A few months ago, we shot the “DVD on TV” episode for “The Departed” up in Boston. We traveled all around the city, talking to some of the real people who inspired the film- the ones who weren’t in hiding, that is. One of our locations was a bar in Southie where some of Whitey Bulger’s gang used to hang out, and as the crew set up, I struck up a conversation with some regulars*. One of them was a guy about my age who razzed the bartender with the other-people-deprecating sense of humor I expect from a Bostonian; we hit it off fast.
After a good 20 minutes, he let on that he used to pitch for the Florida Marlins. Just one season, then there was an injury, and “[he] was partying so much back then,” he didn’t take physical therapy seriously, and that was pretty much that. The old guy at his right grimly nodded. So now he’s back in Boston, doing construction work here and there. It seemed like a sad story, but I’m an optimistic guy. “Maybe he’s happier now,” I thought, and then he finished his beer in one huge gulp. It was 11:30am. So maybe not.
Promising starts look sad from the sagging middle. Had this guy been more firmly onto the next stage in his life, just a tiny bit happier or more secure, his time with the Marlins would have been a great story. But in a bar before noon, it’s like one of those prom pictures they use in an anti-drunk-driving PSA.
This is my roundabout way of explaining why I don’t tell too many MTV stories.
I moved to LA right after my contract with MTV ended, I wasn’t quite sure what- if anything- I’d be able to do next, and talking about what I did last seemed pathetic. So when the subject came up I’d change it, to the point where when someone in a group of friends would ask me about it, someone else would furtively make the fingers-across-the-throat “cut it out” signal. Word traveled among my new friends that MTV was a sore subject. It wasn’t, but the result was that I didn’t have to talk about it, and I could live with that.
But now I feel like enough time has passed, enough good things have happened in those years, there’s enough exciting stuff on the horizon, I can unseal this part of my autobiography.
So it’s time to tell the story of Wanna Be A VJ, the biggest, dumbest YES I ever said in my life.
* I also spent some time talking to a young couple at the bus stop outside. The guy was a charming nerd with an autistic-savant memory of the TRL chart: “I hated that Britney’s ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ couldn’t get to #1, because Backstreet’s ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’ was in the way.” His girlfriend was nine months pregnant and chain-smoking. I took some pictures with them, signed some stuff, said goodbye as they got on the bus. Nice kids. As they pulled away, the bouncer said: “Those two are here every day. That bus takes them to the methadone clinic.”