539. The Emperor’s New Clothes

We had the band meeting in our living room, because where else would we have it? Carynne, the four of us, Courtney taking notes and Colin there to talk about the accounting stuff.

Honestly, it was hard to concentrate at first because Ziggy was sitting in the chair across from me and it was like he had a spotlight on him: I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was brighter and shinier than everything around him, and I don’t mean his clothes, which were dark. His jeans were dyed an almost-black wine purple and he wore a loose shirt with a turquoise and navy blue pattern on it. There was a purple sheen to his hair, too, underneath the black.

Half of me had worried that he wasn’t going to show up, but it was the half I kept gagged and tied up in the trunk of the car of my mind.

Now that he was there, in the room, in reality, it was surreal. As if he hadn’t sat in that living room a million times before.

Carynne presided over the meeting. “Well, it’s nice to see everyone in one place. Zig, are you around for a while?”

He gave a half-shrug. “My lease runs out September 1. I’m supposed to tell the landlord this week if I’m keeping the place or moving.”

“Where would you move?” she asked him.

“That might depend on what we decide here.” Again the shrug.

“Okay. Here’s the situation as I see it: we have an under-the-table offer from BNC to rebrand the band which would stop all potential legal action on all our parts and they would, I believe, fix the so-called accounting problem.”

“Accounting problem?” Ziggy echoed.

“Yes. They basketed the sales of the Prone to Relapse re-release with 1989‘s. Our interpretation is that was wrong. The fact that 1989 didn’t recoup its advance shouldn’t have kept them from paying us what they owed on the sales of Prone, at least based on our interpretation of the contract.”

“They really did that?” Ziggy’s voice had an edge of sneer to it—no disbelief, more like disgust.

“The basketing bullshit is a lame attempt to hide the fact that it’s their fault they didn’t sell enough records,” I said.

“Could be. And we dug up some other little things.” She gestured to Colin who cracked open a folder with spreadsheets in it.

He cleared his throat. His hair was down today, and his black bangs hung in his eyes. “Yeah, little things is right. Bart’s dad called it ‘misconduct rather than criminal.’ Which means it shouldn’t take much pressure to get them to make an ‘adjustment’ and pay us a little to make up for these things. It’s stuff like they applied their standard packaging fee instead of the one we negotiated. It’s only off by a quarter of a point, but when you add up all the little things their accounting department did that didn’t comply with the actual contract that was signed, you’re looking at a fair amount of money.”

“Like ten thousand dollars,” Carynne added.

“10,776 dollaroos, to be exact,” Colin said. “And that’s not counting the Prone royalties.”

“So you’re saying they’ll probably give us the Prone royalties and this other ten thousand if we shut up and let them rebrand the band,” I said.


They were all looking at me. I said, “No.”

“No?” She raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

“They owe us that money anyway!” I said. “We can’t possibly treat it like an enticement to get us to do anything!”

“Well, if we have to go through the courts to get the money, we could spend more than we make.”

Ziggy cleared his throat. “It might not come to that, though. Let’s forget the money for a second and concentrate on what we want to do.”

“Good idea,” I said, but then I thought about what I wanted to do and that wasn’t a simple question to answer, was it?

Carynne picked up the ball and ran with it, though. “In an ideal world, what would you guys be doing next? Bart? Chris?”

They looked at each other. Bart spoke. “In an ideal world, we’d split from BNC and sign on somewhere else who would support us better. And the band would go on, building on what we did. We wouldn’t be the first band to have three records with three different companies, you know.”

“I wonder if Artie would be interested in a call from us,” I said, thinking that sounded good, didn’t it? What if there were a way to simply move on? You know, like moving on from a relationship that didn’t work out? Or even one that did but that had run its course?

Carynne twirled her pencil. She was wearing what I thought of as a business-y skirt, but with a flowery top. “And that’s what you all want? Or is that the only thing you can think of?”

“What do you mean?” Bart asked.

“I mean, think outside the box. What if each of you signed a solo record deal somewhere else? For example.”

When she said that, everyone pretty much looked at Ziggy.

“I don’t have a burning itch to go solo,” Bart said.

“Don’t look at me,” Chris added.

“Or me,” I said. “Besides the fact I think the only one of us who would probably have a viable commercial solo career is Ziggy.”

Ziggy put his knees together and rested his elbows on them as he leaned forward. “I should tell you all what they’re offering me.”

Insert cliche here about pins dropping, held breaths, etc.

His voice was quiet and one of his feet tapped nervously. “It’s the same deal Sarah Rogue got. Five years, five million, and would include five albums and a minimum of three movies.”

Colin: “Five million dollars?”

Carynne: “Up front?”

Nods from Ziggy, but he was looking at the floor, his hands, the tip of his boot–anywhere but at me, it felt like.

Mills had asked me if I cared about Ziggy would I impede his success? This was what he was talking about.

“They also floated the idea of ten years and ten million dollars but I said no way.” He still wouldn’t look up. “Because who knows, in five years I might be worth a lot more than that.”

“What did Digger say to that?” I asked.

“He said I was right of course, and that he was thinking the exact same thing. The liar.”

I looked back at Carynne, not sure where to take the discussion from there.

She had the usual look on her face she had whenever Digger’s name was mentioned, like she was trying to figure out where a bad smell was coming from. “And they’re presumably offering you this as a solo artist.? Which would mean they would have to let the others do their own thing if they wanted.”

“They didn’t say that,” Ziggy said. “They did ask me if I–ha, as if it’s my decision–if I wanted to keep you guys.” He sounded embarrassed to even bring it up.

Carynne sucked in a breath. “Wait. Is that why they want to do the rebranding? To get you as a defacto solo artist without actually tearing up the old contract? And keeping these guys chained up?”

“They can’t,” I said. “They’ve proved they don’t give a fuck what I do as long as I don’t use the Moondog name. Even Feinbaum agrees I’m in the clear on that. They can’t keep me from working.”

Ziggy sighed. “I think they still like the general image and concept of Moondog Three and they want to build on the fanbase. But they think they can do that with me alone.”

“What do you want to do?” Carynne asked.

Ziggy took a deep breath. “That really depends on what you guys want to do. I think if I put my foot down and say they can’t have me unless they take the whole band, fix the accounting shit and the contracts and everything, they might do it. But that means Moondog Three is stuck with BNC for an even longer commitment.”

“And who would get the five million advance? You, I imagine. Presumably they wouldn’t turn that into a full band advance.”

“I don’t know.” His shoulders were slumped. “They don’t know I’m here, by the way.”

“Five million dollars,” Chris said, like he was stuck on that. To tell the truth, so was I.

Ziggy shrugged again. “One, five, ten, ultimately, what’s the difference? The thing I needed so much money for was my mother. And she’s not…” He broke off, like he couldn’t bring himself to say aloud that she was gone. His voice was rough when he went on. “That’s not a concern any longer.”

Carynne blinked and didn’t let that get to her. “The difference is how much Digger puts in his pocket up front, that’s what.”

Ziggy looked a little surprised. “I meant it rhetorically.”

“Of course he wants you to sign a big money deal. He gets to pocket, what, fifteen percent?”

Ziggy nodded.

“That’d be a nice payday. $750,000.” She put her pencil down. “And he gets to keep it even if you fire him later.”

Which was one of the reasons Sarah’s mother hadn’t fired him yet. I hadn’t realized her deal was quite so big. I should have guessed, given how she was spending money, but hadn’t really thought about it.

“I don’t know what to do,” Ziggy said. “I don’t know if time is running out or what.”

“Why would time be running out?” I asked.

“Because.” He took another breath. “I might not be the hot thing in another couple of months. The movie’s not doing as well as they hoped. They’re blaming Richard, they’re blaming Jen, but for how long? And these deals, these multimedia development deals, they’re a new thing because everyone’s hot for the mergers and acquisitions, but is that going to hold up? This might be a moment. A bubble. It could pop.”

Carynne took all that in, but she didn’t let him off the hook. “You still haven’t said what youwant.”

Now he looked up, and he looked right at me. “Truthfully? I want it all. I want the money, and I want them kowtowing to me on both coasts. I want fame, and I want Mills’s balls in a sling. And I want to keep making music with you. I want all of the above. Everything.”

When he said “you” he probably meant the whole band, but it felt like he meant me. At least, that’s what the look in his eye said.


  • Renee says:

    Can I vote with Ziggy and go with “all of the above” but add Digger to that sling and fire him first. Does Daron still own part of Digger’s company? Or am I remembering that wrong?

  • Amber says:

    Now I have “I Want It All” by Queen stuck in my head. Not that I’m complaining.

    • Averin says:

      Oh yeah. In my mind, Ziggy is somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Tom Kaulitz.

      • Amber says:

        Throw Michael Hutchence in the mix and I’m right there with you. Not that I think Ziggy looks like Freddie Mercury but I can see him having similar stage presence. If you combined Michael Hutchence and Tom Kaulitz that would be pretty close to what I picture Ziggy to look like. I picture Ziggy having the cat like sensuality of Michael Hutchence though.

        I had to look up Tom Kaulitz. Damn. And to think he’s a twin so there’s two of them. Wow. I’m off to actually check out their band now.

    • ctan says:

      I have that song on the list of ones that haven’t been used yet and I considered it for this chapter. πŸ™‚ But the lyrics of Emperor’s New Clothes fit thematically so well I couldn’t resist.

  • Averin says:

    OT: Some Richard LaBontΓ© books are on sale at AMZ right now and I have a gift card to burn so I picked up a couple. And there was “The Inner Game of Chess,” great story. Did you ever write a sequel?

  • Seana says:

    Had to look up Bill Kaulitz. He’s beautiful. I never pictured Ziggy quite that…pretty? feminine? I always see him more androgynous…beautiful but male.

    • ctan says:

      Well, if the comparison of Bill and his twin tells me anything, it’s that makeup and body language can really change how masculine or feminine a person looks.

    • daron says:

      I never thought of Ziggy as overly feminine-looking either, until I saw him on TV that time on the red carpet when he wore the Hollywood starlet/mourning getup, and let me tell you, he was a knockout.

    • daron says:

      I swear I replied to this last night but now I don’t see it. Mysterious.

      Anyway. I never thought of Ziggy as particularly feminine either. But let me tell you, when he put on the Hollywood starlet mourning outfit? He was a knockout.

      The Kaulitz bros. prove though how different makeup and body language can make masculine or feminine look on a person. Ziggy’s a chameleon. He can look like anything he wants. Me? I just look like Daron wearing eyeliner.

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