Illustrated excerpts from REVOLVER

I turned right through what's commonly known as the Warner Barham Gate and stopped at the command of a uniformed security guard perched atop a wooden stool in front of the property department on my right. As he approached, I rolled down the passenger-side window and said, "Johnny Spicer to see Jack Warner."

I proceeded slowly--there's an eight-mile-per-hour speed limit inside the gate--through a narrow canyon of towering sound stage buildings. Warner's sound stages all look more or less the same--three-story pinkish monstrosities ranging from about a hundred feet to more than two hundred feet in length. Most of them have no windows and are topped by arched roofs. Warner Bros. has more than thirty of these giant edifices and the only way you can tell one from another is by large numbers painted on each corner of the buildings.

Inside, the [studio commissary's] main dining room was a large open space crowded with about a hundred tables under a beamed ceiling supported by wooden columns. The window-lined walls were painted white, which gave the place an airy feeling and kept it from seeming cramped despite the closely spaced tables. It was also a noisy place. At least three-quarters of the tables were already occupied, and all those conversations bouncing off the walls and ceiling created quite a racket.


Cutting across the neatly mown lawn between Dressing Room Building Two and the administration building, I was contemplating my less-than-successful interview with Diana Dean when a distinctly recognizable voice hollered, "Hey, Shamus!"

I turned toward First Street and saw Bogart on, of all things, a bicycle. He was stopped on the street next to the lawn, and as I walked toward him, I said, "You out getting your daily exercise?"

"Hell, no! A bike is the only way to get around on these narrow streets, especially when the place is busy. You find our culprit yet?"

"Nope. The clever detective doesn't figure out who dunnit until much later in the picture. So far nobody knows nothin' about nothin'."

The Cahuenga pass near the eastern end of the Santa Monica mountain range is the oldest and most-traveled road between the Los Angeles basin to the south and the vast San Fernando Valley to the north. In fact, the route was originally established by the local Indians long before the Spanish arrived in the area.

Spanish missionaries made the Cahuenga--if you care, it's pronounced ka-WENG-gah--Pass part of the El Camino Real which extends from San Diego on up the coast of California to San Francisco and beyond. The first actual road was built over the pass just after the turn of the century. Now, because of the heavy traffic between Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, the great state of California was turning the old road into a modern highway.

The Pig 'N Whistle is next door to Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, about a block-and-a-half east on Hollywood Boulevard from my office. 'The Pig,' as it is affectionately known by locals, is a different kind of joint--a first-class eatery with a soda fountain up front. That's definitely unique in a town that runs on hundred-proof booze.

The small mansion at eighty-two-thirteen Monteel was a Spanish stucco job with a red tile roof and lots of artsy arches and exposed beams that were probably supposed to be reminiscent of the grand haciendas from California's rancho days. I climbed the curved stairway leading from a street-level garage to a terrace where a straight stairway took me up to a well-lit arched entrance area with a pair of large, roughhewn, solid oak doors.

The appropriately named Warner Avenue is a frontage road running between the studio and Olive Avenue. I turned onto it and then turned right into the driveway that leads to the so-called VIP gate, which unlike the Barham gate, really has a gate-actually, two of them that meet in the middle to block the entire entrance. The left half of the gate was open, and a uniformed security cop stood to the left of the opening with the ever-present clipboard tucked under his arm.

Leaving the First National Bank Building through the Highland Avenue entrance, I turned left and walked down to Hollywood Boulevard. While waiting for the traffic signal to change, I looked across the boulevard toward my destination. The Max Factor salon took up about half a block on the east side of Highland, beginning with a four-story, deco-style edifice about mid-block. From there it dropped down to a series of five identical, single-floor facades that ended next to a parking lot at the corner of Highland and Hawthorne.

With the exception of large signs reading 'Chili' and, below that, 'Barney's Beanery' stuck atop its mansard roof and an awning advertising French onion soup over its front door, Barney's looked like a small wood-frame cottage--more like a residence than an eatery. The board siding had been painted white sometime in the dim past, and the trim around the front door and a few large windows was dark green.

Carpenter's Sandwich Drive-In consists of a forty-foot diameter octagonal building surrounded by parking places where cars nose in like hogs at a trough. Once parked, a young woman called a carhop shows up to take your order. A few minutes later she returns with a reasonable facsimile of whatever you asked for.

The menu at Carpenter's is painted on signs above an awning surrounding the service counter. They offer a variety of sandwiches, but the best deal for my money is a hamburger that can be had for a mere fifteen cents. If you're feeling flush, you can throw in another fifteen cents and have a beer to wash down your burger. It's the sort of touch that makes Hollywood the glamour capital of the world. Here you can become a drunk driver without ever leaving the comfort of your automobile.

Ruth Barnes' apartment building was on our left. Typical of the apartments in this part of town, it was a two-story, L-shaped structure that wrapped around the corner onto Franklin. We walked across Orange and up a concrete walk that ended at two apartment doors with an opening between them for a stairway to the second floor apartments on the Orange Drive side of the L. The apartment door on the left was dark brown and wore the brass numbers 1-7-9-1. I picked a spot on the door just below the numbers and knocked on it.

The Breakers is a Long Beach landmark. Built about fifteen years ago, the hotel is a swanky fourteen-story art deco cube situated just above the beach, the ritzy hangout of movie stars and other prominent folks who, for whatever reason, happen to find themselves in Long Beach.

The red octagons on the car's bright chromium hubcaps told me Gladys drove a Packard. I added this information to my notebook along with the vehicle's general description, black four-door estate wagon with wood trim.

I slid in behind the steering wheel of my Chrysler and was cranking the engine over when I heard the sound of screeching tires somewhere to my right. I looked down the side street just in time to see Diana Dean's bright red Cadillac convertible burst out of the hotel's garage entrance and swing in my direction. I heard the powerful sixteen cylinder Caddy engine straining under full throttle as it accelerated up the hill, then there was more tire squealing as Diana Dean shot into the intersection and wrenched the big steering wheel around to her left. (Cadillac shown)

Chasen's is a big white slab of a building on the northeast corner of Beverly and Doheny. They stuck a peaked section of roof over the entrance and threw up a sidewalk awning to add some character, but nobody will ever confuse Chasen's exterior with a Stiles Clements design. I pulled into the parking lot that wraps around the joint so Chasen's customers don't have to leave their classy chariots out on the street.

Torrance Memorial Hospital was a sprawling, mission-style building smack dab in the middle of a quiet residential district. The wing on our right was two stories and ran perpendicular to the street. There was a similarly shaped wing on the left that was only a single story. The two wings and their connecting structures were built around a courtyard. The grounds were tidy, and the whole place had a clean look to it--not a bad place to be sick, if you had to be sick.

Turning left on First Street, I saw Will, arms folded and lounging against the rear fender of his car--a dark maroon and black, two-door Hudson Terraplane coupe that looked to be about two years old. I pulled up behind him, and Will strolled over to greet me as I stepped down off my running board. "Hi, Boss. What's up?"

Frances Sorenson lived in a tidy little development house alongside other tidy little development houses in a quiet neighborhood. Her modest, single-story home was some architect's idea of a Spanish hacienda with a pinkish stucco exterior and a partially enclosed entry porch. The hacienda theme was enhanced by a few southwestern embellishments like the exposed ends of wooden beams poking out of the walls here and there. The two chimneys sticking out of the roof had double-arched tops. A driveway down the left side of the house led to a detached garage out back. It was all very tasteful, if a little stark.

The night air outside Eli's Delicatessen was full of a fine mist that felt more like San Francisco than Hollywood. It gave the pavement just enough shine to reflect the sparkling Christmas lights and surrounded each bulb with its own softly glowing halo, giving the whole scene an air of holiday enchantment. Hollywood glittered with the Christmas spirit.

Eugene Alexander, also known as Aleksandr Volodin, lived in half of a small, corner lot duplex. It was an off-white, wood-frame building of no particular architectural style. The half of the duplex Alexander lived in faced Haines Canyon Avenue, and the other half faced the cross street. Even from my vantage point I could see signs of neglect, among them a dying lawn that was badly in need of watering.

As I drew closer, I recognized the make of Volodin's sporty foreign job. Anyone with an interest in fast motor cars would know the stylish little sportster by its horseshoe-shaped grill and swooping lines. Dmitriy Volodin had himself a French Bugatti Type 57 Coupe--a very sleek, very fast automobile. Even in a town like Hollywood where expensive automobiles are a dime a dozen, a Bugatti is a rare sight.

The coast route between Ventura and Santa Barbara heads northwest, following the gentle curves of the coastline. To my left, the deep blue Pacific was fringed with foamy lines of surf less than a hundred feet beyond the highway's white wooden guardrail. On my right, covered by trees and wild shrubs, were the gently rolling rises and dips of the coast mountain range's foothills. It was the sort of scene they print on picture postcards for tourists to send home.

Twenty minutes or so north of Ventura I slowed for the tiny community of Carpinteria--not much more than a few small businesses and some cottages along the beach-and then I was back up to speed. Another fifteen minutes brought me to the Summerland oil fields, an ugly jungle of derricks, piers, and railroad spurs that made investors a lot of money, but did little for the local scenery.

Inside the city limits, U.S. 101, known locally as the Cabrillo Highway, parallels the beach for a few miles before making a right turn into the downtown area on a main drag called State Street. After that turn, I went another four blocks to the intersection of a street called Haley, where I spotted a Signal gas station on my right. I parked next to a public telephone booth there and used up the last of my pocket change placing a long distance call to Esther Smith's office.

My first good look at Doctor Rothenberg's French villa was spectacular to say the least. The two-story monument to extreme wealth was painted bright yellow and trimmed in white. It sat across the far end of a rectangular-shaped parking area with a wide strip of painstakingly manicured lawn down the middle.

It was a revolver, and it looked to be at least a foot long from grip to muzzle.

I leaned against a low wall behind the Biltmore and took in the twinkling lights up and down the beach and even more twinkles on the boats in the harbor. The air was cool, but not at all cold. Such was Christmas Eve in Santa Barbara.