By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
All of a sudden, his lips compress, as if he's just said something wrong that he wishes he could take back.
"Cops don't talk anymore," he says. "They can't. Everything they say is misconstrued."
"You okay, you need anything?" Jesus asks, rushing up, flush from organizing a pool tournament and eager to be a good host. "Everybody happy?"
THE SHORT STOP'S BIGGEST NIGHT IS every other Wednesday, when the officers get paid. There's always a DJ spinning old-school funk, free hero sandwiches and lots of ladies. Though almost everyone denies it, it's a pretty heavy pickup scene, and a plainly atavistic one.
I can't say I don't appreciate the dynamics. A few years ago, a girlfriend and I, out of perverse curiosity, took the LAPD written exam. It wasn't hard -- an SAT test with a sprinkling of civic questions -- and on the way home, to keep our fantasy going, we stopped at the Short Stop. It was my first time there, it was Pay Day Wednesday, and the place was packed with big, strong men ready to give us anything we wanted. (Our Betsey Johnson minidresses may have had something to do with this.) There was a lot of good-natured jockeying as guys vied for our attention, buying us drinks and lighting our cigarettes and generally making us feel like the most alluring pieces of ass in Hollywood. In a flash, we happily forsook all post-1970 codes of social/sexual conduct in favor of an anachronistic romp with delightful, deceptively simple rules: We're women, they're in charge.
Tonight, two young girls walk in, their eyes skittering between the floor and some safe point above people's heads. Within seconds, one is approached by the young officer she's arranged to meet; he takes her into the pool room and sits holding her hand. Her friend sits with me, not having any idea how to conduct herself amid all the palpable masculinity.
"It's weird, huh?" she whispers, and I realize she's processing the possibility of unlimited attention. We make small talk -- she's studying to be a police officer, lives in Highland Park -- but like a junior high school girl waiting to be asked to dance, she swivels her head at the slightest suggestion of a suitor. Eight minutes later, she's swept away.
"Internal Affairs used to say, the one word that used to be synonymous with the Short Stop was 'Sustained,' meaning any allegations of groping or whatnot were pronounced true," says a senior officer who remembers when Pay Day Wednesdays were a lot wilder. "But the Short Stop has mellowed. You get mature, you get ã burned a few times, you don't do it anymore. Young men, alcohol and women are not a good combination. You put a gun in there, you have a bad situation. I've seen two officers fighting over the same woman, and they didn't even know who she was!"
"There's no pickup scene going on," says Rosie, who works a beat in the Valley. She's in her 20s, a real looker with tawny skin and an off-center sneer, and she slurs as she drives her point home. "We're all the same in here. I buy him a drink, he buys me a drink, the gender doesn't matter."
Just then, a peroxide babe showing off a plush derriere squeezes in next to an officer across from us.
"If you're a cop it doesn't matter. If you're these girls," Rosie says, staring at blondie and gripping my biceps so hard her fingers reach the bone, "you're looking for a daddy for your baby."
Diana, a broad-hipped brunette with caked-on mascara, sits at the end of the bar scanning the room. She readily admits an attraction to cops.
"The machismo. The power. Protection," says Diana. "I've dated a couple of cops. I felt very safe. Though sometimes they have this attitude about being above the law, so you have to bring them down to your level."
How does she do this?
"How do I do this . . . how do I do this . . ." She looks to her friend Dawn, who's wearing a skintight, neon-blue hip-hugger/halter-top ensemble with a white plastic zipper at the cleavage. "How do you do this?"
Dawn shrugs. "I don't think you really can," she says. She should know; she works as a bartender at another cop bar in Lincoln Heights. "How can I put it? The way they are, they mainly stick together. It's a very, very stressful job. They don't want to be bothered a lot, they want to be left alone so they can relax."
SO TO SPEAK. BY 10:30, THE BAR IS packed and quaking with action. People are tearing hunks off a 6-foot hero. A large detective screams, "I won $2.8 million in Lotto and I still can't get laid!"
"It's true," laughs F. A senior officer in his 40s, he is smart and sexy and a shameless flirt, tanking me full of drinks and repeatedly asking me to marry him. That is, until he hears a Harley pull up outside, whereupon he quickly orders a beer and has it waiting when his former partner, the 6-foot-6 beanpole R., walks in. They grab each other jubilantly, and within moments fall into a comedic routine, beginning with the "synchronized swimming" hand-waves and head-bobs they employed as "turn signals" while driving, and seguing into several squawking Monty Python bits they'd use at crime scenes. (For the rare homicide: "I think she's dead!" "She's nawt dead!" "Lewk, I think her head mewved!") The moves are sharp and symbiotic and, most surprising, extravagantly silly, something one simply does not expect from cops.