“Amber. Amber. AMBER. Doesn’t this guy look like Luke? HEY, DUDE. YEAH, YOU. YOU REMIND ME OF OUR FRIEND LUKE. LIKE SAME FACE. EVERYTHING.”
I am twenty years old, still using the fake ID that my high school boyfriend’s best friend stole from the apartment building his dad owned and he worked in, a girl with an upturned pug nose and a short haircut who looks nothing like me, who looks nothing like my cousins or my cousins’ cousins or anyone remotely within my German/Dutch/Aussie/Brit gene pool. Bouncers laugh at me. Bartenders still serve me. I think this is the very definition of a fake ID. Amber, older and wiser and using an ID that’s actually her own, is snickering into a whisky soda. “Yeah, he totally looks like Luke.”
It’s not until we’re outside an hour later that she tells me that guy is Vincent Gallo. I would be embarrassed if I knew who the hell Vincent Gallo was, but I don’t, because I went to a Catholic high school in the San Fernando Valley and anything cultured or esoteric or strange were generally off limits. I had, however, seen most of the American Pie movies and was a big fan of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer in my younger years. “Aw, Jenny. That’s why we love you,” Amber condescends. Meaning I’m charming because I’m an idiot, because I’m uncultured, because I can interact with freako celebrities without getting star struck.
Whatever. Vincent Gallo still looks like my friend Luke.
Cut to a year later. I’ve done some research. I’m now in acting class. I’m on my way to being a real proper LA douche, one who knows everything there is to know about every obscure, cultish independent film ever made. I’ve watched Buffalo 66, done my due diligence on the Brown Bunny blowjob, memorized such vividly remarkable Gallo quotes as “I don’t trust or love anyone. Because people are so creepy. Creepy creepy creeps. Creeping around. Creeping here and creeping there. Creeping everywhere.” And then, finally, as though the stars had aligned and I was prepared for a proper LA interaction with a proper LA celebrity (?), I ran into Vincent Gallo again in darkened expanses of Teddy’s at the Roosevelt. Doing what he does best: Being a creep.
“HEY! YOU’RE THE GUY WHO LOOKS LIKE MY FRIEND LUKE,” I yell over the music, but he doesn’t seem to care. He looks at me with his wide, crazy eyes, with the blank register of someone who has met thousands of people over the course of his lifetime, all of them knowing who he is and all of them filled with the expectation that he know them in turn. Deer in the headlights. A lunatic deer in the headlights that just been released from the Enchanted Forest Psych Ward. Vincent Gallo may look like Luke, but Vincent Gallo also looks like this deer.
He puts his fedora on my friend Katie’s head. We dance around a concrete column like it’s a goddamn maypole. We play peek-a-boo like three six-year-olds. Because it’s late. Because I’m twenty. Because Vincent Gallo is insane. For reasons owing to my own psychosis, I at some point give him my phone number.
There is something beautiful about youth. You have yet to be burned by certain types of people, and thusly, you are more open to the crazies. These are the people that are going to take you by the hand and lead you up some remote canyon for a late night party filled with members of some crappy band who uses AutoTune because their singer can’t sing for shit but it doesn’t matter because they’re all making millions of dollars. The crazies are the ones with drugs and stories and friends with stories and then their stories become your stories and one day you’re writing a blog about it. But the nature of crazies is that they will always burn you, unless you yourself are crazy and then you don’t care.
It’s not just that Vincent Gallo—with his brown curls and his wide eyes and gaunt cheeks—looks like the guy that grabs your hand and leads you down the rabbit hole that makes him attractive. It’s that he is an irreverent, fuck-you-and-everybody-else genius.
He throws critics under the bus (“I never apologized for anything in my life. The only thing I’m sorry about is putting a curse on Roger Ebert’s colon. If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn’t like my movie, then I’m sorry for him.”), directors under the bus (“Sofia Coppola likes any guy who has what she wants. If she wants to be a photographer she’ll fuck a photographer. If she wants to be a filmmaker, she’ll fuck a filmmaker. She’s a parasite just like her fat, pig father was.”),colors under the bus (“I sure do like the color brown. And pink. Pink and brown. If I had to choose, pink would lose.”). Argentina, that goes under the bus, too (“This country sucks. If I drop a banana here, everyone kills for it.”). He’s the type of guy you bring home for the holidays and then maybe stabs your brother, which is another reason why I gave him my phone number.
For one month, our digital dalliance continued, my series of harmless text messages with one of Hollywood’s most unhinged. There were more nights at Teddy’s, with the fedoras and the maypoles. Living in the hotel upstairs, he became a staple that summer, just like every underworked, under-stressed proto-adult like myself who had nothing better to do on a Wednesday night than going dancing and nothing better to do on a Thursday than waste it being tired/hung-over/vaguely remorseful. Me and Vinny were on our way to becoming great chums. I eagerly awaited the day for him to impart his life-weary knowledge to myself personally, where he could share the secrets of his pseudo Hollywood success and tell me what it was really like to shoot that CK campaign back in the day.
But it was another shoot that would signify our demise. I was in New York and passed the magazine shop on Spring and Lafayette, and, wouldn’t you know it, good ol’ VG was on the cover of PURPLE, wearing a riding cap and what appeared to me to be a maternity dress. Feeling confident in our friendship—the way I felt confident in all of my friendships at that age—I took a picture and sent it to my new Hollywood pal, along with a casual comment to the effect of “nice hat.” And it was here the I finally received my own Vincent Gallo quote, one that will never make it to the IMDB record pages, important magazine articles, or any quote aggregator on the internet for that matter. My Vincent Gallo gem was mine and mine alone:
“Shut up. Never text me again.”
Play with fire and you’re going to get burned. Befriend someone who throws people under buses and you’ll one day feel weight of its tires. Hollywood Lesson #312.