Party Flavors 

Real-Life Tales

Photo by Debra DiPaolo

The party pooped: Super Bowl Sunday 1986. As Super Bowl games go, this one was hardly memorable: New England Patriots 10, Chicago Bears 46. But as Super Bowl parties go, this one ranked among the strangest ever. Fact is, Greg and I didn’t actually see the game.

We were living in a low-rent apartment on North Argyle Avenue. The freeway underpass down the street was inhabited by L.A.’s pushiest coke dealers and most demented hookers. And there was never any place to park.

Oblivious to the squalor, Greg decided to invite a few male friends over to watch the game. He settled on a simple menu, the focus of which was beer. As an afterthought, he threw together some chicken tacos.

By 2 p.m., the set was tuned to pre-game, and the guys started to arrive. Then it hit me like an outtake from an episode of Martha Stewart: We had no cilantro. Greg was utterly unfazed, but as far as I was concerned, chicken tacos simply could not be served without cilantro. So, I hopped in the car and, within minutes, was back with a fresh, fragrant bunch.

As usual, every parking space for blocks was filled. I edged my Datsun as close as possible to the battered Buick parked in front of our building, raced up the stairs with the cilantro and then dashed back down to park the car. Too late. The cops were already running my plates. When they discovered my expired license and outstanding warrants (all for unpaid parking tickets, by the way) they shot me a smug look that told me I was doomed. The wheels of justice were in motion.

Greg noticed the scene and came down to persuade the cops that I was all right. By this time, a second squad car had pulled up. “Uh, officers, this is my girlfriend,” Greg protested. “And who are you?” one cop asked. Greg dutifully produced his (valid) driver’s license and the cops ran it. I knew that Greg was comparatively law abiding; no unpaid tickets, no warrants. I was certain they’d cut him loose in no time.

The cops huddled for a muffled powwow. A minute later, we were cuffed and tossed into the back of the first squad car. The cops were ebullient. I didn’t get it. Why Greg? I was the one who double-parked!

All was explained after we were escorted through the back doors of the Hollywood station. Greg, it seems, precisely matched the physical description of one Natividad Barazzo, a particularly slippery murder suspect high on the cops’ most-wanted list. On top of that, Greg and Natividad are both Christmas babies: December 25 (hence “Natividad”). The cops were sure they had their man.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the guys chugged beer and munched chicken tacos (with cilantro) while the Bears ran up a 23-3 lead in the first half.

Greg and I spent a seemingly endless afternoon in separate cells. Someone forgot to turn the heat on in mine. It must have been around 60 in there. From his cell, Greg could almost — but not quite — see and hear the cops’ TV, which was, of course, tuned to the game. Human minds could not conceive of crueler or more unusual punishment.

At long last, and without a word of apology, the cops released Greg. Seems that his prints didn’t match those of the suspected murderer.

Now this I’ve gotta say: If I were Greg and my girlfriend just cost me a Super Bowl Sunday in jail, I’d have second, maybe third, thoughts about bailing her out — at least right away. But to his undying credit, Greg made the guys cough up my bail (no ATMs back then), and I was a free woman before midnight. And did he dump me after that nightmare? Nope. In fact, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on Halloween.

Hosting with the mosting: For dinner parties, let dinner be late. Keep the cocktails coming but hold the food till everyone’s toasted and fuzzy. Invariable results: People bond over shared adversity (starvation), mingle over shared beverages (intoxication) and rejoice over the eventual end to their fast (celebration). Works every time.

—Deborah Drooz, attorney

The party pooped: I’d just hired a new maid who was also a cook. As it happens, that same week, I had taken in a new rescue dog. To say neither of them felt safe or had history in my ways of doing things is a ridiculous understatement. The maid was running late. She finally arrives and rings the doorbell nonstop, which infuriated the insecure dog. The maid enters the grounds of the house, and the dog bites her firmly on the ankle. OUCH! The guests are arriving in less than half an hour. A friend takes her to the emergency room for x-rays and antibiotics — later on came the monetary compensation for the weeks she was unable to work and the doctor bills. Back in the house, I am trying to clean the blood stain from the freshly painted walkway. Now everything reeks of disinfectant and rubbing alcohol which leaves its own variety of huge stains. By now, the main part of the hot meal, which was originally meant to be prepared by the maid, must be taken care of by me. Guests start arriving. Sixty people are expected. I spent all evening cooking and serving food, while everyone else had a great time.

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