It was the Wednesday before the game against the dangerous Los Angeles Lakers, the team that last year lost in the finals to an inferior squad. I was leaving the Bodies in Motion gym with The Captain, who reached in his pocket and handed me a tiny pill the shape of a wristwatch battery. “This will treat you real nice.”
He recently called his gay catering contacts to procure some pharmaceuticals for a quick trip to Florida, though when I asked for the name of the drug he was offering he didn’t know. He then assured me he would return for Sunday’s game. Dubious of taking some mystery pill, I dropped it in my shirt pocket and headed to Hollywood to join Studio Chief at El Compadre for some cheap Mexican food. I recalled that a friend once told me that every bar back and busboy there deals drugs on the side.
“Let me tell you, coke is a dirty drug,” Studio Chief said. “It destroys people. Kate Moss is the only human in the universe that is impervious.”
I learned this firsthand on a music show I produced. We shot our interviews with famous drummers in the upstairs room at the famous Rainbow Room, where a creaky sign announced:
Lair of the Hollywood Vampires
Pres Alice Cooper
VP Keith Moon
Tres Bob Brown
Every time I went outside to the patio, I was surrounded by long-haired metal freaks gacked on coke. They were all prematurely aged, walking corpses with Axl Rose bandannas tied around their heads. Although Studio Chief identified Kate Moss as one-of-a-kind, I am guessing that when Lindsay Lohan births a baby of pure cocaine, the medical marvel might grow up beautiful and give Kate a run for her money.
Steven Adler, the ousted drummer for Guns N’ Roses, was Kate Moss’s antinome. During the shoot, he hobbled into the room smoking a cigarette and immediately asked for a shot of Jäger. His spine was curled and his face was partially paralyzed from multiple drug strokes. The room soon filled with smoke that I knew was going to irritate my lungs and possibly bring on an asthma attack, and I wanted to be fresh and active for the Laker game. Slash then showed up—he and Steven had been childhood friends and retained feelings of fraternity for one another—and he observed silently from behind his mirrored aviator sunglasses. Considering that Izzy was shooting heroin into his balls and Duff was destroying hotel suites and raping animals, I wondered what feat of extreme, superhuman excess he’d engaged in to get kicked out of Guns N’ Roses.
Cocaine in L.A. didn’t seem as plentiful as in New York somehow, at least not among my peers. An L.A. novelist who was writing a script for me that Studio Chief was financing had often made the same remark. I relayed this to Studio Chief, who had also lived in New York, and the conversation turned to the films based on the writer’s novels. The actress and almost Brat Packer Jami Gertz was in one, and Studio Chief started telling anecdotes.
“You may as well be talking about Rita Hayworth. Maybe there’s a Barbara Stanwyck story you want to share?”
“Jami’s not that old.”
“Can’t we talk about Scarlett Johansson instead? Or how long Mischa Barton can hold out on rehab?”
Studio Chief dove into his chicken enchiladas. Grudgingly, the topic turned to young Hollywood and their usual problems with fidelity. “You know what a friend told me?” Studio Chief asked.
“He has a rule for cheating. ’Nines, three-ways, or stars.”
I considered the exceptions. “He must be getting a lot of side action, then.”
I think, generally speaking, that show-biz types in Los Angeles need to adopt the Native American practice of “counting coup”—the courageous touching of an enemy warrior, then fleeing. In the sexual/chemical universe of L.A., no one knows when to retreat; it’s all about finishing the deal. Three custom martinis at Hyde on a Wednesday night and, next thing you know, the young actor is nose-deep in rails at the Mondrian with a gaggle of strippers from the Body Shop and a jumbo pack of Trojans.
My lungs were still recovering from the drummer shoot, and after my crabmeat burrito and a couple cocktails, my gut felt heavy. The game loomed, and so I made my exit and returned home to my pig, Francis Bacon, the one companion truly happy to see me.
The Lakers proved to be a worthy adversary. They had two brothers who were actors, one on a long-running HBO series about drug dealing in Baltimore and the other in a host of TV shows and films. Their best player was a music-video director who had just completed his feature-film debut for a genre division of a studio. He was tough, had an incredible shot, and could create. He torched us for 30 points in the playoffs last year and we felt like we had learned our lesson, so we’d stuck English on him, our best defender.
The game was tight from the opening tip. We got off to a small lead and were able to maintain it throughout the game. Deep into the second half, we knew that they were getting anxious, that they had to make their run if they were going to beat us. Their tempo picked up, their aggression on defense amped, and our lead began to evaporate. They came down and hit a big shot to tie the game with under a minute left and then English responded to put us back up by 2. They came down and took a quick shot and missed and we grabbed the rebound. We could almost run out the clock, but the Lakers ended up getting the ball back with just seconds left, down by 2. They quickly advanced the ball past half court and one of the brother actors got the ball on the wing and went around Silver Fox to the hoop. I didn’t want to pick up a foul and put him on the line, so I came over and jumped but didn’t challenge as hard as I should have. The shot went in and tied the game. Overtime!
We should have won the game and were furious we had given it away. We tried to settle down and focus on the five-minute period and get back to executing what put us ahead. We hit some big shots and the Lakers kept it close and when they missed a critical basket we had the ball and were up 1. Better yet, we didn’t have to shoot another shot and could run out the clock. Coach’s Son held the ball as Music-Video Director guarded him. The clock was ticking. Fifteen seconds left. But rather than extend the ball away from his defender, Coach’s Son held the ball above his own head and Music-Video Director leapt and smacked it out of his hands. They scrambled for the ball, but Music-Video Director got there first, controlled it, and raced down the court and laid it up. Swish. The clock expired, and the crowd went crazy. The Lakers won by a single point. Twice in the same game we had given away a victory that was rightfully ours. My stomach sank and I felt sick. The Lakers celebrated and, for the second time in as many years, we had lost to a team that none of us could stand.
That evening as I lay in bed I replayed the game over and over in my head and I couldn’t sleep. The loss was gnawing at me. I remembered The Captain’s little gift and decided that if nature wasn’t going to wash away the sins of that defeat, then maybe modern science could. Fifteen minutes later I was out cold.