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.