I have lived a strange life, but there was no time stranger than the year-and-change that I spent in West Hollywood. It was my first time truly separated from my parents, living on my own (with one or more roommates) and seeking gainful employment. All the while, I was making fitful attempts to break into the business of show, and generally trying to figure out what in the hell I was going to do with my life.
West Hollywood was, for me, an exotic place, strange and wonderful. Its population included a significant percentage of homosexual males, which took a bit of acclimation on my part. (I think that was the start of my reevaluation of my ingrained “family values.”) More to the point, it was a place full of people who were working in the entertainment industry, or were working somewhere else until they could start working in the entertainment industry. I was constantly encountering minor-league celebrities, and even a few major ones. (I can tell you that all heads turn when Danny DeVito walks into a record store.)
For the last eight months of my stay, I worked at a “postal center,” a mail-drop that rented boxes to people who wanted to have a physical address that wasn’t their own. For an additional charge, we also provided an answering service. The upshot was that you could give the appearance of having a real office. This was especially popular with some of our skeevier clientele. (Oh, and weren’t some of our clients’ customers surprised when they walked in expecting to confront the person who had failed to deliver as promised, only to find some dope in a red t-shirt shipping packages.) We also did custom wrapping.
Linda Blair (of Exorcist fame) ran her fan club out of our place. The actress who played “Nancy’s” mom in the first Nightmare on Elm Street had a box too. I shipped stuff for Jay Ward (the creator of Bullwinkle) several times, and once for Rick Moranis.
But that was nothing, because behind the counter was our very own “celebrity,” a young man named Scott Thorson. Thorson had gained notoriety as the lover of flamboyant pianist Liberace. He subsequently sued the entertainer for palimony and received a small settlement for his trouble.
Scott started working shortly after I did. My chronology may be a bit faulty, but I’m fairly certain it was just after Liberace’s death from AIDS in February, 1987.
I really didn’t care for him. I believed that he was smarmy and full of himself. At our workplace, there was a long, wooden stairway leading to the basement, and more than once I fantasized about booting his ass down the hole.
Yet–and here is the extremely odd part–I wound up doing his taxes.
I don’t know if it was because he thought that I was smart, or cheap, or wouldn’t ask too many questions, but to my surprise he offered to pay me to fill out his 1040. Despite my dislike, I agreed. Money was money.
There was very little to it. The materials he provided showed no unusual financial activity. If there was more to the story–and given Thorson’s seedier associations, it wouldn’t have surprised me–I never knew it. I signed my name, collected my cash, and for a moment became David Thiel, Hollywood Tax Preparer. I left California a few months later. These events are unrelated.
Thorson subsequenly wrote a book, became a federal witness, got shot, and went to prison. He’s out now, and good for him. The book is being made into an HBO movie. Steven Soderbergh is directing, and Matt Damon is playing Scott.
I do not believe that Matt Damon will ask me to do his taxes. But in case he’s reading, know that I work cheap and don’t ask questions.