Saturday, August 12, 2006

LA Story

photo by Rodrigo Jazinsky

Once upon a time in 2001 in a far away land of New York, there was a princess (me!) who wanted to become a pop star and she worked cleaning Buddha statues in the Satchidananda Yoga Ashram. She had decided to move to Brighton to live with her prince of that time when an email reached her that $600,000.00 was to be invested into her debut album in LA.
This is my LA story:

It was after my show “big apple bite” which was a sell-out at the Firebird Café, NY’s “best place to hear Cabaret” (Village voice 12/00). I had been discovered by June something rather and she was my neighbour. She asked for a Demo, which she sent off to a contact in LA, Mr. Hank Ballard. He had written the most famous song ”let’s twist again” and his memoirs are in the rock and roll hall of fame. Mr. Ballard got back to June telling her that I was the Next Big Star and it felt to him as if he knew me for a long time just from hearing my voice; he knew I was the one he had been waiting for so long to bring out. Forget Madonna, I was going to be bigger.
One may imagine the impact of such words. I like it a lot!

However I had just packed my bags and kissed NY good-bye when the message was delivered. I had for too long lived without the man I had fallen for, it was time for me to start my home after having done the NY thing- waitressing, studying, writing, networking, performing all on my own living in the most run down place you can imagine.

All you fellow cinderellas out there, we know that when a prince comes to the rescue, one is not to resist. Mr. Hank Ballard was coming to the rescue…

So I went back to NY being told that the place I had lived in was not going to be available any longer, I had 4 days to find a home. Apparently this is impossible if you have hardly any money.

I got very very lucky, shall we say blessed, shall we say I am guided, shall we say…
I was invited to stay the weekend at the Yoga Ashram as a guest.
I was delighted. What an honour. I had done a lot of Karma Yoga there, which basically means I cleaned the dishes in return for Yoga class passes. (Actually Karma Yoga means you do something to create good Karma, without wanting in return, but hey- free Yoga, that is cool and a Karma bonus indeed!)

The weekend was delightful and I offered to clean in return for their generous hospitality. This was gladly accepted. I started on things that lacked in regular attention such as light switches. They really appreciated this and asked me if I didn’t want to stay for a week or two doing this. Perfect! I aspired to prove myself the most valuable cleaner to have around, succeeded and got promoted to executive fan and light cleaner with advanced Buddha Polishing responsibilities. This just goes to show you can make a career out of everything. Reach high but ask for the ladder…

June and I spoke nearly daily on the phone: Hank Ballard was to get his money released from his investment and had a lawyer involved who then got an extra $5000 just to speed up the process. He wanted to rent a flat in LA, bring me over so we can get started. In the next 10 to 14 days, the money would be released.

Meanwhile he was being active in contacting the record people and other big producers to set up the machinery that was to propel me to the top of the charts.

As wonderful as it sounds when you get your dream story laid out like this, I did wonder if it was for real. How about meeting this man for example?
Next week we were to call him. I met June in a hotel in Manhattan from which we called him downstairs on the payphone. She was never calling on her landline. I wasn’t allowed to talk on my landline to her. She said that nobody was to hear about this yet. The secret must be kept as other people could get behind the concepts and destroy our plans. She said that the porter Frank knew more than you would think. Apparently he was listening in on conversations. I would say it sounds too weird to be true but then again some aspects of NY are very very strange.
Hence I had conversations with Hank Ballard from payphones in various hotels and restaurants. It was like a film. Quite exiting.
Hank Ballard was lovely, warm and kind, he kept telling me that he just knew we were going to make it big. Basically, he saw that he was too old for a come back, but with me his songs could be brought to life. We were also going to record some of my material. He was going to get the best people on board; after all he had been in the industry for 40 years or so.
He knows that a lot of producers only want to sleep with the artist but that’s not what he was about, he was good with the ladies, no doubt but that was because he always treats them with respect and that was his secret. Respect. Don’t force anybody into anything.

I liked what I heard. I asked about the flat situation. He was going to get a house by the beach and sort it all out.

They had started work with another artist 2 years ago but she had ducked out because she was afraid of success. How many people are afraid of success! Now Evelyne, you are different, so don’t be stupid. When an opportunity presents itself you must take it. How often do record stars knock at YOUR door to get you? So many artists struggle ALL their life, how lucky was I to get my big break so young?

She was amazing at wrapping me up into a world of her words. An interesting trait I noticed on NYers is the multi-threadening of stories. They start one story, change it- sometimes mid sentence- to start another story and do so with up to 5 subjects or so at a time, freely swapping between them without warning. At first I thought that because of my language skills (after all I am not a native speaker) I needed to catch up. It’s over time that I realised these people do not have the awareness, nor concentration to actually finish their sentences or threads.
I now know this is a powerful tool you can use to manipulate people with…it does make you feel a bit trancy as you loose yourself in the web of threads and unfinished stories.
In the case of my “agent” June, this web felt sticky. That’s what I could feel. I denied this to myself as much as possible, writing endless pages of my diary on clearing your mind, patience and the art of non-attachment.

One day she took me to a restaurant on 42nd street I believe and they were busy. “Sorry madam, we are full”
She got so angry at them: “Do you know who this is?” She almost yelled at the waiter pointing at me. “She is going to be bigger than Madonna. You wait and see. She is a STAR, you understand? Now if you are too busy for me, I will soon be too busy for you. I have been coming to this restaurant when you hardly had any customers. I am very very disappointed. Where is the manager? She will not go and eat here with all her producers…”

How embarrassed can you get? I thought my mom saying silly things in front of my friends was be bad…
The next week I actually had to go back to that venue for an album launch performance. I just hoped they wouldn’t recognize me,” the graaaatest stooor” .

The LA story got bigger from week to week but with no tangible results in view. William Morris Agency was hot on me; the deal with Sony music almost agreed. The money would free up in the next 10 to 14 days.

The money was to be freed up in the next 10 days for 2months. It amazes me how time passes and doesn’t pass. I couldn’t help but wonder: Will my break be always 10 days away?

We were going to move into a cottage together, all 3 of us, so we could work whenever the muse hit us and if we had an idea at night, it didn’t have to go wasted, you know.

This is my new definition of a nightmare! I like sleeping at night, I like my private space and as far as I was getting to know June, she was the last person on earth to live with. I hadn’t even met Hank but quite frankly I wouldn’t want to live with my boss, no matter how nice he is. I wanted to live with Steve!

How was I to tell them without my big dream falling to pieces again? If I upset them, would they not take it all away from me?
When I asked questions such as: do you think the money will be released soon? Will I get a contract soon or when will I meet this guy? I heard: “do you think he would pay a lawyer $5000 just to speed up the process?”
“Do you think he would tell the music world down there about you if he wasn’t serious about it?”
“ Do you think Hank Ballard would make a fool of himself? He is putting a lot of trust in you and he hasn’t even met you, he is setting it all up, why would he do all that? This guy is a millionaire, he has had his success, he could be lying at the pool sipping cocktails but he is running around going though all this to make it happen for you!”

Hmmmm. I just like to see things happen, for me it’s all words. I am cleaning to have a roof over my head and I get up at 5:30 because I am waiting for is something to happen in LA. I have a man waiting for me in England, I really want a home.

“Oh oh how many times have I traded love for fortune and I wish I hadn’t, how I regret that now”
June was so hard to talk to. She said she was psychic…and not only did she see all those lights around me and all the good things I had going for me, but also that there was a guy in a big car in LA waiting for me.
And Hank had said he wouldn’t let me go out on my own because it’s not safe down there and they would all want me cause that’s the way it is with new sexy stars but you have to be careful who to trust. But I was lucky because he would take care of me and he is a real gentleman. Not one of those womanizers but a real gentleman who respects women.

What was I to do? Throw it all away because of one woman annoying me with her weirdness? If I wasn’t to deal with weird people, how was I ever to make it in the music industry? Was she the challenge on the road to my happiness? Am I not weird in my own way? Jumped from Cinderella to high Royalty before it’s even happened. There is always a price to pay…

Hank decided as things may take slightly longer than expected, it may be good for me to have a flat in NY so that I had a base. I loved the idea. What’s the budget? $2000 a month.
Brilliant. Thank you, Hank!
When he heard that I was living in a shared room with 3 others having to clean for my bed, he was outraged: “How dare they make me clean!! Do they not know who you are??!!”
I told him I appreciate he feels so passionately about it but these people were actually giving me food and shelter!
“You are a big big star, you should never have to clean for other people! I am going to get you out of there. They are going to regret they did that to you”
I found that strange. I actually learned a lot from my experiences at the Ashram. I got up each morning at 5:30 for mediation followed by our Yoga practice. Breakfast and then I’d head up to a room to do my singing exercises. By 9am when the centre opened, I was fresh and rehearsed ready to go and write down songs with my pianist/arranger Tedd Firth (who now plays for Bette Middler)

My way of keeping sane in this world of promises and dream spinning was to meditate and allow myself to feel the depth of the confusions which turned them into valuable soul lessons. Once a week when June took me for dinner and we called Hank from payphones and cell phones, I was the next big thing and the rest of the week I didn’t know where my life was to go. Steve needed to look for a place to stay in Brighton as he was couch surfing and got a room for a few months. Was he looking for himself or for both of us? I couldn’t say! Was I living in NY or going to England? Was I becoming famous or totally broke? Was I going to need a proper job and some education? Was I starting over in Brighton? Was I going to have a family or not or what?

My job was dealing with the fans in the service of the light. I thought that was hilarious. Better get used to dealing with the fans I thought climbing up the ladder step by step with my cloth and water bucket in hand.
The light also needs attention and a bit of a clean so you can see it in its brightness. Clean where others don’t even look.
Very valuable teachings!
The Yoga community gave me a sense of connection I had not had before. I was more of a loner since leaving home at 19, I lived on my own going my way until I met Steve who was so like me and even more of a loner.
He was looking for enlightenment, I was after stage lights. Same Same, different. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

Did I mention William Morris was hot on me and Sony and in 10 to 14 days…
I know I did, they just told me again and again. And again. Nothing happened!

I went flat hunting. I finally found a flat. It was a bit discerning to answer the ever so usual “so what do you do then?”
Well, I got a record production deal kind of and I am cleaning Buddha statues and rooms in a Yoga centre right now.

But I did find a flat and needed $300 deposit. I decided that this was going to be my test. If he couldn’t pay that, he was definitely not for real.

And guess what, after having another rant at my Yoga Ashram for letting my dust off fans, he had the nerve to tell me the money was going to be released in 10 to 14 days.
I was not asking for thousands. I needed $300 to get this flat for a few months, no big advances, no contracts to sign. Just 1,200 a month and those $300.

“ Just wait another 10 days” He had no idea what it means to find a flat in Manhattan.

I had set 2 months to explore this opportunity. I had cut 2 months out of my life to see if this was my dream coming true, living in total suspension.
None of the promises seemed to happen: He didn’t’ want to fly out to NY because he was scared of flying. Because he was recovering from cancer. There was no contract because things had to be finalised. Because the money wasn’t ready.
And I needed to trust. LA doesn’t work the way I think. “It’s not Germany, you see”.
Stories, stories, weird weird stories, he knows x who knows y who said that because 20 years ago when this famous V said to H that in the XYZ show in G-channel TV you would do this and that. They are waiting for me since the invention of T. Producer O who also won the F awards; MTV, Sony and the Warner Brother did Y with X from I at he O-Gala.
It all began to melt into a big alphabet soup in my mind.

I had enough. I needed to get out. I decided that even if it meant giving up my big break, it was better to get rid of June and this spinning in my head than go for this. If this was what stardom was about, then I’d rather have a normal life, thank you.

And if I was so shit hot as they said, I would make it in England.

It was time to take my life into my hands again. I had lived in suspension for too long. How many people come and knock on your door? Well, Hank Ballard did and others may well do, too. If the Universe is so wonderful, I better give it a chance to reveal its miracles.