Apr 21, 2008
Tommy Lee was in Berkeley the other day. There was a big, Greyhound-size bus parked on Bancroft Ave in front of the Berkeley campus, with “TOMMY LEE” written in big, fancy letters on the side of the bus like a product logo. Which I guess it is.
“Who’s Tommy Lee?” I asked Johnny.
“He’s the drummer from Motley Crue,” said Johnny. “They’re filming a video.”
“Isn’t he the guy that boned that Pamela Anderson babe?” I said.
“Yeah,” said Johnny.
“Well that’s something to have on your resume,” I said.
I walked a block down the street. The film crew was set up on the corner of Durant and Telegraph filming a scene, surrounded by a big crowd of on-lookers. Tommy was calling across the street to this skanky, hot blonde rock’n’roll chick in skin-tight black pants. I guess she was the love interest.
Tommy Lee had a bit of a presence. But not as much as you would think for a big Famous Guy. He looked like he could work at a tattoo parlor, or be a bike messenger. He was wearing a baseball hat. So I couldn’t help wondering if, like me, he was losing some of his hair on top. Could anything be more tragic for a guy who’s claim-to-fame was being in a “hair band”? He was kind of tall and gawky, wearing a black t-shirt and black pants, and his long, skinny arms were covered with tattoos. He had the dark pallor of a vulture with his dark, undertaker eyes and hawk-like profile. But he seemed like a pretty cool, friendly guy.
Maybe he would have had more of a “presence” to me if I had been following his career for 20 years. Its weird when you see somebody’s face in the paper and on TV for 20 years, and then suddenly see them in the flesh. Its surreal. Like a newspaper comic strip character like Dagwood and Blondie suddenly coming to life in the flesh. Its a weird parrallel universe, the whole media zone. I remember when Bill Clinton was on Telegraph for a book-signing. Now that boy had presence. You could spot his shock of white hair from a block away. It was like he was surrounded by a glow, a force-field. Everywhere he walked he was like Moses parting the sea, every eye on him.
Course, the only thing I knew about Tommy Lee was that he was in a New York Dolls-style glam rock band in the ’80s. I’d see a few pictures, the whole crew in their decadent, rocknroll pose, lying around partying with bottles of Jack Daniels and skantily-clad groupies hovering around. I guess they kind of symbolized sex & drugs & rocknroll for awhile. That whole “wild in the streets,” bad-boy pose. (Nowadays, I hear they’re all writing books about how they’re clean-and-sober and in programs. I guess you gotta’ cover all the bases if you want a long career in Show Biz.) And I remember reading something in the paper last year about him getting in a fist-fight with Kid Rock at an awards show. I think they both dated Pamela Anderson, so it was probably the old two-bulls-fighting-over-a-cow routine.
But aside from that, I didn’t know anything about Tommy Lee or Motley Crue. I wouldn’t recognize a Crue song if I heard it. But the weird thing was, earlier in the day when I was getting my mail at my P.O. Box, I scrounged through the post office recycling bin (like I usually do) and found I this little catalogue advertising porn videos which I stuffed ii in my backpack. But when I looked through it later in the day, I noticed it advertised the Tommy Lee/Pamela Anderson sex video. It must be weird to be famous on that level. To have your name everywhere; in stranger’s backpacks.
Anyways, the film crew spent the afternoon going up and down Telegraph Avenue filming at different locations. The Intermezzo Cafe set up outdoor tables and chairs in front of their coffee shop so they could film a scene there.
In another scene, Tommy Lee pulls a big, black garbage bag full of garbage out of a garbage can and goes running down the street chasing after the garbage truck.
Then the crew passed by my 25-cent used book vending table on Haste & Tele. I hope they got some good shots. Free advertising.
I was pretty excited about the whole thing. I”m a bit of a star-fucker. What can I say. And its not every day a bona fide Rock Star graces the scene. And most people on Telegraph seemed to get a kick out of it. But there were also the grumblings that I guess go along with celebrity-hood. “Fuck Tommy Lee,” said one guy as he passed me. “I’ll spit in his face.”
Others made a big show of ignoring the whole spectacle. “I could care less,” said Leland, as he rolled a big fat joint on my vending table. Then he positioned himself so he could watch the whole spectacle from a distance, with a look of studied disdain and disinterest on his face.
Fame brings out so many weird, ambivalent feelings in people. On the one hand its: “WOW ITS THAT GREAT GUY!” On the other hand its: “WHO THE HELL DOES THAT GUY THINK HE IS!”
My friend Mick Amok, on the other hand, was visible upset. “I HATE Tommy Lee!” said Mick. “Beebs, the love of my love, was the biggest Motley Crue fan in the world back in the day. She gave head to all four of those guys. I hate them for that. I’ll never get over it.”
Then he made a big speech about how he never wanted to be famous. “I got talent. I don’t need fame,” he repeated, over and over for about 20 minutes. “I never wanted to be famous!” But it was kind of one of those “verily you doth protest too much” kind of deals.
For the big final scene, they had the garbage truck blasting down Haste Street, with Tommy Lee on the front of the truck, raising his arms in the air in triumph, with a big smile on his face as he screamed at the top of his lungs in apparent victory of some sort. So I guess the story has a happy ending. As the truck passed me, I stood up on my chair with my arms in the air, yelling along with Tommy Lee. So, hopefully, I’ll sneak myself into the final cut
The film crew went running down the street to congratulate Tommy Lee on the successful shoot. “Great job, men, very exciting,” I said to the chubby little director as he huffed by me. “Thanks,” he said.
Then they all walked back up to the corner. There was this crazy Berkeley street person who had been standing on the corner all day, waving a “FUCK THE POLICE” sign that he had scribbled on cardboard, and screaming “FUCK THE POLICE!” to everyone who passed by. Really annoying, this high-pitched squawk and the crazed eyes of too many years and too many meds in the nut-house. Just a typical Berkeley street crazy. But as Tommy Lee and the crew approached, he started screaming “FUCK THE POLICE!! FUCK TOMMY LEE!!” over and over. “FUCK THE POLICE!! FUCK TOMMY LEE!!”
As Tommy Lee and the crew passed him he thrusted his sign at Tommy Lee and said “FUCK TOMMY LEE!”
Tommy Lee turned and said over his shoulder as he was crossing the street,: “I could care less about your sign, BITCH!” And then headed off to the sunset. Or to some hotel room with the skanky blonde rock’n’roll chick. But I couldn’t help thinking: “Tommy Lee’s got a little bit of the street in him.”