My friends have varying accounts of my sister’s friendship with Cameron. She always told me and my parents that they were just good friends, which didn’t explain some of his more bizarre behavior, so she elaborated to say they were good friends but Cam was madly in love with her and she didn’t feel the same way. However, in recent years I’ve come to learn from people who actually know my sister better than I do—among them, Lucy—that they actually were dating the entire time they were supposedly “friends.”
It’s not surprising she’d hide this from our parents. My dad has always been overprotective of her, and my mom never believes anybody is good enough for either my sister or me. When I was in high school, I hid a girlfriend from them until one of my sister’s friends called her up and talked about how cute we were together, so my sister called up my mom and ratted me out. I fucking hate her sometimes.
At any rate, Tracey and Cam are still friends, and as a result, he’s been kind of haranguing her for my contact info since I’ve been out here. She gave me his email, and I told him to give me a call, and all of a sudden we were going out to the Sunset Strip for reasons I still don’t fully understand.
He had a hard time when he first came out here, because he knew no one, and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to me. Part of this, I think, is Columbia solidarity; the bulk of it, I’m sure, is the fact that I’m Tracey’s li’l bro, and because of their secret affair, I deserve more attention than I’d normally get. So he’s going to be dragging me to all sorts of things I don’t necessarily want to go to, and in typical Stan Fashion™, I’ll bitch and moan about it to anyone who will listen, then go and have a good time and wonder why I pitched such a major fit.
So last night we went to see this band play at a club on the Strip called the Roxy. It was a few doors down from the Rainbow Bar & Grill, the hangout of Guns N’ Roses. I would have preferred to go there, because of the allure of that sign (made famous in, among other things, the “November Rain” video) and the gargantuan, backlit Guns N’ Roses mural that still hangs above the club entrance. But yeah, we were to go the Roxy to see this band play. The lead singer/frontman was married to one of Cam’s friends, a documentary cinematographer.
On the way, we picked up one of Cam’s friends, Bruce, and then headed out to the Strip. We entered the club to find a band full of portly losers rocking out with some sort of NuMetal rap-rock crap onstage. On the mostly empty floor were…a bunch of 10-year-old girls? What the fuck? Well, at any rate, it explained why the bouncers didn’t seem to have any interest in seeing our IDs: this was an all-ages show.
After standing on the floor like idiots for awhile, Bruce spotted their cinematographer friend, whose name I didn’t catch, sitting in the VIP section, so we waltzed over and sat with them. It turned out the NuMetal losers weren’t her husband’s band—the husband’s band went on after them. That being the case, I was pleased that I wouldn’t have to make up fake compliments about the quality of the band.
As we continued to wait, a multitude of others came and went, many of them friends of the cinematographer, some of them ostensibly fans of the other people playing there. A middle-aged man with dark, curly hair, glasses, and a gray shirt waltzed into the VIP section like a king, complete with a strange entourage of young, Germanic women. They greeted the cinematographer, though none of us could hear what they were saying, and they sat in the booth with her (we sat at tables near by, purposely ostracized).
Bruce leaned over to Cam and me. “That’s Phedon Papamichael,” he said. “He shot Sideways.”
Cam was stunned and excited, which made me feel like less of a rube for being equally stunned and excited. After a few moments of watching the band, acting very cool, the three of us approached, shook his hand, and complimented his quality work. He was cordial and seemed to enjoy receiving compliments, but since we had nothing substantive to offer to the universe (plus the band was very loud), we just sat right back down.
Finally, the band finished their terrible Doors song and got offstage. We had to wait about half an hour for the real band to set up and get onstage. During that time, Bruce disappeared with one of his friends, Cam went out for a cigarette, and I made awkward smalltalk with a guy I didn’t know at all. Actually, I think what really happened was he said funny things and I laughed like an idiot while straining to think of equally high-quality quips. Even though I was laughing legitimately, my brain looked my human body from some omniscient perspective, and I could see myself giving that fake, horrible Tom Cruise laugh. I hated myself, so my brain went back into my body and stopped laughing.
Finally, the band went on, and we all sat in silence as they played. In the grand scheme of bands, they were slightly above mediocre. They played well together and had a tight set, but the songs—all originals—were pretty dull, and the singer was like a more nasal, more waily Chris Cornell. They all had weird, arrogant postures. I met them after the show, and they all seemed pretty nice, so I’m going to assume they are creating onstage “personas,” but they’re not really a good enough band to justify acting like they’re the kings of awesome.
As the set went from “eh, they’re not too bad” to being watch-checkingly tedious, they start playing this song that was, basically, about really slutty girls. In an attempt to go from bland rock show to performance art, they had hired some model to portray the girl they had written the song about.
How did she portray this complex character? By wearing a tube-top and a skirt that barely covered her ass, and gyrating comically throughout the song. This strange attempt at burlesque was made even funnier by the throng of children and parents watching the show, and also the fact that while she was all toned and full of washboard abs and legs, she was too scrawny to actually have anything resembling a figure that would excite me. Perhaps it’s my humble Midwestern roots, full of corn-fed-beef-eating tubbies, but a woman rattling skin and bones around a stage does nothing for me. What made it more irritating was the way the others were fawning over her unbelievable hotness. Alas…
The best part about this song was look of stunned horror the singer’s cinematographer wife gave him throughout this song, particularly when he started to dance in a semi-freak-ay way with the girl. The wife, we soon discovered, had no prior knowledge of this; they had played this song at other concerts, but never with the addition of live models. Occasionally, my horrible propensity toward schadenfreude makes me really enjoy stuff like this, but I hardly knew these people; what right did I have to find their misery amusing? I didn’t, but I thought it’d lead to an interesting night.
After the show, we were all handed little bracelets to get into the VIP lounge upstairs. This was good, because the next band, an “instrumental power trio,” made me laugh out loud with a song whose opening riff was the opening to Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut.” This was not somewhat similar—it was the same goddamn riff.
The lounge was like a tacky Miami Vice set, all blue lighting and low ceilings and dancer poles. Dancer poles?! Cam, Bruce, and I found the poles extremely amusing and somewhat useless, until we saw a bunch of bizarre raver guys doing odd, robot-like dancing to terrible rap music. One of them leaped onto the pole and straddled it with alll the authority of Jesse Spano, while we stood there and laughed. He tried to act very smug and superior, but his embarrassment was pretty obvious.
Out of boredom, the three of us started parodying their dance moves. Being that I’m from Chicago, I assumed some sort of rumble would occur at this point; unfortunately, no such luck. They all just kinda got embarrassed and slinked back toward their girls. I imagine they felt better because all three of them had girls, while we three stood in a clumsy male circle with no partners to speak of (not yet, anyway…). Still, dancing like that is uncalled for in 2005. They deserved mockery.
Eventually, the band came upstairs—and so did the still-scantily-clad model, much to Bruce’s excitement—and the sparks began to fly. The cinematographer saw her husband, brushed past him to the bathroom, while he stood there in confusion. He introduced himself to us; he only knew Bruce, who explained why she might have been upset. When he wandered off to make amends, the three of us had a discussion about the ethics of doing something that stupid. It’s not like she wasn’t going to find out, so the least he could have done is told her in advance, gotten the fight over with, and spared her the humiliation of discovering her husband is dancing with some three-quarters-naked floozy while she’s trying to hobnob with Phedon Papamichael.
Bruce said to me, “Man, you’ve only been out here two months, and you’re in a place like this.” He motioned at the rotting charm of the lounge. “It took me two years to get invited to a place like this.” This was the first time it dawned on me that this was anything special; I’m still not actually sure it was, and if it was, why is it so special to hobnob in a room that’s too dark and too noisy to really see and hear who you’re talking to? I did meet some people, but it wasn’t exactly life-altering.
Bruce decided he needed to go take a piss, but he came back a few seconds later and explained there was a line, and in that line stood the feuding husband and wife. Awkward.
Eventually, the verbal assault worked its way back into the lounge, where we couldn’t hear a thing, but we saw all we needed to. She yelled at him, he had no way of defending himself against whatever she had said, and they each slinked off to opposite corners of the lounge. We all secretly found this hilarious but pretended to be conciliatory toward both of them.
Because we were bored, unable to hear anything, and Cam and Bruce couldn’t afford anything to drink, we decided to head home. On the way—and it took about an hour thanks to Sunset traffic in the torrential downpour (in Chicago, we call it “misting”)—we chatted about movies and shit. It turns out that 23-year-old Stan has way more in common with 27-year-old Cam than 13-year-old Stan had in common with 17-year-old Cam, so suddenly I have more than a mere ally out here—I have a friend. It’s nice.