"Painful to live in fear, isn't it?"
- Blade Runner

The Memorial Service Trip

click to read Diary of a Weekend

Well, this is the second installment of my periodic rants and raves. In between trying to conduct my video business, keeping my 12 year old daughter in line and life in general, once in a blue moon I'll have some time to ramble here. Try to follow along ...

This time around my rantings are going to revolve around my last trip to California, the one that took place just last weekend. I'm going to skip the nightmare FIRST trip to California for now and outline this past trip, where the plan was to gather in Malibu on September 25th, 1999 for a memorial tribute for Brion by his friends and colleagues. The plan was for all the people who have worked with Brion in the past to gather and pay tribute at a spot in Malibu close to his heart, a place on the water called Point Dume.

I arrived at Palm Springs airport Friday afternoon, Sept. 24th, got into my rental car and proceeded to drive out to Beaumont. Of course, along the way, I stopped here and there to shoot some video footage of some of the most awesome desert surroundings and the "windmills" along the road used apparently to produce electricity, neither of which you'll ever see here on the East Coast.

By the time I arrived in Beaumont I had decided that it was better to once again stay at the fabulous Best Western instead of the family house where I had been invited for the duration of my stay. But, just the thought of me spending my usual time in the bathroom would have frightened the bejesus out of poor Chet and I thought it was best to just have my own space while there and not crowd those innocent folks.

Had a perfectly ordinary day in Beaumont for the remainder of Friday, noticing the many people lined up along Beaumont Avenue waiting for the Homecoming Parade to swing by, something you'll NEVER see in my town of New Milford, CT ... We only do bonfires here ... Talked to Chet a couple of times on the phone and we agreed to meet up Saturday afternoon to ride up early to Malibu and get settled in our rooms for the night before heading to the memorial.

Friday night came and went ... in bed early due to the time difference between the two coasts. Awakened at 4:30 Saturday morning, raring to go but ... there was nowhere to go at that hour. So, I took a shower and, HORRORS! I watched the Ryder Cup competition from 5 A.M until the time I left. Golf??!! I NEVER watch golf, don't even play the game. But this one was different; I was definitely glued to the set all morning.

It's now Saturday afternoon and after I pigged out on everything listed on the breakfast menu at the diner next door, Chet, Cindy and Ian, Chet's son took the lead on the road with me following behind. We made it to Pomona where all of a sudden Chet's van decided to do a "Roll over and play dead" routine and it died on the highway. Luckily, we had decided to take the two vehicles up there so everyone piled into my rental and after seeing the van safely over to the Dodge dealership, we headed back out towards Malibu. In the meantime, Chet had been placing calls to the "hostess" of this shindig to let her know that we were running a bit late but all we got was the answering machine. A bit strange, since this was to go off in about an hour. No matter. Off we went.

We arrived at Chet's hotel of choice for the night in Santa Monica and I left them, intending to go to my own hotel. Well ... it was quite a bit further away than I had calculated and knew that I would have to check in after the service, with time running out.

Alrighty ... here I am at my destination in Malibu, nerves intact and ready to meet all these California people. The first thing I noticed, right next to our hostess's house was a trailer park community. Sure, you say, so what, I've seen millions of 'em but this was different from any I've seen before. This one had an electronic gate with a guard at the entrance...very upscale trailer park, with luxurious abodes. I was told that they also have these in parts of Florida too. Here in Connecticut, this sort of thing is unheard of. Hey, we're proud of our trailer trashers, I mean treasures. We have floods in our trailer parks from the storms we get.

I enter the house, feeling a bit self-conscious, but am greeted with a big smile by our hostess Marie and her son Gabriel and the rest of the attendees already present. There was Randala, who in November of '98 directed Brion in the independent film "Phoenix Point", shot around The Salton Sea near Palm Springs. In this movie, she explained, Brion had played the role of Spyder Rico, a failed movie director turned cult cannibal leader. Hopefully, we'll be hearing many raves about this film if it plays Cannes.... I understand that there is also a soundtrack for the film's music as well.

Patrick and Ash, close friends of Brion's who I had met previously the month before at the service in Beaumont were there and about 20 or so other unfamiliar faces. Rae Dawn Chong arrived with child and friend and was as pleasant as could be. Others arrived; my buddy, fine actor William Smith and Joanne, his right hand and left-brained woman of his too. Boy, was I glas to see them! Apparently, Chet hadn't seen Bill in about twenty years so it was a bit of a reunion for them. For me, it was just great to see them! Also present was my great new friend Jessie Lilley, an East Coast transplant who is a publicist in the L.A. area and her compadre, RON ... the infamous record reviewer "in the know". Better never let him get his hands on MY band's live material ... could be lethal.

Jeeeeeeeez, thank God these two were there ... I really needed a kindred New Yorkian spirit there and Jessie was the one who was able to provide me with that security blanket.

Soon, there was a deafening quiet in the room, all the while a silent version of Blade Runner played in the background. Randala began the service with some heartfelt words and a minute of silence in honor of Brion. After, we gathered to drive over to Point Dume, a short distance away where we would offer our final group tribute to Brion.

When we were all together, the service began with Marie, offering words of hope, comfort and support, as well as providing the voice of optimism for the future. A few others spoke, including his friend Nick and, of course, Chet. I had been videotaping some of the events and turned the camera on Chet as he spoke. Turning off the light, I filmed him in a silhouette image of the darkening day and he looked positively surreal as he spoke.

It's a difficult thing to watch a man struggle with his emotions, trying to keep them in check so as to not lose control in front of others. He did struggle and he lost that battle, fighting back tears as he recalled the sometimes funny but always touching memories of his brother and family from days past. He said the important thing was to remember Brion for all he was and all that he had done and that we'd forever have him with us: in movies, on television and in our hearts. He talked about Brion's love for his nephew Ian and how proud he was of all his accomplishments. That in itself touched every one of our hearts.

When Chet finished speaking, he and Ian walked a few steps below, closer to the water to spread his ashes over the place that Brion called home: the water. As he let the last of Brion's physical remains scatter over the Pacific Ocean, his ashes seemed to have a mind of their own and changed direction with the wind. While the drums were beating and a wind instrument was playing, the ashes came right at me and the camera, unmistakable in the footage. An eerie feeling if there ever was one, almost as if Brion had this all planned.

After Chet had finished I turned the camera over to an unidentified person (it was dark!) and went down below to around where Chet had been. I brought with me some fireworks to set off in his honor; to go out "with a bang", so to speak. Brion would have loved that. While I set up the "ammunition", people were still speaking and reminiscing and I heard "Happy Birthday Brion" being shouted by all above me. I set off the fireworks and it went perfectly ... it shot straight up in the air and exploded in a dazzling array of color! As we all cheered, the music began again and the service had come to an end.

We met back at Marie's house once again and by then, Cliff Morrison had weakly managed to get out of his sick bed and make the trip. He said that as he was driving up, he was able to see the fireworks go off and knew they were for Brion.

All in all, a nice tribute by his friends in the Malibu area, along with some of us strays. I AM a bit disappointed that more of his colleagues from his films were not notified of this memorial service and were obviously missing in action. I do think this could have been handled a bit differently.

I stayed for a bit longer at the house and then said my goodbyes to all. I wanted some time to myself and I still hadn't checked into my hotel room, which I mentioned before was further away than I had anticipated.

I fell asleep early and woke up the next day at around 5 A.M. Hey, I was still on East Coast Time so it was easy to go to sleep earlier than usual and get up early. I checked out of the hotel by ten and started making my way back to Beaumont, where I was to hook back up with Chet that afternoon. Once again, I took my sweet time getting there, stopping periodically to record some of the scenery with my trusty videocamera. Arrived back in Beaumont on Sunday, around 2 P. M. and checked back into the luxurious Best Western, chatted a while with my buddy Shawn, and then went to my room to catch up on some NFL football.

I also replayed the previous night's video that day and I heard for the first time what I had missed the the night before while I was below, setting up the fireworks. A female voice who I could not identify was speaking about hearing spirits and talking to spirits and something about her "third eye". "Third eye"?! What the HELL is that?!

Just a little too weird to this former "New Yawker". I suppose I'm from the old school that says if you can't see it, it ain't there. Then, I remembered, when everyone was yelling out "Happy Birthday" to Brion, I was thinking to myself, "Hmmm, why are they saying that? Brion's birthday was in February". Oh well. I don't think I'll ever understand the ways of the people on the West Coast.

Chet rang later that day and said to come on over. We met up at the house and I went through a bunch of publicity stills and family photos, all of which Chet was kind enough to either lend me or give me. You will soon see those images on this Web site and I cannot thank Chet enough for his generousity. I also took the remainder of Brion's ashes with me, to set off here on the East Coast, at my house where Brion would have visited had he come out this month as we discussed.

Well, here we are, once again in the wonderful city of New York, airport of LaGuardia, headed for home. I have a sore throat and a NASTY cough and I SWEAR, it's from Brion's ashes coming at me during the service on Saturday! As I write this, it is now Friday, October 2nd and I'm still coughing like a banshee. I'm telling you, this is his way of getting the last word in ...

I think we'll end this "chapter" here. It doesn't appear as if I'll have any real compelling reasons to return to California anytime in the near future and I'm happy for those small treats in life. Thanks, but I'll take the East Coast mentality anytime, even with the shitty winters here ...

Another chapter soon to follow, and THAT one will be my woeful tale of "Every-Nightmare-Known-To-Mankind-That-Could-Have-And-Did-Happen" on my original trip to California ...