Rob Lowe looked down at me. He smiled. Each tooth was the size of a penthouse window and as white as the first page of your notebook on the first day of school. It was a billboard advertising a new sitcom. It made me want to cry a little. Not cause I harbor any great dejection for Rob Lowe. My only thoughts on him are that his comedic sensibilities always surprise me on Parks and Rec and that he without a doubt made a deal with the devil to age the way he has. The dude has been around forever and seriously has the silky smooth skin of a young geisha…. with a god damn TAN! If I ever met him I think I would (lacking all restraint to stop myself) lightly rub the back of my hand against his cheek to see if he was actually just a hologram. I realize now that for a straight man I have gone on just a tad too long about Rob Lowe.
But the reason his giant face made me sad was because of the day I had just had and what the juxtaposition of him on a shiny billboard was to the different world I had just experienced.
We were shooting a music video for “Belly”. The set needed to be striking. And when I say striking I mean it in the skankiest sense of the word. The protagonist of the video would be Steve. He would be playing an older man in a weird room. He would stare into the mirror and see a fantasy of a younger version of himself (me) come to life and essentially ‘rock out’ to the song. Alex Familian, our director, found the Mustang Motel in South Central.
The Mustang Motel. Well when you order a room from the Mustang Motel you order at a bulletproof mirror window. Yes, you do have the option to rent rooms by the hour. There are two suites. One is the Princess suite and one is the Diamond Suite. We would be shooting in the Diamond Suite, which came with more mirrors than any narcissistic sex addict could dream of. (Including one above the bed and of course 5 surrounding the heart-shaped jacuzzi bathtub positioned in the corner of the room… yup.) There were red tiles in the shapes of hearts along the walls and red hearts painted on the ceiling. I know it all sounds very cute but the ghosts of sex-capades past were still haunting the room giving it an eerie feel from the get go.
Despite having watched documentaries on the history of gang life in South Central and volunteering once at the high school there, my naivete to the world of South Central is strong. Until you are in it, you just can’t fathom how different of a world it is. When I arrived for shooting at 8 am there were prostitutes positioned at the entrance of the parking lot much like lion statues welcome guests into a gaudy mob boss mansion. After a couple hours of shooting we had our first encounter.
A big guy with no shirt on just kinda strolled into the hotel room and starting looking around the room. His first comment was “it’s all about that penetration baby!”. After a few more comments of that nature Steve stood up and asked him to leave. He immediately accused Steve of being a racist and asked if he had a gun. He acted like he had a gun in his back and pulled out just his hand in the shape of a gun and started laughing. He was more crazy in a goofy way than trying to be seriously intimidating but nevertheless it made everyone a little bit uneasy. So much so that our actor for “older Adam” grabbed his bag, declared he didn’t feel safe and left. And just like that… we were out of an “older adam”. We had a couple more brief interactions with people who were curious about why all the white people were taking up these two rooms and just what the heck we were doing. The overwhelming consensus was that we were shooting porn. This all came to a head at about three in the afternoon.
I was taking something out to my car when a stocky fellow came up to me and asked if he could talk with me for a second. He motioned for me to come over to him which would be around the corner of the building. I stayed put by my car and asked him what was up. He again motioned for me to follow him and said he needed to talk to me. I stayed put. Eventually he walked over to me and told me that if we lied to him anymore about what we were doing in that room he would have 40 crips roll up and take care of us all real quick. He was completely convinced we were shooting porn because a half-dressed Steve was outside on his phone trying to convince a friend of his to come play “older Adam”. (To play into the character we decided to have Steve in a suit jacket but with only heart patterned boxers on as his bottoms.) I assured him we were only shooting a silly music video for our band. Right when I was saying that, Caroline, our production assistant walked out of the room. She is a pretty young woman and because we had the AC blasting she wore a large cardigan over her shorts and tank top but at that moment looked more like a robe covering a girl who had just finished a scene. Everyone was very nervous when I was defending our proceedings to him so her expression of troubled concern probably matched that of a girl who had just gotten paid to do unspeakable things in front of a film crew. He looked at her and said,
“what the hell man that your hoes coming out the room right now… don’t you fuckin lie to me dog… I will have 40 crips run up on you right now if you lying to me!”
I assured him that we meant absolutely no disrespect to him and that all these people were just here cause they were friends of the band. I did my best not to break eye contact with him. If there was one thing he needed to know it was that I was being real with him and that I fully understood that we were operating on his turf. By the end of the conversation he shook my hand and introduced himself. “I’m Nate. If y'all are shooting porn and not paying taxes to me then we are going to have a problem…. cause this is my block. But if you are doing music then that’s cool… do what you do…. and if anyone fucks with you, come to me and I got your back.”
I felt good after this. It seemed like I had formed a legitimate connection with him. Everyone was pretty shaken up though. We continued to shoot. Steve looked amazing. Alex and the film crew that he had rallied were super precise. But the worst interaction was yet to come.
About an hour after it was dark we got a knock on the door. A voice kept asking to talk. We were all a little stressed at this point cause we were trying to get really intricate shots that took a lot of prep time. At first Alex, unknowing of who was knocking told him we were busy shooting and sorry but we couldn’t talk anymore. After a couple times, it was clear the person knocking was not going away and told Alex if he wanted to step outside then we could handle it for real. Alex turned pale. I could see through the crack that the guy was wearing a black shirt like Nate was so I jumped over and opened the door. It was Nate. He was fired up. By this point he was clearly overcome with rage so I had to get his attention and remind him that we had talked earlier and asked him what was going on? Apparently management had told him that one of the girls we were shooting with had called and complained about him. This was not the case. Our producer did call earlier in the day after the first encounter to inquire about security. But Nate took this very personally.
He squared up at me and said “alright then what’s up then… management is telling me y'all called complaining on me…. I told you I had your back and then y'all are gonna go and snitch on me?? If y'all think you can do that I will have my people run up in here in one phone call and I ain’t fucking around.”
All the while he was yelling, one of his friends who looked about 6'8’’ and strongly built stood just at the corner of the stairs as if waiting for the word from Nate to enforce whatever he had in mind. I basically tried to stay as calm as I could and keep the eye contact strong. I again assured him that we had been so busy shooting that there was no way we would have complained on him and that in no way would we do that and disrespect him. I told him how I told Adam about my conversation with him earlier and how I thought it was really cool he would have our backs. I told him I wanted to give him a CD and explained that he probably wouldn’t like it. I reminded him I was just a silly, broke musician trying to make a cool video and that we were all on the same team. Somehow this did calm him down and he was back on my side. He gave me a hug and said “alright we on the same team then.” Again, he assured us that for the rest of the shoot if anyone fucked with us to come to him and he and his buddy walked away. I turned back to the room and everyone looked as though the engines had just turned back on in a nose-diving airplane that they were in. We shot for about another hour and called it.
I felt pretty good about everything now. As if we had gotten over the hump. But the tension was still there. By the end of the night the producers all agreed that it would just not be responsible to ask the crew to come back and so the rest of shooting for “Belly” was canceled. I am not sure yet what will happen at this point with the video.
When I left I approached Nate across the lot once more and thanked him for being understanding. He stood with two of his girls and they looked at me as though I was a rare breed of animal that had just been let loose in their backyard. He said that we were his people to Adam and I and casually said he loved us. I asked if I could buy him a six pack or anything and he said he didn’t drink beer and that we didn’t owe him anything. He explained that he had to leave to get home early to his wife but he would be back the next day at around one and to let him know if we had any problems. We all hugged and he said “if y'all wanna get me an Arizona Iced Tea tomorrow that’d be great but don’t sweat it.” It hit me when telling Spencer about the day that Nate was just a regular business man. He didn’t drink and he was going home early to his wife. It is just the only business he was ever shown to be profitable enough to provide for his family was this.
I drove away from the Mustang Motel and through one of the roughest areas in LA. I saw groups of kids huddled around apartment steps. I saw working girls circling motel lots. I saw one guy running around the corner of an intersection in a way that looked like he was definitely running from something and not to something and a man asleep at a bus stop with his head lifelessly laid on the concrete sidewalk. And then I hopped back on the freeway and before I even merged onto the interstate, Rob Lowe’s face was smiling down at me welcoming me back to the silly reality I am used to… and yeah, it made me feel sad. I don’t want this story to be my 'exciting white boy goes to Compton and makes it out alive’ cautionary tale. I don’t intend to title this piece “We Got Scared as Shit and Got Straight Outta Compton” although that works incredibly well given the NWA marketing memes that have taken over social media this last month.
I honestly did feel more comfortable than when I arrived by having the time to see how it all worked. But the fact that terms come to life and death at such a rapid pace does garner more respect for the levity of the environment that is South Central. It is real. It is not just a John Singleton movie you saw when you were younger and it isn’t all better now that the 90’s are gone. I don’t know exactly what good it would do but I would want me writing this piece to make you think. People that live in that world live in a way where their mortality is questioned almost every day. Like I said I don’t know what it is supposed to make you think but at least really consider that for a moment. If all it does is make you feel thankful that you could either watch a Rob Lowe sitcom or jog around your block safely tonight then that is something.
I asked Alex to leave an Arizona for Nate the next morning when he picked up the rest of the equipment.
Copy of a written deal Christoph Haizmann made with the Devil (1699)
Christoph Haizmann, a poor painter, claimed to have sold his soul to the devil. He claimed to have made two pacts with the devil, one in ink and one in blood. He was to be his bounden son for nine years; after that time, Haizmann’s body and soul were to belong to the devil.
Haizmann claimed to have also suffered from demonical neurosis. His case was studied by Sigmund Freud and Gaston Vandendriessche.
When I started drawing for bands a few years ago, I never thought I’d have a shirt design in the Bridge Nine Store. Thanks to Ryan and Backtrack for the opportunity. Click the link below to grab the shirt and be sure to pre-order Lost In Life. http://www.b9store.com/details.php?ID=3491
THE GRAND GRIMOIRE - known also as “The Red Dragon”. It is a collection of “black magic” grimoires believed to be as old as the 16th century AD, containing instructions purported to summon Lucifer or Lucifuge Rofocale, with the intent of forming an infernal pact (i.e. a “deal with the devil.”)
Quoting the Esoteric Archives:
“A. E. Waite pronounced this the most fantastic of the texts of the Black Magic cycle, and ’one of the most atrocious of its class; it has a process in Necromancy which is possible, say some occult writers – in the geniality of a lucid interval – only to a dangerous maniac or an irreclaimable criminal. It must be admitted that the Rite is highly unreasonable, but in dealing with such literature it seems unsafe to advance the objection, for it applies much too widely.’”
(Emphasis is mine.)
I strongly discourage anyone from attempting any ritual contained within The Grand Grimoire for reasons which should be plainly obvious.Do not try this at home.
A deal with the Devil is a cultural motif, best exemplified by the legend of Faust and the figure of Mephistopheles, but elemental to many Christian folktales. According to traditional Christian belief in witchcraft, the pact is between a person and Satan or a demon. The person offers his or her soul in exchange for diabolical favours; those favours vary by the tale, but tend to include youth, knowledge, wealth, or power.
Consume a human’s soul after fulfilling any wish they may desire by signing them up to a Faustian contract. These demonic looking contact lenses will transform your eye into Ciel’s distinctive contract seal symbol.