T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 21

tsotw-button-3b.jpgSome people believe you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. I believe you can tell more about a person by the t-shirts they have worn. This is the story of my life, as told by the t-shirts I have worn.

WEEK 21: Over the years many bands have broken out of the confines of Portland to find success and popularity in other areas of the world. Contemporary bands like The Decemberists and The Shins are now traveling down similar paths as those blazed by bands like Nü Shoes, Dead Moon, Poison Idea, and Quarterflash (Everclear doesn’t count, because they’re not really from Portland), all of which managed to break out of the city and find some sort of success elsewhere. But of all the bands to venture into the world outside of Portland, with the exception of The Kingsmen, few ever had the sort of success or following of the Dan Reed Network. At the height of DRN’s success, they opened for the Rolling Stones on their European tour.

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I have never actually worn this shirt, in part because I don’t really care for the color, and also because the design is on the back, and I hate designs on the back. Keep in mind that back when I got this shirt, I had dreadlocks that went down to my ass, so any shirt with a design on the back was pointless. Still, this particular shirt is not only an important bit of history from a time when the Dan Reed Network was one of the most popular Portland bands, it has become a reminder of the life I was living in Portland back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

DRN released their third full-length album, The Heat, in 1991. I got this shirt at one of those industry listening parties at a famous Portland club called Key Largo, also know as Kilo Largo, for reasons I won’t explain. I don’t know how I got invited to this party, all though it is distinctly possible I simply crashed it, as I was apt to do things like that at the time. There was some sort of raffle/give-away thing, and that’s how I got this shirt. At the time, I had not yet met Dan Reed or any of the other guys in the band, but that would soon change.

Now, before I get into the story of my friendship with Dan, let me say that for some people, Portland is a medium-sized city—the biggest city in the state of Oregon—but for me, over the years, it has always been a big town with some tall buildings. Forget six-degrees of separation; on an average day the most I ever experience in Portland is three-degrees of separation, and my relationship with Dan is a prime example of how small the city really is.

I met Dan Reed through a guy named Wes Houle, a local filmmaker who had made a short film called Death by Rock-n-Roll with Dan. I had met Wes through a musician/actor named Tito, who at the time was fronting several bands, including Macht and Spazztic Blur. I met Tito one night at some club—either Satyricon or Blue Gallery—and we hit it off. Tito was one of those guys who didn’t have a car, but always needed a ride some place, and would not hesitate to call and ask for one. When we met, he was working on Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, and one night he called me at some crazy hour and asked if I could give him a ride to the set. I was just trying to break into film, so I agreed, thinking it might lead to something. All that really happened was I got to hang out and watch Gus in action, and see River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as they rehearsed one of the film’s more complex scenes.

As I said, I was just trying to seriously break into film after several years of working as a stand-up comedian. I had just co-written my first screenplay, Doc and Ray’s Guide to Modern Dating, with my childhood friend Ted Pirro, and it was Tito who suggested I hook up with Wes. For close to a year Wes tried to help us get the film made, but it never came together. During that time, he casually introduced me to Dan Reed.

Dan and I hit it off right away, and he asked me and another comedian, John Sherwood (the star of Death by Rock-n-Roll and Wes’ cousin), if we would host the New Year’s Eve Party that the Dan Reed Network was playing for that year. John and I wore these diapers, and generally acted like fools as we jumped around like idiots on the stage. Honestly, this was not one of my finer moments as a performer.

Shortly after that, Ted and I decided to take a break from trying to produce our script. We moved on to other projects, which for me included a script called Moral Decay. I wrote Moral Decay back in 1993 or 94 as my take on violence and the media, and planned to direct and star in it. I was trying to raise money to make the film, and had several thousands dollars, and a crew and cast that was going to work for free. But when part of the crew decided they wanted money, things fell apart. Through a chain of events that I can’t for the life of me remember, Dan became interested in the script. I don’t even recall if I gave him the script, or if it was a guy named Bruce Moore, a filmmaker who I just called on the phone one day and asked him to help me. However it was that Dan became involved is sort of beside the point. After several long conversations, Dan agreed to star in the film instead of me. This is when things fell apart for the second time.

Dan was working with a group of people who were very opposed to me directing Moral Decay, because I had never directed a film. I won’t name these assholes, but they were using the same logic that the Hollywood cocksuckers use. It infuriated me that while I was capable of writing a script they wanted to make, that I had come dangerously close to shooting the film—having cast it and found all the locations without their help—they didn’t feel I was capable of directing it. I won’t go so far as to say I hate those assholes, but those motherfuckers actually made me doubt myself, and that doubt stuck with me for a long time. The ironic thing about all of it is that the biggest critic of my directing the film has yet to actually direct a feature himself, and we’re now 15 years removed from all of that nonsense.

At some point it seemed like Dan’s posse was going to get the money to make the film, but only if I stepped out of the picture as director. I optioned the script for a small amount of money, and entered into a world of never-ending regret. Although Dan and his people spent a lot of time and money trying to get Moral Decay made, it thankfully never happened, and the rights reverted back to me. It was never that I didn’t like Dan, I just never much cared for the people he was working with. They represented all the people I have known over the years that were condescended to me and made me feel like shit. I remember when we signed the option agreement, the looks on the faces of these guys—this sort of relief that they had managed to get my script for little money, and would not have worry about me directing it—I almost puked.

Despite everything that went down, Dan Reed and I remained friends. We don’t talk that often, as he now lives in Israel, but his friendship is still important to me.

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One Response to “T-Shirt of the Week: WEEK 21”

  1. blorvak Says:

    Damn, you should have optioned it to those guys from Nero’s Rome. Or Crazy 8’s!

    I kid…

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