Kojak Didn’t Love Me
The year 1974 was a year of anxiety for me. It brought the draft lottery, a bloody war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. That year of suffering also contained my traumatizing encounter with television and movie star Telly “Kojak” Savalas.
“Kojak” was the popular TV show that year, with Telly playing a tough, bald, lollipop sucking NY homicide cop named Lt. Theo Kojak who used the catchphrase, “Who loves ya, baby?” In 1974, America was in love with Telly Savalas, and Theo Kojak.
I needed to go to a wedding reception at the San Fernando Valley Hilton. It was a hot, dry California night as I coasted my 1963 Volkswagen Microbus, with its chronic electrical problems, down a small Silver Lake hill and popped it into second to get it going. I had paid $500 for the bus in Ohio, and I’d painted it brown and purple with a brush. It looked like crap, was grossly underpowered, had no heater and the brakes were lousy. Don’t even mention the VW electrical system.
At the swanky Hilton parking lot, a place I had never been, I became confused and drove into the exit instead of the entrance. Pulling out at the same moment was a beautiful, sleek black Mercedes sedan. New model, top-of-the-line. And I was blocking the exit.
The window came down and Kojak leaned out to stare at me with disdain. I shifted into reserve but fumbled the stick/clutch coordination and stalled. I tried to restart the bus, but my piece of German engineering was not performing. I started to sweat.
Telly shook his head, took the cigarette from his mouth and launched a verbal nuclear strike about stupid hippies interspersed with coarse words for female and male genitalia, along with various vulgar spins on the human excretory system and its resulting waste product. All of this was directed right at me — the rays of venom and hatred bored into my sternum like hot lava from a volcano.
It went on and on as I turned the key and ground the VW’s starter into metal dust. Finally, the gods took pity and the bus started. I reversed and got out of his way as Kojak peeled out of the lot while flipping me off.
Peace and love, Telly, peace and love … even if you do not love me, baby.