By Chris Barnett
HOLLYWOOD — When the coronavirus crisis slammed Los Angeles earlier this year, Patrick Gorse lost his job at a popular seafood and steak restaurant on the Westside that was forced to layoff staff and close its doors for three months.
Now what? Gorse, 64, who lived on the street for two years, feared he was “headed back to a cardboard ‘house’ on a sidewalk again.”
But he was a graduate of Food On Foot’s Work For Food program where he collected trash in Hollywood’s parking lots and earned a subsidy that paid his apartment rent, gave him bus passes, self esteem, phone counseling and other perks that most people take for granted.
“After those homeless years and a lot of hard work, I just couldn’t see myself going back to the streets,” said Gorse, who “loves” his job at Ocean Prime polishing silver, glassware and “anything else they asked me to do.” After the initial shock of the restaurant closing and being furloughed after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he said “I really wasn’t worried. I had skills and a roof over my head.”
Life wasn’t always so secure for Gorse and he had no one to blame but himself, he told a reporter.
“I was born in San Diego. My dad worked two jobs to provide for us and I had a stay-at-home mom,” Gorse said. “I went to the best Catholic elementary and high schools. I had every advantage. My problem was me.”
Gorse candidly admits he earned good grades in school but he really excelled in partying.
“I thought I was an adult and could do anything I wanted,” he said. “And I did everything from pot to opiates to crystal meth. I was a trash can. Then I started drinking to take the edge off the drugs.”
Still, after high school, he was functioning well enough to work on department store loading docks and other odd jobs. Yet, Gorse had a gift for writing jokes and started selling them to the late comic, Rodney (“I get no respect”) Dangerfield for $25 to $50 apiece. At the same time, he got a job at the Comedy Store as a limo driver and chauffeured around top acts like Robin Williams, Mort Sahl and Andrew Dice Clay.
He also drove Mitzi Shore, owner of the famed comedy club.
“I got this reputation as a really good comedy writer who has a drug and drinking problem,” Gorse says today. “As soon as I got the money, I would get high. I may have looked good but I was in rough shape.”
Finally, the cheap vodka and narcotics took him down.
“I would pass out on the sidewalk and I’d ask the ambulances to take me to different hospitals so the docs would never see me as a repeat offender,” he said.
Hitting bottom, Gorse wound up in Royal Palms, a drug and alcohol rehab hospital, where it took him 10 months to dry out and get straight.
Out on the streets in 2016, he was introduced to Jay Goldinger, founder of Food on Foot, the Hollywood nonprofit that feeds and clothes the homeless. He joined a Food on Foot work team, quickly started cleaning up the city’s parking lots and eight months later, graduated into his own apartment and reunited with his lost cat, Little Jo.
“She is the love of my life and I was so lost without her,” he said.
Gorse also was reunited with his job at Ocean Prime, although he may be furloughed again after the county ordered all restaurant to halt dine-in services starting Nov. 25.
Despite sheltering in place, Gorse is giving back. He joins Goldinger and the other Food on Foot volunteers and donors at the Sunday feedings in the Shraeder Street parking lot behind the Hollywood Gay and Lesbian Center.
“Jay gives people their dignity back and I help by showing up to prepare the supplies for the parking lot work teams and telling my story to donors,” Gorse said.
Gorse’s story of recovery and returning to life as a productive member of society is compelling. Food on Foot also told it in a recent mailing to donors.
Sums up the astonished former comedy writer who may eventually return to his highly competitive chosen field:
“I am so grateful. We raised enough money to pay the apartment rents for all our graduates for six months.”