At a bar near my house a few nights ago, I met an interesting man. He was very handsome, sporting a cool undercut hair-do and rocking a massive, manly thick beard. A bearded man myself these days, I inquired about how he achieved such unbridled thickness and shape.
“I grew it,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
After a few more lagers, I got to asking what this guy did for a living – as he was constantly tapping his phone for the duration of our hang.
“I’m a beard model bro,” he exclaimed “On Instagram.”
“What? Really?” I inquired.
“Yeah man – you got a pretty thick beard, you should try it.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You gotta get that beard money son!” He said.
Beard money? Instagram? Paid for just having facial hair? Yes, believe it. The man, whose name I forget – but may have been Rylance, told me he made over 100 thousand dollars last year hash-tagging and re-posting snaps of him rocking his beard. He also mentioned that he had turned down money to shave it from Gillette for a commercial.
“They offered me 25 grand, but my beard ‘shave rate’ is 40K,” he explained.
“Shave rate?” Dude. I tested as an actor for a TV pilot last year and my acting rate was 1/10th of that. I was blown away.
When Rylance finally turned his phone around to show me his pictures – it became abundantly clear that I might not have the “beard earning potential” that he currently had. Mainly because the majority of his Instagram phots were of him posing shirtless, with rippling abs and a diary of chest tattoos scrawled all over his torso.
Instagram would probably pay me to put my shirt back on.
Still, he passed me the email of his “social media manager” and I emailed her the next day. Her name was Tracy. Here is our conversation:
Zach: Hi. Rylance gave me your information, I’m interested in Instagram beard modeling.
Tracy: Great. Can you post a photo of your beard doing something cool and we’ll see what kind of traffic you get?
Zach: My beard doing something cool? Like what – shopping for albums?
Tracy: Or standing in front of an old shipyard or a train or a barn or something.
Zach: Copy that. Will share later this week.
And just like that, it was on. Being that I made a grand total of 2600 dollars as a writer the previous year, I figured a quick move to Instagram beard modeling might be a nice career change. I took a road trip up north and decided I was going to shoot some killer beard photos and get myself an agent.
My first stop was in from of a barn, as requested. Then I took my shirt off and did my best “suck-it-in pose” while staring off into the distance at nothing in particular. Finally, I snapped some pics of me standing in front of a record player holding a guitar case. Boom. I had my entire beard modeling portfolio.
I decided to post the barn photo first.
I emailed Tracy and told her to look out for the coming revolution. With any luck, I’d be getting offers from worldwide companies to pose while holding a Kit-Kat or something for 10 large. She quickly emailed me back after looking at my Instagram page.
Tracy: Is this a joke? You have way too many clothes on.
Zach: Too many clothes on?
Tracy: Show off your tats.
Uh-oh. Tats? One thing I am not ashamed to admit, is that I am tattoo-less. Sure, I almost got a Pearl Jam “stick figure” in high school on my ankle – but I chickened out at the last minute. Still, I decided I could doodle something on my chest in Photoshop and try to pass it off as cool.
When I looked at the other models currently killing it on Instagram, however, it became clear that one tattoo would not be enough. Apparently the current trend is to get ridiculous tattoos all over yourself. Your chest, your neck and more recently, on your face. I slowly felt my beard modeling career slipping away, but I still took a chance.
I took a few more pictures and added some tattoos. Knowing this was my last chance to pull off a modeling contract, I sent them off to Tracy before I posted them – asking her if she felt these might generate some serious beard traffic.
I waited for what seemed like hours for a response. When she finally got back to me, it wasn’t the response I had expected.
Tracy: So, I don’t think I’m going to pursue you as a beard model any further.
Zach: Can you tell me why?
Tracy: Well, for one – you’re what, 37?
Tracy: But, I was looking through your other Instagram photos and it looks like you have two kids? If you want I can submit you to another trending site – Have you heard of the Instagram account, “Hot Dads With Babies?”
Hot Dads With Babies? Yep. It’s a real thing. I went and looked it up and was immediately horrified. Even though they only had a few posts, I was fairly convinced I might be able to sneak myself up on that page someday, so I asked Tracy what the average “dad with baby rate” was for a guy selected for the account.
Tracy: It’s not as popular as anything with beards, so it’s only like 7 dollars per post.
Zach: Oh. OK, well I’ll think about it.
And with that, Tracy was off to help Rylance clock another 50 grand for posing shirtless with a Clif energy bar, secretly dreading the day his beard went grey and his tattoos started to fade.
I went home to see my kids and brought them into the kitchen, where I asked them a simple question…
“How’d you guys like to make 7 dollars an Instagram post?”
*Watch Zach’s new comedic acting reel!*
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/177500428″>Zach Selwyn Comedy Reel – August 2016</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3121417″>Zach Selwyn</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
When I was 16, it Took Me Two Weeks to Figure Out Who Sang Nights in White Satin…
By Zach Selwyn
It was early summer 1991. I was driving around Tucson on another hot day listening to the classic rock station 96.1 KLPX in my ’88 Dodge Lancer when I first heard the tail end of the song Nights in White Satin. The melody was haunting and seemed like the kind of ghostly and sexy voice I could put on a future mix tape for some girl. I didn’t know what a “night in white satin” was or who the band was or why it grabbed me like it did, but when the song finally ended, the radio DJ moaned into the microphone that that song always took him back to “a magical time when love was free and gas was cheap.” (Gas was .99 cents a gallon in 1991, BTW.)
Sadly, the DJ did not finish his tag. He never mentioned who sang the song or what it was called. I assumed it was titled Nights in White Satin. But I had no way of confirming this. There was no space age device or Shazam app in my hand that I could hit and get instant answers from a satellite above that had every solution to every question man has ever pondered. I actually had to do some research.
I wrote the song title down on a Jack-in-the-Box napkin I had in my car and sped home as fast as I could to call the radio station… From my mother’s landline.
Since that was during the “96.1 Days of Summer” promotion when Tucsonans were feverishly competing to win tickets to a Joe Satriani concert taking place at Tucson Raceway Park in July – the line was constantly busy. I could NOT get through. I even called the pop radio station 93.7 to ask the 25-year-old DJ if he knew the answer. His response?
“We don’t have that song, bro.”
I was dying to figure out who sang it. Since my music-obsessed stepfather was at one of his countless rehab centers that did not allow human contact from behind sober walls, I had to ask my friends at school, who were only interested in Nirvana, Digital Underground and the Black Crowes at the time. Nobody knew. Only one buddy had even heard the song.
And he swore it was Rush. I knew it wasn’t Rush.
Finally, on my weekly sleepover at my father’s house, I had to ask my dad – who, although he is truly one of the smartest men I have ever known – is not much for rock-n-roll trivia.
“Pretty sure it’s a Neil Diamond song,” he exclaimed.
That did it. I spent the next week saving up my bread and thinking Neil Diamond sang Nights in White Satin. Finally I took $20 from my job bussing tables – and went to the local record store called Zips. I acted nonchalant and cool – like all record store shoppers used to act when they would walk into a place with so many options… You wanted to appear focused. If you have ever been to an Amoeba Records in LA or San Francisco, you know the swagger you want to have when you walk in. You want to impress the clerks. You can’t look lost around the other customers. You want to appear as if you know exactly what you are looking for.
I headed towards the rock section. I started thumbing through Neil Diamond CDs. The big cardboard box ones. The CD packaging that was soon banned by the Environmental Protection Agency – although they somehow let the plastic that now pollutes half of our oceans remain as the primary packaging for compact discs. If I ever come across that massive plastic floating island in the middle of the Pacific, I’m gonna be amazed at just how many CD jewel cases compose the island’s largest volcano.
Anyway, I rifled away through Neil Diamond. I could not find Nights in White Satin. I looked at the Neil Young section as well, just in case my dad had simply “mixed up his Neil’s.” No luck. Finally, I realized I had to do what every young music loving record shopper dreads the most at a retail store: I had to interact with an actual employee.
After fooling around with some buttons and stickers near the register, I eventually mustered up the courage to raise my voice above the din of the shitty hair band that was playing from the speakers in the ceiling.
“Hey man, do you know which Neil Diamond album Nights in White Satin is on?”
The dude momentarily stopped filling out the plastic rack card he was illustrating in red Sharpie for Alice in Chains.
“Neil Diamond?” He chortled. “That’s not Neil Diamond. That’s the Moody Blues.”
What? The Moody Blues? That shitty band that sang Ride My See-Saw? Impossible.
“Yeah, look in the prog rock section,” he explained.
Fuck me. I was going to the prog rock section? I never went to the prog rock section. I hated bands like Yes and early Genesis and what?!? I refused to go to the prog rock section and gasp! Buy a prog rock CD??
Listen. In 1991 broke teenagers didn’t have illegal or easy 99 cent download services. Or streaming. Or YouTube. Or any cassette singles that were made in 1967 when Nights in White Satin was recorded. I had but two really expensive choices… I could to plunk down the 16.99 for the actual album the song first appeared on, which was called Days of Future Passed… Or, I could play it a little safer and spend 18.99 on Voices in the Sky: The Best of the Moody Blues.
Either way, I was throwing my money blindly at 13 unknown songs. I decided to go with Voices in the Sky because it just sounded trippy and like something I might “get high to” someday. I brought it up towards the front where the clerk informed me that if I bought two “same artist” CD’s I would get a coupon for three dollars off. Luckily I passed on that amazing offer.
So, I was roughly twenty dollars invested into the Moody fucking Blues. I had recently dropped $195 on a sweet Blaupunkt Pull-out tape deck for my ride at the local stereo shop, and I had also scored a Sony Discman-cassette adapter so that I could have CD-quality sound in my car at all times. Assuming my batteries weren’t low, of course… So, I loaded up the Discman and rolled my windows down and began a very brief relationship with the Moody Blues.
The first song was Ride My See Saw. Skip. Then another clunker. Skip. Soon, however, the songs got a tad more interesting… Never Comes the Day was soaring and anthemic, and Question had some Stones-y undertones… but the sheer annoyance of Talking out of Turn or I’m Just a Singer in a Rock-N-Roll Band was so hard for this kid from the lowest corner of the desert to accept that I had to move ahead to Nights in White Satin for the remainder of my drive home.
My stepfather returned from rehab two weeks later and I showed him my recent musical purchases. He approved highly of the Byrds and the Doors Greatest Hits, but he scoffed immediately when he saw the Voices in the Sky CD I had purchased. His complaint was simple… And was very understood.
“You’re such a stooge, man – you didn’t buy a Moody Blues CD with Tuesday Afternoon on it?” He scoffed. “That’s like, their best song ever!”
Two weeks later, I had saved up enough money to buy a second Moody Blues Greatest Hits CD. One that had Tuesday Afternoon on it. I swear to God. This collection, called Legend of a Band ran me $14.99 and introduced me to a trippier longer version of Nights in White Satin as well as the poppy foppishness of the hit Your Wildest Dreams.
(For the record, my stepfather could have changed my life if he had just said, “Screw the Moody Blues, go listen to the Kinks.”)
To this day, Voices in the Sky and Legend of a Band both sit in gargantuan CD cases in my office that have been collecting dust since around 1994. In the same case are thousands of CD’s that set me back 14.99 here and 17.99 there. From Phil Collins to 3rd Bass to that fucking Oasis album that came out after …What’s the Story Morning Glory. We all have them. Resting in our garages and attics, taunting us like medals of adolescence that will forever brand us as the parents who tell our kids that they need to do some research once in awhile because “nobody’s going to do it for you.”
Well, we better be careful. This new generation’s problem is that everybody is doing it for them.
As I paid my bills this month, and looked over the CD collection I have amassing in my house that is worth nothing but fond memories, I thought back to that hard earned $18.99 and $14.99 I had dropped on those CD’s back in 1991. That’s a lot of money for a kid. That’s a lot of money for a lot of people. The music industry sure did take advantage of us, didn’t they? Then again, without them, we wouldn’t have what we have. As I sent off another online bill to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at that very moment, I thought to myself that all that disposable high school income sure would be really helpful right now.
And then I pulled out that CD case, got stoned and listened to Nights in White Satin…
Download and hear ZACH and MISSI PYLE on the latest ep. of “Anna Faris is Unqualified”
I am uncomfortably straddling a white folding chair with 40 other people, ages ranging from 21-60 on a 103-degree day in Alta Dena waiting to work as an extra on a network TV show for the day. The pay isn’t terrible – $142.37 – or something like that, plus whatever gargantuan amounts of Craft Service snacks, candy, sodas and mini sandwiches I can shove into my shoulder bag to take home, but the overall feeling is grim. There is some old Greek food suffering beneath a sneeze guard nearby, a lot of discarded banana peels and a large fan blowing cool air towards us to keep us comfortable – like we’re NFL running backs playing a September game in Phoenix.
The scene has a prison-like feel to it. There are the lifers, the newbies and the guys who are only here for a few days trying to get their health insurance. I fall into that last category, but the fear of getting sexually assaulted by one of the older “inmates” is very real. Only problem is I can’t kick anyone’s ass to prove that I’m “tough.” Instead, I choose to bury myself into my iphone and hope the 45% charge lasts another 8 hours.
A year ago I was in New York City promoting my own TV show in Times Square for Tru TV. Now I am listening to a 22-year-old kid talk about how Hot Tub Time Machine is the main reason he dropped out of college to try to make it as an actor. You gotta love this business.
The majority of chatter amongst these “background players” or “atmosphere” is about the world of extras. Many relay the legendary scene in Ben Hur where an extra forgot to take his watch off during the chariot race. (Look it up – it’s hilarious). Others talk about how Ricky Gervais ripped off their idea when he did his Extras TV show. However, the subject that keeps coming up time and time again is the “bump up.” A “bump up” is when an extra is promoted from an extra to a principal role. Suddenly, the lucky bloke can go from zero to hero and earn Screen Actors Guild daily rate. However, according to everyone, incidents like that are more rare than finding a piece of sushi that hasn’t been in the sun for six hours beneath the cast and crew food canopy.
I am here today because I need to make $6300 before the end of the year as a way to qualify for Screen Actors Guild health insurance, a plan I have somehow managed to attain for the past twelve years. This year, however, the jobs dried up, a ton of work went non-union and I have finally aged out of the commercial actor category of “young, shaggy haired beer-drinking party guy.”
At this pay rate, it will take me working nearly every day for three months to earn the necessary SAG income to keep my family on the health plan. Alternative options – Obamacare and Cobra – basically guarantee that I will be paying 75% more money for lesser benefits. It has long been noted that SAG has terrific health care. The problem is that you need to earn an outrageous amount of money to qualify for it, and this year has been an ice bath as far as SAG work has been going.
“My dad was Jimmy Smits’ stand-in on LA Law,” a man named Sonny who was dressed as a Native American jewelry salesman bragged to the lot of us huddled beneath the blue pop-up tent. “He told me to find a niche as an extra. When I started out I only played Latino, only roles were for prisoners or a gang members. Now that I play Native American, I work all the time.”
I suddenly found myself wishing I had some Native American cheekbones.
As the day rolled along, I began to hear everybody’s story. You coop someone up for long enough, they will eventually tell you their life’s narrative. Every extra on set seemed to have a tale about the one legendary time they were “bumped up” to a principal role. One woman claimed she was bumped on Two and a Half Men because Charlie Sheen fired the original woman who had been cast for her one line of “Suck it, Charlie.” A guy who often plays blue-collar types said he got his bump on Dharma and Greg and had his career-defining moment in a bar fight scene when he raised his fists and said, “Meet my two friends… Mary-Kate and Ashley.”
And then there was Sonny, who said he specifically learned the extinct Native American language Kiowa to nab a line in a Civil War series. His line was “D’on T’ap Piii.” Which translates roughly to “See deer eating.”
I stared at Sonny for a long while. He did look familiar, as that Native American guy you sort of see in films, but I wasn’t sure. Which meant he was a great extra. One who blended in. He bragged of his work on The Alamo, Oz, The Longest Yard, Texas Rising, Hatfields and McCoys. Dances With Wolves and of course, That 70’s Show. The way he saw it, he was an integral part of these films. A guy who went uncredited – but felt he deserved all the success.
“There should be an extras lifetime achievement award,” he offered.
As a young actor, I did some extra work at age 22. At the time, like most young dreamers, I thought I was a small break away from my own series and I treated the other kids in the high school dance scene like castaways and future failures. When I started booking some jobs and enjoying the confines of an air-conditioned trailer with a private bathroom, I swore I’d never go back to the extras holding again. Yet, here I was. A 15-year TV veteran with a decent resume that I was too embarrassed to share with the other inmates. I decided to shut up and do my time and maybe get out of there with a few Clif bars and some coconut water.
Then, there was a call to action.
“Peter, Mike, Donna, Marla, Zach – party scene, now!” An Assistant Director yelled at us, directing us towards the makeup department to get touched up.
I put down my phone and walked over to the area, when Donna, one of the younger extras, mentioned that she often worked on the show. She then proceeded to refer to one of the makeup artists as her “glam squad.”
A short, effeminate man named Ty erupted in her face.
“Don’t call me ‘glam,’ don’t call me ‘glam squad’ or I’ll shove this hairbrush up your ass,” he screamed.
Emily, another makeup artist stopped him before any penetration took place. It was surreal. Never in my life had I seen a fight between an extra and a makeup artist. It was like the Cubs-Pirates bench clearing brawl in the National League Wild Card this season. You couldn’t believe it was happening.
It was a major altercation. Apparently, Ty was sent home and Donna was threatening to sue the show for harassment. It didn’t make sense. In my opinion, being called the “glam squad” wasn’t nearly as bad as being referred to as “background” or “ambience.”
My scene was fairly easy. I had to drink some iced tea and mouth the words “peas and carrots” to another extra. The entire time I was placed in the corner of the party and they shot about 9 angles and we let the main actress do six takes before she was happy. As the director stood merely three feet from me, I tried to convince him that a line would be appropriate for my character. I pitched him ““D’on T’ap Piii.”
He didn’t respond. Apparently he didn’t speak Kiowa.
Lunch was at 1:00 and the extras were told to not touch or come near any food until the entire cast and crew had eaten. I was actually quite full from snacking – so I didn’t need to rush, but a lot of the extras bitched and moaned about the lack of respect. I turned to a fellow extra named Tony, who was about my age.
“Why can’t everyone just relax?” I asked him.
“Welcome to the Screen Extras Guild,” he responded.
An hour later, following one of those naps when you fall asleep with your chin in your hand, there was a small rumbling about a potential bump up for one of the extras. Apparently, a producer had seen one of us and wanted to add a line. The bit was that the lucky person would confront the female star of the show – who was wearing a fur jacket – with an uncomfortable long hug and then said, “you feel like a plushie.” All the extras began rehearsing their lines as if this was an audition for the next Coen Brothers film and we all got excited. I even took a walk around the tent and worked on my delivery.
Eventually, the female star and the director came to the extras tent and started looking around at all of us as if we were cattle being sold at a livestock auction. The female actress passed the first few folks, skipped the youngsters and then whispered to her director, “I need a middle-aged schlub.”
I am certainly creeping up on middle age, but I don’t feel like I look that way. I’m in great shape and still have hair and my skin has been hiding from the sun throughout the years as I write my life away. However, I was chosen as one of the three finalists to play “middle-aged schlub.”
We all went and had a private audition with the actress and director. I immediately messed up my hair, raised my jeans to mom-jean height and did my best to look like a total Midwestern chump who would give a hot girl a “long hug” and make her uncomfortable.
“Mmm, you feel like a fluff – wait, what’s the line?” The first guy said, immediately messing up his chances.
“You feel like a plushie,” said the next guy who was 40 pounds heavier and 100% balder than me.
When my turn came, I looked deeply into the actress’ eyes. She stared back at me for about five seconds. I knew this was my job to lose… so I did my best to “eye-bang” her and get the job on the spot. Instead, before I could get my line out, she interrupted me.
“You look like that guy from that Tru TV show,” she said.
“I am that guy!”
“What are you doing in the extras tent?” She replied.
“Trying to get my health insurance,” I said, hoping she would feel my pain and give me the bump up on the spot. I dug deeper into my plea, mentioning that my family had been sick a lot the past year and I was a huge fan of the show.
“You might be too recognizable,” she blurted. “Second guy, you got the job.”
And with that, the fat, bald guy went off to his own folding chair, better food and a holding area behind the video village where the producers and directors hung out.
I returned to my spot in the tent. All the other extras wanted to know what had happened and I told them I relayed the story as best I could. When I mentioned that the female star had said I was “too recognizable” the tent wanted to know why. After all, not one of these folks had any idea who I was. I told them. Nobody had even heard of my show.
“I get recognized all the time,” said Sonny. “People stop me when I walk down the street.”
The rest of the day I watched my phone dwindle down towards the 3% range and eventually die. In a way, I felt like that iphone charge… A year back I was flying high at 100%. Now, I was hanging onto 3.
Before I left, I managed to fill my bag with enough high fructose corn syrup snacks to kill a small village and I hopped into the first awaiting white van that would shuttle us back to the parking lot. Luckily, I ended up in the same row as the female lead actress from earlier.
“Hey,” she said. “I’m sorry about that moment back there… I just recognized you from that other show – I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”
“Amazingly, you’re the first person to know me from that like, ever,” I said.
“I’ll tell you what. Give me your manager’s name and I’ll make sure we get you in for a small role this season,” she offered.
I couldn’t believe it. Here she was telling me that she would go out of her way to get me a speaking part on her show. I got her personal email and said I’d be sending my demo reel and headshot over immediately. We exchanged good-byes and I returned my mom jeans to the costume department and signed out for the day.
As I walked to my car, the lead actress shook my hand and said I would be hearing from the production office very soon.
As of today, I’m still waiting for that call…
Watch Zach’s new video, “Nirvana T-Shirt”
It was two-o-clock in the morning and I was standing on the street outside the Dream Hotel in New York City when a slick looking hustler in a Panama hat sided up to me.
“You looking for girls tonight?” He said.
“Naah man, I’m just trying to get some air.”
“You sure? Just up those stairs across the street is all kinds of hoes… I’m talking Thai girls, Russians, Mamis… You ever bang a bad bitch?”
“What exactly is a bad bitch?” I asked.
“If you don’t know, then you’ve never banged one…”
I have been in New York City for roughly 36 hours. In that time, I have averaged 4 hours of sleep a night, eaten 7 street hot dogs and drank close to 19 cups of bad deli coffee. I have also realized that I am the most out of touch loser in the city. The average Manhattan man around my age is sporting a hundred dollar undercut and a long beard – which is eerily similar to L.A. (With only a few less Man-Buns). The difference is, these guys are also rocking 3,000 dollar Ted Baker suits and wingtips. As for me, I am wearing a 1970’s – era Wrangler cowboy shirt, some Lee Riders from the early 80’s and a pair of ¾ boots I scored from a TV show wardrobe department about 4 years ago. My hair is pretty tame and I still have Beverly Hills 90210-era sideburns. I’m also wearing a trucker cap that reads “Roy Clark” on it, bellbottoms and a belt buckle that features Chester the Cheetah riding a Harley motorcycle beneath the inscription “Cheesy Rider.”
I feel a little like Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy because NOBODY is dressed like me. Funny thing is, this is how I have been dressing for 15 years. A few years back, in the early 00’s, everybody started dressing like this. Now, those days are long gone and I’m the only guy on 8th Avenue wearing a shirt that unsnaps when you tear it apart and a turquoise ring.
And apparently, I have no idea what a “bad bitch” is.
I realized I was grossly under-dressed when I attended the first business dinner with the company I am working for. I figured it would be a quick bite at a local bar, but it turned into the type of place where they asked me to remove my hat as I sat down. The next day, at the company’s request, I made my way to a J. Crew to try and find something respectable that I would feel comfortable wearing. I settled on a checkered red, white and blue button-down and some horrendously skinny jeans. The price? $254.
When the sales associate asked me “how my sock game” was, I told him, “Fine. I buy all my socks at Ross: Dress for Less.”
“How’s your shoe game?” He asked.
“I have these nice ¾ boots,” I said.
“Uggh, please – nobody is wearing ¾ boots anymore,” he retorted. “You need some wings!”
I walked out of the store.
I couldn’t place my finger on it, but Manhattan had begun to seem too cookie cutter. I guess I was aware of the Duane Reade explosion and the Starbucks on every corner, but I was not prepared for the fashion clones that had sprouted up everywhere. Sure I was ten years older than the average guy out on a Wednesday night, but even I could sense a lack of originality. New York City, which was once full of punk street kids, trendsetters and Mapplethorpe-worshipping leather daddies sticking whips in their asses and walking into a Saks Fifth Avenue, had become somewhat tame.
I recently read an interview with AdRock of the Beastie Boys talking about how the “New York of his youth had disappeared.” I was beginning to understand what he was talking about. Manhattan in the 70’s and 80’s – before the crackdowns and the $8200 a month rent – was an artistic and fantastic place to be. These were the days before the smelly Times Square Jack Sparrows. Before Hell’s Kitchen was a gentrified hipster paradise. In the late 80’s I would visit my second cousin and roll down Canal Street to buy fake Gucci jackets, leather African medallion necklaces and a bootleg cassette of LL Cool J’s Walking With a Panther. The tape-dealers would offer me “smoke,” which scared the crap out of me. At one point, my mom dragged me away from a couple of black guys who were standing around Washington Square Park discussing the new Bobby Brown On Our Own song from Ghostbusters II. I tried to inject some white boy wisdom by saying I thought Bobby should’ve written a second rap verse instead of repeating the “Too hot to handle, too cold to hold” line and they ignored me as if I was “Chester the Terrier” following around the bigger “Spike the Bulldog” in the Looney Tunes cartoons.
The only exception I could find was in the Dream Hotel. The first couple of nights I was in town, I took it easy, stayed in my room, watched TV and had sex with the full-length pillow. However, a hotel room can only hold you captive for so long and eventually I came downstairs to find out where the notorious dark side of this fantastic city had wound up. I now believe it all centers around the Dream Hotel. Within an hour of hanging in the lobby, I was propositioned by more pimps, hustlers, hoes and drug dealers than I have seen in 20 years in Los Angeles. Methy looking skinny teenagers were offering me weed, cocaine and what they claim is “Government pure MDMA.” The lobby was crawling with hookers and late night denizens of the rooftop nightclub, which is named “PDH.” An acronym for what I can only imagine is “Pimps, Drugs and Hoes” based on the army of thick women standing around comparing 9 inch Indian weaves and elastic black twat-length skirts that barely cover their clitori. (Is that the plural for “clitoris?”)
The new Manhattan underbelly had become what Jay-Z sang about in Empire State of Mind. “Ballplayers, rap stars, addicted to that limelight…” Everywhere I went folks were talking about money, cars and rap music. If Los Angeles is supposedly a vapid, material city full of superficial idiots, New York City has embraced a lifestyle full of flashy watches, bottle service, velvet ropes and hangers on… So much so that when I tried to get access to the PDH nightclub on the top floor, the bouncer looked at my “shoe game” and instructed me to “please wait in the other bar.”
I didn’t really want to go up to PDH, but it did seem like it had to be part of my Dream Hotel adventure. So I waited in the bar drinking 17 dollar glasses of shoddy tempranillo wondering how anyone can listen to this much house and trap music in one day. The hotel sort of felt like Miami, but it was 40 degrees cooler and Pitbull wasn’t here singing some shitty song about how “white girl got some ass.”
Finally a large Puerto Rican man came over and told me that since I was a guest of the hotel, all I needed to do was show my room key and I could gain access to the club. I sauntered up towards the door, bypassing the line of desperate gold diggers and club kids and flashed my hotel room key. It was the first time in my entire trip that I had felt somewhat cool.
The nightclub was everything I always hated about nightclubs. Expensive drinks, a DJ mixing Calvin Harris with Blondie, hairy men pouring vodka-cranberry drinks for girls who were most likely being paid to hang around them and intimidating looking security guards who mad-dogged anybody ordering a single beer instead of a 2500 dollar bottle of Grey Goose.
I stayed for 8 minutes.
On my way downstairs, I decided I had to get outside and just see the street. I was sick of the lines, the attitude and the fact that a cast member from Real Housewives of Atlanta had demanded to cut the line… and was placated with a free bottle of vodka. I had to walk to a deli and buy some water and eat a sandwich and try to get some sleep before my work event the following day.
I came back to the hotel with my snacks and drinks – which, by the way, were shoved into about 11 plastic bags by the deli owner as if the plastic problem doesn’t exist in New York – and stopped to listen to the sidewalk pimps do their thing. They were like the dude selling Eddie Murphy’s gold hair dryer in Coming to America. I heard some remarkable stuff:
“You wanna table shower my man?”
“I got one tranny but she visiting her brother at Riker’s right now.”
“Playa, I can get you three at once, but you gotta wear three rubbers.”
I guess Manhattan hadn’t changed that much. Instead of bootleg tapes, men were looking for the booty. These hipster hotels had become infidelity dens and the cops just seemed to look the other way. And as for the falling crime rate – well – as this night was coming to a close, NBA player Chris Copeland was actually stabbed in an altercation outside of 1OAK nightclub just a few streets away from where I was staying.
As I strolled towards the entrance, I passed by my friend in the Panama hat one last time.
“Yo, son – I got you. I know you wanna find out what a bad bitch is,” he propositioned.
“I’m good, man,” I said. “I gotta get to bed.”
I went up to my room and had sex with the full-length pillow.
There was something scampering behind my washing machine. Something rodential. Something with chattery little teeth that sounded like it could nibble the toenail off of a homeless man if there was a promised slice of cheese beneath it. A real man would have stood up, tore back the machine and smashed the skull of whatever creature was frolicking around his lint catcher. Not me, I heard it nibble something and screamed so loudly, my wife ran downstairs and asked me if I had accidentally cut off my finger.
I hate mice, rats, squirrels, possums, raccoons, boll weevils… whatever. They disgust me, not only for their collection of diseases, but because they have no bowel control and they love cropdusting the bowl of avocados in my house with fetid urine samples and freakish teeth marks.
I’ve never been an animal person. Ever since my dog ‘Buffy’ shook my pet kitty to death in front of me when I was a quiet, sensitive 5th grader, I have despised all pets. Maybe I’m afraid to get close to them… maybe I’m afraid one might attack me. Maybe the fact that Buffy was the subject of nearly six separate lawsuits from 1985-1989 involving other 5th and 6th graders who claimed to have been mauled by him while waiting for our local ice cream truck has something to do with it… I don’t know. I just don’t love them. Nor do I love miniscule vermin who invade my kitchen at 9 o’clock at night when I’m trying to have a glass of Malbec and watch college basketball.
I heard the scratching again. My guess was that he made his way in through the side of the house like an imprisoned Andy Dufresne before nestling near the laundry machine searching for any disgusting amount of dried food that might fall out of my kids pockets following a day at school. There was a chance that the invaders gathering behind my Kenmore were harmless and small. But I doubted it. I was guessing they were quite large. The type Westley from The Princess Bride would refer to as R.O.U.S.’. (Rodents of Unusual Size). I wanted nothing to do with these cheese-nibbling tick factories.
I was torn on what to do. Should I set a trap? Bait him? Call the exterminator? Not like they ever really help… First, they come and charge $100 to spray coyote urine all around my back yard. Two weeks later new turd droppings line the closets, the “safety screens” they installed become metallic snacks and eventually, a horrendous smell that resembles what I imagine the a rotting corpse of a tauntaun to smell like breezes through my house. I wanted to kill these little shits, but as you may have devised, I lack the courage to kill anything besides a bottle of wine. In college, I killed a few moths, spiders and cockroaches, but that was a long time ago – and these massacres took place while drunkenly squealing with my eyes shut and frantically whapping a rolled up Rolling Stone magazine against a nest of invaders who had settled into my Futon. “Bastard son of a bitch slut sons of WHORES,”
I yelled at the noisy bunch gathering in numbers behind the aforementioned washing machine. “I’ll kill all you fucks.” They didn’t listen. They just seemed to slog me off like the guys trying to get me to take a “StarLine Bus Tour” of Hollywood every time I pass through Highland.
I watched the rest of the Arizona Wildcats game admiring TJ McConnell’s presence and smiling with every play drawn up by coach Sean Miller… But every time the applause died down, I heard the little Ratatouille party happening a few feet away. God-damn disease-ridden little whiskered gargoyles. Why wouldn’t they leave? I finally had the courage to take a hand towel and smack the washing machine a few times trying to get them to scamper and disappear. Instead, what I heard was the following:
Squeakity squeak. Squeak. OoohOoh. Squeetz Sysqweek.
SQUIIZZIIZIZIIZIZIZIZI . SQUEAK! SQWZZIZIZTTZYZYZYYT.
CHRIST. At this point, they were mocking me. Laughing. Squeaking their way through my house like furry rabies-riddled bastard hobo squatters. I finally decided there was only one thing to do. I had to KILL. These beastly gargantuan monsters had to go. I was going to go all Chris Kyle on these little pricks. I was about to assassinate.
Using all my strength – no doubt brought on by the wine and some anxious anger – I ripped that Sears Model Top Load Elite away from the back wall and prepared to face the dragon I knew I had to slay. Armed with an iphone flashlight and a paper bag, I was ready to battle these medieval beasts with all my timorous might – hoping to get it done in one schmack. A kill shot on the first swing. In my mind, I was the house-husband American Sniper. I was a silent assassin. In football terms, I would have chanted “I Must Protect This House.”
When the snarling creature and I came face-to-face, I was immediately humiliated. Sitting on the floor, behind my washing machine, was the tiniest most timid, miniature little mouse I had ever seen. The type of mouse they feed to snakes in terrariums at desert museums. A little guy who was just trying to find his next meal and a nice comfy tube sock to sleep in. I stared him down. He stared back at me. His head tilted left. Mine went right. He squeaked. I smiled…
And then he screamed and ran away as if I was the John Wayne Gacy of homeowners. After he left, I went to the mirror and took a look at myself. My lips were purple. My teeth were dressed in the stains of the evening’s red-wine. My hair shot forth in a bundle of curls. The bags under my eyes spoke of a few too many late evenings. In reality, I did somewhat resemble a serial killer. If anyone was scared, it was that little mouse. He was just a cute little thing. I looked like I was about to go on a Manson-like mass murder.
I decided to drag myself to bed. Around the same time the next night, I heard similar chattering coming from behind my washing machine. More nibbling, more squeaking… more odd noises that made me think I was 90 seconds away from having a honey badger tear through my kitchen and rip my scrotem off. However, instead of panicking and dropping rat poison behind the Kenmore, I took a moment and tilted my cap to my cute new friend behind the major appliance. After all… he was more scared of me than I was of him.
In prison, that would mean I was in control.
After a few minutes, I explained to my wife that I was totally cool with having a few rats and mice run around our house. As far as I was concerned, if they don’t bother us, let’s not bother them, right?
She looked me in the eye and shook her head ‘no.’
The exterminator came the next morning.
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
War Stories, My Stepfather and a Sony Discman. (Part 1)
The first time I got caught drinking, my mother thought that my stepfather, a man named Steven Fishco, should have a talk with me. After all, at the time, he had been sober for eight years and was one of Tucson, Arizona’s leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors, working for recovery places like Sierra Tucson where rich people would spend ungodly amounts of money to send their troubled kids. Celebrities showed up as well, along with spoiled debutantes, trust-fund babies and occasionally, politicians. In the circles of rehab, Fishco was simply known as “the Fish” and he treasured the moniker as if he was a member of some secret Government Navy S.E.A.L.S. operation and that was his codename.
Always wanting to know who had a serious drinking and alcohol problem, I would probe Fish for information on whatever ex-Major League baseball player or fading Hollywood star was enrolled in his rehab program. Unfortunately, he was a stickler for the rules and he never revealed his counselor-patient confidentiality agreement. Considering that Sierra Tucson cost roughly $45,000 a month, I’m sure many rock stars and celebrities were happy that some 14-year-old wasn’t running around junior high telling his friends about the time everybody’s favorite singer mainlined a jug of gasoline and copulated with a stuffed giraffe. Therefore, when Fish would tell us some funny stories about troubled Hollywood types and celebrities, he would mask their identities and I was always left guessing who the “serious dope fiend singer from that one band you like” was.
Because of the alcoholic horror stories, and the fact that Fish’s own mind was ruined from years of intravenous drug use and cocaine, I avoided drinking and smoking for most of high school. My friends accepted it and I occasionally lied to people to seem like I had been caught drinking and couldn’t afford to be grounded again, etc. Most everybody accepted this as my way in life. I would often quote Fish and his unique sayings that kept me away from drugs over the years. My favorite being, “Cocaine is an expensive way to get nervous.”
In the spring of 1992, At 16, I skipped school with some buddies and some cute girls to go wander around Sabino Canyon. Now that I’m much older and more environmentally aware, I recognize the canyon as a natural, beautiful Tucson national park and quite possibly the most serene place I can think of on earth. However, back in high school, it was simply a secluded place to drink, meet girls and bury empty cases of Budweiser cans in the desert as to not leave any evidence behind. (Sorry National Park Service.)
The day we skipped school was known on campus as “Senior Ditch Day,” and even though I wasn’t quite yet a senior, I knew that they were somewhat cool with me tagging along because I not only owned a Sony Discman, but because I liked to DJ parties with tapes, CD’s and my boom box. So, I loaded up the 50 CD’s I owned at the time along with my 75 cassingles and drove to go drink in the desert with a bunch of turtle-necked mullet-heads who listened to MC Hammer and loved Minitruckin’ Magazine. (For a rare few years in my high school, lowered mini trucks, turtlenecks and tight Z. Cavaricci pants were the only things that mattered to a select group of cool kids. “Minitruckin” was the art of buying a shitty truck, lowering it to the ground and spending thousands of dollars on paint, rims and 12-inch woofers to blast DJ Quik while spinning your ride around a parking lot.)
Of course, one of the seniors immediately took over my system. As soon as I loaded up the music in the desert and set up my stereo to play an endless mix of Naughty by Nature and Metallica, a guy named Adam Lancer decided that he was going to DJ and that I was going to be forced fed beer while teaching him how to seamlessly mix songs. Never wanting anybody to touch my equipment, I was reluctant at first but eventually gave in to him because, well, he was a cool senior with a killer set of Oakley sunglasses and the hottest girlfriend on campus. Admittedly, trying to feel cool, I tried to match him drink for drink. Needless to say, I soon found myself giggling and slurring, while confidently trying to brush my hand up against senior girl Heather Tyrtanna’s butt in her tight, stonewashed Guess Jeans. When she didn’t seem to mind, I kept doing it and eventually let Adam Lancer have full control of my boom box. As one beer turned into six, I suddenly developed an insane confidence to convince Heather to take a private walk with me in the desert where we made out (and dry-humped) for 15 minutes. That beautiful moment was all I needed to realize that all those years I avoided drinking were a complete waste of time.
The party was broken up about an hour later when two cops ran up on the desert gathering and the kids scattered like roadrunners. As the dozen or so lowered 1991 Isuzu pick ups high-tailed it out of the parking lot, I was left gathering my CD’s and tapes and watching Heather Tyrtanna run off with senior Miguel Arroyo in his 1990 Honda CRX. A bit drunk and confused, I was able to pull off a decent straight man when the cops asked me what I was doing in the middle of the desert on a school day. After a few questions and a lot of probing, I told them I was 22 years old.
“You don’t look 22, you got ID on you?” One cop asked.
“I don’t have it right now,” I slurred.
When they asked me what I was doing with a bunch of stereo equipment, I thought of the best lie I could possibly come up with.
“I’m actually an employee of Desert DJ’s,” I said. “A bunch of kids hired me to play this party… for 50 bucks.”
Desert DJ’s was the company that had DJ’d my Bar Mitzvah.
“Young man, are you intoxicated?” The cop prodded.
“Of course not,” I said.
I then proceeded to knock all of my music into the sand and fall down.
Having a patrol car escort you home at age 16 is a pretty traumatic experience for a high school kid. Especially since I had a backpack full of CD’s and severe penile chaffing from grinding my crotch up against Heather’s jeans for 15 minutes. When they pulled up into the driveway, my mother ran outside hysterically screaming. Once the cops calmed her down, she watched as I slumped my way inside the house and proceeded to projectile vomit all over the bathroom. Amazingly, my mother tried to convince the policemen that I was an Ivy-League bound honor student and that a “Minor in Possession” ticket would ruin my future. Somehow, they believed her.
20 minutes later, my mom brought me some water and told me to go to bed before warning me that we would have a serious talk when I woke up. The policeman left and the last thing I remember my mom saying before I drifted off into the dark abyss of my first ever drinking hangover was, “Where the fuck is your car?”
When I woke up at 6:00 that night, Fish was standing in my room.
“Yo Z!” He exclaimed. “Tied one on this morning, hey baby?”
As I scrambled my throbbing thoughts and felt the dry contact lenses cracking in my bloodshot eyes, I asked him what had happened. He simply dangled my car keys in my face and said, “Get up, mom wants me to take you to get your car.”
The ride back towards Sabino Canyon only took about 15 minutes from my house. As I became increasingly aware of the rawness I had inflected on my private parts attempting to grind Heather’s zipper open, Fish tried in his own unique way to scare me away from the perils of drugs and alcohol.
“So, how many beers did you slam this morning?” He asked, sounding like a one of my buddies and less than a parental figure.
“I think 5 or six,” I said.
“What a PUSSY, man! What are you a lightweight?”
As I opened the window for some fresh air, I was suddenly aware that Fish was not going to lecture me on the perils of drinking. Instead, he began relaying to me story after story about his 20 years in the trenches of inebriation. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they call these tales “War Stories.” Apparently Fish was the KING. He told me that every single patient at Sierra Tucson loved him and his war stories.
Like how in college when he took three consecutive spring breaks to Colombia. Not the District of Colombia, but Colombia, South America.
“Bought three grams of coke and two ‘party girls’ for me and my buddy Larry Goldbeer… Man, first time I had a semi automatic rifle pulled on me!”
“The first time?” I asked, gingerly.
Another great story involved seeing Jimi Hendrix on LSD n 1967. And then there was the drinking with Jim Morrison, the spliff rolling with Bob Marley and the three straight days he spent shooting junk with James Taylor on Martha’s Vineyard. I suddenly came to the conclusion that this wiry-haired man-child from New Jersey, who I had lived with for ten years and only bonded with over baseball and reggae music, was the coolest person I had ever met.
“Now listen Z,” he said, suddenly getting serious. “The key is moderation. Now me? I got no way to control myself. Once the bottle cap is twisted off, you might as well consider the bottle finished – once I won a rum drinking contest at Club Hedonism in Jamaica and fell asleep in the ocean.”
“How did you survive?”
“Some native chick I was banging saved my life man… Threw me in my hotel room and I woke up 3 days later.”
Although the threat of upsetting my mother and father was still the top priority on why I would probably never drink again, the stories Fish was churning out made it seem that the only way I was ever going to have any adventures at all was to begin a lifelong relationship with drugs and alcohol. I mean, at 16, my life was pretty simple. Go to school. Go to basketball practice. Masturbate. Go to Jewish youth group. Masturbate again. Watch Beverly Hills 90210. Maybe masturbate during Beverly Hills 90210… I needed some new escapades.
As we pulled into the parking lot of Sabino Canyon, I noticed my 1988 Dodge still parked by the entrance of the park. Fish pulled his car next to it and we talked for a minute about what drugs I had seen at school. Truth was, I had only seen a few hesher kids smoke pot once or twice. I heard that other kids did it, but in early 1992, weed wasn’t exactly everyone’s drug of choice. Of course, six weeks later The Chronic by Dr. Dre came out and everybody I knew suddenly began smoking dirt brown Mexican mota and fastening wooden pipes during Shop Class.
“Let me tell you one last story,” Fish said, solemnly looking out towards the Santa Catalina Mountains.
“1980, man, I went to visit my buddy Gary Guccinelli in Houston. We decided to do some coke and go to the Astrodome with his dad who had season tix… Of course we drank in the car before the game and then when we got there, we started smoking reefer up in the upper deck because the place was fucking EMPTY, man.”
All I could envision was the horrible Houston Astros uniforms on my 1980 Topps Nolan Ryan baseball card. He pressed on.
“Anyway, we went down to his dad’s seats man and then we just started drinking whatever we could find… Mainly beer, but you know it was a combo platter for me with all the dope and the blow and whatever… Anyway, Gary’s dad was kinda senile, so he gets up and starts walking up the row of seats, so Gary goes to follow him. I stayed in the seats because I was waaaay too sayonara baby, you know? Next thing I know, I’m yelling out at Cesar Cedeno (The Astros talented multi-tooled player who was at the end of his career in 1980) about when he killed his girlfriend when they were fucking blotto drunk, man. So Cedeno keeps looking back at me, and finally points his finger at me and next thing I know, two cops have me around the neck and are escorting me out of the stadium.”
“Wait, who killed Cesar Cedeno’s girlfriend?” I asked.
“In like 1973 he and some chick he was screwing were playing Russian Roulette and the girl was shot and killed and Cedeno got off,” he explained.
“So what happened after you were taken out of the stadium?”
“Bottom line was, I WASN’T taken out of the stadium, man… I got thrown in Astrodome Jail!”
Apparently, the Houston Astrodome had a jail for drunk and disorderly fans during the 1970’s. Fish was taken there and thrown into a cell with 3 other rowdy men who had been detained for various reasons. I asked him who the other prisoners were.
“2 drunken Indians and some 70-year-old guy who pissed on himself during the 3rd inning,” he said. “Anyway, Gary and his dad ended up leaving the game and I had to take a taxi back to their house 5 hours later and when I got there Gary had called my mom in New Jersey and told her that I was missing. Of course my mother told him it was the 5th time I had been reported missing that year so she didn’t get too worried. Meanwhile, Gary’s dad went to sleep and I told Gary my story about being locked up for five innings in the Astrodome.”
“Wow,” I said. “Was that when you decided to get sober?”
“Are you kidding me? Gary and I took his dad’s car and went to a bar until six in the morning!”
I decided to show Fish where the party had taken place, but Sabino Canyon was closed for the evening and we were asked to leave by the Park Ranger. I got in my car and followed Fish home, doing my best to not go even one mile above the speed limit. When we got back, my mom asked me if we had spoken about the incident. She said she hoped I had learned my lesson and I told her that I had before thanking her for getting the cops to not issue me a MIP ticket. We hugged and I crawled into bed to sleep the rest of my hangover off. After slathering my genitalia with gobs of Neosporin.
The next morning, I went to gather a few CD’s for my drive to school. It was then that I first realized that not only was my Sony Discman missing, but so were at least 5 of my perfectly alphabetized and organized CD’s. I could not find “OPP” by Naughty by Nature, LL COOL J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” “Nevermind” by Nirvana, Color Me Badd’s “CMB” and, oddly enough, “The Soul Cages” by Sting.
Later at school, I noticed that Adam Lancer was walking around the hallway with my Discman. Assuming that he had my CD’s as well, I knew I would have to confront him and get my stuff back. Of course, when I approached him in between 2nd and 3rd period and asked for my Discman back, he said, “Don’t you remember giving this to me when you were wasted?”
I didn’t. However, based on my minor blackout, I couldn’t be sure if he was lying. Still, I knew I had to get my stuff back. What would follow over the next week were some of the most humiliating events of my life. However, at the end of it all, through a carefully calculated game plan that included falsifying Government documents, blackmail and a web of deceit, I would suddenly have the reputation as the craziest partier in my junior class…
…TO BE CONTINUED
*Zach’s First Collection of Short Stories and Essays, “Talent Will Get You Nowhere” will be published in Early 2014 by DIRT CITY PRESS!*
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Hollywood is a notoriously tough town. About 99 percent of the people who arrive here daily to become television or movie stars end up scrambling to make ends meet, strung out on drugs or alcohol or waiting tables at some awful Middle Eastern restaurant buried deep in the San Fernando Valley. In my 15 years here, I have seen a fair amount of contemporaries pull in with glossy head shots, star-crossed eyes and dreams of red carpet idolatry, only to return to their parent’s houses as quickly as six months into their silver screen adventures. Most men or women barely scratch the surface in this town. Some might land a commercial or two or even become a member of somebody’s entourage, but the majority of these illusionary dreamers end up as footnotes to the lucky ones… Cast-aways who are quickly replaced – and rarely remembered. If they’re lucky, they might meet one or two people in five years who have found success. To tell you the truth, however… even that is a stretch.
Yet somehow, for reasons unknown, three of my wife’s ex-boyfriends – who she briefly dated prior to our relationship – happen to be incredibly famous and successful superstar film and TV stars.
I am not at liberty to mention them by name, but let’s just say that you have seen them on screen. You have possibly bought an Entertainment Magazine because they were on the cover. If you’re a woman, you may have imagined one or two of them in your mind while being intimate with your boyfriend or husband. You have fainted while meeting them at San Diego Comic Con… Two of them have even been on lunch boxes. I’m talking huge f-ing stars.
Now, according to my wife, before she met these three guys, they were simply struggling actors, living on Top Ramen and tips for bartending and waiting tables at places like the now vanished Italian restaurant “Pane E Vino.” Once she broke up with them, however, their careers took off and they now all own multiple homes and squire fabulous starlets around the covers of In Touch and Us Magazines.
As my wife would say, she has the “golden vagina.”
In the 12 years we have been together, I have certainly seen my television career take off – being lucky enough to host a bunch of shows and land a few acting jobs, and I am grateful and appreciative for any work I’ve received. Yet, as a competitive man, I am very aware that I am still miles away from the careers of the three aforementioned actors whom previously shared my wife’s bed.
Which makes me think that the only way my dreams of becoming a successful film and TV actor will come true, is if my wife divorces me.
I jokingly posted this thought on Twitter a few months back and received a huge amount of response from thousands of followers trying to figure out who these actors were. Guesses ranged from Bradley Cooper to the Rza – but I would not reveal their names to anybody. In defense of my wife, she was never a slut… In fact, she once turned down a sexual advance from a very drugged-out Chris Farley after he flew her and a friend on a private jet to Hawaii after a night of partying in Hollywood. (She gave me Chris’ XXXL green shirt a few years back – which still hangs in my closet today).
Other Twitter followers suggested the usual Hollywood cocksmen – David Spade, Jeremy Piven… Charlie Sheen et al. Thing is, those guys were already stars before my wife even moved to LA. No. Her celebrity cache was founded on the strength of her sense of humor, encouragement and her all out sexual power.
When I “hung up my boner” at age 26, after meeting my wife, Wendy, I had but one celebrity conquest on my “sex resume.” (Not including ex-Playmates and flash-in-the-pan actresses). She was an actress named Danielle Fishel – who played the girl “Topanga” on Boy Meets World and at the time she was 19-years-old and I was 22. She also happened to be dating ‘NSYNC now-out-of-the-closet star Lance Bass just before me, so when we hooked up one night at a celebrity-filled bar called “Dublin’s” on Sunset Boulevard (Now also torn down), I thought I had scored an A-List hottie. (For the record, we never had sex – just made out in a bar and in my driveway for three hours).
Bottom line? Not exactly Motley Crue kind of sex-capades. In fact, when I ran into Danielle seven years later when she was hosting a show on Style Network called The Dish, she had no idea who I was.
At the same time, Wendy was living it up in private jets, drinking with Keith Richards at the Whiskey Bar at the Sunset Plaza, being flown to New York by record executives (Remember them?) and living an all-around fabulously privileged life for a hot woman in her late 20’s. I was still traveling to Puerto Vallarta with my family over Christmas for snorkeling adventures… Advantage: Wife.
How I ended up with Wendy is another story, but the fact is, we’re perfect soul mates. I could not be luckier. And nobody has told me this more than the three famous exes she at one-time dated…
I have now met them all.
Roughly three years ago I was in an electronics store when I ran into undoubtedly the most famous of these exes. He is a star on a very popular TV show now in it’s 9th season or something. He is cool and handsome and built and talented and I wondered why my wife would ever decide that they weren’t right for each other. I approached him as he perused a $7500 outdoor flat screen and weatherproof speaker system and told the salesman it was for his, “Homies to watch the Lakers game” that evening.
“Hey, bro,” I said.
He raised an eyebrow and gave me the once over – not unlike his character does to criminals on his TV show.
“Just wanted to say hi – I’m a fan… I’m Zach – I married Wendy Thompson…”
His face lit up. He waved away the salesman and high-fived me. He smiled and said, “Dude! How’d you ever pin her down?”
Relieved, I laughed it off.
“I dunno, man… we just clicked!”
“Dude, I tried so hard to make her like, my serious girlfriend and she just never went for it… you must be a STUD.”
I laughed and tore off a fingernail, nervously. I should have asked him for a guest-starring role on his show right there. Instead I over-stayed my welcome by hanging around and watching him buy electronic equipment that cost the same as the credit card debt I had recently wracked up re-piping the copper sewer tubes beneath my front lawn
Finally, after realizing how much of a tool I was being, I turned around and walked away. He called after me.
“Yo, broseph – tell Wendy I said ‘hi,’” he said.
“I will man,” I responded giddily. “Keep on keeping on!”
As I drove home, dreaming of a career like his, and the ability to walk into an over-priced electronics store and plunk down seven G’s so I could watch sports outside of my living room, I thought about how lame it had been that he had called me “Broseph.” TV star or not, the dude was not as impressive as I had once thought…I mean, “Broseph?” Come on.
Although I had wished he had invited me to watch that Lakers game…
I ran into the second of my wife’s famous ex-boyfriends at the 2012 Hollywood Holiday Gifting Suite – where already-way-too-rich celebrities walk around a room at a hotel and accept free shit from vendors hoping to get a celebrity endorsement. Believe it or not, these places exist, and a star like, say, Brian Cranston can walk into one of these any time he wants and be handed $50,000 worth of useless shit for free as long as he poses for a picture with the product. This gifting suite was full of everything you don’t really need. Nespresso Brand Espresso Makers, Stainless Steel facial massagers, strawberry-crystal body scrubs, electronic cigarettes with actor Stephen Dorff’s image in the box…. It was a madhouse. I happened to be there because my friend was one of the vendors and he had snuck me in on the guest list. I was allowed through the velvet rope only after a crew of 20-something girls IMDB’d me and noticed that I was hosting a TV show on AMC. (IMDB is the Internet Movie Data Base… a website full of credits for performers all around the world)
After drinking some horrible peach bellinis with former NBA-player turned TV host John Salley, I strolled through the suite hoping to get anything worth selling on ebay. It was then that I saw Wendy’s ex from the 90’s… a well-known film and TV star who was wheeling around a metal cart full of free stuff behind him.
After observing his behavior for a few minutes, which basically included barking orders at his suite-host and jamming as much crap into his metal basket as he could, I came to the conclusion that he must be a world-class asshole. My wife had mentioned that he had endured years of drug and alcohol abuse, but was supposedly on the straight and narrow now… Still, if there was a rehab for douchebaggery, this guy needed to be shipped there immediately.
At the conclusion of the walk-through, my suite loot consisted of two gold-plated pens, a set of thermal pajamas and an Ipad charger that powered up 9 different devices at the same time. I also got a free week in a Bahamian Hard Rock Hotel… but I was responsible for getting myself there. Basically, that will never happen. Compared to the other actors in the suite, I barely registered. Nobody had heard of the AMC show I was hosting and my request for any of the bigger items was denied.
I wasn’t really that insulted by the lack of attention until I saw Tila Tequila loading up her Range Rover with about six Espresso makers.
As I waited with a small crowd for my car, I decided to let ex number two know that I had been the one who snagged Wendy Thompson away… It was a small victory, but one I needed to share.
“Hey man,” I said. “You’re that guy from that film, right?” I said.
“Yeah, man… what up.”
“Did you used to date Wendy Thompson?”
He paused and looked me over as his suite host loaded up his Mercedes SUV with free gifts. He lit his new electronic cigarette.
“Yeah, a long time ago, why?”
“Funny, I was going through some old photo albums and saw a bunch of pictures of you in them… like from ’97, right?”
Ex number two cracked his neck and stared me down. He was menacing and steel-eyed. The rasp in his voice screamed of a decade old cocaine habit.
“Why were you going through her photo albums?” He wanted to know.
“Oh, we’re married and I’m sort of the ‘family scrapbooker’” I replied, immediately feeling like a total dweebazoid.
“No way!” He said. “Dude, tell her I said hi… Is she seeing anybody?”
This comment obviously took me aback, considering I had just mentioned that we were married. I came to a quick conclusion that ex number two was not exactly a very bright bulb.
“Uhh, yeah, actually we’re married,” I repeated.
As he peeled a 20-dollar bill off of a fold and handed it to his suite host, he came back and shook my hand.
“I gotta hand it to you, man… She’s a keeper. Don’t fuck it up like I did.”
“Oh, thanks. I won’t.”
At that point, he stared at my meager haul from the gifting suite. It all fit in one canvas bag.
“Dude, you didn’t get an Espresso Maker?” He inquired.
The truth was, I wasn’t offered one. The PR department at Nespresso did not think I was recognizable enough to warrant a gift.
“Naah, dude… We have two already – I didn’t need one,” I lied.
“Bro, all this stuff isn’t for you! I give all this shit away to my family, my sisters, my housekeeper, my agent… You think I really want a stainless steel facial massager? Hell no – my assistant is getting that!”
I nodded. He was smarter than I thought. He had just done all his holiday shopping in one spot for the price of a photograph or two. I was now pissed that I didn’t get a coffee machine.
“Nice to meet you, man,” I offered before he walked to the side of his car to drive off.
“You too, man. Tell Wendy what up for me… And good luck with that! Don’t do what I did!”
And with that, he was gone – off to another gifting suite across town where he would work the Hollywood system once more.
When I got home and told Wendy this story, she proceeded to remind me of his inhuman drug intake, his dismissal from two big Hollywood films and the fact that she once walked in on him masturbating to an Avril Lavigne music video during a family dinner party. We finally agreed that he was a total loser, and I kissed her goodnight fully knowing that I was the luckiest one because I got to sleep next to her. Of course, once the lights went off, she knew exactly how to make me second guess my afternoon’s actions.
“Really?” She said. “You couldn’t get one Nespresso maker?”
Ex number three is currently one of the biggest stars in the world. He sort of stalked Wendy when he followed her to a bar called “Smalls” after a Social Distortion concert in the mid 90’s. His indie film was a big industry darling at the time, and it would eventually lead him to a worldwide recognition. That night at Smalls, he introduced her to Quentin Tarantino and some other heavy partiers who carried the weight of Hollywood in their back pockets. A few dates followed and he casually bumped into her at the restaurant where she worked for awhile until a tabloid photo surfaced of him with a stunningly famous blonde in a Jacuzzi. Since Wendy wasn’t exactly committed to him at the time, she shrugged it off and went on her way. Within a year he was starring in a huge film and three years later he was one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors. All after dating my wife.
I ran into him at the Hotel Café on Cahuenga one night after my band had finished playing.
It was a decent crowd for a Thursday. We played a lively set and the owners were all excited about the future of our band. Beer and wine flowed and we all ended up doing shots at the bar before it had expanded into the bigger venue that it is today. It was then that I met ex number three.
Getting to him was harder than the others. He was obviously out to be seen, and had a nest of beautiful women clucking at his feet. When I finally poked through the crowd to order another beer on the band tab, he stopped me.
“Your band was good, I love outlaw country,” he said.
Again, I should have handed him a CD and asked him to get a song in his films. Instead, I brought up Wendy.
“Dude, this is so funny!” I yelled over the crowd. “I married Wendy Thompson!”
He leaned down into my space and took out some homemade ear plugs fastened from paper bar napkins.
“You have a hairy Johnson?” He responded.
Like him or not, the dude was funny.
“No, haha,” I continued. “I married Wendy Thompson…”
He took a minute to register who I was talking about. Apparently, they had been together for two months roughly eight years earlier, but I still expected him to react a little more intrigued.
Instead, he nodded his head and said, “Did I ever sleep with her?”
“I have no idea,” I said. “But you dated awhile back…”
He replaced the earplugs in his ear and looked my way once more. He obviously had no clue who Wendy was or why I was so interested in sharing my matrimonial conquest with him.
He slugged his beer and yelled at me once more.
“If I did sleep with her, that means we’re Eskimo Brothers,” he said.
(For the record, according to UrbanDictionary.com, the term “Eskimo Brothers” is Used to describe two men who have had sex with the same woman.)
“Nice to meet you man,” I screamed.
“Congratulations on getting married,” he said before turning around to watch the next band. Disturbed, I went outside to bum an American Spirit from somebody.
That night I got home and relayed the story to Wendy, who at this point, was starting to find it strange that I was running into all of her exes around town. She said that ex number three was always an ego-maniac and didn’t seem to remember or even care about anyone but himself.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “He was kind of stand-offish…”
We spoke about how famous these guys had become since she had dated them and how successful they seemed on paper and in the magazines, but my wife is always one who is well aware of the fact that success does not equal happiness. As we shared some wine that night and laughed at the incident at the Hotel Café, I relayed how lucky I felt to have found her and to have started our family together and that even if I never became some huge star, I would never ask her to dump me for my own personal success.
Lying in bed that night, I asked her once again if she regretted dumping any of these exes who had turned out to become Hollywood A-Listers.
She rolled over, kissed me softly on the lips and said, “Yes.”
I laughed so hard, I nearly threw up on my thermal pajamas.
“Well, I look at it this way,” I said. “I’m ‘Eskimo Brothers’ with some pretty huge stars…”
“Who am I ‘Eskimo Sisters’ with?” She inquired.
I thought about it for a long time.
“Well, almost Topanga from Boy Meets World,” I said.
She put her arms around me and smiled.
I kissed her on the forehead and turned out the light.
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