Thursday, November 20, 2008
Gene Autry's Continental Hotel
Continental Hotel 1965
I stood on the sidewalk waiting for the light to change. I was on Sunset Blvd. in front of the Park Sunset Hotel, directly across the street from the Continental Hotel. The Continental was nicked named the "Rock N Roll Hotel" because so many 60's and 70's bands had stayed there. It would later become known as the Continental Riot House.
As I waited for the light, rapid fire thoughts of Diane Linkletter's and my father's suicides raced through my head. I looked over at the old Ciro's nightclub, to the left of the Continental's west side, where I'd once performed to a packed house in 1964.
I have little or no recollection of leaving Cleveland and arriving back in L.A. in 1970, or how it was that I ended up at the Park Sunset Hotel, where I snorted coke and drank myself into a suicidal stupor of depression and rage. I saw my life as a series of unending failures and disasters by 1971, and had convinced myself of the hopelessness of my situation.
I'd spent way too many days going over each record deal I'd been involved in since 1964, starting with Tony Alamo, and progressing on to my last deal with GRT and the "Working" album, in 1969-70. I had made and released 8 singles and 3 albums, writing most of the songs.
I calculated that by 1971 I'd managed to make next to nothing for all of those records and seven years of my life. As I drank and snorted myself into oblivion, I'd decided somewhere in that darkness to throw myself off the ledge of the Continental Hotel.
The light turned green and I walked across Sunset to the Continental's front door and lobby. I remember watching my feet as I walked, with machine-like precision, toward the hotel. I entered through the front door, crossed the lobby, and headed for the elevators. I got on and pushed the button, acting as if I were a guest going to my room.
I did not hesitate or have second thoughts. I was like a mechanical man, built to do one thing and one thing only. The elevator stopped at the 11th floor and the doors opened. I walked out into the hall and saw a door saying "exit." I opened it and stepped out onto a concrete landing.
There was a short wall with a pipe railing around the top. That was all that separated the landing from the 11th story ledge at the back of the hotel. I looked north from the landing up into the hills dotted with houses and trees. I stood there for a moment, then swung one leg across the railing followed by the other.
I was standing 11 floors up on a concrete ledge that was 10 to 12 inches from the wall to the outer edge. In front of me was nothing but air, behind me the 3 foot stucco wall with the pipe rail around the top. All of a sudden, the door I'd come through swung open, and a guy with a uniform shirt appeared. He looked at me as if confused by what he saw, and said, "Hey, you're not supposed to be out...."
He stopped in mid-sentence. I stared at him, glassy eyed and desperate. Then he disappeared, and I knew it was just a matter of time- before the whole place would be crawling with cops. I sat down on the edge of the ledge, with my legs dangling over, and stared at the concrete driveway 11 floors below.
My thoughts raced, and my emotions blew up like a bomb inside my head, as tears raced out of my eyes like a river. I watched them fall to the ground below. I listened to the sounds I made, as I sat there totally alone and in absolute pain, sobbing like a broken child. "If only somebody had paid me, if only I'd met one honest person in the music business, if only, if only," I thought, "If only."