I don't believe it myself, but I saw an even 200 movies in 2003, nearly a record, despite the insane year it was! (Of course, many of these were on DVD, and more than a handful were so bad, I watched them at high speed.) It's nearly March, and I'm finally getting out the old year in review. I had 112 auditions as well, though 73 of them (and more than 140 of the movies) were in the first half of the year, before I got the building (!)- more on that ahead.
New Year's at Café Mozart with Peter and the gang again was fun as January blew in with a bunch of ups and downs. Most notably, we were finally able to arrange financing for the building we had found the previous summer, only to find the building bought out from under us (probably by someone we'd tipped off to the deal). We immediately began a quest for a new property, "Kirby" continued taping, Peter continued his semi-monthly dinner parties, and "Shameless" started shooting a series of sketches that remain unedited (planned titles include "Cooking with Porn" and "Used Breakfast").
In early February, I flew to Indiana and closed the sale of my last 2 houses there. I junked what I could and packed the rest into 2 large storage units to truck to NY as soon as a building finally came through. We got LOTS of snow, Shameless continued to shoot, I was directed with my friend Daylyn by my friend Jennifer Watkins in a play for her class, and on the 25th and 27th had meetings which tentatively led to the lease/purchase agreement for my 4-story-plus-basement 42,000 square foot warehouse in Brooklyn with unobstructed views of Manhattan. I say tentatively, because negotiations continued through July when we signed and moved in...and it was not smooth sailing in the interim or since. I'll get a little philosophical early in the letter and try to lay off later on, but consider how much someone would have to pay you to fundamentally compromise who you are as a person. Anyone who knows me well would agree that I have always lived morally and also chosen my own path, true to myself. Honestly, I will make several million dollars on this deal which I got myself into. (Yes, I could have made several million dollars by now doing research, or medicine, or patent law, or any one of the other things I chose not to do.) I thought I had thoroughly looked before I leaped, and admittedly, I put all my eggs in one basket. But, writing this while only now glimpsing the light at the end of the tunnel, I will tell you to beware who you trust, and be skeptical of the information you are given, no matter how much you want to believe it, and especially no matter how much the person giving you the information believes in it. Evil people often smile and complement your work. Betrayal comes in all shapes and sizes, and can result in you living your life contrary to every value you've lived by thus far. I will escape what was, for a time, a living hell, richer financially, emotionally, and intellectually... But I wouldn't wish the experience on any of you.
March had birthday parties for my friends Mandy Droste and Amanda Silaski, a quick trip to PA to visit with Justin and Dzian and to look at a really cool house he ended up buying, a couple of commercial voiceovers (Fuzzy Posters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys) and a CD-ROM for Gateway that I still haven't been paid for (butt heads!), and a 31st flight to Indiana for...
...an April 1st small claims court case. I won, since the scumbag who destroyed my house, David Stratton (last known address, still in Bloomington), didn't show up. Needless to say, he's ignored the court's collection notices as well. We had a late 3" of snowfall on the 7th (hey, growing up in GA, I think snow is cool, OK?), more "Kirby," I went to a party at friend and fellow "Shameless" castmate Julie Crotty's, saw lots of movies with my pal Mandy, a festival-winning screening of "Bum Runners" (from the makers of "HR") (I make a cameo and sing all 11 parts in the theme song!) in New Jersey where I got food poisoning, and nights at the theater to see friends Sara Apple Montblanc and Valerie David perform. I took a Central Park carriage ride (not romantic- it was with Peter and about 20 kids- but fun!). Plus, I had my one year LASIK check up, and I'm still seeing better than 20/20. Incredible.
In May, Cooper classes ended and I went to my friend Holly's wedding and saw the Matisse/Picasso exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art with Mandy, hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Alicia, and the Guggenheim and Museum of Natural History with Apple. Culture and women, woo hoo! Grandma was up from GA for a visit and we saw old friends Ellie and Vic Wolhandler. Apple had a party after another show of hers, and I thought we had had our final negotiations with the sellers and their attorney on the 15th, though nothing was signed for nearly another 2 months. So I got the hell out of town at the end of the month for a dinner party and stogies at Peter's, to NJ for cousin Rachel's coming of age ceremony, and way out of town to go visit my old IU buddy Milissa while she was still in Maryland.
June was moderately quiet with only a few building inspections and the first summer acting workshop...always a nice getaway, though never a vacation. I did some driving, meeting Mom in PA to help Justin fix up his house around Dzian's birthday, and I drove back alone a week later to help some "trolls" retile the bathroom as a surprise for Justin the next time he went to his house. (I was pulled over by a nice, though semi-literate cop on the way back who wrote me a warning with his toes, I think. (The light was orange!)) I also hit the Smiths for Becky's graduation party (I have college-aged cousins?!?) and helped lift a couch up the side of a 7-story building.
July 9th, I signed the lease/purchase option we had negotiated for so long. Work finally began on the building to house our film/TV studio to be paid for by a self-storage company which research had shown me was a viable business and which I'd been assured was going to be a snap to operate. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Plans change. What can go wrong, will go wrong. I had no clue yet how bad things would get, and that month we did have our first really cool cookout on the roof. I promised not to get philosophical again, so that's all I'll say. On the bright side, prior to signing, I took an incredibly relaxing camping trip with Apple (nudist campground, but no funny business, people!), and after signing, I flew to FL for a surprise 50th birthday party for my Ph.D. advisor, George Christou, now at the U of FL. It was great to visit Mom, go indoor skydiving, and see old friends, but I just may be getting older in that I was in attendance at his surprise 40th as well.....
(Note to those who may be curious about the nudist/naturist lifestyle...I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, after you consider what perversions you harbor so as to equate the human form with sex or some sort of illicit activity, and what negative body image issues you may have requiring that you hide yours. Please visit the American Association for Nude Recreation to start.)
In August, Dave and I took a trip out to IN and got 2 U-Hauls and 2 trailers to bring back everything, including my old Datsun, motorcycle and the Corvette. A 90-minute special on the history of animation ("The Animated Century") aired on Bravo, and I was the voice of the animated host. Mike Kendrick was in town for a visit the night before the big blackout. Driving back into the city that night was an incredibly easy commute, but a blackout is not a good time to be absent-minded...did I just walk up 4 steaming flights or five?...no A/C, so I'll just turn on a fan....damn it! A few days later, off to the second acting workshop, back for another dinner party at Peter's and, of course, ongoing work on the building.
September was building work, interrupted only for a rooftop party at Apple's (headline: nudists invade New York!), a voiceover for Colgate, and a less-than-24-hour trip to Indiana for the Chief's son Alan's wedding. (Hold on, I'm old enough for people I knew as kids to get married too?!?!)
October 23rd had somewhat of a grand opening party, despite only half a floor of storage units being ready, and an elevator still not up to code. (In fact, as of this writing, it remains in violation, though it operates well and looks decent and has a valid inspection certificate. Though massively over budget in terms of time and money, I am happy to report the first completed floor is now effectively sold out, and work on the next floor is rapidly proceeding at a faster and less expensive pace.) (Remember the storage units I rented in Indiana? They would have cost $700/month more at my building in NY!)
November saw our first winter snowfall, "Little Shop of Horrors" on Broadway with Ray and Rachel, and more theater to see shows directed by Jen and Apple and Rick Flynn, and another (a stage version of "Roadhouse"!) starring Ago, who's just as mean with a spatula as he is with a magic wand or a cement trowel! My old pal from elementary school Chris Black was in town for a visit. Sadly, it was this month that I realized that my plans for the building had been ridiculously naïve, though I am again happy to report a light at the end of the tunnel.
December began with some snow and a visit from Mike Kendrick, and ended with visits from Mom and Milissa. The holidays were fun, including a theater trip to see “Urinetown” with Mom and the Smith gang. The month was marked by what started out as an innocent enough New York story: On the 16th, I was tired and more than a little hungry with a half hour to kill before meeting up with Jennifer and Jill Twiss (stand-up instructor from the workshop) on the Upper West Side to talk comedy. So I stopped into a pizza place for a meatball sub. After sitting down, the place filled up, and a pretty young woman asked to share my table. She said that she'd seen me in a play once– what I jokingly now tell everyone was a line to pick me up (not that I would have minded!) since I don't do much theater, but was actually the staged reading mentioned in my August 2002 rundown. (It turns out we have a host of long-time mutual friends who never saw fit to introduce us!) We exchanged email addresses, and when the holidays wound down, Diane Campbell and I finally went out for our first (and a half) date January 8th...but you'll have to wait until the 2004 letter or call me to see how the story continues! (hint: It's a love story full of action and adventure!)
Have an amazingly fun and interesting year! Peace, love, and Diet Vanilla Coke,