The next day Jonathan went to his meeting, and Remo and I spent all afternoon in his home studio with him teaching me these parts and me overdubbing a bunch of soundtrack stuff. I had completely forgotten he’d told me months ago about a soundtrack he had been working on and I thought it was funny he didn’t bring it up sooner. Maybe he just didn’t want to pressure me, or maybe he’d known I was going to show up on his doorstep at some point. That led to an engineer coming over for dinner and us spending the evening working on it some more, while Jonathan dove into reading two books he had brought home about how to write screenplays.
The concept that he could learn to do it from a book was fascinating to me. You can’t learn to play an instrument from a book. But he wasn’t learning to play an instrument, he was learning to do something similar to what he already knew, which was using words, and so yeah, learning about words from a book makes perfect sense.
The next two days we fell into a routine where Jonathan would read his books and work on his stuff in the afternoon while Remo and I worked in the studio. But then it was time for Remo to leave town. He hit the hay early after dinner and Jonathan and I stayed up watching movies from the laserdisc collection. (Well, that is to say we got through one before we conked out.)
The fact that I called having two days in a row that were the same a “routine” probably tells you something. Whether it says how unusual it was for me to have two days the same or how quickly I fall into ruts, I’m not sure. Both, okay? Both. Why do we always try to split things into two options when in reality both are valid?
The first morning we woke up alone in the house we didn’t get out of bed until noon and not because we were asleep. I guess I felt I had a few days of not having sex to make up for. After getting used to it every day in Mexico it’s like it built up while we were holding back. We hadn’t actually talked about not doing it while Remo was around, but I guess we both felt self-conscious about it enough that we were hands off until he left.
That weekend I took J. to a Hollywood function of some sort that Digger got us invited to. It was at some swanky restaurant that had been taken over for the night, and was more movie industry people than music industry. This forced me to deal with the fact I had a suitcase full of beach clothes and not much appropriate for going out in public. J’s mother had mailed him his clothes, so he was basically set, and he took me out shopping. We ended up with something that looked basically like my usual “rock star” stuff only more expensive. New jeans, new shirt, new low boots. I wore the BNC leather jacket I had stashed in my bag for the over-air-conditioned plane flights, the one that Ziggy had added just a few little studs and rhinestones to. The goal was to look “respectably disreputable,” at least in the words of the woman we ran into while shopping who handed J. a business card that labeled her a “fashion consultant.” I think she assumed J. was my manager or handler. J. told her he was fairly sure that was the look I’d in fact already established but thanked her and put the card in his pocket.
I’m pretty sure everyone in Hollywood, whether they realize it or not, is putting everyone into a big list of casting credits rolling through their minds. The part of the rock star in today’s episode is played by Daron Marks.
At the party I got to play the part of “rock auteur” possibly. The producer who had come over to Remo’s the other day was there and he introduced me to some other people and at one point I ended up in a conversation in a corner booth after having drunk too much of a purple champagne cocktail — the purple had something to do with the movie but I don’t remember what, since I don’t remember what movie the party was connected to. Pretend it was a Grapes of Wrath movie and the drink was a clever pun. It was probably a lot stupider than that. But anyway, the conversation was about guitar sounds and emotional response to music, and I basically talked out my ass but the guy I was talking to kept nodding and encouraging me to go on. I forgot his name but later I would find out it was Michael Chernwick. I’ll tell you more about him later when he becomes important. At the time, in my mind, he was Mr. Cap and Mustache, because he was wearing one of those beanies like you see on paper boys in old films and had a black mustache so tiny it almost looked drawn on with eyeliner.
I talked to a lot of people that night. So did Jonathan. At the time I thought he was networking and I was just keeping myself busy. Apparently the level of fame I’d achieved ensured that I was never without a drink in my hand and someone to talk to.
Digger did actually rescue me from one guy who had been going on and on for a while about the concept album he wanted to make as a new soundtrack to Citizen Kane. I had never seen the movie and I still hadn’t ascertained if this guy played an instrument and I didn’t want to ask him any questions because that might make it seem like I was interested in his idea. I wasn’t completely sure he even knew anything about music beyond what you might learn from reading magazines, honestly.
So I didn’t protest when Digger steered me away from the guy with a “Pardon me, I need him for a minute,” and cornered me at the end of the bar.
“Jeez, kiddo, you’re popular. Hard to get a word in edgewise.”
“I’ve actually talked to so many people my throat’s getting sore,” I said. “What’s up?”
“You’re staying in town for a while?”
“Couple of weeks? Not sure, really.”
“Okay. I’ll make sure you get on the list for a couple more of these things.” He looked around. “It’s good business, you know?”
“Sure,” I said automatically.
“I’m getting a lot of static from Mills,” he said, then, as if it was a related topic. “But I’m not going to push until I get we know what’s going on with your singer.”
Your singer. Like Ziggy was my problem? Or maybe he just didn’t want to say his name. I nodded noncommittally.
“You want to do something that’s good for business?” Digger said then, leaning closer to me.
“I’m going to introduce you to Sarah Rogue.”
“How about you tell me who that is first?”
He cracked a “gotcha” smile. “She’s about to be the next big thing.”
“Okayyy.” I assumed that meant she was a client of his. “How about clue me in. Model? Actress? Dancer?”
“All of the above, but let’s go with singer for now. Come on. You can talk music.” He pushed away from the bar and tugged his jacket sleeves down, trying to smooth the wrinkles at his elbows.
I followed him over to an indoor fountain, where a towering blond girl was standing in a pale yellow sleeveless dress that showed off her very long legs, clutching a tiny purse with both hands in front of her stomach. I didn’t hear the introduction Digger gave me but her fingers were long and slender when she shook my hand gently.
“I’m Sarah,” she said, like I didn’t already know. “Oh thank goodness!”
I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, but she reached down and took one shoe off her foot and threw it into the fountain, then took off the other one and threw it in, too. The two shoes circled each other in an eddy of water like a pair of yellow fish. She grinned. Now she was only an inch or two taller than me, which made her a lot easier to talk to.
“Digger tells me you’re a singer?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a demo making the rounds right now.” She reached up like she was going to touch her hair, then stopped herself with a sigh. “A couple of companies are interested, and, well, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. So, I hate to ask this because I’m kind of down on the concept of categories, but what kind of music is it?”
Her smile suddenly got more real. “It’s pop because I’m a woman. And because I play the piano.”
“Aha, yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”
“Yeah. The songs are rock as far as I’m concerned, but you know, the furthest they can stretch their tiny brains is to label me ‘Billy Joel with tits.'”
It’s a good thing I didn’t have a drink in my hand because I might have spurted it with laughter. “And how do you label yourself?”
“I thought you didn’t like labels?” She gave me a skeptical eyebrow almost exactly like Carynne’s.
“I don’t, but I figured I’d ask.”
“How do you label yourself?”
“I’m just a guitar player,” I said with a shrug.
“And your music?”
“Like you said, it’s rock. But apparently to the industry it’s… let me see if I can get all the labels in the right order: alternative guitar-driven album rock.”
“Huh. What’s alternative about it? I mean, I’m not trying to be judge-y about it, I’m trying to figure out what that means.”
“Um, far as I can tell all it means is we’re too weird not to get the label.” Something clicked for me then. That was something Mills had said, or tried to say, about not getting lumped in with the alternative crowd. “Wait, I think I just figured it out,” I said aloud. “You’d think, you know, that alternative would be the pinnacle, the top, of the rock and roll heap, right? What’s alternative is the most ‘out there,’ and the whole point of rock and roll is it’s too much sex and drugs and itself for the mainstream, right? So from a creative point of view, of course we’re like, hey, cool, we’re alternative. We’re cooler than cool. But within the industry it means we’re second class citizens.”
“Whoa. Digger said you were cynical.”
“I don’t think I’m being cynical here. It just suddenly became obvious. At least at BNC, alternative is a dirty word.”
“They’re one of the companies we’re talking with.”
Of course they are, I thought. Digger has a ton of contacts there. I was sure her demo tape was on Mills’s desk. “Well, the good thing about them is their goal is sell a ton of records, which is hard to argue with.”
She nodded. “Okay, so explain ‘album rock,’ then.”
“You know, I think it’s a nice way of saying we’re not built around hit singles. Which now that I think about it is also a second-class thing.” No wonder Mills was so cranky.
“Don’t be so down on yourself,” she said. “The only time I take 1989 out of my car’s tape player is to put Prone to Relapse in.”
“Really?” I noticed she had started blushing. Fortunately by then I’d had a lot of experience with blushing girl fans so I didn’t get all bashful back at her. “Which one do you like better?”
“Oh be serious, that’s an impossible choice. I do have a favorite song, though.”
“Fire and Ice.”
“Really! I don’t think anyone’s ever told me that.”
“Well, I’m not just anyone,” she said with a flash of her teeth, getting her “star” mojo back. “Hey, it’s been super awesome talking to you. I think I’m supposed to leave now, though.”
“Are you? Is there like a time limit on how long we’re supposed to talk?”
“Well, actually it’s that if I have to wear this stupid dress five more minutes I’m going to scream,” she said, though her smile and facial expression were perfectly mild. “But I am so happy you turned out to be cool.”
“Oh. Um, likewise. Digger’s always trying to get me to talk to models and things and most of them the conversation peters out after we discuss the weather.”
“Of which there isn’t any in LA,” she said, “so the conversation is dead before it even starts. I was expecting you to make a pass.”
“Huh. Oh, wait, are we supposed to be making it look like we’re getting together? Or was just being seen together enough? I’m unclear on how this whole fame thing works.”
She laughed and touched my forearm and I realized that when she did there were a few flashes and shutter clicks. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for you to walk me to my car.”
“Are you parked far?”
She snorted. “I meant the limo waiting outside.”
“Oh. Hey, I told you I’m unclear on how it works. I drove an SUV I borrowed from a friend.”
“You’re cute.” She held out her arm and I took it, steering her toward the door. I guess it didn’t matter she wasn’t wearing shoes if she was going home.
At the door of the limo she reached into her tiny purse and took out a business card. “Hey, do you have email?”
“Excellent! Email me! Nice meeting you, Daron!” She disappeared into the car and the driver shut the door.
I put the card into the inside pocket of my leather jacket and went to find Digger and grill him on what her deal was.
(P.S. There’s also an extended NSFW version of the video, twice the length, if you’re into that sort of thing: http://youtu.be/wQH4BmepYIA)