Karl: It’s August 18th, 2012, and I’m at Hugo’s with…
Karl: How old are you?
Scott: I’m forty six.
Karl: Current relationship status?
Scott: I’m a Computer Animation Supervisor of International Teams.
Karl: You supervise animators?
Scott: I’m the International Supervisor for India for computer animation. I’m essentially India’s lifeline to the studio.
Karl: Are you employed by one company or do you farm your services out to many companies?
Scott: I have one employer.
Karl: Can you paint a picture of yourself for me? What sorts of things do you like to do outside of work?
Scott: I’m an artist who has always tried to fit himself into a world where people go to work, come home, watch TV, do what they’re supposed to, and they never question it. My life has been spent trying to make sense of this world through these weird creative gifts that I have. People ask me how I started playing music… I was going like this, *taps fingers on table* and my mom slid a keyboard under me. People ask me, “When did you start drawing?” and I say, “In the womb.” “When did you start writing?” Before I could read.
Karl: I can see from your book that you’re clearly talented. It’s called Anomalous.
Scott: Yes, I explain the idea in the beginning of the book – it’s things that don’t make any sense at all, they have no connection, they just exist. It’s how I sum up my place in the world – it just kinda is. It’s five years of doodling.
Karl: It would be interesting to assemble all of your childhood sketches into books too and see the thought progression.
Scott: That’s an interesting idea. I have all that stuff in a box.
Karl: What else do you do?
Scott: My favorite thing is relating to people. It’s a Pisces thing.
Karl: Really? You must have a lot of friends here?
Scott: Almost none, which is odd, because I’m really social. I like people and they like me, but I can count my friends on one hand. I meet millions of people, I meet people every single day, and I’m friends with about five.
Karl: Did someone screw you over in the past or something?
Scott: No, there just aren’t that many hours in the day, and if you’ve got certain goals and ideas in mind then it can be wearisome to deal with people who aren’t similarly dedicated. It seems people here work really hard and work long hours. They came here for a reason and it wasn’t to sit around and play with their hair. If you’re here, you probably have very direct goals, otherwise you would have moved somewhere else. So I don’t have a lot of patience for people who don’t know what they want or don’t care and just float around.
Karl: That’s so interesting because I find that there are so many people like that here – people who just seem to float.
Scott: I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I just can’t relate to it.
Karl: So what is this goal of yours? What do you want?
Scott: When you do find your place, you’re absolutely content and relaxed with the world. But then you find that you get complacent and bored and you need to keep growing. So I guess I’m always trying to find that place where I can plateau and relax for awhile with good friends around me and everything in the right place.
Karl: Do you ever relax, do you have time to? Do you ever watch TV or read?
Scott: When I’m in between these frenzied projects, I tend to come to a train wreck stop. It’s really hard for me to watch TV. My friends invite me over to watch pilots and the dialogue is inane and I know what’s going to happen every five minutes. I find myself tapping on the couch to the point that they ask me to stop. TV is comforting, I understand it, but I can’t sit there and watch it.
Karl: I can relate.
Scott: Okay, good. Most people say, “But don’t you watch True Blood?” I say, “No, I don’t really know what that is and I don’t feel that my life is diminished because of that.” I don’t criticize it either. I know I’m in the minority. It sounds like you are too.
Karl: Well, I have kids, so we need Sesame Street in the morning to get out the door. But no, otherwise I have no need for a television set.
Scott: Do you ever watch movies?
Karl: We used to do Netflix in another life. But I can’t really watch movies anymore because I have too many other things that need to get done. I get it though. Sometimes your brain is so exhausted that it’s nice to pour a glass of wine and enjoy a good story.
Scott: That’s exactly it. I’m a huge movie fan. I’ve made movies, or tried to make movies, so rather than watch TV shows I’ll watch a movie. It’s great decompression time.
Karl: So when did you move to West Hollywood? What are the events that brought you here?
Scott: I had known about West Hollywood since I had moved to LA, but I had a really hard time figuring out that I was gay. I didn’t really think about it; I just ignored it and went about my life. But people would tell me, “You know there’s a neighborhood where you might feel more comfortable.”
Karl: Where did this all start?
Scott: It started out in Oregon – a tiny little village with 200 kids in the school. I knew there was nothing there for me. I came to LA in college to get into editing and got a summer job at Disneyland because I was infatuated with animation. I was working as a Jungle Cruise operator, and my career counselor said, “What do you want to do with your life?” I said, “I want to be an animator.” She said, “Oh, that’s not really a career choice.” At the time animation wasn’t going anywhere, and what she wanted me to say was, “I want to be a Jungle Cruise operator for the rest of my life.” But that Summer, Roger Rabbit broke. A year later, Little Mermaid broke. I moved here believing what she said, but I knew I had to come here regardless. A friend of a friend said he could help me get an editing job, and he did. Eventually, I was convinced to go try out at an animation studio that was getting started and I got the job.
Karl: From Jungle Cruise Operator! That’s like working your way up from the Mail Room.
Scott: I tried going to CalArts, but I wasn’t prepared and it would’ve been a lot of money. It just wasn’t meant to be. I ended up working up the ranks doing the long way around and I’ve learned everything. I’m not sure I would have if I’d gone to school.
Karl: No, I interviewed a girl named Lacie who said something similar. She was on track to becoming a chef in LA but quit her cooking job to go to culinary school. She said it killed her momentum. So good for you, man. How many people would kill to be in your shoes now? There are so many animators in the U.S. wanting to be where you are.
Scott: I have been astoundingly lucky because I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do. I think a lot of people either don’t know what they want, or are too scared to admit it. Or some just don’t have a driving passion.
Karl: Well, on that note, talk about your latest show SIN. Where does that fit into everything? How do you have time for all this stuff?
Scott: I don’t. I did SIN, which is a rock opera, (meaning it’s wall to wall music for eighty minutes) on my off-time while working Yogi Bear in 2010. My off time was every other Sunday off. So I composed all the music for an eighty minute rock musical on subsequent Sunday’s off while working twelve hour days, seven days a week.
Karl: Where does one even begin? So you get this idea in your head that you want to produce a show and what does one do from that point? Do you go around and pitch it?
Scott: Nah, there’s no way. My first show, Ecstasy came out of a dream I had, and I just had to make it. When I was buying my house, I knew I was either going to buy a house or make my show. I chose the house. But when I sold the house, I had money and I thought, “It’s time to do it.” And through a series of coincidences, I met a theater planner who got me this Director, Kay Cole.
Karl: I don’t know the name.
Scott: She’s an original cast member of A Chorus Line and is now a brilliant Director. My producer said to me, “Hey, I can get Cole. If she agrees to do it, would you want her?” I said, “Are you kidding me?” Kay called me and thought it was a perfect match. And it was.
Karl: And it all came together.
Scott: What I want more than anything is to have the validation that would come with having one of my shows really produced. Not me putting it up, but to really have it produced and live. I recently got a taste of that in Vegas. We were discussing my little show, my project, my dream, as if this were a viable commodity. Having gotten a taste of that, I realized that this is the goal I want to focus on. But I have the creepiest feeling that that won’t happen until I reach the desperate point where I’ve lost everything and there’s nowhere else to go.
Karl: Really? What does that stem from?
Scott: It scares the hell out of me. I’ve seen that with other artists, like Alan Ball who wrote American Beauty. He wrote that project while losing his job, his life, everything. And in absolute desperation, he sold that script. And how many people have done that and then weren’t successful anyway? I knew a dude ten years ago who told me, “I’m mortgaging the house, my wife and I are standing together, we believe in this project,” and then he literally said to me, “I’m going to be the next Spielberg!” I thought, “No! You haven’t thought it out, you’re not ready.” With Ecstasy, I planned it all out, I knew I could eat the loss, I knew what would happen and what would not happen – it was a calculated big risk. But mortgaging your house for a self-made movie… Do you know anyone who has succeeded at that?
Karl: I guess it depends on how one defines “success.” Is success being happy because you realized your dream, and got your movie made even though you’re paying for it for the rest of your life? Or is it considered a failure if you haven’t become a millionaire from the effort?
Scott: Calculated risks are one thing, but I never would have made Ecstasy if I hadn’t of been laid off from my day job. That made all the difference in the world toward me being me and being so much happier and successful. For a week, I walked around in a coma watching Steven King movies. I was living death. And then, you start to wake up… And then you survive it… And then you move on. And once you open the door to one of these projects, are you going to just let it sit on your shelf?
Karl: No, I get it completely. You’re going to sacrifice everything to make it happen.
Scott: Yes. I remember sitting in the last of the rehearsals of Ecstasy thinking, “I don’t ever want to do this again for the rest of my life.”
Scott: It was grueling, expensive, and maddening.
Karl: Well, if it would take off, and become a huge hit that people shovel money into, would you have the same attitude toward it?
Scott: I don’t know, but I want to find out!
Karl: I hope you do.
Scott: I only did my musicals and my book because I’m the only one who has to do them. I’m a one man band, I play all the instruments, I do everything, and the minute you introduce another person into the mix, things get wonky. Now you have to deal with their personal quirks and intentions – it’s like being in a relationship.
Karl: And the project becomes their thing too. I imagine with films it must be overwhelming listening to all the direction and advice you get from everyone involved.
Scott: Yes. Everyone wants to personalize it and put their own thumbprint on it, and then it’s not really yours. I thought that if I completely funded Ecstasy, and was in control of all elements, that that wouldn’t be the case. But the next thing I knew, compromises were being made and things were changing.
Karl: It’s so difficult to wade through all the conflicting advice you get from people. And everyone’s an expert.
Scott: I hear so many stories of heartbreak from script writers whose scripts have been passed around Hollywood like a pawned wedding ring. When I first produced the music cd for my show, every music theater person I gave it to would say, “You know, Scott, you don’t have an ‘I Want’ song. In the first five minutes of your show, you have to have a moment where the lead character steps out and tells the audience what he or she wants.” You know, like The Little Mermaid sings Part of Your World.
Karl: Right. So that’s the rule, huh?
Scott: Well, I don’t remember that happening in The Who’s Tommy. I don’t remember Tommy stepping out and saying, “I wish I could hear, I wish I could see.” I don’t remember Brad and Janet coming out in The Rocky Horror Show saying, “We wish we were more sexual.” They also told me I need one lead character that follows from beginning to end. I thought, “Oh you mean like Grease, or Rocky Horror, or Jesus Christ Superstar, or Tommy?” I get what they’re saying but I think a lot of theater people think from a specific era, like the nineties when Disney peaked. People are ready for something different.
Karl: Where were you living through all of this?
Scott: I moved to LA in the Summer of ’89. I was so sheltered and so young. I was perplexed and didn’t really know who I was or what I was.
Karl: Did you have roommates? Were you struggling? Was the job lucrative at the time?
Scott: It was one of those things that you just blindly do without thinking about. My parents always believed in me so they helped me out with a couple grand to get started. It was never really an option to not get a job. I don’t understand people who don’t get that you have to work to live, and work isn’t play. There’s nothing wrong with loving what you do, but it’s still work. I was always raised to believe that if I want x, then I’ve got to do y. If you want to publish a book, then you have to find the means to do it. No one is going to hand it to you. I don’t remember who first said it, but one of my favorite quotes is, “I found that the harder I work, the luckier I got.” I’ve found that to be true. So I just knew I had to be here. I never asked why. Maybe in the back of my mind I thought I wanted to be the next Spielberg or something, but I just knew I had to be here.
I’m not particularly spiritual, but a lot of my life has felt like someone has been going like this. *lightly taps glass of water across table* I’ve been told there’s a certain age that kids will naturally want to start walking and talking. No one teaches them these things, it’s just programmed. That’s how it was for me… “Now it’s time to go to LA… Now it’s time to move to the Valley because that’s where all the studios are… Now it’s time for me to move over the hill because it’s time to explore being gay.”
Karl: So when did you move over the hill?
Scott: I worked at Disney for a couple of years which led to me working at Dreamworks for almost ten years. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out, so we agreed that I wouldn’t work there anymore. I had bought a house for nothing when things were going really well. I knew it was the first thing that had to go so I sold it right on the edge of the bust and made a nice profit. This all happened around my fortieth birthday. I lost my job and realized I was going to have to give up my house. I’d done a lot of things but there were so many things I hadn’t done. So I decided I was ready to move to West Hollywood to be surrounded by things that are unusual to me. I had the money to take off eight months and do nothing. I’ve always been so driven and focused, but for eight months I didn’t create a thing.
Karl: So few people are able to do that. What came out of that experience? Was it fulfilling? Did you get bored? This is coming from someone whose mantra is “the harder I work, the luckier I will be.”
Scott: It was awesome.
Karl: *laughs* I bet it was!
Scott: But I remember watching a GEICO commercial at 24-Hour Fitness, and that little gecko or whatever he is comes on, and I thought, “I can so do that better.” And I thought, “You know, I miss my work.” I was going to leave animation and never go back. I was bitter. But I saw that and thought…
Karl: I belong here! They need me!
Scott: Yeah! Plus, I knew as much as I was enjoying myself, that I would have to work again. I figured it was September, so if I could be guaranteed a job before Christmas, then I could enjoy my Christmas. So I dropped a VHS tape… VHS TAPE!… in the mail to a company I had never heard of, and I got a call right before Christmas saying, “We’d like to hire you in January.” Everything I had asked for happened. When does that happen?
Karl: So where did you live?
Scott: I moved to a cheap one-bedroom on West Knoll above Trader Joe’s. I just wanted to get in. I didn’t care what kind of place it was. I knew I’d get a better place some day.
Karl: So you were right in the heart of it there.
Scott: It thrust me right into it. The first thing that happened was I started meting people, going out more, being true to myself, and thinking, “Wow, this is what it feels like when you’re not compromising who you are for some other higher purpose.”
Karl: That must be an exhilarating feeling.
Scott: And to do it at forty. It was anarchy. I don’t know if you saw that Pina Bausch dance film, but one of her lines was, “You need to get crazier.” And that’s how that time was. I needed to throw out everything I’d ever known and be reborn. And it worked.
Karl: Has the community changed much since then?
Scott: Yes. I first started coming here in the nineties, so I’ve seen it change a lot. It’s gotten physically nicer. But as far as the community itself, it’s taken some unpleasant turns. That’s inevitable anytime you get a place where people suddenly go, “Oh wow! I like that!”
Karl: Describe some of the unpleasant turns.
Scott: The more desirable it gets, the more expensive it gets, and the harder it gets for people who want to live here. People who have money aren’t necessarily people who want to support a community. They may just want to take advantage of it. This happened in Silverlake a bit. And I read about it happening to the Fairfax skateboarding community which is getting all this attention. Rich people are coming in, buying up all the merchandise, pointing their cameras at people, and everybody wants to go, “Hey look at me, look at me!” and it changes the vibe of what used to be a pleasant thing. It gets bigger and then it gets ruined. For example, we’ve seen a lot of living spaces come up where cool things used to be. That’s generated by people with money coming in and going, “Oh, opportunity!” To bitch about something and not offer a solution is not my style, but that’s what I’ve seen. I see the area getting much nicer, but to the detriment of its character.
Karl: Has it gotten better or worse? I guess both?
Scott: People complain about the traffic getting worse. It’s always been horrible. I still think this is a great area. I’ve had many opportunities to leave it and I didn’t want to. Everything you need is here. People generally leave you alone. The weather is great. As I said, I’ve lived in the Valley… Ugh.
Karl: What would you like to see more of in West Hollywood?
Scott: This is mean, but I simply wish it wasn’t so crowded. And I know there’s no hope to that.
Karl: It’s gotten pretty dense.
Scott: But again, I remember coming here in the nineties and you could never find parking. When I moved here that was part of what I accepted about this area. My realtor said, “Oh, really? You want to move there? It’s really congested.” I said, “Yea, but it’s worth it.” I bike ride to Hollywood, Fairfax, and the Grove all the time.
Karl: Is there anything the City could do to improve your life here?
Scott: Absolutely… The subway.
Karl: A subway in West Hollywood?
Scott: Or even near it. Hollywood is almost in, but it only goes north and south. I would ride my bike to Hollywood if it would take me down to El Segundo where I work. I would do it everyday.
Karl: You can get to El Segundo by subway, it’s a total pain in the ass though. It’s two transfers. I don’t know if they let you take your bike on the train anyway. Do they?
Scott: Not during peak hours. But there’s a stop right there, my building’s right off of the stop.
Karl: I also have a stop at work, but it takes twice as long as driving.
Karl: Can you describe what West Hollywood will be like in the next twenty years?
Scott: Tight and congested – lots of tall buildings. I think they’ll just keep building up.
Karl: What will the community be like?
Scott: That’s a good question. The only thing I can compare it to is Silverlake. Everyone thought that was going to disband. It hasn’t really. I see people here walking strollers in front of sex shops and open air bars with guys shaking their bottoms on the street. You don’t see that in Hollywood with pole-dancing women. So I think that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It’s better than them seeing bloody violence or something I guess. But it’s odd.
Karl: It is. It’s definitely non-traditional. A lot of people probably frown about it but I look at it as a unique education for my kids. My daughter and son swim in our pool every weekend where beautiful men and women are wearing practically nothing. From what I’ve observed with my kids, it means nothing to them. When they see two guys kissing, or their friend has two moms, it doesn’t even phase them at all, it’s all they know. Whereas, I met a dad at a recent wedding who said he was fine having his kids here, as long as they didn’t see two guys kissing. Sexual orientation is no different than skin color to my kids. This is why I’m so curious of how the city will change with the next generation.
Scott: You make a really good point. People will get more and more used to things and less hung up about it. Don’t you think the fascination with it will also drop?
Karl: Yes. It absolutely will.
Scott: I saw some really campy drag queens, like campy to the point of being nasty. And the young guys around me weren’t getting the joke. In the era they were raised in, they respected themselves more. A lot of that campy drag stuff is based out of the self-hating, self-derogatory, self-invasive humor of a gay man dressing up as this obnoxious woman and it being very cynical. But that cynicism can only work if there’s a little bit of self-hate in yourself… I think… That’s my opinion at least. But I see these young guys looking at that saying, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand what the joke is because I don’t hate myself. I was raised on Will and Grace and I thought it was all ok. Why would you want to make fun of that?” Maybe we won’t need parades or a neighborhood.
Karl: Where do you like to go out?
Scott: You’ll give me flak for this but I like the Abbey. I like it because it’s big and all inclusive. I go there early before it gets too obnoxious.
Karl: What time do you consider it obnoxious?
Scott: I like to leave before 10:00.
Karl: Why would you get flak for that?
Scott: It has a rep among certain people I know who think it’s awful. It’s not unfounded – maybe they had a horrible time there. I’ve had a bad time there and I get tired of the crowd. I fear sometimes that it’s reverse discrimination – hating something for being popular. But wherever I am with my friends, I’m happy.
Karl: I don’t go often, but I’ve always had a good time there.
Scott: There’s something disappointing about going to a place like the Abbey if you’re looking to find other people like yourself. If you’re going out looking for potential romance and you’re in a place with a mixed bag, you may end up disappointed. I would like to go somewhere where everyone there is a potential person to meet. Here we have a jock bar, and an Asian Night, a Middle Eastern Night, Go-go Boys and People Who Love Them bars, Old School People bars… In many ways it’s great because you can go find exactly what you want. But remember when radio stations just played music? There was a light station and a rock station. What if you just had a gay bar and it was the only place anybody could go, and you met all kinds of different people?
Karl: Have you had any experiences here unique to West Hollywood that you’re willing to share?
Scott: *thinks* Right after I moved here, I went to have a drink, just to hang out and people watch, and there was this S&M guy hanging out with this twinky couple. One of the twinkies disappeared and the S&M guy, who was drunk, was chatting people up. He came over and eyed me up and down, handed me his drink and said, “Hold this, I have to go to the restroom.” I declined and politely asked him to put it on the shelf. Keep in mind, this is all new to me. I was newly out and wasn’t used to dealing with gay people at all. He turned to the little twinky guy and said, “Man, look at that guy, with his hair and his attitude, he’s never going to make it in this city.” I looked at them stunned and thought, “Is that guy actually talking about me, right there, right in front of me?” The twinky looked at him and laughed. I turned to them and said, “Laugh on, I saw your boyfriend in there getting a blow job… cheers” and I walked off. So that was my wake up of, “Okay, that’s how you have to be here sometimes.” I realized, “You’re gay now, it’s not all going to be magic and fun, it’s going to be ‘challenging.'” People in this town can be very spoiled. They want what they want, and they want it now.
Karl: Are you happy here, are you staying?
Scott: Yes. I feel that it’s a privilege to be able to live here. Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve felt that I’ve earned a right to be here and I want to hold onto that as long as I can. There have been a few times, even recently, when I’ve thought, “I may have to leave here, I may not be able to do this.” And I’d be very sad. Look at what I would lose.