A rollicking account of a paralyzed Gen Xer coming of age in the oft-times sordid Hollywood rock scene of the 1980’s
The best part of living at Faux Cue Studios was that no neighbors meant freedom to make excessive noise well into the night and on through the next several days. But having no shower there sucked, forcing a drive to the gym to bathe alongside seasoned citizens and fags. I could give a shit about the homos, who mostly kept the BJs and butt-fucking out of sight, but the old guys depressed me. In my youth, I felt as though I had gotten old, and one introspective day, I looked down to my massive cluster of keys and sighed, “Man, I’ve become the janitor from elementary school.” I had bought myself a job with way too many work hours. I felt like nothing more than a money redistribution center. Because every damn time I got a decent-sized pile of cash, some immediate expense reared its ugly head to snatch it from my grasp. On the upside, as sole proprietor, any scraps left behind in the cash drawer were most definitely party funds.
Owning a studio didn’t start me hard-drug partying. But living there changed everything for the better of my closest fiends, and a few lucky drug dealers. Up until that time in my life, whenever my mental state was even slightly off, I routinely avoided hard liquor and harder drugs. Booze and pills and powders were for good-time fun. Plus, if no hard drugs were around, I rarely set out on a jonesing mission. But when the heavy shit was offered, my impulse control was considerably lacking. After the Guns’ house was history, I seldom invited drug-involved male friends over to my place. I’d head out to party all night, then roll crookedly home to rest, recuperate, and hide away until it was time to go-go-go again. But there were tons of drug opportunities at Faux Cue studios, and nowhere to hide.
I always preferred cocaine over speed. After a night of blow partying, I could slam five shots of whiskey and then it was good night, Charlie. By the early 90s, much of the available coke had gotten ultra shitty. But the speed was real good, abundant, and comparatively cheap. Even a tiny amount of speed kept me wide awake for a couple days, and far hornier than a one-armed gimp could stand. So much so, a few times, the speed managed to convince me I had always wanted to bang a three-hundred-pound chick. If that really was a chick!
My buddy Pear loved the gak, and would provide me the occasional bump while his band was setting up. Then, after closing, we’d keep the party going. While he and a couple inner-circle folks stayed awake for days, into weeks, I’d only tweak for a night or two and then rest a few days before dabbling again. But before long, I began doing more speed than ever before in my life, solely for the chicks. Because when one has speed-loving rocker dudes as your closest fiends, with a safe place to party, you get loads of tweaked-out strippers, whores, and groupies coming around in desperate need of hours’ worth of lovin.
It seemed like during the times when all the lower-tier groupies were doing too much coke, it would take them months, or years, to slither on down to Hell’s rock bottom. Meth was an entirely different animal, and the crank-ho frequently morphed from sweet, fresh-faced beauty into an emaciated, scar-faced, raving lunatic inside four weeks. But they were far hornier, for longer periods of time, than the coke whores from daze of yore. So of course they were welcome to Faux Cue for those four good tweaks. I’ll hip you all to a little secret: In my experience, the innocent victim of a sex trafficker excuse many offer when prostitution’s salad days are well past is total bullshit. The people I knew, who started out with normal sexual appetites and morals, did not gravitate toward renting out their genitals as a fun way to make extra cash. But once a certain personality profile got her first taste of pole work, many a stripper were just a shot, pimp, and a bump away from being a hooker.
I’m a beyond-suspicious person and, until proven otherwise, always assume everyone has a moral defect, fiendish agenda, or both. At first, my party buddies were folks I had known for several years and, more importantly, where they lived. Unfortunately, speed enthusiasts often hung out with tweakers, meaning more and more scumbags were thrust into my life. There’s a huge difference between those who enjoy speed and a tweaker whose brain has rotted from pounds of nasal caffeine and months of sleeping only five hours a week. Even if the tweaker had not been disrespected or slighted in any way, they would work scenarios in their sizzled gray matter until they justified robbing, stealing, or worse. Other junkies steal shit because they need drugs. But that don’t mean they no longer like you. It took a few years of semi-frequent meth use to accept the fact that sleep and food were my friends. The summer after the Northridge earthquake, I cut way back on the gak and purged most of the speed-partying from my place.
I started “righting” a book about my life. If I would have followed though to the finish, this would have been the last sentence. But I can only do two things at a time, and both of them were drugs. It’s funny what I thought were the highlights some twenty years back. The mantra of my youth, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” left me fretting about turning thirty. I actually began dreading that particular milestone birthday the night before my twenty-eighth. So by the time it arrived, thirty was more of a bummer than need be. My whole existence had revolved around youthful rebellion and questioning authority. “Hey, Raz, don’t jump balls first into that fire.” “Fuck you! Don’t tell me what to do.”
Through a series of unexpected events, by the end of that year, my life resembled a hypodermic in a haystack. Unfortunately, my studio was the haystack. My buddy Jimbo, a recent paraplegic and a very likeable, energetic hardcore motherfucker with a tattoo across his back – “Still Alive but Not Kicking” – often dropped by to use my accessible bathroom. He’d then disappear for a while, only to return in full nod. To save him the trouble, I began letting him smoke his dope in my office. Every once in a black moon, I’d hit him up for a few hits of tar heroin off the foil. For a few years, that was it – two or three hits max, about once a month.
One of my very first paying bands, Rozy Coyote, were a great group, with a huge draw that packed Gazzari’s every other week. Shout out to Tim, Johnny, and Jay. At some point, they hired a new drummer, Rick. He was a major pothead, so we got along great and he hung out all the time. The fall after banishing speed from my place, Rick, to whom I had mistakenly mentioned my occasional tar heroin forays, began relentlessly bugging, “Have your buddy get us a couple of dimes of dope.”
Solely to shut up his pestering ass, I put in an order. We then chased the dragon in my office, and after it flew away, I spent five hours sprawled on the lobby couch, scratching my nose and nodding. Of all the junkies I had been around, until that afternoon, I never took more than three hits. Those several more than plenty of hits confirmed to me ten-fold my hate for heroin. I actually told anyone who cared to listen how much heroin sucked. So imagine my surprise when, by the end of the year, I had morphed into a stinky, junkie, scumbag gimp.
I accept full responsibility, and am not trying to assign blame when I say, fucking Rick. As a big-time music mogul, junkies were part of my landscape. And because I had no desire for and a strong dislike of heroin, I had felt safe letting a few select friends score their dope and get high at my facility. Those drugs, stored inside tiny balloons tied in a knot, got delivered by non-English-speaking dudes with pagers, packed that way so they could be swallowed if law enforcement closed in. But it was a bitch getting at those urgently needed drugs. First rip the knot from the balloon, remove it, and then unwrap some aluminum foil to access the tar’s last barrier, a cut-up piece of grocery bag plastic the shit was ultimately wrapped in. To release it from the plastic, the sticky-tar-dope was pressed hard onto the foil and then the plastic quickly ripped away. Position one end of a straw over the lump, light ’er up from underneath, and chase that sizzling, smoking tar ball running down an aluminum valley while suppressing a gag. I am absolutely not jonesing right now.
During cold weather, it seemed like I was always chilled to the bone and could never get warm. But a few hits of tar heroin warmed me to my core. Sometimes I’d even get a little sweat going, even if it was forty degrees out. For all you non-Southern-California folks, forty is like arctic to us. So with an extra-chilly December, and a few dopers coming and going most days, I’d take a few hits to warm up. Soon, I began accepting a dime of tar as repayment for money loaned. The chill was gone. Next thing I knew, I had done a dime of heroin thirteen days straight, but couldn’t hide away for the three or four days needed to clean up. There was a business to run into the ground. So I began smoking Marlboros again and upped my dose to twenty bucks a day.
Tolerance built up quickly, and sense of time got so distorted that several months felt like a few weeks.
By then, forty bucks’ worth of dope would barely get me “well.” I faced a choice. Start shooting up or quit. My fear of needles, and a lifelong desire to never become a junkie, made my decision easy. I begged a friend to watch my studio for a week and ran off to cold turkey at a cheap motel. I never understood the concept of drug rehabilitation. Why pay someone for something that you must ultimately accomplish on your own? It’s like those diet programs, where you pay someone twice as much for half the fucking food. Just put down the pipe, or fork, asshole. I have always felt drugs are the choice between fuck it or fuck that. Meaning, when you surrender to an urge with a “fuck it,” your next action is calling the dope man. And then there’s no turning back. Or you can choose to say, “Fuck that,” and not be a weak bitch.
I returned to work confident the accidental heroin addiction was behind me. There was also a big change I believed was going to help my mental state. I found a way to skip showering at the gym. Jimbo had introduced me to couple of gimps living nearby, Ray and Bob, and for a few bucks, I could shower at their place. When I exited the bathroom, after my very first pay shower, I found Ray and Bob chasing the dragon in the dining room. Because I didn’t like dope, even a little, and I’m a social guy, I took the offered hits.
A few minutes later, Bob loaded a hit of crack into a little glass pipe. Even though I had snorted a few metric tons’ worth of coke, I hadn’t smoked any in over a decade. So when the crack pipe got passed my way, I knew I could take it or leave it. Wrong! That sweet-smelling sizzle-smoke of rock cocaine mixed wonderfully with my heroin buzz. That shit was Mmm, Mmm good and evilly bad at the same time. While cocaine seduced, heroin bullied, and twenty thousand dollars later, I realized the shit wasn’t actually that good. But I smoked another 20k worth just to be sure. I am absolutely not jonesing right now.
After my first hit in a decade, whenever party time arrived, I always sang to my cocaine, “We will, we will rock you.” Once the prep was done, as my co-smokers sat around waiting for big daddy Raz to take the first hit, I’d sometimes fuck with them by flicking little pieces of crack-rock off of my knee while saying, “Ping, ping, ping,” figuring it’d be fun watching them carpet crawl after we ran out of shit. Unable to fathom that anyone would actually waste crack, those folks rarely carpet crawled. But one night, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a decent-sized sliver of rock cocaine on my office floor. I hastily retrieved it to load into my pipe, only to realize it was a piece of fried rice. But I got two hits off that shit.
I came up with a brilliant strategy to avoid getting strung out again: party for three days, then skip two days. If being dead is like sleeping, I’m going to love being dead. My love of slumber drove my junkie buddies crazy. While I slept off my come-down in fourteen-hour clips, they were cramped-up insomniacs for three or more days. I’d only get out of bed long enough to empty my pee jug, take a couple Advil, down a quart of water, and then back to bed for another clip. Helping me out around the studio were a few junkie/party buddies who worked for drugs. Those shady characters, combined with my newfound lack of interest in personal hygiene, caused business to suffer for some reason.
Almost five Faux-King years had passed, so it was about time for another fat settlement check. Them hard drugs had got me broke. In desperate need of getting my head straight, I got one of those settlement advances and received some capital a few months early. The three-month financial time shift ended up costing about 60 percent interest, but money allowed me to send the junkies packing. Then I shut down the studio to hide away from all the drugs that daily walked through my door.
My heaviest drug use was over by the fall of 95. But no one likes a quitter. So I chipped away chasing the dragon two or three times a month, mostly to take the edge of the crack, for another year or so. Then, beginning the day of the North Hollywood shootout, I stayed hard-drug clean for three years. I have only fucked around again a few times since, but those excursions were more than fifteen years ago. With the keys to vending machines, as well as a cup full of quarters, I turned to sugar as my drug of choice and super-sized myself.
Besides driving druggies from my wasted world, the second phase of my plan was to convert the entire facility into monthly lockouts. Not a huge moneymaker, but it meant a positive cash flow for a fraction of the work hours. And the best part was not having to daily deal with a thousand asses desiring a kiss. But when the studio was empty, I fell in love with the place all over again. As 96 began, I was sober-ish and possessed tons of cash. But instead of cutting and running, I remodeled and spruced the joint up real nice. Faux Cue Studios received new carpets, couches, a multi-colorful paint job, plus all the PAs, mics, and stands were upgraded or returned to tip-top condition. I also began preliminary steps toward converting the seldom-used backroom into a recording studio. And the biggest new moneymaker: three rooms’ worth of guitar amps, drums, and such to rent out fully equipped studios, which became instantly popular.
During the remodel, I went “full retard” and accepted that I should just live there. So in one of the rooms, I built a bachelor apartment with kitchen, shower, and washer/dryer. All the comforts of home on a railroad track. Altogether with my hide-a-rehab and remodeling work, the studio remained closed at least four months. The time off and return to my core group of supportive friends put me in the proper state of mind. But my extended period of hard-drug use, with its accompanying studio-full of junkie worker bees and the closing down for several months, killed lots of business. My refreshed attitude and lack of odor, all combined with environmental, equipment, and service upgrades, meant that, by summer, I returned to positive cash flow. I then set out in earnest to finish the recording studio.
Then life got even better. My brother Omar turned eighteen, and days later moved down from Carmel to beautiful Noho by the fleas. All of a sudden, I had someone I completely trusted to watch the place and willing to work for beer. Omar did great work; the customers loved him and I enjoyed having him around. I began getting out more often and seeing bands. When they sought my opinion, I’d often say, “I really liked that one song. But why’d you guys play it seven times in a row?”
At the clubs, to my dismay, all I knew were the dudes. When I did the artist management thing, I knew scores of fuckable honeys at every club or bar. But not fond of sucking dick, knowing almost every long-haired, drug-addict, rocker dude in a club did nothing for me. I quickly tired of the club scene, and on my off nights, I mostly hid out in my bachelor pad, smoking pot and watching movies while my little brother ran the place.
There was a neighborhood crackhead, Weasel, who would occasionally wander into the studio trying to sell stuff he “found,” all the while looking to find stuff sitting around my place. I’d keep a watchful eye, playing it cool, and after a little small talk would diplomatically send him away. One night, after seeing him for the third time in a day, too busy for diplomacy and tired of dealing with bullshit, I bellowed, “Dude, how many times I got to tell you to stay the fuck out of here?”
The look in his eye let me know I had just made my newest enemy. Sure enough, that piece of shit came back the very next night and robbed me at knifepoint, making off with more than seven hundred dollars. A half hour later, two cops showed up to take a report. But no detective ever called to follow up. Over the next few months, there was an occasional Weasel sighting around the neighborhood. But I had no one at the LAPD to contact. Then, Weasel seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, and I figured he was locked up for some other crack-headed-crime.
During summer of 97, my buddy Rob hooked me up with a lightning-quick 333 MHz, Pentium II PC, running Windows 95. I was skeptical at first, having lost all interest in personal computers during the late 80s. But that new rig was lightyears better than the floppy disc, DOS, Tandy 1000SX with its monochrome monitor that left me doubting the home computer’s future. Though the web browsers of 1997 were quite rudimentary – I believe I started with Netscape – still, the internet was super fun and informative. So with millions of gigabytes’ worth of free smut available over my 28.8k modem, and the ability to create graphics as well as powerful word-processing functions, I was hooked and dove right in to spend hours learning all the little tricks and tools of my new PC.
I was quite fortunate to have several computer geeks around the studio, who regularly steered me out of digital jams. The biggest obstacle was changing the way my brain thought about fixing stuff. Before the digital portion of my existence, if something wouldn’t work, it was always a mechanical issue requiring tearing shit open to fix the works. But with computers, most malfunctions are software-related and rarely a hardware issue. I fucked up a few printers and a scanner before I finally got that through my extra-thick skull.
Fairfax High buddy and solid bass player Marcel Circus informed me, “Faux Cue Studios needs a web presence.” She then offered me a good deal for a “web page” on her “Worldwide Shopping and Information Network.” But I took an entirely different promotional route than that there world-wide webnet and threw down with an old-school fanzine, Faux Cue Hollywood. The plan was to write a bunch of funny stuff, throw in several studio ads, print it up, and then distribute that fucker to places where new customers were known to congregate. To that end, I got me a laser printer. And when I wasn’t printing booklets full of naked chicks, I wrote daily.
I set up the Faux Cue Hollywood production office in the last room on the left. As a bonus, reducing capacity to four rooms made my studio far easier to keep full. So my hourly rates would be raised once the holiday lull subsided. The creative process and positive encouragement had put me in the best state of mind since opening the joint. I was having tons of fun. When the first issue of Faux Cue Hollywood hit the streets a few weeks before Christmas to generally positive feedback, all I cared about was getting to work on the next edition. And when the New Year began, I hit the ground writing, with the intent of getting the next issue out by early March.
Shortly after Groundhog Day 98, I saw the guy who robbed me the year before walking down my street. It was mid-afternoon, and Weasel was holding a forty of Mickey’s camouflaged by a paper bag. He crossed to my side of the street and told me, “Sorry about that stuff that night, I’m sober now.”
I told him, “I think it’s best if you don’t come around here anymore. I got a couple of friends that want to kill you.”
He apologized again and went away. There’s a common behavior after a drug-loving dude gets out of jail. Many feel in complete control and confident, due to their extended drug-free period. So they have a freedom celebration. The forty-ouncer represented a kick start, ultimately leading to Weasel smoking crack. I knew he’d then seek additional funding to extend his celebration.
To remain alert and ready, I went the whole day without smoking pot. My loaded gun remained close at hand. Around ten, when my buddy Ken called, I told him, “I saw the guy who robbed me, and he’s going to rob me again tonight.”
Ken said, “If I see him, I’ll kick his ass.”
Only one band was still jamming when Ken showed up shortly after midnight. We headed to the back to work on Faux Cue Hollywood’s second issue. I felt safe because he had my back and, figuring all was cool, smoked pot for first time all day. At five to one, the intercom rang, signaling someone was at the front door. On the phone, a voice said, “I’m here to pick up the band.”
I rolled backward to look down the hall, and on the other side of the front door was a mid-thirties dude with a beard. Timing made sense, so I went to the keypad and buzzed the guy in. By the time I rolled back to the doorway, I was shocked to see Weasel more than halfway down the hall. As he advanced swiftly toward me, I’m thinking, “Sucks that I’m going to have to shoot this dude.”
By the time I retrieved my snub nose .38 from under my leg, Weasel stood right behind me and was just beginning to headlock me. I wasn’t into taking a shot so close to my head/ear, so I tossed the gun across the room to Ken and yelled, “That’s the dude!”
And if he hadn’t folded his arms and turned away, that fucking pistol would have hit Ken right in his hand. And Weasel would have run for the hills.
While I struggled and fought to block the doorway, Weasel was yelling, “I got a gun! I’ll blow his head off.”
While fending Weasel off, I kept pulling his hand away from my head to show it was bullshit, all the while repeatedly yelling to Ken, “It’s his finger! Get the gun!”
Ken did the brave thing by lifting his shirt, twirling around, and whimpering, “I ain’t got nothing.”
Then, on command, Ken backed away from the gun.
Weasel scrambled over the top of me, dove for the gun, then sprang to his feet, waved the muzzle back and forth, and yelled, “I got the gun now, motherfuckers!”
I had well over six hundred bucks in my pocket, but always kept sixty bucks in ones and fives in my desk just for that kind of situation. When I told Weasel the cash was in the office, we got gunpoint-ordered to head in that direction.
While making our way toward the front, Ken’s bravery continued when he ducked into a studio and locked the door. Weasel then proceeded to beat and kick the door while yelling threats and waving the pistol my way.
I remained calm while pointing to a phone on the wall near the lobby door. “There’s no phone in there (where Ken was). Look, the phone’s not lighting up.”
I kept rolling toward my office, the entire time repeating, “See. It’s not lighting up.”
In my office, I forked over the fat stack of ones and fives, while reminding Weasel the gun also held significant value. I threw in a “I didn’t call the cops the first time.”
And he split without killing me.
When you say the magic word “gun” to a 911 operator, cops swarm. It seemed like less than a minute passed before a helicopter’s searchlight lit up my street. Soon afterward, the first of a dozen squad cars began screeching to a halt out front.
With the pungent smell of pot permeating the studio, and having reported my robber got sixty bucks, the cop interviewing me didn’t seem to be buying my story.
Then they switched up, with the officer who interviewed me questioning Ken and vice-versa. A few minutes later, the first officer I spoke with walked over and shook his head. “I thought you were lying. But your buddy told me the same story. What a pussy.”
Whenever I told people about the robbery, many asked if the perp was a Mexican or black guy. I would say, “No, it was a white dude. Now I hate white people and love cops.”
I went from feeling safe and comfortable at my studio to knowing I was a sitting duck. I never did reopen, and by spring, I had sold the business. Over the course of seven years, several world-class acts, recording legends, or celebrity attempts at something closely resembling music congregated at my establishment. I wrote a few funny stories or anecdotes about the following, but decided to drastically de-bulk this once-rambling section. So without further ado: Hey, Slam, hold the door so the names I drop can get out. Dave Grohl, Steven Adler, Duff McKagan, Chris Holmes, Leif Cole, Wool, Nigel Moog, John 5, Randy Castillo, Gilby Clarke, Phil Lewis, Frank Starr, Mick Fleetwood (I thought he’d be impressed with my ten-foot ceilings, but he thought I was busting his chops). Did you know that Joey Buttafuoco plays drums? Corey Feldman, Theo from The Cosby Show, Rik Fox, Solomon Burke, Jimmy Bain, Dizzy Reed, Robin Crosby, Jane Wiedlin, Louis Johnson, Patrick Muzingo, Soul, Brian Damage, John Christ, NOFX, Screaming Jets, BB Chung King & the Buddaheads, The Obsessed, and Bang Tango.
I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a sloppy-wet Faux Cue salute to those who made my trip smooth. Of course some worthy of mention were left out, but it’s not my fault your band wasn’t memorable. In no particular order, these were some cool bitches, a great group, or both: Francine Parker, Wheel, Bad Acid Trip, Butt Full of Corn, School Boys, Killing Culture, Mustard, Das Klown, My Favorite Martian, Junk Drawer, Texas Teri, Immortal Gonzo Roasties, Petersen Press Jay, Piss Ant, Memphis Black, Kicking Harold, Custom Made Scare, Vagabonds, Ovalteen, Knuckle Rub, Maniga, Chop Shop, Sumthin Nuthin, Lisafer, Slack Babbath, One Inch Punch, Johnny X, J.J. Bolt, Lectrozone, Cunt Say Can’t, The Hookers, Dakota Wildflowers, Big Johnson, Gravelbath, Even More Than Feared, Crow King, Friar Fuck, Gang of Noise, Ragamuffin, Root Doctors, Joker’s Wild, Chrystal Sphere, Dr. Strange, Bad Love, Dr. Jack, Dark Sky, Max Welton, Little Generals, Big Privates, Fat Elvis, Bluebird, Catfish, Mad Reign, Keef Flat, Officer Ron’s Missing Strat, Chewey Pawned It, Drive By, Texercist, Juke Joint, Zen’s Revenge, DFR Experience, Hollywood Joneses, Rhythm Slaves, Makin a Salad, Sam Mann and Thee Apes, Fetch Daddy’s Vaseline, B.O.O.F., and The Chuy Castro Band.
At times, folks will ask if I miss owning a studio. “No!” That motherfucker drove me to the point of hating music, and it took years to once again fully surrender to the unconditional joy it delivers. Overall, my place had a good vibe. And I meandered to the conclusion that by naming it Faux Cue, most uptight pricks self-excluded. More than 90 percent of those who regularly staggered through my door were a pleasure to be around. But that math leaves at least seven total assholes, dicks, or bitches invading my space on any given night. By any measure, Faux Cue Studios was a successful financial endeavor that I hated with every fiber of my being. At times, I wish I never opened a studio, but something really great came from it. My brother met a super cool, smart, hard-bodied, and rowdy chick that became the love of his life.
Nowadays, Erika and Omar are husband and wife, a great, fun couple. I dig her and my brilliant-as-she-is-beautiful niece Eva far beyond words. Crazy loves me. And because I love my kids so much, I didn’t have them. After my music business career ended, severe normalcy set in, and life got real boring real fast. Upon turning forty, I realized failure was actually an option. Because I never thought I’d make forty, so didn’t actually have a “what’s next” plan. Ten more years flew past. I then realized there was something worse than being disabled: being old and disabled. I’m here to testify, many old men wish for younger days, no brick house needed. Them fine-ass bitches only make the yearning stronger. So even though a song warned me not to let it happen, at times the sound of my own wheels drives me crazy. But whatcha gonna do? Shit is as it is!