De­cap­i­ta­tion of well-liked man stuns com­mu­nity

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Ni­cole Santa Cruz

Each Sun­day, Robert Hol­lis sent a text mes­sage to his friend Brid­gette McDaniels, a wait­ress at Tal’s Cafe, to let her know he’d be there right af­ter church.

By af­ter­noon, the lanky 75-year-old would saunter into the small diner on Florence Av­enue in Hyde Park, a white cane with a red tip in his hand.

Hol­lis had gone par­tially blind in re­cent years. If there wasn’t a seat at the counter, pa­trons would give theirs up for the man known as Mr. Bo­jan­gles. Oth­ers would help him fix his cof­fee: black, with four pack­ets of sugar and french vanilla creamer.

His or­der would usu­ally be wait­ing for him.

The “Bo,” a grilled chicken sand­wich with sauteed onions and Amer­i­can cheese, was named for him.

Last Sun­day, McDaniels didn’t re­ceive a text. She found her­self look­ing at her phone, wait­ing for it to buzz, even though she knew it would not.

Three days ear­lier, Hol­lis had been found de­cap­i­tated in­side his In­gle­wood apart­ment. Po­lice have re­leased few de­tails about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and In­gle­wood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. has said he will in­tro­duce a $50,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion on the killing this week.

Hol­lis’ grue­some death

has stunned his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his six chil­dren. His ex-wife, who re­mains a good friend, said she can’t imag­ine who would want to hurt Hol­lis. He was a singer in var­i­ous church choirs, a sign maker and for­mer South L.A. car pin­striper.

“Peo­ple knew his name and they knew him for years and years,” said Norma Hol­lis, who was mar­ried to Robert Hol­lis for more than a decade.

When they first met, she said, he had a van with a couch in the back. The two would ride around Los An­ge­les and hang out in the back of the van. Mr. Bo­jan­gles was al­ways rec­og­nized.

“He was just that pop­u­lar on the streets of Los An­ge­les,” she said.

Robert Hol­lis’ legacy is tied to Tal’s Diner. He painted the signs on the out­side of the diner. He made the signs on the in­side. And when he met Norma back in 1984, the two had their first date at Tal’s.

At Tal’s all the reg­u­lars have their own cof­fee mugs. Hol­lis’, a black Star­bucks mug, is put away on top of the re­frig­er­a­tor so no one else can drink out of it.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, Mac John­son sat in the cor­ner of the res­tau­rant wear­ing a brown cow­boy hat, sip­ping cof­fee from a mug that read “Old Guys Rule.” He of­ten makes the drive from the An­te­lope Val­ley.

John­son doesn’t come for the food. He loves the peo­ple he has met.

The last Sun­day Hol­lis was in the res­tau­rant, John­son took a seat next to him and the two caught up. Hol­lis of­ten talked of his goal to live to be 100. That af­ter­noon, Hol­lis said that “life is fan­tas­tic.”

When John­son heard what hap­pened to Hol­lis, he couldn’t make sense of it.

“He would be the last per­son I would ex­pect that some­one would do this to,” he said. “You would never think that some­one would take his life in such a cruel, heart­less way.”

McDaniels re­called the time years ago when she got a new white Kia truck and talked to Hol­lis about how to per­son­al­ize it. Then Hol­lis fin­ished eat­ing and left.

When McDaniels fin- ished her waitress­ing shift, she found her truck newly dec­o­rated. In black cur­sive, Hol­lis had placed a sim­ple “Ms. Mac” on both sides.

“We loved him, we cared about him,” McDaniels said. “He wasn’t just some­body who stopped through and just ate.”

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