This "son of" is smart and celeb-connected but desperate. 1,965 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Dude, I am so screwed, Jason Alden muttered to himself as he sat up in bed alone late Wednesday afternoon to find his apartment trashed, as usual, his grubby sheets kicked to the floor. Earlier he’d had a fight with his girlfriend, Nicole, and she’d thrown him out of her Santa Monica beachfront condo, which her daddy, the guilty party in her parents’ nasty divorce, so generously paid for. That was considered only fair in a L.A. divorce war: he’d been caught sleeping with Nicole’s tennis teacher, then was stupid enough to knock her up and marry her.
Nicole never did get her backhand down.
Jason had slammed out of Nicole’s posh apartment’s parking lot at 5 a.m. in his three series BMW – overdue to the leasing agency, with no replacement in sight. Now he was in his own apartment on the wrong side of town. His study pad, as he described it to his parents when they rented it for him in a sort of safe neighborhood near USC. But even that was about to come to an end. Daddy Dearest wasn’t going to renew the lease and had told Jason in no uncertain terms that he’d have to cover any damage that had been done. There was plenty of that, for sure. Holes in the walls and carpets, vomit in the closets. It was a sty and now he was stuck with the clean-up.
A lot of things were coming to an end for Jason. His dad, Teddy Alden, was a washed-up director-writer-producer who was still talking about his glory days with Spielberg in the 1980s and 1990s. But the senior Alden never made Spielberg money, never had his drive and most importantly hadn’t had the sense to hire his accountants. Teddy Alden had been a partier of the first degree. Right up there with Don Samuels, the producer who famously died on his toilet, stoned on a pharmacy worth of drugs. It was a miracle Teddy was alive, but as he hit his fifties he’d started to slow down. Jason wasn’t sure it was because of the natural inclination of the elderly to get to bed early, or, that he had blown through a Hollywood-sized fortune and had to stop leasing jets to go for lunch in San Francisco.
Then there was the other parental fixture: Jason’s mother.
The once lovely Melody Carson, the only child of Big Jack Carson, a Midwestern industrial tycoon, recently deceased. Big Jack adored his only daughter. And despised his son-in-law right up until the day he died. Big Jack felt as Joe Kennedy did about his daughter marrying an actor. What real man wears makeup? If these guys weren’t pansies, they were certainly ne’er do wells. ("Ne’er do well." Only Grampa Jack could say that and get away with not sounding like a cartoon. From him it was a snarled curse.)
That sneaky son of a bitch Teddy ran off with his Melody. Big Jack assumed the marriage wouldn’t last. He figured his little girl would come to her senses and eventually return to Cleveland and marry a nice doctor, cushioned by his considerable wealth. Instead she spent years in L.A. mooning after Teddy, hoping that he’d stop cheating on her, waiting for him to come back to her after running through the trophy bimbos.
Big Jack died as he lived — disgusted with the whole deal.
This was a perfect storm, thought Jason. Not sure why that phrase was used so much, but it worked for him. First his dad gets caught up in the recession mess and can’t think of anything to write or produce, so he can’t make money and he doesn’t have anything saved. His mom is one of those bone-y ladies who are always on yoga retreats and live in their Lulumon work-out pants as they run errands in Brentwood. Now she was so zoned out on whatever she was taking that Jason wasn’t sure she knew who he was most of the time. His younger sister was on her fourth rehab stint at a place in Arizona that costs more than a year at Yale. Add to that the cost of boarding your horses or bringing your nanny with you for company. Both of which his 14-year old sibling insisted upon while she was away “being tutored.”
Meanwhile Jason didn’t have a pot to piss in. Actually that’s all he did have. A pot – a very small pot of money. His granddad had tied up the funds for his education in a dozen different ways, so Jason’s spendthrift (another Big Jack word) father couldn’t get his hands on it. And in the process, he made sure that Jason couldn’t get at any of it either. The checks went directly to the higher education institution of Jason’s choosing. Adding to his financial problems, Jason’s dad had gone through most of his mother’s inheritance. All Melody had left was the little house — a measly 6,000 square feet — and an allowance, both controlled by the iron hand of her father’s estate lawyer.
Jason should have seen it coming when his father sacked the English butler. The ultimate status symbol in L.A.: English-speaking servants, who demand and get a living wage. Now he had six-dollar-an-hour illegals tending his gardens, vacuuming his rugs and watching the children he’s had with various younger and younger wives and girlfriends. The most recent blow for the old man was letting the ex-Mossad security force go. He’d hired them when he learned the mogul who lived the next mansion over was guarded 24/7 by the Israeli sharpshooters. Now all his dad had was the sign at the end of his half mile long driveway, “Guards With Machine Guns.”
It was going to be every man for himself in Jason’s family from here on out.
Jason rolled over and sniffed his t-shirt to see if he could wear it another day. He had officially hit the rock bottom of a Hollywood kid’s life. He actually needed a job. Or he couldn’t eat – not at Cecconi’s, not at Sunset Tower, nowhere, nada. Not even In-N-Out. He’d have to get a car and enough money to pick up the bill every once in a while at Catch and the clubs in Hollywood. Or else, his friends would eventually notice that he was broke. Now, he didn’t even have Nicole, with her glass and marble pied-a-terre and house accounts at the restaurants and shops that made up their world. He couldn’t use his black Amex anymore, the bills sent to his dad’s office. Shit.
I can’t call Uncle Ari or Uncle Ronnie to get an internship or a job in the mailroom, thought Jason. Those gigs pay nine bucks an hour. That’s why rich kids take them – they don’t need to live on that measly salary.
Jason wasn’t a rich kid anymore. No more pretend jobs for him. A friend from USC film school told him about working porn, but he wasn’t there yet. First of all, who even goes to the Valley? Maybe for a party at one of those tacky Encino mansions. But to hold a sound boom while some skanky lady did the nasty on video? He didn’t think so.
Add to his persnickety attitude toward L.A. geography, Jason had no discernible talents. He couldn’t act or sing. He’d never cooked a meal in his life or cleaned up after himself. (Witness his apartment, which was hosed out occasionally by one of his mother’s maids on the way home to East L.A.) He wasn’t one of those kids who’d dreamed of being a rock ‘n roll star, parents arranging for an audition, a demo and a “small indie” tour by the time they’re fourteen. He was never interested in going with his dad to the set. It was all just more yelling as far as he could see.
He didn’t have an ounce of what passed for street cred, except that he was still thought to be one of the inheritors of this particular patch of earth. He’d have to make that work somehow before the jackals figured out how small his pot really was and stopped inviting him to the after-after parties at Brett’s house up Mt. Olympus.
Young Jason was, however, a sharp observer of what passed for social mores in Hollywood. At twenty he could spot a facelift even a great one at fifty paces and could suss out who was going to what derm to have hair replacement treatments. He knew all the best trainers, stylists, facialists, and was on a first-name basis with the valets in L.A. who hauled in six figures in tips. He was straight but he could go Manolo-a-Manolo with any of his mother’s gay walkers when it came to identifying a bag (“from Gucci 2012 spring”), shoes (“Jimmy Choo was totally knocking off Loubitans that year”) and clothes (“Etro is really the only bikini to have”). He’d gone to school and camp and parties with the children of celebrities. He knew most of the young stars who were beginning to fill in for the L.A. kids who’d gone East to school or had interests other than Fred Segals’ new inventory. The ones that didn’t care whoever Beiber’s ex was hooking up with.
He’d seen first-hand the ravages of drugs, eating disorders and depression in ten-year-olds. He’d witnessed all that and more in his peers, their parents and their caretakers. Like everyone in his circle, he got his first blow job in junior high school. The “Bar Mitzvah BJ” as it was known among students, parents and teachers of L.A. one-percenters. The Academy School, founded by an infamous financier, was such a sex scene a few years ago — with twelve-year olds getting it on and juniors making sex tapes — even the usually clueless L.A. Times picked up the story.
As far as Jason was concerned, all the hand-wringing by the adults about sex and the Internet just made it more interesting to kids. Besides, who needed sex-ed when 13-year-olds from “nice” families were showing up with STDs. And drugs? Just look in the medicine cabinets or bedside tables of your parents. Uppers. Downers. Adderal, Ritalin, even Special K, for whatever might ail you. A little flirtation with meth? Never hurt anyone. Just don’t get too involved or your teeth with those expensive caps will fall out. Not to mention that your hair, which looks bad enough with all those bald patches caused by extensions.
Jason had snorted coke with his dad and his friends since he was in seventh grade. He’d been drinking since about then, too. Somehow he had skipped the usual stages of Hollywood youth: detention, suspension, therapy, expulsion and rehab. The Betty Ford rinse and spin. More surprisingly, he wasn’t unaware of his place in the world. As he’d explained to his first-year roommate at USC, a Wyoming rancher’s son: “If you recognize your own livestock or know where your land ends without a fence to tell you, that’s because you grew up with that information. It’s in your blood. Same for L.A. and me. I can tell you who the livestock belongs to in this town and when they’re ready for the butcher’s blade. I just get it.”
Jason was prone to purple metaphors and overworked similes but that was the fault of his West L.A. private school. It assured all the students that they were creative, smart, special. It listened to their every opinion and moved them along the conveyer belt. But Jason didn’t have to be taught about “getting it” – he just did. It was in his DNA. Or maybe the bottled water that everyone sucked on like overgrown babies in Prada.
“Getting it” would eventually be his saving grace.