In the summer of 1973, I was 22 and I moved from New York, where I’d been a working actor, to Los Angeles, where I wouldn’t be one. To be more precise, I’d moved from the center of the universe, as I understood it, to the center of Hollywood.
I’d been hired by Gold Key Entertainment. Gold Key was a film production and syndication company owned by The Vidtronics Company (at the time, the most advanced, most innovative video post-production facility in the world) and by Technicolor (a name that needs no elaboration).
The coast-to-coast move required me to find a whole slew of new providers of goods and services. Finding a new doctor was on my list—it ranked just after finding a barber, grocery store, liquor store, tailor, florist, and go-to watering hole.
Through friends, I found Dr. John R. Royer. He became my primary physician and a very close, very dear friend.
Early in our doctor-patient relationship, he started writing me a prescription for something or other… He paused and said, “Where should I have this called in?”
He looked up at me, “Why don’t you go around the corner to Thrifty Drug? Schwab’s charges twice as much. The only difference is their brown-glass bottles and the funky labels.”
“You know, I go there because I like their little brown glass bottles with the quirky, typewritten labels. I like picking up my prescription and then having a double-chocolate malted at the counter where everyone is reading Variety or Hollywood Reporter and where the guy behind the counter knows my name. I go there because, from time to time, I like to make a phone call from one of their old mahogany sit-down phone booths that smell of wood polish and cigar smoke, and perfume. I like to see the phone numbers of every actor resource from Central Casting to William Morris carved in the walls by past generations of actors—and more recently written in the margins of the phone books.”
Royer finished writing the prescription. He paused for a second or two and said, “Just for one day, I’d like to see the world as you see it.”
Schwab’s Pharmacy closed in 1983 and was demolished in October 1988.
Doctor John Reese Royer died from AIDS in January 1990. We’d been friends for nearly 20 years.
I miss them both, treasure the memories, and stand by my choice not to go to Thrifty.