In the final weeks of the longest live-in relationship of my life (three months in Orlando during the summer of 1993), my partner pushed me to try the drug recommendation of her psychiatrist Daniel Golwyn — nardil aka phenelzine — to help me out of my bedridden Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
According to Wikipedia: “Phenelzine is used primarily in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). Patients with depressive symptomology characterized as “atypical”, “nonendogenous”, and/or “neurotic”, have been reported to respond particularly well to phenelzine. The medication has also been found to be useful in patients who do not respond favorably to first and second-line treatments for depression, or are said to be “treatment-resistant”. In addition to being a recognized treatment for major depressive disorder, phenelzine has been found in studies to be effective in treatingdysthymia, bipolar depression (BD), panic disorder (PD), social anxiety disorder (SAD),bulimia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
I did go on Nardil and within hours I started feeling better. During the last three months of 1993, I moved out from my dissolving relationship and gained 30 pounds, moving to 160 on my 6′ frame.
On Super Bowl weekend 1994, I met my hero Dennis Prager in person for the first time. He said that if I ever lived in LA, he might have work for me.
I moved to LA in March. The job fell through when Dennis and his assistants quickly saw there was something wrong with me, something off, something broken, something discordant with ethical monotheism.
I started leafing through the classified ads in the LA Weekly looking for work. There were all these pitches for actors and models (most of them were scams I found out later). I was titillated and answered many of them.
I got an agent (Debbie Durkin) and she sent me out on modeling and acting auditions, none of which amounted to anything. But I had Hollywood fever.
Debbie required her actors to take her astronomically expensive acting workshops (about $1500 for two days). On one, I started pushing this guy around in a scene until the teacher told me to stop. “I don’t want to see your pretty face get smashed in,” she said. “Never touch anyone in a scene without getting permission first.”
I knew the odds were astronomically against me making a living as an actor or a model, but I loved going to classes and meeting hot chicks. There was sex in the air.
Hollywood seemed full of hunters and prey. What made it different from the outside world was that the prey — the hot chicks — didn’t mind being prey and even seemed to enjoy getting plundered, particularly if it offered an opportunity to get ahead.
In my classes, the hot women used their bodies and charms to get the attention of the teachers, casting directors, agents, managers and producers who came our way and in turn, these men in power bestowed their time and interest most generously on those who turned them on.
This was the way of the Hollywood jungle and I was turned on.
My lack of power and my commitment to Judaism prevented me from being too predatory, but I was fascinated by the naked pursuit of sex.
Acting is physical work and I found it was not uncommon to go to bed with your scene partner. When people all around you are doing it, it becomes easier for even the most awkward and uncool — me! — to get in on the action. All you had to do was to show up.
I slept with more women (about two dozen) during the year I pursued acting than the rest of my life put together. And most of that time, I was sick and homeless and broke.
I’m profoundly affected by my environment. When I’m around Orthodox Jews, I act like an Orthodox Jew. Around Hollywood types, I go Hollywood.
Even the religious people I knew in Hollywood didn’t mind sampling the booty. It was just taken for granted that creativity required and supplied new sex partners.
By this time, heterosexual AIDS had proven to be a myth.
I was fascinated by the interplay between porn and Hollywood. Many porny types came to acting classes to try to go legit. They dressed provocatively and complained about sexual harassment and engaged in crazy sex with men who might help them get ahead.
I never packed enough voltage to show up on their radar. I was just a sympathetic ear.
I worked as an extra on one music video. During a break, I saw this attractive girl I knew, a married stripper, sitting in a miniskirt on a ledge in front of this black guy she’d just met, and her legs were so spread I can never forget the image. I was going to give them both a ride home and who knows what hijinks would’ve occurred but something came up and I went home alone.
On the shoot, I met this Japanese woman. She called me afterwards. She said she wanted to come by and just lie down with me. Not sex. Just lie down.
So she came over and she just lay down with me. Afflicted with CFS, I lay with my arms around her and tried nothing. After about an hour, she got up and gave me a ride to Westwood where I was to meet a first date at a restaurant.
We get a table and order drinks and I tell my date I have no money and can she pick up the tab? She does. And then she gives me a ride home.
I was 27. I was broke, sick, frightened, striving to make my way in a new city, and bedazzled by all the sex going on all around me.
I took my first acting class in June 1994 (I had taken one theater class in college in 1987). The class cracked up when I tried to act. No matter what role I got, they said I always played it like a serial killer. I just came across as crazy intense and I had this frightening way of staring at people.
The percentage of women in acting who responded passionately to me was no higher than about 2%, the same as my percentage in the wider world. The difference was that in the acting world I was constantly meeting hot chicks while in the wider world, after college, that takes special circumstances.
One of the smartest things I did was to try to make a documentary on what women want. I placed casting notices in Dramalogue and received hundreds of resumes. Then I held interviews at my apartment in Beverly Hills during the summer of 1995. I bought video cameras, used them for just under a month, and then returned them for full refunds.
I knew this was unethical but I was desperate to get ahead.
I scored with two of the sixty plus women I interviewed (one was hot, Francesca!).
I remember she invited me — a producer! — to her showcase.
Afterward, we stood and talked in the parking lot. I probably went on and on about my conversion to Judaism and then I slipped my hand into her shirt.
“Isn’t that against the rules?” she asked.
I said it was but I was overcome by passion. We made out. I wanted to go home with her but she said no. So we went our separate ways and then talked on the phone into the early morning. She said she was having all these sexual thoughts about me but she didn’t want me to come over.
The next night, she invited me over to help her hang some curtains. It seemed like a total pretext to me but then it took a lot of talking and maneuvering — exhausting! I have CFS — before we finally lay on the couch and made out and finally one thing led to another and I didn’t go home until morning.
After attending the Synagogue of the Performing Arts on Friday night, I went back to her apartment but she had friends over and I felt miffed by the lack of exclusive access to her.
I never got lucky with her again.
In March 1995, I moved in with a guy I met at the Westwood Chabad and he gave me free rent in exchange for helping him with a movie script. Whenever this guy went out, he scored. He often brought women home and once or twice, I got the leftovers.
I became friends with one woman he dated and when we finally hooked up, she told me my roommate had tried to rape her.
A largely secular Jew, he started going to the Kabbalah Centre, stopped screwing around, and moved to Jerusalem and became Haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jew).
We parted ways May 31, 1996. I didn’t realize it then but my promiscuous days, my acting days, were behind me. From now on, my primary work would be writing, and that would be largely solitary labor with few hot chicks around to soothe my furrowed brow.
During difficult economic times in the last half of 1996, first half of 1997, I worked temp jobs where I found the office atmosphere was not nearly as welcoming of sexual play as Hollywood.
I remember I went to one job wearing my black velvet yarmulke. I reviewed and signed the pages of job etiquette they gave me.
Then I get in this room with a woman to help with dictation. When she crawls under my desk to plug in my machine, I look at her ass and say, “It’s a good thing I’m a man of holiness or I’d take advantage of this situation.”
The boss happened to walk by at the time and I got fired on the spot.
I lost another job at an insurance company in Century City for using the fax and photocopier for personal business (for this book I was writing on the history of sex in film).
I get reprimanded on another job (at a hospital on Vermont and Sunset) for working on my book on their computers. I also handed out a copy of the one porn movie I directed in January 1996 and got into trouble for that. Needless to say, I wore a yarmulke every day into work and wouldn’t labor on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays.
Doing bad things while wearing a yarmulke and making Jews look bad is about the worst thing you can do according to Judaism. And I was doing it in spades and knowing I was doing it the whole time and hating myself the whole time and trying to make it better.
At a printing company on Santa Monica Blvd, I showed around a copy of this same movie I directed and the fat Christian lady working next to me got me fired.
At temple I had my eye on this ravishing but wholesome Persian woman who attended the University of Judaism. Her whole family came to the synagogue. During a conversation with her dad, I mentioned I was writing a book on sex in film. He said he wanted to see it. So I gave him a hundred pages. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well, and whenever I see this woman, this woman I dreamed about for years would one day be my wife, she always asks me about the porn film I directed — that classic What Women Want.
It’s not the worst thing I’ve done, but it is definitely the most embarrassing. I hate it when people bring it up to me when women are around. Then I wish the ground to open up and swallow me.
I bought my first real computer July 3, 1997 and within an hour of bringing it home, I had my first website up on AOL (under the email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, it means two together create light, and I got it from the woman who told me my roommate had tried to rape her). Over the next few months, I lost the account for violating AOL’s terms of service by posting sexually explicit ads for porn sites.
So I signed up with the account email@example.com, an account I hold to this day, but when I emailed my family under this address, they for some reason always replied to firstname.lastname@example.org and I never got these emails. Because of this I thought for a couple of years (until May 1999) that my family had disowned me. I obviously thought I deserved to be disowned.
I’m frightened by the way the world can read my thoughts. I’ve thought for years that because of the sundry yucky things I’ve done, many of which are elaborated here, I deserved to be shunned. Then I was shocked and hurt when people picked up on this and treated me accordingly.
I guess I don’t see the world as it is. I see the world as I am. And that’s the most frightening thing of all. The knowledge that other people are as flawed as I am, but in different ways, makes me want to stay home alone.