Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My First Roomate Experience - An Apology

You always remember your first car, first kiss and I'll always remember my first roomates, Gilley Grey and Kim Griego, and the great kindness they showed me. Even if they now hate me, I'll always love them for how they helped me.

How did a relationship I count as one of the best of my life end in such a mess?

Let's start with the short notice from my first roomies.  One week. Which I brought on myself by saying I only needed a week, which is exactly what I got.  I was overconfident about finding a place and it left me scrambling.  And not knowing where or how big my new place would be left me in a panic. When I asked Gilley for some more time he refused. A week and I was out. After all the months of sharing life I never saw this inflexible side of the man. It seemed my wanting to leave had severed our brotherly bond and I was SOL.

And I didn't know where to go because my check from a new client was 2 months past due.  Now in normal times a 60 day past due invoice is not big deal.  You borrow from your bank to cover stuff like that.  But my bank is heartless giant Bank of America and a self-employed man like me who was just evicted in 2009 is not good credit material.

So all I could do was plan an interim move on a couch and stick everything in storage.  But there was just one problem with that.  My storage space was 2 weeks late on rent.  It would have been worse except Kim paid me up as a loan.

All this uncertainty left me wound tight as a drum and when Gilley would not let me borrow Kim's car for an extra few hours to get the job of moving done. I flew into a rage on the phone!  I must have called that poor guy every name in the book.

No matter what my friends and family tell me, I had no right to speak to Gilley so crudely.  No matter how unreasonable he seemed to my fear fevered brain at the time. I've apologized for my potty mouth and the rotten stuff I said in rage, but with some people, like my stepfather, they never forgive.  So who knows?  Are you reading Kim and Gilley?  If so consider this blog post another apology.

I did not grow horns and a tail.  And neither did Kim and Gilley.  We're all just people coping with an economy that is not showing signs of life.  The pressures are enormous and we crack.  I'm grateful I'm not doing crack at this point.  I need a long rest and there's no rest when you are working to just keep one room over your head.

In my house growing up in rough Italian neighborhood in Milwaukee the F was used in about every word in every other sentence.  But to hurl that at a guy like Gilley, who's been nothing but kind, makes me see I have a lot of work to do on myself if I am to be the enlightened being I want to be.

In the end the miracle of the one week move did happen despite losing my mind.  I don't exaggerate.  I lost it.  At one point shuffling stuff in an out of the apartment, my storage in Agoura and the new place in North Hollywood and tossing excess stuff in the dumpster at Gilley's I accidentally began keeping the trash and trashing the things I wanted to keep!

So I had to climb into the dumpster to salvage important lost papers.  I was moving out without Gilley's help and I dropped a nighstand and it punched a hole in a the door to room I "rented" from Gilley.

This roommate thing was a whole new experience for me.  I've always had my own place, either owned or rented. And in whole I did OK until the end. In December when cash ran low I'd exchange services for the missed rent or food and that all seemed clear and to be working.  Seemed is the operable word.

It's all a mess at this point with me doing a ton of barter work and their doing a ton of favors and small loans that are intertwined into a Gordian knot of hurt feelings, angst, broken dreams and frustration we may never untangle.

I don't know if the big hearted Gilley and sweet Kim did not believe I really have a home back in Wisconsin to go home to or not, and I prefer not to as my father is old and sick a lot these days and we never got along well.  So on the hopes of some big social media work that would have saved the day, but that never materialized through no fault of mine, Kim and Gilley kept me afloat when they should have sent me packing for home back in December.

In my new situation in North Hollywood I keep the boundaries totally clear.  I take no favors and have clear understanding of doing one hour of BuzzBroz work per day for Bradley Quick, my new landlord.  Brad is super just to be around for his positive energy and he has a huge three bedroom home here in LA. I now have beautiful studio with a ginormous work station, big enough that I've been editing videos for him on three computers and once.

And it at least says something about me I ended up in such a great spot working for such a great guy to help pay my rent.

Bradley is just what the doctor ordered for this weary filmmaker/social media guru.  I'm filming him giving motivational speeches, doing his weekly radio show and being a guest himself on talk shows.  I already have 3 amazing hours of material and have built him twitter, youtube and facebook fan pages to get the word out.

Here's hoping I learned from the wonderful Kim and Gilley how to be a better roommate this time around with the amazing Mr. Quick.

But most of all here's hoping that when tempers cool and times are better, debts settled, that Gilley and Kim will forgive me as I've forgiven them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Life is a Super Bowl

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

I'm here at my favorite Starbucks in Sherman Oaks on Ventura the last time before moving out of Gilley and his fiancee Kim's LA place.

I was watching DVDs from Gilley's library as the cable was canceled earlier in the week.  I had never seen Travolta and Winger's URBAN COWBOY and just a few minutes into the great flick, the kind of humanistic, zero CG, flick we don't  see enough today, I see Winger doing a sexy mechanical bull ride in a joint called Gilley's.

I'll be asking Gilley when I see him tomorrow -- when I give back the keys on the VW his fiancee, the lovely Kim, loaned me when she headed off to New Mexico -- was URBAN COWBOY, and the mega nigh club called Gilley's, the inspiration for his stage name?

Gilley Grey was born Gilbert Anderson.  But since someone with that name already existed in the Screen Actors Guild, Gilbert became Gilley Grey.

Kim does not like the Gilley name but I find it fits Gilley's energetic generous personality.  But Gilley Grey is mighty tired right now because he did stunt work and transpo on PASSION PLAY, the new film with Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox and Bill Murray for 6 weeks solid, 16 hours a day.

Gilley hit it off well with Rourke and Murray in particular.  Bill as Gilley tells me is much fun in real life as he is on film.  And Rourke is the charming same charming rascal on and off the silver screen too.  Gilley did not get to spend much time with Megan Fox, but Gilley did get to see her in her angel wings, as she plays an angel that Mickey's character must rescue.

Sounds like PASSION PLAY might be a great flick that would silence some of Megan's detractors.

Today Gilley hooks up a trailer and hauls it to LA to load his stuff up and split to New Mexico for about 5 months.  I worry he's going to fall asleep at the wheel making a 34 hour round trip after a marathon film shoot.  I'll volunteer to drive him back if he can book me a flight back to LA.

Gilley's been a unbelievable roomate and so has Kim.  They feel the same about me.  We had all hoped the great sitcom CARMEN'S PLACE, about a stripper fitness club, that we all worked so hard on creating, well, I did all the writing as a way to bater for rent, might be a quick sale and change our lives.

But it's been the usual huge struggle just to get it submitted and I had to call in some favors with my entertainment layers.  It's slowed us down and we started the process too late in the pilot season but maybe this summer we can take run at it again.  It is one of the funniest things I've written and I am proud of it.  One of my pals at ABC who works on LOST loves it.  So who knows?  Ageism is alive and well in Hollywood and a guy in 50s like me is really up against it.

Now Gilley and Kim are leaving for New Mexico.  At least I won't have time to miss them too much as I'm battling to launch BuzzBroz in the middle of an economy so tight it feel like the labors of Hercules.  I find myself constantly making wrong guesses about work and cash flow.  People I usually depend on for backing are nowhere, acting frightened and behaving erratically.

Take a billionaire pal who called be just before New Year's.  The billionaire said, "I love this BuzzBroz thing to market one of my empty condo towers. Expect a call from my people tomorrow.  Give them a good quote and the job will be yours."  Kim and Gilley heard the call on speakers in the car and we were all high as kites as with the big job I'd be able to hire Kim and pay her a modest salary.

Now it's Super Bowl Sunday and still no word from the billionaire's people.  When I finally chased him down yesterday he basically called me a pest for calling him for the final word, which was, "We'll call you soon as we know.  Don't call us."

I could leave for year for World Trip and not miss a thing.  I may just do that as I continue to pair down my possessions.  I filled half a dumpter of stuff I tossed that I had tucked away in Gilley's place.  Half a dumpster!  And after my eviction last fall I'd never imagine I still have that much stuff.

Stuff!  I rented a 10 foot by 10 foot storage spot in Agoura where stashed stuff I was when the eviction hit.  I've pulled all that matter from there and that's half full of old furniture I'll now abandon.  I held onto it hoping things would get better with the new BuzzBroz biz that has been a drizzle instead of the steady rain I need. Now I'm abandoning ship on the storage spot and losing all that furniture.  Oh, well, most of it was 15 years old anyways.  New stuff awaits this purged warrior of the Great Depression 2.0. when the storm is over. I' haven't had less stuff since college.

More soon on my ongoing search for a new roomie.  One of my new clients is now 60 days behind on paying me and I'm flat broke.  But thankfully, I found a couch to crash on with an amazing radio star and motivational guru, Bradley Quick.  Brad stepped up from the filmmaker group called THE TABLE, how I also met Gilley.  I needed some rescue with the short notice Gilley had to give me when we leased the apartment in only about 48 hours thanks in part to a BuzzBroz video I made of the nice place. 

I like Brad and we may even do a 90 day lease once my check comes in next week as my struggling client has promised.  But Brad's used to living solo so I'm going to keep looking.  Harder to do now without a car but that's what the internet is for.  I'd like to live near the ocean for a while.

Too bad that nice lady with a place in Venice Beach was worried I'd be good for the rent based on my honesty.  I may be a deadbeat but I'm an honest deadbeat. 

My lesson from all these hard times is we all more connected than we realize.  The daisies in this daisy chain are wilted and brown.  But spring is coming, even if it skips a year to 2011.  Meantime, it's a great time to write, , film, blog, hike and bike.

Even in the worst of times... Life is a Super Bowl.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Roomie Hunting in the Great Depression 2.0

Greetings from my favorite Starbucks in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Boulevard.

I'm blogging and making video here at Starbucks today, dear reader, because I am using the web to hunt for my new place.  You see, the internet just got cut off at Gilley's place, whose sudden move to New Mexico, has me looking for new surroundings.

So pardon any typos but working with the cappuccino machine next to my head is distracting as hell.

Charlie Fleischer of ROGER RABBIT fame sits next to me, sipping on a iced coffee and doodling.  Charlie's a regular here like me and a sweet guy.  I'd love to interview him before I blow Sherman Oaks. 

I did a rooms for rent search Monday for my new place for the next 90 days.  My budget is tight and I thought my options would be limited but I found hundreds of options on Craig's List that fit my tight $500 to $700 per month budget.

That amount of people searching for roomies says a lot about how hard times are by itself, but I came across some sad stories that drives the point sadly further home.

One was a lovely, lonely woman living in the valley in an area that would best be described as a mugging waiting to happen. As I pulled up to the spiked metal fence surrounding the apartment building I knew this would never work for a guy who likes to walk in LA, a rarity I know, but it works as long as you're not dating and you work from home like me. 

But I never break an appointment so I went in, even though I knew this war zone wonder was not for me.  The lady was former actor who was now a beautician, and as we sat and talked I thought about the story of the pioneers who set of for California, only to stop along the journey to establish places like Denver and Salt Lake City.  Short of the destination but happy with where they settled. 

The actress turned beautician  impressed me as happy but then next sublandlord was not so happy.  Unemployed and likely to remain so in this rotten economy, the next lady needed a roomie to make the mortgage.  As she tourd me past the broken washer in dryer sitting in her living room she explained,

"It gets chilly here at night because I had the gas turned off to save on money. But a space heater might keep you comfy."

Someone the other day told me that America was already a third world country and we're just to brainwashed to know it. I couldn't help feeling this might be true given the third world conditions that rivaled DISTRICT 9 that I was seeing today.  Cable's down at Gilley's and I was watching the director's commentary and he in fact calls LA "Johanesburg Light" that the world is heading for a society where the elite live behind fences to keep out the poor.

So as I thought about D-9, I tried not to feel too guilty telling this desperate woman not to wait for my answer.

Justified though I was in running, not walking, out of that sad house perched among choked weeds on a sunny middle-class Burbank street, I still felt like a jerk. The poor thing needed a lot more help than my little monthly rent might provide.  But God help me if one of my clients stiffed me and I failed to pay rent on time and she and her little Toto looking dog ended up on the street.

So, not wanting to be a roomie in in place that sounded like it was heading for foreclosure or worse, I headed over to Venice Beach in Kim's car that she's kindly letting me use to get resettled after she and Gilley decided to move to New Mexico with only one week's notice.

BTW, normally I'd be bugged about this short string move notice but Gilley's been awesome.  Yep. I'd be a dick to complain. I love Kim and Gilley so I'm joyfully making this work, even if I end up throwing my stuff into storage and go on a camping trip for a week at Big Sur or crashing on a pal's couch.  No bitching allowed.  I'm seeing all this as an adventure
And though the Venice Beach place is a little above my price range, I hope this works out not just for the cool location, only a couple hundred yards from the beach, but for chance to get to know the nice woman who'd be my new roomie.  But it's hot property and I have the disadvantage of being a guy when she'd prefer a fellow female roomie.  So I'm keeping up the hunt!

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Hollywood here in the Great Depression 2.0.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And the Oscar for Best Roomies Goes to...

I may be away for a week or so while I get myself resituated in LA. Sadly for me, Gilley Grey, my awesome roomie and his girl Kim Griego are packing up for New Mexico.

 The fact both Kim and Gilley have been away the better part of the time since December on the new Megan Fox film PASSION PLAY makes losing their companionship a little bit easier.

Who would have thought when I went through an eviction last October that it would lead to one of the happiest periods in my life? Gilley and Kim have been "above and beyond" kind; treats to restaurants, theater, Xmas in New Mexico and even a Dennis Quaid concert.

And this time with them was explosive time for my creativity.

I wrote a sitcom inspired by Kim's crazy job working for a fitness center that uses exotic dancing to get desperate housewives into shape that is off to several networks with Gilley's help and my fine entertainment lawyers Greenberg & Glusker.

I finished the Lincoln is Back web series with Tom Katsis.

I produced my first viral hit on YouTube that's starting to earn money.

I made many BuzzBroz viral spots, including one for Podi shoes with a sexy and funny idea by that was inspired by Kim. Kim and Gilley helped on making the spot for just a free pair of Podi shoes.

I built a new website for a new Social Media Marketing company BuzzBroz, that I started just before I met Kim and Gilley.

But most fun of all were some of the many improvised videos Gilley and I made just for fun. Like this one about the universe being flat. Gilley is a rocket scientist and the flat universe is a real theory! Turns out ancient man was not that far off saying the world was flat!

BTW, in his 40 some years Gilley has enjoyed the following real life roles:

State Senate Page
Rocket Scientist
Teamster Driver
Stunt Co-ordinator
Fire Fighter
Ambulance Company COO
Trick Roper

There's more.  I just lose count with Gilley Grey, Renisance Man.  BTW, that last career, trick roper. I suggested that should be the name of Gilley's new production company, which I hope will become a partner in many films with my Overactive Imagination Pictures production co.

Gilley is a born producer. He gets things done and done right and he's a ton of fun to work with. One of the flat out most likable people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. And Kim is his perfect compliment who keeps this rocket scientist turned filmmaker grounded.

My new buzz business has been slower getting rolling cash flow wise and Gilley has been very kind and patient.

Kim too. In fact, I was so grateful that I went to New Mexico and used my design background to help Kim redesign their home's interior. Gilley liked it all except the sun porch which he felt was too bold. My guess is once they put the furniture in Gilley will love it.  Well, Kim loves it.  That's good enough for me.  You want bland I'm not your guy!

I even picked up a paint brush for the first time in 30 years and painted for 6 days straight 12 hours a day to get Gilley's New Mexico house, which prior renters had trashed, fixed up!

And to top that off I gave Gilley free real estate consulting on his Q2 Studios project using my experience having built Oprah's Harpo Studios. My opinion is the market officially became overbuilt with the December announcement of Santa Fe Studios breaking ground and giant Albuquerque Studios already in place.

So I suggested roping that project in for the time bieing with a press release, written free courtesy of BuzzBroz.  Gilley's still deciding about my free advice on halting Q2.  I'm mighty conservative after losing my shirt in 1991 building a skyscraper that went busto and me with it.  If anyone could make a studio go in these times it's Gilley.  And with his move out there who knows if he'll push on with Q2?

Still, even with all I did for Kim and Gilley, I still feel they did more for me. I was in rough emotional shape after losing my beloved Chihuahua Sophia in the move.

I found Sophia a great home BTW as you see here. Sophia was my constant companion for 2 years and she's more famous than me in Hollywood having starred in a film I made called ZACK'S MACHINE with the great Ed Asner that's been to 8 festivals.

Kim and Gilley truly cheered me up after the loss of my home and dog. They were an anchor in the storm. And though I'll miss them both, as I write with a sad smile on my face, I know I'll be OK and I am looking forward to discovering who my new roomies in Hollywood will be!

And here's why I'm staying in LA and ain't going back to Chicago. Not until summer anyways.