Living on the edge of glory.
No one suspected anything malicious in the red spray paint outside our house. Not the first time it showed up, at least. The house was a Spanish-style villa on a residential street in West Hollywood and was split into two flats sharing a porch. My modelling agency’s section housed four to six male models, with two bunkbeds in one room and two single beds in another. I was used to slumming it with a strange set, but this group was particularly batty.
There was a cheeky black-haired Midwesterner who boasted of robbing mansions in the Hollywood Hills. He was seeing one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen, and would occasionally invite her around. Reverting to my 15-year-old self, I found myself doing lots of ollies around her and climbing up to the high point of a tree. (She’s now in soft porn.) Then there was the 19-year-old from Arizona with long sandy shoulder-length hair. While high on OxyContin, he asked me to get an Uber with him to pick up a second-hand Xbox from a gas station in North Hollywood. When I didn’t reply to the slurred noises coming from his throat, he would mumble, or sometimes sing: he doesn’t understand me. Companion number three was a Brazilian lad in his thirties who spent the whole six weeks I was there getting stoned, doing pull-ups, skating and watching TV. He was actually great fun.
I drew the short straw and slept in one of the top bunks. Some mornings I awoke to a chisel-jawed New Yoiker in the bunk below softly making love to his girlfriend; effective as a morning alarm clock, sure, but I can’t say I recommend it. Then there was a young Palestinian-American model from New Jersey who hung out with the Hadids and referred to himself, sincerely, as a fuckboy, though I never heard of him actually fucking anyone – which I would’ve, seeing that he was in the bunk opposite. Finally, there was a genuinely wonderful bloke from New Zealand. In a less toxic universe, this would be a story of our friendship and how we found light in the insanity that surrounded us. But the madness is much more interesting.
The second half of the villa was the female ‘model’ flat. They lived with a sort of pseudo-pimp overlord and his nerdy bespectacled friend. The girls weren’t models as such. They were attractive, young girls marketed as such in VIP lounges across the city to bait sad, rich, losers into buying a booth. Day to day, the two flats operated like a beautiful, fucked-up family unit. Everyone got on with their own shit but always had a solid, dependable nucleus to return to. It was the only time in my life I’ve been free of anxiety. Make of that what you will.
Outside the house, I was going to silly little acting auditions, shooting Coke adverts on Venice Beach under the setting sun, cycling down to San Diego, getting trapped on a military base, flying back and forth to San Francisco for work, getting tattoos, getting groomed by photographers in Hollywood Hills (managed to escape), skating, smoking and hearing just about every variation of the ‘I’m trying to make it in Hollywood’ story from Uber Pool drivers along the way.
Anyway, back to the red paint.
The first time it appeared, we scrubbed it off and went about our business. A few days later, it reappeared. Perhaps symbolic, perhaps not. Then a red jumper appeared on a lamppost outside the front garden so we put it in the trash. A local woman screamed at us, mooned us, and threatened to call the cops when we skated too late. Was it her jumper? A few days later, the red hubcap propped up against the front gate made it seem definitive: we were being targeted by someone.
Me and some of the other male models were out on the porch one night smoking a joint when a Chevrolet pickup cruised past the house. The driver stared directly at us. That would have felt aggressive itself if it weren’t for the four people also perched on the sides of the pickup bed wearing pig head masks. We got off the porch to see them drive off into the distance. There was a hanging tension in the air. Lo and behold, they returned and this time with guns. Well, paintball guns, but guns nonetheless. We took cover in the shrubbery while our house got a good old Pollocking.
Wild as it was, the paintball attack wasn’t random – it was a revenge attack. A girl who was previously living there left the VIP club table for the night without consent, for whatever reason. The guy told the rest of the group to block her contact, not talk to her, and not let her back into the house. She pleaded to be let back in because all her stuff was there. The guy said that she’d have to suck his cock under the VIP table with everyone there to regain access, and so she did.
As for the model flat, that got shut down a month or so after I left, owing to drugs. There were suggestions of this development: the drug dealer hanging out more, the arrival of the OxyContin guy, and the general crack den aesthetic meant, perhaps, it was inevitable. I got out at just the right time – it seems others weren’t so lucky.