Photo courtesy Pixabay
Editor’s note: These are only excerpts from one chapter of my book, expected to be published fall 2018. These excerpts may change a little or a lot up until final completion of the book, and do not represent complete chapters.
For many people, Los Angeles has this intoxicating effect that can make you or break you.
We see that all the time – celebrities who find instant fame and then overdose. Conversely, we see those who deliberatively rise to stardom, maintaining modesty all the while, and living to be 99.
That doesn’t describe L.A.’s effect on me. Like the former, I became a self-absorbed monster who almost killed himself in the process (and not intentionally).
I met other folks in Los Angeles who came out there expecting to “catch the spirit,” so to speak, and found the place to be laughably fake and disappointing.
It depends on what you expect, I guess. Los Angeles is the funny jokes and movies people make about it. It is superficial. It is ridiculous. It is tacky.
It doesn’t even try to defy its own stereotypes, which is what makes it so special. It is very comfortable in its crazy-ass skin. It’s also very, very accepting, so long as you’re not middle of the road. If that’s the case, head south to Orange County!
Los Angeles is a great place to party away your twenties and get high. I’m just glad I survived!
When I look back on this part of my life, holy cow, I wonder, how did I end up there? How did I meet these people once I got there? How did I end up having these experiences?
‘You give us 22 minutes…we’ll give you THE WORLD!’
Finding the energy to even begin this chapter took a very long time. And I don’t know why, as I can’t wait to share my L.A. stories.
I finally found inspiration by listening to a YouTube video of 1993 Los Angeles radio jingles.
What I remember most about driving to Los Angeles from the Quad-Cities – both the first time, in 1991, and the second time, in 1992 (and I guess the third time, in 2000) – was emerging from the stretch of desert and descending into the L.A. basin.
There’s a significant drop in temperature and a change in scenery. You know you’re approaching what amounts to a different planet.
I know, it sounds so dramatic. What do you want from me? I spent more than a decade in Los Angeles!
And this may sound so cliché but it’s so true, as you approach Los Angeles proper, the traffic just gets thicker and thicker.
But then, I remember catching my first Tinseltown radio signal:
First, the signature sound of beating drums (it hasn’t changed in decades), and then:
K…F…W…B…NEWS 98! All news, all the time…this…is KFWB News 98…you give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you THE WORLD…
It’s 51 degrees in Hollywood, sunny today, highs in the lows to mid-70s…good morning! It’s Monday, the 18th of October…you’ll hear about the expected readings this morning, of nine verdicts in the Reginald Denny…”
It immediately sent chills up and down my spine. In fact, I think it sent me into the manic spin that eventually landed me right back where I came from.
But I would not change one thing about my time in Los Angeles for a second.
Landing first in Santa Monica
Part of the reason I was able to pull off moving to Los Angeles with nothing but my Dodge Colt, what fit in the hatchback, a tank of gas, and a few bucks is that I was coming from Phoenix.
That, and I had already lived in Los Angeles during the summer between my junior and senior year of college. The plan was to finish out college at UCLA, but I decided to move back to the Quad-Cities and finish at Pollyanna College instead.
Still, having first a spent a summer in Los Angeles – in a rather cozy and pampered way – made it much easier to stand on my own two feet there immediately after college.
I had moved to Santa Monica that summer for a fellowship at U. The National College Magazine. One of the investors in the magazine was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Myself and the other magazine fellows — there were four of us – lived above a restaurant he owned at the time called Schatzi on Main.
We lived in a very upscale condo that, even in 1991, easily would have sold for half a million, I’d have to imagine. What kind of condo with a parking spot out back reserved for “Arnold S.” wouldn’t?
When us fellows were evicted from the condo – yes, we actually got an eviction letter from “Arnold S.” – I could not wait to tell my colleagues back at the Quad-City Times.
Honest to God, that summer living in that condo was like The Real World. It really, truly was.
Jeff from Kentucky, Dave from Illinois, Ty from Connecticut and Valerie from Georgia.
Where are they now?
Valerie is a pastor at a church in the south. Jeff works for VICE. Ty is with ESPN.
And here I am!
‘To hell with The Orange Grove Registry’
Another thing Southern California gave me a crash course on was office politics, malcontents, and inappropriateness in the workplace.
Journalists are famous for being inappropriate. It’s why the current holier-than-thou, defensive narrative being propagated by the radical left that controls most of the information in the United States is so hilarious.
Combing through a file marked “For the book,” I found nothing but incredibly inappropriate messages and jokes that had been exchanged among employees at my first paid job out there.
I also found a note from my mother, who died shortly after I moved to California.
“To hell with The Orange Grove Registry,” the note said.
She meant to say The Orange County Register.
My first full-time job in Southern California was working for The Anaheim Bulletin, a weekly owned by The Register that previously had functioned as an independent daily. Already owned by the same company as The Register, Freedom, it was turned into a weekly insert in Anaheim delivered with The Register.
The reporters then were farmed out to work on other weeklies The Register had acquired or created. I, on the other hand, was newly hired as the only reporter still covering the actual city of Anaheim – a gigantic point of contention since it was considered the prime beat.
People in the news media have a very sick, twisted and demented sense of humor. They also are known for behaving inappropriately. To say otherwise is to live in a Pollyanna wonderland not suited for the news business unless you’re an out-of-touch editor working for a corporate chain.
These people at The Register weeklies were full of negativity…and, indeed, also full of feces. Their doomsday predictions about the Los Angeles Times community dailies and weeklies proved wildly false. While The Register remains but a shell of its former self, Times Community News has weathered the print advertising plunge well comparatively.
Still, my time working in the office of the former Anaheim Bulletin was exciting. I loved it when I would be sent to Disneyland, in particular, to cover a story.
I also remember my first fall in Southern California. For whatever reason, or office on Katella in Anaheim would be the perfect seat for the Santa Ana wind conditions. Once, I remember a tumbleweed the size of a Volkswagen bug floating past the office window. It was the first time I ever saw a tumbleweed and it made me laugh hysterically for several hours.
Ice meth introduces me to sex workers
When my mom died of breast cancer less than three years after I moved to L.A. (see Chapter 6), I think I postponed grieving, and in a very unhealthy way.
Instead, I threw myself into my work.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long until I moved on from The Orange County Register weeklies to the Los Angeles Times weeklies, and eventually, managing editor of one of the Los Angeles Times dailies, the Glendale News-Press (see chapter 13) and later executive news editor of The Advocate magazine (see chapter 14).
I also worked more than two years as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram in Long Beach. It was an incredibly stressful job, long hours, and it fueled and financed a crystal meth addiction I had developed at The Advocate and later had moved down to Long Beach in a feeble effort to “escape” from it.
A few years after I had moved to Los Angeles, settled in, and “come out,” I began hanging out at The Probe Nightclub in Hollywood on Saturday nights.
The Probe was the “circuit boy” headquarters for Los Angeles. Somehow, I had evolved into one of these “circuit boys” – professional men with the money to travel around the U.S. and stay in nice hotels that hosted lavish, private, drug-fueled dance parties in their ballrooms.
Indeed, it was a wild scene. But a really fun one, at first.
When we weren’t in Palm Springs, Miami, San Diego or wherever the big event was, Saturday nights the circuit boys who called Los Angeles their home base would twirl until 6 a.m. at The Probe.
When The Probe would close, the party would continue at a bar called 7702 S.M., or 7702 Santa Monica Boulevard. Sketcher Sketcher Oh Two was what we called it.
Because everyone there was “sketched out” on drugs. Meaning, they had taken so much ecstasy, Special K and “ice meth” – and lacked so much sleep – that their brains didn’t work right.
The club was a magnet for boys from the circuit who did not necessarily make their money at white collar jobs, but also didn’t do so poorly as hustlers on the street. Unlike human trafficking victims, these young men hustled by choice. At least, it seemed that way to me at the time.
They had their own apartments in decent neighborhood; they had decent clothes; they also had good drugs.
Frankie goes to Hollywood; David does Frankie
But, I would come to learn, they sold their bodies. One guy in particular who I used to have sex with (I never paid for sex…I was considered ‘one of the boys,’ as I soon would find out) finally asked me to come with him to “some old guy’s house.”
We were out of money and wanted more meth. Frankie explained that all we had to do was have sex with each other, let the old guy watch, and we could split the money.
I said no, no, no. We ended up going to the old guy’s place anyway, but he basically threw us out.
Another time, at the famed White Party in Palm Springs, no less, I was invited by several other young men to the D.J.’s room. On the circuit, this was no less than the greatest honor in the land.
When we got up there, the DJ basically admired us and gave us GHB. But he was so strung out he passed out almost immediately.
I remember riding up and down in the elevator with some guy, and then passing out.
What a dangerous situation.
On other occasions, I would be so piped up on meth that I would want to have sex with anything I saw.
One time in particular that I remember, that I cannot believe I now feel comfortable writing about, is when I hooked up with an incredibly strung out man. He proceeded to tell me who he was, what movie he starred in, and even show proof of what he had just said.
This man essentially had portrayed a symbol of strength and masculinity. Still incredibly robust for a tweaker, he knew he was losing his body, mind and soul and felt the need to confess all of this to me that day.
He explained how he lost his house, and now was living in the tiny studio apartment. But he was proud of it. He had it decorated like a lunar lander, with monitors that did not work and prescription pill bottles made to look like launch buttons.
I kid you not.
I would hook up with men anonymously off phone sex lines and now and then. One would leave money in a dish next to the door when I would leave. I never once took the money.
Even as a hardcore meth addict, it was a line I never crossed. I have no idea why I never crossed it, to tell you the truth
Coming next week: The Pollyanna College years