Saturday, May 9, 2009
THAT FEELING I GET WHEN I LOOK OUT WEST
Five years ago, the last time I was in Los Angeles, I was trying to repair slowly fracturing friendships by reconnection. It didn’t work, I spent most of the time being avoided and wondering why nobody wanted to be around me. That was five years ago and I haven’t been back to LA since. For a long time I never thought twice about LA but recently my fiancée Sara showed interest in visiting the Sunshine State and it brought back some feelings of resentment I have towards LA.
The last time I was in Los Angeles and having a good time was when I was still on MTV. Looking back on it all I think everybody involved in that little clique was in a very different place than we are now. This was about seven years ago and the penultimate event of my time in LA was this party at a huge house in a fancy section of town. The owner of the house was Sandra, who ran Kung Fu records with her husband whose name escapes me. I do remember he sang for The Vandals and was also a lawyer. Their house was ridiculous, gigantic, well decorated and extremely fun to hang out in. We spent that night in the backyard by the pool just talking and laughing.
At the time I was out there with my wife Shelley and my two best friends Josh and Jason with whom I had a successful business and a band. The band did marginally well, at least well enough to tour and sell some records. I was at the height of my MTV fame and filled with ego and bullshit. Thinking about it with this much time between that night and who I am now I’m not wholly proud of whom I was. My behavior betrayed the real person I wanted to be. Sadly Enough I had become caught up in the fame game. At the time I had become rather close with Elijah Wood who was riding his crest of fame and power with The Lord Of The Rings. I had introduced him to everybody I knew out in LA and from there a tiny clique had grown.
It consisted of myself, Josh, Jason, Shelley, Elijah, Sandra as well as Jim Rota, Emily (Jim’s girlfriend and band mate), Ryan Downey and Oliver Vaquar. We were pretty much inseparable at that point and it seemed like those days would go on forever. We were all in places that seemed incredibly exciting with futures that stretched out farther than any of us dared to look. Outside of the success Elijah and I were enjoying Jim and Emily were in a band called Fireball Ministry that was the buzz of LA. People were expecting big things from them and I had managed to get them some exposure on MTV. Ryan was a producer on MTV who was really carving out a name for himself and Oliver’s acting career was on the rise as was his marriage to his first wife.
That night around the pool brimmed with electricity the kind that can only be brought on by people who thought nobody could touch them. We talked about our lives, our careers, and what we all thought would happen next. Fireball Ministry was being courted by labels and had a fan base that was growing exponentially. They were sure the next move was to release an album, and then move up the musical food chain. The jobs they held were simply to pay bills until the rock fallout came which we were all sure would be enormous.
My ego was brimming to the point I’m still shocked I could stand up straight and walk. Being the heralded “real deal” on the corporate sell-out channel I figured my word on everything was gold. I would expand my brilliant abilities into writing for major publications as I slowly took over MTV. I would be a power player in the world of Television and music. I would be the guy all the bands wanted to be down with and the writer the magazines fought over. My power was endless and anybody who didn’t agree with me could fuck off.
Elijah was in much the same boat. He was, at that point, the biggest movie star in the world. The Lord Of The Rings was an epic success and his name was everywhere. He carried with him a cool factor due to his interest in music and attempts to keep his name synonymous with underground filmmaking. At that point Hollywood was his playground and he could do no wrong. Nobody in the media had a star on the rise the way Elijah did and that night we spoke of how far reaching this could all be.
Josh and Jason were currently running MBS Productions, the business I started and brought them into. The client list was long and the money was never ending. Though not hustlers Josh and Jason were solid enough at sucking up that they kept business constant. The three of us talked that night about the future of the company and how I would try to use MTV to move us into the world of editing movies. We also bandied about the idea of a short film that we would write; direct, edit and Elijah would star in.
Meanwhile Ryan and Oliver were cutting their own rugs. Ryan had started out at MTV as a writer but soon moved his way up to producer. The two of us had grown together and done a lot of shoots. Ryan wasn’t there that night I believe because he was working but whatever the reason he had become a serious comer at MTV.
Oliver had left NYC and his wife behind to come to LA and establish himself on the West Coast. He had several solid looking leads for TV work as well as burgeoning voice over career. That night we also talked about his future and the kinds of stuff he wanted to do. He was footloose and fancy free, laser focused on where his future would lie.
The night wore on and we talked about everything. Movies, music, theater, commerce vs. art and all the little in-between conversations that make up a night like that one. I hate to use the term magical but that’s really what it was. The air crackled with inside jokes and a rush of adrenaline brought on by being around people you thought were just like you. We all had these ideas of what our lives were going to be, how the future would unfold for us and we laughed at the poor fools out there that didn’t have it as good a we did.
That night ended late but on a serious high note. We had smoked, drank and talked until we were bleary eyed and hoarse. At the very end as we all walked out to our cars we hugged and talked about getting together again the next day. The drive home I sat silently with Shelley sleeping next to me. I thought about the job I had to do the next day, the cool such and such thing I was going to get to do that night and how awesome this exclusive life I was leading was. I wasn’t happy at that point, just proud and egotistical.
The end came shortly after that time in LA. I was fired from MTV after Su-Chin Pak accused me of being a racist. I’ll be honest I did say she was dressed like a hooker but I never said “Asian Prostitute” nor did I start singing “Oh me so horny”. Su-Chin used this supposed attack on her heritage as a bargaining chip for her new contract. Where I had screwed up was with my ego. It had gotten so out of control I had become seriously disliked by many of the people I worked with. When Su-Chin leveled her unfounded accusations against me the MTV brass saw it as a way to get ride of a problem. I was the problem and so I had to go.
From there my life began to unravel and would continue to do so for the next four years. The clique I thought was so strong would fall away, some for no reason and some through my own short sightedness. Friends I thought would be with me forever would vanish from my life completely and people I had written off would come back into the fold in bizarre ways.
It started slowly with Elijah who had always been out of sight out of mind when it came to friends. The truth was I had never wanted anything from him besides his friendship. While other looked to him to include them in his privileged world I seriously asked nothing of him other than to be buds. That wasn’t Elijah’s MO. He had spent so long with people kissing his ass he didn’t know how to handle a true friend. When I called him I expected a call back but I rarely got it unless I tracked him down. Others allowed him to think that was OK, I did not. I was quite vocal about that which didn’t sit well with Elijah at all.
Shortly after my firing I became about as useful to Elijah as a third arm. Our friendship went from tenuous to over and though I tried a few times to extend an olive branch nothing ever came of it. The strands of my life unraveled even more when I decided to leave New York and move to Boston. It was that move that made that warm night around the pool seem like it never happened.
To put it simply I was betrayed by Josh and Jason in a really heinous and mean spirited way. Not only did they lie to me they denied any wrong doing and left me alone during the darkest time of my life because it was easier than facing me or telling the truth. I also began losing friends as I looked to them to defend me against the betrayal. Everybody wanted to bury his or her head in the sand and pretend it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t do that and my inability to control myself and my temper went hog wild.
I couldn’t get my head around what had happened or how everybody stood around pretending it wasn’t their problem. I become constantly agitated and filled with rage. I began ripping into everybody over all that I had lost. I had no time to try and pick up the pieces of my life because I was too consumed with being angry.
I also got divorced. The girl who had fallen asleep on my arm after that night around the pool decided she didn’t want me anymore. I was alone, living in a horrible apartment I couldn’t afford with no job, no money and few friends. The girl I thought I would live with forever was now out and about dating other men. Sure I was seeing other girls but it didn’t quash the rage that kept burning.
I lost touch with Fireball Ministry for reasons I had pinned to me not being on MTV anymore. I had never really discovered if that was true but by that time I had attached most people with that tag. We had long since ousted Oliver from the clique mainly due to stories Elijah had told us that were largely untrue. I admit that I bought into it and turned a cold shoulder to somebody who had been a good friend. I can only say that I knew Elijah better and at that point I think I was trying to hold that friendship together. Ryan had been fired from MTV and summarily ousted from the Clique as well. Ryan and I had stayed somewhat close but even that relationship grew tenuous and eventually evaporated.
That was how it stayed for many years, the clique over, the friendships gone and that night around the pool seemingly farther away. Eventually time began healing those wounds and I started moving my life into a new direction with fantastic results. The best thing was finding Sara after years of losing the battle of the sexes. She is everything I have always dreamed of in a woman and her presence makes my life better everyday. I’m focused on building our lives and a lot of that which fueled my rage is long gone.
Standing here in 2009 I look at all of us and see where we are now and how different it is from where we were that night in Los Angeles, when everything was coming up roses. I’m no longer a famous TV personality who was sure he’d be king of the mountain forever. Now I work with troubled teenagers and continue to write for websites and magazines. It isn’t glamorous or high paying but I enjoy it and it affords me time to be with Sara and do what we want to do. I’ve gone from an incredibly unhappy marriage to searching for places to hold my upcoming wedding to a girl who I know will be with me forever.
Fireball Ministry was signed and did release albums but the incredible rise to rock and roll royalty never came. Jim and Emily, who eventually were married, got divorced and I lost touch with the rest of the band entirely. Jim and I recently started talking again which is good thing. The band is still together but no longer Jim’s priority as he has other side projects as well as a job he is focused on.
Elijah’s rising star finally faded and after a series of movie choices that were failures he is no longer Hollywood’s golden boy. For the last several years he’s done nothing but voice over work and the constant string of films he was being offered has dried up. He went from being a movie star to just an actor. We still don’t speak and I don’t know if we ever will. I’m not opposed to it I just have no interest in initiating it and I don’t think Elijah would ever initiate something like that.
Josh and Jason are both parents now and the business we built together is not exactly taking off the way it was supposed to. I’m not part of it anymore, I was forced out and then my part in building it stripped away in the form of lies about the origins of the company. I have no hatred or resentment towards them anymore though I still feel that I’m owed the explanation I never got.
Ryan didn’t become the next big host of a TV show and also didn’t really get back into producing much TV. He started his own management company and after we reconnected he became my new manager. He has a wife and a kid and new responsibilities. Sometimes I talk to him about that night around the pool and he laughs at how egotistical we all were.
Oliver found his way back into my life after graciously letting bygones be bygones and accepting my apology. He divorced his first wife but is married again with a baby boy and another child on the way. He has left the LA acting scene behind and focuses on his voice over work in New York. He’s not so much super actor now as he is a working actor with a family. We talk often and I consider him a close friend.
The house with the pool has been sold and Sandra and her husband moved someplace else. I never speak to them, not out of anything negative but more because those things just happen. I’m sure if we saw each other it would be pleasant and filled with promises of staying in touch that would never come to fruition.
When I returned to LA five years ago I tried to repair the splintered relationships but it wasn’t to be and I left the West Coats dejected and heartbroken. It was obvious these people just simply didn’t want me in their lives anymore. When I landed in Boston I swore I’d never go back to LA again and I meant it. LA was a stiff reminder of how everything had changed from that night sitting around the pool.
With time comes changes of heart and you begin to see things in a different way. When Sara talked about maybe going to LA at some point I didn’t immediately refuse, I even thought the trip might be fun. The night when we all sat around talking about futures that never came true is a distant memory now, a thing I can smile at instead of an open wound continuing to cause me pain. Instead LA is now a mystery to me, a place where this time in my life has been frozen forever. I don’t hate it anymore but…
It’s just a feeling I get when I look out West.