11 years ago I covered a $659.48 bill in a Vancouver bar because Jason Momoa had conveniently, “left his wallet at home.”
Aquaman owes me some cash.
All of these Aquaman billboards that are towering all over the country have had me nostalgic for a night, back in 2007, when I had spent the night drinking and hanging out with a young actor named Jason Momoa who was playing “Ronon Dex” on a TV show called Stargate Atlantis.
I had met Jason because I had made and performed a viral “Stargate Atlantis rap video” about how much of a superfan of the TV show I was… (even though I had never seen an episode). The producers then offered me a small role as “Scientist #2” on an upcoming episode of the program and they even flew me up to Vancouver to act in a scene. We also scheduled a “Set visit” for the TV show I was currently on called Attack of the Show.
This whole thing started when my friend Jane, a veteran TV producer, was asked by the Stargate universe to create them a “viral video” for the internet.
This was during a small period of time when TV/Film companies were hiring producers to try and capture lightning in a bottle for the masses by shooting high quality videos that seemed cheap, affordable and easy to digest online… This was WAY before influencers, SoundCloud rappers and Instagram stories… This was before everybody had an iPhone and a high quality camera in their pockets and garage band on their laptops. If you had musical talent and were willing to work for next to nothing, you could get a million views and the respect of the industry in about a week.
I had recently performed and produced a series of comedic rap videos for Attack of the Show – which led to Jane calling me to do a song about Stargate Atlantis as they attempted to develop their online brand.
“Have you ever seen the show?” Jane asked me on the phone one afternoon.
“No, but that won’t matter,” I responded. “Send me the DVD’s and I’ll write a song tonight.”
Her messenger delivered the DVD’s that afternoon. I watched six episodes. By 11 p.m. that night I had written an entire rap song about how much I loved Stargate Atlantis and how, as an actor, my dream was to be on an episode of the show…
Two days later we recorded the rap song with a music producer named Terrace Martin. Yeah, the same Terrace Martin who rolls with Kendrick Lamar. You know that song “Damn?” THAT TERRACE MARTIN. The man is a hip-hop legend. However, back in 2007 he was just another guy trying to make it, like we all were… and his resume included some indie rappers and a couple of songs with Snoop Dogg.
Here’s the Stargate Atlantis song and video we shot while making it…
After this song and video went “nerd viral,” which meant that all the Stargate Atlantis fans went crazy analyzing the lyrics and anointing me the “King of Stargate rap music” – I began receiving hundred of emails and MySpace requests from Stargate fans across the world. They all had names like “Wraith Woman #2” and “Daedulus Dude” and were asking me for my address so they could send me things like Stargate collector’s plates and shit. (I still have these). It was crazy. The fans rivaled Trekkies or the disciples of the Star Wars Universe. I had suddenly been accepted into the tight circles of Stargate fanatics.
The video was spreading and an executive producer on the show held a cast and crew screening and made me an instant celebrity amongst the cast, grips and writers of the show. It was INSANE. A week later they flew me up to Vancouver to play my small role, put me up in a hotel and even PAID me… These are the type of jobs that RARELY come along…
Anyway, I first met Jason Momoa on set the day of my scene, and I watched him train incessantly for some tricky fighting sequence. I interviewed him along with the rest of the cast for my set visit and got along well with everybody. What stood out to me most about Jason was that, whereas the rest of the cast had big, beautiful trailers… Jason had an AirStream trailer from the 1960’s. The other cast had couches, but Jason had removed his and fastened in a hammock instead. The dude was definitely living a different life as a TV star.
After interviewing him, we started talking music and went back to his Airstream where he showed me his 1940’s Gibson acoustic guitar that was worth about $5,000. I played it in awe and dreamt of the day I could play a character like his – a “Satedan,” a member of civilization from the Pegasus Gallery on my own bad ass science fiction TV show… Instead, on the episode that day I was simply playing “Scientist #2,” a character who contracts some disease and had a few throw away lines to Dr. Mckay (played by the hilarious David Hewlett).
By the way, I still get occasional 13 cent residual check in the mail from this role…
After my scene was shot, Jason casually mentioned that he had a day off the next day and wanted to know if I had any interest in getting some beers that night.
“Sure, man,” I said.
That evening we met at the hotel and proceeded to ambush the nightclubs of Vancouver. At first, we met some of his friends for drinks where the bartender refused to charge him anything. A few beers in and we headed over to a dinner spot where a bunch of his friends joined us. The drinks and food flowed and I was amazed at how many people stopped and paid their respects to Jason and his impressive dreadlocks. He was a big time celebrity in town… I just thought he was a cool guy. Then, around 11 p.m. the bill came.
We all sort of stared at it for a long time. And then Jason picked it up. He looked at it, leaned over to me and whispered in my ear.
“Dude, I left my wallet at my place, can you cover this?” He said
“Uhhh, pay me back?” I said, rather scared to look at the total.
“Yeah man, we’ll go to my apartment. I have cash.”
And so, just like that, I put my card down and bought Jason Momoa and his friends a $659.48 dinner.
And then we went to the bar and I bought some more beers. And then some more. And then we stopped at a liquor store on the way home where I picked up some Stella Artois to take back to his place.
I was about $750.00 in the hole at this point.
Momoa’s apartment was sort of like his trailer. He had decorated it with a bunch of his homemade leather furniture, was definitely not a fan of pre-fabricated food and he immediately put on the incredible Tom Waits CD Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards.
We drank a few beers and talked about Hollywood, his girlfriend Lisa Bonet and how he had dreams of becoming a “Warrior” in the movies or something… I told him how my dream was to play the Greek Theater in Los Angeles someday. We went back and forth about how the wolf was his spirit animal and mine was the eagle. He showed me his screenplay, which was wrapped in a handmade leather-bound notebook of some sort – and I gave him my band’s new CD Alcoholiday, which he told me he liked. He then gave me a copy of a terrific book called “Hobo” by Eddy Joe Cotton (A MUST READ) and we toasted to our dreams until the early morning.
Around 3 a.m. I called a cab and my night out with Jason Momoa had come to a drunken, blurry end. I stumbled back to my hotel room at the Sutton Place and got into bed… It was then that I realized SHIT. I forgot to ask him for the money from dinner.
The next day my wife called and asked me if I had spent $750.00 on our card, as she was getting “fraud alerts” from the bank.
“Yeah, it’s a long story,” I said. “But I made a cool new friend!”
A few weeks later, the British TV station SKY 1 contacted me about using my Stargate song as a promo to hype the upcoming new season of the show. I agreed and it opened up a brand new fan base across the pond. To this day, the ASCAP residual checks I got from that usage are above and beyond any financial success I have ever experienced.
And somewhere, on an old hard drive of mine, exist about 25 photos of me and Jason hanging on set… in the bars and among the barflies of Vancouver back in 2007. There is also a segment we produced for Attack of the Show on a DVD buried somewhere in my garage, but I ain’t trying to go dig that shit out either… If you have it, internet, feel free to post it.
Jason and I stayed in touch for a few years, texting songs and book recommendations to each other, but once he got more and more successful, our texts stopped and we both fell into busier work and fatherhood. Now, as I see him staring at me from the stage of Saturday Night Live – or from behind his massive Trident on an Aquaman billboard, I feel like he finally became the “warrior” he had told me he wanted to become.
As for me, I haven’t played the Greek Theater yet… But, when I make it there, I’ll perform any song you want to hear…
Even the Stargate Atlantis song…
WHY THE F*#% DO I OWN A HOUSE? By Zach Selwyn*Author’s Note: If you don’t like to read white people complaining about stupid shit, do not read this rant.
It used to be the America dream. Three or four bedrooms, a yard, a dog, two kids, a mortgage and a slice of property that you tell strangers you meet while sipping drinks that you “own.” But do we really own these brick piles and stucco standings? Or are we merely temporary renters for a brief time on this planet? Over-paying our way through each month so that someday we might be able to pass our structure onto our children, who will most likely sell it the first chance they get so they can snort the profits?
My house is very nice. People tell me I am very lucky. But fuck owning a house. Why have I done this to myself? Every time I think I’m finally getting ahead with my finances, a clay pipe from 1929 explodes beneath the concrete walkway in my front lawn. 240 volts of electricity spring loose from a patched heater cable on the roof and threatens to electrocute my entire family if we plug in a toaster while my wife is using a hair-dryer. A feral squirrel eats an electric filament that connects the natural gas line and we have no hot water for 5 days. (I hope that stupid squirrel dies).
Repairs, property taxes, renter fees, water, power, gas and sewer charges… Basically I work my ass off to not be able to do anything but tell people I own a house. It’s a term Investipedia describes as being “house poor.” Basically, you become a prisoner to the bank and you flush all the money you had saved for things you always dreamed of down the clogged toilet every month.
For instance… I always wanted to buy season tickets to a baseball team. The Dodgers play three miles away. Ready to pounce on a package two years ago, I was shit-sided by the water pump in my basement exploding. BAM. Bye bye Yasiel Puig, hello All Valley Heating and Appliances.
Example number two: A best friend from college gets married in Italy last year. Plane tickets and lodging look affordable. My wife and I plan the most amazing trip. We even set up grandma to watch the kids while we’re away sipping limoncello beneath some Italian moon and devouring plates of Taglietelle Bolognese. And then? BOOM, a tree falls in our yard and smashes three windows. This, in turn, makes us have to “earthquake-proof” the entire fucking house and instead of dining beneath an Italian moon, we order take out from Olive Garden and eat it while watching Peaky Blinders.
Alright, I understand that most of you are reading this and saying, “Fuck you Zach, you own a house? Kiss my ass you lucky bastard asshole son-of-a-bitch.”
I will trade places with you right now. Give me a condo with a landlord who fixes stuff when it happens, and I’ll be a happier man. Bring me a community pool in the center of an apartment building and some shitty underground parking, and I am IN. For crying out loud, I pay a gardener $100 a month to mow our dead lawn – which we were told to stop watering during the California drought… I pay a cleaning lady more money than my mother makes a year to make sure the loose blueberries that sneak beneath the couches get swept up in an orderly manner. I pay a handyman to fix shit like a broken kitchen drawer when too many can openers and wine keys weigh it down and snap the wood.
This is not what I planned on spending all my money on in my life. However, these little incidents are why I have to do shit like pimp myself out as the ribbon-cutting host at the opening of an Artisanal pickle store in Alta Dena to make $150.
The other thing is, that there is about a 3 percent chance that I will ever pay this house off. It will keep going and going until I die and then my grandchildren will look at what I was paying and mumble to themselves, “Grandpa Zach was an idiot.” Of course, by then, the Hollywood neighborhood I live in will be full of Wal-Marts and Dave N’ Busters and my house will look like the house in the Disney film Up – The lone remaining house in a forest of corporate shit. My family will probably argue at my funeral over who gets to keep the ASCAP royalty checks from songs I have placed in film and TV shows and then sell the entire pile of shit-bricks for millions of dollars to a company that will build a Marshall’s Discount Store on our property. Then, when they look back at my books and past taxes, they will see how much money I threw into the trash trying to keep my house afloat, and how many wonderful opportunities I missed out on because I was busy paying gardeners and handymen and the city of Los Angeles to guarantee that my trash gets picked up every Friday… Hopefully then, they will realize that owning a house isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and they will continue living with roommates or in cheap studio apartments with sleazy landlords or even – if they’re lucky – in hotels with turn-down service.
I used to think that someday I might be able to retire. Yeah, right. THAT’S happening. Screen Actor’s Guild recently sent me a notice of my past earnings and told me that by the time I hit age 65, I will be receiving social security from them at the rate of… wait for it… $236 a month. BOOM. That’s about what I pay the city to guarantee we get a phone book every year. WHY? Fuck the phone book!
Then again, if all goes well, when I am 65 I will be living in a cardboard box with no lawn to mow, no heater to fix and no sewer to fill. My showers will be happily taken at the Hollywood YMCA and I will pass the day slurping watered-down coffee at the 7-11, pilfering my ASCAP checks for just enough money to buy a couple of 40 ounce beers so that I can sleep in peace knowing I don’t have to replace the fucking water filter in my refrigerator for $195 every May.
Of course, homelessness isn’t a joke and I’m not saying I’d rather be homeless, but sometimes when I see a young dude in a knitted cap with black soot on his face looking like he just swept a chimney – walking a pit bull on a leash made of chains – while smoking a half of a cigarette he found on the ground a few minutes beforehand, I wonder if in some way, he is better off. He doesn’t have any bills, no roof to patch and no yard to maintain. His house is the freeway underpass, which is power-washed and swept every week… The CITY takes care of his shit FOR him! And who pays the city to do that? I DO! It’s in my property taxes! Upkeep of the neighborhood!
Then again, he does need to eat. And when I thought about this earlier today, looking at a fellow around my age trying to sleep on an abandoned Futon frame, I understood that yes, I AM a lucky person. This poor guy probably had an awful childhood and he may never know the pleasures I have tasted or the comfort of a warm bed and I can’t help but feel guilty for griping about my white people problems while this unfortunate man eats Chick-Fil-A from a garbage can.
I slowly pulled my car over the side of the freeway and dug deep into my pants pocket for a few bills. I took out my wallet, searching… Realizing that it is my responsibility to help those in need. If you have a little – share a little. The young man saw me stop and began walking over to my car window for his handout. I kept poking around in the glove box for some money. Nothing. Center console? Cash-free.
“Shit man,” I say. “I thought I had some money on me, but I had to pay my handyman 100 bucks to fix the broken hatches on my garage door this morning.”
“Go fuck yourself,” he yelled into my window.
And I drove back to my house, embarrassed…
READ Zach’s collection of short stories “Talent Will Get You Nowhere“ – !
White People Problems – http://youtu.be/-MQrEwYxZW4