ConstantCommentary® Vol. I, No. 7, **Greatest Hits** 1997-1999

So Sue Me . . .

by Mike Jasper

 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 Matt Drudge.

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 hotel suite.

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 a lot.

"Are you a citizen?" the border guard asked.
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 said.
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 Senor Fish.

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," Cat said.
"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 were Mexican?"
"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 here?"
"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 scratches.
"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, right?"

"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 country singer?

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 macho man.
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 bird.

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 one.

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 FUCKIN' PEOPLE!"

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...


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 accent?

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:


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 woman.

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. Ask Selena.

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 Rick?"

"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 by me.

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 style.

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.

Fuckin' chickenshit.

* * *

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.