I was driving down Beverly Boulevard in a gold 1971 Volvo that looked like a spaceship. My dad had purchased the car for me a year before from a disillusioned actress in the San Fernando Valley. When we arrived at her home to pick up the car, the actress let us in and began sobbing. She said she was moving to Mexico, away from all “this,” waving dramatically out the window to the valley below. My dad took that vulnerable opportunity to haggle her down to an unreasonable price, and now I was benefiting from the woman’s shattered dreams, on my way to Virgil Frye’s home in the Hollywood Hills to take an acting class.
Virgil was an actor, former golden gloves boxing champion, and father of Soleil Moon Frye. He had an entire room in his home stuffed from floor to ceiling with plastic dolls of Soleil’s character Punky Brewster from her hit ‘80s TV show. Virgil was in his 60s and longtime friends with Dennis Hopper. He told me I had the secret of acting, which was “just enough craziness.”
I was pondering my craziness on the way to class when suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I saw an old man on the side of the road with his thumb out.
I pulled over and asked where he was heading.
“I’ve got a date with a foxy broad at this home for assisted living. It’s a few miles down the road, on Rossmore,” he said.
“Hop in,” I replied. I felt a sense of purity, of feeling protected, and at the same time hoping I wouldn’t get murdered.
We proceeded down Beverly Boulevard, down a long stretch of asphalt hugged by tall trees and golf courses on either side without a stop light for at least a mile. For a few minutes, that section of the boulevard provided a false sense of abandon and freedom in an otherwise congested concrete jungle.
“Bet you don’t think an 80-year-old man can stimulate you, do you?” my passenger asked suddenly. I was hoping he meant mentally. He started humming a tune from The Wizard of Oz – from the scene where the Wicked Witch flies through the sky. He hummed with a high-pitched frequency that was disorienting. “I composed that song,” he said.
It was a strange coincidence. A few days prior, I’d finally met my next-door neighbor after living in my West Hollywood duplex for two years. She was a quiet, middle-aged, morbidly obese woman whose curtains were always drawn. As far as I knew, none of the neighbors had ever spoken to her, and no one had seen her leave the house. I was intrigued by the mystery of her hermitic existence, so I decided to knock on her door and say hi. She invited me in, and after about five minutes of polite conversation, she became animated in a strange way and led me to a dingy closet in her bedroom where she kept her prized possessions. She pulled out an old shoebox and told me to open it. Inside was a black pointy witch’s hat, crusty and stiff. She said, “This is the witch’s hat from The Wizard of Oz. The real one.”
“Like, the one the green lady is wearing when she’s flying around?” I asked.
I couldn’t believe this woman who never left her house was harboring such a national treasure. And I didn’t question her; I just knew it was true. But there was a putrid smell emanating from the bedroom, like a dying rodent was decomposing between the walls. So I thanked her for letting me see this special hat and then I hightailed it out of there.
And here I was, two days later, sitting in the car next to this 80-year-old swinger who’d composed the Wicked Witch Theme. I felt like I was giving a ride to the King of Hollywood. The real king. The one who dreamed this whole thing up.
When we arrived at his destination—a sad, forgotten, dilapidated building with peeling paint—he thanked me for the ride.
As he was getting out of the car, I shouted, “Wait! If you could leave this world with just one piece of wisdom to impart, what would it be?”
He looked at me long and hard, his eyes piercing the back of my skull and whispered, “Always, always be honest.” Then he winked and was gone.
After acting class, I rushed home. My roommate Rob was in the kitchen making a sandwich. Rob and I had lived together for about three months, but I didn’t feel I really knew him – though I could tell he was sad. Rob had buck teeth and was tall and thin. He talked about his girlfriend back home in Kentucky and said he was smitten.
In the kitchen, while he ate his sandwich, I told him the story of the man I’d just met. Rob was flabbergasted. “That’s what he said? You just met the man who wrote the music to The Wizard of Oz and he told you to always be honest?”
I said, “Yep.”
Rob looked at me. “Tracey! I’m gay! God, it feels so good to say! I am gay!!!” There was so much truth swirling around, I felt high. Rob and I both just stood there intoxicated.
When I was 21 years old, my dad and I had a horrible argument. He was upset because we’d been in a social situation with a group of people he knew, and I acted bored by all of them. When we got home, he screamed at me that I was rude. I said I couldn’t help it, that’s how I was feeling. He shouted, “FAKE IT! FAKE IT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES!” I remember feeling sorry for him that he felt he had to do that in life, but he probably felt sorry for me that I was naïve and might not survive long that way.
10 years later my dad got stage 4 colon cancer. One day in the hospital, my dad looked up at me, trying to talk. I leaned over. He looked around, a little confused, then began to speak in a labored, raspy voice, “My dying wish…is that…you leave Dana.”
Dana and I met in Hollywood. I’d gone to Raleigh Studios to see a Japanese movie about wolves, but the movie was sold out, so I crashed a wedding next door. Shortly after I crashed the party, a hand clasped my wrist and proceeded to escort me out. It was the bride. But before I was out of there, I noticed a handsome man catching the garter belt. That handsome man followed me and jumped in the backseat of my car. That man was Dana Anderson, and he was now my boyfriend.
Dana had been working as a freelance jib operator in the film business and jobs were far and few between. My dad was not confident in his ability to earn a living – nor mine, as I did not have a practical bone in my body. I was furious my dad would use that moment in such a way, and I spat, “NO.” I added, “Anyway, you aren’t dying.” I was right; he gradually recovered.
Some years later, my dad and I were having lunch at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and he offered to buy me a house and pay for whatever further education I decided to pursue, but only if I left Dana. I firmly said, “No,” and left our lunch, shaky. I called Dana, sobbing hysterically. He was getting stoned with his friend Phil and said he couldn’t talk.
Twelve years later, my dad was dying of cancer, this time for real. Dana provided the best weed in the galaxy, which my dad needed for chemo. One night my dad lay on the floor, doubled over, laughing, and just kept screaming, “I love Dana!!!”
After my dad died, I had a dream that the snow on an enormous oak tree was finally beginning to melt. Soon after, in an unexpected reversal of fortune, with the help of a secret benefactor, my boyfriend and I were gifted a magical ranch house in the desert, on six acres – a home I never could’ve imagined years before, when my parents insisted I break up with my boyfriend because he could never provide. Back then, I knew only that I loved him. Since then, my mom and my boyfriend developed a relationship they both cherish. She gave him my dad’s Mercedes and his triple chamber glass amber bong.
Recently, I typed into Google, “Who is the composer of the witch’s theme song from The Wizard of Oz.” A man named George Bassman appeared, the age he would have been when I met him, and it placed him square in Los Angeles. A younger picture looked like the guy, but it was hard to tell.
According to Google, George Bassman orchestrated the background music for the Wicked Witch’s scenes, the poppy field scenes, and many of the Emerald City sequences from The Wizard of Oz, along with so many other gems for film, theater and television. His career was interrupted in the 50s during the Red Scare when he admitted in testimony that he’d been a member of the Communist Party. He didn’t lie. He left Hollywood for New York where theater still welcomed him.
When he went back to MGM a decade later, his luck ran out. He clashed with Sam Peckinpah on Ride High the Country, and he had many scores, including one for Bonnie and Clyde, rejected. Wikipedia states, “Bassman’s later life was marred by tragedy; his personal life involved three marriages, and the last had a duration of scarcely a year. He died, forgotten by his profession, and alone in Los Angeles in 1997” – four years after he and I met.
Although I didn’t see it at the time, my acting teacher Virgil Frye had been right, I was a little crazy. Would I pick up a hitchhiker now, even if he was 80 and could barely walk? Hell no. Would I crash a wedding? Definitely not. But I almost wish I was still that crazy, that trusting. Life is completely illogical. Stripping away the layers of pretense is the only game worth playing. A constant unraveling to get to the true self.
Like the owl from the old Tootsie Pop commercial says, “How many licks does it take to get to the center?” Mr. Owl says it takes three and then you bite. In many ancient alchemical texts,three is the number of stages for spiritual transformation. Three. The same number of times it took Dorothy to click her heels and get back home, having taken a journey and a metamorphosis to see the truth that exists inside.
“How was your writing class tonight, sweetheart?” asked my adoring boyfriend Dana, as we drove from L.A. to our home in the desert. “It was really interesting,” I said. “How so?” He asked. “Well, at first I was upset that we had to write from a journal in class and then read it out loud, but it turned out that stuff came up.” “What kind of stuff?” asked Dana. “Oh, I ended up writing about Chris, you know, my friend Cristina’s boyfriend. He is just soooooo fascinating!” “What? You’re kidding me, right? You’re fucking kidding me.” “No. I’m not. Cristina had told me about him and she mentioned he had been in the Mongols motorcycle gang. I guess at one point he had actually pummeled the leader of the gang and he had been worried about the repercussions, but then he faced everyone in the gang head on and it turned out he had won the respect of every single member. I just pictured this terrifyingly mean, enormous man walking into class, spitting into a trashcan on his way in, wearing a thick motorcycle jacket and boots, with a daunting goatee and a tattoo on the back of his shaved skull that said “fuck you.” I imagined him intimidating all of us frail wimpy writers who thought they had some kind of life experience. He would cut right through our sheltered facade and expose us for the frauds that we were. I mean, the mongols motto says “Respect few, fear none” so I was sort of petrified, wondering what gaining his respect would entail. He walks into class and my expectations were blown to smithereens. On the physical level alone and then the invisible level. He was thin, with blonde hair, and wore a backwards baseball cap, a flannel shirt and glasses. He told everyone they could call him C.C. and he was shockingly open and connected. He told us about himself and the hard life he has had but that he is guided now by forces within and without to tell his story. He grasped ferociously at external events and internal revelations. I was blown away by his honesty and vulnerability. The whole class was, not just me. I was sobbing and our instructor felt the same way. Our teacher was practically choking back tears and said he’d been teaching this class for 40 years and couldn’t believe he still had so much to learn, and that CC should be teaching the class instead of him.” Continue reading “CC RIDER”
L’eggo my ego
I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water, where across the hall, bent over, completely naked in the adjacent bedroom, was Oliver Stone’s ass. I tiptoed back to my bedroom and heard him complain to his wife about the dim lighting in the house. I found it amusing to hear a private conversation between a husband and wife that would never travel the wavelength to their host. Oliver Stone is one of my favorite directors, and seeing the nakedness of this iconic purveyor of truth felt like a wink from the universe that there is a human vulnerable side to us all. We try to cover this up because it’s so soft and unprotected, like exposing our inner epidermis, but really it’s what connects us, and Oliver’s ass was a gentle reminder. We were sharing a guest house because my cousin Jeff Greene was holding a conference of top forward thinkers, a micro version of the Davos economic forum held yearly in Switzerland. Jeff Greene is an eccentric, made from scratch, multi billionaire, who famously, along with John Paulson, shorted the subprime market and was responsible for the greatest financial coup on record. Ordinary homeowners fell under a mass hypnotic incantation believing the market was stable, they would be able to make mortgage payments indefinitely, and that the bankers who issued these loans, no questions asked, were masked fairy godmothers, dressed in suits and ties with facial hair. The miracle bubble was about to burst and Jeff, who once owned two lamas named Tony and Dali, bet against it.
The speakers at this conference included the Prime Minister of England David Cameron, who had recently resigned after Brexit; Chris Christie, who seemed kind of cool, like the Billy Joel of politics, until his bridge scandal; the beloved ex (and legally blind) governor of NY David Patterson; one of the heads of JPMorgan; the above mentioned Oliver Stone, and a slew of others.
That evening we all converged at the main house for a formal sit down dinner. Oliver entered the room and said to Jeff “what’s with the dim lighting Jeff? Trying to save money?” This summed up Oliver. What he thought in private he said in public. Hurt feelings did not factor in.
I was seated next to a man, who as I proceeded to get more and more drunk, morphed into Nicolas Cage. I asked him, “has anyone ever told you that you look like…” He said “Who?!” I said “You know who.” He said “Come on, say it.” I say it. “Nicolas Cage.” He smiles and says “All the time. In fact, one time a woman asked for my autograph and when I told her I wasn’t him she said she hates it when we actors lie about our identity, that it’s just plain rude.” He said he’d actually love to meet him one day. This prompted my Nicolas Cage story. I tell how……a long time ago…..I had a dream that Nicolas Cage and I were driving together in my car and I knew it was a dream that would happen in the future. A few months later, in real life, I was driving down Main St. in Santa Monica, and there he was, at a bus stop. I know I’m supposed to pick him up because I had dreamed it, but I chicken out and circle the block. I end up a street ahead of where he was initially but now he’s there too, where I am. He approaches the car and introduces himself as Nick, and asks if he can get a ride. He gets in the car and we drive, not speaking, just listening to John Lennon’s song “Oh Yoko.” After awhile he says “We’re together now.” I agree, in a blacked out hypnotized way, and then I realize what’s happening. Nicolas Cage is in my car, and I had dreamed it was going to happen. I lose my marbles and say “What’s going on here? I feel like I’m on drugs.” He says “What kind of drugs? Nicotine, caffeine?” I say “You know what kind of drugs.” He says “mushrooms?” I, very angrily shout, “WHERE DO YOU HAVE TO GO???” He says, “Oh, turn left.” I say “I can’t,” and I pull over to the right. He says, “Oh ok, thanks Tracey, see you.” I scream, “How did you know my name???” He laughs and disappears. There is an uncomfortable silence at the dinner table now and my Nicolas Cage lookalike, who also happens to play a crucial role at JPMorgan, and was speaking at the conference the following day, appears to be looking for an exit strategy. His eyes dart across the room and fall upon a myriad of fascinating people to converse with, Dr Oz for one. My heart sinks. And then he slowly proceeds to tell me the most magnificent story of how he met his wife.
He was living in a dilapidated hovel of a studio in Manhattan and his personal life was a shambles. He one day had this vision of meeting his future wife. He saw her very clearly and watched them both walking down a path together in NYC, having a particular conversation, and making plans for their future. Cut to: years later. He found himself with the exact woman he had imagined, and walking down the exact same path he had seen years before, a path that was not even his suggestion to walk down. He asked her to marry him. They worked together at JPMorgan and she was very cute. She expressed concern, saying that sure, he was attracted to her now while they were still young, but people get together all the time for those reasons and it doesn’t pan out. What about 25 years from now? He told her he had fallen in love with her soul and that of course they would get older but that he would always be in love with her. He then drew a picture of what he imagined her to look like in 25 years. He recently just found the picture and it looks exactly what she looks like 25 years later. He said he had no idea how he had known all of it, but he just did.
The next day was the conference and later an evening fireside chat with David Cameron. Chris Christie spoke about how “Guess what? You want better representatives? We are just reflections of you. You rise up to the challenge and we will too.” Huh? There were other so called trail blazers that were a real snooze, experts in their fields, such as artificial intelligence, CNN correspondents. But the grand slam homerun was the final speech by Governor David Patterson, about the importance of developing consciousness. That we need to honor and explore this untapped vastness, and that this is where the future is, where visions and inventions are created. After the blind Governor had finished his speech, he stepped away from the podium and appeared to be sniffing for something, like a mouse sniffing for cheese. His girlfriend grasped hold of his arm and said, “Such a great speech.” I saw this had been a hatched plan of theirs so that he could find his way back to his seat. It was heartbreaking and courageous. The root word of courage is cor, the Latin word for heart, and courage originally meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” The governor had once told me, during a walk through the Pompeii ruins, a story about how a psychic had approached him and said that he would soon be the next Governor of NY. He knew this was impossible. He was currently lieutenant governor, had no plans to run for governor, and oh yeah, he was blind. And then, soon after the psychic’s prediction, Elliott Spitzer, due to irrepressible urges and indiscretions, was forced to resign and David was sworn in later that day. David’s implication was that our minds are not localized in our heads and to further demonstrate this theory he added, “Did you know that mice can feel when someone is looking at them? Not see, but feel. They will first freeze in paralysis and then run away.”
That night I sat next to Oliver Stone and David Cameron. I listened to their discussion of Putin. Oliver, seemingly wanting to rattle Cameron’s cage, defended Putin. David Cameron, in his conservative English tone, politely disagreed. Oliver schooled Cameron in a brief history lesson explaining the Russians great loss during WW2 and that, in fact, the Russians saved the world, not the USA or England. David Cameron, finally relenting, said “I suppose I did see his softer side at one point.” Perhaps this softer side was when Putin once hosted a 10 course meal for the English Prime Minister, which included a delicate pudding of burnt caramel modeled after Big Ben, created by a very famous London chef. Later however, Putin’s opposition to gay marriage, among other things, left a bad taste in Cameron’s mouth that not even the caramelized pudding could cover up.
We left for Los Angeles the next day, but not before walking into Mara Lago, via the beach entrance, because my cousin Jeff lives next door. Secret service scoured the premises and roads were blocked off for a mile in all directions, but we passed all security without a hitch. I asked them “Don’t you want to stop me?” They laughingly said it was too much paperwork, and we walked right in. And by walking right in, I mean right into the boardroom that was set up for Trump’s meeting with the president of China, just 20 minutes later. And a little later than that, Trump would declare war and fire missiles off to Syria. I’ve spoken about the “softer” side of some of these great men throughout this story, but I don’t think I need to convey the unexpected shocking vulnerability of our current president. The fact that I wasn’t stopped, and entered Mara Lago, via the beach, because my cousin lives next door, says it all.
I arrived back in L.A. and the next day went to yoga class. My teacher was at the desk and said “Hey Trace!” I said, “Hi. I’m so out of shape. I haven’t been here in two weeks.” He said, “Where were you?” and it all just came spilling out. My adventure in Palm Beach and sharing a guest house with Oliver Stone and dinner with this person, lunch with that person….president of bla bla bla… He excitedly said “Wow!” and that I was really with the top people or something to that affect. I became flustered and embarrassed by my over the top braggadocious behavior and tried to reel it in, attempting to convey the “cor” of what really transpired, realizing that was a better message to impart. I said, “Well it turns out that it was all about the raising of consciousness, going into unknown territory and listening. Like what you teach here everyday.” He said, “Are you saying I should be a statesman?” I said, “I’m saying you are at the forefront of what’s going on.” Class began and he talked about snake bites, which was very coincidental because I had just investigated 22 revolvers so that I could shoot rattlers if they came up to my house in the desert, where they are abundant. But my teacher’s idea was better and PETA friendly. He said that the cure for a snake bite is the venom itself, and so whatever the problem, the obstacle, therein lies the cure. To treat it by going into it. I imagined milking snake venom and having a big jug of it on the kitchen table. People would come over and say “oh is that iced tea?” and I’d say “No, it’s snake venom. The problem is the cure.” Soon my head started spinning as we moved deeper and deeper into our bodies, accessing emotions otherwise not readily available. Emotions I had shoved into my hips the way you put things you’ll deal with later in the garage. I questioned my intentions and motivations for telling my teacher all that stuff. I thought of the conference and the elephant in the room, which was our newly elected president, and how it was never once discussed. And that just like Trump, I had felt the need to inflate myself, for whatever mass insecurities lay lurking deep in the recesses of my unconscious, due to childhood trauma not yet unearthed. I realized maybe Trump and I both just needed a hug. Everything I had learned during my trip came rushing to the forefront during our half moon poses, sliding into eagle, and standing bow. Who would have known it was about revealing the softer side, from Oliver’s ass to the magnificent story of my Nicolas Cage doppelgänger revealing what meant the most to him, the mysterious matters of the heart, the soul knowing things that are presented to the subconscious long before they are manifested in life. The governor speaking of entering this vast expansion of consciousness “blindly” or Cameron seeming to have a slight man crush on Putin by admitting he was touched by Putin’s softer side. It was time for frog pose. The psychologist Marie Louise Von Franz illustrates ego formation by recalling certain processes in a frog’s egg. “At any given stage there is produced on one side of a frog’s egg a gray spot. Experiments prove that this gray spot later develops into the head. If you cut into this with a thread, a double headed frog will be produced. If you remove it, the frog will have no head. Thus you can prove experimentally that the gray spot in the frogs egg is that part of the plasma which later develops into the head.” Clearly, I needed to remove my own head and go deeper into the heart, the “kor”. Frogs pose they say invites you to listen. Suddenly things began to move fast and my pancreas felt a stimulating stir. My digestive tract lurched from a trot to a gallop and my root chakra began to disem’bark’. I began to shake and a voice yelled “timber”…I was about to go down. A sadness I had not anticipated began to well up and montages flashed before me. Images of Chris Christie, alone at Mara Lago, eating a cheeseburger. David Patterson grasping for a hand in the dark, the unconscious toxicity absorbed along the way, all that money….and my own vast vulnerability I tried desperately to conceal. I thought about how “moving into the vulnerability” is the cure, it’s where the strength lies. But no one wants to deliberately expose themselves. No one wants to…oh my god…no…. Something began to rumble in the middle of my small intestine and sweep up the digestive tract into the stomach, through the relaxed pyloric sphincter. In other words, I was about to puke. This just cannot happen, I told myself. It had been a fear since I started this hot yoga thing years ago, but it had never actually become a reality. Until now. I tried to get up and stumble to the door, barely making it outside before collapsing on the floor. A beautiful manager/ instructor came running over and cradled me, putting my head in her lap. Her calming affect allowed me to relax…..and vomit all over her. She stroked my hair saying “let it out, let it out,” and I did.
A quote Matthew Barney once said comes to mind. “A lot of my work has to do with not allowing my characters to have an ego in a way that the stomach doesn’t have an ego when it’s wanting to throw up. It just does it.” And so, this was the great lesson learned from my trip, revealing itself in this “rites of passage” yoga class. To be vulnerable, without facades, to go blindly into unknown territory, that is the strength. The greatest men seem to be able to do this while simultaneously expressing the greatest humility and reverence for this unknown, where things come forth and are revealed.
The day I got the job driving for BLS limousine service in Los Angeles, years ago, a letter arrived in the mail stating that my drivers license had been revoked. Naturally, I would not let this be a deterrent. It would be my little secret. I would have an air of mystery surrounding me when I went to pick up clients, like Cleopatra, or Mona Lisa. An air of danger. No one would know they were on the brink of not catching their flight for the first day of shooting, or missing their crucial Warner Bros meeting; for the smallest traffic infraction would call attention to my suspension and we would all have to exit the vehicle and find our own ride home.
For a long time I thought we lived “in” the world and not “on” it. Strange as it seems, I was 30 years old when I discovered that the earth is actually composed of dirt, lava, jewels, iron, nickel. And that we live on top of it, not inside. This changed things for me, in the way that people in the Middle Ages were changed when Copernicus discovered the world revolves around the sun. I realized that the secret to anything growing was to ground it, and that would make it real. I envisioned my feet actually walking on soil. The seeds I planted began to take. I simultaneously discovered a line by Goethe that confirmed my suspicions. He states, “Reality must give the motive, the points to be expressed- the kernel; but to work out of it a beautiful animated whole, belongs to the poet.” I was even able to articulate this concept to others, which was a far cry from my usual half formed sentences that petered out into oblivion.
We all want to know how things are going to shake out in the end, a glimpse into the future. For example, let’s take Isis. Maybe these terrorist extremists are no more than an exaggerated version of that “not knowing what’s going to happen next” feeling and that’s hard to sit with. It’s comforting to believe God has the storyline all planned out for us, even if it does end in a fiery apocalypse. Jihad means “to suffer.” Maybe they’re just afraid to be happy. Talk about terror, that’s a big one. And in terms of God, energy, whatever that means to you, it must be easier to have it all spelled out. You can just follow directions; like putting a fan together as opposed to being led, listening for signs, cues, the subtle fluctuations of magnetic fields, molecules separating and fusing, whispering to make a right turn here, a left turn there. Birds have an inner magnetic compass that involves their beaks, inner ears, and eyes. They contain tiny grains of iron, just like the iron found at the inner core of the earth. This helps them to sense magnetic fields.
A long time ago I had a dream. I was told I would be given the key to silver lake and the secret to death. I was shown a winding road with a purple and green house side by side. That was it. 3 years later I had a similar textured dream that felt like part 2. In the dream, a certain eccentric actor I had known briefly, in real life, for like a nanosecond, appeared in the dream and our eyes went into each other. Do our eyes, like birds, also have magnetic shavings of iron? I wonder. It feels like they do. I woke from the dream absolutely certain I would be led that day to this actors home, although I hadn’t seen him in years and had no idea where he lived now. I was driving during this time, for the Los Angeles BLS limousine service, and suddenly I knew why. I would be “driven” instead of doing the driving. I would be taken to his home by forces outside myself. I simply had to interact with these forces and listen. As I drove to work that morning, my car broke down. I was ecstatic. I knew it was all part of the plan and was meant to change my timing. I arrived at work two hours late and was given an entirely different set of clients. While waiting for my next address I heard a few drivers laughing, in the lobby. One said “so I pick up William Shatner to take him to his wife’s funeral. She was found dead, having drowned in their pool a few days before. So he gets in the backseat, and hands me her urn filled with her ashes and says “She always wanted to sit up front. Here’s her chance.” They burst out laughing right as I am given my next clients information. I am to pick him up at the airport immediately, which I do. When I arrive, the client tells me there has been a change of plans and we are going to his home in Silverlake. As we approach his neighborhood, we begin to drive up a steep hill and then it hits me. I suddenly noticed the purple and green homes I had dreamed of a few years earlier. “The secret to death and the key to Silverlake” I say out loud. “Excuse me?” he says. “Oh I had dreamed about this road we’re going on, a few years ago.” As we progress up the hill, things start to change and take on an almost animated version of reality. The leaves begin to fall in slow motion and things look brighter. We stopped at the top of the hill and the man said “It’s this house right here.” I repeated “This house right here.” He let out an exasperated sigh and said “No, this house next-door.” But I knew which house he meant. I dropped him off and watched, as he shook his head and rolled his suitcase to the house next-door. He didn’t tip. I sat in my car, debating whether to knock on this actors door, for this was obviously his home. It glowed. I would explain that our eyes went into each other in a dream the night before, and I just wanted to say hi. And then suddenly a call came in from the dispatcher. I was to pick up Mackenzie Phillips in the valley and to step on it. This was before her story broke about having sex with her dad, the famous singer of The Mamas and Papas. California Dreaming would never sound the same again. Our meeting was fascinating due to her beautiful vulnerability. She told me to call her “Mack.” I never went to his house. It was enough just to know.
10 years later a friend of mine was putting together an art show I was in. She said it would be amazing to invite this particular actor. I said “Oh, I know where he lives. You can drop off an invitation at his house.” So we drove there. I told her I’d wait in the car. She got out and walked up the driveway, disappearing behind the shrubbery. And then it hit me. I was completely insane, as in certifiable. I had never received any proof that this was his home and now it was being tested by the scientific method. Of course this wasn’t his home. I was terrified and started to sweat. Everything I knew to be true would be invalidated now, and I had no Plan B. My friend reappeared and opened the car door. She was silently somber, an ominous sign. I said “Oh..umm..what happened?” She said “Oh, this girl answered.” My heart plummeted. She added, “She said he was out of town but she’ll give it to him.” I said “You mean he actually lives here?” “Of course he does,” she said. “I thought you knew that.” I said “Well yeah, sure I did, it was just never really confirmed.”
And so, I was in fact, given the symbolic key to Silverlake that day. The secret to death, which is the indestructibility of the soul, not confined by space and time as we might imagine it to be. A much better feeling I imagine, than being given 72 raisins after a terrorist suicide, thinking it would be virgins. After all that beheading and it still wouldn’t come out the way they planned it. That has to be rough. But knowing is different than believing. And even when you know, it’s still hard to listen. The actor was Crispin Glover.
I met a young man of 22, who had blown off his hands and face. He said he was trying to fight evil and needed to understand what it was so he built a bomb and it exploded in his face. His mother was studying a very high level of Scientology, keeping special information top secret from those who “weren’t ready for it.” After the bomb went off in Sergio’s face, his mother threw him out. She claimed the “accident” (which he likes to call a miracle) proved that her son was a negative influence on her. Sergio Obolensky was left to fend for himself on the streets – without hands, a blown-up face, and an awkward disposition.
I met him long ago at a restaurant where I was hostessing. He walked up to me and said that my emotions and vulnerability were so strong that it hit his center dramatically. Later I found out that he was the great-great-great-great-grandson of the aristocratic Prince Ivan Obolensky, of whom Tolstoy had written in Anna Karenina. Prince Obolensky helped to rule Russia with Helena. When Helena died, the prince was thrown in prison where he starved to death. Sergio would always come into the restaurant wondering if he should be there. “I feel like I’m supposed to be here right now. Do you think I’m in the right place?” he would ask. I photographed him for a group art show and the next week he told me that I had opened the doors for him. The day after I took his picture, he met someone from Rolling Stone who decided to use his image as part of a centerpiece for the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue. Sergio said that my vision of wanting him to be seen by millions made it happen. Many times I felt he was superimposed onto the earth. I always ran into him when I asked to see him.
Once when I saw him he had twenty books piled on his plastic arms…books about fractals and air conditioner units, soil and space. He had some sort of disease and said he thought he was going to die soon. As he was talking to me, I saw Tom Cruise at a stoplight in a silver Porsche. Sergio smelled so badly that I couldn’t breathe and his eyes were puffy and had liquid around them. I gave him some strawberries and my telephone number and told him to call me the next day if he needed a doctor, but I never heard from him. He talked a lot about God and telepathy. He said that I was like Dorothy – the real Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (but only when I didn’t wear makeup). The next time I saw him I gave him a key to my apartment and he slept on the floor. He wanted to pay me $300, and when I refused he broke down and cried. He said that God asks him to give all these gifts to people but nobody would accept them and he has so many blessings to bestow. So I took the cash. He seemed hungry and penniless although he gave me a ruby and an emerald on my birthday, in honor of “Dorothy.” The stones are real and I still have them.
Another time I was walking down the street having just come from Sam French and feeling like an actor. There was Sergio at the corner just waiting. He told me I was a hero and that the picture “I took” was a runner up for best photograph in a special issue of LIFE magazine (the image was, in fact, the photo taken by the Rolling Stone photographer). The issue was dedicated to the best photography of the year. We went to a newsstand and sure enough – the photos of Sergio Obolensky and the singer TRICKY were the runner-ups; the photo of Ben Stiller’s evolution from ape to man had won. Months later, the picture of Sergio was shown at the Guggenheim. Sergio said he had been at the library studying the mathematical equations in DNA and certain movie people as well. He said that when he said the name “Nicholas Cage” it just made sense, that it felt good in his heart: that he knew Nicholas Cage was a true Hollywood person because he was a good person; that he was serene and had virtue. We kept walking together. He said, “It’s amazing how all these people walking by don’t understand how special our meeting is.” I knew exactly what he meant.
I took him to a place called Dragon Talent; I’d been told that they like unusual-looking people. I introduced Sergio as the great-great-great-great-grandson of the aristocratic Obolensky family. I said that, according to Tolstoy himself, “what we look for in a work of art is the revelation of the artist’s soul, a glimpse of God” and that Sergio was loaded with pure light in everything he did and uttered. They said they didn’t need any more clients but thanks for thinking of them. Sergio and I parted ways.
Four years later I pulled out this story, which I’d begun writing after my earliest encounter with Sergio. The next day I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and saw a ragged, matted haired homeless man crossing the street. He was cackling madly and appeared to be in the throes of ecstasy. It was Sergio. I quickly pulled over and stopped him. We hugged in silence for sixty seconds. He had caked-on dirt all over his body and had lost an eye. I asked him how it happened and he said he didn’t remember. He wanted to change the subject to “more important matters” – that silver is the special quality in film that gives it the magic it contains; that HD doesn’t do that. He said we were spending tons of money on our space program because on Mars there is a metal that can be used to build very efficient weapons. He said the same thing can appear in different places at the same time and that’s why I can see him when I wish to do so; because our thoughts travel faster than the speed of light and we can project our energy.
I asked if I could do anything for him. He said no, that he was fine – he just needed a hug. Finally after much pressure he said, ” I guess a sandwich would be okay.” We went to the Standard Hotel. He had lost his prosthetics somewhere along the way and was maneuvering his food with a fork precariously positioned between his wrist and elbow. He spoke of many fascinating things – things I find difficult to articulate but somehow have become deeply lodged in my brain like a bullet. As we parted I asked him where he was going, what he would do. He said, “I’m like the weather. I know which way to blow.” As cool as Jack Nicholson, only without hands or an eye, and a blown-up face. I looked over and saw the singer from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, hugging someone in a heartfelt embrace.
Recently I was thinking about Sergio. I was having a day in which obstacles appeared on every road I took. I was forced to go off my usual path, and of course, there he was, at a street corner. I pulled over and sat next to him. He was rambling about something I couldn’t quite make out and then he said, “Tracey Keilly” and stopped, like the spell had been broken and he could come back. He said he remembered when I worked at that restaurant years ago on Vermont, and that all the stars that came in didn’t realize that I was the real movie star, even though I was in fact making paper baskets for french fries. I said, “Actually you were the star. If you remember, you were at that restaurant when you were chosen by a journalist to be featured in Rolling Stone’s anniversary issue. He wrote that he was deeply affected by your spirituality.” I was almost embarrassed to remind him, like when you see a famous person and don’t acknowledge that you know them. He said, “Well that’s because when I was born Mick Jagger came to me and said I was going to be in the Rolling Stones. It was planned Tracey, don’t you get it?” That’s when I saw that my ego was the last thing I ever had to worry about with him. All the usual insecurities that perpetuate arrested development were gone and I could have a pure dialogue. It was a case of learning important lessons about the human condition. He could project his greatness onto me but when I pointed out his own he couldn’t hold it.
Sergio told me that he could finally go now. He could leave the streets because this was our final meeting, so he didn’t need to be a bum anymore. He took his nubs and pressed them deep into my hands. I was scared; but I allowed myself to feel and say goodbye to him.
He had said he’d like to be a singer one day and to also get married. When he sang, his voice broke down molecules in the air and penetrated to the core of everything.
I don’t feel him here anymore.
I began this story in 1998. It is now 2017, almost 20 years later. About a year ago I received an email from a man named Marc Headley. Mr. Headley had escaped the clutches of Scientology, the science fiction based cult started by L.Ron Hubbard, who himself had stolen the seed money (to begin his new religion) from Jack Parsons, the inventor of jet fuel, and amateur Occult leader of the OTO. Marc Headley wrote a book called “Blown for Good” and was now actively trying to help other casualties less fortunate than himself. He discovered my story about Serge on a blog and began a fundraiser to help him. Marc reunited Serge with his family, and had established the resources for a rehabilitation center, and was working on raising money for a new type of prosthetics.
This is the way I wished I could have ended the story.
And now I can.
There is shadow there is light
A magical moon in the center of night
The root of a tree is planted right here
The absence of trees would be something to fear
The absence of here can nowhere be found
There isn’t a weight, a smell, sight or sound
A telephone cord plugged into a sink..will disconnect words and all you might think
Books without bindings will fly far away but stitches and string will help keep them to stay
I fly off the edge of my thoughts on their flight
All in the hope to connect and unite
But the dream feels too real to wake from today
Tuesday in April, a year or a day
A broken clock tied to the thread of a kite
The birds are confused and are chirping at night
Somebody tell me just where we are
Where are the wisemen? Where is that star?
The maps were stolen and cannot be found but Columbus says that the world is round
Galileo says it revolves around the sun and it never will fall though it must weigh a ton
And you can see souls when you look into eyes and always feel truth though the words may be lies
Some eyes so beautiful I can’t help but cry…’cause I know I won’t see them after they die
Unless they promise far in advance to meet at cloud 9 for the mystery dance
Where we’ll sip from the grail with God and his wife
And laugh we had questioned the meaning of life
Confessions of a Food Fraud: stirring the pot
- A true story though many names have been changed to protect the innocent.
“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”
Franz Kafka“Every man and every womanhas a course, depending partly onthe self, and partly on theenvironment, which is naturaland necessary for each. Anyonewho is forced from his owncourse, either through notunderstanding himself, orthrough external opposition,comes into conﬂict with the orderof the universe, and suffersaccordingly.”Aleister Crowley⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️I ponder this excerpt frequentlyin quiet desperation while lookingout the window of myMalibu beachfront property. It is an excerpt by Aleister Crowley’s ‘Magic; in theory and practice.’ I believe in magic. Or rather I should say, I believe that you canget anything you want. You begin with intention, and then ride that horse all the way to the Kentucky Derby. Things come together,people appear, andsynchronicities collide,combustible energies form that reduce alchemical base metals into gold, water into wine.And so it was, on that fateful day, way back in the late 70’s, where anything went. My claim to fame was as a dancer on the Vegasstrip. A rocketeer, and my legs did the talking. But where had it led me? I was living in a small 3 bedroom house, Beverly Hillsadjacent, a single mother, with 3 daughters to support. And I was pushing 40.! I’m sure I could have snagged some poor schmuck that would foot the bill for my current socio-economic status. But why? Why not think big?!As I breezed through TheBeverly Hills Courier- a ﬂimsylittle magazine delivered to our door, graciously elevating us to the 90210 stratosphere, my eyes began to ﬁxate on a black and white blurb, a small photo of a man playing tennis at the very exclusive hillcrest country club.Hmmmm…this might be thathorse…I was momentarilyinterrupted by a knock on thedoor, and hurtled back intoreality with my landlord’s request for the rent. He was a sleazy slick haired Italian and seemed to insinuate there were other methods of payment. And he always showed up when the kidswere at school. I led him on, just enough to stall a week. I shut the door and picked up the phone.“Hillcrest country club? Yes, I’d like to sign up for tennislessons.” !My gorgeous rocketeer legs were just hitting their ﬁnal stridebefore their long descent andthey went out with a bang, inthose tiny tennis skirts Ipurchased at Fila. It worked like a charm. I had Frank Nicklepants in the palm of my hand.After a few weeks of dating Ipinpointed his weakness. Aweakness I would exploit until that rock was on my ﬁnger. Sex? No. He was past that stage and Viagra hadn’t been invented yet.No, it was very simple. Caveman simple. It was food. Food, a direct link to a man’s heart and stomach. And I knew just the little lady who would provide the service. Her name was Patrice andshe owned a catering company in the valley called Food for thought. Patrice was no ordinary chef. She was an artist of the highest echelon. Her brownies alone could make a grown manwhimper if denied, and she had a thirst for Hermes, an insatiable appetite for Georgio’s and Theodore’s. I knew she would chomp at the bit…and chomp hard she did.
It started with cookies. She charged $80 a batch, equivalent to $200 in today’s market. It was a small price to pay, and besides, now I had my own charge accounts, and cash, courtesy of Frank. Soon it escalated to breads-$90 for a loaf, Bastia, Tortes, mind blowing pies and cakes~ $1000 a pop. Frank would ask me to entertain small dinner parties and I willingly obliged, with the help of my very own Cyrano de Bergerac. The cash and jewels started rolling in~ a Cartier necklace for this party, a diamond bracelet for that party. We hosted a dinner party one night for Ted Kennedy and Frank introduced me as not just the chef but a true artist. Patrice had delivered the goods early that morning and no one was the wiser.
But as the romance came to a boiling point, with marriage now looming on the hot plate, woven tightly in a thick web of lies, my mind began to unravel. It started with a close call. Patrice’s husband Henry, delivering food early one morning, tripped up the sprinkler system and broke the clicker for the garage. I had given explicit directions for Henry to stash the food in our 2nd freezer, knowing Frank could not possibly hear the garage door open from our upstairs bedroom. Frank ran outside and demanded to know what was going on, thinking Henry was a thief. Henry stood there in soaking wet clothes with sprinklers splashing his face, and piles of Tupperware at his feet. He explained that I had been “nice enough” to let his wife use the freezer in the garage because theirs had broken down in the middle of the night. That was a close call. Then I found out that a housekeeper had been stealing from me. I threatened to call the police and she said that if I called the police she would tell Mr. Nickelpants exactly who did the cooking in the house. So I let her stay, and continue to steal. The food kept coming, each dish more exciting and exotic than the last. Frank bought my daughter a house, and soon I was hearing those wedding bells.Things were ﬁnally coming tofruition. Everything I had set my mind on achieving. But there was a problem. I was slowly beginning to experience multiple personality disorder. My lieswere catching up with me.Someone at a dinner party would ask me the recipe for something. I would become paralyzed, frozen, scared stiff. I would stutter that I didn’t recall and would send it to them the next day. And so began the memorization of every speck used in the cookies, cakes, the bread. I was an actress playingthe role of a lifetime and these were my lines. If I could just keep it together until we were married, then I’d simply say “I don’t feel like cooking, let’s go out.” One day Frank came home and wondered why there weren’t any smells in the kitchen if I hadbeen cooking all day. So Iarranged for aromas to bedelivered, and brought home all the cooking utensils I would need. Then he wondered why there wasnt any trash. So I began tohave trash delivered, thewrappers from ingredients Patrice had used. I was living a double life and started to believe it myself. I would tell Patrice how exhausted I was from cooking all day. And I believed it. The day ﬁnally came when Frankand I tied the knot, and I could stop the shenanigans. But at what cost? I would have to lie to Frankfor the rest of my life, and now I had grown to love this man. I wanted our marriage to be pure and honest, but that was impossible now. It would be based on lies, and those lies have kept me fragmented, all thesyears, split from myself, from my center.
- A true story.
I was on a bus one day, a long time ago. I saw this man, sitting directly across from me. He was maybe 60, 65….bald, fat, and special. He was wearing rainbow suspenders, like the electro-magnetic spectrum. He seemed superimposed with special colored molecules flying all around him. I followed him off the bus on Main St. in Santa Monica. I asked if he wanted to come over to my house for lunch. He said “OK” and we both took a bus back to my house in West Hollywood.
As we entered the house my roommates took notice of this flamboyant stranger and were very upset. They asked me to please make him leave. I guess they couldn’t see the molecules. I told them that they brought friends over, so why couldn’t I? They said it was different, meeting a stranger on the bus and taking him home.
I said that he was staying, and I began to prepare our lunch. He pulled out from the refrigerator the few remnants of leftovers I had. He began to assemble them, creating penguins with hard boiled eggs, olives for the feathers, and a tiny carrot for the beak. Then he looked at me seriously. He asked that we hum the sound “Aum” together and so we did. Then he tapped my forehead and did the same to his. I felt our minds converge on the second floor…in the same space. He just smiled. Then he took out an old photograph from the 1960’s. It appeared to be a bunch of hippies behind an old school bus, laughing. I felt like this photograph was a dream I have had before, and in it I had planted seeds to metaphorically bloom decades later. He simply showed me the photograph and then put it back in his pocket not saying a word. He took out another photo of himself with Henry Miller in Big Sur. He said they had been great friends. He said he also helped Terry Southern write Easy Rider and he took out a photo of them together. I wondered why he wasn’t on the credits but that seemed an inappropriate question to ask, and when I was with him, in that moment, it didn’t seem to matter “who got credit” for ideas generating from the same source.
Then, suddenly, he said it was time to go…and so we said good bye.
I watched those rainbow suspenders walk away until I couldn’t see them anymore.
I can’t say exactly what happened that day except that it seemed to change me and has compelled me to tell you, the reader, all these years later, about that man on the bus…with the rainbow suspenders.
This is a true story from a long long time ago.
I was on my way to Chinatown one day, searching for red slippers. I had just come from yoga where our teacher had stressed the importance of breath. A long time ago prophets seemed to know what a special concept breathing was and made a point to cover it in the Bible. “God has made the breath to serve as the subtle link between body and soul. The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
So I was trying to remember this, and to be calm….when suddenly this enormous bus was at an awkwardly inappropriate angle in the middle of the road. I quickly forgot my peaceful state and honked for the bus move. I was in the middle of the road turning left, with cars from the other side now approaching. I carefully tried to slide by the bus within an inch, but something didn’t feel right. Patience. But I had to make a move, so I continued to slide by the bus.
Underneath that bus I saw a woman lying there on the ground. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and got out. I was wearing paramedic pants which immediately gave me a backstage pass. I started to approach this woman on the ground, this small Chinese woman. I noticed a crowd gathering on the street corner, staring. I was almost at her feet when I watched the bus begin to move. Tons of people at the corner screamed “STOP!” but the bus kept going. It rolled over her stomach and legs, crushing them like pancakes. A yellow fluid (bile) rushed from her belly. A disbursement of blood and other items formed patterns around her. Frightening screams echoed in the streets, penetrating the air. I was calm. I said to her, “breathe” and took her hand, although directions weren’t necessary because her breath appeared to be on auto~pilot. It was a fast deep constant rush of inhalation, although her legs had been torn apart, and her stomach ripped open and splattered on the pavement, looking like Kung pao chicken. She continued to breathe but I knew she would die and hoped it would be soon. I felt a stillness in the center of hysterics; and it felt natural to help her leave peacefully, with love. As I held her hand, her deep deep breathing continued for another minute, and then it all stopped. The connection broke just as the police and paramedics arrived. They asked me to step to the corner, that they would take over from there. They taped the area, leaving my vehicle inside the accident scene. I walked away to purchase the red slippers I had gone to Chinatown to buy. I attempted to act normal as all citizens in Chinatown became Chinese blurs. Red slippers. She was going home.
I wondered if this woman had led a life that somehow warranted a complete stranger to stop her car and hold her hand while she died. To feel compelled to give her the healing presence of love that I’m sure makes our transition more receptive to the changing circumstances. She must have.
I went to work that afternoon at a telecine facility called company 3. I assisted clients with their requests and no one had guessed that my hands had just held a woman who had her stomach and legs torn apart and rolled over by a bus. Some clients were impatient, as I had been earlier that day when the bus wouldn’t move. But I had just learned the secret of timing. Patience changes timing. and experience is based on timing.
“Till armageddon no shalam, no shalom
Then the father hen will call his chickens home
The wise man will bow down before the throne
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around“