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Karl: Today is March 6, 2015 and I’m lunching at The Abbey with the lovely Eve Mauro whom I have just met for the first time a few moments ago. How old are you, Eve?
Eve: I’m 33… I’m biblical.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Eve: Freelancing… (I’m single.)
Karl: Do tell.
Eve: I have always been the type of person that stays in relationships for long periods of time. I realized there are all these warning signs before I even start, but the relationships kept going and dragging on. Now, if there’s something that doesn’t work, I stop. I have rules now while dating… no one can stay the night at my house, no sleeping in my bed because it creates this automatic faux relationship. I’d rather keep things light and simple. So far I’ve been single since October and it’s worked really well for me.
Karl: Describe your occupation.
Eve: I’m an actress, which I enjoy, and it pays the bills. But I’ve just recently started bartending (recreationally) at an after-hours club. A friend of mine asked if I’d mind bartending for him. I don’t need the money but I really like the dark, gritty, underground scene. It’s fast-paced, there are people everywhere… You know how you imagine Studio 54 back in the day? It’s that, right now, in LA. So I do that a couple of nights a week from midnight ’till about 6:00 in the morning.
Karl: I can only imagine the things you see as the bartender. Has that been a networking opportunity for you? I mean, you must be meeting so many people.
Eve: In the industry? No… this is pure debauchery.
Karl: What has been the most challenging obstacle while being an actor in LA?
Eve: It’s being patient. You can do an amazing job but sometimes producers just want to go with a name even though you’re perfect for the role. And that’s fine, but sometimes just being patient is the most challenging.
Karl: Have you found the industry to be welcoming?
Eve: Yes, if you do a good job, if you’re always prepared, if you’re always on time, then people want to work with you. I continue to get work because people have worked with me before and know I’m easy to work with. I don’t come with a lot of baggage. Everyone’s doing the same job… maybe they’re a lighting person, maybe they’re a boom operator, but we’re all doing the same thing – we’re creating something.
Karl: What are some of the best parts?
Eve: I get paid to go to summer camp. We’re together for two months at a time – groups of people in hotels getting away from life. You’re working your ass off, 12-hour days, but every movie feels like summer camp. It’s pretty cool.
Karl: Has anything crazy ever happened while on a shoot?
Eve: I don’t know how much I can share but I did a movie called The Steam Experiment, and the director’s name was Philippe Martinez. He is amazing, and we’re still friends, but we would do these night shoots and would get off at six in the morning. Val Kilmer, Eric Roberts, Armand Assante, Patrick Muldoon… we were all staying in this hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is kind of bible-belt’ish. But we’d buy a whole bunch of wine and sit in the hotel drinking, and Philippe would say, *French accent* “It was shit today, what we did was shit!” And we would start yelling and screaming, and he’d call Eric and say, “We’ve changed all your lines, this is what you say tomorrow…” And we all thought “What the fuck?!” There were fights on the set everyday… not real fights, more passionate fights. But he’d stand over you with his big cigar and everything would get changed. It was insane. You didn’t know your head from your ass.
Karl: But it all came together in the end?
Eve: It did! It was so much fun. He said, “The writer is good, but what they put down on paper is from sitting in front of a type-writer or computer. When you bring it to life, they don’t see that sometimes things just don’t work. So you have to be agreeable to change.” So we’d get our lines, roll into bed at 10:30 in the morning, Starbucks at 7:00 at night, and do the same thing the next day.
Karl: He obviously knew what he was doing.
Eve: He did. We were like a family in the end, which is how it should be. Philippe was dating his wife, Megan, at the time and they now have a kid together. I’ve remained friends with everyone else on set. Patrick Muldoon and I dated for three years and we’re still friends. Philippe really did create a little family.
Karl: Full disclosure – I haven’t seen it, but I haven’t seen anything since my daughter was born eight years ago so that’s not saying anything. So I apologize.
Eve: *laughs* No way, I only watch one show, The Returns – a French TV show, it’s really good.
Karl: Well, your resume is incredibly impressive. You’ve been on Dexter which is awesome.
Eve: Funny enough, while doing Dexter, I met my other ex, Desmond, there, and we dated for three years. There’s the seven-year itch, for me it’s the three-year itch. I only do the three-year dating thing.
Karl: I read you’re from Florida. What was it like moving to LA? Was that an easy transition?
Eve: I moved to Wisconsin for a little bit but it wasn’t working for me. Everyone was saying, “Oh, you’re Mexican coming up here for work…” and I’d say, “I’m Italian!” And they’d say, “Oh you’re Aye-talian.” Everyone was just so white. So I lived there for 6 months and moved back to Florida. I got a job at a law firm working as an Administrative Assistant but they were over-staffed and let me go with a severance package. I was single, had the severance pay, and really had nothing to lose. There was nothing in Florida for me so I took the money and moved to LA with one suitcase. I stayed on someone’s couch at first, then got a car and rented a room in South Central. My first job was through a modeling agency. It was the Madonna, Hollywood video about everyone who moves to LA to try and make it.
Karl: God, what a dream, huh? Your first job and you’re working with Madonna?
Eve: It paid really well at the time. I was with her, they did a behind-the-scenes, Jean-Baptiste Mondino was the director… It was a great first job. From there things just picked up. I didn’t start acting right away. Everyone warned me that casting directors have the memories of elephants so you don’t want to go in there and leave a bad taste in their mouths. So I started going to acting school and did the modeling to pay the bills.
Karl: What was it like growing up in Florida?
Eve: My dad is from Sicily and my mom was born in Florida. She’s of Eastern European decent – blonde hair blue eyes. When my dad came to America, he had to either become a chef or a shoe salesman… so he became a chef. I was born in Atlanta, my dad used to own a lot of night clubs, strip clubs, hotels… stuff like that. Fidel Castro used to eat at one of my dad’s restaurants. So did Martin Luther King, President Carter… (My dad’s 80.) RuPaul was also a dancer at one of his clubs in Atlanta…
My mom met my dad in one of his clubs. My dad always liked women with blonde hair, blue eyes, big breasts… My mom didn’t have the big breasts, but they got married. Do you remember Bernhard Goetz? He shot all those people on the subway a long time ago… We bought his father’s house. I guess his dad had possibly died in the house. He was a German olympic swimmer I believe so the house had an Olympic-sized pool and all these marble floors. I was convinced I used to hear a man walking back and forth at night. Years later, after I had already moved out here, I was helping my mom and I met a small, mentally challenged boy who lived there. He said to me, “The man who walks around here scares me.” and I said to my mom, “What the fuck! See! I told you!”
Karl: Don’t go there. *laughs* That stuff creeps me out!
So you’re beautiful, obviously… Has that been challenging for you?
Eve: Yes, I hate modeling. Your weight is always an issue, your teeth are uneven, your eyebrows are this and that… I never even wore make-up before I moved to California. I meet all of these models who are so insecure with who they are. It doesn’t feel the same now as when I was doing it. I was having fun and being free. Now there’s the image dysmorphia thing when you never really see yourself the way you really look and you’re always judging yourself and trying to make yourself look better. You’re never happy with how you are but then you look back and think, “Oh, I looked good then.” It can really effect a person – to see a photo of yourself that looks nothing like you because it’s been Photoshopped and edited. A lot of the models here are self-absorbed but the more self-absorbed they are they less they love themselves. There’s this self-hatred thing going on. I like taking pictures, but I like having fun. I don’t like portraying something false. Then you’re not living life.
Karl: On the note of living life, what do you like to do in your free time?
Eve: Well after this meeting, my best friend is coming here to have a couple of drinks with me. Then we’ll go to my house and it’s kind of lame but we’ll watch Disney movies and drink. Occasionally we’ll go out and dance.
Karl: What’s your favorite Disney movie?
Eve: The Little Mermaid of course! Although I do love Robin Hood. My sister and I used to play Robin Hood a lot when we were kids and I liked to play Maid Marian.
Karl: How do we feel about the whole Frozen thing? Are we good with that?
Eve: Disney has lost it. Cinderella… The Little Mermaid… that was the good stuff! Jiminy Cricket… the things he said were philosophical! *looks up Jiminy Cricket quotes on phone* “If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme.” C’mon! People talk about Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, John Milton… but how many of us know real writers?
Karl: I’ll take Jiminy over Nietzsche any day.
You’re thin and in great shape… do you have to work out a lot?
Eve: When I start working out a lot I get bigger. I don’t work my arms because genetically I have man arms. To be honest, I haven’t worked out since October.
Karl: Where do you like to go out?
Eve: If not my house, then Alvarado House or Overpass. Or this dive-bar in Mar Vista called Tattle Tale Room. It is the diviest bar you’ll ever find.
Karl: Can you describe your impressions of West Hollywood?
Eve: There’s San Francisco and there’s New York, and you think they’re really cool and gay friendly, but they’re not like here. From the streets to the restaurants, everything is just done up so perfectly. It’s hard to get in here (housing-wise) because they hold their standards so high. Everything is put in its perfect little place.
Karl: What are the people like?
Eve: All different. They call it “boy’s town” but it’s not just gay people. It’s everyone. Everyone here is really open and alive. If there was one word for this town it would be “love.” You can’t find any other place like this.
Karl: How has it changed since 2001 when you were first coming here?
Eve: 2001 was like that phase in a relationship where you’re arguing all the time but you know if you work through it, it’s going to get better… West Hollywood was working through a lot of things back then to get to greener grass.
Karl: What are some of the changes you’ve seen over the years?
Eve: Remember Rage back in the day when all the guys had their shirts off and were all grimey? It felt like one of those underground places from back home, where ever you’re from. Now you drive by and see some married couple sitting there while a guy’s dancing on their table in a speedo. It’s no longer this dirty, underground thing that people should be ashamed of.
Karl: What would you like to see more of in West Hollywood?
Eve: I think it’s just perfect the way it is. I think they’ve got it all figured out. I can smoke outside, I can go to a health store, I can go to that celebrity milk-shake store down the street. I imagine it’s one of the safest places to live in LA. Everything here is just perfect.
Karl: What would you like to see less of?
Eve: Traffic is congested, but everywhere in LA is congested. My sister came to visit and I told her it would take her an hour and a half to get to Hollywood. She said, “What?! It says it’s fifteen miles!” I said, “Yes, but you came on a Friday! It’s an hour to go five miles on Fridays!” I also had to explain how she needed to turn on yellow lights or someone will come up and punch her in the face.
Karl: Where do you see the city in twenty to thirty years?
Eve: Hmmm, when I’m 53 years old… That’s scary. I’ve never really thought about that to be honest.
Karl: Will you still be here? Do you plan to stay?
Eve: I plan to stay. I think once I turn 50 I might go to some town in Colorado with waterfalls. It’s going to get to the point where it’s going to take a lot of fucking money to stay here.
Karl: Anything you would like to say to yourself in the future when you read this years from now?
Eve: *laughs* You’re doing a good job! Everything will figure itself out. Love yourself and be happy!
Karl: Have you struggled with that at times?
Eve: Well, yes, there are always struggles with being alone, but you pull yourself out of it. You have to love yourself before you can really love anyone else. If you can be happy when you’re alone, then you’re really happy when you’re with people. There were struggles with not getting jobs modeling, or spending holidays by myself, but everyone here is a transplant and you make your own family and make your own life. I can always find something negative to dwell upon, but I made it out of Florida! I’m successful, I’m a woman, I have a nice car, have a nice place… all those material things… but most importantly – I have people who love me.
Karl: What advice would you give to any actors who have just arrived with their suitcase like you did fifteen years ago?
Eve: Have fun with it! Don’t take it too seriously. You like acting because it’s fun and it makes you feel good. C’mon, let’s be honest… you’re an actor… you play pretend for a living, why are you so serious? Have some fun. Enjoy your life. And if you don’t get that job you wanted, be grateful that you’re even here! There are a million people who want to be here. Even if you’re broke, and a bum… you’re in fucking LA!
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Don: My dad’s Don Vaughn, my grandpa’s Don Vaughn… there’s a lot of Don Vaughns. My first born, woman or man, will be Don Vaughn.
Karl: How old are you, feel free to approximate?
Don: Approximately 27.
Karl: I know you have a number of them, what are your occupations?
Don: Predominantly, I am a music producer and DJ – primarily in dance music and pop. I just released an album, it’s called The Don Vaughn Experiment. As the title kind of eludes, my other full time job is being a PhD student at UCLA in neuroscience. I’ve been studying neuroscience since I was sixteen. Only recently I decided I might as well get the piece of paper, that receipt that shows all of the time you’ve put into it.
Karl: Is there a specific branch of neuroscience you’re into?
Don: I study questions like, “How much free will do we really have over problems?” Are you really free given that we’re at a point where we’re able to scan your brain and predict by chance what you’re going to do in a lot of situations before you’re consciously aware that you’re going to make a decision? For example, in one experiment we have you sit down and press one button or another button whenever you feel like it. There’s no reward, it’s just for the fun of pressing a button. We can start to predict around 65% what you’re going to press.
Don: I know, it’s spooky. And if you ask the person, “When did you become consciously aware of your urge to press one button or the other?” It’s always way after we already knew that you were going to press it. So we ask a lot of questions like that.
Karl: What neuroscience we’re you studying at 16?
Don: I went on a high school science day, originally just to get out of class and eat pizza. We went to the Salk Institute in San Diego just to check out stuff, and it sucked. You know, it was, “Pour the blue beaker into the red beaker… now it’s a purple beaker.” But the last guy to talk was David Eagleman, who has been my mentor since that day. He just talked about the brain, how there are a billion neurons and ten thousand connections with each neuron, and something like one hundred trillion connections in your brain which is more connections than there are grains of sand on the entire planet. It’s what makes you you. It’s a 3 lbs. thing encased in darkness that somehow holds your hopes, dreams and aspirations all in one little spot. What a sexy problem to try and figure out.
Karl: I can see how that talk would inspire a 16-year-old’s interest.
Don: Yes! I continued working with him through my summers. I studied physics and economics at Stanford and taught a course on neuroscience there actually.
Karl: And the music? When did that come into play?
Don: When I was 15 I started playing guitar. I was okay at it, but one day I sat down at a drum set and start tinkering. This girl who I always thought was super hot said, “You’re kind of cute!” and then walked off. And I was like, “Sold!” I’ve been drumming ever since. Then I saw Travis Barker and DJAM in Las Vegas, and they used to do this set where AM would DJ and Barker would drum over top and I thought, “That’s sick.” I love DJing but there’s not enough of a live component to it. I drummed with DJs for a couple years but I thought, “Well fuck, I can do the DJing.” So I learned to DJ and realized what I really want to do is fuse the two together in interesting new ways. So with my new album, not only am I thinking in terms of neuroscience by changing frequencies in a way that is interesting to brains, but it all has live drums in it.
Karl: And your drum set lights up while you’re playing from what I’ve seen. You create a whole atmosphere.
Don: Yeah, totally. I love DJing but I think I may be a little more A.D.D. than the average person. I can’t just sit there and hit two or four decks, I gotta get on the drums and play around. It brings an energy. It says, “I’m here with you. I’m rockin’ out as hard as you are!” Everyone is dancing in the crowd and I’m dancing with the drums. There is something called McGurk effect… Let’s say you make the sound “ba.” If you show the visual of a “ba,” but you have the audio be a “da,” then you hear something in the middle like a “ga.” The effect shows that different senses can completely change the way you perceive something. So I thought it was really important for everyone to see my music and hear it, so I programmed all of my drums to light up when I hit them.
Karl: Your album is getting great feedback.
Don: Yes, it hit number twenty-eight on iTunes charts which I was really excited about. It was surreal to wake up at noon… I sleep late because I stay up late… I watched it hit ninety-six on the charts and stayed up ’till 5:00 in the morning just watching it go up and up and up. It passed Avicii, and it passed Zedd, then it passed Krewella, then it passed Deadmau5 and just kept going. It never passed Calvin Harris who is totally my hero, so that’s cool. That will have to be the next album. When it hit twenty eight, I was just super excited that everyone was digging it.
Karl: Has your life changed with the album’s success?
Don: No. It hasn’t. Well, I guess I spend more time touring now than I do in the studio, which is wonderful. But I still just love music and I love neuroscience. I love the two together and I love them apart. If anything, I feel a little bit more stressed out. I try to figure out where all of my time is going by logging every 15-minutes of my day. It helps me prioritize.
Karl: I should try doing more of that myself.
Don: It’s hard in LA. People are here to make it. This is a work city so having fun is hard. Everyone is here to make their careers and get to the next level, whatever that level is.
Karl: On that note, tell me how you ended up here.
Don: I was born in San Diego. I left when I was eighteen and went to Palo Alto. I back-packed around South America for awhile, then moved to Houston in 2008. I was there for six years and I loved it. It was a great place to start out. I got into my PhD program here and I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I dropped out of neuroscience for a year and just produced music. I really wanted my music to take off, but I really wanted my neuroscience to take off. I realized that LA is the spot to make it happen. The opportunities here are incredible.
Karl: Have you had a difficult time here?
Don: In LA, you have to spend enough time to encounter the type of people that you vibe with, just like work. I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule, “Put in your 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert.” In my mind I think anyone can do anything, aside from a couple of really tough physical tasks. If you put in the time, you’ll be good. The key is to find the right environment that makes you want to put in the years and years of effort it takes. I kept talking, and kept sharing, kept producing and one tv network, then another tv network just happened to find me. So now I’m working with two networks and some wonderful people at Ping Pong Productions on a ‘social experiments’ show that tries to uncover a little more about human nature. What do people really find attractive in actual life and not in a laboratory? Getting people turned on to interesting science is one of my dreams-come-true. I didn’t even go out and look for them. So you don’t even know where it’s going to come from – just take every shot.
Karl: That’s a great way to live.
Don: I try to live as strongly as I can under the motto, “I don’t know shit.” Almost every problem comes out of people thinking they know more than they do.
Karl: What sorts of things would you like to see more of in West Hollywood?
Don: I love West Hollywood – definitely my favorite place in LA. I think it’s kind of what everyone pictures when they think of LA… ridiculous amounts of palm trees, gorgeous people, nice cars, boutique cafes, celebrities. The only thing I want to see more of is parking. I think I get a ticket every time I’m partying in Weho. I do math all day and I still can’t figure out the damn parking signs. It pissed me off so much I finally started taking pictures of the insane, quadruple-decker parking signs with 15 time-zones to make into art. Who has time to read that? Especially before the person behind you starts honking for you to move? Underground parking. Please.
Karl: What would you like to see less of?
Don: Give guys, Starbucks, McDonalds. Weho is badass because it’s so unique and independent. There’s not a ton of chains but the trend is that more are showing up. I guess it’s just supply and demand and who doesn’t love a Starbucks in the morning but most of me wishes those were all replaced with local versions.
Karl: What do you think this city will look like in 30 years?
Don: Not much different. Sure, GoogleBots will probably yell ads at us as we walk down the street, but otherwise mostly the same. If you look over the last 30 years, not much has changed. In the 80s it was still unique, adventurous people, working hard and enjoying life in SoCal. I think most people that live here are happy and don’t want it to change, you know?
Karl: Where do you think you’ll end up after you finish school?
Don: I honestly did not like LA for the first year I was here. I had to adjust to way more traffic, way more people, way more competition… And it took awhile to appreciate the openness and the people. Now that I’ve been here over a year I’m really loving it. So hopefully I’ll either end up in Los Angeles, or back in San Diego with my family.
Karl: What part of San Diego is your family in?
Don: Point Loma, south of Ocean Beach, south of Mission Beach, south of La Jolla. San Diego is beautiful. It’s a lot quieter than Los Angeles. While growing up there, I always thought, “What a big city, why do people always talk about LA being the center of things?” Then you get here and there’s just a buzz in LA. West Hollywood is great because you feel that buzz. Everyone is walking here. When you look at other parts of town, maybe Beverly Hills a little bit, maybe Hollywood a little bit, but here people are excited to be going to their audition, excited to shop. It’s like people talk about New York. You see people and steal their energy.
Karl: Are you happy here? Are you happy at UCLA?
Don: *shakes head while looking at microphone* Yes, I’m very happy.
Don: LA is wonderful. UCLA has some really intelligent faculty. Unfortunately, the building I work in, where a lot of the neuroscience goes down, was a hospital or psyche ward in the 1930s. It’s been retrofitted as a research space so it’s a bit of a downer. So… *speaks into microphone* I think we should fund public universities even more. I don’t know. Having come from Houston which is the world’s leading medical center where there is always building going on and everything is dedicated to research, it’s different to come back to a spot where research is cool but it’s not deserving of a nice building.
Karl: After graduation, are there a lot of research opportunities in LA?
Don: Absolutely. With Silicon Beach as they call it, there are a lot more start ups happening. And Google just bought up 4 or 5 blocks in Venice, so I think we’re going to see a lot more entrepreneurship going on in LA. That’s wonderful because while academia is good, it feels like it’s waning. There are not as many spots, and there are a lot more professors that want those spots. We’re in a time period where there’s data everywhere and everything you do is logged and stored. But it takes a human to go in there and figure out how to do something useful with it. LA presents a lot of opportunities analyzing all of the cool data we have. I’ve been helping my friends at a start-up called Vision Fleet Capital. They look at corporations with gas fleets and start selectively replacing all of the gas vehicles with electric vehicles. They actually pay for them themselves, but by reducing the total overhead, they get some portion back from the city. They asked me to help them select what vehicles to replace. Now that they know what all of the vehicles are doing, what trips they’re going to take, what their habits are, they asked me, “How can we eliminate the most gas miles?” I’ve already eliminated ten thousand miles of gas consumption by rerouting cars or selectively replacing some with hybrids or pure electric vehicles. A lot of the techniques that I used to analyze the data came from having a PhD in neuroscience. So analyzing data is my third job I guess.
Karl: Are you finding any professional conflicts as your music career blows up?
Don: I’ve thought about that a lot. If the music blows up, I can always just pause my PhD. You know, in light of the fact that there is murderous civil unrest going on in Africa and journalists being decapitated, it feels weird to say that the hardest two years of my life were the ones I spent producing music. I know, you think, “Really? It was really hard to sit at a keyboard?” But it was the hardest two years of my life to just do music. In the world of science, there is a lot of creativity to be had, but once you’ve established your idea, there is a pretty accepted way to go about getting into the journals. No one is going to accept your paper unless you’ve taken the proper steps, but you need to do them in the right order… But with music, there is just no right answer. It’s just all creativity. As someone who has grown up shaped to follow steps, it was a gut-wrenching two years. I think the music will take off, and I will have to pause my other two jobs, but I will always use the science. For example, as someone with access to both worlds, I’ve been putting an EEG on a really hot model, and having her listen to my music on stage while I perform. The EEG translates her brainwaves into a visual that goes up on the screen behind me. So you get to see how her brain experiences my music.
Karl: That’s seriously awesome.
Don: There will be some sort of feedback, unless my music sucks, as the crowd experiences the visual, and then she’ll get the vibe from the crowd, so it creates this infinite loop.
Karl: On the the hot model topic, you’ve done a lot of modeling yourself I read. Do you have a difficult time in West Hollywood? I imagine you get a lot of attention.
Don: LA is just generally filled with really beautiful people, so I don’t know if I stand out so much. Sometimes I want to be less attractive. I want people to just love my music, or not love my music, or just treat me the way they would treat anyone. I think it makes people feel more distant from me. My look doesn’t foster connection, so I’ve tried to develop a really outgoing, positive personality. Otherwise, people are very standoffish as if I’m going to knock them down or crush their ego or act like a bully. It sucks sometimes. When I walk up to a circle of people, I feel like the other guys are put off. Like they think, “Who’s this guy coming up and being friendly?” I don’t mean to be like, “Oh it’s a really tough life being good-looking,” but there are times that people act differently, or they just think you’re an asshole from the start. And sometimes, because of that, I think, “Well screw you then.” In which case, I guess I am the asshole. *laughs* So thank you for the stereotype. No, I don’t think I stand out much here. I actually started acting when I first came out here. I signed with Osbrink and they were sending me on all sorts of auditions. I had never had this experience before, but I walked into a room and there was like fifty of me.
Karl: *spits out coffee*
Don: *laughs* I looked around and was like, “Well, that’s Don, and that’s me with longer hair, and that’s me who works out more, there’s me with a tan… and there’s me who’s a much better actor.” They have a type they’re looking for, so man… When you walk in, you are not alone.
Karl: Do you enjoy acting?
Don: I have a hard time acting. I was good at commercial acting. I acted for Adidas, Academy Sports, Men’s Wearhouse… I did some cool commercial stuff but the thing I could never get over is that I just like being me. I know you’re just pretending to be someone else, but the thing that turns me off most about life is when you have to pretend to not be yourself.
Karl: Well, I think you touched on that with your music. You can’t cater to people, you have to just put out what you are and what you do and hope people respond to it.
Don: Yes. And originality costs time and effort. It’s a lot easier to just do what’s safe and what’s already been done. To be original you have to figure yourself out. It’s a lot more work… But it’s so worth it.
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So Betsy, how old are you? You’re welcome to approximate if you wish.
Betsy: I’m 44.
Karl: What is your current relationship status?
Karl: How long have you been married?
Betsy: Since early May.
Karl: What? Congratulations! That’s wonderful!
Betsy: Thank you. We’re really happy.
Karl: What was that like, how did it go?
Betsy: It went great. We got married at the beach. It was really beautiful.
Karl: I think that’s the best way to do it. So what do you do? What is your occupation, or occupations?
Betsy: I am a filmmaker, and I’m also an animal communicator.
Karl: Where to start…
Karl: Let’s start with your films… Why don’t you walk us through some of your work.
Betsy: My most recent film is East LA Interchange, and it’s a documentary about Boyle Heights in East LA. It looks at the history of the neighborhood and also how the neighborhood was impacted by the freeway system. The biggest freeway in North America was built right through the neighborhood and displaced thousands of people.
Karl: How was this project born?
Betsy: The executive producer liked my work – his family is from there, and he always wanted to do a film. Boyle Heights should have had a million films already done about it – it’s such a unique and interesting story. I love the history. I just thought it was really fascinating.
Karl: How did you choose the people to feature?
Betsy: That took about two years – research, talking to people… Exactly the same thing you’re doing. We’re portraying the neighborhood as a character so we want to find representative people. We needed to shape a city through the people who lived there. I spoke to three or four hundred people. You have to decide who is going to tell an interesting story so we had to pick people who are comfortable speaking about their history and their lives and the neighborhood.
Karl: Has it been an expensive project?
Betsy: We’re still fundraising for the documentary. We don’t have all of our finishing funds yet. We’ll be done this fall if we can raise the finishing funds for post. People can contribute through our website, bluewatermedia.org, and it’s tax-deductible.
Karl: What is the most interesting film you’ve worked on?
Betsy: They’re all my babies. I love them all.
Karl: How did you get into filmmaking?
Betsy: I was an artist, so I painted and did drawings. I took photography in high school. Then video came out and I loved it. That was the genesis, and by the time I was in college I was studying film.
Karl: Why not painting?
Betsy: My mom is an excellent painter, so if your mom’s already a good painter…
Karl: I understand perfectly. Where did you go to school?
Betsy: Undergrad – I went to Columbia.
Karl: Oh, nice, what a place to study film!
Karl: What a time to be there.
Betsy: Yes, it was awesome.
Karl: So, you’re the first animal communicator I’ve ever met, so please tell me about it.
Betsy: I started a business called Animal Babel. Basically I’m a translator for people and their animals. I communicate with animals and translate for people.
Karl: I grew up with pets and can imagine this is a booming business.
Betsy: It’s good. I’ve always wanted to do something in a helping profession but I was always an artist, so I would make films that would help people, or brought about awareness… Now I’m able to help people directly.
Karl: You must love animals.
Betsy: I love animals, they’re so happy. After I talk to them, it feels as if they’re giving my heart a hug.
Karl: How did you discover this talent? Do you have to work at it?
Betsy: I’ve been training for years. One day I was at a friend’s house, and I got this image of spaghetti with tomato sauce, neither of which I eat. There were people around, so I asked them, “Does anybody want spaghetti with tomato sauce? I have no idea why this image just popped into my head.” My friend said, “Oh! The cat! He really likes spaghetti and tomato sauce! It’s his favorite thing. Whenever I’m cooking I put a little bowl down for him.” So, I said, “Well, the cat wants some spaghetti!” And that’s when I figured out that I could communicate with animals. And then I started training.
Karl: How? I mean… Where does one even go?
Betsy: It’s energy work.
Karl: Spiritual, meditative?
Betsy: All of that. There are teachers in schools that help you.
Karl: Can you just google those schools, or…
Betsy: I was already connected to the spiritual community through my film Hearts Cracked Open, so I just found a teacher that I had already known and respected and I just started working with her.
Karl: Who has been the most interesting client you’ve had?
Betsy: They’re all interesting. Every single one is unique and interesting. And they all come for different reasons. Some people come because their animal is really sick and has health issues, and they’re not sure if they need to put the animal down. They want me to communicate and find out what’s going on with the animal. So I have saved lives, which is really rewarding. It wasn’t that they were sick, they actually had some other issue going on that they were able to communicate to me and that solved the problem.
Karl: So Betsy, walk me through the process… Does someone walk into the office with a sick dog or…
Betsy: Not at all. Because this is a psychic practice, it’s telepathic. So I can do it over the phone. So literally they just call me and I tap in and start talking to the animal.
Karl: Are you receiving images?
Betsy: Images… Feelings… And words. Some animals can talk in complete sentences which is really freaky. I mean, I’m from Connecticut, this is weird!
Karl: No, I can only imagine. This is an ability people only dream of having so it’s amazing to discover something like this in yourself.
Betsy: It is a great gift, I just didn’t know at first what to do with it, and that’s where the training comes in. You realize you’re just there to help. It’s not even really you doing it, it’s spirit doing it, and the goal is to help and heal.
Karl: Do you get these visions from people too?
Betsy: Yes. You can. It’s wild. But I like working with animals because so few can do that, and the animals are so appreciative when you speak on their behalf.
Karl: I have a close friend who always told me that she likes animals more than she likes people.
Betsy: *laughs* I like people too!
Karl: No, I’m not saying that’s you, I just mean they’re probably a lot more charming than a lot of people you meet.
Betsy: There are a lot less complications. When they say something, they say it. There’s not all of this other stuff going on underneath the surface. What you see is what you get and what they say is what they mean.
Karl: When you’re walking down the street, are you picking all of this stuff up?
Betsy: I try not to — that’s not healthy.
Karl: Has your gift affected your relationship?
Betsy: It affects everything.
Karl: Do you find yourself staring at your wife for visions and trying to figure out what’s going through her head?
Betsy: No! And don’t you do that to your wife or your kids either!
Karl: I might do that to people if I could, purely out of curiosity.
Betsy: I look at things in a positive way – things are happening in a way that is meant to help you in your life. That is how I see my relationship and is how I live my life.
Karl: Do you have to know anything about the animal before you tap in?
Betsy: Nothing. The client just says, “I’d like to communicate with my animal.” So I check in with the animal and usually what the client wants to talk about is the first thing the animal talks about. It’s very helpful with behavioral problems, like if you have a cat that’s peeing indoors. If you ask them, “Why are you doing that?” They’ll say, “I’m scared to go outside. There’s this cat that’s really mean and is bothering me. If you go outside with me then I won’t pee in the house.” There you go. That’s the issue. You might have to walk the cat but… We walk dogs.
Karl: Do you find them to be so exuberantly excited when they realize that you can understand them?
Betsy: When I’m in the room doing a reading on a dog, even if they’re agitated before, they will suddenly lay down and start to look all dreamy. Their tail will go up and down and they look so happy and relaxed. I work a lot with rescued animals because people want to know what their pasts were like. Once I was talking with this woman and she was asking me about her dog’s past, the dog kept coming over to me, and then going over to her, and then to me, and then to her… He was saying, “Oh my God, now you know, now you know, now you know…” He was so happy! They communicate with us all the time, they’re just not being understood usually.
Karl: Our reaction is, “Why are you barking so much?!”
Betsy: And their’s is, “I’m trying to tell you!”
Karl: At the heart of it, you’re a relationship therapist.
Betsy: That’s exactly what it is. I did a reading for this woman recently who had a cat that was really sick. He was doing these behaviors that were making him sick, so I had to tell him, “You’ll get sick, don’t keep doing this. You don’t want to feel the way you’re feeling now.” I had a friend who went over a couple days later, and she said he was a different cat. She said, “He used to run from me. Now he comes over to curl up with me and snuggle.” His behavior completely shifted.
Karl: You must get stories like that all the time – results that you see. Do they have to call you back often? Is there a lot of “repeat offenders?”
Betsy: Sometimes. I offer packages for people who have a serious behavioral issue that they want me to keep working on. Animals are like people, we don’t break our habits overnight. Sometimes it takes one session, and sometimes it takes two or three.
Karl: Do you encounter many stubborn animals that just don’t want to deal with it?
Betsy: Well, you can’t tell them what to do. You can’t say, “Don’t do this!” You have to explain why you don’t want them to do that. Then they get to say, “Well, I want to do that because…” And you have to find a middle ground.
Karl: I think your skills could also be incredibly useful with babies, primarily infants. Parents would pay a lot of money to have someone like you communicate with their newborns.
Betsy: Though I don’t have kids, I adore them. They’re really fun to play with.
Karl: I would imagine kids love you.
Betsy: They do, they can be so creative. I can live in the imaginary with them.
Karl: Do you like to go out much?
Betsy: I don’t go out much, I don’t drink, and I can’t be around cigarette smoke. I like to go to bed early, like 10:30. For years, I didn’t even know that I lived in a neighborhood that was really happening at night. I didn’t find out until I had some friends stay with me who go out at night. They said, “Do you have any idea what it’s like here at 1:00 in the morning?”
Karl: So what are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
Betsy: I love to go to movies. That’s my favorite thing. Just went and saw an exhibit at The Hammer. I like to go to the beach, I like hiking, and I like to travel.
Karl: You’re wrapping up a film… You’ve launched a new business… I’m surprised you still have time to do anything else. That says a lot about you.
Betsy: It’s hard. Especially when you work for yourself. You can’t work everyday.
Karl: When did you move here?
Karl: What led to your move? Why LA?
Betsy: I graduated from film school and had already lived in the Bay Area for a number of years. I knew that it was really hard to find work in the Bay Area and it was so expensive so I moved here.
Karl: Was that difficult?
Betsy: No, I loved it. I love California. And San Francisco was a little cold for me.
Karl: Can you describe West Hollywood to people who have never been here before?
Betsy: The reason I love West Hollywood is because it’s a walking area. As a former New Yorker and a former San Franciscan, I like to live in a neighborhood where you can walk around and do all of your shopping. I also like all the city events and programs.
Karl: Do you find the community to be embracing?
Betsy: Yes. And it’s nice to be gay and be in a mostly gay city… And a friendly city. That’s the thing that people freak out about – they don’t realize how friendly people are here. Complete strangers will come up to you and say, “Hi, how are you?” My east coast friends get freaked out.
Karl: Can you describe some of the changes you’ve seen since 1997?
Betsy: The biggest change I’ve noticed is the building. Like my street… A single-family home can get razed so that all these condos can go up. It’s become much more dense.
Karl: How about within the community and the people?
Betsy: You know, not in my world. I’ve been active in the queer community so my world has pretty much stayed the same. The people you see walking around – that’s changed, but they’re not really people that I know, they’re not a part of my daily life.
Karl: How have the people changed? The people walking around I mean.
Betsy: You mean the influx of straight people? Yes, there are more straight people.
Karl: Have we taken over?
Betsy: Definitely not. Have you been to the Starbucks up the street? You guys have definitely not taken over.
Karl: What would you like to see more of here?
Betsy: More arts programs, more arts events, more venues. The City of West Hollywood is pretty good about those things… There’s a gay and lesbian advisory board, there’s a women’s advisory board, there’s a lot of good stuff going on. And I’d like to see more of anything affordable.
Karl: You’re referring to the housing?
Betsy: Yes. I don’t want to get priced out of my own neighborhood.
Karl: How about less of?
Betsy: Leaf blowers.
Karl: Good one.
Can you describe what the area will be like in twenty years?
Betsy: You mean if it hasn’t fallen into the ocean? I honestly don’t know what will happen here. I feel like something really big will hit California. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but I think it might be something really different.
Karl: This really worries me hearing this from you.
Betsy: *laughs* It should. These are issues that I’m dealing with within the Boyle Heights documentary – trying to see the difference in a neighborhood over time. We’re really looking at it from so many different time periods – Pre WWII, WWII, Post War, Korean War, all the way up… You can’t predict. There is no way to know what’s going to happen. Even now, with some gentrification in the neighborhood… You can guess that it’s going to gentrify to a point that it’s going to displace residents, but there are a lot of people in the neighborhood fighting against that. So it’s hard to say.
Karl: Are you happy? Are you going to stay?
Betsy: Yes, I love it. This is the best place I’ve ever lived.
Karl: What advice would you give people following in your footsteps? Up and coming filmmakers… People discovering for the first time that they can communicate with animals…
Betsy: I don’t think that person exists.
Karl: *laughs* Well then what would you say to yourself when you first moved here?
Betsy: “Stick with it. Stick with whatever feels right. In this industry you can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” I made my own films because I thought, “Well, I can make them. I can do all of this stuff if I need to.” So that’s what I did. I made the work that I wanted to make. And with the animal communication, I had to give myself a pep talk. I had to tell myself, “Okay, this is weird… But find out more about it… Just be open… And see what happens.” And it’s been really fulfilling to be on that path and think, “Oh my gosh, I can really do this. This is a gift that I didn’t know I had, so just get over it being weird.”
…Or maybe I should use the word, “unusual.” I mean, this is California, so it’s much less unusual here.
10″ wide x 8″ high
Karl: Today is April 11, and I’m with local writer, producer, director, and film-maker, Glenn Gaylord.
Glenn: Two Ns in Glenn. Gaylord is how it sounds.
Karl: We are at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Santa Monica Blvd. with… Who is your friend here?
Glenn: Sydney. She’s an Aussie Cattle Dog/Shepherd mix. I rescued her about three-and-a-half years ago.
Karl: She’s beautiful. And a red-head.
Glenn: This breed is called a Red Heeler.
Karl: What is your age? You are welcome to approximate.
Glenn: Am I rounding up or down these days? I’m fifty two.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Glenn: Single and miserable.
Karl: Are you dating?
Glenn: Oh God. Hopefully by the time this comes out I’m not dating. On a good day this is a flaky town. People don’t hesitate to cancel at the last minute if something better happens. I say the word “dating experience” in quotation marks because people just don’t show up. I have a friend who said, “I just want to meet somebody nice.” I said, “Oh God, my standards are way lower… I just want to meet someone who shows up.” That’s as low as it’s gotten. Sure, I want to meet someone kind. But kind only gets you so far if they’re not at your door.
Karl: Current occupation? Film-maker? Although you do film and TV?
Glenn: I’ve done both, but I have two careers. I’m also a full-time clinical research director.
Karl: Wow. And you do film on the side.
Glenn: I’m doing one right now.
Karl: How long have you been making films?
Glenn: The first short-film I ever made was in 1999 and I’ve been building a body of work ever since.
Karl: Which project have you gotten the most notoriety for?
Glenn: Probably the last feature film I directed got the most acclaim and notoriety. It was a feature called I Do. It was a film about gay immigration and marriage equality. It won fourteen film festivals around the world, was released in theaters last year, and is now out on DVD, on-Demand, and all the different platforms. It was the first drama I ever directed. I had typically done comedy or musical or satire. It affected my family personally so it was a very important film for me to be a part of.
Karl: Was it a different dynamic working in drama than working in comedy?
Glenn: I’m allergic to melodrama. Whenever I see people being dramatic I break out in hives and I can’t stand it… So this really challenged me to not be disgusted by my own work. It was great. I got to work with some really notable actors. It was an incredible gift to be able to have people like Jamie-Lynn Sigler from The Sopranos be one of the co-stars of the film who brings so much experience and kindness to what she does. It was such a great lesson to work with someone of that caliber who upped everybody’s game. Comedy is so tightly controlled by, “is it funny?” You spend all of your time and concentration on that and sometimes you lose visual creativity. With drama, it was much more of a visual challenge.
Karl: After winning all of these film festivals, have you been inundated with people pitching you scripts?
Glenn: Yes. I would love to be reading more books as personal enjoyment, but I spend a lot of my free time reading other people’s scripts. It’s not even always being pitched to me, it’s “will you read this and tell me what you think?” And I’m a tough audience. When I’m reading someone’s script I always ask them, “Do you want your opinion or mine?” If they want my opinion they’re going to get it. I’m going to compliment what I like, but I’m also going to be very specific about what I don’t.
Karl: How do you find the time to work in research when you’ve got so much film activity going on?
Glenn: The research job comes first. It pays the bills. It’s traditional hours, and anytime I’m not doing that, I’m doing the other thing. I got off work yesterday at 5:00 and we worked all through the night recording vocals on two songs for our film… You just make it work.
Karl: Tell me about the research you do.
Glenn: I’m the director of a clinical research study on something called PrEP… Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s taking people who are HIV negative, at risk of HIV infection to some degree, and they may be given an HIV medication daily to stay negative. It’s something that was approved by the FDA in 2012 but this study is looking at real-world application of it… Adherence, behavioral change, cost-per-person… And it may help develop medical protocols all over the place because it’s pioneering.
Karl: That sounds stressful, but rewarding and humbling I imagine.
Glenn: It’s stressful but I also have a front-row seat to some really fascinating information. In addition to being the director of the study, I also do the counseling on it. So I really have an insight into the behaviors of our participants.
Karl: That probably gives you a unique perspective on things.
Glenn: It’s like being in a snow storm where no two snowflakes are alike, so every moment is different than the last. That part of it is really exciting. It’s doing quantifiable work. That’s something that I got out of working non-profit… At the end of the day you could actually quantify how many people you helped. You can’t always do that in other professions. At the end of each day I could say, “I think I actually saved nine lives today.”
Karl: What did you study to get into research? Is this what you had planned to do?
Glenn: No, I studied film at UCLA. I’ve supported myself as a film-maker, but that’s such an up and down career that sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can’t. It’s nice to have a back-up plan. I worked at AIDS Project LA for the entire decade of the 90s as a treatment educator. My background in non-profit and HIV treatment led me to another non-profit that I helped found for people with HIV in jails and prisons. I worked in the jail system for about five years. So the fifteen years experience in non-profit and HIV education and advocacy led me to this job.
Karl: What do you do when you’re not working? Do you get any down time?
Glenn: I’m a movie buff. I go to a ton of movies. I pretty much see everything out there. I also have a great variety of exercise regimens. I hike a lot with my dog. I take a Broadway dance class called Broadway Bodies. You learn a Broadway dance routine every session and dance it. It’s hilarious and also an incredibly challenging work out. I take a hip-hop class called GROOV3 where you learn a hip hop routine, (just to take the nerdishness out of the Broadway class). But the Broadway class is actually harder! And I bicycle like crazy.
Karl: Where are you from originally?
Glenn: I’m from a town called Youngstown, Ohio. It’s a former steel town that’s smack in the middle of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, right on the border of Pennsylvania. The steel mills all closed up in the 70s, there became rampant unemployment, the town died a slow death, and now it’s kind of bouncing back because land is so cheap and it’s so beautiful there. It was actually culture shock coming here ’cause it’s all desert and completely the opposite of how I grew up.
Karl: Please tell me about that. What brought you here from Ohio? Why LA?
Glenn: I moved to LA right out of high-school to pursue a career in film. I went to UCLA and got into their film school with the intent of becoming a writer. My mom was a writer for a local newspaper and she instilled in me the love of writing and of movies. She would take me to movies as a kid. Did you ever see the movie Almost Famous?
Karl: Of course.
Glenn: At the beginning, Frances McDormand is walking out of a movie theater with her young son and they’re analyzing the film. Well, that was my mom and I. She would take me to movies that were way beyond my years and I’d see Taxi Driver, The Exorcist, and she would analyze them with me. She taught me how to look at the film directing and the writing. I was just in awe of it. So I moved out here with the intent of being a writer, and when I went to film school I never thought I would be a director, but I fell in love with that aspect of it too.
Karl: You were just a kid. It must’ve felt so different than Ohio.
Glenn: I was seventeen. I was too young to rent an apartment. I had to find my own way and get a job. I couldn’t get over the lack of green. I’m used to rolling hills, endless trees, smelling the fallen leaves, and here it’s one season all year long. And I always pictured Los Angeles to be this very liberal, crazy open, Bohemian city, but when I got here it was the Reagan 80s. UCLA was hyper-conservative. I thought, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” But I fell into a group of people that opened my eyes to different parts of this city and different ways that people saw things and I started to love it.
Karl: What brought you to West Hollywood?
Glenn: After film school, I moved around town to different parts. I lived in LA proper, Koreatown, and I worked on a movie called Hoosiers in Indiana. When I came back from that, one of the crew members, a local Indiana person, wanted to move out to LA. So we decided to get an apartment together in West Hollywood and I’ve lived here ever since.
Karl: Where was that?
Glenn: That was on San Vicente just below Sunset. Then I moved to Palm Avenue, two blocks over. Now I’m just east of La Cienega and Santa Monica. I have a love/hate relationship with West Hollywood. I hated it until I got a dog. I thought the place was filled with sociopaths and mean-spirited people who would not just eat your mother to get ahead, but would eat their own mother to get ahead. I would see people walking around with sour expressions, never saying hello to each other, their faces buried in their cell phones, and just not being friendly. That all changed when I got a dog. All of a sudden all the people light up and everyone says hello. My dog is like the best “wing girl” ever.
Karl: She is incredibly charming.
Glenn: It’s completely changed how I look at this city because I’ve made so many friends with other dog owners. Now I look at it as one of the friendliest places in LA. I’d like to say that I rescued my dog, but she rescued me too because she changed my whole outlook.
Karl: What was it like when you first moved to West Hollywood? Tell me about all those assholes.
Glenn: *laughs* I don’t want to sound like I’m down on everybody. First of all, this is a city built on dreams. People come here from all over the world to pursue that dream, many of whom pursue it very single-mindedly. So that necessity doesn’t make for great social skills. It’s a city where you have to be incredibly choosy about who you interact with. You have to understand that people have different agendas and would probably kill you if you’re in the way of somebody who could help them.
Karl: You’ve been stabbed in the back, huh?
Glenn: Yes. People have stabbed me in the back. Absolutely. The stories aren’t that interesting, just people going back on their word, stealing your ideas – that sort of stuff I have experienced. I have managed to surround myself with people I love and trust, and I’ve carved out a satisfying niche.
Karl: How would you describe the city to someone in Ohio who has never been here before?
Glenn: West Hollywood is sculpted, planned, neat, pretty… Every tree has its place, nothing wild grows here. It’s fashion forward, architecturally sleek, and low to the ground. Unlike a lot of other major cities, because of earthquakes, most buildings are a couple stories and that’s about it. It’s very very congested, very crowded, and people like to stay out late and have a good time. It’s the center of the entertainment industry. We’re in the heart of the TMZ for those who know what TMZ is. Do I need to explain that?
Karl: Yes, please do.
Glenn: It stands for Thirty Mile Zone. The Beverly Center is actually the heart of it, and everything thirty miles around is considered local production. Anything outside of that, you would have to put an actor up in a hotel and give them per diem and it would be considered an out-of-town production. So we are in the center of the zone of shooting films.
Karl: How long have you lived here?
Glenn: I’ve lived in LA since 1979 but in West Hollywood since 1985 – twenty nine years. I’ve lived in West Hollywood longer than anyone on Earth!
Karl: What has changed the most since 1985?
Glenn: When I first moved here, West Hollywood was predominantly gay. That has changed dramatically over the years. It’s very mixed as far as sexual orientation and the Russian immigrants. That mix has created a far more diverse city than it used to be, and I love that part of it actually.
Karl: That’s a good thing?
Glenn: Yeah, you look in gay bars now and they’re actually mixed crowds. You can’t even tell they’re gay bars anymore, which is far closer to what you see in Europe. You just see people mixing together. I’ve never been fond of segregation, so if the whole world’s getting along, I think it’s better. That’s what it seems to have become here and it doesn’t feel like a ghetto anymore. It used to feel very much like the gay ghetto.
Karl: As a single gay man, does that fuck up the vibe of the bar scene for you?
Glenn: No. Because I think the reason people go to bars has changed. Back in the 80s, people went to bars to get laid. Now they go out with friends to have a good time. They get laid with social apps, or online. It’s different. That social vibe takes the onus of trying to find somebody to be with out of it, and you can just relax and have a good time now. I love that part of it. There are those that miss that, but there are still plenty of places to go where you can get that experience… Just not in West Hollywood strangely enough, at least for this old guy!
Karl: What sorts of things would you like to see more of here?
Glenn: I would love to see a bike lane that doesn’t stop and start. It’s kind of ironic that the bike lane stops in front of City Hall. You’re riding along, you feel protected, and all of a sudden you get in front of the government main office and you think you’re going to get killed.
Karl: I think it takes balls just to get on a bike here.
Glenn: I know all the safer routes. I stay off a lot of the main roads. But yeah, you definitely are taking a chance being on a bicycle here.
Karl: Where will this city be in twenty years?
Glenn: It will be higher. It’s necessary to accommodate everybody that wants to live here. You see that in the high-rise apartment buildings going up like crazy. I think that the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor is always going to be the main hub for business in West Hollywood, but I see a lot of the ma and pa shops going away. There seems to be so much development that they’re losing some of their individuality. It’s a shame. I saw a lot of that go away years ago when they widened the streets here. They closed one lane and put up dirt piles, and a lot of the ma and pa stores couldn’t sustain themselves. This has always been a city that thrives on individual creativity and I miss that part of it.
Karl: Will it hang onto the gay identity?
Glenn: I don’t know if it will. You look at a city like New York, their neighborhoods that were predominantly gay have shifted dramatically over the decades. There it seems to move around. Here, there are many neighborhoods that have gay populations all over town. They shift in popularity. Downtown has become a new hub and is developing as well. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing that gay populations aren’t ghettoized and centered in one particular area. I think that as there is a more accepting vibe out there, people assimilating and getting along is a better thing to me. I am very aware that there are people that want separatism, want a specific area, and there is a necessity for it for people that want to get out of whatever environment they’re in that isn’t accepting. But I think the change I’m talking about is welcome and exciting.
Karl: Well, my next question is “Are you happy here?” but you’ve been here so long and people are finally starting to be nice to you.
Glenn: *laughs* People ask me if I like it, and I say, “Every other day,” which is pretty good! 50%! Not everybody says that about where they live, right? It’s very dog-friendly. It’s very open and innovative. There’s an endless amount of things to do whether it’s a live concert, a movie, restaurants, art, outdoors… Well, there could be more parks actually, but there’s so much to do. Other things are so close by, like the beach, skiing, hiking… That part of it’s great.
Karl: What are your goals here? What’s the big picture for Glenn?
Glenn: Some of my goals I’ve already achieved, which is making films, and by films I mean high-tech campfire stories. That’s what I would be doing had I been born a few hundred years ago. It’s so easy to say, “I want to be a millionaire and win an Oscar,” and I wouldn’t say no to either one of those, but that’s not really why I got into it. I got into it because I like story telling. I like something as simple as an exciting cut from one scene to another. If that can have an impact on somebody and evoke an emotion, then that’s why I got into it.
Karl: What mistakes have you made along the way?
Glenn: I don’t call things mistakes, I call them “educational opportunities.” I’m happy to own up that I’ve made a ton of mistakes and will continue to. That’s the only way you grow. Life is filled with second, third, forth chances anyhow and you can always turn a mistake into an opportunity for something else. In film-making, I’ve learned that you better get along with people because that’s 90% of it. A long time ago my mentor said to me, “If anybody ever tells you this isn’t a popularity contest, they’re totally wrong. This is high-school and you need to be the king of the prom to succeed. That means being liked, being respected, and learning how to listen to people.” Truer words have never been spoken to me.
Karl: What advice can you give to up and coming film-makers?
Glenn: If you want to get into film-making, you need to find your voice. Know what you bring that’s different than anybody else. You can be someone who works on other people’s ideas and have a very successful career. But if you want to be a singular artist, you need to know what your voice is and what you bring to the table. That means living and breathing your perspective. That can take many forms. That might mean you live and breathe movies and you know everything about them. Other film-makers I know live and breathe being outdoorsmen, but that’s part of their voice. There’s room for all types of perspectives and people are hungry for them. They want to hear something different and experience something that they haven’t. So if you’re going into it to be famous or rich, you may succeed and fine… But if you want to lead the industry instead of just follow it, you need to have a voice. And… Buy people gift baskets! *explodes into laughter*
Karl: Is there anything you would like to end with before I turn off the recorder?
Glenn: I moved out to LA to pursue a specific career in film, and by and large I’ve been able to do that. What I didn’t expect was how eye-opening living in this city would be. I came here with a very mid-west sensibility, and that is a sensibility that likes to make people smile, be the caregiver, and entertain people. Living here, my perspective has changed. While I still want to do that, my goals have been more to rip the band-aid off of things that people may be uncomfortable with or haven’t experienced themselves. That can be entertaining but being in such a diverse culture compared to where I grew up has irrevocably changed my perspective. I have learned so much more about other cultures in the world by living here than I think I ever would have by living in a small bubble. When I moved out here, I wanted to make movies like John Hughes. I wanted to make Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club and movies in that populist ilk. The funny part is, the first feature I directed was a raunchy, gay version of Sixteen Candles. I never thought that that’s the type of thing that I would make, and yet, it’s so much better than I ever could have imagined.
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Jarrod: I’m twenty years old.
Karl: Relationship status?
Jarrod: Single, but married to my job.
Karl: How long have you been making films and music?
Jarrod: I’ve been composing since I was sixteen. I’ve been doing film since I was nineteen.
Karl: What’s the craziest experience you’ve had as a filmmaker?
Jarrod: *pauses to think* We recently shot a film about pornography. It’s not a porn; it’s a feature film about pornography. There were four porn stars in the film and five other girls that had to get naked. Usually, whenever there’s nudity, they close the set to everyone but the key people. All the grips set up the lighting, production sets up the production stuff, and then everyone has to leave. Then they shoot whatever scenes they need, and then everybody comes back on. I assumed I’d have to go, so I just left. But I was sitting off in one of the other rooms and the producer came up to me and said, “Hey, can you shoot a promo for this with all the naked girls?” I was thinking, “No way!” So I got to have a bunch of girls all flash my camera at once.
Karl: That’s pretty awesome.
Karl: Where are you from?
Jarrod: I was born in LA. When I turned five, my family moved to a little town called Elizabeth. It’s about an hour south of Denver. When I turned eighteen I moved straight back to LA – I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Karl: What was it like growing up outside of Denver?
Jarrod: I don’t want to knock on Denver… I’ve seen wildlife and things that a lot of people don’t get to see. I grew up seeing deer in my backyard every morning. Moose… elk… rivers… streams… there are some great things about Colorado. It’s beautiful. But for me, it wasn’t a happy time in my life. It’s really cold there and the people aren’t like West Hollywood people. They’re a little more close minded. There’s a lot of jazz music, which is awesome. But beyond that there’s no huge musical scene. There’s no filmmaking scene at all. It was toxic to my passions. I just got out of there as quick as I could.
But you can ski and snowboard. It is awesome for that.
Karl: You’ve been composing since you were sixteen… Did you know what you wanted to do from an early age?
Jarrod: Not really. Although I’ve been composing since I was sixteen, I’ve been a musician my whole life. In high school I really got into music theory, ear training, composition and classical music. It was an obsession of mine. I started writing, composing and arranging for my high school band. I was in a couple jazz bands and earned most of my money making music. I came out to LA and was studying music composition and recording because I wanted to do music for commercials, TV, and films. Then one of my teachers got me into sound design. Sound design is basically all of the sound effects in any scene in any movie. There are sounds all over the place and you have to add those in post-production. After he introduced me to that I got hooked on sounds and music for film. Then I thought, “Well, I might as well just do the film too.” So I went to film school. Film pays better than music so I just got sucked into that world and have been doing it ever since. I started as a production assistant getting people coffee and I’ve worked my way up to a director since then.
Karl: Did you know you would leave?
Jarrod: Not really. I thought that was life. When you’re fifteen and you get your learner’s permit to drive, it means you have to drive with your parents, and it really sucks. Your mom and dad are just like, “Turn here! Hit the brakes!” They’re on your ass the whole time. Since that was all I knew, I didn’t really like driving. But once I got my license, I was alone, and I thought, “God, this is amazing. I can turn the music up as loud as I want, I can go where ever I want.” Living in Denver, I couldn’t even conceive of what else there was until I lived it.
Karl: Where did you go to school?
Jarrod: Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. It was the most exciting thing ever for me because it’s just a school of musicians and filmmakers… all day. There’s nothing better than that to me.
Karl: It sounds expensive.
Jarrod: It was more than most schools but worth every penny. Everything I learned there was super valuable and I met one of my best friends whom I still work with today. It was an invaluable time in my life. I did not like school growing up, but this was the first time I enjoyed going to school. After a year of going to M.I., I remember waking up and thinking, “Dude, I get to go to school today!”
Karl: How did you make ends meet through school?
Jarrod: I used to work close to full time at Gelson’s. As more film work came in I started weaning off. Now I’m working about twelve to eighteen hours a week. It’s been an experience. I was fortunate to have parents who could help with school so I didn’t have to deal with student loans or anything. In film school, my producing and directing teacher said, “Always save up all your money for dry spells because dry spells are a bitch.” I am lucky enough to not have had a dry spell, I have more work than I can handle.
Karl: That must feel so rewarding in this job climate. What sorts of projects are on the horizon?
Jarrod: I just finished up a bunch of ads for Lexus. I have a short film in the works. But at the moment I’m doing a pitch ad for Nike. I’m shooting my newest stuff on cinema camera and it’s turning out pretty cool. I do most of this work myself with a small crew so I want to hire some producers and expand on my company.
Karl: Does the part-time job ever impede the film work? Do you ever have conflicts?
Jarrod: I’m only working a couple days a week and I’m only working six hour shifts so it’s out of the way at this point. There are times when I’ll get a call and someone’s like, “Hey, can you come shoot tomorrow? $500.” So I either have to switch with someone or call in sick. And I’ve already been talked to about calling in sick so much. The managers know it’s not my career. They know I’m doing film and music so they’re more than happy to help me out most of the time. I’m thankful for that.
Karl: Do you like working in West Hollywood?
Jarrod: I love it. I love the place. I love the people. Everyone is welcoming and open-minded. A lot of people are like you, they’re artists. They get it. It’s great to work in an artistic culture. It’s also just a really clean and nice place. It’s upscale and I enjoy that.
Karl: Is there anything you would like to see more of?
Jarrod: I think it’s nice how it is. I’m not against any improvements, but I don’t have any super major complaints.
Karl: How about less of?
Jarrod: I’m not a fan of the homeless, and working at Gelson’s, there are always homeless people coming up and begging for money. It degrades the scene and degrades the store.
Karl: What do they tell you to say to those people when they hang out in the front or come in?
Jarrod: Nothing. We don’t say anything. Unless they’re creating problems we just let them sit there. The manager might go out and say, “Hey man, you can’t stand here and beg for money.” They still come back and do it all the time anyway. One thing that I was excited about… this is going to sound really stupid but people used to be able to bring their recyclables into Gelson’s and get money for them. So all the homeless and drug addicts would dumpster dive all day and then bring in trash.
Karl: I don’t remember that. Was there a booth or something?
Jarrod: No, they would just bring all their trash up to the front desk, and then I would have to handle it. It was the worst. I was counting trash all day. And then they would lie about how much trash they brought in. I would go into the back room, count the trash, then come out and the homeless guy would get in my face and be like, “I had 57 plastic bottles!” And I’d have to be like, “Dude, you had 30 plastic bottles. I’m not 27 off.” Finally they said, “No more recyclables!”
Karl: Have you worked Halloween?
Jarrod: I can say that I lived through it. It was an amazing experience but I don’t want to do it again. The bathroom line is out the door and around the corner.
Karl: So you were sober, at work, and had to deal with half-a-million people coming past your store.
Jarrod: It was not fun to be honest. I worked 6:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Karl: What will West Hollywood look like a decade from now?
Jarrod: I think it will stay pretty similar to the way it is. At least I hope so. It will probably get more crowded. It has potential to become more like Hollywood, and maybe Beverly Hills will become the new West Hollywood. But I don’t think the people of West Hollywood would let it get bad. There’s a standard here and it will maintain.
Karl: What are your goals here? Are you staying put?
Jarrod: My goals are to keep making films and music and to keep taking things to the next level. Every project I do gets better than the last one. I keep pushing it, bringing new people on, getting bigger budgets… My goal all along is just to give people something cool to watch. I make films so people can check out of reality, whether it be for ten minutes or two hours. I think as long as I’ve taken someone on somewhat of a journey, then I’ve done my job. But yes, LA is my home. I may move around and not stay in Hollywood or West Hollywood. I may move to different parts of LA, but LA is my home. This is ground zero.
Karl: Do you hope to have a family here some day?
Jarrod: Maybe. I was kind of a problem child, so I don’t really want to deal with me. But maybe. If I find a woman whom I can trust with my child, then sure. I would like to experience that. I could put that in my catalogue of experiences. I imagine if I have kids someday I might consider moving outside of the city.
Karl: Do you go out at all? Do you have time to?
Jarrod: Not really, no. If I do have time, I’ll go see a mainstream film or go to some sketchy theater and see some indy film. There are some interesting things you can learn from really-out-there kind of guys. I saw Gravity a couple months ago and the sound design blew me away. It woke me up and I thought, “Dude, you gotta get back into high production sound!” So I really took sound to heart on this last Nike project. I’m not opposed to dating. I love to date girls, I love to have fun… but there is a deep sense of satisfaction from seeing a great film. Movies have changed my life. I was in the room for the casting of a short film and the director and I were talking as an actor was coming in… He said he moved to California from New York because he saw Garden State. I always feel like the drive to the theater is exciting, but the drive home is sort of like a post-sex state. You’re thinking about the film and you’re in this state of complete liquid while processing all these emotions.
Karl: I haven’t seen a grown-up film in years, but watching Cars for the forty seventh time always leaves me in some state of emotion. On that note, what’s it like to be twenty and in LA at the start of your career?
Jarrod: Awesome. I feel super blessed and appreciative. Not everyone my age gets to do this kind of stuff, travel to places I get to travel to, and do the things I get to do. It’s like living a fantasy. When you grow up somewhere that’s out of the way, the film industry is this sort of dreamland that you’ll never be a part of. And now I’m in it, doing it, making content, making movies that are seen on a mainstream scale. I’m part of that now. And being young is exciting, but I find that people never take you seriously. You have to prove yourself constantly to everyone. Sometimes you blow people’s minds and sometimes you don’t blow their minds at all. I’ve been fortunate to know and meet people who are a lot older than me. All of the guys I work with have so much more experience, so everyone’s been a mentor and showed me what to do and not to do. I learn from their successes and failures as well as my own.
Karl: Remember that when you’re a Hollywood hotshot pushing forty and help out the struggling twenty-something when you meet him.
Jarrod: For sure. People I went to film school with work for me now. I get them work. I was the editor on a cosmetic commercial and I was in the room with the DP and the director. I was a good editor at the time, but I was really slow in the computer program. I remember both of them giving me shit, saying, “Dude, you gotta get faster at this, man.” I went home, read an entire manual and learned all my key strokes. I came back for the next session and was whizzing through it, but that was a failure that I learned from. Then I hired a buddy of mine out of film school who’s a very talented guy, but he was like me. He had the talent but was just really slow on the computer. I didn’t bust his balls but I was like, “Dude, trust me, you gotta get faster. I did this, I got effed over once, just be faster.” So I taught him a bunch of tips and tricks that I knew, and now he’s using tricks that I’ve taught him.
Karl: So what advice do you have for other aspiring filmmakers like your buddy?
Jarrod: Love what you do. I don’t have all the answers, but even if you have no money and have the worst job, if you love what you do, the money and success will follow.
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Karl: Today is September 28th and I’m here at Hugo’s with West Hollywood resident and author, A.J. Mayers. How old are you, A.J.?
A.J.: Twenty six.
Karl: Relationship status?
Karl: Day job?
A.J.: I work for a film studio. I do marketing. International.
Karl: How long have you been doing that?
A.J.: Next Friday will be my third year anniversary with this studio. I just got a note saying, “Congrats on your third year anniversary! You have two paid days off to use in sixty days.”
Karl: Can you describe yourself a little bit?
A.J.: I’m a farm-grown-kid from a small city in south Texas. I went to college in Austin and always wanted to work in the entertainment industry. So I dumped the cowboy boots for LA. I’m adventurous, extroverted, social… I like to keep myself busy with hobbies.
Karl: What sorts of hobbies?
A.J.: I love biking, which is what I did this morning. I biked twenty miles down the coast. And I like writing fiction. I’ve written three science-fiction books… Among Us, Moonshadow, and The Cosmos of Destiny. I also enjoy cooking. I find it therapeutic. I prefer to cook all my meals during the week, even my lunch, so I can control what I’m putting in my body.
Karl: I imagine that helps with dating.
A.J.: One of my favorite things about dating is that I get to cook. I’ll make something special or something unique.
Karl: So you have a signature dish.
A.J.: I haven’t created a specialty dish just yet. One of the dishes I like to do is a sriracha chicken that I sauté with some random vegetables and throw rice in here and there. You know what… That’s what I’m going to do this month – I’m going to make up a specialty dish, and it’s going to be really random, and it’s going to be amazing.
Karl: So describe the events that led you to move here.
A.J.: I finished film school in May of 2009. One of my friends also wanted to move to LA, so we packed our bags after graduation and caravanned with a U-Haul from Austin, Texas to Los Angeles. I had interned in LA a year before with MTV so I had connections there. I graduated at the worst time, the economy was terrible. I knew it was going to be a challenge. But I had money saved up so I thought, “I’m just going to do this.” I was living here for a little over a month and my old supervisor told me about a position at MTV and I got it. Then my boss flew me to New York to work the VMAs. So I was this kid fresh out of college working a red carpet, rubbing shoulders with Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Beyoncé… It was a thrilling experience.
Karl: Had you given yourself a time limit?
A.J.: I was going to give myself six months to a year. I was pretty confident that I would be okay. I just had to get that first opportunity. My generation is unfortunately not as lucky as our parents. It’s ten times harder, and every year you worry if you’ll still be there. I actually did get laid off at MTV a year later. But it was a blessing in disguise because they pay crap, and I was freelance because they refused to make me staff. But within the two months that I was unemployed I got to freelance on the Wonderful Pistachios campaign. It’s these commercials that have celebrities breaking pistachios in funny ways. Perez Hilton was their blogger person so I got to work directly with him shooting behind-the-scenes-stuff and interviewing the talent.
Karl: Where were you living at the time?
A.J.: I lived at Crescent Heights and Fountain for two years, then moved up the street between Fountain and Sunset. Now I live at Norton and Harper, so I’ve moved three times but still live within the same neighborhood. My gym is there, my Trader Joe’s is there, my restaurants are there… I like my little bubble. And the commute to my current job is great – ten, maybe fifteen minutes.
Karl: You could probably bike to work.
A.J.: I do bike there sometimes.
Karl: What are your restaurants?
Karl: It’s young there. Lot’s of people your age. But I love it.
A.J.: They do a great brunch. Bottomless mimosas if you want to have a Sunday fun-day. Connie and Ted’s – it’s overpriced and the acoustics are terrible so you have to yell to anybody in there, but I had the lobster and that was good. Laurel Hardware is great for drinks. I think it’s overpriced for food and it’s tapas style so you’re going to leave hungry. I love Omi Sushi which is that hole-in-the-wall sushi place on the corner. They have happy hour sushi 6:00-10:00 everyday! Pink Taco is wonderful on the Sunset Strip. Kitchen 24 down the road. I love Taste on Melrose.
Karl: How often do you go out? I mean, you cook during the week, right?
A.J.: I try not to eat out a lot because I like to save money where I can, but within a month I might hit five to six restaurants. Well, probably more than that. I definitely frequent The Hudson at least two to three times a month. I know that’s not a lot but it’s so close. They also own Churchill on 3rd. And remember where Voyeur was? They’re turning that into a music venue of some sort. So that’s something to look forward to. Oh and how could I forget Baby Blues Barbecue? I’m from Texas and that’s decent barbecue to me. I had my birthday dinner there in June.
Karl: Favorite bars?
A.J.: I like Revolver. That’s my favorite. Eleven is nice. It’s spacious. The Abbey gets way too crowded on weekends. It’s fun to casually show up on a Sunday but it gets so packed and it’s hard to move. I like the bar next to it, Here Lounge, but even that can become too crowded. There are just so many people that go out.
Karl: What sort of partner are you looking for?
A.J.: I need someone my age or a little bit older, career driven, has a good job, doesn’t matter what they do. They need to be able to make time. A lot of people are so busy in LA. I hate that. I hate flaky people. I need someone who can text and is really good at responding. I need someone who’s faithful, monogamous, down-to-Earth, who can get a long with my friends… I have a group of friends who I always hang out with so I want to be able to share that with them. Someone with a good family background, good morals… I’m asking a lot, and it’s hard to find that in this city, but I see what I am, and I want something like that.
Karl: Have you had luck finding a lot of those people?
A.J.: Only one in LA. But we ended up not working out. He worked for a tv show and had to travel a lot, and that kind of stressed him out. When he got back, he would want to be alone. But we had been separated for a month so I would want to try and hang out more. I was blunt and verbal about it and decided, “You know what, this just isn’t going to work out.”
My last serious relationship prior to that was a trust fund baby. He freelanced for a producer and didn’t really work much. He got really depressed. I found out he wasn’t the most faithful person and he had a really dark history. He was also in the closet, his dad didn’t know, and it couldn’t be talked about. So my life was open to him but he couldn’t share his life with me. We broke up and I got really angry, but he has since blocked me off social media and I haven’t seen or heard from him in over a year. I wouldn’t even know if he’s alive now. It was such a tragic experience for me. I was seriously wounded by it. It’s not normal for someone to just do that. Especially when they’re at fault.
I would love to date right now but it’s so hard in this city. The last date I went on, he was like, “Yeah, I definitely want to hang out again!” Never heard from him. I’m kind of just over it. I’m not on any kind of dating website. People have those “applications” that I think are just sex apps to be honest. I’m not into that. I’d rather just meet someone organically. I know it’s old fashioned and makes it harder these days but I know it will happen and it will just come to me. I’m drained. I’ve written three books in the last three years, I have a full time job, I’ve done a lot. I’m now enjoying myself while I’m single. I wake up early, I take a spin class two or three times a week. I’m active at doing things that naturally make you happy. So I’m at a point where I would love to date and find that ideal partner, it’s just slim pickins in this city.
Karl: What are your goals here? Describe your big picture?
A.J.: As long as everything lines up the way I want it to, then I’ll be content and comfortable. I see myself growing at the studio. I do a lot of extra curricular activities with the company and I get a lot of camaraderie from that. I’ve made a lot of good friends and met people I hang out with outside of work. And I’m looking for a lit agent.
Karl: How do you plan to find a lit agent?
A.J.: I’ve had friends connect me to friends who are signed, and I’ve been getting advice. It’s hard for me to make it work because I’ve got to form an email, make it look good, send pieces… I’m kind of lazy in that aspect, I’d rather just have someone do it for me. I have a proposal written. I’ve been thinking of attending a book fair or expo or something. That might be a good way. It’s not a priority for me right now, if it happens it happens.
Karl: Would you quit the day job?
A.J.: Well, I love the corporate world. I love going to an office, working with people, working on these huge films. Writing was my first passion, but film was my growing-up/college passion. If writing could pay the bills, yes, that would be nice. You’re an artist, you know what I mean.
Karl: All too well.
A.J.: It’s so hard to submit to lit agents, I think the only way at this point would be to just be on a reality show. Not a shitty one, but like something on Bravo where they do stuff. I don’t know. I have a gut feeling that something will happen in the future, just like I had a feeling when I moved here that I would be okay. So I just plan to let my cards play and let destiny unfold itself.
Karl: Have you seen many recent changes in West Hollywood?
A.J.: I think there’s a lot more sense of community here, especially now with DOMA being struck down and marriage equality. It feels like everyone here is your neighbor. That’s a really good feeling to get in the middle of LA. It’s like that in the beach towns, because they’re small, but you can’t live in Beverly Hills and feel that.
Karl: Is that sense of community what attracted you to West Hollywood or was it more the social aspect?
A.J.: To be honest it was more of the social aspect. It’s also in the middle of everything. When I was looking for work, I wanted to be in the middle because I knew the commute wouldn’t be as bad as if I lived in Burbank or something. When I interned, I lived in Oakwoods Corporate Housing and drove down the 405 every morning. That was not fun.
Karl: Do you feel that the city is heading in a positive direction?
A.J.: Yes, I do. The city is growing. It’s clean. They’re fixing things. I went out last night and there are just always lots of people. It reminds me of Austin, which I like.
Karl: What would you like to see more of?
A.J.: I have everything I need within hand’s reach already. I guess, since I like to bike, there aren’t enough bike lanes. I mean technically, *points out window* there’s one right here, but some of the roads are really shitty and need to be paved a bit. I’d love to see it become more of a walking and biking city.
Karl: Where do you bike without being killed?
A.J.: Everywhere. If I go to work I take Willoughby. I don’t take Melrose because it’s too busy. But I ride on the roads. I rarely ever use the sidewalk. It’s sometimes faster than driving because you get to park at a bike rack and don’t have to look for a spot. That’s another thing that I’d like to see… They’ve just altered the meters to stop at midnight or something. It used to be free after 6:00. I love that they’re building parking lots already so that’s helping but what would be really cool, even though we have The Grove, Arclight, and Sundance Cinemas, would be a theater closer to here. The process of going to The Grove is a bitch. And going to Arclight is like going to another city. It would be cool to have something within walking distance where we didn’t have to park in a garage.
Karl: That’s a really good suggestion. How about less of?
A.J.: Vagrants. Less homeless people would be okay. Let me tell you this story… It was 2:00 in the morning on a work night and I heard this alarm go off. It was going on and on and on and nobody stopped it. Then once I thought about it, I thought, “You know, that kind of sounds like my alarm.” The garage is under our building so it did this weird echo thing. So I put on my glasses and flip-flops and walked outside, and it was my car. The lights are flashing, the alarm is sounding… I’m like, “What the hell?” The driver’s side door to my Jeep was ajar. So I looked in and nothing had been taken, but when I looked up, there was this gentleman across the garage staring at me. I said, “Fuck! You scared the shit out of me!” He was right in the middle of two cars, not even trying to hide. I said “Who are you?” And he said his name. I said, “What are you doing here?” And he mumbled something, and I said, “You shouldn’t be here.” So I locked my door and swiftly walked upstairs, and when I called the cops he was gone. A few weeks later it happened again. This time I went down with a knife, because I have a hunting knife. I probably should get a bat. Anyway I took the knife because I was getting ready to shank someone in case I needed to. But I didn’t see anyone there.
Karl: It’s an open garage?
A.J.: Yes. It’s one of the cons of my building, but the rent is really cheap.
Karl: Is your front door accessible too?
A.J.: There is always some sort of pamphlet on my door. We have a sign on our building that says, “Soliciting” because the “No” got cut off. I’d like to see less of that too.
Karl: Where do you see things in twenty years?
A.J.: I imagine I will not live here in twenty years. I’ll be in the Hills, Hancock Park, Beverly Hills, or maybe even one of the beach towns. I really love it down there, like Santa Monica. I don’t know. I do love Weho though. Ideally, I’ll have to have two places.
Karl: Do you hope to have a family someday?
A.J.: Yes. I would like to have a family. My generation tends to have kids later. And for me it doesn’t really matter, I can have kids whenever I want. But I don’t see myself having kids before 35. I want to enjoy my life, that I built for myself, before getting those responsibilities. I’d have to have a support system, a partner, a strong relationship, because you can’t return a kid. I mean I guess you can, but…
Karl: That would probably impact your leaving here too. Although hopefully the schools will be better here by the time you’re 35.
A.J.: I’m not in a rush to have kids. All my friends from Texas, most of them got married, had kids, gained a lot of weight, and I don’t know if they’re really happy. I think they look at my life and are envious. We’ll see. My ten year reunion is in two years, if it happens.
Karl: What fun. What was it like growing up in Texas?
A.J.: My home town sucked. It’s boring, I hated it there. My parents are pretty conservative but when I came out they were fine with it.
Karl: How old were you?
A.J.: I was twenty, in college. My family owns a ranch that’s bigger than West Hollywood. My dad grew crops and raised cattle, and I would help out and show animals at the local fair. That’s how I had saved so much money for LA. My dad would only give me a small check and he’d save the rest. And I’m thankful he did. I was able to come to LA with a couple thousand dollars. Now I think it’s cool, but back then I didn’t appreciate it. I’d think, “Do I have to go to the ranch this weekend? I just want to hang out with friends.”
Karl: That’s fantastic.
A.J.: Growing up was tough. I didn’t know myself, I wasn’t really sure about being gay. I was a nerdy kid so I was picked on through middle school and the beginning of high school. One of my friends was threatened by me and turned my group of core best friends against me. It was very childish and it scarred me. Then high school came and I was trying to make new friends, but I always felt like an outsider. It was predominantly Hispanic and even though I’m part Spanish, I’ve always been the white kid – the different one. I didn’t fit in, it was a nightmare. But I got contact lenses, I shed my image, I started paying more attention to how I would dress and things started to change. Then I made a short film for this drinking and driving project my senior year and everyone saw it and knew who I was. I wouldn’t call myself popular but I had a new group of friends. So things got better, but I just hated it. I tried Drama Club for one year but I got in an argument with the teacher and just peace’d out. She was a bitch. So once I left college I just thought, “Fuck you all, I’m outta here…” Now they all want to be my friend, it’s wonderful. It’s not to be mean, but I’ve actually forgotten about a lot of these people. I’ve had to look back at my year book when I get those random Facebook invites. I think, “Who is this person? They’re obviously from my home town.” I usually accept them because I want to see how lame their lives are and it’s great! Revenge is living well and that’s what I’m doing. I knew in high school that one day I was going to be the most successful of everyone. I can’t wait to go to my high school reunion. I’m trying to plan my entrance. I might have to charter a helicopter.
Karl: It’s nice that you ended up in a place so accepting.
A.J.: I know. It’s great. I see these people update stuff on Facebook and they say, “Yay, we’re going to hang out at the mall.” And I think, “See you guys later, I’m going to a movie premiere.” *laughs* I’ve come a long long way… and I’m going further.
Karl: I’m sure you’ll be very famous soon.
A.J.: I get notoriety in my hometown. I’ve received an award from the mayor, been on the front page of the newspaper, have been on the news… I do a press tour back home. It’s a quarter of a million people population but there I’m known! I don’t think I could do that on a national scale. I like my privacy.
Karl: I think you’d handle it just fine.
10″ wide x 8″ high
Karl plops into a black leather barber’s chair at Blades in West Hollywood sporting a complimentary smock and overgrown, unkempt head of hair.
Karl: So what inspires these paintings? Where does the industrialism come from?
Patty: Everywhere. Look out the window. I also do felt pen drawings. I draw Booze Hound, he’s an alcoholic dog.
*Patty hands over a stack of intricately drawn street scenes featuring a well-dressed, intoxicated dog-man struggling through life.*
Patty: I’ve had six or seven shows.
Karl: These are amazing.
Patty: He’s always dressed up. He’s based off of one of my old alcoholic assistants who doesn’t work here anymore.
Karl: Was that due to the alcoholism? *leafs through drawings*
Patty: He was a sad alcoholic but he was a snappy dresser. One day I said to him, “Dude, draw a picture of yourself. You’re such a fucking booze hound, draw yourself as a dog.” He drew something but I revamped it. You’ll also notice I draw a lot of fat people because that’s what you see when you’re driving your car. You see fat people. And everyone is on their cell phone. Nobody cares.
Karl: What does your ex-assistant think of them?
Patty: He likes them. That’s actually what he looks like now. *points to character in one of the pieces* He’s all bloated and alcoholic. See, he’s wearing flip-flops. He used to come in here in nice shoes and all dressed up. Now he’s bloated.
Karl: They’re very local feeling. I love these.
Patty: I’m working on one for the marriage equality that just happened. That was such an important event.
Karl: Were you down the street?
Patty: Yes. I made a cardboard sign that said, “Go get married, bitches!” I felt like paparazzi, everyone was taking my picture.
*brings over a stack of water-colors* I do water-colors too. I paint fat zombies.
Karl: Oh my God. *staring a purple, bloated toddler oozing blood and puss, with open sores all over body.*
Patty: These are fat zombies that are children because I feel that’s our future. Everyone will be fat, and they’re zombies because they just don’t care about anything but their fucking phones. I have a really beautiful one at home. It’s two of them crawling on the floor. One of them has a dead squirrel.
We should get started, but I don’t want to get hair on the water colors. Let’s talk about your hair.
Karl: Well, I’ve been shaving my head one length on all sides for about ten years. So being in a salon is somewhat of a new experience for me.
Patty: It’s so long, you should let it grow out.
Karl: I’ve been letting it grow, so you have something to work with. I want to try something new so I’m all yours.
Patty: *turns on hair clippers* Where’s your list of questions? *starts shaving the back of Karl’s head*
Karl: What is your occupation?
Patty: I’m a beauty operator. I create beauty.
Karl: Relationship status?
Patty: Single! I just broke up with this guy, Steve. I met him when I was drunk in a bar. We had been going out for two months and I decided I wanted to go out to a bar, have a nice cocktail, and see a band called Imperial Teen. They’re very gay. I drove because he drove a motorcycle. His 19-year-old nephew was in the car. The nephew was telling me he can’t afford to get his eyes examined, he has a part-time job, he doesn’t have a car, and his girlfriend’s pregnant. So of course I said, “Are you going to have an abortion?” And he said, “No, we’re keeping it.” I thought, “What?!” So that grossed me out. Then we’re driving and I saw that Steve had black on his fingernails. He said he was thinking of painting his fingernails black. I said, “That’s a great idea, why don’t you paint your toenails too.” (He had toenail fungus on his toe nails.) He replied, “Yeah, and why don’t I have someone stick shit up my ass too! I’m not gay! I don’t want anything up my ass!” I said, “What? Who said you’re gay, dude, what the fuck?” Then he wouldn’t stop. He went on about God and Adam and Eve and…
Karl: Wow, you triggered something, huh?
Patty: *leads Karl over to sink to shampoo hair* I should have dropped him off at home but I wanted that cocktail. So we both started screaming at each other. I told him, “You’re close with your family. The only close family I have is my lesbian cousin that just had twins with her lesbian wife. So you would be nice to their faces while thinking they’re an abomination.” We finally made it to the nightclub and one of the guys in the band, Will Schwartz, got up on stage with one of the other bands and started taking his shirt off. Steve yelled, *in angry voice* “Is he going to take his shirt off?!” “Who cares if he does?” I said. So he pretended to not like the band. And then this kid got on stage and thanked Imperial Teen for helping him come out of the closet. Steve scoffed and left.
Karl: He stormed out?
Patty: Yeah. I said, “Leave, go ahead. I’m the one who’s driving. Fuck you.” It’s a shame. He’s a contractor. He was going to put new windows in my house, was going to get my ’63 Ford Falcon started… I was even thinking about a new picket fence.
Karl: What a guy to date! Think of the things he could do for you!
Patty: Exactly! So I decided to give him a chance to say, “I’m sorry… I don’t know what got into me.” Plus, I was really hungry, so I took him to Astro Coffee Shop and again, he started with the, “I’m not gay!” Then they brought him a grilled cheese instead of the tuna melt that he wanted. He screamed at the server, “Don’t you speak English, this is America!” I had already decided it was over but that was the last thing.
Karl: I’m sorry, that sucks. Was he cute at least?
Patty: He was. He was very manly… and he could fix things for me! But now he can’t. He called a week later trying to convince me that he loves gay people even though he still thinks it’s a choice.
Karl: Well, he must really like you. At least he’s making an effort.
Patty: I’m too good for him.
Karl: Yes, I think you’re right. So what brought you here, to this area?
Patty: I got a job at the Fox Hills Mall but answered an ad in the paper for Blades. Then the big queen here, Hairold, hired me on the spot. It felt more like my people. I can’t relate to families and housewives and things like that. The salon used to be at the front of the building and we had people coming in and out of here. When I first bought the salon, a lot of people left. I was told I didn’t deserve to own a gay salon. I just never realized it was gay! These scissors are gay?!
Karl: Where did you grow up?
Karl: A local girl.
Patty: How about you?
Patty: Oh yeah. Do you see those Amish people?
Karl: There are a lot of Amish people, yes… *pauses*
Karl: I am not Amish, no. *laughs*
Patty: You’re not a breaking Amish person?
Karl: I don’t know anyone Amish.
Patty: I bet you have some stories about them.
Karl: I remember them getting busted for drugs when I was a kid – using their buggies to transport coke and heroine and whatnot.
Patty: I know a little heroine addict, a tweaker kid that I befriended. He came in here all high one day. I thought he was enchanting, but now he’s miserable with scabs all over his face. I pointed the scabs out to him and he said he was hiking and fell down a hill. He was a licensed hair dresser too. He was so nice when he wasn’t all high, so I let him work here a couple of times. But he came in high so I had to let him go. He worked for Frontier’s too and they let him go. Nothing was ever his fault, it was always somebody else’s fault.
Karl: A victim.
Patty: Yes, a victim. I once had a client who used to come in here – he drove a Jaguar, he wore an emerald on his car keys on a chain. He only wore Versace clothes and would always boast about how rich he is. He had a wealthy boyfriend who took care of him and just gave him a credit card. When the boyfriend died, his cards were all cut off and the guy ended up coming into the salon crying with snot running down his face. He had lost some $15,000 bracelet because he was drunk. He had been picked up by the police and had peed his pants. He was living in Silverlake cleaning a gay couple’s house and working at Little Caesars Pizza one day a week. There are a lot of victims in West Hollywood.
Karl: So what do you like to do when you’re not cutting hair?
Patty: I like to go see bands. I paint, read books, go to the movies, hang out. I like to go to my zumba class in Highland Park behind Mexican market. It’s weird – you walk through the market and there’s a zumba class, everyone speaks Spanish, and it’s $3 to dance around like a retard for an hour. I also do yoga three times a week with Robert, who also works here. He owns a yoga studio down the hall.
Karl: What sort of hours do you have to devote here? Is it overwhelming?
Patty: No. I work five days a week. I come in at a certain time and I leave at a certain time.
Karl: What sort of changes have you seen in the area since you’ve started working here?
Patty: There are tons of bars. Looking out the windows here, I see the regulars that live here, but I see more and more tourists.
Karl: What would you like to see more of?
Patty: Happy, married, homosexual people walking on the streets. I like to see more gay people than heterosexual people. I say that as a heterosexual, but I want to see more dudes than chicks – less of these chicks that like to go to gay bars. It seems like there’s always little icky girls and straight actor types and shit. I don’t like that.
Karl: More lesbians?
Patty: Yeah, why not? That’s a good idea. I want to see more families, not that I care about families, but more gay families. I just want it to be more gay – less of that icky, Sunset rocker scene.
*Patty pulls off smock, hands Karl a mirror, and turns chair to the side*
Patty: Isn’t that pretty?
Karl: Yes. You do great work.
Patty: I’d like to see less of the tweakers, although they do add color to the mix. I feel bad for all the homeless people but maybe just less of the freaks out there.
Karl: Can you describe West Hollywood in twenty years?
Patty: I probably won’t be here. It will probably be a really bad parking situation. It’s already bad. I think that’s the biggest problem in West Hollywood right now. This is a different world at night too. You see it. It’s packed at night, all tourists. Everyone comes from everywhere else and they all congregate right here. This is unfortunately becoming a tourist destination. How do you feel about living in a tourist destination?
Karl: I don’t get to see it as much as I used to when I was younger. But it’s disheartening to think of it that way.
Patty: Sunset is a destination too. It’s very swarthy up there at night.
Karl: Are you happy here?
Patty: Yeah. These are my peeps.
Karl: But you don’t see yourself here twenty years from now?
Patty: They just sold the building and we’re not sure what’s going to happen. They’re talking about taking away our bathrooms and making one big one in the hall. And you saw the construction coming in. They did some repairs on the roof, and when it rained really hard a few weeks ago all that water came down.
Karl: I don’t know, I kind of liked it. It felt really urban when I walked in.
Patty: I do too. It’s sort of Halloweenish. The city is also asking us to pay for more street closures. You know, like they do on Sunset. They want to do more of that here. Don’t we have enough of that? Gay Pride, Halloween… they want me to pay a percentage each year for street closures that cause me to lose business on those days. Nobody wants to come here when it’s like that. You can’t even get into the neighborhood on Halloween.
Karl: Is it more difficult to own a business in West Hollywood as opposed to in LA or Beverly Hills?
Patty: I don’t own a business in LA so I have no idea what that’s like. I just want to do my thing and stay under the radar. I don’t want to be part of an association that closes down streets and things that don’t benefit me.
Karl: Well, coming from a first impression, you seem like a good sample of the original character of this city, at least from what I recall of things when I moved here. You’re not really entrenched in this touristy restaurant/bar/fashion movement that we see everywhere.
Patty: Yeah, I’m not like that at all. We just have our clientele who are nice, happy people.
Karl: Yes, your Yelp reviews are through the roof. Everybody loves you here.
Well, I’m going to turn off the recorder unless you have anything else to add.
Patty: No. I need some water… but first… let’s put some stuff in your hair! Let’s make it shiny!