Years later, when I was living in L.A., and actually married at the time, Larry was single and living in Laurel Canyon. I think we were in our mid to late thirties. He called and asked me to come over to his house because he had something incredible to tell me. Well, when I got there, Larry’s anxiety was not his normal everyday get-up-in-the-morning-and-hate-everything-about-myself panic. No, this was definitely heightened. His face had a washed-out pallor like a vampire who drank someone coming out of Starbucks and couldn’t sleep from the caffeine. I figured either Larry had just read something about a new fatal disease and imagined he had contracted it and was about to die or it was a woman, which of course it was.
The night before, LD had gone to the movies and while at the refreshment stand fell head-over-sneakers for the popcorn girl. He kept saying, “John, I think I’m in love with the popcorn girl. And I think she might like me. I made her laugh and she gave me more popcorn. What should I do? I think she’s in her twenties, is that too young?”
We decided that being a comic automatically took a few years off your appearance and a decade or more off your rate of maturity. So the fact that she was old enough to legally hold a job meant she was old enough to date a thirty-something comedian.
In our emotional life, there are people years and there are comic years. Psychologically, we’re half-life regressive. For every decade a regular person matures, we mature five, until at some point we’re physically old enough to either actually experience a partial life or just blame it on dementia.
Since LD did not ask the popcorn girl what her name was, or where she lived, and I knew Larry would never be able to just walk up to a strange woman, he’d have to approach her armed with his best weapon-- one that didn’t require his standing before her stammering. It was far mightier than a sword or even a cocktail in his hand—the weapon was the written word. As previously mentioned, comics, especially Larry and I, were scared adolescents around a woman we fancied. If either of us were a Governor and a very pretty girl were in the electric chair and we could save her life, we’d be too insecure to pardon her, thinking she’d rather get toasted then talk to us.
He read the letter to me, and of course it was very funny. One line stood out. Larry had written, “If you go out with me, I’m prepared to give up meat for you.”
He finished the letter and we decided to go to the movie theater that night so LD could hand-deliver it. LD had a brown Fiat (he purchased it when he worked on the TV show “Fridays”) whose first engine he’d blown up because he’d forgotten to put oil in it since the day he bought it. So we drove there, parked nearby, walked into the theater and Larry asked for the popcorn girl. We were taken to a lanky guy, in his early twenties, with acne splattered across his cheeks like crumbs left on a comic’s chair, wearing the exaggerated expression of a Broadway star belting out the lyrics, “I’m younger and better looking than both of you.”
Larry feigned confidence that unfortunately toppled out of at his mouth and he stammered, “Uh… I’m looking for the popcorn girl.”
“What popcorn girl?” the kid said, like the authority in his fiefdom was absolute.
“The one who was working here last night,” Larry, trying to cover his disappointment, spoke like he had no authority anywhere on the planet.
“She’s off tonight,” he quickly cranked out, warning the universe the schedule he made was never ever to be broken.
Before His Honor could dismiss us, LD squeezed in, “Can you give her this?” Not giving the Sheriff of Nottingham the time to say no, Larry handed the guy the envelope.
The multiplex mogul, no longer feeling threatened by us thirty-something, alfalfa males, actually smiled nicely at us and said, “Sure, I’ll give it to her when she comes in tomorrow.”
LD and I turned and walked back to his car, discussing how long he should wait for a reply before knowing whether he’d been rejected or not.
We circled the block and were about to go home, when I thought I saw the guy open up the letter. I told LD, and Larry, never being one to back down from the opportunity to confront his own embarrassment, decided to go back and find out.
When we approached the ticket booth, the guy was indeed reading the letter, not just to himself, but to three or four other members of the acne brother and sisterhood.
LD walked up to the guy and asked as impolitely and impotently as he could, “Are you reading my note?”
The kid smiled and said, “Yes,” after which he and his crew of pimple people began laughing.
“That was personal... That wasn’t to you… That was personal.”
“I got permission,” he said, like he was shoving a dirty newspaper in a dog’s face.
“From the popcorn girl?” LD asked more surprised than curious.
The guy shot back. “Yeah, she’s my girlfriend.”
“She’s your girlfriend!” LD repeated like bad Mexican food that hung onto your esophagus, dangling awhile, before it did a nosedive into your gut.
Their laughter was Miracle Grow for pimples, as thousands of pink mounds leaned toward us cackling. LD didn’t have his usual temper tantrum. No, this time he didn’t have a stage to walk off of, or a bum to fight to the death over a tuna sandwich. He just shouted from the top, bottom and middle of his lungs. “You shouldn’t read other people’s letters!” as he steamed toward the car. When we were driving away, I saw the letter being passed around, the ticket booth bursting with knives of laughter, looking at us until LD and his humiliation passed out of sight.