at least.
And now, especially, at this moment, noticing her angelic-like look I could not hold back any longer. "I love you, I love you," I heard myself say, but not out loud. She heard it somehow, or at least I thought she heard it. And then, cupping the back of her head a little towards me, I melted into her arms, pressing my kiss against her lips in the most passionate way, and her just letting go somehow, or succumbing to it with that kind of knowing or rapturous look on her face, so beautiful and haunting in itself. Her eyes gazing up a little, dream like, and the angels looking, down on us, playing, their little harps. I touched her. I mean I touched her heart.
Blinking, I found myself in the so-called "awake state." Was it some image or fantasy? But it seemed so real. Did she know that she just took me on some journey? And now, at this moment, observing her standing a little more at a distant angle somehow reflected another facet of her aura, the mystery and mystique of her again so alluring, and more now as if she was someone I had always known or searched for.
I couldn't let her get away, so I slyly got ahead of her in line, gave my order and then waited a few moments for my dream girl to order. I then began walking with her out the door, then down Drexel Avenue, which was a tree lined street with stucco-like houses just a few blocks from Farmers Market and C.B.S. studios, where twenty years later on the Gong Show I would be serenading Gloria's photo blow-up with this special song I wrote about her.
And the lyrics starting out about this very day. "Never will I forget the day I first set eyes on you, could you have stepped from a painting of ages long ago." And now at a certain point on Drexel Avenue, Gloria said she wanted to go on alone. I asked her for her phone number but she said she didn't know whether she could give it out. So we parted for that moment but I couldn't get her out of my mind.
About a week later I waited by the school just before three o'clock, anticipating seeing her again. This was Fairfax High, where she told me she had been an honor student. I had to go back several times before I saw her walking towards me. "Hi," I blared out as if this was just a chance meeting again, but she probably guessed I was waiting for her. I was relieved and walked with her down Fairfax Avenue. She seemed a little more outgoing at this time. She would dart into different shops and check them out.
This was not only love at first sight; it was love at second sight. She elevated me-put me on a different plateau. I was simply on Cloud 9, on-air, just being in her presence, or thinking about her. When we got to Sav-On Drug Store she said she wanted to go on by herself. I asked again for her phone number and this time she gave it to me. It took a little while to get her to go out with me but finally she consented. She wouldn't go on my motorcycle so we walked over to Johnnie's Restaurant at Fairfax and Wilshire.
At the restaurant, I was mainly carrying on the conversation and she told me she was from Canada. She seemed somewhat aloof. Before this date I thought maybe I was overreacting but now, all of a sudden I felt myself on Cloud 9 again. Despite her aloofness, she was drawing me in like a magnet. I wanted at this moment to melt though that invisible veil of her demeanor, perhaps a kiss on her cheek or forehead. And then, how would she feel? Would she feel something? Or what if I just told her of my feelings? Why didn't I do that? I'm sure she saw me as a nice guy, but what about her feelings towards me? I could have conveyed more of my feelings but I didn't. I just maintained a first date formality. On our second or third meeting, when I got another car, we went to a piano place in Hollywood. In there, all of a sudden, she hopped onto one of the pianos like a little girl and started playing away. And I said to myself in a soft whisper, "Oh, don't let this one go." I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. Then all of a sudden one of the guys who worked there told her "You can't be doing that," and Gloria, whom I felt was so pristine, at that moment got off the piano. Afterward, we walked over to Wallach's Music City (before it became a mall). In there, we went in to one of those record booths, where you sample records. Gloria picked out a classical record. She was so cultured and was 17 by now. At one point I asked her to sing a few bars. With that certain expression on her face she sang a few notes and I noticed one of her buttons on her white blouse not buttoned. I think it was the third button. "Your button's undone," I said, as I caught a shade of her brassiere. With this, Gloria, somewhat flat-chested, turned away from me and buttoned up and then turned toward me with a half smile and said, "Oh, you didn't see anything, did you?" I, appreciating her beautiful and refreshing modesty, simply answered, "No." And then, a moment or two later I attempted for the first time, a kiss on her left cheek. To at last show my affection in some direct way. This was the moment I was waiting for. How would she react? How would she feel? So at this point, I was pressing closer to her. And then finally, as I motioned towards her cheek with my lips, she turned away. "No, no," she said and started to walk out of the booth. I followed her out. I was a little bit dejected but that moment in itself was a beautiful attempt at getting close to her and conveying my affection. And it wasn't a mean "no." Outside, I asked her meekly, "Can I hold your hand?" And she said okay. Her hand, I noticed, was so soft and tender. I think I felt her pulse. I loved her.
The last time I saw her, she and her girlfriend, who I knew from a class, were waiting for the bus on Fairfax Avenue. It was 1970. Her girlfriend, a nice person, told me when I inquired that she knew Gloria. On this day, driving by, I happened to catch them waiting for the bus. I quickly parked about a block away and walked by like it was some coincidence. "Hi," I said to them both. We all chatted for a couple of minutes. Gloria seemed more outgoing. I found out that they were on their way to a play at Fairfax High. "Can I go?" I asked and she turned to Gloria, who said, "Okay."
The last couple of times I had run into Gloria at a store here or there. There was no date but we said "Hi." I don't think Gloria really got to know me that well. I wanted to show her my better, more articulate and humorous side, to lie down with her at a park somewhere against her lap or chest in that pleasant serene setting with the clouds above... At the school play that afternoon, Gloria sat between her friend and me. I felt a sigh of relief. What if she'd had her friend sit between her and me? That would have been terrible.
The play was a musical about sailors and while this was going on I wanted to somehow finally tell her how I felt. Just a simple, "Gloria, I love you," and then to observe that special haunting look on her face, her awareness at last of my deep affection for her. But she was just watching the show. If she was making conversation with me it would have been easier. I was in conflict of wanting to tell her but unable to. Maybe I could have said, "Gloria, there is something I've been wanting to say to you," and then she might have said, "What is it?" After the play, as we walked out, Gloria asked me, "Did you like the play?" "Okay," I replied. And that was it.
That was the last time I saw her. In the 1980s, I wrote a couple of letters to her. She had moved up north to, Sunnyvale, California. She was very surprised to hear from me. The letter was basically platonic and I ended up by saying, "It would be so nice to hear from you."
I basically wanted to find out more about her and what she had been doing. I still do. Her reply letter said something about establishing a career in art and then said something about wanting her own space or privacy and wished me well and good luck.
I was a little dejected. I was hoping, to get something going. If she had said, "Jerry, you can call me once a month for five minutes," I would have been grateful. Then I could have found out more about her that I've wanted to do for so long. "What were you like growing up?" I would ask. "What type of art do you do? What foods do you like?" At least I made an attempt at contacting her and communicating my needs and wants and to respect her wishes. Maybe it did not turn out as planned but I did find out some things about her and wish her well.
In early 2000, I wrote to Gloria for the last time. It went in part as follows: "Dear Gloria, When I first met you at Jack in the Box I had a metamorphosis. It was the most romantic experience I ever had. When I saw you again, the same thing...floating on Cloud 9, just being around you or thinking about you and wanting forever to convey this to you in some way and never doing so because of your aloofness. One-sided or not, I loved you in a way that no words could describe and I wrote a song about you in part because I saw you as a star." I did not receive a reply.
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