It was about 2:30 a.m. in Hollywood, and I was in the Jack in the Box at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Ivar. (Betcha didn’t know I’m a highly sophisticated “foodie.”) I notice, sitting all by herself – nobody within about 15 feet of her – and motionless, with her eyes closed and her head hanging to the side, a stunningly beautiful young woman: maybe 25 years old, light-skinned Hispanic, conventionally pretty, very buxom, and wearing a heart-stoppingly skimpy, low-cut, tight peach dress. This isn’t good, I thought. I went over to her and asked, “Are you okay, ma’am?” No response: She was completely passed out. I looked around to see if anybody else had noticed so I could ask for advice. The guy 15 feet away shrugged. I asked him, “Is she totally by herself?” He said, “Her friends are across the street.” Ah, okay then, her friends are across the street, it’s under control. I glanced across the street and there were in fact people there, so I decided to leave.
My apartment is about 20 minutes’ walk from there, and almost the moment I left I started feeling the gnawings of conscience. I didn’t actually know whether the people across the street were her friends or not, none of them had seemed particularly interested in what was going on on the other side of the street. The fact remained that she was sitting there alone, unconscious. Being by yourself, unconscious, in a public place is risky for anyone, under any circumstances – but to be a pretty, sexily dressed woman at 3 a.m. on Sunset, just when a lot of drunk and/or high males are coming out of the nightclubs, makes it even riskier. At least some of those guys might be creepy enough – Dammit, I thought, I have to make sure. I had gotten about six minutes away, so I booked it and got back in three.
Yep, there she was, still alone, still stone-cold passed out. Well, at least nothing bad happened to her in the meantime. I went in and sat down next to her, and started pushing her on the shoulder rather vigorously and speaking to her loudly and up close: “MA’AM are you OKAY?” No response; I lifted up her head so she was facing me directly. Holding her head upright in my hands, I repeated the question at greater volume. (At this point, a guy passing by said to me, “Man, I thought I was bad, but you’re bad.”) Still no response. I had no idea what to do next, and nobody else was paying any attention. So I called 911, to ask their advice. The guy on the line told me to try to wake her up, and I explained that I’d tried that in different ways. Then he told me to get her lying down flat on her back, and not to put anything under her head. I did this: She was heavier than she looked so it took me some time. (I have lifted up much bigger women than her in the past, but it’s different when you’re giving a friend a bear hug than when you’re lifting somebody who’s basically a dead weight in your arms.) The guy told me to stay on the line, and to check on her breathing every 30 seconds or so; her breathing seemed okay, very slow but more like somebody in a deep sleep than somebody who was sick. (At this point, another guy stopped by. “Who bitch is that?” he asked. “That yo bitch?”)
Within two or three minutes, the fire-department paramedics got there – two really tall, strong, take-charge guys. One of them immediately knelt down beside her with a stethoscope and a blood-pressure cuff and started taking measurements. He soon got up, thanked me for calling, and said, “She’s fine.” She was still unconscious, but she had at least moved one of her arms, from lying at her side to over her face and chest. In other words: not dangerously ill or in a coma . . . just passed out from too much partying. The swift response time, the professionalism — I’m really glad the L.A. Fire Department is on the job.
It’s possible that I overreacted; but I’m glad I made the decisions I did. And my hope for her is that when her children are in their 20s, she’ll tell them, “Look, I was kinda wild when I was a kid, that’s why I know . . . you gotta be careful out there.”
PS. Lest I leave the impression that my neighborhood is tougher and sleazier than it really is – and thus confirm a certain stereotype conservatives have about L.A. – let me point out something that happened 15 minutes later. I’m in Ralph’s supermarket between 3 and 4 a.m., and a young hipster couple, both attractive and both in their late 20s, are in the checkout line right ahead of me. The guy, who has a ponytail, picks up a Newsweek commemorative issue, “Reagan: The Last Conservative.” I’m really curious, so I ask him whether he’s a Reagan fan. “Uh . . . yeah?” he says. I’m delighted and tell him I got to work for President Reagan 30 years ago in the White House, as a research assistant in the speechwriting office. His eyes light up. “Wow, cool! Peggy Noonan, right?” Yes, that’s the department! This guy probably hadn’t been born yet when folks like Peggy Noonan were working in the White House – but she is part of his mental furniture. Good for him, and for her.
The lesson is, you meet all kinds of people in the big city – especially in a neighborhood as lovably weird as Hollywood.