Billy Buck Henry goes to Hollywood
Austin blues singer Karen Tyler and her
husband-producer Fred Murray had decided to move back to California,
but they had a problem: how to get Fred's Ford Escort from Austin,
Texas to Paso Robles. Would I do it, they asked?
Would I do it? Are you kidding? A free
trip to California? No problem. Besides, I don't get offers to be a
designated driver very much. I was excited.
Now I could hunt down Internet journalist
Lately, Drudge fans have been
letter-bombing my e-mail. It was time for me to confront the little
muckraker and tell him to call off the dogs. I wasn't going to rough
him up or anything. Maybe mess up his hat a little.
As luck would have it, my
big-wig-music-biz brother, Dan, was going to be in LA on Thursday night
to join the Days of the New tour. We could hang out together at his
My brother works with several prominent
rock bands and one obscure singer-songwriter. That would be me. He's a
business manager, the guy who takes care of the artist's money and
financial details. Remember the woman who shot Selena? Dan does what
she used to do.
Of course, my brother would never shoot an
artist. He might shoot the meddling relatives of an artist -- or me
perhaps -- but never an artist.
During the dead of night, I took off on my
trip. Along the way, a few minor incidents occurred. They always do. At
the New Mexico border, I was mistaken for a Mexican. That happens to me
- "Are you a citizen?" the border guard
- I wanted to say, "Si," but I just
muttered yes. He wasn't convinced.
- "Is this your car?" he asked. Damn. How
did he know?
- "No, I'm just transporting it to LA," I
- Bad answer. I might as well have said,
"I'm transporting the car, two illegals in the trunk and a kilo of
grass to LA." But he waved me through. Guess it was an English test.
In Wilcox, Arizona I dined at Burger King.
"You're number 69," the girl at the counter said. Of course I am.
Childish? Sure. Beavis-and-Butthead-like? You bet. But I know a good
omen when I see one.
- At the California border, the
agricultural agent asked, "Do you have any vegetables? Fruits?"
- "Why," I said. "Did they pass a
proposition against that too?"
- "What?" she said
- "Ahhhh... no. No fruits."
I got into LA around noon and headed to
Silver Lake, where Cat lives. My brother wasn't going to be in town
until 8 p.m. and Cat was the only friend I had in Los Angeles. I
figured I'd leave a note at her door since she was at work.
To my embarrassment, she was home. I
apologized for showing up at her door unannounced and she agreed to
meet me at a coffeehouse after she took a shower.
I went down to the Café Tropical on
Sunset and Silver Lake and ordered a Coke, just to be a Texan asshole.
I waited for Cat at a patio table and eavesdropped on several Hollywood
conversations. None of the voices sounded like Drudge.
Cat joined me at the café and took
me back to her house where she showed me her excellent graphic design
work and played me nearly every record album in her huge collection.
After show and tell, we went in search of a Mexican restaurant called
Unfortunately, Senor Fish was closed, so
we headed to the Gumbo Pot at the Farmer's Market. Cat turned the car
around and stopped at the light when I saw a 25-year-old, shirtless,
Mexican-American guy running toward the car. "Hmmm," I thought. "This
reminds me of something that happened to me in Watts a few years back."
Sonofabitch! It was déjà vu
all over again. He ran to my door and opened it. Of course it was
unlocked. Wisely, Cat hit the gas as I pushed at the guy yelling, "No,
you can't come in. Get out of here." He ran along with the car, still
trying to get in. I kept pushing him in the chest until he finally let
go and we got away.
- "That's never happened to me before,"
- "That's happened to me three times
now," I said.
- "So, it's you then?" she asked.
- "Oh, yeah. It's definitely me."
- (Pause)"Do you think he thought you
- "Probably," I said.
After a couple of blocks, she pulled the
car over to the curb.
- "Why are you stopping? Let's get out of
- "You're bleeding," she said. Sure
enough, I looked down and my hands were covered with blood. Hmmm. Guess
I must have cut myself on the door. I checked my hands. No cuts or
- "It's not my blood, but I'd really like
to get it off me," I said.
- "Sure," she said. "I'm surprised you're
not more shaken up about this."
- "Are you kidding? Now I've got
something to write about."
Of course, the car-jacker could have given
me a better story. He could have opened the car door and said, "This is
a little message from Mr. Drudge."
When we got to Farmer's Market we
discovered more blood on the car. I guess he was having a bad body
fluid day. I went to the public restroom and washed the blood off my
hands with the zeal of Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets."
After lunch, Cat showed me around the
shops of Farmer's Market. Still no sign of Drudge. After I bought a
bottle of hot sauce for my girlfriend (hopeless romantic that I am),
Cat took me to the Red Lion Tavern, a German establishment, for a
couple of beers.
Our waitress had a foreign accent and I
commented on it.
- "I'm from Germany," she said.
- "Oh. I thought you were from Fresno."
- "No. Germany."
- "But you can understand my confusion,
"She's not from Germany," I whispered to
Cat. "She's some aspiring actress milking the locals for tips."
After our libations, we went back to her
house and I called my brother. Everything was a go. He told me to meet
him at room 305 at the Bel Age Hotel on Sunset and San Vincente.
My brother waited outside the hotel to
greet me when I arrived. He was in a good mood. That meant cocktails.
"The only people allowed in my suite
tonight are people whose name starts with the letter M," he said.
"Merrill and Matt are already here. Come on up Mike," he said.
Merrill? Who the hell is Merrill? We got
up to his room and Matt McCormack -- a singer-songwriter and friend of
mine from Austin -- was there with Merrill Collins-Kuhns, an attractive
blond blues singer he had met at a club in Studio City. I regaled them
with my story of the thwarted car jacking (all right, it was more like
an aggressive hitchhiker, but I bet I could make the charges stick).
Then we swapped songs.
Merrill sang great, her voice a cross
between Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders and Cher. She's an amazing
woman with a strong presence. Imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton as a blues
singer. Merrill exuded intelligence, confidence and talent. If she's
got a husband who cheats on her, she's there. For some reason she hit
it off with me right away, so you can remove good judgment from her
list of attributes.
Matt sang one of his songs, "Holiday," and
then I sang one of mine called "Valley of the Moon." Matt and Merrill
added incredible harmonies, while brother Dan watched in amusement. We
all drank Jim Beam and the view from the too-expensive suite showed a
kinder, gentler Hollywood than what I remembered from when I lived
there. I had money in my pocket and food in my belly. Life was good.
I was getting that which I didn't deserve
and it pleased me.
I felt so good, I decided to do the Billy
Buck Henry song. Billy Buck Henry is a character I made up one day at a
bus stop in Austin. I was on my way to the Chicago House, where I
worked as the upstairs manager. That night's show featured, yet again,
a lesbian folk singer and I wondered: Why isn't there a gay male
Billy Buck Henry was born. On the bus ride
into town I wrote "Friends O' Mine," which I played for Matt, Merrill
and Dan at the Bel Age Hotel suite. The words go like this:
Friends O' Mine
- Well, I used to watch the Dallas Cowboys
- On my hi-fi TV tube.
- Used to work out on my 57 Chevy
- Oil change and lube
- But one day I got tired, of being the
- So I put on my girlfriend's lingerie
- And started eating Moo Goo Gai Pan
- My life was running on empty,
- purty soon it ran out of gas.
- Then I turned homosexual and found
friends up the ass.
- Well I learned to play hide the weenie,
- And I learned how to swallow swords.
- And I rooted for Harvey Fierstein
- Every year at the Tony Awards.
- I was the new sensation
- Down at the neighborhood bar.
- Wrote a column for the Advocate
- Outtin' all the movie stars.
- Copyright 1998 Santa Barbara Music
Childish? Sure. Beavis-and-Butthead-like?
You bet. But remember... we were drinking Jim Beam.
- "That was hysterical," Merrill said.
(Slight pause) "So... are you gay?"
- "No. Are you?"
As we basked in our heterosexuality, Dan
got a call on his cell phone. The management of Days of the New wanted
to talk to him poolside on the roof of the hotel.
"Listen, I need to meet with these guys a
bit. Why don't you bring the guitar and we'll continue this by the
pool." That sounded good. But when we got to the roof, Dan said, "Look,
why don't you guys sit at that table over there. I'll be right back."
Sure, I know the routine. Matt, and
Merrill and I have to sit at the card table set up for the kids on
Thanksgiving, while you guys camp around the big table and feast on the
Fuck it. Merrill, Matt and I continued to
sing songs, loudly. We were at the top of the Bel Age roof in the
decadent part of West Hollywood. The LA night was clear and I could see
the sparkling lights of the Hollywood Hills. Gorgeous view. I walked to
the edge of the roof.
"Drudge? Drudge? Are you out there,
buddy?" He was clearly avoiding me.
Finally, Dan's group joined us. Travis
Meeks -- lead singer of Days of the New and a real rock star -
joined our song circle. Travis was flanked by Victor S. and Rick S.,
his personal managers. Rick reminds everybody of the Larry Sanders'
version of Garry Shandling, while Victor's a lot more low-key. His
voice sounds like Captain Kangaroo. The old Captain Kangaroo. The real
We continued our song circle until a
courier from Elektra Records showed up with a newly minted CD. Travis
had just done a session with the remaining members of The Doors for a
soon-to-be released tribute album. He got to perform "This Is The End"
with Ray Manzarek and them others.
The fucker got to be Jim Morrison! I
envied him that.
We all went back to Dan's suite and played
the CD. Travis is only 20, but damn if he didn't nail the song. He
sounded like a southern Tennessee version of Morrison. The ten-minute,
semi-psychedelic song was made more psychedelic by the addition of Jim
Beam. Halfway through the song, I went into a nostalgic trance and
broke into San Francisco-style, give-me-a-fucking-break dancing. I felt
like singing along with the CD, especially during the dramatic spoken
word part of the song:
- "The killer awoke at dawn... and
then... HE WALKED ON DOWN THE HAAAAALLLLLLL. Mother... I want to kill
you. Father... I want to fuck..."
Wait, I think I screwed that up.
I looked around the room. The respectful
silence of people listening to a new release for the first time was
coupled with the uncomfortable silence of people forced to watch a
middle-aged man regress before their very eyes.
Didn't they get it? Didn't they feel it?
Couldn't they howl at the LA moon? The song was fucking great! I was
infused with the soul of LA. The spirits of Jim Morrison, Charles
Bukowski and Jim Beam engulfed me. I wanted to shout, dance, dig into
the heart of the night, rip off my clothes and have my way with Merrill.
Mostly the last part, but it was still a
spiritual fuckin' experience.
After the song finished, everyone said,
"Wow, that was great. Awesome. Marvelous. Beautiful baby." Hollywood
suck-up shit. Me? I trotted across the room and yelled, "THAT WAS
FUCKING INCREDIBLE, MAN! TOO BAD I HAD TO HEAR THIS WITH ALL YOU BORING
I could actually hear my brother wince.
Hey, I was just trying to make things
lively. Share the magic. Be here now.
The others decided to be there later.
"Wow, it's getting late and we've got that meeting in the morning,"
Rick said. He, Travis and Victor quickly left Dan's room and then...
AND THEN THEY WALKED ON DOWN THE
Merrill thought it might be a good time to
leave as well.
"Good move," I said. "I think it's going
to get ugly from this point on."
We all went downstairs to get Merrill's
valet ticket validated. We took it to the woman at the counter, but she
said no, Merrill would have to pay unless she had eaten at the
restaurant. Matt took charge of the situation.
"We all ate at the restaurant," Matt said.
The woman didn't buy it. "You say she did,
but she shakes her head no." Damn, I thought. Did I hear a German
Matt came unglued. "You've seen me here
all day, going up and down the elevator cause the key won't work. You
know I'm staying here," Matt said. "Goddamn, sonofabitch."
He was a little worked up, but then she
was being snippy. She never really heard what Matt said. What she
thought she heard were the words of the late Sam Kinison:
- YOU STUPID WHOOORRRREEE!!! YOU FUCKING
BIIITTTTTCCCHHHH!!! VALIDATE THIS FUCKING TICKET OR I WILL COMMAND
SATANIC DEMONS FROM HELL TO FLY UP YOUR FUCKING ASS. OHHH, OHHH, OHHH,
I escorted Merrill to the valet station,
while just outside the hotel Matt and Dan were detained by two
blazer-wearing, FBI-looking, hotel security thugs. It was a miracle.
They were in trouble and I was off to the side with a good-looking
I was getting that which I didn't deserve
and it pleased me.
We said our goodbyes to Merrill and then
Matt, Dan and I decided to share our wonderfulness with the clubs on
Sunset Boulevard. We went next door to the Viper Room (Johnny Depp's
new club they tell me) but it looked a little upscale to me.
Fifteen-dollar cover charge? Really? How much for the Budweiser?
We went to Mirabelle's instead, drank a
few beers, kept our eyes open for Drudge and had a pleasant but fairly
uneventful time. Only one ugly incident occurred. At one point, I got
old time religion, started speaking in tongues, flailed my arms across
the table and knocked my beer over into Dan's lap. I tried to grab it,
but I knocked his beer over as well.
I'd pay for that. And payback's a bitch.
We went back to the room and got to sleep
at 4 a.m. Dan and Matt needed to be up at 9 a.m. for a poolside meeting
with Rick and Victor. Too bad for them.
Fuck! I woke up at 7 a.m. Since I was
awake, I asked if I could tag along for the meeting. Strangely enough,
he said fine.
We got to the roof first. Matt brought
along his guitar, since Dan was pitching Matt to the Days of the New
management team. Why not play some tunes live and impress them? Sounded
good to me.
Victor soon arrived and appeared much more
chipper and sociable than the night before.
"How is everyone this morning?" he said in
his Captain Kangarooese.
"Much better, thanks," I said. "Where's
"Oh, he'll be along shortly," he said and
smiled at me. Hmmm. Something was up.
Rick showed up, took the seat next to
mine, stared me down behind his Hollywood sunglasses and fired away.
"Look, Mike," he said. "If you're going to
be part of this circle there are a few things you should know."
He proceeded to tell me that he didn't
appreciate my impression of the anti-Christ the night before and that I
was generally an assbite who happened to be the brother of a very
prominent music biz accountant. He said I would no doubt be mentioned
one day in the same breath as other famous brothers, such as Billy
Carter and Roger Clinton. He added that he didn't know what happened to
the gene pool when I got around to splashing around in it and -- by the
way -- what's the fucking deal with your last name?
The usual shit.
I really didn't hear the details. I tuned
out after he said "if you're going to be part of the circle." I was
part of the circle! I was in the loop!
I was getting that which I didn't deserve
and... yeah, yeah, you know.
I was impressed that Rick was so
forthcoming. Most people I alienate stew for a couple of weeks until
word of my bad behavior leaks back to me through various sources,
usually via e-mail.
After I apologized for being myself the
meeting got back on track. We ordered breakfast from room service on
Dan's cell phone and then Matt described his musical vision and played
some songs for us. Rick and Victor were clearly impressed and asked
Matt to send them a four-song demo so they could hear more.
That settled, we all loosened up and Rick
entertained us with his stories and quick wit. Here's an example:
- I was just in the bathroom taking a
piss and Sean Connery was standing at the urinal next to me. I looked
over a few times, you know, but I didn't want him to think I was
looking at his dick.
- He finished before me and as he left I
heard him say in that distinctive voice of his, "That's right... it's
Bond." I died laughing. He said exactly what I was thinking.
- Anyway, that's why my shirt's wet.
Meanwhile, an hour had passed and no
breakfast. Rick went to check on it and so I took the opportunity to
talk to Victor.
"I guess you guys aren't so boring after
all," I said.
"Oh," Victor said. "So you remember saying
that?" Good one, Victor. Anyone with balls enough to kick mine is okay
After breakfast, everyone got up to leave
but Dan wouldn't hear of it.
"Wait," he said. "I want you to hear this
song Mike wrote." He turned to me and said, "Do the Billy Buck Henry
song. You don't mind do you?"
Great. Now I'll be known in the industry
as the buffoon who writes the idiotic songs, when what I really want is
to be known as the buffoon who writes the cool songs.
Still, Dan paid for breakfast so what
could I do?
I broke into the song. ("Well I used to
watch the Dallas Cowboys...") After the first chorus I looked up to see
the horrified faces of Matt, Victor and Rick. My brother whispered in
my ear, "Mike, I think there's a gay guy sitting behind you who doesn't
understand your special brand of humor and he looks really pissed."
Fuck. I'd been setup. Payback for the
spilled beer, no doubt.
"Is it Drudge?" I asked. No one answered.
Everyone wanted to leave. Fast.
"I refuse to turn around," I said and Rick
grabbed me by the arm and escorted me off the premises, Secret Service
Downstairs, I turned in my valet ticket,
got into Fred's Ford Escort and headed down Sunset Boulevard. As I
cruised through Hollywood, I took one last look around. Absolutely no
sign of Matt Drudge anywhere.
* * *
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If
you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.