“And in my hour of darkness,
She’s standing right in front of me
Speak with wisdom …
So be it”
Music from Bose portable speakers mixed with the sounds of traffic on Sepulveda Boulevard on a sunny afternoon in Mission Hills as Julieanne Gerard and Deborah “DJ” Murphy sang “Let It Be” by The Beatles.
– Hans Gutknecht (@HansGutknecht) May 25, 2021
Cookie the cat rested peacefully in his stroller as the couple serenaded him. A large red bow adorned her neck as her sparkling green eyes gazed upon her humans as they performed an impromptu concert on the sidewalk outside the Olivo Mall in Mission Hills.
The Cat & Canary Music Show couple sang, danced – with Murphy playing spoons on some of the numbers – as pedestrians and passing motorists smiled and handed them donations for their efforts. The duo perform songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Before meeting at a shelter, Gerard and Murphy were homeless. Now “best friends”, they bonded through music.
“I worked in aerospace for 32 years,” said Gerard, before a toxic relationship derailed his finances and his life. “I ended up homeless,” she said.
For a while, she and Cookie lived on the beach in Santa Monica. “We were starving,” she said.
She used her last $ 50 to buy a second-hand speaker and started performing at the Pier and the Boardwalk.
Eventually, they landed at the LA Family Housing shelter in North Hollywood. There, she met her new roommate, Murphy, who prefers to be called a DJ while performing.
Murphy lived in his car or on the streets for almost a decade before finally landing at the shelter.
“I was taking care of an older man in 2009. He passed away and I ended up in my car,” Murphy said.
Murphy shares Gerard’s passion for music. Once upon a time, she owned up to 400 record albums. “I listened to them all in my room,” she says. “It was a way of escaping my dysfunctional family.”
She sang to escape, she said, and she memorized the lyrics to the songs that brought her sanctuary.
Gérard also sang all his life. Although she never received formal vocal training, her love for music sparked her desire to try her luck with street performances.
“We’re not going to convince people with our musical prowess at this point,” Gerard said. “This is not our goal. our goal is to spread happiness and bring back memories for people with the music we bring.
Gerard exited the shelter and entered an apartment near downtown Los Angeles.
She saved up for a year and a half to buy her first Bose speaker. “Now I have two,” Gerard says proudly.
For Murphy, it took some encouragement from Gerard – and her original speaker gift of $ 50 – to blackmail her.
Murphy spent years finding bottles and cans to recycle, in an effort to earn a little more money. It was raining. Murphy was broke.
She was right, grabbed her speaker and stood under an awning in a dollar store. The songs were flowing. And a few dollars too, just enough for a pack of cigarettes.
She was addicted.
“I just want to do it. It’s not the money. I just wanna go wild. I will come here whether I get a dollar or not, ”Murphy said.
Gerard saved Cookie around the same time. “I bought it from people who had it in a car. She was tied with a rope around her neck, ”so she bought it for $ 20.
“I love him so much,” she said of the healthy feline, now 8 years old. The pair is inseparable. “It’s my baby,” says Gerard.
And it is above all a good audience. During this performance, she fidgeted and started to get out of her stroller before a soft hand stopped her. Catnip sprinkled in his blanket helmet, too. Cookie sat down with a purr.
“We used to be exclusively in Santa Monica, but the work has dried up with COVID,” Gerard said between songs. “We hope to go back to Santa Monica soon, but we’ll always come back to the valley because we have a lot of fans here, and they come to say hello. I think they would miss us too much. “
Murphy, who now lives in an apartment in the San Fernando Valley, loves to play. “I would do this at home, but I would probably be kicked out of my apartment.”
A white sedan pulls up near the performers, a well-groomed woman’s hand sticks out of the car window, waving in sync with the music before offering a donation to the hardworking singers.
Murphy rummaged in his bag for a cigarette and spoons, to play for the next song.
Her eyes closed as smoke escaped her lips, her hands rhythmically patting the spoons together, accompanying Gerard’s song.
The duo hope to find work at parties and corporate events, but for now, a sidewalk is all the stage they need.
“We sang to each other in a house. It is a blessing to be free. “