J. Lo in the House
I am serializing Forty Bucks and A Dream: Stories of Los Angeles on Substack. New chapters drop Mondays. Below the current piece is the Table of Contents, with links to what’s posted before. If you like these stories please become a paid subscriber and/or hit the one-hit button.
J. LO IN THE HOUSE
In 1999, Cameron Silver, owner of the Melrose boutique Decades and habitué of the international fashion set, bought the Schindler-designed Elliot House directly across the street from me. With cranes and crew, Silver and his boyfriend Jeff Snyder restored the somewhat dilapidated three-story structure to better-than-original splendor, garnering historic-monument status from the city of Los Angeles, as well as the fawning fascination of curious tourists, who creep up our dead-end block in Los Feliz to stare with reverence at the aviary of glass that is the Elliot House living room.
The house has also attracted some unwanted attention.
“Last month, somebody buzzes the gate at twelve-thirty on a Saturday night,” Snyder tells me. “I answer it through the intercom, and this perfectly coherent man says, ‘Hi, is Jennifer there?’ I tell him he has the wrong house, look out the window, see a figure going down the steps, and don’t think anything of it. The next morning, Cameron goes down to get the paper, and comes back saying, ‘There’s a man asleep in the carport.’”
Snyder went to speak with him. “I’m not afraid of people who are imbalanced; I’ll talk to them, see if I can help. I realize it’s the guy from the night before, and he looks all right. He’s around fifty, his clothes are perfectly clean, but as soon as he sees me he starts having a mental breakdown, rocking and yelling, ‘MOM! DAD! JENNIFERRR!’”
Realizing the guy was beyond his reach, Snyder called the police. “They said for me to call an ambulance, because the guy can’t even get up and walk at this point. I thought it was so weird, because he sounded so normal on the intercom the night before, and the next morning, he’s completely incapacitated and psychotic.” The paramedics took the man away, inadvertently leaving behind a prescription bottle they’d taken from his pocket.
“It had the guy’s name on it, and I saw that the prescription was for Seroquel,” Snyder says, of the anti-psychotic medication sometimes given to schizophrenics. Not knowing what to do with it, Snyder says he, “tossed the bottle in my glove compartment and forgot about it.”
Until a week later, when the guy rang the buzzer again.
“It was three-thirty in the morning, and when I saw it was him, I called the cops,” Snyder says. “They found him standing on the steps and asked what he was doing. ‘I’m here to see Jennifer Lopez,’ he said. I said to Cameron, ‘My god, he thinks Jennifer Lopez lives here.’ He was being really cooperative at this point, and the cops said there was nothing they could really do unless we wanted to press charges, which we didn’t.
“I decided to talk to the guy. I’m standing there in my robe, with my hair all over the place, and I tell him, ‘Jennifer Lopez doesn’t live here, I don’t know her, you’ve got the wrong house, and you can’t come back.’ And the guy says, ‘I’m sorry, I understand, and I’d like to offer a written apology.’ I told him that wasn’t necessary, and the cops gave him a ride out of the neighborhood. Still, I had a feeling we hadn’t seen the last of him.”
The next morning, the guy was back, loitering on a bus bench on the corner.
“He knows our cars and was obviously waiting for us to leave,” Snyder says. “So I drove around the block, and when I came back, he was just sitting across from the house, staring up at it. He saw me and hid behind a gardener’s truck, which was when I decided I had to find this guy’s doctor or whoever was responsible for him.”
Snyder called the pharmacy listed on the Seroquel bottle and was put in touch with L.A. Metropolitan Medical Center. “I get a woman on the phone named LaTonya and tell her who I’m calling about. She says, ‘Do you know Gary?’ I said, ‘Well, he’s been coming to my house because he thinks Jennifer Lopez . . .’
“‘WE FOUND GARY!’ she starts yelling to her co-workers, and then she tells me, ‘He’s schizophrenic and delusional, and he thinks Jennifer Lopez is his wife,’ and that I’m to call the cops and tell them he’s a 51-50—which means he’s a mental patient who’s left their care. He’d apparently escaped from his halfway house.
“So I look out the window, but he’s not there. I walk to the corner and flag down a cop car—and that’s when I see him, he’s right around the corner. I tell the cops he’s a 51-50, and he thinks Jennifer Lopez is his wife.”
Snyder displays no perturbation as he recounts the next part. “Gary starts telling them I’ve kidnapped Jennifer Lopez, and that I’m holding her captive in the house and torturing her on a daily basis,” he says. “I mean, I think she’s really beautiful, but before this I’d never given much thought to J. Lo—except to wonder why she started calling herself J. Lo. Anyway, the cops are looking at us like we’re both nuts, so I get LaTonya on the phone and ask her to please explain to the cops what’s going on.”
The cops finally got the message, got Gary in the car, and took him away.
“When I got back to the house, I called LaTonya,” Snyder says. “I told her what Gary had told the police — that I had Jennifer Lopez captive and was abusing her, and she says, ‘That puts you in danger.’ I said I know it does, because he believes I am hurting his wife, and the delusion will probably escalate to where he wants to rescue or protect her. She gets my name and number, and tells me if he ever escapes again, I’ll be notified.
“Then she said, ‘Is there something about your house that would lead him to believe Jennifer Lopez lives there? Is it a plush house?’”
FORTY BUCKS AND A DREAM: Stories of Los Angeles
1: Forty Bucks and a Dream: The lives of a Hollywood motel
2: The Camera and the Audience
3: Jena at 15: A childhood in Hollywood
4: The Waxer
6: Brown Dirt Cowboys: Meet your Mexican gardening crew
7: Punch Drunk
9: Who She Took With Her: The husband, the son, the boyfriend… a drunk’s tale
11: No Exit Plan: The lies and follies of Laura Albert, a.k.a., J.T. Leroy
12: Porn for Women
13: Sanctuary: Days and nights at the King Edward Saloon
14: Why Not to Write About the Supreme Master of the Universe: A day with the disciples of Ching Hai
15: Playboy: The next generation
16: J. Lo in the House
17: The Marrying Room
18: Meet the Neighbors
19: The Pathos of Failing
20: Bite and Smile
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