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Hollywood Athletic Club

Trying to Do a Hand-Stand

The Hollywood Athletic Club has been a Tinsel Town landmark since the early part of the 20th century. I was there once. I was not a member, nor was I an athlete — the most athletic thing I ever did was pedal my antiquated one-speed bike out to Santa Monica a few times.

I was invited to go there with my friend Thames Williamson, whose Hollywood screewriter dad had an HAC membership. Tam took me straight to the gym, where he liked working out on various muscle-building devices. He started doing chin-ups on a high bar, and invited me to use any device that caught my fancy.

Well, I had been trying to learn to do hand-stands; but the combination of small hands and weak wrists kept me from staying inverted for very long. Then I spotted a set of close-to-the-floor parallel bars. Hmmm, I thought — grabbing those rails might give me more stability than trying to balance flat on my hands. So I told Tam I was going to give them a try.

"You'd best put a mat under those bars," Tam said, "in case you fall."

"Nah, I'll be all right," was my na´ve reply.

Well, Tam was right. I had just barely gotten my feet in the air when I lost my grip and hit the hardwood floor with a resounding thud.

I couldn't tell if I had broken anything, but was in excruciating pain.Tam drove me home, where my mom was not pleased to hear about my less than well-thought-out attempt to do a hand-stand on parallel bars. So she walked me over to her chiropractor, whose office was next door to the Campus Theater on Vermont Ave. at Santa Monica Blvd.

"Shouldn't I be going to a regular MD?" I asked?

"We don't have a regular MD," she replied, "but Dr. Schneider will refer us to one, if necessary." By now the pain had me close to tears.

Well, Dr. Schneider saw me immediately and began checking my right shoulder and clavicle, trying not to make the pain any worse as he probed. Finally, he announced he had found the problem — the shoulder had been dislocated and just needed to be placed back into position.

He told me to stand with my right arm against my chest, bending the elbow so my right hand was near my neck. Next, he got behind me and reached around to cup his hands under my bent elbow. Then, without warning, he violently jerked my bent arm upward, causing a pain that had me leaping toward the ceiling and screaming in agony.

Then he stepped around to face me and said with a smile that he had reset my dislocated shoulder — and that it would hurt for a while, but the pain should go away in a few hours. It didn't.

Three days later (missed school days at Hollywood High) the pain had only gotten worse, and my mom finally decided to take me to the closest ER. Well, they took an x-ray and showed us a completely broken clavicle, and asked why we had waited three days to have an x-ray taken.

Well, when you are on a near-starvation budget, you try to save money wherever you can.

Anyway, they said there was no easy way to reset a broken collar bone, and that immobilizing my arm by taping it to my chest was about all they could do — and that over time the bone would eventually knit itself back together. I still have a noticeable bulge where the bone eventually restored itself.

And I still can't do a hand-stand.

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