The night Miss Chocolate immortalized my face

That dreamy, idealized, blurred-around-the-edges sketch. On a scroll of gray art scrap, roughly 10 by 20, dog-eared around the edges over the passage of time and multiple moves.

Really, I should have had the chalk image framed, s’much as I’ve been framed for stuff when I was hanging around Times Square. Back in the day, “day” meaning 1979 and 1980, when many young dudes elevated their status with wild, stacked platforms! Shoes, we mean — put your head and shoulders above the average Joes and Joellas. 

I was a bit clunky in my McAns, remembering that in grade school I was often benched for slow base running. ‘Twere no different now. The “rollers” (beat cops) very nearly collared me as a sidewalk monte game broke up back of Bryant Park and the New York Public Library…after I had lost my $40 winnings! Oh, that dang shell game hustle.

The mastermind was a Jedi-curled type they called Murph. Luckily, the heat caught on to him, which caused me to be dropped like a cold spud. Funny thing: Miss Chocolate, the pixie-ish sketch artist, had told me prior to now to “Stay away from that Murph; he be most pernicious!”

She could use those fancy words. Her real name was Delia, and every evening, she took her pastels and board on the Number 3 train back to her mom in New Lots. But on this particular New Year’s Eve, we went and had a bite at the Howard Johnson’s on 49th and Seventh. 

“Y’know, Lily Tomlinson waitressed here back in what, ‘63?” Miss Chocolate softly laughed, then morphed into an irresistible sigh. 

“Look here, Mister Show Business. You need your portrait made. You are one handsome devil.” That was a big hoo-hah; I was doing occasional extra work in shoots thanks to my dad and my ex-gal, a tall Baltic beauty, blessing me with twin memberships in the Screen Actors Guild on Valentine’s Day 1978.

Miss Chocolate unfurled a gray sheet from her sketch pad and within a half hour rendered a curly-haired, full-lipped Adonis the likes of which I couldn’t recognize. But, hey, a taste of fame and glory nonetheless. 

When the fireworks and pinwheels died away and mass screams of group-orchestrated mayhem — harmless, of course — faded into the frigid asphalt, I rode the Number 3 to New Lots clutching my newly minted treasure. Miss Chocolate came out of her mama’s room at sunup, made me toast and jelly, and I exited taking a last kiss on the cheek (harmless, of course) with her soft urging to “Keep your head down on the way to the station. Sometimes there are live shots flying out there.”

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