Seeing as it’s — ahem — that day, I figured why not regale anyone interested with what has to be the most spontaneously romantic thing I’ve ever ever seen happen in this city — or anywhere for that matter — and it all unfolded at the corner of Crescent Heights and Melrose back in either 1985 or ’86.
At the time I was the courier for a firm that obtained travel visas for its clientele. I had just had lunch at the old Sundance Cafe on Robertson just above Beverly and I was coming back to the company’s Cahuenga Pass offices having completed my afternoon westside run to the consulates of France, Kenya, and South Africa all on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills at that time. Grandmaster Flash blasted proudly from the speakers of my adored little Mazda GLC hatchback (not because I remember but because that’s pretty much all I listened to):
It’s like a jungle sometimes,
It makes me wondah,
How I keep from goin’ undah,
Huh huh-huh-huh huh huh.
Those lyrics may not do much to set the mood for love, but it totally captures the period. Anyway, I can’t be sure exactly where it began, but after leaving Sundance and turning onto Melrose from Robertson I found myself bringing up the rear of a little romantic intrigue that then continued to play out for several blocks to La Cienega Boulevard and beyond. Cruising along in front of me was a spotless convertible Jag driven by a bombshell blonde and beside her in the right lane doing his best to get her attention was a rather undistinguished looking but obviously lovestruck man in a less than showroom-ready Ford Mustang and way out of his league.
Obviously well-versed in how to ignore stalkers, gawkers and loud talkers Ms. Bombshell coolly kept her eyes and attention straight ahead, having little if any of Mr. Smitten despite his shameless and unabashedly nutty attempts to catch her eye and heart by honking at her in conjunction with gesticulating and yelling variations of “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen!” Eventually the three of us approached Crescent Heights, slowing for the yellow light, and at the last moment, Smitten accelerated and yanked in front of her, slamming on his brakes so Bombshell had to stop short as his tires screeched against the asphalt, whereupon he threw open the door and jumped out almost before his car had come to a halt.
For a split second I was ready to hop out of my car to come to Bombshell’s aid in case the overzealous romeo wouldn’t take no for an answer, but there was no need for me to give up my front row seat and play hero. Instead of approaching her he set to pleading for her not to move, his clasped hands unclenching into a halt gesture and then reclasping as he bolted across the street in front of the oncoming eastbound traffic and practically dove into the Conroy’s flower shop on the northwest corner of the intersection. Right away it dawned on me that there was a method to his madness.
Seconds ticked by and my attention turned to Bombshell who had done nothing more than turn her head in the direction of the florist’s doorway into which Smitten had disappeared. I wondered what she was thinking and I wondered what kind of lovehungry chaos was ensuing inside.
“Hurry up, buddy!” I said out loud as the cross light turned yellow and then red. Bombshell gave it a few more seconds, but the heavy horn of someone a few cars behind us diverted her attention away from Conroy’s and she glanced back at me in her rearview mirror. I held up my hands in the international signal of Wasn’t Me! as she put the car in reverse to go around Smitten’s ride, but she wasn’t looking for the noise polluter so much as she was looking to get a move on.
At that same moment from the door came an explosion of color and movement as Smitten bounded out. In one arm he had several species of as many flowers as he could carry and in the other were several bills of unknown denomination.
“Here!” he yelled and flung the money behind him to the surprised shop attendant who appeared in the doorway a moment after he fled through it. But instead of bending down to pick up the cash off the sidewalk, like me she was riveted to the action unfolding before her.
“No, waaaaaaaaait!” he yelled as loud as he could as he saw Bombshell putting the car into drive after backing up, but she just ignored him and hit her turn signal and looked over her right shoulder to see if she could merge into that lane’s traffic.
Barely hesitating, Smitten lunged across the sidewalk and into the street with flowers trailing behind him as he went. Like a matador brave beside the close pass of a charging bull, he somehow managed to freeze into a full leaning stop to avoid getting gored by a speeding car, then he deftly dodged to his right and with good speed crossed the lanes moving back to his left until he was standing beside Bombshell’s Jag. Surprised by his sudden appearance next to her, Bombshell wheeled her head around and faced him.
Again, there was that readiness in me to come to her defense, and again it wasn’t required.
Dropping down to one knee, with traffic whizzing past him and much more insistent horns being honked behind me he said something to her that I couldn’t make out. With Bombshell shaking her head, clearly she hadn’t caught it either. So he stood up and presesented the mixed bouquet of flowers at arm’s length and said it again, this time for the whole intersection to hear.
“A woman of your grace and beauty,” he said, “should never be without flowers.”
It took a couple beats, but then all of Bombshell’s cool calm and detached composure disconnected and disintegrated. Her hands flew to her face and I heard her start to cry and exclaim to Smitten how that’s the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said and done for her.
“Well it’s true,” he offered and Bombshell’s face went into her hands again.
Smitten continued to stand there with the flowers held out while she cried until the light finally turned yellow and then red and the traffic stilled and the honking stopped. I glanced over at Conroy’s door to find the worker still there wide-eyed with a hand covering her mouth and the money still sitting on the sidewalk.
Then the door was opening and Bombshell was out of the Jag and taking Smitten’s surprised face in her perfectly manicured hands (of which the ring finger of her left bore a massive piece of ice) and she planted a lasting kiss right on his lips before wrapping him in a huge embrace that crushed the flowers between them and sent them cascading to the street as dropped them to hug her back. With Smitten’s head turned in my direction his expression was of the purest bliss and sweetest happiness I’ve ever seen. It was utter fulfillment, as if his entire existence was the preface to achieving that moment in the arms of a woman he hadn’t known existed five minutes before but whom he genuinely adored.
I admit I was both awed and envious.
Bombshell and Smitten stayed there in each other’s arms until the light turned green again and the traffic got moving and now even more horns sounded from the back. With that they broke apart and Smitten knelt down and retreived a single red rose as Bombshell got back into her car. Handing it to her, she accepted it, shaking her head perhaps telling him she didn’t know what to say. He responded by stepping back slightly from the Jag before making a gentlemanly bow from the waist and saying goodbye before blowing her a kiss.
She blew him one back then put her car in gear then blew him another then slipped across into the right lane and blew him one more before accelerating away. And one more about a block down.
He stood there amidst the carpet of flowers looking after her. After she was out of sight he turned and asked the Conroy’s girl if everything was square. She took her hand away from her mouth without bothering to look at how much he’d left and nodded vigorously. Back in his car he signaled and made a left onto Crescent Heights and I watched from the red until he disappeared out of view.