by Tristan Tom
I called her up to the house from her hotel because I truly and honestly wanted to chat with her about life and how to live it. It had been years since she last visited me in L.A.. Her most recent email had been a bit confusing and disconcerting. Apparently she had just finished working a season at the New Mexico Opera House and was now wanting to move back to California. She was talking to the studio people but nothing had panned out yet. She was always one to move around a lot, but the last I heard from her, she had been settled for a few years in Denver. In her email, she had said that her self esteem had not been good lately and that she did not feel ‘valued’ in her work, and she was asking me what to do about it. When I read those words, I knew that her life had taken a turn for the worst and that she might need professional help. If an actor or actress ever tells you about their self esteem-you know that they are in serious trouble.
I felt like I was hardly the one to ask ‘what to do about it’ since I too suffered from somewhat of a lack of self esteem. But, from her perspective, I suppose I looked like I had it all together. Even though I didn’t feel like a success, I at least had steady work. I couldn’t complain really…Looking back on it now, those few years with the studio really did pay off for me. I had my house in the Hollywood Hills and the club down on Melrose. I know that’s not saying much for me, the studio, nor Hollywood in general but it’s certainly more than most in L.A. could ever hope for. And I had honestly thought that everything was going swimmingly for me, until the accident. Nothing like a curve ball to throw your life all out of perspective huh?
So anyway, that morning I called Raul and Missy up to help me out of bed and into my wheelchair. I had lately been feeling like a slob and wanted at least to be well maintained and mobile for her visit. I put out a Polo shirt, some Khakis and a new Kenneth Cole belt to wear. I hadn’t yet told her about the accident and I was frankly a bit nervous about it. I wasn’t all that embarrassed about my condition or anything, I just didn’t want her to feel awkward about seeing me with two broken legs. And, I wanted to make a good impression, even though I didn’t really feel that good on the inside. That doesn’t make you a shallow person does it?
I made some toast and a few miscellaneous morning phone calls-one to my agent, one to Erich Rigling in Spain who’s sister had just killed herself from a heroin overdose. Heck, back in the days, I used to talk with Erich’s sister a few times a week, but I hadn’t used that particular number in years. I wheeled out on to the veranda with my cellular and just stared out south for a while over Mulholland. I remember thinking that I felt that I really didn’t belong any more..I was no longer one with the ‘in’ crowd, no matter how much I might try to be. And I was tired of even trying anymore. Hollywood had gotten the best of me.
So, lingering there in that morning L.A. sun in my bathrobe and pajama bottoms, looking out over all of the fancy homes down to the Capitol Records building and beyond that to the endless expanse of urban decay which eventually falls into the sea, I began to really feel like a fraud. What did I have to show for myself other than a nice house in the hills with a swimming pool that I couldn’t even use anymore and a totalled Porsche 911 Turbo? I began to think of all my medical bills and years of physical therapy I’d soon have to undergo, not to mention the fact that I may never walk again. What was I going to tell her when she arrived? She was coming to me for advice and I was supposed to be the one with a plan for her success like I’d had for so many girls who’d come to me before. How could I tell her that this life I’ve built for myself is no success? That it was just an act, and not a very good one. That I’m no longer the big shot that she’d known me to be?
She wasn’t going to be asking for much more than the truth, yet I wasn’t prepared to give that to her. I lit my cigar and looked out down the embankment. I wondered if my eyes would be closed or open as my wheelchair slammed against the rocks. Things would never be the same in Hollywood without me…