Chapter 29

For collectors only

Paul had all of the second–rate bootlegs in his collection; if need be we could make them by taping the records and copying the graphics. Many only had a Xeroxed sheet of paper under the shrink wrap to serve as a “cover.” Just a couple had full–color covers, and those we could buy from Richard. We agreed that we would not sell these records to our individual customers; the risk of disappointment was too great. However, other dealers that bought our LPs indicated they would buy the product. We decided that 1,000 of each of the albums would meet collector’s needs; a few would be made by us and the rest purchased from Richard Minor.

Back to Florida I went, this time to Stuart and Richard’s new digs. Richard had eighteen of the albums we needed; the other seven had been mastered, covers prepared, and Waddell would ship them soon to Capistrano Beach. Still wary of the FBI monitoring my activities, I wanted to get these albums in the mail as soon as possible and do it from somewhere other than Glendale. Buddy, who had helped out with the Country Music ad, agreed to let me use his garage. He never parked inside and the spacious two–car bay was home to a few arcade–quality video games like Centipede, Pac–Man, and Asteroids, but little else. The kids usually played them at night so Robert and I would have all day to do our packing.

Richard’s notorious reputation for being slow to ship dictated that I go to Florida and ship the albums back to Buddy’s house. Richard was likeable to a fault; but he had a few and they could prove exasperating. While Richard sat in his living room playing with his stock ticker, amidst all those Blue–Light specials, I was wrapping box after box and addressing them to myself. Eighteen thousand records meant almost four hundred boxes; it took me three days for the packing alone, and all those trips to the post office extended my trip to almost a week. Richard would stop by occasionally to see how I was doing, and check if we needed to make another run to mail them off. He always had a large glass of ice water in his hand; understandable thanks to the Florida heat. It was at the end of the second day, relaxing in Richard’s kitchen and reading a book, a cold soda in front of me, when Richard walked in with his empty glass and, after filling it with ice, headed over to the sink. Instead of turning on the tap he opened the cupboard below, reached down, and came up with a half–gallon jug of Vodka. He filled his glass without adding a drop of water, and walked back to the TV room. Straight Vodka? That’s what he’d been drinking the last couple days? Richard never slurred a word and his step never wavered. I was stunned, but shrugged it off. To each his own is my creed; Richard’s approval rating didn’t suffer. This could explain why Richard was slow in getting things done; it justified our decision to have me go there and ship them.

We had sent Richard an assortment of our albums, 12,000 LPs total. The double albums and the box set counted as two or four records. We just couldn’t quite agree to part with our albums in exchange for these inferior bootlegs on a one–to–one basis. Richard agreed. Waddell pressed up the quantities needed for those Richard did not have, they arrived by Yellow Freight at Buddy’s house a day before I landed, and the ones I was now shipping meant Robert and I would be busy packing for a few days. Orders from dealers around the world were arriving; our estimate of 1,000 copies per title was dead–on. We had set a cut–off date for ordering; this was a one–time offer. I wound up helping Richard move the records we needed from a storage area to the small house on his new property that he used as shipping headquarters. As I recall, I did most of the lifting; I was used to it and didn’t mind a bit. Richard didn’t mind watching; we got along fine.

Finally done, I thanked Richard for his hospitality, went back to Glendale, found that all had gone well during my absence. The next day Robert and I drove down to Capistrano Beach to start shipping 25,000 albums. Since a couple of them were double LPs, we had over one thousand boxes to ship. The good part was, we didn’t have to open any boxes. Waddell had packed the albums in twenty-five count boxes instead of the usual fifty–count. Not all of our wholesale trade could handle fifty of one title; we insisted on a 25–album minimum to make shipping as easy for us as possible. For those that could handle fifty of a title, we simply taped two boxes together. Robert and I drove back and forth to Buddy’s every day, a four–hour round trip, and we had the garage emptied in less than two weeks. Buddy was amazed at how many albums there were; he thought we’d be there forever. When he saw how quickly the stacks were going down (we went to the local Post Office twice each day), I know he was relieved. Buddy would never complain, he was too good a friend and he had agreed to let us use his place. We went way back; we’d met in Philadelphia in 1969. Buddy moved to California in 1971; his house was the first stop Vicki and I made when we got out there in 1973. Still, I didn’t want to inconvenience him any longer than necessary.

Angela is Buddy’s oldest daughter. I first met her when she was five and watched the little girl grow up as the years rolled by. I hadn’t seen Angela in over a year; the couple times Buddy and I had gotten together recently she wasn’t around. Angela was now fifteen; the last time I laid eyes on her she was a little kid with a figure like Olive Oil, Popeye’s girlfriend. Robert and I were packing away, my back was to the street, and Robert was facing me. I noticed Robert stop what he was doing and stand there in a daze. I heard a voice from behind me say, “Hi, Uncle Sam.” It was Angela; she had been down to the beach. I looked over, gave her a cheery hello, and saw the reason for Robert’s sudden paralysis. Angela, the pretty little girl, was a big girl now. She looked like Annette Funicello and was wearing a two–piece suit that never would have made it past the censors in those “Beach” movies of the sixties. To me, she was just my friend’s daughter; to Robert she was a walking miracle. “Wh–, who was that?” stammered Robert. “That’s Buddy’s oldest daughter. I haven’t seen her in over a year; looks like she’s grown up.” Robert had a skip in his step the rest of the week. Whenever Angela walked by his pace slowed and his breathing quickened. I was glad when the last of the boxes was trucked to the Post Office and we could head back to Glendale to stay. Robert hated to leave.

Vicki wanted to leave. California, that is. She’d grown up in Philadelphia, that’s where all her friends were. As nice as California was and as good as it had been to us, she wished she was back east. I could move anywhere, adjust immediately, and not look back. Vicki was wistful from the day we arrived; the same close circle of friends had surrounded her since she entered first grade. She’d made new ones, of course, but it wasn’t the same. I hated the eastern weather; California was paradise to me. Vicki could tolerate the cold; her friends would provide the warmth she needed. I knew we had to make some changes; Vicki tolerated my being busy much of the time, but things were wearing on her.

I saw a possible compromise: that trip to Roanoke the previous winter that I made with Richard Minor offered a solution. Virginia is a Mid–Atlantic state; the weather isn’t insufferable like it is further north. Roanoke, with its Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop, is quite picturesque. I could run a mail–order business from anywhere; I suggested we go back there and do some house–hunting. What we could purchase for the same money there made our nice home look like a shack; elegant estates were less than two hundred thousand dollars. Vicki could head up to Philadelphia whenever she wished; neither of us minded long drives.

As testimony to that, we drove from L.A. to San Francisco one Saturday night. We’d settled in Hollywood in August of 1973 and found jobs immediately. It was late September, we had both worked an evening shift; I picked Vicki up at midnight and we got a bite to eat. The A’s were playing the Mets in the seventh game of the World Series the next day; we’re both baseball fans. “Want to see the game tomorrow?” “How will we get tickets?” “Don’t worry, there are always some for sale in the parking lot on the day of the game.” Off we went; we were in Oakland by nine in the morning. I bought bleacher seats for fifteen dollars each; Reggie Jackson’s home run in the seventh landed twenty feet to my right. We drove back that evening; we missed a night’s sleep, but you can get away with that when you’re young and strong.

We flew back to Roanoke, stayed at a Sheraton, and contacted a realtor. The first couple days were terrific; what we could afford was astounding. We saw a gorgeous, stately brick home with eighteen rooms on three floors listed at $160,000. We paid $140,000 for our seven–room home in Glendale—three bedrooms and a den, one and one–half bathrooms, a detached garage, and a lawn almost big enough for badminton. The house in Roanoke was on four acres, had three outbuildings: a four–room, two–story guesthouse that the creek flowed beneath. It was just a short walk from the main house through the boxwood garden. There was a two–story playhouse with a loft; all the buildings were brick, four–foot thick walls, and the bricks used for construction were baked by slaves in the kiln at the back corner of the property. It was on The National Register of Historic Places. In Beverly Hills, the place would have fetched a couple million; testimony to the real estate adage of “location, location, and location.”

By the third day we were fighting; something that occurred with alarming frequency as time went on. We fought about everything these days, the topics forgotten before the next brouhaha. Vicki left on the morning of the fourth day and flew back alone. I just couldn’t make her happy; I really think I tried.

I was already close; I decided to give Vicki a day to cool off and go visit Paul. I flew to Baltimore and he picked me up at the airport. We hadn’t seen each other for a year and a half, not since that fateful packing frenzy in August 1977. Paul had just moved into a house of his own and everything was in disarray. They only thing organized, naturally, was his record collection. Paul has the world’s largest Elvis record collection; 45s, EPs, and LPs from all over the world filled bin after bin. They completely filled two bedrooms; duplicates vying for space on the floor and in closets. It was overwhelming; magazines and memorabilia were also part of the show, but records were the mainstay. The kitchen table was covered with shipping labels I had sent; we ate our bowls of cereal the next morning standing up.

I flew back to Los Angeles the next day, determined to make things right with Vicki. I had to; I loved her, more than she could ever know. We had two beautiful children; whatever it took, things would work out. I can’t quite recall if it was the second or third day after I got home before the next fight.

to chapter 30