Blog reader Cristiane brought this book to my attention recently. Eve Babitz was once a fairly common name in Hollywood. This book is described as partially fictive, but this short chapter on Bobby B seems accurate. if you have any interest in reading the book it can either be read on-line or downloaded here.
"Hi," I said. What was her name?
It was another one of those faces, a friend of Karen's, I pieced together, and someone else, too, that guy Bob.
She and Bob had been close and I always saw them at Cantor's together when LSD was the rage. Everyone would leave the Strip at 2 when the clubs closed and go to Cantor's en masse so blasted out of their heads that if you asked someone what time it was they backed away, wide-eyed, as though you'd presented them with a philosophical impossibility. Bob was adorable but so obnoxious that he wore his nickname on his lapel. He'd had it made into a button and it said, "I am Bummer Bob."
Bummers were when the acid had something in it that didn't agree with you. It was anything else disagreeable and a drag as well, so you can't say he didn't tell you. Except that he looked like an archangel. Bright.
People said he was a narc and a thief, but I knew he wasn't sophisticated to be either of those when I let him stay at my house once for a week with his white dog. He needed someplace to stay, nobody would talk to him, and even though I didn't sleep with him, he was beautiful and couldn't help it that he was such a bummer. He never understood anything and always asked the wrong questions. He was so unable to understand anything and he shorted out so many trains of thought that people thought he was a narc. He never took anything from my house when he stayed there, he even tried to buy food.
He left L.A. and I had heard that he'd moved to the country.
After I came back from New York and was up in San Francisco, I ran into him one night in the Fillmore. He was playing guitar in a band, and the leader of the band, my friend, had complained of him and how disruptive he was.
"What else can you expect from someone called Bummer Bob?" I asked.
"I never heard that before," he said.
"That's what he's called," I said. We were upstairs at the Fillmore, and there was Bob, dressed dramatically in black with a top hat and a cape. A look of sudden surprised hospitality flooded his face when he saw me, completely the opposite of the black cape, and he said, like a kid, "Wowie, Evie!"
My friend, the leader, was amazed later, he'd never seen him look like that before. Shortly thereafter, Bob left the group in a lurch and quit rock and roll or said he was going to.
"It's just as well," I told my friend.
Now, I faced this girl in Ohrbach's and I couldn't remember her name. She'd just been, like me, a friend to him when no one would be. She'd been more than me because she'd loved him, I thought, and he had telephoned her from my house every day because he
cared about her. It was a time when no one cared about anyone, so I noticed.
"Have you heard from Bob after he went to San Francisco?" I asked her. It was 5 years later, but she still had this dewy kind of thing about her.
"He sent me a Christmas card," she said.
It was sweet, I thought, that no matter how much of a bummer he was, he held onto the amenities like Christmas cards and daily phone calls.
"How nice," I said. "Where is he?"
"Haven't you heard?" she asked. She looked struck with pain.
"What's he done?" I knew he must have done something terrible from her face. Something ... really terribIe.
"He's been ... in San Quentin. He's the one they call Cupid in the Manson family, the one Manson's supposed to have tried to free by the other murders ... "
Bobby Beausoleil had romped with his dog in my house. He'd worn a sign that said "I am Bummer Bob." I'd let him stay but hadn't slept with him because anyone who called themself that, I figured, must have the clap or some other expensive social disease. He didn't understand. He sent Christmas cards from Death Row.
"What'd he say?" I asked.
"Oh, God," I said, helplessly thrown back into the archaic idiom that even he had used to describe what he was. "What a bummer!"