I moved to Los Angeles, California from Bay City, Michigan in 1978.

I was not a naïve cherub.

But there was a lot I was not prepared for.

I moved out with a gay (now ex) friend.

Our first apartment was in the Hollywood Towers (or as we referred to it the “Hollywoo Towers”).

Our apartment was one floor below the penthouse (!) and the bedroom directly overlooked the Hollywood Freeway.  And one of the living room windows looked over the roof with a perfect view of the Hollywood sign.

At that time, the Hollywoo Towers was not the beautiful restored architectural gem it is today.

It was kind of a hell hole.

But we loved it.

We even loved it when we had to get things up to our apartment and the teensy-tiny elevator wasn’t working – which was often.

I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore when a pair of our neighbors knocked on the door, saying they were having a party and ran out of drugs, and did we have any to sell.

Uh.  No.

I didn’t care if they were taking drugs, but I was kind of amazed at the casual attitude of just going door to door in your apartment building looking for some.

But my favorite tenant was an elderly transvestite, whom we (very affectionately) referred to as Connie Chestnut.

Living in Michigan, I actually had been to drag shows, and knew some drag queens and kings.

But I had never met a transvestite.  A very out transvestite.

I do not know if Connie was transgender or gender fluid, or identified in any other way.  Those words were not familiar to me then.

I do know that Connie used the pronouns she/her.

Connie was usually dressed in cute little sun dresses that exposed her thin, hairy & sinewy old man arms.  Connie always wore pearls and white gloves, and carried a matching purse.

Her style was 1950s housewife.

Connie did not look like a woman.  Connie looked like an old, thin, wiry man wearing women’s clothing.

And she was utterly charming.

She always said hello when we’d see her in the lobby.

She even invited me to her apartment once.  It was crammed with little knick-knacks. And suited her very well.

I wish I had gotten to know Connie, because I am sure she led a wonderful and storied life.

But alas, we did not live at the Hollywoo Towers very long (a little over a year, I think) – because, there heavy winter rains, and there must have been some leaks in the roof and the ceiling in our living room literally collapsed.

Every visit to LA, if I go past the Hollywood Towers in its present splendor, I think of Connie Chestnut, our gal about town!

Wherever she is now, I am sure Connie is stylish and charming all those around her.


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