"Hey kid, you were fabulous this week. Have you seen the new topic?"
"I just got off the plane, Morty. I haven't had a chance to check, yet. So, when I get to L.A. it's radio on Tuesday and entry signing on Wednesday?" Morty had this idea, that my fans could print their favorite srs_bidness LJ Idol entries on their home computers and bring it to an appearance where I could sign it for them. The radio interview with one of the local crazywackyinsane morning shows was to be a double dose of publicity, one of general hype and one for the signing.
"No. Wednesday is radio, Thursday is the signing. Tuesday you're guest judging a city-wide writing contest at Bobby Fuller Junior High. My west-coast publicist will meet you at LAX and give you your itinerary. I think he has a social event lined-up for you tonight as well. The topic this week is 'I Fought the Law'."
"Morty, when am I supposed to write this if I'm booked solid all week?!"
"I know you'll find the time and I know it'll be great. Gotta run, kid. I've got Oprah's people on the other line."
I know some of you are thinking that srs_bidness, international playboy and man of intrigue, probably has more than a few great stories to tell about brushes with the law, and you would be correct. For instance, there was the first time my Mom called the cops to our house, before I learned to use the pimp hand with discretion. Another time in high school, Curtis and I bribed some auto-shop goons with two cases of beer and Hustler magazines to steal the principal's car one night. By the next morning they had taken it apart and reassembled it on the roof of the gymnasium. Grifting in Monte Carlo, drug running in Laos, the couple of years I worked for Keyser Söze; I wasn't sure where to begin. By the time I landed in California I was a ball of anxiety and stress.
The publicist had gotten me an invitation to a party in Santa Barbara at the home of some Gus Van Sant wanna-be who was screening his unreleased art-house film for B-list celebrities such as myself. There were rumors that some bona fide movers and shakers would be in attendance, so the idea was that I should go, mingle, and be my charming self. The publicist had a limousine waiting to take me to Santa Barbara. I was not in the mood for dealing with pretentious art fucks all night and having this topic on my mind, so I made liberal and gratuitous use of the limo's bar to loosen-up for the long night ahead. By the time I reached the director's house I was already sloshed.
The house sat on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The party started on the patio where there was an open bar and I kept on drinking while shaking hands and smiling. As it got darker and colder, the party moved inside for the screening. I lagged behind, leaning on my arms against a railing with a cocktail cupped in my hands, watching the sun set into the sea. All of the voices disappeared into the house behind me and the only sound left was the crashing of waves below. After a few minutes, I looked down the length of the railing and found I wasn't alone. A guy was sitting on a chaise lounge by the pool, a cigarette burning between his fingers and a beer bottle on the ground beside him. His head was bowed and a straw cowboy hat obscured his face. I had run out of cigarettes somewhere around Ventura that afternoon and was dying for one. I stumbled over to where he was to bum smoke.
"Sure, mate," he said in a heavily slurred Australian accent. He fished a crumpled soft pack from his shirt pocket and clumsily dug one out of the opening. He raised his head and peered up at me while handing it forward.
"Hey, I know you," I said taking the cigarette from his fingers. I pulled a chair over and sat down. "Fuck Brokeback, you were awesome in A Knight's Tale." I lit the cigarette and took a long drag off of it.
"I gotta get back to New York. I gotta get out of here," he said. He floundered about trying to get out of the chaise lounge. "Fuck me. I'll never be able to drive back down to L.A." I helped him from the chair and got him on his feet. "Take me that way," he said pointing in the direction of the gate with the bottom of his beer bottle. I followed his instruction and we were soon standing in the driveway amidst a shiny collection of luxury sedans and foreign sports cars. "I am mine, this one... it's mine." He laughed at his inability to form coherent sentences and proceeded to click a button on his key chain fob. Down the driveway and across the street, a red sports car's lights began flashing and honking. "Damn," he said and started down the driveway toward it without me. He continued clicking buttons on the fob and jabbing it forward in the air at the car. The trunk popped open.
I stumbled after him as fast as I could without falling and caught-up. The honking on the sports car finally stopped. "I really don't think you should be driving. Hell, you'll never find the airport. Look..." I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him toward my limo. The driver hopped out and opened the back door for us. "...take my car and send it back for me." I nodded at the limo driver and he nodded back that he understood. The driver got back behind the wheel and closed the door.
"You're right," he said climbing into the limo. He collapsed into the seat. "I can't leave my car here, though. You take it. Park it at the airport and meet your limo there." He chucked the key chain at me sloppily. It flew over my shoulder and into the street.
I chased after it while yelling back, "I can't take your car."
He muttered, "I'll show that bitch," and I heard the car door slam shut. By the time I picked-up the keys and turned around, the limo was gone.
I stood in the middle of the street for a while, the keychain in my hand. The red sports car was a few feet away. I shrugged, closed the trunk on it, and climbed behind the wheel. How often do you get a chance to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a high performance sports car?
Twenty minutes later, the CHP had me pulled over on the side of the highway. "Do you know what the speed limit is here, son?" he asked.
"The signs went by way too fast for me to read them, officer."
"License and registration, please. I clocked you at 120 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone."
I handed him my driver's license. "35 miles per hour? Oh. Well, I wasn't going to go that far. Maybeeeeeeee... 20 miles. Just really really fast." I grinned at him and began fumbling for the glovebox door. I grabbed the papers inside it and handed it to him. "There's another thing officer, um, this isn't my car. It belongs to Heath Ledger."
"Right, and my badge belongs to Joe Friday. You're a real smart ass. Step out of the car, sir." I tried to rise from the low sports cars as steadily as I could but wobbled some on the way up. I almost fell but managed to catch myself on the door handle. "Have you had anything to drink tonight?"
I held my fingers up in front of his face no more than an inch and a half apart and squinted my eyes. "Just a teensy eensy little bit. Check out who I am. I'm famous. That should clear everything up."
He shined his flashlight on my license. "Mr. Bidness, there's sufficient cause for me to believe that you are impaired beyond the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in the state of California. By law, if you refuse a breathalyzer test for blood alcohol content it is an admission of guilt that you are legally impaired. If you will blow..."
I interrupted him, "Officer, I'd do almost anything to get out of this arrest but I'm not going to blow you." I winked at him, sure that the srs_bidness brand of humor and my celebrity status would get me out of this.
"...into a breathalyzer for me... alright that's it." He grabbed me by the shoulder, turned me around, and shoved me against the roof of the car. "You're under arrest for speeding and drunk driving." He clasped handcuffs onto my wrists behind my back. "I'm taking you in."
"What?" I cried indignantly. "Do you know who I am?!?!?! I'm a star on therealljidol! You can't do this! You have no idea what you've just done. I'll have your badge Joe Friday! When my lawyers are done with you, you'll be lucky if you're writing parking tickets tomorrow!"
Curtis took a red-eye to the west coast and bailed me out the next morning. I made it to the guest judge gig, hung over. I don't think the faculty appreciated my appearance or frequent use of "Goddamnit could you keep it down over there" directed toward the children. That night, I got the news that Ledger was found dead in that Olsen chick's apartment back east. Damn, I should've gone with him.
Imagine the press I could've gotten out of that.