”What the fuck do you think you’re doing?“ and ”Where do you get off?“ and that sort of thing. Bill Smith (real name) stood half-naked on his balcony, lobbing obscenities at a torpid pair of cops camped out on their cold motorcycles at the far end of the nearer of two parking lots. Smith lived downtown, between Main and Los Angeles streets, between Fifth and Sixth streets, on the second floor of an 11-story, L-shape building. About half the L had been converted into residential lofts, such as Smith‘s, and the other half into sweatshops.

Smith’s balcony faced north, faced a monstrously wide and reasonably -- by local standards -- tall building. Separating the buildings were the two parking lots: the smaller lot, to the south, for vehicles belonging to residents of the 11-story L, and, to the north, a public lot, mostly empty at night.

In other words, Smith‘s home faced a robust, heroic echo chamber.

So when, at around 1:30 a.m., things in the echo chamber began to explode with what could only be a seriously violent -- even catastrophic, even military -- event, Smith, being as asleep as he was, had little choice but to awaken instantly wired, mainlining adrenaline, to a hot bowl of explosions just beyond the window, with a side order of shrill, screeching mayhem.

Beverly Hills Cop II, take one.

Fight? Flight? Livid, Smith crawled through the window and out onto the balcony to join an 11-story wall of neighbors stung and numbed by the repeated spectacle of Eddie Murphy’s stunt driver peeling out, revving and roaring, growling and squealing through a barrage of bombs and bullets. Just this one scene, over and over and over and over, until around 4 a.m.

So Smith, who loses his mind in public just once every eight to 10 years, decided that now was the right time, and that he‘d manifest his loss in the form of shrieks and screams, a bilious spew aimed at the nearest authority figures.

The cops reacted, possibly, or not, by readjusting themselves as one napping in a hammock might do when threatened by a gnat. Frank, a photographer on the sixth floor, tried to calm Smith down: ”Give it up, man. We don’t have any rights. We live downtown.“ Frank went on to explain that he‘d seen a flier in the building lobby, or somewhere, warning of the impending breach. And that there was a very important reason that the L would be up all night listening to skull-torquing explosions and spend the next few days nursing ringing ears, and that this reason was called Beverly Hills Cop II.

Smith calmed down to a simmering steam, stood there on the balcony trying to look menacing or studly. Entertained fantasies of the cops coming up to harass him and him beating them up with a club, correcting the fantasies to include cops shooting him many, many times in the face, neck and chest to defend themselves against the club. An eye for an eyelash.

One of the people Smith was yelling toward that night was me, sort of. I was down there -- another night, a few years back, a different movie, a quarter-mile away -- but down there just the same. Working. And, after finding out that we were going to be shooting guns all night right next to a residential hotel, I let fly with a few obscenities of my own, but did so sotto voce. For I was employed as a $400-a-week quote assistant art director unquote on this thoroughly excremental thriller, Last Call, starring tits, ass, guns and, rumor had it, some sort of script. Shannon Tweed and William Katt, no less. Straight to video. Hot pink box. You now have all the information you need.

I was employed by a piece of shit, but I couldn’t quite quit. Needed the money, which came to about $2 an hour, so rather than scream and shout, which I do about twice a year, I instigated rumblings of mutiny among comrades. Talked about a bunch of us threatening to walk off and raise hell. Why? Because over and over and over and over, all night long, someone chased someone else up a fire escape, shooting loud blanks for profit. Bang and bang-bang and even bang-bang-bang-bang-bang, waking up this densely populated (with humans of our own species), rundown residential hotel on Stanford just south of Seventh, an area known for its overwhelming majority of gunshots being fired without a director barking, ”Action!“

My (pinko) guess: People who live in residential hotels generally don‘t have the sorts of jobs that allow them to take the morning off when they’ve been up all night with a bad case of class warfare. Several of them came down and confirmed my guess.

We (five or six crew members) apologized on behalf of the motherfuckers who, we found out, hadn‘t even had the decency to post notices warning that we’d be dropping by, once again, to smother the powerless in the bombastic cleavage of our tits and ass.

Noise (from the Latin nausea) is, essentially, undesired sound, and it‘s among the most popular pollutants in the greater Los Angeles quasi-metropolitan basin. People tell me there are laws against noise, but apparently Mark, my upstairs neighbor, is exempt, as are all teenagers, Joel Silver, Jerry Bruckheimer, 209 car-dealership public-address systems bellowing the same exact announcement up and down Van Nuys Boulevard all fuggin day -- ”JACK CUNNINGHAM!!! RETURN TO SHOWROOM 16!!!!! JACK CUNNINGHAM!!!!!!“ -- the endlessly boom-boxing Hollywood Boulevard tourist shops, anything within two blocks of a Home Depot, and, of course, car alarms, not one of which has ever done a damn thing but irritate. Noise Pollution Clearinghouse ( is a Montpelier, Vermont--based nonprofit organization on a mission to protect public sonic space, to publicize and resolve noise-pollution issues of all textures. Its comprehensive site (”one of the largest online environmental libraries in existence“) is divided into six serious sections: NPC Online Library (www.nonoise.orglibrary.htm, noise-related articles from journals and books, links to more resources); Noise News (www.nonoise.orgnewsnoisenew.htm, summaries and excerpts from periodicals, updated weekly); NPC Law Library (www.nonoise.orglawlib.htm, noise statutes, existing and proposed, from federal, state and municipal sources); NPC Resources (www.nonoise.orgresource.htm, online tools for activists, education resources, JetSkis); Quietnet (www.nonoise.orgquietnet.htm, non-NPC noise-related Web sites, some of them kind, some evil -- leaf blowers bad, Mercedes diesel good?!); and if you know precisely what it is you’re looking to bitch about, NPC Keyword Search (www.nonoise.orgcgi-binquery.cgi) will probably serve you well. (Incidentally, L.A.‘s Chapter XI noise-regulation policy, articles 1 through 6, can be found at www.nonoise.orglawlibcitieslosangel.htm.)


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >