Flashbacks. In the 90's I was booked with two male comics to do two New Year's Eve shows at Lompoc Maximum Security Penitentiary north of Los Angeles.
Upon arrival, Paul, (I can’t remember his real name) Bobby and I were ushered through a security check and asked to remove our belts and keys. We also had to surrender our drivers’ licenses. I asked why.
"In case something happens to you in there…we’ll need some sort of identification to uh…”
“...identify the body.” Bobby finished the sentence for him. It's probably important to note that prison guards don't carry guns. And that prisoners were allowed to talk to us.
As we walked through the halls we passed a locked glass-encased bulletin board. Inside were our pictures, all smiley and show bizzy. We were escorted backstage and introduced to our M.C., a prisoner from Cell Block Kill The Comics.
The headliner, Bobby Gaylor, was a very funny guy who wrote for the sitcom Roseanne and was a veteran of prison shows. As first-timers, Paul (John, George, Ringo?) and I asked him if there was any advice he could give us that would make the gig easier. Bobby said nothing could make a prison gig easier.
The M.C. introduced Paul (Pius, Benedict, Boniface?) and he hadn't said two sentences before the cons started heckling him. I stood backstage and prayed for an earthquake. I decided to keep my biker leather jacket on because I had the blonde hair liability going on. During my half hour on stage I heard “show me your tits” more than I’d ever heard it in my entire life and that’s including from my gynecologist.
After my set ended and I went backstage to learn how to breathe again, a prisoner named Ronnie came up to me holding a camera and told me he thought I was funny, which I hoped wasn’t a prelude to shivving me in the neck. He was nice, sweet even, and very shy. We talked for a long time. As Gaylor came backstage after his set a guard motioned for me to follow him. I shot Gaylor a parting glance that said, “Don’t lose me in here, dude. Seriously.”
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to over there?” The guard asked, motioning towards the prisoner with the camera.
“You mean Ronnie?”
“He said his name was Ronnie.”
“Yeah, on the outside, in here he’s Bruiser and I gotta warn ya; he’s the most dangerous guy in the pen. We have no idea how many people he’s killed.”
“He must have a file; aren’t the numbers in there?”
“No, inside the prison.”
As we waited for the next show to begin, a deafening siren sounded and we were escorted out. Security said they would come and get us when it was safe to go back in. We walked out to the deserted parking lot in a cold, drizzling rain and piled into Bobby’s car. We decided to take off. Fuck the gig. No amount of money was worth dying in a prison riot although we all agreed we could use the press.
Fifteen minutes later security tapped on the car window. There had been a fight but the guards broke it up. YAY, AND NOW MORE COMEDY!
As we walked past that locked glass case, I noticed my picture was missing. I asked a guard what happened to it.
“Probably stolen by a con.”
“But that case was locked with a key, how did they open it?”
“Where do they get tools?”
“They make 'em.”
We went backstage and prisoners from the first show were still milling around. One came up to me with a pen and my head shot from the locked case. I asked him how he got it and he just smiled. I signed it and I’m pretty sure that picture ended up with my mouth torn out in the shape of a circle. Bruiser asked me for my address. I gave him my agent’s address. Better that he kill him when he got out instead of me.
“Made for you? Soro, he had someone make that for you. He’s the head con at Lompoc. He had a camera; no one has a fucking camera in the pen.”**
I still have that ship in the bottle. It reminds me that no man I’ve ever been with has ever bothered to shake down someone into making me a present. Or killed anyone.
End of chat.