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That's What I Love About You

Eating kittens and tripping the blind

By Tina D'AngeloPublished 2 months ago 14 min read
That's What I Love About 
Photo by Egor Litvinov on Unsplash

Friday night in Cleveland, where I’d been dancing at the Paris XXX-Theater was predicted to be a blow-out ice storm, coming in off Lake Erie. The other dancers were keen on going out on the town after the midnight show, no matter what. Being from lake country near Rochester, I knew what was in store for us with the weather. So, after the midnight show, I hunkered down with a cup of hot tea and a game of Rummy with Charlie in the apartment, while Cherry and Billie went on the prowl at the local bars.

Charlie, the sweet, sickly manager of the theater, told me about his life growing up in rural Tennessee, running around barefoot in the grass and killing Rattlesnakes with pitchforks. He had to work to help his mother raise his brothers, so he quit school in tenth grade and had gotten into the railroad business. After some years of hard physical labor, he moved up into a dispatcher job in Knoxville. He’d been married and divorced. Then, after his retirement he moved to Cleveland, hoping to mend fences with his daughter, who hadn’t spoken to him in years. So far, he had no success on that front. I encouraged him to keep trying.

I told him a little bit about my trip with Frank, which, to my surprise, made him furious. Charley was drinking Jack Daniels on ice and downing his painkillers at an alarming rate, and I was beginning to see a side of him that hadn’t been on display earlier in the week. He was becoming more and more agitated and unpredictable, and I was hoping the other girls would be home soon, as I was getting uncomfortable with this angry, new Charley. I preferred the feeble, kindly, old Charley.

At one point in our conversation, Charley jumped up from the table and told me,

“If that asshole, Frank, comes around here to hurt you I’ve got a little surprise for him.”

By Rock Staar on Unsplash

He headed to his bedroom and returned with a gun in his hand. Wonderful. Now we have a drunk, doped-up, angry old man waving a gun around. What could possibly go wrong?

“Don’t worry, Charley. Frank is long gone with his new girlfriend, and he doesn’t even know where I am.”

“You don’t know that. He could be waiting outside the apartment for you- just waiting to steal you from me.”

Steal me from Charley?

“I won’t let him. I won’t. I’ll keep you safe, Baby.”


Oh, boy. Houston, we have a problem. Now I apparently belonged to Charley and was his, “Baby”. That wasn’t good. Where the hell were the other dancers? I prayed they would come back soon, as I wasn’t sure how to handle this new development on my own. I tried changing the subject, to no avail.

“I’m worried about Cherry and Billie. Don’t you think they ought to be back by now?”

“See, Honey, that’s what I love about you. You care about other people. If the shoe was on the other foot, those whores wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about you.”

Now the other dancers were whores and I was his Baby-Honey. How the hell did that happen?

“That’s not true. Cherry and Billie are good people. They just needed to get out of their routine and let off some steam. That doesn’t make them bad.”

“Well, you stayed with me tonight and I know why.”

You do, do you? Do tell.

“Charley, I grew up near Lake Ontario and know what the lakes can do to the weather, and I wanted to stay and keep you company because I think you’re a very nice man.”

“Come on. I know how you really feel. I get it. I really do. You were with a loser who cheated on you and treated you bad. You need a Sugar Daddy to take care of you.”

Sugar Daddy? I may have been able to do better…

“No. I like taking care of myself. I could never go the Sugar Daddy route, Charley. That’s not how I am.”

“See? That’s what I love about you. You’re independent.”

No matter what I tell him tonight he is going to love that about me. I’m just that lovable.

Charley, I like to choke kittens and cook them for breakfast.

See? That’s what I love about you.

I like tripping blind people on the street and stealing their pencils.

See? That’s what I love about you.

I was panicking big time now. He was certainly a determined, little bugger.

“Seriously, though, Charley. I think you and I should go look for the girls. I’m really worried they couldn’t find a cab with the weather tonight and they don’t know their way around. What if they’re lost?”

“Hey, hey, hey. Relax. They’re fine. They wanted to go looking for guys to fuck and you wanted to stay here with me because you’re lonely and need a man for more than just one night.”

“OK. If you won’t go with me I’ll go find them myself.”

With that, I jumped up from the table and headed for my bedroom to put on outdoor clothes- hoping that if an opportunity to escape presented itself I’d be ready to run.

“Where do you think you’re going? Come back here. We’re not done.”

This was not a kindly request from a sickly, old man, who wanted to be my Sugar Daddy. This was an order from an aggressive, horny man, who was hell-bent on getting what he wanted. He waved his gun at me and ordered me to sit back down.

“You’re not going anywhere unless I tell you. Now, get those clothes off. You’ve got one minute to get to my bedroom so I can love you.”

“You can’t love somebody at gunpoint. That’s not how it works.”

“It works however I say it will. You’re wasting time.”

I wasn’t sure how much I could manipulate the situation, but it was worth a try.

“Hey, why don’t you let me get out of these sweatpants and into something a little sexier for you? Just let me go change and I’ll be right back. How about pouring me a drink of that Jack?”

“Now you’re talking, Baby! Yeah!”

He poured me a teacup full of whiskey- yuck- and insisted I down it all in front of him. I probably could have put an end to the entire thing by vomiting it back up all over him. Instead, I took his new willingness to cooperate as a chance to go to my bedroom to grab my purse, throw on jeans and a hoodie and slip into my snow boots. When I walked back into the kitchen I found a pale, scrawny Charley naked as a jaybird, sitting at the kitchen table priming his pump (whump, whump, whump). Wow. If that wasn’t a sight to behold.

When he looked up and saw me dressed in something not sexy, he became irate and started up out of his seat after me. I don’t know whether I was more concerned about the gun he was pointing in my direction, or the possibility of him touching me with his whump, whump hand. Round and round the table we ran, like Tom and Jerry of cartoon fame. There were times I’d gained on him and ended up chasing him, at which point I probably could have tripped him and grabbed his gun. At that moment, though I just wanted to stay as far away from him as possible.

Fortunately, he tired out before I did and collapsed into his chair, winded and wheezing. That was my opportunity to make a run for it before he caught his breath and could aim his gun. I fled out of the apartment and just about flew down the stairs, my feet missing most of them on the way down. I still have nightmares about flying down endless stairwells, with my feet barely hitting steps.

I stumbled out onto the sidewalk, almost landing ass-first on the slippery surface. There was about a quarter inch of ice coating everything, power lines, the road, the sidewalk, and trees. It was a mess out there and the sleet was still falling sideways, slapping me in the face as it was being pushed along by the lake wind gusts. The streetlights were flickering on and off, promising power outages. The stop lights at the corner had gone dark and were swinging dangerously in the wind. Cleveland was getting pelted by this storm. I hoped the all-night diner was still open and running because I had no backup plan. All the way to the diner I kept expecting to hear a gunshot behind me.

By Peter Bond on Unsplash

Fortunately, the lights were still on there and it was open for business. I slid into the doorway and headed immediately for the pay phone, jostling wet coins out of my pocketbook. With shaking hands, I dialed the operator and asked to be connected with the Police Department. The Police desk clerk immediately put me on hold before I could even start telling her what was going on. After a few minutes, which felt like an eternity to me, she clicked back on the line,

“Name and address.”

“Tina D’Angelo, but I don’t live here. I mean I’m at a diner calling.”

“So, they have bad coffee or something? Look, we’re really busy tonight. Call the Health Department, lady.” Click.

I was dumbfounded. Seriously? She made a joke and hung up on me? What kind of Police Department do they have here? I was about to find out. Pulling out some more coins I repeated the procedure and got the same desk clerk on the line.

“Hello, I just called and you hung up on me.”

“Yeah. We are in the middle of an ice-storm and all units are responding to emergencies. What’s your problem, lady?”

“A man has been chasing me for a half hour with a gun. I need help.”

“There’s a man with a gun at a diner? Where?”

“No. No. Not here. He’s at the apartment I just escaped from.”

“So, he’s not still chasing you with a gun?”

“No. That’s what I’m telling you. I need a police officer to go and take his gun so I can get my things out of his apartment.”

“So, he’s not at the diner?”


“He’s not still threatening you?”


“Call us back after nine o’clocktomorrow. We’re only taking emergency calls now.” Click.

“What…wh… NOO.”

She hung up on me twice. I’d just been chased around a kitchen table with a gun and it wasn’t an emergency? It was only two o’clock and I had to wait until nine o’clock in the morning to call for help. Unbelievable. I found an empty stool at the counter and ordered a coffee, so I wouldn’t have to leave. It was hot and warmed my hands up from the freezing walk from the apartment, but it did nothing to calm my already jittery nerves. I couldn’t lose this counter seat though and as long as I kept ordering all night I could stay inside and keep an eye on the plate glass windows in case Charley followed me. Now, that would be a sight. Naked Charley sliding down the sidewalk on his scrawny, white ass. My knight in shining armor…

I ordered two more coffees, some pie, and toast before two police officers wandered into the diner at about four o’clock. Thank God. As they settled into a newly emptied booth I approached them and told them what had happened at the apartment and explained that I called the Police Department twice and got hung up on. They asked me the name of the guy with the gun and gave each other ‘the look’ after I told them who it was. The older officer said,

“We’ve been out on the highway pulling people out of accidents all night. Just give us a chance to warm up and get breakfast and we’ll call it in and see what they want us to do, OK?”

I thanked them profusely and went back to my coffee. When they finished eating they told me to wait for them while they went to their radio and talked with dispatch. When they came back in the officer in charge said,

“Alright, here’s what we’re going to do. You stay here. We’re going to the apartment. We know where it is. We’ll check on the resident’s condition and state of mind and escort you to retrieve your belongings if it’s clear.”

With that, they took off down the street toward the apartment. At the time it didn’t occur to me to wonder how they knew where the apartment was or why they never questioned the reason I was staying at this maniac’s place. I was too shaken up and exhausted to even register the conversation. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this probably was not Charley’s first gunslinging rodeo.

When the officers returned to the diner they told me all they found was a harmless, naked, old man sleeping peacefully with his gun in one hand and his dentures clutched in the other. No need for police intervention. Great. How was I going to safely get my things out of the apartment and get my costumes and music back out of the theater? They left the diner chuckling between themselves and I was confused and furious.

By six o’clock, the road crews had cleared the ice and debris from the streets and the buses had begun their routes. I jumped on the first downtown bus and spent time in a different coffee shop and wandering around downtown until I was sure Sandy, the lady at the concession stand would be at the theater. If I stayed near her I’d be safe, even with Charley around. He wouldn’t dare do anything with her there. She’d deck him.

When I hopped off the return bus a block from The Paris I checked in both directions, to make sure Charley was nowhere in sight before making my way to the theater. If I was lucky I could get my stuff from the dressing room and be ready to slip back to the apartment after he got to work without him even seeing me. That left me with no pay for the week, but at that point, I just wanted to get out of Cleveland.

Sandy was at the concession counter when I walked in, as were Charley, Phil, and two police officers I hadn’t seen before. I stopped in my tracks and almost ran out when Phil came over and said,

“Tina, we’re so sorry for what happened last night. Charley told us all about it and he couldn’t feel any worse. He called the police this morning to turn himself in.”

At that point, one of the officers took over the conversation,

“Ma’am, is this the man who threatened you last night with a loaded weapon?”

“Um…yes…um. I don’t want to cause him any trouble. I just want to get my things and go home without any more problems.”

“So, you are saying that you do not intend to press charges for unlawful imprisonment and second-degree menacing with a deadly weapon?”

“No. Um. Yes?”

“Will you please sign this form, relinquishing your right to press charges?”

While I signed the water-stained papers, Charley blurted out,

“Tina, I am so sorry. When I’m taking my meds and drinking I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Sandy, ring out Tina’s pay for the week, including today’s. I don’t want her to miss out on her pay for something I did.”

One officer walked me back to the dressing room to collect my suitcases and costumes while the other stayed up front with Charley and the crew. Charley gave the officers the key to the apartment so I could get my street clothes packed up. Then Charley said,

“Grab your bus to the next stop today. You deserve a day off after what I put you through, poor kid. Thank you so much for not pressing charges. That’s what I love about you, Tina. You have a good heart.”

Yep…that’s what he likes about me. Now I have all afternoon to choke kittens and steal pencils from blind people.

I called a cab from the apartment while the police were still there. They confiscated Charley’s gun and slipped it into a plastic baggie before they left.

I rang Don long distance from the bus station and told him what had happened. He told me to just come home. He’d find someone else to take over the Youngstown job.

“Tina, do you ever NOT have bad luck? Sheesh.”

If he only knew.


About the Creator

Tina D'Angelo

Coming in 2023, G-Is for String. A memoir about life in the dance lane during the 1970s and 80s. By dancing, I'm talking exotic. Romances, running, and surviving. On the way to the publisher!

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