The former Desmond’s Men’s Clothing building (5514 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.) became a beautiful vantage point for a moment in 2001 to behold a planeless sky when 9/11 stopped all air traffic. In this Deco monument there are but a few floors. Despite this, there is an elevator operator. He’s been in there for more than 20 years (well, they let him out for lunch and bathroom breaks). He kindly inquires as to what floor you want and takes you there. He may be the last of his kind in Los Angeles. He is not without a sense of duty. On a typical afternoon in the big city, an overheard conversation went something like this:
“Hi, I’m writing an article about you for the L.A. Weekly.”
“I grew up on the south side of Chicago — listen, I can’t talk now. I have to take the people to their floors.”
The lobby is empty. Wilshire Boulevard outside is empty. The elevator’s empty, too.
“But there’s no one here.”
“Sorry, someone could come along at any time. I can’t talk right now. But if you want to come back on a Saturday, when there’s no one here, I’ll do the interview. And it’ll cost you $20 an hour.”
“Twenty dollars! What are you, nuts? You’re out of your mind!”
“Can I just ask you a few questions, maybe prorate it? I’ll time it and give you a dollar bill every three minutes until I’m done.”
“Sorry. Twenty dollars.”
“What if I only have four questions?”
“It’ll cost you $20.”
“So you don’t haggle.”
“Nope. I have to get back to work now. Sorry.”
He sat back in the chair inside the elevator and read the newspaper, occasionally peering out to receive those yearning for elevator action.