A rollicking account of a paralyzed Gen Xer coming of age in the oft-times sordid Hollywood rock scene of the 1980’s
While I was still in the music business, I attempted to purchase a music rehearsal studio. I couldn’t secure financing, but remained confident the bank got it wrong. Then, during my open-mic career, while still believing I was to be the next Raz Cue, Pops suggested I find something to fall back on; just in case the comedy career didn’t pan out. I joked that there was always my ass to fall on. But the seed done been planted. So when I got my fat thirty-grand structured-settlement check on New Year’s Day 1991, I didn’t buy the 1973 Corvette Stingray just itching for my lead left foot to increase its already stellar occupants’ death rate. Instead, I invested in opening a rehearsal studio. I reasoned that, with all the bands I knew, my place would be packed within seconds of grand opening and I could then score a far more badass 60s Corvette.
Being of superior intelligence, and chock full of early-twenties exuberance, I wisely projected income by computing the maximum possible room occupancy, multiplied by a great hourly rate. According to those sound calculations, I’d soon be swimming in cash, and thus have plenty of time to hit the national comedy club circuit, as well as the hefty bankroll needed to make indie films at my studio. When I first contemplated the project, my unemployed electrician pot-smoking buddy, an ornery Guy from Houston, encouraged and challenged me to follow through. And once I made up my mind to go for it, that same ornery Guy dared me to brand my business Faux Cue Studios: “It’s French.”
The only thing I needed to do was everything. I began with a quest for the perfect location by driving the east side – odelay – of North Hollywood. In no time flat, I located several two-thousand-square-foot concrete block buildings perfect for the three-roomed studio already existing in my brain. Heading home, I turned west onto Magnolia and noticed a for-lease sign atop a large concrete block building, which I believed to be way bigger than I could afford. It turned out that even though the place was almost four thousand square feet and fronted a main street, the monthly rent was an incredible fifty cents per square foot. I could not sign the lease fast enough, and received the keys just in time to celebrate turning twenty-six.
That’s how Faux Cue Studios ended up near the corner of Magnolia and Cahuenga, a half block from the newly opened restaurante delicioso, Poquito Mas, in an area freshly dubbed the “Noho Arts District.” Directly across the street from my joint sat Solbrook, a business that painted six-foot-tall album covers for display above records stores. Most days, at least ten of those paintings leaned against the wall out front and, unless you were up close, the artwork looked pretty good. But the landmark most folks recognized was an office furniture store two buildings over. To me, their merchandise seemed a tad overpriced for a place billing itself as a “liquidator.” But what did I know? Jerry, the guy who ran the business, expanded his operation lightning-quick, and within ten years owned three of the four buildings on the property.
Before I could draw up plans to pull permits, I first needed to learn how to draw plans. I bought a drafting table and a giant T-square, then got busy doing preliminary, rough drawings. After a few days of drawing, I headed to Van Nuys to wait an hour in line at the building department, only to have the clerk barely glance at my work before smugly telling me to hire an architect. I told him, “No money for that. I just have a few questions.” When Jack-Ass repeated himself, I told him, “Look, I waited in line for an hour. Just answer two questions, please.” But he turned me away, and we were both lucky I couldn’t smack that bitch. Undeterred by that pointy-headed bureaucrat, I merely went to another window. There, a very sweet and helpful lady answered tons of questions, and even offered a few brilliant suggestions. By my third trip, a half-gallon of white out, and seven hundred trips to Kinko’s Copy Center, my plans for six 300-square-foot rooms – plus the leftover thousand-square-foot blank canvas in the back of the building – were approved.
I ordered several thousands of dollars’ worth of construction shit, foolishly believing it was most of the required materials. As it turned out, on its rise from nothingness, my project burned through at least an additional hundred bucks daily, plus a few other unexpected major expenditures. A building twice as big as my original plan required double the materials, which added up far too quickly. I had also projected costs wrong by half. So if you’re counting on your fingers, you might realize it cost four times more than my original assumptions; if I would have had that much capital.
Faux Cue’s construction crew was comprised of my brother Joe, who kept the project running smoothly by pausing several times a day to strongly, and wrongly, disagree with a direct order. Another major contributor was that ornery Guy from Texas, who designed and completed 90 percent of my electrical needs. I paid him almost well, let him live at the studio during construction, and threw in free rehearsal for life. Even though he did a good job, the life of our agreement ended about a year post opening after I buried him in a shallow grave by the light of a half moon over the Mojave Desert. But without a doubt, the hardest worker who never stole, argued, threatened, or falsely accused me of a damn thing was our “forty-dollar specialist,” Louie. I had found him wandering Home Depot’s parking lot in search of a better life and white women, and hired him on the spot. We affectionately called him Gilligan, because he was our little buddy.
Besides those three, the project’s success was due in large part to countless free consultations provided by contractor buddy and Patrick Swayze doppelganger, Dave. He’d drop by the jobsite a few times a week to answer a slew of questions and offer ultra-valuable advice for the price of a beer and doobie.
The build began about four weeks after I signed the lease, when a lumber truck backed into my loading dock and tilted its bed up until my large stack of wood products slid off as far as it could go. With one edge on the ground, and the remainder slanting up toward the truck, the driver inched forward until that shit dropped to earth to rock the concrete and shake my building like a mini earthquake.
About five minutes later, my crew, the truck driver, and I were in the office smoking some dirt weed while listening to “Tighten Up” – “But don’t you get too tight” – when a chick from the neighboring office dropped by to do some recon. While making some third-degree small talk, she noticed the clothes hanging in the office and asked, “Is someone living here?”
I told her, “Nope, chicks come by and we fuck ’em.”
Joe added, “Then we give ’em a shirt.”
I shrugged and offered a flirty smile, “You want a shirt?”
She scanned the room, quite possibly pondering whether she needed a shirt from one of us, but declined before hurrying from the hairies. We put on “God is a Bullet,” finished smoking, and then started building walls.
I firmly believe, in all aspects of life, someone needs to be in charge. So I eagerly switched into full boss-man mode. After all, I was paying the fucking bills. Not being able to put my own “Manuel labor” into a project has always frustrated the fuck out of me. Plus, there was the dreaded sitting there seeing how to best do a job, getting totally ignored while offering sage advice, and then footing the bill to repair shit after it’s all fucked up. I’m a “do it right or don’t do it at all” type guy. So unless I fully trust a worker will do the task correctly, I lay out every little step, then hover, eagle-eyed-know-it-all ready to yell, “Stop!”
Time and again, that’d piss off dummies, even if they were fucking shit up when I applied the verbal brakes. I regularly heard stuff like, “You’re too anal,” or, “Quit micro-managing every fucking thing I do.” At times, those correct observations persuaded me to leave a worker on their own to complete a relatively straightforward task, containing huge margins for error, only to return and discover morons fucked everything up. Instead of an apology for wasting my time and money, I usually got, “You didn’t say that’s how you wanted it.” Make up your mind, people!
By mid-April, the studios were near operable, but I was even nearer broke. But at twenty-six, I could still easily fit my fears and doubts into a matchbox, so I thought nothing of spending every last penny I owned, even after failure smiled seductively and offered an easy out. There is not a soul on this planet who likes a quitter less than I do, so I cut the spending spigot way back to a trickle and begged my crew, “All I want to do is get the doors on the rooms,” knowing full well that, once I owned a functioning studio, I’d have a valuable commodity for barter. Not to mention the huge stacks of cash brought in by all those bands clamoring to practice at my place. And all my dreams would come true.
The weekend before my final inspection, I threw a humongous grand-opening Bar-B-Faux Cue, with kegs, buds, burgers, dogs, and mega munchies. I printed up stacks of flyers with the first of many cheesy slogans: “If they ask you where you rehearse, say Faux Cue.” The flyer also pointed out that the studio sat “5 minutes from Hollywood (at 3am doin’ 90 MPH),” which I had clocked in my Isuzu. Because the place was not complete, the timing of my grand opening celebration was a huge tactical error. I had reasoned it would be better to paint, install carpet, and hang the doors after a hundred drunken motherfuckers partied hard there. But during the wing-ding, I constantly corrected folks who thought the place was still months from completion. By my count, only three or four future customers attended my promo event.
Like I repeatedly promised party guests, I opened the very next weekend. With the doors hung, the last order of business was final inspection. To my horror, the city inspector told me the ceiling’s drywall was running in the wrong direction. I didn’t have two grand to redo the ceilings, so I excused myself and sent Joe to the ATM to get five hundred bucks. But good fortune smiled, and as it turned out, my misreading of the building code had provided far more ceiling joist capacity than code required. So no bribe was necessary.
In another weird code misadventure, one of the bathrooms was built accessible for the needs of the gimp who would use it 99 percent of the time – me. But it wasn’t up to ADA code, and to pass inspection, I was required to meet an arbitrary standard etched in stone. Thanks to the city of Los Angeles, I spent an extra three hundred bucks redoing, then undoing the redo. So I did not feel any guilt about never getting a business license. I also passed on acquiring fire insurance. Because, as I told several insurance salesmen, “If my place burns down, it’s just God’s way of telling me I need to get into another line of work.”
So there I sat, the penniless owner of six 300-square-foot rehearsal rooms; just rooms with no carpet, equipment, or air conditioning.
It took a year and a half to get the place air conditioned, which forced me to slash my imagined hourly rate just to get customers through the door more than once. In the meantime, I went to Carpeteria and, for three rooms’ worth of carpet, signed on the dotted line allowing them merciless financial butt-rape. As an attempt to make singers happy, I financed one crappy PA from Carvin, and for the second PA, I went to Nadine’s Music to Amex around two grand worth of gear. My buddy Sam hooked me up with several milk crates full of cords, a power amp, and a half dozen microphones. Just because he was a pretty, sweet bitch. Cords constantly failed, but it was a great start. Plus, I learned that milk crates make stylish racks for mounting gear. Last but not least, I furnished the rooms with crusty, found-on-the-side-of-the-road couches that grew far crustier over time.
To get some cash flow going, I raided bands away from nearby studio L.P. Sound by letting a few old friends rehearse for free. One reason – I’m the coolest unreasonable cunt ever. But more believably, I realized rather quickly it was good optics if my place appeared popular. Plus, those bands enjoyed varying degrees of success, and accompanying respect from fellow musicians, thus providing my newly established joint’s credibility. Right around the same time my doors opened for business, The Wild broke up after keyboardist Dizzy Reed joined another semi-popular rock ‘n’ roll band. But each one his former bandmates brought their new projects over to my place from L.P. Sound. Then, when Dizzy finished touring the globe, his side projects jammed at Faux Cue.
I had never met the owner of L.P. Sound. But when the band Mondo Kane migrated to Faux Cue, Gary had enough and dropped by to scout out my place. To the benefit of his customers, he began seeing me as some kind of major competition. Thus, the service at his place improved greatly. But in reality, he had no need to even have bands at L.P. Sound. We were two wholly different business models. I made my money running a legitimate-ish business that opened promptly according to a set schedule, while Gary sold two pounds of killer weed per day, an eighth at a time. But I was glad he did what he do, because for almost two years, I was a regular green customer at L.P., until Kenny the Gardener wandered into Faux Cue to save the hip a half-mile hemp trip.
Right from the get-go, I began receiving payback for the dirty deeds I’d been dealing out since I first learned to work every angle. On the recommendation of a friend, I rented my entire studio out for a small private birthday party. Unfortunately, the renter passed out flyers around Hollywood. More than three hundred animals, with little or no respect for my property, descended on my studio to party until dawn. Even though it was something I had done more than once to others’ property, I hated it happening to poor little ol’ me. Then, during my regular business hours, it only took a few assholes spitting on the walls, pissing all over the bathroom, or any other variety of theft and vandalism to totally get me down. I wondered why someone would do that kind of shit, when I tried my damndest to treat people with respect and provide a nice place at a decent price.
I once believed in honor amongst thieves, but a thief has no honor. If it wasn’t under lock and key, carefully watched, or accounted for, tons of expensive shit got gone. The most often recurring thefts for dollar amount – about a hundred bucks a pop – were several microphones missing every month. Plus, bad employees stole more of my CDs than I ever shoplifted, which was quite a feat. As soon as I got a heavy dose of how shitty the loser’s end tasted, it got me to stop stealing altogether. But for another few years, I still bought stolen shit if a wandering salesman happened by. Music gear, food stamps, batteries, or whatever else the local street scum pedaled. I eventually became “holier than thou” against facilitating theft by purchasing stolen items after deciding to live life as if God was watching, even before I was convinced of His existence. Nowadays, I have faith. But remain leery of religion.
The very first week after I opened Faux Cue Studios, a singer friend sent his latest band over for some preproduction. They would have been an excellent group, had they existed for longer than their three weeks at my place. The bass player, Ron Cordi, formerly of an almost-made-it-big band, Bitch, became a Faux Cue alumnus. But his other jam-mates, recently departed from Megadeath, Jay Reynolds and Chuck Behler, only stopped in once or twice after that first month. I bring them up not just for the name drop, but because their buddy Epi dropped by one night and was soon offering me a bunch of “like new” carpet. All I need do was drive a mile to his place so he could toss it in my truck. I thought he was totally full of shit, but the next afternoon, I received over a thousand square feet of barely-used-during-TV-show-filming, free carpet. Epi’s black-on-black, dark black , double-flat black drums moved in soon after. And because he was a super funny, helpful, multi-talented, wheeling, dealing, bartering, all-around good dude to have as a friend, there they stayed for almost a decade.
As promotion went, letting friends jam for free, or at steeply discounted rates, couldn’t possibly have paid my weed bills. Flyers worked well, but were labor intensive. My go-to strategy became bimonthly local trade rag Music Connection Magazine. It didn’t take long for me to feel like all my work went to simply buying ads from them, because twice a month, I’d write ’em a decent-sized check so I could draw in the occasional cool group. And handfuls of shitty little bands. I learned some important things about print advertising. One was, don’t wait until grand opening to start ads. In case you care, start at least a month early and get that motherfucking phone ringing! And another pearl – don’t stop buying ads when business starts swinging. Bands regularly broke up or got their own lockout studio, and it was a constant struggle keeping my rooms full. And when business dropped off, if ads weren’t running, I’d wait even longer for shit to pick up again. So, except for a three-month period, I bought them fucking ads religiously till the day I died. Give an example of hyperbole.
For a while, I dug answering the phone with an exuberant “Faux Cue,” but eventually went to the quick ease of “Studio.” I realized one thing pretty quickly: I had never kissed as much ass in my entire life until opening a business called Faux Cue. It was simple math. If I told a band to “Fuck off,” and they did, I just sent maybe ninety bucks a week packing. And because of my fondness for eating, I routinely ignored the sound of pride fucking with me. Being financially forced to remain nice, while holding my tongue to people that were clueless and annoying, was the most aggravating thing about running a business. I simply could never blow my stack to the anal, uptight worry-monger who called twenty different times to book, then rebook over and over, for a spot two months down the road. Even after repeatedly assuring them daytime was never full, and they without doubt could get a room by calling to schedule ten days before. And all that for twenty bucks. So not only was I a whore, I was a cheap whore.
You must’ve heard the saying, “Find something you love and make it your work… blah, blah, blah.” It’s bullshit. I love music – shows and produced recordings – but I quickly realized my burning hate for rehearsals. I’d bet that over my years at Faux Cue Studios, I didn’t venture into them rooms more than twenty times whilst music was practiced. When people asked, “Any good bands come in here?” I’d tell ’em, “You could get the Stones, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Hendrix in here, and if they all played at once, it’d sound like crap.”
There were tons of cool, talented bands that jammed at Faux Cue. But I still chuckle-cringe remembering the personification of those lesser bands who paid my bills, all the while making life miserable for people with ears. That would be Bang Betty, who practiced regularly four times a week, every week, for my first few years.
Before they decided on their cheesiest of cheesy names, I suggested Bang Betty brand themselves “The Worst Band in the World” or “Rehearsal Doesn’t Help.” I liked Johnny, the bass player, as well as Razzie on guitar. But their “drummer,” looking and talking like a rock star, was the personification of a poseur and an annoying fuck. That poor sap never learned to count to four and back. Not a small issue for a “drummer.” Being of the counter-gifted genre meant that, over the years, the band went through a slew of shitty singers to round out their din, and I was trapped having to hear it all. That shit was more painful than chewing on an aluminum foil ball while someone hammered your nuts with a mallet. But despite the major shade I’m throwing on Bang Betty, we actually got along great and often partied together.
One night, I noticed, high above Sunset Strip atop the recently shuttered Gazzari’s, “Bang Betty” in big red block letters on the club’s marquee. Reportedly, those letters were left piled up on the roof, and for a few free rehearsals, Faux Cue Studios and its phone number were added to the marquee just below the club’s “C-Ya, Pal” farewell salute to Bill Gazzari. Then, for a few more free rehearsals, Bang Betty glued up five hundred Faux Cue flyers on the side of Guitar Center. When the store’s manager called to bitch, I told him, “Guitar Center sucks. I wouldn’t disgrace my studio by associating it with you.”
The ultra-crap acts presented themselves about as often as the supremely talented, and both were extremely limited in number. Most bands fell into rock’s great wide mediocrity, but likely would have knocked your daughters’ socks off if they performed at her high school dance or the local bar. After my ornery electrician and I parted ways, I got his G-Teaze band mates and a cute puppy, Angelo, in the separation agreement. Soni, an Indian (red dot) who, against stereotypes, worked at his father’s 7-11, was a solid drummer and fellow herb lover. His jam buddy, Bruce, played bass pretty good; not great, but not terrible either. When I found out his father owned a GMC/Oldsmobile dealership, I often told him, “C’mon, Bruce, all you got to do is work your ass off for your Pops, and one day that dealership will be yours.” I wish I could have traded my studio for his dad, and then worked my way to the top while driving a different Vette or bad-ass truck every few months. But they were good, solid, long-term regular customers. And Angelo was already house trained.
I had more than a few great bands jam at my place, but without a doubt, the best of best was Wool. Within a month of opening Faux Cue Studios, brothers Pete and Franz Stahl dropped by to check out the facilities. When I saw Franz’s Nirvana shirt, I asked, “Is that for the Cult song?”
Franz said, “No, it’s a band. Our old drummer plays with them.”
That former band he spoke of was O.G. DC punk rock’s Scream. And the drummer was future rock royalty. Besides the Stahl boys, Wool featured onetime Concrete Blond bassist Al Bloch, and ex-Government-Issue drummer Peter Moffett. It was quite a talented lineup, and the sonically gifted group was quite adept at blowing up PA speakers; costing me in repairs I couldn’t afford. I got to brainstorming and designed a “Wool-proof” PA, thus cutting way back on blown voice coils. If they couldn’t blow that shit up, no one could. And I ended up saving lots of long-run time and money.
Up front, Pete Stahl was, without a doubt, the best frontman I had seen since Axl Rose in his hungry days. Pete frighteningly surrendered consciousness to music’s soul, writhing, grooving, and owning every inch of the stage while delivering passionate, powerful, high-energy, in-your-face vocals. I really dug Franz’s voice, too, but he preferred the aggressive crunching away of high-quality, power-punk chords while bobbing and stomping. Then there were Al Block and Pete Moffet, making up the incredible, dynamic thundering rhythm section that at times digressed into progressive metal. When Pete told me he considered Wool a hardcore punk band, I said, “Nah, you guys are too good.” A few years after we met, they scored a well-deserved major-label record deal. I really dug their album Box Set, and still can’t fathom why it didn’t sell well.
While Nirvana put the finishing touches on a little album they called Nevermind, Dave Grohl would occasionally drop by Faux Cue to hang with old friends. I was so busy running my place that, despite being on the list, I couldn’t go see Wool open for Nirvana at The Roxy a few weeks before Nevermind nuked glam. Then, the next weekend, when they shot the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, I of course ended up working instead of costarring in the iconic video. Even when his band hit the big time, Dave kept a spare drum kit at my place. And whenever in L.A., he would drop in to pound on them. For a minute, Dave had a little side-project jam band he called Foo Fighters. They practiced at Faux Cue, and even opened a club show for Wool. It was a completely different line-up from those Foo Fighters the world came to know, love, and respect. All I recall is Dave up front, and on drums, a cat named Brian Brown from a very cool group, Bluebird. Upon hearing the name of Dave’s side project, I asked him, “Who are these Foos? And why is everybody fighting them?”
Around the time Kurt got ka-banged, Wool coincidently was in need of a drummer. One night, while sharing a bottle of cheap whiskey, I asked Franz if they would hit up Dave Grohl to join Wool. Franz told me probably not, and added, “Dave’s a great songwriter, so he’ll probably start his own band.” Guess so. If Wool had never wandered into my place, I would have missed out on seeing great acts, such as Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age, early and often during their rise. No matter how successful he got, Dave always seemed to be the same down-to-earth, good-natured bloke that first dropped by Faux Cue to visit his mates. The kind of bandmate anyone who ever hit the road wished their main man was more like.
I must give an honorable mention to the owner of the most impressive recording résumé to grace my place, the one and only Louis Johnson of The Brothers Johnson. For several years, he ran the “Louis Johnson Bass Academy” from within Faux Cue Studios. Before Louis set up his academy, he had dropped by several times to quiz me about my place. I had him pegged as some old wannabe musician, wasting my time with endless questions and tales of his imagined accountant. Once a quite real accountant started cutting me checks, and one of my workers flipped out upon seeing Louis on the schedule, and then that same employee busted out with “Get the Funk Out Ma Face,” I began giving Louis his well-deserved respect. One afternoon, he tossed his bio on my desk, requesting me to proof it for typos. As I looked over page after page of outstanding performances, on legendary works, I was amazed I had never known of “Thunder Thumbs” Louis Johnson, even though the man played on Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson albums as well as scores of scores of other highly acclaimed shit.
I am well aware my tales of opening a studio sound more than a tad whiney poor-me-ish, but business actually started out decent.
Most of my early consternation could be traced to – after a year – the place not producing anywhere near the forecasted income. And the studios still needed at least fifty grand worth of equipment, soundproofing, furnishing, and various structural improvements. All the while, more needs constantly jumped to the top of the ol’ to-do list. The self-imposed financial downgrade meant that, by the first summer post-grand-opening, instead of tearing up the highways in a 60s Corvette, I moved into the studio due to unpaid apartment rent.
For three years prior to opening my studio, I had made steady progress in the walking department, getting stronger while achieving even greater stamina and distance. But I never got past the slow, plodding, Frankenstein-foot-dragging stage. That pace was totally unacceptable to customers unwilling to wait ten minutes for something that could get done in a twenty-second wheelchair trip. Because most of my time was spent in the “right now” mode of satisfying customers, I cut way back on walking and eventually turned into a massive bowl of jiggly Jell-O.
It didn’t help my physical abilities that beer flowed in rivers, while frequently smoked mass quantities of weed’s delicious fragrance permeated the building’s air. If someone had good bud, I’d more often than not accept a tasty toke. But I soon gave up on the free beer opportunities. Just like fishing, band rehearsal is a beer-drinking activity, so several twelve packs per hour wandered through my lobby, usually accompanied by a “You want a beer, Raz?” For the first few months, I hardly ever declined the tasty beverage. But it soon became quite clear that, with a few beers in me, I’d let a bunch of people slide; two bucks here and four bucks there. Being a happy drunk was costing me up to twenty bucks a night, so I quit drinking at work. But I’d steal a beer from an unattended twelve pack whenever I got the chance, and then redistribute it to the beer poor.
The biggest surprise of all was how many hours a day were required of me. Between answering the phone, starting at eleven in the morning, until the last band split after one the next morning, it was a long slog of daily ass-kissing with no reciprocation. For the first few months, I had two employees, each working about ten hours a week. It was a money thing, combined with a Raz-doesn’t-trust-anyone issue, that kept them from getting more hours. The very likeable karate kid, Robin, had only worked a few months before I fired him. Because whenever he worked, shit went missing. But it wasn’t him taking stuff. It’s just that he was such a nice, honest kid, the rock vultures would swoop in and pick all the benefit-of-the-doubt meat from his gullible carcass. Once I let Robin go, I got a taste for firing folks. I then canned my other employee within the hour, mostly because he was a dick. Don’t call them “piss boys,” but over the years, my non-dick employees were Trick, Riff, Mark, Marc, and Andy.
Right before Thanksgiving of my first year, the place really got running smooth after my buddy Vinni moved back from New York. I put him up, and he’d work the studio at least half the time. What a relief. I had worked without a day off for months, because I was a dick who fired his employees. Vinni was rock ‘n’ roll to the core, friendly, louder than the stereo, opinionated, and loved by all. As an added benefit, he would hit the Hollywood clubs several nights a week to support customers’ bands while spreading the Gospel of Faux Cue. With no money to go out, I’d let him do all the work while I hung around the studio to collect cash, smoke out, and crush all takers at Madden football. I soon realized that having a job where I got paid to smoke pot and play video games wasn’t all I had imagined.
On Wednesday nights, the rooms were usually all booked up, plus my lobby was crammed full of dudes escaping girlfriends watching Beverly Hills 90210. I had a cool set-up in the lobby: TV, 2 VCRs, a Sega with stacks of games, and controllers to smash when things did not go my way. My buddy and talented drummer, Scotty Slam, was the 90s version of YouTube. Dude owned hundreds of video tapes, of almost every cool band from the previous thirty years, and he’d bring requested videos over for viewing/dubbing parties in the lobby. Despite being a San Francisco Giants fan, Slam was a cool dude who once posited a theory which proved correct time and again: “All you need do for music at a party is to set War’s Greatest Hits on repeat.”
Biz usually fell off by up to 25 percent during the dog days of summer. But even at the height of income, during the busiest part of the year, money never reached even half of the pipe dream figures projected prior to tackling the studio project. After subtracting my lowering of the hourly rate from the constant flakes, over the course of my busiest month, I was lucky to average seven or eight full-paying bands per day. Except for Monday through Thursday, it was a bitch to keep my rooms fully booked. On just one of those weekdays, I’d usually get more bands than all of Friday through Sunday combined. But of course, even if there were only two bands over a nine-hour stretch on a Saturday night, I needed to be there. But mostly, weekend work amounted to waiting around for bands with shows to pick up or drop off their stored gear.
By the end of my first year, four rooms with varying levels of PAs were up and running. My last two rooms were to be geared up as soon as I paid off the previous months’ Amex. During Thanksgiving week, as expected, business slowed to a drunken crawl. But I was completely blindsided by an ultra-slowness of two bands per day, lasting well into January. Unfortunately, I had already spent money that never arrived, so I borrowed even more money to pay back other creditors. One thing that always bugged the fuck out of me was the certain customers who gave endless grief and argued prices whenever I tried collecting the more-than-fair monies owed. Some would allude to or straight out accuse me of chiseling them. They were of the opinion I was raking in fat stacks, but never saw the money actually flowed outward like the mighty Mississippi. I’d often argue back, “You think I’d be living in this fucking studio if I was making good money?”
It wasn’t all misery, and there were plenty of good times. One of the coolest things about my studio’s location was that it sat directly across the street from the lesbian bar “Rumors.” Now, they didn’t get an abundance of the highly coveted lipstick variety of lesbian, but for most of us, it was better than having a male gay bar across the street. Every few months, they’d have strippers, and if you ever get a chance to see strippers at a lesbo bar, do whatever it takes to get there! The ladies that ran Rumors, Trish and Toni, were super nice to me. We had so much in common – including our love of the vagina – but they never answered an all-important question: “If women can have multiple orgasms, how do lesbians know when to stop?”
Until my time spent Rumors-adjacent, I had absolutely no idea that watching ladies brawl turned me on. Which was quite a surprise discovered innocently enough after one of my customers yelled from out front, “Girl fight!”
After watching intently for a few minutes, as the chicks across the street engaged in fisticuffs, I realized I was getting a chubby. So I told my fellow fight fans, “Damn, I’m getting a chubby.” To my great delight, there were girl fights on that sidewalk across the street every so often, because when lesbians start arguing, the de-escalation strategy of a sincere “Yes, dear” is clearly off the table.
Almost a year to the day of opening Faux Cue Studios, L.A. threw a riot to celebrate. A few of us sat in the lobby, partying throughout the night, locked and loaded, ready to defend property in a patriotic muzzle flash. The looting hordes never made it to my street, and we didn’t get firebombed or nothing. But the curfew shut me down for a few nights, and business slowed up for several weeks.
For several reasons, 93 was the highest-income year of my Faux Cue adventure. But when 1994 got going, I expected big things would be built upon the prior year’s success. In January, I cleared out the huge back room and rented it as a lockout. I had been living on one side of the room, and junk was pile-stored on the other side. After a long day of moving my stuff around, the guys wanted to call it a night. But I insisted a huge stack of heavy boxes, piled six feet high on the nightstand right next to my bed, get moved first. When one of the guys promised to move it the next day, I said, “Nothing around here ever gets done ‘tomorrow.’ If there’s an earthquake, that shit’ll fall on my head.” There was some bitching and moaning, but ultimately the shit got relocated. A few days later, the Northridge earthquake hit. Upon seeing the swinging fluorescent fixture jump straight up and bash the ceiling, just before the ground got real shaky, I once again knew my bitchy-bitching had been vindicated.
Even though I was only twelve miles from the epicenter, my studio received only the slightest of damage. Because, as a California native, everything was overkill secured, allowing me to enjoy some gnarly bed surfing without too much stress. After the Christmas slowdown, I had looked forward to business getting back to full steam come mid-January. Then there was the earthquake, causing it to remain ultra-slow until March when business returned to near normal. So with a stellar year behind, five rooms going, and that lockout paying half my lease, I moved into an apartment two days before Nirvana broke up with a bang.
It took less than three months till the double rents were killing me. So I moved back into the studio. Sadly, after March’s brief gasp of rekindled business income, Faux Cue never regained the band volume it enjoyed before the ground shook. Business remained terrible for the next few years. The biggest factor contributing to my studio’s massive and extended slowdown was that the Sunset Strip rock scene finally imploded under the weight of a thousand shitty poseurs. Part of it was due to the Northridge quake leaving at least one guy or his beloved girlfriend, from almost every band, scared and traumatized. So by the summer, several rock ‘n’ quitters had given up, packed up, and moved back home to play in cover bands and wait for Facebook to come along to relieve a glorious, hedonistic youth. Looking back, it’s clear to me the Northridge Earthquake drove the final stake through the Sunset Strip’s hairy heart.