It's a crisp, clear Christmas Eve night outside as I'm writing
this. It's the kind of Christmas Eve that can
only be found out here in the City of Angels, where the blinking
lights come from not festive displays strung on people's houses,
but from the flashing red and blue of the LAPD squad cars as
the cops deliver their own style of Rampart merriment. Where
Christmas carols are supplanted by the futile bleating of motorists
stuck to their car horns for hours on the freeway, and the only
snow to be found is the kind that brings cheer only when crammed
up the sinus cavities.
In short, there are no milk and cookies waiting for Santa
in Los Angeles. After all, the "naughty" to "nice"
ratio here is so skewed towards the former that he and his
reindeer probably just clamp their eyes tightly shut, bolt
right over L.A. and make a beeline for all the good little
kiddies in Hawaii and Japan without even giving Omega City
a second thought.
At least, that's what I thought before I experienced my own,
Very Special Christmas Miracle®. It's an uplifting
tale about how, no matter where you are, the Spirit of Christmas
can shine through and warm even the most deep-frozen of hearts.
It was only a couple of brief years back that this
reporter found himself stranded over a thousand miles from
home. At the time, there was no possibility of a quick parole
back to the Midwest for holiday festivities: The Grinch ran
the company where I was employed, and the promise of spending
some quality holiday time along with friends, family and loved
ones went into the shredder faster than the CEO's files at
But this is old news to any transplanted hayseed from one
of the fly-over states who's found himself stuck
in this overgrown stagecoach town for the holidays. It's a
universal thing, where common sense flies out the window to
embrace that sort of nostalgic, Capra-esque, wish-I-was-back-home-with-the-family
feeling that strikes even the most cynical and jaded denizen
of El Lay. In short, I was bummed.
Leave it to Pete and Cindy Witkow to change all that, two
crazy jet-setters on
vacation from the Big Apple. What's wrong, they asked, calling
in to see if I was interested in a yuletide joy ride. Holiday
depression, I responded. I'm stuck at home by myself on Christmas.
The response What's Christmas? We're Jewish. Where's
the Chinese joint? We're going out.
That was the go-order as these two adventure-ready Manhattanites
kidnapped this reporter and subjected him to what shall now
be ever known as the Best Christmas Ever.
Well okay, maybe not the Best Ever. But it certainly beat
staying in my apartment, listening to my pill-addled landlady
yell at her live-in handyman/boyfriend in her distinctive,
stepped-on-a-chicken squawk. No wonder there are so many suicides
over the Holiday Season.
The first stop for the evening was at Greenblatt's, an excellent
perched near the gateway to the Strip. The three of us attacked
matzoh balls the size of the Death Star while perusing the
interior art, including a drawing of Batman signed by original
creator Bob Kane. Already my chances for a psychic recovery
Our bellies sated, we headed out to give our livers a workout
at the Rainbow Room, the notorious mecca of metal gods, drugged-out
losers, Scott Baio and star-struck tourists.
The sweet, golden liquor was flowing as freely as a Ted Kennedy
fundraiser as we checked into the club. A hangout of the seediest
of celebrities Joey Buttafuoco sidelines as the doorman
there the infamous Rainbow Room doesn't look like the
place rock stars
would mingle with porn starlets and street lunatics. In fact,
its legendary ambience exists in spite of Germanic gingerbread
decor that looks a lot like the inside of a Shakey's Pizza
or a shabby Holiday Inn lounge somewhere in Iowa. Cheap vinyl
booths patched with duct tape dominate the first story dining
room, while a battered bar near the entrance was flanked by
two sit-down style arcade game tables: Tetris (the game that
has helped more people procrastinate at work than even video
solitaire) and by far the more important of the two: the venerated,
immortal classic "Ms. Pac-Man."
And here was where the evening boiled down into the unlikeliest
Xmas event since
Hannukah Harry (John Lovitz) subbed for Santa all those SNL
sketches ago the showdown between Pete Witkow and the
gravel-throated frontman for Motorhead, the immortal metal
icon simply known as Lemmy.
For a guy who used to lug around amps for Hendrix, who looks
like a cross between Attila the Hun and a German biplane pilot
from the Great War, and whose singing voice sounds like he's
been gargling with kerosene for the past thirty years, Lemmy
presented himself as a pretty cool guy.
A decent bloke, as they would say across the pond. It was
only a natural matter of course before Pete and the Ace of
Spades himself sat down to do battle on the Pac table.
As Pete explained later, "Over the years I saw Lemmy
at the Rainbow like three times. And I knew that he was a
big Ms. Pac Man player, that he was really good, because we
were hovering around him watching him kicking ass on every
turn. So I decided I wanted to play him.
"After work I used to stop off the 1-train in New York
and play Ms. Pac Man at
this dive called The Snug," Pete explained. "Really
I'm more of a Galaga player, and Asteroids, but I kept practicing
Ms. Pac Man for like a year. Because I knew when we went on
vacation to L.A. one of these times, I would get my chance."
And so Pete's joust with a legend came to be but would
his training for video combat bring him glory in the name
of the newborn Christ child?
It was a heady scene as the Wall Street player known in his
circles as "The Prime," or "White Barkley"
(for his uncanny resemblance to the hoops giant) went man-to-mutant
As Pete steered the omnivorous yellow profile of Ms. PM through
her maze of danger, I suddenly had to wonder: would Pete wrest
away the crown for the USA, or would the supernatural ambassador
of Death Metal retain bragging rights for the British Invasion?
Cindy, New York socialite and one-time Madison, WI party-girl,
kept the metal screamer pacified with small talk during Pete's
turn. But whatever the particulars in Lemmy's pact with Satan
for rock stardom, it evidently came with a Ms. Pac Man Supremacy
Clause. Because Lemmy is not only one of the best lyric-writers
since Willie Dixon and a storehouse of more WWII knowledge
than anyone this side of the UCLA history department
he is also an Ascended Kung Fu Master of the quarter-chomping
With a deft eye and the reflexes of a jungle monkey, Motorhead's
main man amassed
an insane score during his hour-long turns, leaving all who
witnessed speechless. In short, Lemmy blew Pete out of the
water, leaving his dominated opponent cringing near the Tetris
"He fuckin' kicked my ass," Pete recalls.
Indeed. So much so, in fact, that the novelty of seeing Lemmy
tear up the game wore off fairly quickly, causing Cindy and
this reporter to head upstairs to check out the action on
the second floor. And action there was, but of a different
sort and one playing more to the sybaritic myth of the Rainbow
Entranced as I was by some kind of fishbowl-like contraption
next to the bar, it was Cindy whose eyes first bulged out
of their sockets as she sprayed her drink in a classic Hollywood
"Robot, look over there!" Cindy said, pulling me
away from the bar. As I turned
around, I saw what had gotten her so riled two hot
girls in various stages of undress squirming all over themselves
on top of one young guy some novice rock star by the
looks of things with a look on his face like he had
just won the cosmic lottery.
"Have you ever seen anything like that?" she asked.
Hmm. Disgusting as it may have been to Sensual Cindy's refined
guidelines of public etiquette, it was the Rainbow Room after
Various hypothetical situations played out in my booze-addled
mind, and I quickly figured that a three-way orgy probably
ranked pretty low on the Totem Pole of weirdness that had
undoubtedly occurred in the place. After all, the spankings
in this intersection
of sexual ley lines had once been personally supervised by
the likes of Robert Plant and John Bonham.
Pretty soon Pete came upstairs, followed by the triumphant
Lemmy. Drinks were shared, the mini-orgy was toasted and the
rest of the night passed pretty quietly. After a few more
drinks, we three Christmas crashers decided to head back to
base. Goodbyes were said, tabs were signed, and soon we were
headed out the door.
Suddenly, a gravelly voice rang out over the din of traffic
on Sunset. "Cindy! Oh Cindy! Cindy!" It was the
man-mountain named Lemmy, huffing towards us.
"Cindy! Is this your lighter? You forgot it."
"Um, no, that's not my lighter, Lemmy," Cindy replied.
"Oh." And with that, the master of metal chivalry
retreated into the Rainbow Room, a creature of his preferred
With that, we piled into the rental car. As we pulled out
of the parking lot, I swear I heard the opening notes of 'Ms.
Pac Man' emanating from inside the Rainbow.
Merry Christmas, Lemmy, and Cheers, wherever you are.
Oh, wait that's right. I know where you probably are.