Good read

Whoa: Ray Richmond has a heck of a story about his mom

cliftons-brookdale-facade.jpgLongtime Los Angeles scribe Ray Richmond writes at the LA Weekly today about his mother's long-time affair with Clifford Clinton, the reform-era City Hall rabble rouser who ran the popular Clifton Cafeteria chain. They met in the 1950s when Clinton patronized Mrs. Richmond's shop across Pico Boulevard from the Fox studio where men would show up, regularly, seeking certain paid services. Ray explains:

Mom worked as a "nurse" in a "chiropractor's office" across the street from 20th Century Fox Studios on Pico. Her "patients" were restricted to males, and the therapy largely to the region on and around the genitalia. Years later, Mom would boast with some pride that she "had the penises of more than 5,000 men" in her hand during her time as a happy-ending masseuse, including those of Mickey Rooney and Richard Crenna, as well as numerous other Hollywood players.

One fine day, my mother would later relate, Clifford E. Clinton walked in looking for a little relaxation and made a beeline for her in her crisp white nurse's uniform. To say that Clinton wasn't really the target demographic for such a joint would be a sizable understatement....It wasn't just that the dapper Clinton was a devout Christian. He was, in fact, a seminal figure in L.A. politics of the mid to late 1930s, one who ran afoul of city government when he tried to clean it up from the outside. He fought the cops, City Hall and organized crime, nearly getting himself killed in the process. His house was bombed. Law enforcement routinely harassed him. The health department targeted Clinton's restaurants with bogus violations and complaints. But the man never flinched. He wouldn't rest until the city's ring of prostitution, gambling, cronyism and sleaze was put out of business and a dirty pol named Frank Shaw became, in 1938, the first mayor of a U.S. city to be successfully recalled and tossed from office....It's hard to argue Clifford Clinton hadn't earned that handjob.

But in Clinton, my mother didn't see a mere moral crusader with balls of brass. She fell in love with an unfailingly kind, modest, nattily attired (always in a bowtie), bespectacled, deeply religious and — yes — horny gentleman with a legendarily generous nature. He was married, yes. But he fell just as hard for Mom, as his letters made clear.

It was an odd coupling, to say the least: a famed local restaurateur and a squat, buxom, broad-minded Jewish mother from Cleveland, who was some 21 years his junior. But shortly after he began regularly frequenting the office to partake of my mother's nursing skills, Clinton convinced her to quit the manipulation business, and they began a torrid affair.

Great telling of the tale. She ended up traveling with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. Richmond opens the piece by revealing that after she died, Richmond and his siblings dumped mom's ashes in the construction site at the Cliffton's cafeteria that is undergoing renovation on Broadway. "Reuniting my mother in perpetuity with the great love of her life," Richmond writes.

The original facade of Clifton's Brookdale

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