Dear John Tesh,
Why haven't you been on "Dancing with the Stars"?
Everybody that knows me knows that I studied the art of dance for most of my life, so first off let me say, fuck you, you rude rotten bitch, for asking such a personal question. But at the same time, I must say in all sincerity, thank you, because this is something that has needed to be addressed for a quite a while, but up until now it has been too hard to speak about. Too personal. However, all prejudices aside, right now, sitting in my brown leather recliner in nothing but a pair of running shorts and a muscle T, with the central air kicked into hyper drive, I feel comfortable talking about anything. I’ll tell you why.
About thirty minutes ago I drank what is known in some circles on the bad side of Hollywood as a "Sex on the Tesh", an exotic drink I invented a few years ago when Corey Feldman was living in my guest house, that few are brave enough to attempt outside a ten mile radius of an emergency room. And who can blame them really? This son of a bitch is nothing to joke around with. It’s like a root beer float, with a pint of Jack Daniel's instead of root beer filled to the brim, two generous scoops of vanilla ice cream, garnished with a handful of finely crushed painkillers sprinkled all around, and a cherry on top that has been hollowed out and filled with cocaine. I generally only make a "Sex on the Tesh" once or twice a year because there is a 75% chance that you will die, but so far so good. Life is about taking chances.
I'll never forget the night I invented it.
It was early '99 and my wife Connie was out of town. At the time she was having an affair with the lead singer of Smash Mouth, and was flying to California every other day for what she said was "business", even though the bitch has never worked a day in her life and has always relied on my fortunes I've made from my musical career (like forty something records, I've made) and my reign on Entertainment Tonight. Oh, and then, you know what the unbelievable whore does? She grabs a handful of sheet music from my studio downstairs and gives it to her boyfriend and his album "Astro Lounge", which is nothing but songs I wrote, you guessed it, it goes triple platinum. Triple platinum! Do you know how much money I made those assholes? "All Star" was used in "Shrek" for Christ's sake. Do you even know what that song was originally about? Of course you don’t. It was part of a musical trilogy I was writing, somewhat in the style of The Who's "Tommy", told through the eyes of a retarded boy who makes it as a rock star and no one is the wiser.
It was going to be a great concept album and a satire of the music industry at the time and the direction it was clearly heading in and hopefully comment on the blind ignorance of these kids all over the world shelling out millions of dollars every year on pure shit and getting nothing in return but a chocolate smile. And if I had finished it in time, it would have been released not long after Nickelback‘s breakout album, making it even more poignant, as the singer Chad Kroeger suffers from crippling Cerebral Palsy. That was the plan anyway. I supposed I’m still a little proud when I hear “All Star” on the radio. But goddamn it, kids are running around singing the song completely out of context!
But I know none of this yet and on this particular day. I’m up early and ready to kick some ass, like always.
I go knocking on the door of my guest house and Corey Feldman comes stumbling out looking like Corey Haim probably looks now. He's wearing a pair of Rick Allen shorts that are not flattering on him at all. Let's put it this way, the Feldman is all balls. I remind him that I am supposed to style his hair and we argue for a while about whether we should go brown with gold highlights or vice versa and a few racial slurs later we end up getting in a wrestling match on the lawn. Now even at four foot seven, the Feldman is no pansy, and he puts up a decent fight and almost pins me a few times. This says a lot about him. If I were a normal man and not six foot eleven and if I hadn't studied Jeet Kune Do under Kareem Abdul Jabbar and if I wasn't double-jointed, I have no doubts that Corey could have taken me.
I knock him out and then carry him into the house, where he had been staying for over a month and using as his personal party palace while his apartment he supposedly had, yet no one had ever seen, was sprayed for bugs. Truth is, I didn’t mind him staying there. Every room in the guest house has four or more hidden cameras that feed directly to my command center in my castle and in merely a month I had some fairly incriminating footage of Feldman, which was good to have around in case I wanted to either blackmail him or edit together an emotional documentary whenever he inevitably dies.
I lay him on the couch and a wad of oily, smelly dollar bills falls out of his back pocket. I pick them up and notice on one of the bills, in the corner, written in red ink, it says, "Britasha 558-2466." Normally when I see or hear or read a stripper's name, I pause for about ten seconds and try to decide if said stripper is A, somebody I've banged and/or B, somebody who works for me at one of my many all-organic strip clubs across the west coast. But when I read that name, Britasha, I looked dramatically into the distance and the music began to rise.
Britasha was a stripper I had hired four months earlier who left my establishment to go work for my arch nemesis, Michael McDonald, at his elite whore house/casino. She was a beautiful nineteen year old girl from Oklahoma and I knew as soon as she walked in the door, in a tight pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, that she and I were going to make a lot of money together. And we did. For two months straight she had the place packed like a sardine can with horny drunken rednecks every night. They loved her. She had the looks, the moves, and the perfect amount of innocence.
Like almost all strippers, she never thought of it as a career, just a quick way to stockpile some cash for a few years, until she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. Unlike all the other strippers, I actually believed her. She was too good for this. She sure as hell was too smart for this line of work. She spoke often of going to school and studying marine biology, and I assured her that she could work with me long enough to get some cash and do absolutely anything she wanted. At the rate she was going she’d have double the money she needed in a year.
But then Michael McDonald got wind of this beautiful money machine and came and stole her away, no doubt promising her things he would never give her, using her, like he did all of them, to make himself richer. Squeezing her for all she was worth and then throwing her to the gutter. That’s my story anyway. I couldn’t prove it was him, but it had happened before. It didn’t make sense for her to just leave when she had set a goal for herself and was so determined to reach it. What could he have promised her? There was no telling. When Michael McDonald saw something he wanted, he would stop at nothing.
It was a huge loss to business, for sure, but I didn‘t care about that. I had really grown to care about Britasha. I was becoming a father figure of sorts and I wanted to see her dreams come true for her. McDonald had probably taken advantage of her by telling her he would pay for her to go to school and dangling it over her head like a cat toy. But I knew better. If McDonald got a hold on you there was no letting go. I only prayed she was as smart as I thought she was and could see through his lies. I figured it was the last I had seen of her.
A few months later (about three weeks before that day in the guest house) Britasha had went missing. Jazztacy, another former stripper of mine, who also left to go work for that son of a bitch, Michael McDonald, told me. She came knocking on my door in the middle of the night in the pouring down rain, crying, saying that Britasha had disappeared three days earlier. I let her in and fixed her some hot chocolate while she sat by the fire, telling me everything she knew. Apparently Jazztacy and Britasha were rooming together at McDonald’s place and had grown close over the last month so when Britasha didn’t show up for two days and hadn’t mentioned to Jazztacy any plans of leaving, she knew something was definitely wrong.
I asked her if she thought McDonald had anything to do with it and she grew quiet. She said it wasn’t the first time a girl had abruptly vanished without a trace from McDonald’s Love Barn And Casino, which is what he called his heavily guarded compound where all of his escorts were required to live and work and were almost never allowed to leave. The only time girls left the farm was if they broke any of the numerous McDonald house rules, in which case they were punished by having to work the street corners in bad neighborhoods without any supervision. The girls would return, often black and blue, and ready to play by McDonald’s rules.
Crossing the room with a two cups of hot chocolate, I asked Jazztacy if there was anything she could think of that might help me at all and she shook her head. She was quiet for a long time after that. I wanted to ask her why she left my place, where all the girls were treated like queens, where they actually kept the money they made, could leave or quit anytime they wanted, not treated like slaves. What had McDonald promised her? What was her Achilles’ heel? But I didn’t. She had been through enough already that night. She had broken a rule to get out of the house and probably had been dropped off God knows where, some dark and scary ghetto, in the middle of February in a pair of heels and a short skirt and she had walked all the way across town, alone, in the cold rain, just to see me.
“One thing,” Jazztacy said finally, sipping her drink, “and it’s probably nothing . . . The night before she disappeared, I saw Kelsey Grammar’s helicopter outside. He usually flies in once per month and stays for a few days in the suite on the top floor. He‘s into group stuff, you know. I‘ve never been in there because he prefers gingers, which is another thing that had me alarmed about Britasha. I’ve heard stories about what goes on in his room though. I’ve heard he is a complete animal and make you do things . . . Horrible things, coked up out of his mind.
The last time he came, he just missed Britasha’s arrival by a day or two, and he was only there for a couple hours and he took a girl with him. It was a young girl, red hair, hadn’t been there long at all. We never saw her again. I didn’t think too much about it. But his helicopter was there the day Britasha vanished . . .” And then she collapsed onto the floor and wept.
She begged me to do something. To find her. I said I'd do my best.
Anybody that knows me knows that I studied criminology for years and my second love, after music, is writing murder mystery novels under the pseudonym James Patterson. The truth is if it hadn't been for my music career exploding like it did, there's a good chance I would have went into Law Enforcement, because I love a juicy mystery. Standing there in the guest house over a half naked Corey Feldman, holding a crumbled stripper dollar, my adrenaline was beginning to pump as my sixth sense for justice rushed straight to the head of my penis.
DEAR JOHN TESH PRESENTS:
“STRIPPED OF LIFE”
I slapped Corey awake and held the dollar up to his sweaty rat-like face and screamed, "Where the hell did you get this?"
"Huh?" he said, barely awake, so I punched him in the Celiac Plexus, (also known as the Solar Plexus, which is located in the abdomen, where the celiac trunk, superior mesenteric artery, and renal arteries branch from the abdominal aorta) hard enough to get his attention, but not enough that he couldn't give me some answers.
He grabbed his chest and was crying, saying, "What are you talking about man?"
"I said, 'Where the hell did you get this,' Feldman? Where did you go last night?"
"I was here all night, I swear," he said, looking away. I grabbed his jaw and reached into his mouth and squeezed his frenulum as tight as I could and he began to jerk and twist and urinate. "O’ay! I'll ‘alk!" he said as best he could.
I let him catch his breathe and he lit a cigarette. He ran his hands through his hair and said, "I was with Corey last night."
"Yeah, what did you two do?"
"Nothing. Well, nothing out of the ordinary. We played Monopoly. Smoked some crack. Watched 'License to Drive' like four times. Did some Karaoke. Made love. Then I left, I swear to god."
"You didn't go to a strip club?"
"So where did you get these dollars?"
"I don't know man," he said looking down at the pile in the floor and then he paused for an uncomfortable amount of time and eventually said, "I do remember asking Haim for some money to get some smokes at one point. And you know how he is . . . He made me dance for them . . . He has a pole in the back room of his trailer and he made me dance like it was going out of style! He was screaming at me and throwing money and I was crying and there was blood and semen everywhere and I just screamed, 'Fuck you, Corey, I'm tired of this,’ and I grabbed as much of the cash as I could and I ran out! I swear to god that's all that happened!"
Corey broke down and tears and snot was all over his face as he lay curled up in a small ball in the floor. I believed him. I don't know why. I picked him up and rocked him to sleep and then placed him on his Wag Bag orthopedic pet bed. I stuffed the money in my pocket and then headed over to the main house and grabbed my fedora and my trench coat. I tucked my revolver into my capris and then jumped in the ’89 Le Baron (fully restored) and headed to S&W trailer park across town. Just go with it.
I was preparing myself for the worst during the ride to Corey Haim's place. I knew I was going to see some wild ass shit. It had been over a year since I had spoken to him and I wasn't looking forward to seeing how far gone he was, but I knew I had to if I was ever going to find out what happened to Britasha. It was, after all, the only lead I had at that point. I parked in front of his mobile home and took a deep sigh before I got out of the car and knocked on his door. I saw him peek out the window from behind his "Lost Boys" poster he used as a curtain, and then I heard him scrambling around in the house. I knocked again, harder.
"Open up, Haim! I haven't got all day." I said, which is a lie. I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want because I'm John Tesh.
He opened the door and was wearing a Ronald McDonald costume, but with Darth Maul makeup that was smeared from tears and possibly other bodily fluids that weren't all his. He grinned that goofy grin of his that when you see, you can't help but be in a good mood, and held his arm out as if to say, come on in to my home, good sir. I entered the living room, which reeked of cat shit, and watched each step I took carefully so as not to step on any needles or dead animals.
"Long time no see, Tesh," he said walking to the bar. "What'll you have?"
I started to answer him. I started to say, a Suffering Bastard, my favorite drink, but that was when I noticed that "Wind Beneath My Wings", a song I wrote for "Beaches" (a movie which I co-wrote and produced), a song that I just so happened to have secretly written about him, was playing on his stereo. I never told him what it was about, per se.
I remember playing it for him the first time, in the studio in my castle basement. He said it was pretty and would work well for the movie, but I could see it in his eyes. He knew.
I wondered if the meaning was lost on him in that moment, stoned out of his mind. I wondered if Feldman told him I was coming and he was just screwing with me. I've thought about this day a lot. Not because of all of the crazy shit that happened, that I'll tell you about in a few moments, but because this was the last time I ever saw him alive. Which brings me to the part about my friendship with Corey Haim.
I have to give major props to Gary Busey for ever meeting Haim. Busey and Haim were working on the film "Silver Bullet", the adaptation of Stephen King's werewolf novel, and Busey was the one who suggested they bring me in as a werewolf consultant, because anybody that knows me knows that I spent many years studying about the werewolf mythology and I know how they think and move. Corey was this fresh faced fourteen-year-old kid, just enjoying the 80's like everybody else, not yet aware that he would one day be forever associated with the decade, a pop culture reference, a trivial pursuit question, an ironic t-shirt at a Hot Topic, just a kid excited to be making movies.
I think I first spoke to him at the craft services table and I was immediately struck by how smart and quick witted he was and how he was absolutely not afraid to say whatever was on his mind whenever the hell he felt like. I mistook this to be his childlike naivety at first, but eventually realized, it was just who he was. It was inspiring.
I recall one instance when Gary Busey was going on about his fifteen-year-old daughter going on her first date the night before with a seventeen-year-old, who picked her up in his parents' station wagon. Corey said to Gary, "And you let her go with him?" And Gary, with complete sincerity, said, "Yes, because my daughter and I talk to each other and we are very open and I trust her to make good judgments, just as I've always instructed her, because when you communicate the way --"
"But Gary," Corey said shaking his head, "don't you know that as soon as he pulled out of the driveway he had his fingers dug inside her?"
I remember the look on Gary's face. It's pretty much the vacant stare he has had since his motorcycle accident, but this was when he was still, for the most part, a normal man. Corey just looked at me and grinned like he always did and I lost my shit. I laughed so hard I had to go step outside to catch my breath. While I was out there Corey Joined me and we smoked a cigarette and struck up a conversation. It was just so natural to talk to him. We talked about movies and music and we made fun of all the other cast and crew working on the film and it was just an automatic friendship, honestly. I could really be myself around Corey. I guess he was a little mature for his age and I was immature for mine, and we met somewhere in the middle and it made you feel warm inside.
For the rest of the 80's he and I were pretty much inseparable. Every weekend we hung out and raised pure hell. We would tear up the Sunset strip, break into houses, get into gang fights. It was a constant party and though we were usually surrounded by beautiful women (some strippers, some out-right whores) A-listers, B-listers, musicians, writers, directors, it always felt like it was just us two, laughing at the expense of everybody else. We made fun of everything and everybody, and did every drug imaginable and laughed until we hurt. Eventually Feldman started hanging around as well, which was annoying at first, but Haim and I loved to humiliate him as much as possible, and eventually his role in the trio was crucial. It would go down like this: I would kick his ass, hold him down, and make him watch Haim have sex with his whomever his fiancée was at the time. It never got old. It was a really great period, I must say. It was just a non-stop party and nobody really took themselves too seriously, like today. As long as there was loud music, naked chicks, and some drugs, it was all . . . great.
I don't remember any specific event that led to us losing touch. I really wish there was one. So I could look back and say, yep, there, that's when it all fell apart, but that never happened. It was just a gradual thing. I guess I was just so busy with Entertainment Tonight and making records that I lost track of my priorities. Next thing you know, it's been a couple weeks, then a couple months, a year, and you haven't hung out with a really great friend. You hadn't even thought about it. You run into him at a store. You barely recognize him. You just say quick hellos and go about your business.
Even when I heard he was getting more and more out of control, a few months before he died, I just went about my life. I didn't stop and say, holy shit, my friend is really hurting himself; I better go talk to him; see if I can help him. I didn't do that and I regret it to this very day.
Suddenly ten years have gone by and you're staring down at your best friend in a casket and it's the weirdest feeling. It doesn't seem real. I looked down at him, half expecting to see him open his eyes and give me a quick grin like this was all just some huge joke, and we could just laugh about it and go get a beer.
In most cases when I've been to a funeral, which I try to avoid as much as possible, preferring to remember people the way they were, the body always looks slightly . . . off.
"They look so natural," you hear people whispering to one another in the parlor that's so quiet you can actually hear the fabric on their backs being rubbed by a comforting hand, and you think, did they look at the same body I did, because Grandpa Dave didn't look anything like that. You have to just stare to try and make out the features you knew and more often than not, looking for too long makes the whole thing lose context, like repeating a word over and over until your brain can't comprehend it anymore. But I prefer this type of funeral because at the other end of the spectrum is the body that looks so natural, it's as though they were just catching a quick nap. And to make matters worse they put the dead in clothes they actually wore instead of a suit. This is too real for me. I want something to be askew.
Corey didn't make it easy for me. I stared down at him and other than him having lost a bit of weight, he was still Corey and I just couldn't accept that I was staring at his dead body.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I guess I just wish I could go back in time and even if I can't change what happened to him, I wish I could have been a better friend. I wish I could just tell him that I loved him and that he meant as much to me as I know I meant to him. So, I guess all I can do is say right now that I love you Corey Haim, you were the best friend I could have ever asked for and an even better metaphor.
Where was I? Oh yeah! So, I'm at Haim's house, sitting on his ratty sofa that I'm pretty sure he stole from the set of "Dream a Little Dream", counting the Cat Fancy magazines all over the living room floor. I get up to around 35 when I ask, "Do you even have a cat?"
I hear him laughing madly in the kitchen and bottles clinging together. He comes back into the living room holding a couple tall glasses with tiny umbrellas and bright green liquid in them. He is trying not to laugh so hard that it looks like a blood vessel is about to explode in his forehead. I take one of the drinks from him and he sits down beside me on the couch Indian-style.
"What brings you to my neck of the woods, Tesh?"
"Well I," I say, looking down into my glass, then, "What the fuck is this?"
He giggles. And then I look into his eyes and it hits me. I know what I have to do to get some answers. He isn't like Feldman, you can't just beat him and expect to get any information. Really, he would probably just enjoy it, or he would be so fucked up he wouldn't feel any pain. I was gonna have to play his game. I take a big gulp of the glowing green drink and it stings my lips a little. Cory is watching me, his face a little more sinister now, nodding even, and he puts his hand on the bottom of the glass and tilts it back and my eyes get wide as I gulp his strange concoction down, a little oozing from the corners of my mouth, spilling down my cheek and onto my jacket.
I set the empty glass on the table and look at Haim for a moment. I begin again, "I'm looking for a girl . . . " and my voice is three times deeper. I wonder if this is just in my head.
He says, "What kind of girl?" and he sounds like a chipmunk.
"Um," I say, feeling the room starting to blur and my whole body going numb. I know I have only a few more moments of clarity and I want to get as much information as possible. I try to think quickly of a question to ask. Why am I here again? Britasha! That's right. What about her? She's missing. A strip club. Somebody was there. Money. Some dollar bills. Hey now, you're an all-star. Britasha is missing. Nobody can find her. There are at least twenty cats in the room now. I wish they would stop staring at me, it's embarrassing. Britasha. Do you know anything about her, Corey? That's what I need to ask. If I can just get my mouth to move. I start to ask him an important question and all that comes out is, "Do you have another one of those Ronald McDonald suits?" He smiles and nods.
About an hour later there was at least twenty-five people crammed into his trailer, most of them crawling around on the floor like cats. I think the entire cast of "Friends", except Matt LeBlanc (Haim was still mad that he lost the part of Joey after he accidentally burned down his dressing room while freebasing and all of his scenes in the pilot were re-shot with Matt) was there and Courtney Cox, whom Corey kept referring to as Courtney Cock for some reason, kept crawling by me slowly and rubbing her torso against my leg while she looked back over her shoulder at me and purred making me a perfect mixture of uncomfortable and aroused. I must have changed rooms a half dozen times but she was persistent and kept finding me so I finally gave in and rubbed her belly until she fell asleep and then I tip-toed back into the living room where the action was.
Trance music was thumping from the speakers and apparently somebody had broken out a fog machine. I remember arching my neck to look past a big guy dressed like a construction worker to try and find Corey. I thought I saw him across the room and I started pushing my way through the orgy of people dancing in a smoky wad in his living room. I tapped a midget on the shoulder to politely ask him to let me by and when he turned around I saw it was Feldman and he screamed at the sight of me and I started to say that I wasn't going to hit him again, and I realized it was the clown costume that was freaking him out. I said it's me, Tesh, just calm down, but it was no use. I saw the glowing green liquid stain on his fishnet shirt and there really is no explaining anything to anybody during the first hour after ingesting this monster.
I shoved my way through to the kitchen and there Corey was, laughing like Fran Drescher on PCP, while he painted Jennifer Anniston's face like Peter Criss, the Catman.
"Hey Tesh! Having fun?" Haim screamed.
"Hey," Jennifer said. "What's up?" This girl, with an atrocious hairstyle and a voice that was like nails on a chalk board, but still gorgeous with a killer body and an stunning pair of eyes, was staring at me, and all I could think was that I'd like to be more than "friends" with her some night.
"You were in that Leprechaun movie, correct?" I asked, genuinely concerned, but she didn't answer me, and looking slightly embarrassed, jerked her head to the right, leaving a black streak of paint across her cheek and after studying her profile I made another observation about this otherwise beautiful girl, one that was meant to stay up inside the old giant forehead of mine, but under the influence of Mean Green, I couldn't help saying it aloud.
"Goddamn, you have a huge nose," I said to her and Haim fell down laughing, beating his fists on the floor and moving his legs like he was making a snow angel. She grabbed her purse and walked out of the room, trying to hold her head up high and keep her dignity, but it's hard to do that when you're wearing Kiss makeup. Haim and I were alone in the kitchen. I took his hand and helped him to his feet.
"What the fuck is this drink, Haim?"
"Well, it's just a little something I invented a couple years ago. I call it The Phoenix River."
"Yeah, I was partying with Joaquin Phoenix last year and he asks if I'm working on any new recipes and I say, as a matter of fact, I am, and he wants to sample it, and I tell him that an artist doesn't show a work in progress, and then he starts whining and his little hair lip is starting to quiver so I'm like, fine, you can try it, so I whip up what I had at the time and he starts in wanting to help me finish it and at this point, after hanging out with him all day, I’m so sick of hearing him whine and that quiet little uncertain voice of his, that I'm just doing whatever I can to get his ass to leave, which isn't working, so I decided to get him as fucked up as possible so he'd either pass out or go wandering off into Hollywood for work. What you drank was a much toned down version of what I gave him. He took two big gulps and I haven't seen him since."
"Wow," was all I could say.
"I named it the Phoenix River because I couldn't really think of a pun on his name," he said crossing the kitchen with two glasses. He scooped some ice from the freezer and joined me at the bar. "I thought about calling it 'Joaquin in Memphis' after the --"
"Worst song of all time," I finished. "That's good. Or how about 'Dead Man Joaquin'."
We were laughing pretty hard now, just like the old times.
"You still got it, Tesh. Maybe you're not washed up after all."
He didn’t really answer, just shrugged it off and half smiled. The insult was sobering. With a clearer head all I wanted to do was get some information and get the hell out of there, but I wasn’t about to back down from this. I was a lot of things, but washed up wasn’t one of them.
“Washed up, huh?” I said reaching for the handle of my revolver and I could see the fear in Haim’s eyes as I pulled it out and fired a round into the ceiling. It was impossibly loud. Everyone froze and the music seemed to come to an end as they all turned and looked at me. And then without even thinking, I was waving the gun around in their sweaty faces, screaming for them to all get the fuck out of there. I didn’t have to ask twice. They were trampling over each other to get out the front door. Haim just stood there with his hands on his head, eyes clenched. The last of them were almost at the door and Feldman was at the tail end, trying not to be noticed. I grabbed him by his rat-tail and slung his ass into the kitchen with Haim.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Haim asked looking down at his feet. Feldman was curled up on the floor sobbing.
“Washed up. I’ll show you two sons of bitches washed up.”
And then I commenced to making my first Sex on the Tesh. I had the recipe concept in my head for years, but had never actually tried it. I pushed Haim out of the way and started gathering all the ingredients. I grabbed the bottle of Jack from the freezer, along with the vanilla ice cream. There was a half-eaten cherry pie in the refrigerator and I took three cherries from it. I had a bottle of painkillers in my pocket that I had stolen from Haim’s medicine cabinet earlier, which worked out for the best really. All I needed now was some coke. I didn’t even have to ask. I just went over to Feldman, yanked his pants and underwear down and there was a small bag duct taped to his inner thigh.
I began to make the drinks while the Coreys watched in silence with great admiration no doubt. I finished making the third drink and turned to them, a little sweaty from digging in the frozen block of ice cream, and said, “Voila!”
Haim just stared for a moment. “Um,” he said scratching his chin. “I don’t think this is a good idea, man.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked with an evil smile. “Are you guys washed up or something?” I was laying the sarcasm on thick, but deep down I didn’t think it was a good idea either.
Turns out, it wasn’t. We knocked the drinks back and then the three of us killed and skinned about fifteen cats, screaming at the top of our lungs, not even laughing, just screaming, and then we rode around in Feldman’s car throwing the dead bloody cats at prostitutes and taking pictures of their expressions. I still have a bulletin board with all of the photos tacked on somewhere. We got a room in a cheap hotel and the three of us wrote a screenplay for a Sci-Fi romantic comedy sequel to Titanic in just under an hour. We would take turns scribbling the words onto a yellow notepad as fast as possible while the other two pitched ideas at ninety miles per hour. Later on when I sobered up I realized that the pen had been out of ink the entire time. I often wonder.
The rest of the night was mostly a blur. It was like everything was in fast forward then in slow motion. Eventually we all started to sober up and get groggy. Feldman passed out in the bathtub. Haim was lying on the floor, strumming an imaginary guitar, and I was sitting on the edge of the bed, fighting the urge to just close my eyes and sink into the cool sheets of the hotel bed. Somehow I found enough stored energy to slap myself awake and pull myself to my feet. I kicked Haim slightly in the side and said, “Get up! C’mon!”
He just moaned and said something about the solo coming up. I went to the bathroom sink and filled a Styrofoam cup with water and then stood over him and poured it directly onto his face. This seemed to do the trick, he sprang up immediately and seemed to be confused about how he had gotten to this hotel. He looked all around the trashed room and then at me.
“No,” I said lighting two cigarettes in my mouth, “It wasn’t a dream. Get up, let’s go get some coffee. We need to have a little talk.” I handed one of them down to him.
He sat there quietly for a while then started to nod and then got to his feet. He heard a moan from his right and turned to see Feldman curled up in the bathtub.
“What about him?” said Haim.
“He’ll be fine. Let’s go,” I said halfway out the front door already.
“Hang on,” he said and then he went into the bathroom and squatted down beside Feldman. He gave him a small kiss on the forehead and then pulled a couple twenties from his pocket and threw them on Feldman’s chest.
We drove across town in silence, the sun barely coming up, looking for a deserted coffee shop. We were both still wearing Ronald McDonald costumes at this point and Haim’s face was smeared with makeup. He pulled a cassette from one of his zipper pockets and I knew which tape it was without fully looking. It was the Tesh/Haim Mix tape we had listened to almost non-stop from ‘85 until ‘92. We had worked hard to craft the perfect soundtrack for the typical night of us hanging out. Christ, I hadn’t thought about that tape in a long time. I think we did a pretty good goddamn job, if I say so myself. I’ll tell you this much, there really is nothing like watching twin sisters service your best friend while you lay there chain-smoking Lucky Strikes, and sip on some cheap wine, while “Wind of Change” plays softly on the radio.
He put the tape in and “Cortez the Killer” was playing. That was always the swan song for our get-togethers. It was fitting on this morning, riding around with Haim for the first time in years. How many times had we drove around this city listening to this song? Too many to count. I see this image in my head of us driving and the years, the fads, coming and going by our window. I can’t help but thinking that the tape hadn’t been listened to since we last hung out. It was right were we left off.
I spot an Omelette Shoppe on the left with only two cars in the parking lot, so I whip the Le Baron in and we go inside. We get a few strange looks from the lady behind the counter and the older gentleman sitting at the bar, who stares at Haim and misses his mouth with his fork. The other customer is in a booth with his back to us. We grab a seat in a booth by the window on the opposite side of the diner. Dee Dee, the waitress, takes her time, but eventually comes over and asks what we want. I tell her coffee, black, and Haim is sitting there like a zombie, his mouth slightly open, staring down at the table, so I say he’ll have the same.
For a long time we just sit there and smoke, occasionally looking at each other.
“So,” Haim said, “Let’s talk.”
“Thought you’d never ask.” I say this and motion to Dee Dee for some more coffee. “A few months ago I hired this girl to work at Tesh’s Place in Burbank . . .”
And then I told him the story, just as I’ve told you, spending a little more time on the night that Jazztacy came to tell me about Britasha, and going into graphic detail about how she cock-fingered me before she left. Haim listened closely, nodding, rubbing his chin the entire time. When I finished talking he politely asked, “Yeah, well, what has this got to do with me?”
“I thought you might say that,” I retort and reach into my jacket pocket and produce the twenty dollar bill with Britasha’s name and number written in red ink. He looks down at it for some time. “See, I got this from Feldman. He says he got this from you. Now Feldman is a lot of things, but a liar aint one of them. I want to know when you got this, who gave it to you, where you got it, everything. Anything you can think of, no matter how small, could really help out. I’m not accusing you, that’s not what this is. I know you and McDonald had a falling out a few years ago, so I’m sure you didn’t get it at the Love Barn, but maybe you got it at some random strip club. Maybe it was Britasha that danced for you, maybe she escaped and is alive and well somewhere, or maybe this twenty has just been circulating for some time. Either way, I want to know. I want to know what happened to Britasha and if I have to go into the Love Barn, guns blazing, to get some information, I will do it. I won’t think twice about it. I’ll kill that son of a bitch, Michael McDonald, and twenty motherfuckers look just like him.”
Haim let another cigarette with what was left of the last one and took the longest draw I’ve ever seen as he sank into the booth and leaned his head back.
“You really are a good guy, Tesh.” He smiles and looks into my eyes. He begins to talk slowly and I’m so focused on his words that my cigarette goes out.
“A few months ago I was riding around some pretty sketchy neighborhoods and looking to score some smack, when I saw this pretty girl standing on the corner. I pulled the car over and she leaned into the window and aside from that girl we double-teamed in Texas that time, she was maybe the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I was so stunned by her that I didn’t even remember to ask her if she ever saw Lost Boys. She looked like she was scared shitless though and had either been crying or was about to. I said, ‘What are you doing out here?’ She said she broke a rule and this was her punishment and I knew right then, she was one of McDonald’s girls. I actually thought to myself, he really hit the jackpot finding this girl. I thought why would he put her on the street, no matter what she did? This perfect little angel should be placed on a throne and men should have to pay just to look at her for ten seconds. I told her to get in the car and she jumped in immediately. I guess she trusted me. Or maybe she just didn’t have a lot of options.
I took her back to my place and we sat and talked for a really long time. She told me about how she came out here and was stripping to make money for school, which I didn’t really buy, but she said Michael McDonald came along and started promising her the moon, all this money, all kinds of shit, but that he hadn’t delivered yet. She was so naïve. It was heartbreaking. I told her all about Michael McDonald, about how he is a manipulative son of a bastard and all she was to him was a dollar sign. She talked about wanting to go visit her mom but McDonald just kept saying soon, soon, but would never let her leave. She said she had broken a rule that night just to get out and had planned on running away but he told her that if she ever left he would find her no matter where she went and kill her. She asked if he really would. I nodded and took her hand.”
Haim shook his head and looked out the window with complete disgust on his face. “Goddamn that Michael McDonald! When he gets his eyes set on something . . . there’s nothing to stop him . . . . I told her ‘Britasha, there aint no mountain high enough, aint no valley low enough, aint no river wide enough, to keep him from getting to you. And that’s the damn truth.’ But I decided right then and there that I would do whatever it took to get her away from McDonald.
We spent a couple of hours trying to come up with a plan. I knew there was no point in running. It would only lead to our eventual deaths, but at one point the thought of spending my last days with this girl, Bonnie and Clyde style, seemed very romantic. What a way to go, I thought. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was clear as day. Why hadn’t we thought of it to begin with? We would find a prostitute that looked as close to Britasha as possible and beat her beyond recognition and then dress her up in Britasha’s clothes and then leave her for dead. He would find her and think she got raped and killed by some crack head, and honestly, he had to expect that to happen to one of the girls at some point anyway.
So Britasha and I got back on the street and found a really good prostitute substitute. She was built like Britasha and from behind you would swear it was her. You know, her face wasn’t all that hot, but that didn’t matter because I planned on crushing it with a baseball bat after I finished having sex with her. And that’s what I did. She took a long time to die too, it was so annoying. Her lower jaw was half hanging on and she was gurgling and moaning and so I cut her tongue out and then threw it against the wall and it stuck and slid down like a piece of pizza and Britasha and I looked at one another and started laughing and I was like, ‘Did you just see that?’ and she’s like, ‘I know, right,’ and I’m like, ‘It slid down like a slice of pizza or something,’ and she’s like, ‘I know, right.’ So anyway, I broke my broom handle in two and then fucked up her genitals something fierce. And when I was done we stood over her mangled up body, admiring my work.
I said, ‘Now, imagine that you’re Michael McDonald, you find this body, it’s in your clothes, has your personal belongings, is there anything about this body to suggest to you that it’s not actually you.’ She looked down at the girl and tilted her head. ‘Oh Shit! I almost forgot,’ said Britasha. ‘What is it?’ I asked and then she took off her dress and for a second I thought she wanted to get down because I was kind of feeling this vibe because when I was fucking that prostitute with a broom handle I looked over and we kind of caught eyes and, I don’t know, I felt something, but she turned around and there was this big tattoo on her back of a dolphin. She started saying some shit about marine biology.
I started trying to run through all the tattoo artists I knew off the top of my head. There was only one person I knew of that would come tattoo the dead prostitute, her name was Claudia Jennings by the way, I remember because it was almost the same as this girl I went to school with, Claudia Jennings, but anyway, there was only one guy who could do it and that was Monkey Mark but he got killed in that wreck last year. So I just said fuck it and cut the flesh off her back and decided to make it look like a serial killer had done it and that was his trophy.
When I finished, we dressed her up like Britasha and then Britasha hugged me and it was a really sweet moment. She gave me a small, friendly kiss on the lips, and I really wanted to take it further but it just felt like a douche move at the time. I respected her. I know it sounds corny, but I respected her. She said, ‘Why are you going through all this trouble for me?’
I didn’t have an answer. I just smiled and said, ‘C’mon, help me load this cunt into the car.’ And she smiled and I knew we understood one another.
We crept down the same street where I found Britasha and made sure it was clear and dumped her body on the sidewalk and I jerked off and smeared my semen on all the typical places and then Britasha, clever girl, she got the awesome idea to urinate on the girl so it would look like she had pissed herself. Pretty nifty.
We got back to my house and she kept insisting that she wanted to leave but I finally talk her into staying the night and heading out the next day. In the morning I gave her the keys to my Geo Tracker and told her it was hers and I gave her a couple hundred dollars. She wrote her name and number on that twenty and told me to stay in touch, that she would never forget what I had done for her. And then she gave me a long, tight hug and drove away. And that was that.”
I couldn’t speak. So many questions were flooding through my head. Then there was about ten minutes of me saying, “Are you serious?” and Haim saying that he was. Eventually I came to accept it as the truth. He had no reason to lie to me. He had freed Britasha from her prison and I had nothing but admiration for him sitting there, looking at him in that Omelette Shoppe. I think I said, “Haim, you have maybe the biggest heart of anybody I know. All the charities I belong to times ten still can’t compete with the selflessness you displayed.” And then I saluted him.
And a tear was starting to roll down my eye now. Now this didn’t happen that day, in the Omelette Shoppe, just my present state seeping into that memory as it fades into another, one of me sitting at the graveyard on the day that Haim was buried. I didn’t go to the church for his funeral because I don’t believe in organized religion, instead I went ahead to the cemetery and I remember sitting with the gravedigger, just the two of us in the hot sun. He was a man about 50 and his skin was dark red and he was wearing a black t-shirt and black jeans. We were both smoking a cigarette (I had quit smoking at this point but brought a pack with me as an excuse to go outside the funeral home, when looking at Haim in a box was too much) and he gravedigger said, in a slow country voice straight out of a western, “Friend of yours?” I nodded. “Heard it was drug related. I buried over a hundred kids last year for the same reason. Damn shame.” I couldn’t agree more. And then they put my beautiful friend into the dirt.
Haim and I walked out of the diner and got in the Le Baron and “Cortez the Killer” picked right up again as I let the top down and we left the parking lot. We drove a little ways down the road and noticed a homeless midget standing on the side of the road with his thumb out. “Look at this asshole,” I said and Haim snorted. As soon as we passed the man he looked up and we saw that it was Feldman. I slammed on the breaks and he ran towards the car and hopped in the back seat. I’ll leave you with this imagine of the last time the three of us were ever together, cruising down the Sunset strip in the early morning sun, all three of us, at least for the moment, happy.
So to answer your question, I don’t know why they haven’t asked me to be on dancing with the stars, but I don’t really care. I’ve done plenty of dancing with the stars already. God Bless.
In Memory of Chad Wagnon. He would have liked it.
DAMN GOOD FIGHT