Leap before you look! I did it again. Langley Porter? I was pretty sure that was the psychiatric division of the UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) right down the street on Parnassus. The card said Paul Back had an appointment at 3:30 that day. This was before I had an understanding about treatable chemical imbalances in the brain; ‘bi-polar disorder’ was not yet a household word, and the only reason anybody went to a psychiatrist was that they were CRAZY!
Oz had gone out to get a newspaper, and some Danish. I figured I had a few minutes before I heard the keys in the lock. My heart was racing as I picked up the card, and dialed the number. A receptionist answered and I asked to speak to the doctor. “Is this an emergency?” She asked.
“Yes!” I cried. “I need to know if I’m in danger. I just moved in with this guy and I found this card.”
I must have sounded like a ‘case’ myself, ’cause the doctor actually took the call. “Am I in danger?”
“I don’t know, are you?” he asked.
“Oh, right. I need to explain. I just moved in with this guy and I found this appointment card to see you at Langley Porter. His name is Oz Bach but on the card it says Paul Back. Is he crazy?”
“Well, he is a patient here, and this is a psychiatric hospital. That’s all I can tell you.”
“That’s all I need to know. Thanks.” I seemed calm, but my insides were clenched to the max.
When he returns, I will just tell him that I made a mistake and he should move out. I put the card back where I found it, tucked underneath a book. I would do the “It’s not you, it’s me” thing and hope he would understand. You know, where you say you’re just not ready for a relationship, jumped in too soon, and let’s just be friends. That always works, right?
Never! It never works. He was jumping out of his skin. “Leave? You want me to leave? You’re not ready for a relationship? Too late, girly! I will NOT leave. And YOU will NOT LEAVE ME! If you do, I will kill you! NOBODY leaves Oz Bach!”
That shut me up. Kill me? That’s a bit harsh after such a short relationship. I mean, we’re talking weeks here. Come on. “Alrighty then, never mind. I’m fine. No, not leaving after all. Oh no, I see your point. Everything is fine.”
Oh, boy. The Great and Wonderful Oz has spoken. I will not argue with the man behind the curtain. I’ll just call in sick one day next week and slip out the back, Jack. I’ll do the old ‘moonlight slip’. Daaad!!! Help!
My dad came to my rescue and together we shoved all of my worldly goods into black plastic garbage bags, loaded them in his car, and tore off to Walnut Creek in the night. I didn’t take a full breath until we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge on our way to the family home in Alamo. I knew I would have to face Oz the next night at the Off Broadway Club, but I was planning to tell Bronco, the manager, about the threat on my life and hope they would fire him.
Bronco said they didn’t have a replacement ‘barker’ and couldn’t fire him yet, but they would have one of the bouncers from the Condor see me safely to my car at the end of my shift. I felt okay with that until I left my dressing room for the first show of the night. I heard a low, deep voice behind me: “You better watch your back, C.J. If I get a chance I will push you down the stairs. If that doesn’t kill you, I’ll wait in the alley with a knife. Nobody leaves Oz Bach, bitch.”
The shoulder shove he gave me from behind was full of anger. With that physical contact, my fear dissipated and my own anger surfaced. I knew I wouldn’t win if I turned around to fight, no matter how fast my blood was boiling. I want this guy outta here right now or I’m not going on stage. I went to George, the bartender, and told him the story. “Okay, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it. Go get ready for the show.”
I kept the body-guard escort for a couple of weeks, but I never saw hide nor hair of Oz again. Only once did the subject ever come up. A few days after the shoving incident George called me over to the bar: “Hey CJ, that jerk ain’t bothered you again, right? He ever comes near you, you come see me.”
“Thanks, George. I will.” (If I’m alive to tell about it.)
For a while, I stayed in the dressing room between shows, forgoing the hot fudge sundaes at Enrico’s. I brought my school books with me and used the time to study for my classes at San Francisco State.
Maybe it was time to quit “show business” and get a real job. I heard the airlines were hiring.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Carol Doda’s path crossed mine again… and it was a real doozy!
Part 6 – soon!