By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
We’ve dumped all our trash into the hallway. All of it. Guests arrive — not as many as we’d hoped for — but plenty. By midnight, the lounge and hallways are respectably packed with revelers, knee-deep in crap of all textures and stenches. Dungeonites walk, roll and scrape in various states of disrepair.
Animal spends much of the evening writhing on the floor, laughing and grabbing at random ankles. But because he’s Animal, it seems like reasonable behavior.
After that first winter break, Beef and I get rid of our steel-frame beds and put up a loft. (My idea, of course; Beef would’ve been fine sleeping on the floor in the hallway.) Now we have almost twice as much space. This gives our room — one of the most isolated rooms on the floor — slightly more social potential; i.e., there’s room for a keg.
And just in time, this new guy, Rum Raisin, shows up. Moves in with one of the floor’s few isolationists, a Richard Something. Rum Raisin dresses like a frat boy. Traumatizes Spike instantly by wearing hideous green pleated pants and a pink Lacoste shirt. There’s widespread concern that Animal might kill him.
We are, among other things, adamantly anti-frat.
No need to fear. Inside Rum’s frat-boy costume beats the heart of one of the brilliant social minds of our generation. Rum becomes our pimp, a.k.a. social director. Rum organizes our first hugely successful event, the Jungle Party.
We hack off palm and palmetto fronds (with respect, almost: just a few from each tree) from the South Bay to the Valley, and haul them back in Darin’s minipickup, just before its transmission dies on Venice at Sepulveda. We work under cover of darkness, et cetera. We hang these and whatever other jungly vegetation presents itself to us from the walls and ceiling. Someone arranges for EverclearT to appear by driving down to Mexico and back very quickly.
We post notices. KK, who lives with Brellis right beside the lounge, rigs the speakers and selects the vinyl. The people come. By 10 p.m., the floor is packed and humming, and it packs and hums solidly for three hours or more, then unpacks but still hums until dawn. Home is made temporarily another world, loud and leafy, useless but for the pleasure of those who made it. Basted out of my Juan Epstein/Willie Aames–lookin’ gourd and wearing only a rabbit-skin loincloth, I have become Wild Man.
A quarter century passes like nothing. Animal lives up in Valencia now. Married, with two teenagely Animal-spawn. By hard work and, by his own account, good fortune, Animal’s made a lot of money, mostly by presiding over a private-investigation firm. He’s sort of a secret-agent guy. Seems happy.
Animal’s still a large, intense man, chivalrous, reasonable, seemingly unbreakable. Beef describes Animal as “the heart of the Dungeon.” I believe that’s a compliment to us all.
I leave my car in the parking lot at Animal’s office, and we drive off toward some kind of reunion in Las Vegas, the approximate 25th anniversary of our Dungeon days. Our last road trip together was probably to San Diego about 23 years ago in either a multiprimered ’66 Mustang or an early-’70s AMC Hornet wagon with inexplicable Gucci seats. Suddenly, it’s a huge black BMW sedan with an exotic GPS entertainment panel that I can’t stop staring at.
Down Interstate 5, up Highway 14, Pearblossom Highway east to old Highway 18, in desperate need of a restroom.
“I’m no longer called Animal,” says Animal. “People in my office call me ‘Chameleon.’ ”
Somewhere around Barstow, Rum Raisin calls with an important reminder.
“Well, hurry the fuck up.”
Rum, Darin and KK are already at the hotel, already basting.
Chameleon-Animal and I check in at the Palms on Flamingo Road around 9 p.m. The place has 55 stories. Animal gets a room on the 27th; I get the ninth. I win. We unpack and return to casino level, where I call Rum Raisin for directions.
“We’re over by the . . . we’re in the casino, near the . . . money-thing place.”
Animal and I find KK, who organized the reunion, sitting with Darin and Rum at a small round table in a dorky mall-style Mexican-theme bar. After some quick hugs, Animal and I pull up chairs and catch up. KK wears a beard and has surpassed even my own male-pattern baldness. Darin looks pretty much the same, the fucker. Rotty’s due to arrive shortly.
I shock the others by ordering a ginger ale, then whip out a flask of delicious single-malt scotch. Of all the Dungeonites, I’m the only outright financial failure. Figured I could save some money by packing my own spirits.
We migrate to the bar at the sportsbook, and I realize that the flask was a bad idea. Forgot to take into account the inevitably impaired judgment that ensues when the flask runs dry; that Dungeonites of means would offer to buy drinks, and that I’d have to accept.
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