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Smart Patrol on Market Street : Getting a Lecture at Tony Bill's Restaurant in Venice

October 19, 1986|O'CONNELL DRISCOLL | O'Connell Driscoll is a Los Angeles writer.

The man stopped the silver BMW 3.0cs in the middle of the narrow street. He emerged dressed in khaki pants, boat shoes and a bright green polo shirt with thin, yellow, horizontal stripes. He absent-mindedly turned the car over to a blond parking attendant who was dressed in the fashion of an Australian outrigger club.

A woman with a very wide-brimmed straw hat got out of the passenger side. "Oh look, honey, there's a line," she said. With one hand she secured her hat; with the other, she pointed to the concrete Bauhaus exterior of 72 Market Street, a restaurant set in the middle of a decrepit Venice side street.

A maitre d' was standing at the door, holding a clipboard. "You must have a reservation," he said, addressing the group of people in front of him. "You must be on the list. If you are not on the list, then you can not get in."

"Are we on the list?" the woman in the straw hat asked. The man in the green shirt did not answer. He jingled his pocket change and stared at a trio of girls in iridescent string bikinis, making their way like flamingos toward the beach.

Two young men with long hair, sunglasses and baggy shorts took their place in line. They looked as if they had just hitchhiked in from another state. One was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words Smart Patrol .

They watched a kid in commando gear skid up on a skateboard and train a plastic Uzi on the crowd.

"Hey, dude," one of the longhairs said.

"I could mow you all down," the kid announced, then skated off.

"Imagine that," the woman with the straw hat said.

As the line advanced, the maitre d' regarded the two in sunglasses skeptically. "You have reservations?" he asked.

"For sure," one of them said.

"Got it covered," said the other one.

" All these people must register," a woman with a severely short haircut said to no one in particular. "Press included ." She stepped aside to let pass a photographer carrying enough equipment to cover a war.

Inside, elaborate hors d'oeuvres were set on tables with crisp, white cloths, and bottles of wine were being poured at a well-appointed wooden bar. At a smaller bar, a waiter in a floral-print tie methodically shelled oysters.

"I think people should begin to take their seats," the short-haired woman said as she swept through the bar into the dining area, which was separated from the front of the restaurant by a glass-brick wall.

Folding chairs had been assembled in the middle of the room, with tables at the side. There was a gleaming black baby grand piano sitting in the front; one wall was completely filled by a painting of exploding psychedelic pastels that seemed to represent springtime on another planet.

"Isn't it divine?" the woman with the straw hat asked, embracing a friend. "I think it's the most interesting thing happening on the Westside, don't you?"

"My book . . . ," a bald man at one of the tables was saying. "My book is like science fiction."

"Science fiction?" the woman with him asked.

" Like science fiction," he said, swallowing an oyster.

As the short-haired woman took a microphone and began bringing people to order, Frank Zappa--dressed in a black T-shirt, sweat pants and black sneakers--came into the room.

"Welcome to the last of this year's Market Street lecture series," the woman at the microphone said. "We've had a wonderful year, and we thank you for your enthusiasm and support. Unfortunately, our host, Tony Bill, is unable to be here today. He's busy directing a movie in New York." She smiled brightly at the audience, who regarded her in a deadpan manner.

"But I'm sure he would want to have been here," she said, clearing her throat. A spasm of feedback came off the microphone.

"Our very special guest today needs no introduction," she continued. "He is a true musical pioneer . . . a gifted and respected composer . . . an outspoken social critic . . . and I'm sure that when future historians look back at the 20th Century. . . ." She glanced over at Zappa, who looked back with a placid expression. "I'm sure they will recognize Frank Zappa for what he is--one of the geniuses of American music. Please welcome . . . Frank Zappa."

There was vigorous applause as Zappa took a seat at a folding table. "OK, two things," he said. "First thing--anybody who's offended by crude language or references to bodily functions should get out of the room right now.

"The second thing--for you people in front--is that there is no guarantee that sitting close to these speakers will not damage your hearing for the rest of your life."

He swiveled in the chair to look at the enormous speakers on either side of the room. "This isn't the best acoustical environment to listen to digitally recorded music, and in order for the people in back to hear it properly, the volume has to be high enough to cause possible radiation burns to the people in the front row. So what we'll do is play this first number, then check the level to see if everybody survived."

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