I ended up in the parking lot of a Circle K, at the pay phone on the outside of the building, on the phone to Carynne.
“Daron, are you crying?”
“No, I’m not crying. What the hell makes you ask that?”
“Well, you sound upset.”
“I am upset.” I was not crying. This wasn’t a “cry over it” kind of problem. This was a “fuck the world because the world is fucking me” kind of problem. “Mills has declared the album unrecoupable because I’m gay.”
“You heard me. You want it in more detail?”
“You bet I do.”
“Okay, let me see if I can do it justice. First he shows me and Digger some numbers…”
“Wait, you had a meeting with him?”
“Yeah. At the BNC office out here. Oh, by the way, I fired Digger.”
“Let me tell the story in order and maybe it’ll make sense. Okay, so he shows us these spreadsheets…”
“Did you keep a copy?”
“I did. Will you stop interrupting me? This shit is complicated.”
“All right, all right.”
“Anyway. He shows us how much money we owe them, then tells me the contract I signed not only lets them gang the payments they owe us for the re-release into the debt, he rubs my nose it in reminding me we can’t record with anyone else and we’re dead in the water. And he says the reason the album isn’t selling as well as it should, especially given the great publicity and the sellouts on the tour, is not that they fucked up and didn’t get enough stock into the stores…”
“Wait, not? I thought they were saying the laydown was low because of genre confusion.”
“They were, before, but we’ve moved on from that now, apparently, to the album isn’t selling because I’ve been seen all over Los Angeles with Jonathan.”
“Wait. That makes no sense.”
When she said it like that, it hit me that it really didn’t make sense. I mean, when Mills had first said it, I had been in denial about it, but I had half-believed what he’d said. Maybe because this was the sort of thing I was afraid of all along? Right? Wasn’t that the reason everyone stayed in the closet? Because everyone knew it would hurt your career if you didn’t?
But no one had ever come right out and explained how it would hurt a career. This wasn’t like a group of concerned mothers was leading a campaign against stores carrying the album or picketing outside the stadiums. This wasn’t like venues refusing to book us. This wasn’t even like actual bad press had been appearing… yet.
I tried to explain it in more detail. “Mills is under the impression that the average record-buyer in America thinks all gays should be thrown into AIDS death camps. Because of this, they are mystically-magically divining that they should not buy the Moondog Three album because they will… get gay cooties? Support the gay agenda? What the fuck is our agenda? No one invited me to the meeting about that.”
“You’re joking. I mean, you are joking, but I mean, he can’t be serious about that.”
“Serious enough that he paid some tabloid photographer for photos and negatives of me and J. and Ziggy.”
“When did you have a threesome with–”
“Dude! I’m on the phone here. Come back later.” I waved off a guy who kept approaching the phone with a handful of loose change and a hopeful expression. He had the grimy look of someone who had slept in his car and hadn’t showered in a week. You see a lot of that in L.A.
“Are you on a pay phone?”
“Yes. Anyway. I have the photos. I don’t have the negatives.”
“Are they bad?” She sounded like she was cringing.
“Pretty bad, I guess. Especially when you see them all together. The bitch of it is the most incriminating one is totally innocent. Not that that matters. Anyway. Digger said ‘I told you so,’ and I said ‘You’re fired.’ That’s the short version anyway.”
“In the meantime, did I tell you I did a soundtrack for a documentary?”
“Did you just say you’re going to do the soundtrack for a documentary?”
“Already did it. Turned it in and got paid. Which reminds me, I have the check. No way in hell I’m handing it to Digger now. We need to make sure he can’t get at our accounts anymore.”
“I can handle that. But, reminder: you’re part owner of his company.”
“Yeah, I know. And he’s still Ziggy’s personal manager. I know, Car’. I know firing him isn’t like putting a genie back in the bottle. I won’t get to pretend he doesn’t exist. Alas. The point is don’t let him make off with anything if he gets pissed off enough to be that stupid.”
“Okay. When are you coming back? When does Zig get out?”
“Zig’s supposed to be out tomorrow. Digger’s supposed to go pick him up.”
“I’m supposing you didn’t volunteer to ride in the car.”
She made that tick-tick sound with her mouth she sometimes did when she was thinking about things. “Dar’. You have to get there first.”
“If he hears this entire thing from Digger it’s going to sound like… like…”
Like I’d been catting all over Hollywood with my boytoy. Fuck.
“Like it’s your fault. You have to get there first. I’ll get you directions to Betty Ford. Does Remo have a fax machine at the house?”
“I think so but I don’t know the number. Call me there later and we can figure it out. There’s a line forming for the phone here.”
“Okay. Shit, I wish I was there. Daron, listen to me, don’t do anything drastic.”
“You’re the one telling me to kidnap Ziggy!”
“I didn’t say kidnap! Just talk to him first. Jeez. Don’t be so dramatic.”
“You either. The most drastic thing I’m going to do tonight is… eat a sandwich and vent to Jonathan.”
“Okay. I’ll call you later. Remember that people love you, though, Daron. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Carynne.”
At that point the grimy guy with the loose change in his hands made smoochy kissy noises at me and I thought about punching him in the face. I decided he wasn’t worth the trouble. There was no way smacking anyone was ever going to be as satisfying as smacking Digger had been. Maybe now was the time to dedicate myself to nonviolence for real. No, really. Quit while I’m ahead.