The coroner’s report shows that Rodger drank himself to death on July 5, 2016. He was 57.
I never met Rodger Jacobs in person but he was in my life for a decade (from 1998 to 2005, he was in my top 20 friends list). When we first spoke on the phone in the summer of 1998, he was a writer in the porn industry who yearned to find respectable work. I could dig it. We often talked about our strivings to make it in “mainstream.”
Around 2002, somebody told me that Rodger Jacobs was an alcoholic. As soon as I heard that, I knew it was true. It was the missing piece to the puzzle of this under-achieving but talented man.
As soon as I got that clarity, I knew I needed to keep my distance from Roger. We often spoke on the phone, but I never made the effort to see him in person and he never made the effort to see me (even though about half the time I knew him, he lived in and around Los Angeles). People we had in common through social media and blogging made far greater efforts to help the man than I did.
He gave me this biography to use on my blog:
A direct descendant of the notorious Dalton family of Old West banditry fame, Jacobs parlayed his knowledge of the Daltons and, more appropriately, their distant cousins Jesse and Frank James, into a stint as research consultant on the 1979 western “The Long Riders” for producer Stacy Keach and director Walter Hill. Throughout the 1980’s Jacobs toiled as a screenwriter for various independent producers including actor Randy Quaid, for whom Jacobs developed a screenplay from the darkly comedic William Hjortsberg novel, “Alp”. He also served as a development executive for the late Warren Stein (“Under the Gun”) in 1992. As a journalist, his work has appeared in Eye Magazine, Hustler, Panik, Mind Kites, and E Commerce Business Magazine. Jacobs is divorced and the father of one daughter, Carole Ann Jacobs.
As a stage manager for Hollywood Center Studios from 1985 through 1991, Jacobs worked on such films as “Scrooged”, “Misery”, “Wired”, “The Running Man”, “Exorcist 3”, “8 Million Ways To Die”, “Throw Mama From The Train”, and “When Harry Met Sally”.
Rodger was a shameless self-promoter. He ostentatiously retired from the porn industry several times, at each episode getting somebody like AVN, Gene Ross or me to write it up.
“When a trade magazine amasses as much power as AVN, it becomes an intrinsic part of the industry. And that bothers me,” says Rodger Jacobs, a screenwriter and journalist who has written for Larry Flynt Publications, whose Hustler Erotic Video Guide competes with AVN.
Luke Ford has amplified such concerns on his Web site, often without the benefit of fact-checking. The son of a Christian evangelist, the Australian-born gossip has used the Web site to detail his sexual exploits with porn stars and thoughts on Judaism, to which he has converted. While Ford praises Fishbein himself as “credible,” he has accused AVN staffers of, among other things, trying to quash his reporting about HIV in the porn industry and tailoring its annual awards show to suit big advertisers.
“The stuff I’ve written has really shaken them up over there,” says Ford, who admits to putting unverified items on his site. He adds: “So far AVN has been a failure on the Internet. They’ve spent a lot of money and it’s just been drubbed by Internet people and adult people.”
Fishbein calls the allegation of corruption “a flat-out lie” and says that AVN ended up correcting errors in Ford’s reporting about the HIV scandal. Although he says he briefly flirted with hiring Ford to do a gossip column on the AVN site, he now dismisses him as “an irresponsible journalist.”
“It’s sort of like we’re the establishment and Luke’s the rogue,” Fishbein says. “We will always have competitors. . . . I welcome anything like that as long as we’re on a fair playing field.”
I have a lot of blind spots and having smart people in my life is good for me because they point out things I am missing. On the other hand, Rodger was often nuts, and at those times it was easy for me to ignore him. I didn’t take him seriously enough for us to feud. I was one of the few people in his life he didn’t fight. His slights rarely bothered me until 2012 when I cut him off.
After I sold lukeford.com in August of 2001 and quit writing about XXX for a year, Rodger was hired by the new owner to write the daily updates. Rodger became LukeFord.com.
From my lukeford.net archives:
Rodger Jacobs writes: The idea of a “book about Hollywood producers” sounds about as enticing as “a book about sod”. You need to find a narrative thread to carry the book. In other words, tell a story. I highly recommend that you read — if you haven’t already — Neal Gabler’s book “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood” and Peter Biskind’s look at how maverick producers and directors of the 70’s changed Hollywood in “Easy Riders and Raging Bulls”. Both books are riveting because of the narrative that carries the subject and keeps it moving forward. Also pick up Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon” and Budd Schulberg’s novel “What Makes Sammy Run”. If nothing else, these books will help you understand your subject much better and with deeper clarity.
Once again I reiterate: TELL A STORY. I’ve often found that in the process of interviewing subjects for an article the story will sometimes evolve by itself. You might find a common thread, for instance, in what motivates people to become producers instead of more “creative” careers in Hollywood. Are they money motivated? Better yet: what the hell is a producer exactly? There are many different interpretations on that one.
Nov. 11, 2001: Rodger Jacobs writes: “Luke: Okay, what’s all this about moral responsibility in art and culture? Who determines what is moral and what is immoral? It almost sounds that if you had your way we would all be watching “Old Yeller” repeatedly and reading books that only have a”morally uplifting” message. Don’t you see the need for diversity in art and politics and human thought? Only be examining opposing points of view can we be assured that our own views are secure — or not.”
What Happened To Your Moral Leader?
Rodger Jacobs aka Martin Brimmer is now writing my old column at www.lukeford.com. Today he writes:
If you’re going through withdrawals from not getting your daily dose of Luke Ford’s manic ramblings hop on over to www.lukeford.net where Desmond Ford’s prodigal son continues to try to force the world to believe that he is (1) a writer of substance; (2) a skilled journalist; (3) a strong moral force in a troubled world; (4) a Jew.
He calls himself Your Moral Leader these days and has been posting an endless series of inane interviews with Hollywood producers, a chore that he hopes to parlay into a book once he discovers a narrative thread beyond “a book about Hollywood producers”.
Of the more than one dozen mainstream producers he has interviewed thus far, Luke reports that only one declined on the basis of Ford’s rather public past as a purveyor of xxx gossip.
“Luke: Thanks for writing back and elaborating on your project. After doing a little research about your prior publication and your pursuits, I have to respectfully decline an interview at this time. Please do not take this as a personal affront, but rather a professional choice on my part. I appreciate your interest and wish you much luck.”
Welcome to the club, Luke. And, yes, you damn well should expect more of those reactions.
Khunrum writes: “Luke, What is your reaction to that downbeat piece? It looks as though your old friend is jealous. But jealous of what? Are you upset?”
Luke replies: “Not upset at all… Rodger Jacobs is an old friend, 3yrs old, and is always sniping at me… Writers are notoriously snippy… It actually takes a whole heckuva lot to upset me…and this stuff never does. Rodger’s reflecting bitterly on his own experiences where he’s suffered for his xxx writings.”
Khunrum replies: “I detected grapes of sour taste. Perhaps they are even more bitter considering he is working at a job you abandoned..
“Moral Leader these days and has been posting an endless series of inane interviews.” I don’t agree. For the most part uninteresting, boring except to the most eager young film student. But inane…NO.”
Rodger Jacobs aka Martin Brimmer phoned me Tuesday night 7/2/02.
Rodger: “You just don’t get it [The Rapture (1991)], do you? Now, I’ve read all of Michael Tolkin’s books… It’s about the inability to feel beyond superficiality.”
Rodger: “It’s about the inability of modern humans to even comprehend things that are transcendent such as God and stuff.”
Luke thinks: Usually when people write about the inability of humanity to do X and Y, it is because they can’t do X and Y. So maybe Tolkin is unable to comprehend the transcendent.
Rodger: “It’s no mistake allegorically that her job is as a telephone operator. You need to put all your theology aside and give the film another look and pay attention to the characters and some of the symbolism going on there.
“Because of technology, we are so different from humans 2000 years ago. We’re hopeless. Let’s say the rapture would happen. So few of us would even make the cut. She spends so much of her life in oblivion and giving in to material desires, so by the time she turns around… And when she does turn around, she does it from a self-centered place. It’s not real. It’s not pure.
“My favorite book of Tolkin’s is Among the Dead, a take on Herman Melville’s short story, Bartleby the Scrivener. I admire him greatly. Paul Schrader is another screenwriter who injects a lot of moralism into movies.”
July 22, 2004: Rodger Jacobs writes: Jeez, Luke, you’re going to bankrupt yourself with all this I-Universe self-publishing. Why don’t you wait to see how the “market” welcomes all this Luke Ford scribbling. You should take Amalek’s advice and expand the Jewish Journalism book, First: who the hell is going to read that? Second, the problem with journalism today — your thesis is that JJ is “lousy” — is not limited to “Jewish” journalism. The interviews you have been posting on the blog have been tear-inducing boring. No one is going to be interested in this subject except the participants involved. Using your premise, if you were assigned to write an article on the plight of pets in county animal shelters would you choose to focus solely on cats? (Or Katz as the case may be).
Nov. 5, 2002: Rodger Jacobs writes Gene Ross: “Luke claims to have a problem with CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My contention is that he has a problem with manic-depression that he’s not revealing. I’ll talk with him a couple of times a day and I’ll see the mood swings. When he started the poofters and pansies thing he was absolutely giddy. He asked me how do you spell ‘poofters.’ I said, Luke, ‘What are you writing?’ He starts giggling. I told him he shouldn’t be posting something like that. I talked to him later on that same day, and the giddiness was gone. I know some people who are clinical manic-depressives, and I see the same behavior in Luke.”
Nov. 18, 2002:The buzz I’m hearing is that journalist and screenwriter Rodger Jacobs — who hung up his hat from the XXX writing trade last month — has written a hot mainstream script that uses the porn industry as “a framing device” for a clever crime thriller. Two powerhouse agencies have already requested to read the script, which Jacobs tells me “was unintentionally written as a low-budget to medium-budget crime thriller — it was the discipline from all those years of writing scripts for porn that made the story come out that way.”
Rodger tells me that the action-driven script, titled “King’s Ransom”, is packed with a lot of “empirical knowledge” of the porn industry but cautions: “This is not another ‘Boogie Nights’. I simply used my working knowledge of the business and it’s denizens to craft a tense urban drama that could just as well be set in the automotive industry, such as Paul Schrader’s ‘Blue Collar’ was, yet from an insider’s perspective.”
Information on Rodger’s current representation can be found by e-mailing him at email@example.com.
Mar. 6, 2004: David Koslow writes:
“Dear Luke, We met at AIM Health Center – I was accompanying a model who was obtaining his health check in preparation for a photosession.
I mentioned I am the agent for Don Bachardy, the painter whose life partner was Christopher Isherwood. You would make a most interesting subject for Don if you would be willing to sit for nudes. Let me know.
I like your writings on lukeford.net – free and breezy, like a journal. Isherwood’s diaries have the same feel to them. The Huntington Library opens a large exhibition on Isherwood in June – celebrating the 100 year anniversary of his birth.”
Cathy Seipp writes: “Hey you should pose for Bachardy. You’d get yourself a ton of publicity, and be in a valuable piece of art to boot. Or just have him use that pic of you in the headphones and use his imagination! What if Bachardy painted you sitting at the computer, in the hovel, but, you know, nude. Would you consider that?”
Rodger Jacobs writes Luke: “I would not miss out on the opportunity to pose for Bachardy if I were you. Have you ever read Isherwood? I think you would like him. Try “Berlin Stories” or “A Single Man” (an L.A. novel). I just read “Jacob’s Hands”, a movie treatment-turned-novel that was a collaboration between Isherwood and Aldous Huxley. Interesting stuff. If memory recalls, Bachardy is the executor of Isherwood’s estate.”
Mar. 14, 2004:
I met this nice girl in a Beverly Hills park the other day. She went to a Roman Catholic high school. “I gave a lot of head,” she told me, “because I wanted to keep my virginity until I married. I learned how to do it really well. I had a boyfriend. That was the way I could keep boyfriend without actually having to have sex. That was the way I could get guys with cars so I could get out of the house.”
What a moral condemnation of men and modernity. It made me very angry as I headed into the Sabbath.
Rodger Jacobs writes:
“Women have been doing this for ages, Luke, or don’t you get about much? It’s a form of remaining somewhat chaste, and as being someone who is obsessed with the topic of chastity I’m surprised you did not put more thought into this one. There’s a centuries old saying in Italy, for instance, that until a young woman is married she is “a virgin in the front and a martyr in the rear.” I kid you not. Look it up.
And you shouldn’t be heading into Sabbath angry but it seems to me that more and more, with each passing day, you’re becoming the kind of man who has nothing more than his anger to keep him warm. Are you veering off into some kind of headline-grabbing psycho-sexual breakdown?”
Apr. 11, 2004: Rodger Jacobs writes:
Upon returning to Los Angeles last year after a five-year, self-imposed exile in Northern California, the first thing that struck my eye–and continues to do so to this day–are the palm trees. These tropical and subtropical monocotyledonous trees with their simple stems and remarkable crowns of fan-shaped leaves are everywhere you toss a gaze. In my first 20 years of living in L.A., I never noticed their inundated presence in this city of dreadful joy. I simply took them for granted.
So I’m planning a book, a high-quality photo essay on the Southern California palm and its strange juxtaposition against neon signs, against towering pillars of concrete and steel in Century City, palms jutting from hard, cracked sidewalks in the no man’s land of East Hollywood and in front of topless bars in the Valley, and the replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, framed in the sway of palm trees.
Another photo essay book I wrote in 1996, Ebony Erotica, continues to make money for the publisher eight years after publication, and I was confident that I had another winner with the palm tree proposal.
But then one of the minions of Christ came calling in the form of a rebuttal to an essay of mine earlier published at Strike The Root that dealt with, among other things, Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ.
In my essay, I eschewed organized religion and asserted that God is where you find Him, and often that is not in a church with your nose stuck in a hymnal or on your knees on a prayer rug facing Mecca. As the character of Helen Harland, the Unitarian Universalist minister in Michelle Huneven’s brilliant new novel Jamesland, says:
“I believe that this relationship with the other–God, if you will–is transformative, regenerative, and essential for a life lived fully . . . (but) specifics cause all the trouble. It’s insisting on this or that point of orthodoxy or doctrine that has led to wars, inquisitions, burnings at the stake.”
My essay was also an obituary of sorts for my sweetheart’s father, a way of setting right the perfunctory obituary that ran in a local newspaper after his death last February. I invoked the belief of Virginia Woolf that nothing really happens in life until it gets memorialized on paper and suggested that there was a religious corollary to that notion.
Sept. 5, 2004: Rodger Jacobs writes: “I just wrote on Cathy’s board that you are writing a book about bi-polar Jewish deli owners in L.A. called “Bury My Brisket On Olympic Boulevard”. It somehow sounds so right.”
Aug. 9, 2002: Rodger Jacobs writes:
I don’t know, Luke, you may have over-reacted to this guy a bit. Inviting someone to participate in something as highly personal as an autobiography is effectively inviting them to poke around in your life. After all, a writer has to believe in his subject. I know you and your work well enough to believe that when you say you are not interested in tackling “any great or important questions” about sex, theology, etc., in your book you are perhaps being disingenuous. If you wish to continue being a public figure in any way, shape, or form you have to be ready to accept harsh criticism, particularly when you dabble in moral and ethical issues, as you do. Have you ever seen on C-Span or anywhere else on TV or radio authors who have written an autobiography? That type of literary work is usually soundly attacked, as if the mere act of committing your life to paper is inviting public scrutiny and debate. Guess what? It does.
Dec. 12, 2004: Rodger Jacobs writes:
You market yourself aggressively and I don’t say that based on some secret understanding of you that the general public is blind to. I would take full advantage of any opportunity to promote the Jewish Journalism book because it already has three strikes against it: (1) expensive cover price; (2) expensive self-publishing deal that will probably negate you seeing profits from the book any time in the near future, compounded by (3) a subject matter with limited interest. This is an interesting passive-aggressive game you play, not too dissimilar to the time that editor wanted you to write a piece for the back page of his magazine and you protested that you don’t write “didactic essays” before you finally caved in and contributed something. Further, hanging in a corner of the room at a party while waiting for the “hot chicks” to hit on you does not qualify you as self-effacing. All of your web sites, in essence, are about you, you, glorious you. A “self-effacing Adventist” would never aspire to be anyone’s “moral leader” and assert rights to a moral purity that isn’t there in the harsh light of the day.
You know, you used to be amusing but lately I’ve been thinking that your fifteen minutes is ticking down to about fourteen and three quarters. I would take advantage of any opportunity to give some momentum to that last fifteen seconds.
In 2004, Rodger wrote the Epilogue for my memoir XXX-Communicated:
Luke Ford was born in Australia but he was invented in Los Angeles. Everyone in L.A. lives on the constant cusp of failure, from the harried studio executive to the East Coast writer ensconced at the Chateau Marmont to the immigrant gardener armed with a leaf blower. You’re only as good as your last movie, your last novel, your last well-manicured lawn. Those who survive in this far-flung tableau of beasts and angels are the ones who know how to reinvent themselves. In LA you cannot fail. You can only quit trying.
I am, as novelist John Fante once remarked of himself, a maker of magnificent exits. In my fifteen year career — if I may be so bold as to call it that — as a screenwriter, freelance journalist, and documentary writer and producer I have managed to burn so many bridges that it’s a wonder I don’t reach for a pack of matches when I see a bridge coming on the horizon. But one constant over the years has been Luke Ford.
In my less than polished climb up the ladder of success I have used the public venues of magazines and Web sites to vilify producers and editors who have done me wrong—reaching for the matches with a fury that must be born of vindictive madness—but Luke Ford, failed Hollywood movie star, groundbreaking porn journalist, chronicler of the history of the adult entertainment Industry, devout Jew in search of a father figure, this guy is someone that I just cannot turn my back on. Luke Ford is as solid a part of the Los Angeles landscape as the palm tree or the Hollywood sign. He belongs to the history of this smog-choked city. He created himself from nothing. He insisted on being heard and he was.
That the flesh moguls of the Industry hated him for his muckraking style was nothing less than validation. If Luke Ford has gotten under your skin then Luke Ford has had a good day. Yet he doesn’t mean to prickle or annoy. Honestly. He just wants to be recognized. Like a child.
Luke Ford is not just a person, not merely a former porn journalist who gave up his lucrative adult gossip website to please his synagogue, he is a piece of performance art. Think of all the men and women over the decades who stepped off the bus from some sleepy little town in a sleepy little state with hope burning in their eyes that they would become a name to reckon with in the movie capital of the world. And then as rejection mounts upon rejection that hope in their eyes turns to terror. They realize that they must live out their remaining days in the left coast dust as waiters, parking lot attendants, hotel clerks, secretaries, assistants to assistants. They burn, they seethe, they hate. So did Luke Ford. But he turned his hatred and resentment into art. He said to the goddess of fame, “If you’re not going to be seduced by me, then I’ll force myself upon you.”
The beauty of it is that it worked. Luke Ford raped the fame goddess and she sat back and took it, validating his clumsy but successful attempt to not end up as a waiter, parking lot attendant, assistant to an assistant. It’s a joke, really, a testament to just how illusory Hollywood success is, that he has done so well at it.
On August 27, 2004, Rodger gave my book The Producers: Profiles in Frustration a five star review on Amazon.com:
What is a producer exactly? In Hollywood, most people will tell you that the term has various definitions but in Luke Ford’s massive exploration — nearly seventy interviews with film and television producers, some whose name you may know, others who have been relegated to obscurity — what emerges is a portrait of the producer as artist.
Don Phillips’ tale of the making of the groundbreaking “small” film “Melvin and Howard” is worth the cover price alone. Did you know that Jack Nicholson and Mike Nichols were nearly attached to the picture? (Phillips didn’t want to wait a year for Jack’s availability)Elvis Presley was next considered for the role of Melvin Dumar:
“Elvis was on his last leg,” Phillips tells Ford. “He was fat and jowly and passed out.”
Elvis agreed, in June 1997, to do the film after he finished his latest concert tour. Six weeks later the legend was dead.
On a related note, producer Judd Bernard’s anecdote about actress Annette Day — who starred in only one film, “Double Trouble”, a 1967 Elvis Presely vehicle — was so telling about the capriciousness of show biz and life in general that I adapted the tale into my new play about an obsolete Hollywood producer, “Last Summer at the Marmont.”
Among the other notable names in the book — and there are many — are TV wizard Stephen J. Cannell (God bless “The Rockford Files” and keep it in syndication for many years to come), Jay Bernstein, and a particularly touching interview with the late Edgar J. Scherick, creator of ABC’s “Wide World Of Sports.”
I have known Luke Ford in both a personal and professional capacity for almost seven years now. Often I have been one of his biggest detractors. “The Producers: Profiles in Frustration” is a piece of work that I would never thought an autodidact like Luke capable of, namely a book that is a must-read for anyone contemplating a career in the entertainment industry and, more importantly, the unknowing millions who believe that producers are nothing more or less than Hollywood fat cats with a cigar in one cheek and a bikini-clad babe in their lap. The interviews in this book prove that in the Hollywood food chain, producers are too often overlooked as — dare I say it? — fountains of creativity.
Rodger and I shared a taste for buxom women and middlebrow literature. He loved Jack London, whose novel “Martin Eden” he recommended to me and I loved it (along with almost everything he recommended).
Living in Oakland at the beginning of the 20th century, Martin Eden struggles to rise above his destitute, proletarian circumstances through an intense and passionate pursuit of self-education, hoping to achieve a place among the literary elite. His principal motivation is his love for Ruth Morse. Because Eden is a rough, uneducated sailor from a working-class background and the Morses are a bourgeois family, a union between them would be impossible unless and until he reached their level of wealth and refinement.
Over a period of two years, Eden promises Ruth that success will come, but just before it does, Ruth loses her patience and rejects him in a letter, saying, “if only you had settled down … and attempted to make something of yourself”. By the time Eden attains the favour of the publishers and the bourgeoisie who had shunned him, he has already developed a grudge against them and become jaded by toil and unrequited love. Instead of enjoying his success, he retreats into a quiet indifference, interrupted only to rail mentally against the genteelness of bourgeois society or to donate his new wealth to working-class friends and family. He felt that people did not value him for himself or for his work but only for his fame.
The novel ends with Eden’s committing suicide by drowning, which contributed to what researcher Clarice Stasz calls the “biographical myth” that Jack London’s own death was a suicide.
London’s oldest daughter Joan commented that in spite of its tragic ending, the book is often regarded as “a ‘success’ story … which inspired not only a whole generation of young writers but other different fields who, without aid or encouragement, attained their objectives through great struggle.”
Martin Eden concludes:
He was too deep down. They could never bring him to the surface. He seemed floating languidly in a sea of dreamy vision. Colors and radiances surrounded him and bathed him and pervaded him. What was that? It seemed a lighthouse; but it was inside his brain – a flashing, bright white light. It flashed swifter and swifter. There was a long rumble of sound, and it seemed to him that he was falling down a vast and interminable stairway. And somewhere at the bottom he fell into darkness. That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know.
In 2004, an Orthodox Jewish friend who made a good living as a writer, and was married with children, recommended a similar work, the Herman Wouk novel Youngblood Hawke, calling it the best book about a writer.
Youngblood Hawke is a 1962 novel by American writer Herman Wouk about the rise and fall of a young writer. It is based on the life of Thomas Wolfe…
In the end, he works himself to death between the money he owes; jealousy over Jeanne, the love of his life, who married once to spite him; and the tragedy of Frieda Winter’s son’s suicide for which Hawke feels responsible. A head trauma from his days of coal trucking in Hovey also comes into play. Surrounding and soon after his death, Youngblood Hawke achieves the success and status that he had sought while alive.
I preferred to hang out with my successful friends rather than with my loser friends. Because I didn’t want to end up like Martin Eden and Youngblood Hawke, and knowing I was precariously balanced between heaven and hell, I couldn’t afford to let people like Rodger Jacobs get too close. My real life was in Orthodox Judaism. Everyone else were goyim.
Rodger had no interest in religion and was unable to maintain bonds. He kept feuding and burning bridges. I watched him self-destruct from afar. At times, I’d share with him things that were working for me (such as religious community, volunteering, yoga, Alexander Technique, etc) but Rodger had his idea-deflection suit on every day.
When people like Rodger insisted on destroying themselves, I kept my distance and I didn’t get emotionally involved. I didn’t lose sleep over their suffering. I had no expectations for them.
I find it easy not to care about people immolating themselves. Perhaps there is something wrong with me. Perhaps I suffer from a deficit of empathy.
(In 1994, when I moved to Los Angeles, I developed a close friendship with a guy who similarly burned everyone who got close to him. We were best buddies for about five years. Eventually he borrowed about $600 from me, developed an excuse for why he wouldn’t pay it back, he refused to discuss the matter, and we fell out. He got in a couple of car accidents and went on disability around 1998. His mother got him a room in a cheap hotel in West LA. We’d talk a few times a year until circa 2008. I don’t recall us meeting up again after he stiffed me for money in 1999.)
Around 2004, Rodger became heartsick when he found out his live-in girlfriend of many years was selling topless photos of herself. They broke up and his life spiraled downhill (though he was always committing slow suicide as long as I knew him).
When people are drowning, it’s not good to get close to them because they will drag you down. Yes, it’s good to throw them a rope, but if they won’t take it, there’s nothing you can do. I threw Rodger a few ropes, but he wouldn’t take them.
Over the years, I never failed to return his calls and his emails. I do that for everyone in my life. I’m steady, I’m constant and I’m responsible. I never borrow a book that I don’t return. I never damage or lose your property without owning up to my mistake and compensating you.
GovSpritzel: and that Roger Jacobs..he went from Skid Row to Green Acres..what a comeback
RussianDragon: he shouldn’t sing aswell
Curious: He needs an image consultant for sure
RussianDragon: yeah great vid luke
palestine4ever: Rodger Jacobs? Wasn’t he begging for pennies a few months ago?
GovSpritzel: Luke is that the same T shirt you were wearing yesterday…?
GovSpritzel: Roger is on the comeback trail…has a new boring site
Curious: Saving shekles by skipping laundry
GovSpritzel: but at least he ain’t dead
RussianDragon: thank god we don’t have smellyvision
User Curious left the room.
GovSpritzel: I wonder if the Hovel contains an iron?
palestine4ever: oh jeez, he retires and has more quasi illnesses than Luke
In July of 2008, I sent Rodger a couple of emails:
I just heard from [a porn star ex-GF of mine he knew]: “Well, my mom died this February, and my grandfather died a week later, and they were my two favorite people in the world…so I guess I’d say that life sucks right now.
Been living in Melbourne mostly, but returning to the US to spread mom’s ashes per her request.”
…I’m getting acupuncture 2x a week, which is helping with my health issues. I feel optimistic this week for the first time in ages.
My last email from Rodger was May 17, 2010:
Luke, Luke, Luke,
“How pretentious is that? A.O. Scott? Only posers do this.”
You know, for someone who is a self-professed “intellectual” (highly doubtful but we will let that slide for now) you might check your wit and intellect at the door sometimes before spouting off. Because if we are to take you at your word, then all of the following authors are “posers”:
F. Scott Fitzgerald
L. Frank Baum
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)
W. Somerset Maugham
That’s all I could think of off the top of my head. What a batch of posers, eh?
In his final five years, Rodger largely stopped returning my calls and emails. He knew I had no more money to give him. Prior to 2010, I usually enjoyed talking to Rodger. After 2010, I never did. His decline was too enormous. He was constant desperation and endless need. He had no sobriety and no dignity. From 2010 onward, Rodger ceased to benefit my life. In our last conversations (circa 2010), Rodger told me about his various attempts to beg online and which ones were more successful.
As I write this, taking a brief late night respite from packing books into boxes, I am just days away from an uncertain future, a Black Tuesday when the Sword of Damocles will, under legal edict, fall upon my head; and, as the ancient Greek and Roman tale of Dionysius and Damocles urges, I invite you to walk a mile in my shoes for a few brief moments.
Within a matter of days I am going to become one of the more than 13,000 homeless people living in Clark County and, frankly, I am frightened.
I am a 51-year-old professional writer; throughout my 20-year career I have been an award-winning feature documentary producer (“Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes” and multiple educational documentaries), a trade and arts magazine journalist, a successful playwright (“Go Irish: The Purgatory Diaries of Jason Miller”), a true crime author and a literary event producer. For the past two years, I have enjoyed my role as a book and literature columnist for Pop Matters, a popular online journal of cultural criticism.
But in the larger scheme of things, my credentials are utterly meaningless. In less than two weeks, my girlfriend and I will be without a home in a town where we have no friends, no family, and apparently no safety net to catch us when we fall.
I have been medically disabled for the past eight years; my primary source of income is my monthly Social Security disability payment of $926 and whatever supplemental income I can earn within the $1,000 monthly limit, but with jobs in the freelance market few and far between in the new economy, several months often pass without additional income.
My girlfriend, Lela, and I relocated to Las Vegas in 2007 from San Francisco to care for my terminally ill mother; the plan at the time was to liquidate my mother’s meager estate upon her passing, see to her funeral arrangements and return to California. But by the time my mother succumbed to her illness two years ago this week, the recession had hit, jobs for myself and Lela — a freelance editor — were scarce, my health was worsening, and we found ourselves effectively stuck in Southern Nevada. We were living a hand-to-mouth existence, with no savings and uncertain where the next month’s rent was coming from — let alone money for groceries, transportation, prescription and doctor co-pays and medical supplies not covered by Medicare.
Dec. 5, 2010: It is 4 o’clock on a breezy weekday afternoon. As I settle onto a stool at the horseshoe-shaped bar at the sports book at the Fiesta on North Rancho, a dull ache in my arthritic joints warns me of impending winter. Enduring another season of Southern Nevada’s harsh wintry wind and frigid biting cold is a prospect I am prepared to move mountains to avoid.
Even more stinging has been the reaction by many readers to my first essay on being homeless in Las Vegas — mean-spirited remarks that have fueled my decision to leave town. We had arrived here from California in 2007 to care for my ailing mother, at a time when my freelance writing business was following a trajectory parallel to the recession. After her death, we moved to an apartment for two years and then to a North Las Vegas rental home. But we couldn’t afford the cost of maintaining the house that we were contractually saddled with, and in September, under threat of eviction, we moved to a small two-room affair at Budget Suites. Along the way, we have shed most of our possessions; the rest is in a 10-by-10 storage unit, waiting to be redeemed.
We had hoped that by now we would have returned to Los Angeles. But Lela, my girlfriend, and I are still here; relocating even just to L.A. requires more capital than we have. We get by on my Social Security Disability payments of $926 a month (after a $100 monthly deductible for Medicare) and occasional freelance writing and editing assignments. At the urging of Three Square, where Lela volunteers weekly, she recently applied for federal grocery assistance.
We did receive generous donations from a few readers after I first wrote about our homelessness — money that has been spent on groceries, rent, transportation, laundry, medical expenses and IRS payments.
But any warmth of kindness was lost to judgmental creatures wrapped in their conservative ideology and intoxicated by their own venomous rhetoric. (One reader, Ron, called me a “lazy, lazy lazy loser” and worse.) As journalist and author Michael Scott Moore (“Sweetness and Blood”) wrote on his website Radio Free Mike: “The worst part is that the Sun has uncovered a new and virulent strain of American unfeeling for the unfortunate.”
More than the tale of my plight itself, the vicious online response to the New Homeless series (particularly in Part One) became the story for the press beyond Nevada’s borders. And that will be my take-away from this unwanted experience: how others react to a stranger’s homelessness. During Channel 3’s recent Holiday Helping Hand Drive, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak summed it up best when he said, “Societies are judged by how they respond to those in need.” Indeed, the citizens of Las Vegas have been judged by the shrill voices of a very vocal minority.
In the popular New York-based Web daily The Awl, editor Choire Sicha, in an Aug. 30 posting titled “Why Is American Selfishness So Widespread Now?” observed that reaction to my story serves as “a reminder of the American lack of empathy … the (comments) went from awful to judgmental to trashing to witch hunt.”
On Oct. 1, at the Working America blog, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, New Hampshire writer Susan Bruce attempted to make sense of the outrage: “The lack of compassion is troubling but the level of anger is even more disconcerting. I suspect that the anger some people have for the homeless is fueled by their own fears that they are only a paycheck or two away from being homeless themselves.”
I order a $1 frozen margarita from the bartender and the frigid concoction arrives in a 12-ounce plastic cup. Most patrons who take up space at the bar are transfixed by either the video slots embedded in the bar or the daily betting sheets. I always ignore both costly pastimes and choose to occupy my time reading a book or working in a journal.
A few afternoons a week this sports bar that largely caters to locals is my refuge from the cramped, dark room at the Budget Suites that is almost impossible to breathe life into. It is not a home. It is a way station. (I freely choose to make this admission of my visits to the sports bar because I have nothing to lose; more than one commenter harshly condemned me for spending one dollar on bottled water, so go ahead and make hay with this; there’s nothing I can say or do at this point that will not be met with scornful criticism; stone throwers are nothing if not predictable, though their aim is often errant and lacking in grace.)
…It is near 5 o’clock and I briefly consider ordering a second margarita (for one dollar you wouldn’t expect a cocktail to pack such a potent punch but it does).
On August 31, 2010, I messaged Rodger on FB:
It was hard reading your story in the Sun and watching the video…
I am plugging it on my blog…
Might be an interesting article about how hard it is to watch a friend suffer, or a stranger, and just easier to turn away… I know it’s taken me about 24 hrs to respond to this, just didn’t want to face it…
I’m sorry I can’t help you financially as I am struggling myself… in about $35k in credit card debt…
Rodger did not reply. My last message and my only Facebook message from Rodger was on August 11, 2011:
We’re back in SF, moved up here in July. The antibiotics are for a skin infection from psoriasis. If you follow my blog, which I update at least twice a day, you can follow what’s going on with me. Sorry to hear you’re losing the hovel.
The couple of times I talked to Rodger about his drinking, he said he didn’t drink that much, and that he needed it to get by. He also smoked compulsively. People felt sorry for him and gave him money and he drank and smoked it away.
Sometime around 2010, Rodger called me to get permission to turn my memoir, XXX-Communicated, into a play. I was flattered and said yes.
After we both got on Facebook (I jumped on in 2007, Rodger a year or two later), sometime around 2012, I found Rodger particularly nasty towards me in his online comments. His primary stated objection was to my right-wing politics and how I didn’t believe in government welfare, which he could never get enough of. I began blocking him on Facebook to make my life more pleasant. After a few months, I’d regularly unblock him to see if he wanted to give up the hostility, but he never did.
I heard from friends that his life was disintegrating but he was so hostile to me, I left him alone.
Upon reflection, I am not sure Rodger changed towards me. I might have changed toward him. As long as I have known him, he was frequently contemptuous of others. Around 2012, I began considering people like him more trouble than they were worth and I cut them out of my life.
Saturday night, I got this message: “Hi Luke, Rodger Jacobs has died and also his partner died yesterday. Rodgers about 4 weeks ago. He was so unwell. The landlord found him. Very sad.”
My first and dominant reaction was relief. I checked Facebook and found that he was not on my blocked list (though he was not a friend). I guess in his final year or two, we were just a click away. I probably checked his page about once a year and found it filled with begging and I looked away.
I felt the same relief about the passing of Mark Kramer (this one by suicide). He was another writer who played an important role in my life for a couple of years (1999-2000) but then became too difficult and I edged away.
To The Editor:
Re “Pied-à-terror: The grunge and glory of the Jane West” (notebook, by Mark Kramer, Aug. 11):
Mark Kramer was an uncompromising writer with an integrity all his own. Like his cousin, the artist Lee Lozano, who during the height of the feminist era, chose not to speak to women, Mark was a refusenik. He chose to do only what made meaning to him, whether playing the guitar for days on end, selling books he found within walking distance of his apartment on his online High Line Books, or collaborating with his partner, lighting designer Leni Schwendinger on light projects; their “Vacant Lots of Love” will be part of an upcoming book on New York community spaces.
It meant a lot to Mark to be part of Westbeth, and it is sad and ironic that this community, with its festering artistic preciousness, did him in, as his outwardness and perception eclipsed self-serving entitlement. Ultimately, his biochemical demons were too persistent to overcome and the perception and uplift he gave to others he was unable to give to himself.
I, like others, will miss him terribly — his lurid, lyrical extravagance, his broad sociopolitical, historical, emotional layerings, and most of all, his ever-present generosity. Mark often lost his phone but he always had my number.
(Poet and Friend of Mark Kramer)
LINKEDIN: “Mark Kramer died by suicide on July 18, 2011. Please honor him by learning more about bipolar disorder, suicide and creativity.
For more information, if you are a friend of Marks, or doing research on the subject above, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Rodger’s entry in Wikipedia reads like he wrote it, I guess this is his obituary.
Rodger Jacobs was brilliant, but his addictions strangled him.
He is survived by an ex-wife and a daughter.
Rodger’s blog is still online. Here are his final entries:
11/26/14: With no family to speak of, except for my estranged daughter, and no other options, including the funds for even a modest private meal, this is shaping up to be one of my least favorite Thanksgiving holidays in recent memory. I still have not come up with the thirteen-fifty I need to pick up the RX oral rinse at the pharmacy that my doc wants me to use to battle the healing oral infection I was plagued by (caused by prednisone, a potent steroid); which is to say, sure, I’ve had the money a couple of times this week but when it came down to a choice between food and prescriptions, this was another time when I opted for food instead.
And so it goes. I honestly beg your pardon if today’s missive comes across as self-pitying. I just wish that this year would go out without further kicks to the teeth, literally and metaphorically.
11/19/14: I have three new prescriptions, including a Z-Pak of antibiotics, to pick up at CVS today. They are urgently needed. The total is $19.63, which I do not have at all.
11/18/14: I have begun experiencing a common and painful side effect from long-term prednisone use: accelerated tooth decay. Corticosteroids, it turns out, inhibit the absorption of calcium and vitamin D; your system steals calcium from your teeth and redistributes it to your bones. I already have one possibly infected wisdom tooth, which my Medicaid dental coverage will not pay for. The three other wisdom teeth look like they have been drilled down from the center to the dental pulp, which is where the calcium is ripe for the picking.
So I just got back from the doc. I have to go on RX Vitamin D and calcium supplements, have a bone density scan, and see a rheumatologist to see if there’s anything else that can be done to arrest the swelling from my arthritis. Unfortunately, she said, tooth decay is the most common bad side effect of long-time prednisone use and it’s a trade-off that must be accepted. Now I have to scrounge up the money for my med co-pays this afternoon, if there is any money to scrounge up. Oh, and some scrambled eggs would be nice. A six-pack of eggs at the grocery store next to the CVS pharmacy is only $3.99.
11/16/14: Normally I do not go for New Year’s Eve celebrations but this year, in moderation, I will indeed ring out the old and ring in the new. 2014 has been the worst year on record for me: breaking up with Lela in December 2013; a herniated disc in my lower back in early January; the stroke on January 31; endless pre-surgical tests in February; surgery in late March; a long, long healing period; and navigating the treacherous waters of various social service agencies. It ain’t been easy, folks.
On the plus side, a producer friend with whom I have worked off and on since 1981 has commissioned a one-act play from me, based loosely on a short story he has under option. There’s not a lot of dough in the gig but it’s good to have a work-for-hire after a long dry spell.
I’m worried about how much longer I can maintain living alone (it’s been almost one year). Since the stroke and surgery I’ve been battling short-term memory loss. Earlier in the month I paid my internet bill twice because I forgot I had already taken care of the bill on November 3 when I got paid, as but one small example. Writing notes and memos to myself does not help because I forget where I put them.
I managed to pay for lamost all of my RX meds this month but my food stamp allotment has been spent and I badly need help with grocery funds. I have a loose molar in my lower left jaw and need to buy some easily chewed meal fixings like hamburger gravy, pasta, etc. My Maginot Line at Paypal remains the same: email@example.com
Thank you, and sorry for the long silence ….
11/25/14: And so …
It’s getting increasingly difficult to hang on. Continuing health issues (I have to see a cardiologist next week), dwindling resources, past due bills to manage, just barely, an inability to work at my previous capacity, which is the legal criteria for Social Security Disability, a lack of food several days a month … my doc wants me to see a therapist but what good is that going to do? Make me search for a silver lining? Like the social worker from Adult Protective Services said to me, “Well, at least you have a roof over your head.” Yeah, that and what fucking else?
I’m enrolled in every social service program imaginable but they are scant help. After I pay my rent on the first of the month I clear $200 for the balance of the month, which is not even enough to pay my utility bills, let alone groceries when my meager food stamp allotment runs out …
Great … just writing this is suddenly giving me chest pains, which is why I’m being sent to the cardiologist after the inconclusive tests at St. Vincent’s Medical Center last Saturday.
11/19/14: Tomorrow, Saturday, September 20, I am being readmitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital near downtown L.A. for “tests and observations”. My doc, whom I saw today, is greatly concerned over increasing bouts of vertigo, disturbances in my sleep patterns, and morning chest pains and nausea. Obviously they are looking at the cardiac system, even though I had a clean EKG in their office this afternoon. But, all in all, since the surgery in March I’ve felt like a bag of wet cement. She wanted me to be admitted today, Friday, but I refused because I had to get too many ducks in a row before I go to hospital.
The most important duck to be aligned is my cell phone. My new IHSS worker, Maria, insists on driving me to the hospital tomorrow morning or afternoon but I need to put airtime on my cell phone — a minimum of $15.00 — in order to call for a ride home when I am discharged and to phone Lela with check-ins and to request her presence if things get complicated. There are no phones in the rooms at St. Vincent’s, only in the private rooms, and when you’re on Medicare and Medicaid there’s no such thing as a private room.
So, basically, this is a hospital visit fundraiser for cell air time and, well, I’m going into the hospital with $7.00 remaining on my Paypal, nothing in the bank, and I’m certain there will be meds and things to purchase when I’m finally discharged. Any assistance that can be rendered can, as always, be remitted via my Paypal account at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, and see you on the other side.
8/15/14: Treading water here to try to come up with the balance that I owe the L.A. Department of Water and Power (I made a $42.00 payment a few days ago) but so far all I’m getting is waterlogged. Money coming in next week but that does me no good today, the cut-off day.
Today is D-Day, as in L.A. Department of Water and Power day. Yesterday I paid $42.00 on a pre-arranged payment of $142.00 and another small payment but now I am shy of fifty bucks to keep the lights and water turned on … never mind the fact that SoCal Gas shut me off in mid-February and I’ve had no hot water since then, nor a shower, just sponge baths in the sink.
8/11/14: I saw my neurologist on Thursday for my first post-surgical follow-up. I will not need another brain scan until the end of September. It turns out that the numbness in my incision scar may never vanish because, he said, a nerve had to be severed in order to access my carotid artery.
7/29/14: So, the assessor for the in-home nursing stopped by at 8:30 this morning to let me know that I have been approved for an additional and “unprecedented” third eight-week tour; after that, he promised me, “Medicare usually will not pay for additional care.” My nurse, Dorrie, is concerned about my bouts with post-surgical hypotension (low blood pressure) and my balance from the vertigo. I also start physical therapy twice a week beginning this week.
In the interim, I’m three days out from payday and 13 days until my next installment of food stamps and I am flat busted. Last night I had no dinner whatsoever and the only food I had all day was a cup of yogurt. I put out a mass e-mail yesterday afternoon and a few individual e-mails to friends and colleagues to no avail for the most part. If anyone out there can float me a tenner or a twenty via Paypal we can call it a loan if you like and I will reimburse you on Friday morning.
7/25/14: I’m typing this from the Edendale branch of the LA Public Library, next door to my doc’s office on Sunset. Yesterday, at noon sharp, my laptop lost the ability to imnterface with the internt provider’s modem. After spening hours on the phone with Time-Warner tech support it was determined that the issue was with my laptop and not with TWC’s equipment. The computer is at least four years old and had been running on a 2002 version of Microsoft Windows XP. The software must be updated and I do not have the funds to buy a software disc or, for that matter, and new/used laptop. So now I’m left to sit at home with no TV, a radio with scratchy interference, no one to talk to, no way to communicate to the outside world.
I get paid in nine days but until then I need help. Badly. I was summoned to the doc’s office this AM after last night’s BP reading by my in-home nurse revealed that my blood pressure is STILL too low. This has been an ongoing issue since my surgery on March 20. The doc wants to meat plenty of salted soups to see if that will bring my BP up to normal levels. I had an 87/70 reading last night. Anything under 100 is officially low blood pressure
After I send this out I will be heading home. I need to raise funds for soup, durable medical goods and, if the monies are there, a new version of Windows.
7/16/14: I may have mentioned this before but it turns out that my stroke in January was the result of a congenital defect; the three arteries on the left side of my head that carry blood to the brain are not fully developed and are “abnormally narrow” and subject to easier blockage. I’m still recovering from surgery (the doc said it would take considerable time); interestingly, he told me that prior to surgery commencing they put my brain “to sleep” so it wouldn’t “freak out” and bring on a stroke once the head was cut into.
7/10/14: As the six month mark approaches since my TIA (transient ischemic attack, or mini-stroke) I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has been so very supportive in my ongoing recovery. I would call you all out by name but the way my memory has been so faulty since that day, I know I would leave people out so better to remain silent but you know who you are.
Most of my social service programs have finally kicked in and my med co-pays at the pharmacy have dropped drastically. Niki, my IHHS worker, is looking into getting my food stamps bumped up from the measly $55.00 a month I was allotted.
During the period of February through May I did not deal with my utility bills as I could barely think straight. In March my hot water was shut off by So Cal Gas; a worker came and shut it off and left a notice on my door on the day I was receiving brain scans via MRI and CT Scans. Now I am facing another utility disaster. I need to raise $183.00 in the next five days (the 15th) or I will lose the lights and the water.
I’ve looked into several charitable organizations that provide relief for those on the verge of shut-off but there’s a huge problem: most, if not all, will not pay your past due amount, only your current due, and it’s the past due that got me in (no pun intended) hot water with L.A. DWP. I do not have $183 to my name and nowhere to borrow it from. If I lose my electric and water I may as well just pack up and move back into a motel, which will be far more expensive than the $500 a month I pay in rent here. I have applied for the low-income energy assistance program through DWP but it’s not retroactive, merely provides relief with your bills going forward. If someone can see their way toward loaning me the $183 I can pay it off in small increments over time via Paypal. I’m fairly desperate and worried.
Rodger couldn’t write much beyond begging the last two years of his life. I think I last read his blog about a year ago, found it unbearable, and I turned away.
August 19, 2016, I got some emails from another online acquaintance who I have never met in person:
It’s your old confidant Smiling Arab. Thought about you the other day when I heard that Rodger Jacobs died, then found your site was virtually invisible to Google.
I followed Rodger around the net for a few years — actually since that 2008 chat transcript you published. I have no idea why. For some reason his constancy in being on the verge of catastrophe at all times was soothing, like being condemned by the same crazy man on the train every day for 10 years or the same street preacher on your way to the office.
It was also interesting in the way that his field, which was of limited social use already went extinct underneath him. The Western world is now filled with people like this (and for some reason we’re importing more). A few years ago an economist called them the “Precariat,” but a recent essay came up with perhaps a more accurate term: “Unnecessariat.”
And then the Rashomon-like riddle of figuring out what really happened to him from what he wrote about it vs. others’ interactions with him. It’s not a great show but it’s probably better than another fucking comic book movie. His life would have made an interesting movie but I have a feeling he would have been shocked at how ridiculous he would be portrayed. You caught a lot of that in your post.
Anyway, always great to read you. I promise that when you die I’ll be much less creepy.
>Do you still follow porn?
Fun times! But you can’t go home again, as the line goes, and I say that understanding the implication that “home” was trolling overly sensitive Orthodox Jews in chat room.
Cancer? Not that I know of! Steady life, easy times. I think there’s a line in Mesa Selimovic — let me look it up — yes: “I am forty years old, an ugly age: one is still young enough to have dreams, but already too old to fulfill any of them.”
The circus around porn was always WAY more interesting. I stopped paying attention when you stopped writing about it.
I’ve kept up with you, though there are fewer confessionals (or they’re better hidden) than before. I missed, for instance, the departure from the hovel? Though that makes sense as I have seen the videos in which you have a Tony Randall episode about the LOUD NOISE.
Just to get back to Rodger for a minute, it’s interesting to me how all of these people insulted you, patronized you, tried to humiliate you and how many of them have not just died young but died in deplorable, harrowing circumstances? And you seem — if you’ll allow it — a grounded, pretty centered person at the end of it. You’re like the only person to come out of the meatgrinder in one piece.
A friend for 18 years reacts:
Just read your email re Roger Jacobs and read up on him. Very depressing. Such is life in America. Do you think it was the booze that brought him down, or was that a reaction to being brought low by life?
Rodger Jacobs was a bad boy writer. To the end, he practiced his vocation as though he were still living a time when editors plied writers with whiskey, generosity, and occasional emergency services. He wasn’t a good fit for the telemarketing-styled interactions they offer to-day. But that didn’t stop him from writing anything he wanted to write.
Rodger died alone in a one-room Echo Park carriage house apartment on Tuesday, July 5. (He called it a carriage house, but that was historical embellishment; the date is the coroner’s estimate; he was discovered by his landlord three days after that). Weeks later, the coroner still hasn’t released a cause of death; nobody has claimed the body.
His friends, donors, and even his various readers knew he had been dying for years. He was fifty-seven years old at the time of his death. Ironically, his long time partner, devoted editor, and dauntless caretaker, Lela Michael, with whom his life and career was much entwined, died fighting cancer in Lake County, California twenty-four days later.
One of the reasons I liked and befriended Rodger Jacobs—despite his enormously self-destructive streak, his crippling insouciance, his obvious wrong-footing of any obstacle set before him, his addict’s denial, his Herculean efforts at shirking self-sufficiency—was that I identify all those traits as honest writerly traits from a time when writing was less careerist, less corporate than it is today. These are the traits that once kept writers inert enough, even from their patrons, to be honest and incisive when making a diagnosis. Rodger could not be told what to do nor what to write nor what to say nor what to think; gifts, donations, or assistance of any kind won no favor with him.