Noir tales and fair illusions in Burbank

So many of life's soupy uncertainties can be settled in or near tiny Toluca Lake, a neighborhood named for a body of water we never see. Ever water-skied on Toluca Lake? Ever caught a bass there, or lay idle on the toasty summer sand?

Toluca Lake. An illusion wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a giant fence.

People are always asking, "Why do you go out so often now?" and I immediately describe for them the baritone bark of our 300-pound beagle, his atrocious table manners, his inability to hold down a job.

Of our five kids, he is the least motivated. With a dog like him, it's no mystery why I walk around the house drinking margaritas out of a giant crystal vase.

"Did you ever undress in front of a dog?" Jonathan Winters once asked. "A bird, doesn't matter. A cat? Who cares. But dogs, they really stare."

That's the way it is with our 300-pound beagle. He sits, in a puddle of his own drool, watching me get ready to go out, licking his lips a little, like Taylor Swift before beginning another lousy song.

"Quit staring," I say, and he grunts a couple of times — deep, between his belly and his spleen — Champagne bubbles rising into his dark, dead eyes.

"Hey Posh, didn't we have him fixed?" I ask my wife, who by the way hasn't watched me undress for many moons now. When we make love, the first thing she does is shoot out the ceiling light with that silver six-shooter she carries on her hip. Then she turns the TV on to Dr. Oz — her idea of foreplay — and chases me around the room till I collapse.

So, yeah, who would ever want to leave a house like that?

Tonight, I've touched down near tiny Toluca Lake, across from Burbank's most magnificent restaurant, Bob's Big Boy, where — I am not making this up — Angie Dickinson and I are to have lunch at some future date.

Angie explains it this way: "All my life, I have had my choice of America's most-admired men. Now I want you."

Whether this lunch will ever transpire remains to be seen. She may just be messing with me. We (the young and beautiful) have always been the Tinkertoys of older, successful Hollywood types.

When I mention this rendezvous to Posh, she just laughs and shoots out another ceiling light. Ka-pinnnnng.

Despite the absence of a lake, I am fond of Toluca Lake, for it is near the finest clothing shop in the area, a place in Burbank called It's a Wrap, which sells clothing from movies and TV shows.

I once bought a football jersey from the sitcom "Evening Shade" there, and recently I bought two very nice sport coats, one for $5. The other I splurged on. It was $7. But I hold on to my clothing a very long time, so it seemed worth it.

This time, I am in the shadow of Toluca Lake to see "Billy & Ray," a stage play about how Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler came up with the steamy, dark, nuanced "Double Indemnity."

If you're a fan of glorious writing, you probably stopped reading this five minutes ago. But if you're more open minded, I think you'd like "Billy & Ray," premiering at the Falcon Theatre.

As I am always telling the dog: Wit is protein; words are meat.

This new stage play was penned by Mike Bencivenga, a name so difficult that even the play's director, Garry Marshall, who used to be Italian himself, had trouble pronouncing it over the phone.

Me: "How do you say that dude's name?"

Marshall: "Benci ... Benciventi ... Bencivenvillaraigosa."

But what a treasure, this Falcon Theatre. As the movies sink deeper down the wormhole of comic-book idiocy and depressing stories, we should turn more to the original content being offered at such modest theaters.

"I never thought that murder could smell like honeysuckle," goes a line in "Billy & Ray," and if you're not a little smitten by that, well there's nothing more we can do for you today.

Please see my receptionist on the way out.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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