Wig Shop Heist

Bain went by Bain, she said, because she felt like, from the moment she hit adolescence, she was the bane of her parents’ existence. Her real name, of course, was something far less interesting: Jane. Appropriately, Bain was getting into wigs right around the same time “Jane Says” came out in ’88. She wore them recreationally, not just for parts, and at one point after our transference to L.A., I rather forgot what she looked like without one on. It was late August, and we had just found an apartment together near Las Palmas Avenue. One of those side streets filled with creepy Hollywood lore, the kind that made you think Peg Entwistle was going to possess you at any minute and make you come to your senses by jumping off the Hollywood sign. We both wanted to be actresses, naturally. Only I just so happened to be a gay man. We decided it was best for everyone if Bain acted as my beard. It was a protection device for both of us. We didn’t want to be taken advantage of by sex-crazed producers or screenwriters who would say anything to get an orgasm, including the promise of offering a part. By announcing to everyone we encountered from the outset that we were in a relationship (which, in most respects, we were), it evaded any messy complications that tended to go with the territory of being a sexually desirable aspirant of the film industry. People left you alone.

Bain was very much a fan of the system…at first. But as the months wore on in our new living situation together, it was very apparent that she was starting to resent me. Resent that she couldn’t bring anyone home, lest she had to explain herself or, rather, me to any of her would-be suitors. Though I was as gay as the rainbow in The Wizard of Oz, I had yet to embrace being comfortable with it in a way that allowed me to be romantic or physical with anyone. I was too afraid and much too shy. Thus, Bain was a crutch I didn’t want to let go of, despite that it was obvious she didn’t need me anymore in the same way. She was willing to take the gamble on sexual assault that came, at that time, as an expected risk of wanting to be an actress. And in her new capacity as “risk-taker,” she decided to star in a low-budget movie (so low-budget that she would not be compensated for the role) that required her to invest in several wigs (she claimed her own arsenal would not be sufficient to do the script justice). It was meant to be a spy film set in the late 70s. Alas, neither of us had any money to spare for anything other than rent. Which is why she confessed to me that night after having consented to participate as the lead in the movie–her name would be Sapphire Monsoon, so yeah, a wig (or six) was to expected–that she would need my help. Once again. Only this time, the nature of the favor was not symbiotic, an adjective that had always been an unspoken requirement between us whenever we asked the other for some sort of accommodation. No, this time, the benefit was all to her–that is, unless I wanted to steal a few extra wigs for myself.

That’s right, Bain expected me, a pure and innocent soul save for my homosexuality, to accompany her to Hollywood Wigs in the dead of night, break in and steal an amount she had set at no less than twenty wigs in order to make the heist worthwhile. It was unheard of to me. Galling. How could she possibly expect me to commit a crime for her? We had moved out here together from Milwaukee for the sole purpose of pursuing our art and proving to everyone back home that our dreams could be realities. We were supposed to be an emotional support system to one another. And now here she was, this selfish straight bitch practically demanding that I do something she would never ask of any of the men she actually had sex with. I think that’s why I probably agreed to do it. I got off on being treated like shit. That’s why Bain had managed to sink her teeth into me for so long when, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how selfish she was. How in it for herself. But that’s what made her so simultaneously glamorous to me. And as I sat on the beige couch we had plucked from a sidewalk on Fountain Avenue a few weeks ago, I watched her smoke her cigarette at the windowsill like a glorious combination of Cyndi Lauper and Cruella de Vil. That’s who she was to me. And that’s why I loved her and was willing to risk my career on a wig shop heist that was sure to prove unsuccessful. How could it be otherwise? I had all the grace and discretion of a rhinoceros.

The gambit was arranged for the following evening. We would borrow a car from one of Bain’s lovers, who was to have no idea what we were using it for. If he was accused for our crime, so be it. Bain insisted that he himself had committed a crime in being so terrible in bed. It was a white Fiat, which was actually the most standout vehicle we could have chosen, considering that L.A. had zero European influence, least of all in summer of ’88. Bain instructed me to drive, as she needed to “get in the zone” and calm her nerves with a few swigs (or an entire flask) of vodka–swigs for wigs, I said, could be our own version of Tears for Fears. Even though we could have walked the short distance to Hollywood and Schrader Boulevard, she was adamant that a getaway car was obviously necessary to stow the excess of stolen bounty in. I muttered to myself as “Jane Says” played on KROQ probably for the sixtieth time that day, “I hope this fucking part is worth it.”

She snickered. “You’ll be the first person I thank in my Oscar acceptance speech.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

With that, we were off to the races, so to speak. Maybe I should have asked her beforehand how she planned to break into the establishment without tripping the alarm or causing a scene. I soon found out that she did not have a plan, so much as a brick she pulled out of her purse to throw at the store window. And as the urgency of the alarm forewarned of my final minutes as a civilian instead of prisoner, she screamed, “Grab every fucking thing you can!”

I watched her pluck wigs like daisies from the display heads. Pinks, greens, purples and reds intermixing into one giant hair mound of multicolored defiance. But I was frozen, transfixed. Never had I seen wig heads with such saddened and defeated expressions on their faces. It almost felt like I was further pillaging their dignity by ripping the hair from their head. It made me want to cry.

“Hurry the fuck up! Move!” Bain shouted at me, shaking me from my trance. I didn’t aid her in the wig snatching, but I did run back to the driver’s seat practically hyperventilating. She remained at the window, pilfering all she could carry before running back to the car upon hearing the signature sound of a police siren.

Somehow, as I started the car up to burn rubber, “Jane Says” was on again, getting to that part where Perry Farrell sings, “Have you seen my wig around? I feel naked without it.” Right now, I felt naked with too many wigs brimming forth from the backseat, obstructing my rearview. Bain was laughing diabolically, the vodka and the adrenaline making her ecstatic for no reason. She surely couldn’t have been happy that we were being hotly pursued by the L.A.P.D., short on crimes, and apparently black people, to bother with that early morning.

“Faster! Come on, we can beat them.” She was crazed. Or maybe I was, for having consented to this. Had we let our entire perception of plausible outcomes be clouded for this inane quest to be in a movie? I was having trouble reconciling what was normal behavior anymore, but I knew that wig shop robbery couldn’t have been in the jurisdiction of “acceptable comportment.”

I continued driving at 70mph all the way to Santa Monica. All police chases ultimately lead to the ocean I feel. It’s the essential dramatic course. Soon, we were barreling down PCH, wigs flying out the window too quickly for Bain to save them. She closed the back window, her foot getting in my face for a split second. The split second that sent us flying off the guard rail.

I should have stayed in Milwaukee. I should have been straight. Only a gay man would concede to purloining wigs for a woman he, somewhere deep down, desperately wanted to be. Himself never quite reckless or tragic enough to pull off what Bain could.

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