September 07, 2002

Battery Acid Blues: A Humorless Weekend In Los Angeles

Keir DuBois is easily offended by no-talent comediennes. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 10/16/97).

This weekend the Mojo Wire and our extended family went to L.A. I kept a little record of it for posterity. Here’s what happened.

There is nothing that makes me appreciate this town more than leaving it for some other place that is not remotely like it. My sentiment is often shared by my band mates and our friends, and for this reason, we are taking a road trip down to Los Angeles.

Adam arrives with Stacy in tow, who has been ready to go since two o’clock. It is now four-thirty, and we’re waiting on Ian, who for whatever reason is nowhere to be found. Undoubtedly he will deny being the one who said we should all be ready by three. I say as much to Stacy and she agrees. “It’s not unusual.”

“It’s not uncommon,” echoes Adam.

“It’s not a surprise at all,” agrees Bryn.

Much later the Mafia Man does indeed arrive, and as we expected, denies any wrongdoing. We don’t care; let’s get on the road already. Now, in Adam’s car, it’s not a question of “Shall we play the Radiohead album?” It is instead queried, “Which Radiohead disc will it be?” Since the release of OK Computer we’ve been playing them non-stop. In between playing real bands we fit in the demo tape of the Mojo Wire that we finished yesterday. It is Stacy’s first real forced listening of the new material, and though she detests “Your Mama’s a Ho,” she really likes the rest.

“I’ll be your number one fan!” she gushes, and that’s no empty threat; when she gets excited about something, her face lights up in a bright happy smile, which, I now observed, was much better than the mopey state which had held her for the past three hours. Turns out that what breaks her blues is the silly “drip-drop” chorus to one of our songs called “Wishing Well Blues.”

Our planfor the trip is this: we meet up with our friends at UCLA and USC, and with our combined pent-up powers of fun, go out on the town and paint it crimson. It is my perhaps naive hope that we might even disillusion ourselves of the preconceived notions that L.A., and Hollywood in particular, is the current slimy center of all in this universe that is bitter and cynical. I’d like to think that this isn’t true, but I doubt it. I don’t like to be bitter and cynical unlessforced, and I really hope this trip won’t do that.

While I’ve been daydreaming about the nature of the universe, Adam has already reached one of his definitions of hell. Traffic is hopelessly snarled, the other drivers are jerks, and to top it off, the directions he got are less than helpful, and so now we’re getting a lovely tour of Bel Air. Ronald Reagan’s hood. O.J. Simpson’s turf.

Everybody appreciates it but our driver, and by the time we’re pulled over by a rent-a-cop patrol car wondering what we’re doing here, Adam’s had it. Lucky for us, our fearless frontman only has eyes for our ultimate destination, and squeezes the information out of the chubby security guard faster than that guard could squeeze the jelly out of a doughnut. We soon arrive at the foot of UCLA’s Dykstra Hall.

The whole crew is shortly rounded up from the separate giant pillars of study in this metropolis, and we’re off to see the Strip. Our first stop is the Laugh Factory, and the show we are to see consists of five unknown comics. Having seen a spat of showcases this summer back home, everybody’s excited, and that is only amplified by the loud neon on the club’s outside and the many portraits of now-famous comedians on the walls. Ticket prices brought us back to reality.

Not long after we’re seated my worst suspicions and fears about show business in L.A. are confirmed. Sure, I’d heard stories from my playwright aunt about the crazed energy of those who want to make it big, and I’d heard equally scary (but far funnier) stories from my psychiatrist uncle about how he used to treat all of these people, but none of this prepared me for the reality that was now spitting in our faces.

Every one of the comics in the show is basing their act on insults, pure unadulterated, and totally evil insults. No one in the first few rows is spared. We’re in the far back, and, unfortunately for us, behind a rather obese man who is drunk of his keister and laughing at every utterance of these slugs. He proceeds to repeat the last few words of every comic’s sentence as if memorizing them for later. I look across Stacy, who is fuming, over at Bryn, who is just about to kill the guy in front of him, and slowly abandon myself to the dark side.

It comes in the person of the most evil woman I’ve ever seen. She’s the perfect description of the bitter Hollywood has-been, and she was letting us know it. She said “fuck” so frequently that it went in and out of style six times. Bloody hell, she’s having a go at every race known to man, all the while gleefully telling us how much of a slut she is. Stacy has a rule concerning female comics seen live: they suck. Well, that rule is standing tall and proud tonight.

Speaking of Stacy, I now notice that she’s doing what everyone else wishes they were doing right now. After storming out and demanding her money back, and not getting it, she proceeded to the stage and let loose herself on that slime, with several others from the insulted crowd following suit.

It looks tough work; when Stacy pulls herself from the ruckus, her arms are covered in the black ichor that flows generously from the comic’s veins as she is pulverized by the audience. For a second we are all frozen, and just as quickly we realize that this is our signal to peel out fast, before the club’s monstrous bouncers awak and mangle us. It’s tough to pry Bryn’s maiming hands away from the fat guy in front of him. We barely make it to our cars, what with my brother screaming “How ya like that, Jabba?” the whole interminable distance.

There’s no feeling like tearing down the Strip at 80, in traffic, constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of armed pursuit. Even if we wanted to, we’re not to enjoy it. Soon we’re far away, tires squealing high on Mulholland, and the rush is over.

It’s going to sound cheesy, but it’s true: The Mojo Wire and our extended family learned a bitter lesson about the pitfalls of show biz and how it can make monsters of ordinary people. Maybe every average Joe learns that in Hollywood, and this was how we did. I don’t hate this city, but I hate what it does to people. If we take another road trip, I vote for Pismo Beach.

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