Part 20: The Insane Asylum

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 20: The Insane Asylum

Postby Brian Lord » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:32 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories

The Insane Asylum

Some marriages work out well, others not so well and then there's the ones that are flat out disasters. Some weeks ago I told you about my marriage in a Riverside Chapel -- the wedding where I had spent the previous 24 hours pretty much plastered. My wife's uncle and later my best man, Dave McCormick & I had two separate "pre-event celebrating sessions during those 24 hours and as I think I explained, the wedding vows were administered whilst my future wife and I were forced to kneel on pillows in front of the minister for fear that if I remained standing it wouldn't be a stretch to watch me keel over at some point and land on the alter, passed out. Neither Dave nor my wife's uncle were to blame, I seemed to have developed a thirst for Early Times bourbon whiskey.

Marriages that begin in such a manner can often be likened to a snowball which, having begun as a small rock at the top of a mountain develops into a nasty avalanche in a reasonably short period of time. I think my marriage lasted for at least a week until it became evident that a major mistake had taken place on both sides and it didn't look as if it was due for any quick improvement -- or more correctly, any improvement, ever. Let's just say that we weren't suited. Not at all, not even a little bit. We should have been enemies rather than man and wife. The fact that the marriage lasted two years was something of a miracle -- held together by an entity opposed to the teachings of God.

My wife, Sarah and I both took to screaming at each other over practically anything at all. Everything that went awry was either her fault or mine. One of us was always to blame and blame accounted for outbursts of bluster, explosions of anger, slamming of doors, locking one or the other in the bathroom, breaking anything in the house that wasn't made of forged steel and in general, a disruption of a reasonably quiet suburb of San Bernardino. One set of neighbors could always be counted on to call the police.

In California (as in several places) a person can get busted when one party touches her adversary and states, in the presence of the police, "I make a citizens arrest on this individual because he (or she) did something illegal.. Sarah's reason was usually "...because he tried to kill me". The process of law then takes over. The offending party is trundled off to the local police precinct office, photographed, fingerprinted and placed in a small jail until he could either call a bail bondsman or wait until the next morning until a judge arrived. This became a common occurrence at our house where loud screaming in one's face was construed as a death threat and had it really meant to be, I was guilty. Of course Sarah was not one to be out-screamed. But police assume if violence has occurred the man is to blame so I merely waited for them to arrive, drive me to the precinct, I'd call my bail bondsman, who over the two years or so became a pretty good friend.

I'd get bailed out and spend the rest of the night at the radio station sleeping under my desk. Not once did Sarah ever press charges the following day in front of a judge like she should have done. This whole process usually took place at night and under a citizen's arrest the plaintiff was expected to show up at 9AM in court to make formal charges. There was no reason for Sarah to do this because she could not make the charges stick, being as she gave as much as she got. I would estimate there were about 5 separate police units called to our home over the two dreadful years we were married. One reason I was deemed the defendant was because, to both Sarah and the police I had been drinking which was like waving the proverbial red flag in the bull ring.

Then, during one of these exploits a cop explained to Sarah that she could call the local police and tell them her husband had run completely amok and should be incarcerated at the local Insane Asylum where I would, under law, be forced to endure what was called a 72-hour hold.

Sure enough when the next episode occurred, it wasn't a police car that drove up, it was an ambulance. I was escorted to "Peaceful Acres" or some such name, which served the district in which we lived and I was informed upon arrival I would be their guest for the next three days (this occurred on a Friday) and on the following Monday a panel of three psychiatrists would review my case and either allow my to go free or place me back in the Asylum for an indeterminate length of time depending on the state of my mind. Folks from Vancouver and it's suburbs may recall Essondale in the lower Fraser Valley. A place not unlike Essondale was my home for the next three days and nights.

If, on a scale of one to ten a police jail is a ten than Peaceful Acres is a nine. You trade in all your personal belongings, including your clothes and issued a nice orange jumpsuit which you wore while in the institution. The people who ran the place, the ones who circulated amongst the population were stern but fair. You wanted a cigarette, they lit it for you. If you caused a ruckus you were promptly set on by three of the "handlers" and put in a padded cell. I learned all this from one of the handlers (male nurses) who seemed to treat me with extra care. I inquired why I was being, well...shown a little respect, in other-words and told that "... we all know the real crazies and the guys whose wives put them in here so they can spend the weekend with their extra-marital interests". They also knew who I was... listened to me on the radio.

At night we received a tiny cupful of red liquid (Chloral Hydrate) which put us to sleep in seconds. The day was spent in "the Common Room" with the regular inmates. These people had serious mental issues and I don't feel it is fair to make fun of such unfortunates although 'normalcy' did not reign supreme. But I did draw some attention. I was visited first by a lovely young woman who was a fan and secondly by my wife who came to "see how I was doing" which is to say: gloat. I should add that Sarah was very pretty and both visitors drew stares and male inmate whispering. Later two DJ's arrived and under the guise of doctors tried to get me out. They had recently left a bar and the idea sounded good to them but had I not acknowledged their real profession I would have been in trouble with the facility's authorities.

Sunday night there was a dance. All the inmates came to the big room downstaires and danced with each each other for about three hours. Being in the announce-business I was coerced into playing DJ which was a job I did not cherish but I was determined to act as normal as possible in this highly abnormal setting and took on the job. I had already had enough of this place and wanted more than one could imagine, to regain my freedom.

On monday morning I was accompanied by one of the handlers to the place where the three psychiatrists I mentioned held a hearing in a small room... where stood ten chairs for witnesses; the person who had been incarcerated (me); and my wife and her lawyer. My wife gave testimony that I had been guilty of screaming obscenities and threatening to kill her as soon as I could get my hands on a gun. She had no witnesses. When my "defense" came up, the entire Radio station with the exception of one DJ trooped into the room in a forceful show that I was of stable mined. That pretty much did it. The trio of judges gave me a private talking to about "happiness in the home" and released me.

When my show ended at nine that evening I went home to check out the lay of the land. It was pretty rocky and one in which Sarah made a dreadful mistake. She sat on the floor of the garage and beat herself over the head (lightly) with a piece of plywood all the time yelling "he's killing me, he's killing me." What Sarah didn't know was that standing at the foot of the driveway were two neighbours watching this mystifying performance while the neighbour who always called the police, did so again. Within minutes, a police cruiser arrived and the two cops arrested Sarah instead of me. I had been leaning on the back door of the garage with my hands in my pockets, watching while Sarah was setting up her reasons why I should have been kept in the loony bin. The cops arrested Sarah for disturbing the peace and took her down to the main county jail where they kept her for three days before leading her into the court room chained to a string of female offenders.

As had been the case with me, the police magistrate allowed her to go free after a "keep your mouth shut lecture". The police had reason to be upset. They had arrested me several times and she had never shown up to corroborate her original story. But the trip to the Insane Asylum was the last straw. They knew I was anything but an angel, but they wanted to teach her a lesson this time. It worked. I moved out that week, stayed with a friend in Riverside and Sarah sued for divorce about a month later. End of Story.

Next time: worse was yet to come: John Peel (Ravenscroft) and a bitter pill to swallow.
Brian Lord
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