RUNAWAYS When I was a teen I ran away from home. Not “Climbing out the bedroom window in the middle of the night” runaway. I wanted to drop out of my senior year, skip graduating, skip college, skip getting a job, and instead follow my heart to Hollywood California. Forever! It took some arguments, but my folks talked me into at least graduating. Then I could spend my graduation money on a one way ticket outta here. No one was going to change my mind. My mom even sent me to her therapist to talk me out of it. After a couple visits she told my mom, “He’s fine. You’re gonna hafta let him do it” or something to that effect. To which my mom left the state to stay with her mother so she wouldn’t hafta be around when I split.
That sorta runaway.
1988 was my graduating year. I was still a virgin in pretty much every way. A bored, frustrated teenager in a dull suburb of Denver – Lakewood, Colorado. And I wanted OUT. My self esteem was at a dismal low. I was barely going to graduate, and there was only one shining smile in my life that lit up my heart whenever her name was spoken. Erika.
She and I had been friends our whole lives. When we were little in Wisconsin for several years, and then later when both our families ended up in Colorado. High school was going to be the first time though that we ever attended the same school. I was so excited about this. We both were! She was the sweetest, prettiest girl to me. That’s really all it took.
It was at this time I was discovering punk rock. I took a picture of Sting into SuperCuts and got my hair spiked. I was finding out about all sorts of new bands while fantasizing about being a punk rocker just like what I saw in the movies. My life at the time was nothing at all punk rock. And I idolized Erika. She was into the scene I wanted to be in at our school. Or better said, They knew of her! Erika became a legend there.
At least amongst the punks & wavers at Bear Creek High 87-88. And deservedly so. She would come to school with some of the most outrageous, imaginative fashion statements I’d ever seen. She was hanging out with real city punk rockers too, with 3 foot mohawks and ten inch fingernails. Like this guy, Deragos who had a huge hawk, and Barbie heads hanging from his spiked leather jacket! Serious shit for that suburb.
She was the first in our school to pierce her nose. She pierced her own nose, during class! Half a dozen piercings on each ear. She dyed her hair and shaved her eye-brows. She even had a pet rat she brought to school and let crawl around in her sleeves. She once showed up to school in a hospital gown with lines drawn on her face like she was insane. But at the same time she was the sweetest, friendliest person you could ever hope to meet. Smiles and nice things was all I saw when I saw her.
Then she ran away, for real. During our junior year, her and this loser guy, Skyler jumped in a beater car and fled to Hollywood to be punk rockers, Suburbia style. In this town news of her escape swept across the scene. Every time anyone was around they’d ask me,
“Have you heard from Erika? How’s she doing? Anything at all about Erika?”
They all genuinely cared about this girl who was so strange and sweet, then just disappeared.
She did return though. She didn’t stay with Skyler long, and early into my senior year, she came back to visit. She wanted me to join her in this adventure. We’d written back and forth a few times so she understood how I was suffocating.
Mind you, Erika had no idea the size crush I had on her. Or that I even had one at all. We were friends. Best friends for all she knew, and to be fair that’s all I ever led her to believe. I was very safe. Our family had always felt safe. And she wanted to bring some of that feeling back with her, if she could just talk me into it.
I arrived in LA June 13, 1988 on a midnight flight. I walked out of the gate at LAX and this guy looking like Slash from Guns & Roses comes right up to me saying, “You gotta be Bob! I’m Mark, Erika’s boyfriend. We’re gonna take you to where she’s at!”
This was the very first I’d ever heard of Mark.
So I followed him out to the street where Tiina (Erika’s roommate) had a car running.
“The breaks in this are completely shot, so hold on!” Tiina warned. Then every time she needed to stop or slow down she’d slam the brake pedal hard as she could on the floor, and maybe steer into the curb, or bump up against something like a sign, or the car in front of her to fully stop. Then she and Mark would both turn, look at me and laugh.
Whenever anyone asks me “What was LA like then?” There ya go.
Erika waitressed the graveyard shift at the Denny’s on Sunset & Gower Gulch. When these two somehow managed to get me there, Erika, in her brown uniform was all smiles. I got a great big hug, a dozen questions, and even more compliments from her. But most importantly, her adoration. Plus she told me anything on the menu that didn’t need the kitchen I could eat for free! Seeing her changed everything. I decided I could do this “pretend to be only friends” thing, as long as she’s nearby.
That night at Denny’s, there was this raggedy dressed woman in a nearby booth coughing, and gagging, and throwing a fit over her table of scattered plates. She kept coughing, and more coughing, yet everyone was ignoring her.
“CALL AN AMBULANCE!” She would scream. She was gagging hysterically while the waiter was standing there with the check, unmoved. This went on with everyone in the restaurant trying to ignore her. Eventually an ambulance pulled up. She made a bit of a scene there on the floor at my feet before they got her out completely and into the truck.
“She does that so she doesn’t have to pay. Works every time.” Erika explained.
That’s how it all began.
Erika & Tiina had a two-bedroom off Hollywood Blvd up a ways on Ivar. I had a sleeping bag on the floor in a corner of Erika’s room, while she & Mark slept in its walk-in closet. Just enough room for a mattress on the floor and a desk lamp in there.
Tiina’s room was the entryway living room. But while I was staying she spent most evenings at her boyfriend’s. In her room there was a coat closetdecorated inside with Christmas lights, art, drawings on the wall, and a mattress closed off by a mirrored sliding door. She let me sleep in there when she was away. Her room also had the TV.
Besides that, I don’t think there was even one piece of furniture in the whole apartment. Mostly just empty rooms with white walls and desklamps on the floor, a couple fans, and various stuffed animals scattered around. The kitchen at the end of the hallway did have a table littered with old pizza boxes, and a litter of kittens that’d just been born underneath.
None of this mattered to me though. The fact that I was here with Erika was enough. A routine for me actually started right off. Sleepin’ during the day, and wakin up about nighttime. Then I’d go to Denny’s so I could walk her home when her shift ended at 2AM. I’d go from Ivar to Hollywood to Vine to Sunset in the wee hours. These walks were always eventful.
One time, from across the street, I saw two guys trying to smash a giant cement block through a storefront. The cage was pulled down, but these guys repeatedly picked up this giant block and hurled it into the cage. It’d make a loud crashing noise, but little else. They did this until I strolled out of view. They didn’t even notice me.
I was being regularly propositioned by men from their automobiles on these dark, empty streets. Station wagons, and 4-door sedans would slow way down next to me with the driver’s side window down just a crack, “Hey! Hey Pretty! Are you available? Wanna get in? How much?”
They were best described as “suburban dad” types. Mark told me “Just shout FUCK OFF! as loud as you can and act crazy. These guys are all cowards and they’ll run.”
He was right. They’d speed off, seemingly panicked. Mark gave me a lot of good advice on how to handle myself on the streets there.
Mark was a Mexican rocker dude from East LA. Erika had met him just before I arrived. Tiina knew him already because he sold them acid, more than once.
He was often mistaken for a Cholo or a Suicidal, but he wasn’t part of any gang. He both sold & consumed a lot of drugs. Pot, acid, crack, pills, beer. He’d take whatever people handed him. He had a habit of locking himself in that closet so he could smoke crack. He made it very clear to all of us to never disturb him if he was in there with the door shut.
He certainly seemed dangerous. He had a look and an attitude that projected aggression. But the truth, he was ready to sacrifice his own wellbeing for anyone he really cared about. I don’t think Mark actually put much value on himself at all. There were multiple times when he jumped in to protect both Erika & me in some pretty dangerous situations. I drew a whole comic (bottom of page) of the time he stood up to skinheads and took a knife to the stomach for me. Probably saved my life, actually. Trip to Emergency, for sure.
One of my first nights there however, Mark was drunk and they got into an argument about basically Erika liking me more than him. He started yelling at her. And the second she looked scared I burst out “You better not yell at her! You may beat me but I’ll fight!” or something to that measure. To which he ended up breaking down crying and taking a couple walks around the block. Then when he came back he made it clear to me, to Erika and I both that he’d never do that again.
He told me later he respected I did that, and over the next couple weeks we became friends. It wasn’t unusual for me to get woke by him singing a song on his guitar, “Bob, woah Bob, woooooah Bob, Bob. won’t you wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and smoke a joint with me Bob.” It’s on a cassette. He recorded himself over one of my mix tapes.
And then the other time he yelled out his love for me was when he was really drunk and high then he smashed the beer bottle over his head to prove it. Took him three cracks to finally break that glass bottle on his head, but he did it, because that’s the kind of guy he was.
I was drawing through all of this. I drew while I was waiting for Erika at Denny’s. I drew while I was waiting for Erika at the apartment. I even drew at a coffeeshop, waiting for Erika. But I didn’t use a sketchbook. Too expensive, and preppy! Strictly scrap pieces of paper. Like note cards, paper bags, backs of old documents. Throwaway stuff like that.
And I kept it all in a manila folder I found at their apartment. It was blank when I got it, and I never drew on it again once I left. In fact, I think Mark drew a couple of those devils on the back.
The psycho clowns on the other hand, are all me all day long.
DRUNK DRIVER Steve was in a band with Mark, but really the only reason Steve was around was so the girls could mooch his pickup truck. Since Tiina’s ride lacked breaks, Steve was the way to get around. But driving anywhere was always a last resort because the freeways in LA are hell. Traffic and traffic jams that went on forever. And once at the tail end of one of these blistering jams, at a dead stop, in the middle of the day, we got rear ended by a drunk driver.
• Diary entry June 25, Friday, 1988, 4:14AM – 4 days ago we’re driving in Steve’s truck on the freeway. I was in the back of the pickup and I saw another truck racing towards and they were going to hit us. They didn’t hit the breaks ’till they were about 100 ft away and they bounced off a VMW at about 40 mph and nailed us. She (the driver) was drunk and no one with us was hurt. Oh! But Erika hurt her jaw and it was a mess.
I still have the white paint mark from Steve’s truck on my leather jacket where I slammed down. The lady stumbled out and she had a guy with her. They were both drunk dumping their beer cans off the side of the road. Then they tried to get away and bystanders had to catch them. But we didn’t get to see all that because Erika and I were in the back of an ambulance headed to Emergency. We both had minor injuries. They checked us for whiplash and taped up our scratches. Then when time came for us to leave, the staff started hassling us for not having insurance, and being unable to pay. I remember they threatened me saying, “If you walk out on this bill it’s going to ruin your credit forever!”
LA liven’ was starting to wear me down.
DEALING IN LA My initial plan was for this move to be permanent. Erika and I envisioned ourselves getting jobs on a movie set. Then, while working on movies, one of us was sure to get discovered and our celebrity after that was pretty much inevitable. We had many exciting discussions on how easily all this would transpire once I got there. “That’s how Johnny Depp was discovered!” we sang. But in reality 10 days into this trip and I was already running out of cash. Going to shows, and food, and souvenirs, my inability to manage money, and Iggy Pop merch, that dream I once dreamt wasn’t coming true. I was down to just $60 and doing absolutely nothing towards getting a job despite the opportunities I was being offered nightly on my walks to Denny’s. It became obvious this trip was not going to be just one way.
I also couldn’t get enough time with Erika, when it’s just us hanging out and thinkin’ up stuff to do. There was always some wild friend demanding attention, or someone bleeding on the doorstep. And Mark needed her attention too. It was more than she could manage, I’m sure.
Then news got to me that Iggy was playing a show next month. The 9th of July at Scream. Tiina’s boyfriend Luey said he was friends with Iggy’s son and would have no problem getting us all on the guest list. Hell, we’d probably even get to go backstage and meet him. I mean, it’s Iggy Pop’s son! All I had to do was just think of a way to survive long enough to make this show. After that I would start planning my return home.
And again, with his streetwise, it was Mark who had a suggestion on what to do. He said it’d be easy for him to turn my $60 into $600, and we all knew what he was talking about. Erika was completely opposed and didn’t want any part of this. There was an argument. But I was confident in Mark’s plan. Our plan! So I told her, “I take full responsibility if something goes wrong. Cross my heart.”
It would be just Mark and me. So I cashed my last 3 traveler’s checks and gave it to Mark. I really wanted to see Iggy Pop.
Cherokee Ave was the street to buy & sell drugs. Right near there was a little coffeeshop. All I had to do was spend the day there drawing with my bag filled with these individually wrapped packets of weed he’d divided up. There were A LOT of these packets. Mark stuffed my bag. So stuffed it was bulging! He laughed telling me, “No one in a million years will suspect you’re sitting in here with this.”
I didn’t spike my hair or punk myself out. I wanted to look like a noob. And for the record, it wasn’t an act. I did no drinking or drugs the whole time there. I didn’t do them anywhere in my life. Not even so much as smokin a joint with Mark. It’s the one thing I promised myself about that trip. No drugs!
THE DEAL I sat against the wall in the back corner across from the restroom. Hardly anyone there. I ordered a club sandwich (that’s all I ever ordered in a place like this) and nursed a Coke while I drew pictures of punk things all day.
I had a whole head-trip goin’ on.
– Livin’ a punk lifestyle. Undercover. In this coffeshop. With my club sandwich.
Mark told me, “Be sure to keep the strap of the bag wrapped around your ankle, and if you go to the bathroom take it with you” because that’s just what you should always do with your bag in the city. Good advice. I’ve been doing it ever since.
So, he would pop in from time to time to use their restroom, then sit down and pretend to talk to me for a minute. He’d put his hand on the table, out of view from anyone else, with his fingers showing me 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.
I was to then go into my bag, put that many packets in a napkin and set it on the table in front of me, while he’d be sipping my goddamn Cokacola every-time!
Then he’d take the weed-napkin with him, and after awhile return with a cash-napkin, and however many more fingers. We did this all afternoon. From 11 in the morning to 7:00 at night. A full 8 hour day, back and forth, with lots of time to detail my drawings in between.
Credit where credit’s due, Mark’s plan worked perfectly. Before long my bag was stuffed with bills instead of weed. $600 worth of dirty, wrinkled, wadded up clumps of cash. The whole plan went without a hitch. Dinner was on me. That’s all the payment he required. He wanted me to hang around too.
This meant I was also going to get to see Iggy after all! So the next day I went out to the Army Surplus on Hollywood Blvd and bought a brand new field jacket! Then I called my folks who bought me a plane ticket so I could come home right after the Iggy Pop concert on the 9th. Just two more weeks in LA.
A few days after that I’m at the apartment and Mark calls. He tells me, “Bob. There’s a bag in the closet. I need you to put it in your jacket and bring it over to me at the 7/11. Don’t look in it. Just put it in your jacket and come to 7/11. Ok?”
The way he said it made it sound so simple. And I couldn’t deny what he just did for me. So I found the bag, didn’t look in it, put it in my coat pocket and walked out the front door. As I headed down the sidewalk these two men in suits were there, saw me and started walking towards me. Me with my leather coat and ripped jeans, and the bag. They came right up to me, showed me their badges and asked if I could let them in that building I’d just exited. I was like, “Yeah, sure.” And I walked them back to our building, unlocked the door with my key and let them in. As I turned to leave I saw them go upstairs, but we lived downstairs. When I got to 7/11 Mark came out all panicked, “Did you see two guys in suits out front of our building?”
After I told him what happened he sighed with relief and laughed, “I thought they looked like cops! That’s why I called you. To get this out of Erika’s apartment!”
Get this. The package I had in my jacket was weed.
A chill went up my spine when I realized how close this all came to disaster. And the cops I let in our building? No idea what happened with them either.
When Erika found out about all of this, Mark was out. That was the last I saw of him ever again.
Erika, Tiina and I went on my birthday to see Roger Rabbit at the Cinerama Dome. I wrote a whole page in my diary about it being so much better than Beetlejuice and how much fun I had hanging out with them. Went to Ed Debevic’s for burgers and shakes and Tiina introduced me to The Sugarcubes “Birthday” declaring it my song that I have to listen to every 6/24. God, I loved Tiina too. Hanging with them both was the highlight of the trip.
Any time I had with Erika I was content. The only thing I really wanted was more, but it seemed impossible to hold on to her.
I never got to that show. Luey could never track down Iggy’s son (if he knew him at all), and tickets sold out quick. He told us he’d left a message on the guy’s machine to put us all on the guest list. We even drove to Scream that night to see if our names were there, or if there was any other way of getting in. Didn’t work.
Best part though was afterwards we found out Mark got in to see that show. He just talked his way in there somehow.
The next day Erika, Tiina & Steve drove me to the airport.
Diary entryJuly 11, Monday 5:22AM 1988 – Tonight I leave LA. Good riddance! I’ll miss a lot of people, Erika of course, and Tiina and more, but then there are some who I won’t miss at all. I’ll be happy to get back. No one will be home and I’ll have some privacy at least. 🙂I might move in with my brother after I get back and I get settled. I missed Iggy, but I’m telling everyone I saw him. It will save a lot of headaches. A lot has happened and I’ll never forget it. What an experience! And I made it through alive!
I told everybody I went to that show. I’ve maintained that lie until just now. I apologize. At the time it felt like such a failure on my part. I’ve gotten to see him since, so don’t feel bad for me. Sorry I lied.
When I was reading my diary for this I was stunned to figure out I’d been there for under a month. June 13 – July 11. It felt like months! I’d told so many people I was there for a couple months. And the more I told it, the longer I thought it must have been. Just over 3 weeks. Unbelievable.
This trip formed me. Patterns I’ve had my whole life were beginning then. Like running from one city to a bigger city. Patterns in my love life for sure. And going to coffee shops to draw, and to write, and to do other stuff. My love for that started there. Hell, I wrote this whole goddamn story in a coffee shop.
Immediately upon returning my folks put me on a more responsible path. I was in an art school classroom the following Monday. I’d already missed a week and had to play catchup. And I swear to you all, I have never sold drugs since. That scared me enough to start another pattern I never broke. So I guess that’s the lesson I actually learned from all this. There’s your moral.
Don’t sell drugs.
Mark and Erika got married, had a baby boy, but Mark couldn’t stay out of jail. He started really going downhill after she filed for divorce in ’94. Last she heard he’s in prison, set to be released in 2032. Probably drugs, but Erika’s not sure and it’s really just too sad for her to think about.
Tiina, Steve and everyone else I met there just completely disappeared off my radar after that.
I met up with Erika and her son during my 30th High School class reunion. Erika and I hadn’t seen each other in decades. We talked about everything. All that led up to Hollywood, and why her life fell into such chaos back then. This was also the first time I ever told her about the crush I had on her.
She explained, “I was lost. Every day seemed both exciting and dangerous. I was running away from a broken family where I felt unloved, “riding the ragged edge of disaster” in a dream-like state. I was safe with Mark, in those moments.
He was charismatic, carefree, fearless and a great storyteller. He made even the most mundane moment an adventure. Though cheerful and friendly by nature, he was stone serious when trouble started. Bob was a calm oasis in the storm that was my life. A thread of the familiar from my childhood to adolescence. Creative, innocent, curious, and he was always there with a solid core of unwavering kindness. Together we were weird and silly, no pressure to be something other than ourselves.”
Their son Ralphy turned out to be a great kid. He’s gotten the best parts of both Erika & Mark. And during that reunion, after listening to her and me go over this whole adventure of ours over brunch, he was shocked to learn this was the first time we’d ever discussed any of it. 30 years later. Then he asked if it’d be okay if he called me Uncle Bob.
Bands I lied and said I saw in Hollywood ’88 but actually didn’t:
• Iggy Pop
• Ramones (never saw)
• Exploited (never saw)
• Revolting Cocks (never saw) Bands I really did see in Hollywood ’88:
• The Vandals (rocked)
• 45 Grave (rocked)
In 1998 I grew ever so enchanted with female bodybuilder Th-resa Bostick. She was one of the most beautiful muscular women I’d ever seen in my whole life. So for her, I drew what I consider to be one of the best portraits I’d ever drawn. Especially at that time. I was thrilled when it actually got her attention enough to respond to an email. Then after some back and forth she agreed to meet up the next time she visited Chicago.
Th-resa was the first female bodybuilder I’d ever met, and the experience made a lasting impression. I will never forget the absolute awe upon seeing her insane level of muscularity in person. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it’s like nothing else I feel in any other situation at all.
As it turned out, she was just about to embark on a quest to earn her pro card. She had many contests ahead to help get her there, and I was happy to volunteer my services as a photographer, web designer, artist, you name it. Whatever she needed, I wanted in.
I was dying for an adventure. I wanted to get in my car and travel. So I drove to DC where she lived at the time and we traveled across the southern quarter of the US to my first ever bodybuilding event.
– The 1998 Jan Tana Classic.
It was incredible. Overwhelming TO SAY THE LEAST. The experience of walking around in public with a fbb, especially one of her incredible size, takes some getting used to. Everyone stares. Men followed her around. I completely understood, despite how much I wanted to show her off, why she so often wanted to hide.
Frankly, we were so busy running around trying to keep on schedule, I hardly remember the Jan Tana contest itself. She came in 5th for the North American Heavyweight & 9th for the Nationals. A couple steps closer to the gold. It was stressful, but so much fun.
Then there was the convention the next day where we got to meet all the fbb celebs and take each other’s pictures with them! It was really an incredible weekend.
There were such high spirits afterwards that we all went out to a nightclub for drink & dance. Me. This skinny, artsy dude going into this nightclub with a group of female bodybuilders. But this wasn’t the sort of cool alternative dance club like I was used to. This place was a bit more “popular”. If I’d walked in here alone I would’ve been afraid. But when your group is all bodybuilders, and the biggest one is your girlfriend, I may have been a little too confident.
It was Th-resa and I, and some of her girlfriends, and then a few other bodybuilders we met up with there. I had brought along my camera specifically to take pictures of us on the dancefloor. While we were all out there dancing I could see these two dudes watching us. We were hard to ignore, I’m sure. One of them was really staring me down too. I was kinda used to being stared down by guys like this. That’s what high school was for me. As well as clubs like this one. I couldn’t figure out what the specific reason was this time though. I figured prolly just jealous.
Ftr, the guys in question don’t appear in any of these photos.
Then the one who’d been staring me down the hardest came up and stood close enough for me to hear him over the music, “We see what you’re doing and you better knock it off!”
I just ignored him and kept taking pictures of my friends who also weren’t paying attention. Then his buddy was trying to get their attention.
“HE’S TAKING PICTURES OF YOU!
THIS GUY’S TAKING PICTURES OF YOU!”
But Th-resa and the rest were having too much fun, and too many drinks into the night as well.
Then it happened. The guy who had warned me, pushed me. He knocked my hand holding the camera and pushed me away from the group with his arm. When Th-resa saw this she snapped. With both hands to his chest, she pushed him hard to the floor on his ass, and stood over him, yellin’, “WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM!?!”
I had never seen her explode like this.
I’d be lyin’ if I didn’t say it’s probably the fuckin hottest thing anyone has ever done for me to someone else.
It was all bodybuilders in every direction after that. The dudes were exclaiming, “WE DIDN”T KNOW YOU GUYS KNEW HIM!
WE DIDN’T KNOW!!!”
I get rushed back to our table, with big muscle women stationed on either side to keep me safe from further harm. Th-resa was somewhere out there verbally assaulting the idiot guy. Next thing I know, she’s got him by the shirt and bringing him over to apologize to me at the table.
“Sorry. I thought you were someone else.” He tells me.
It was awkward.
Not for the ladies though! They all had a blast. It was all they talked about that night, and the rest of the weekend.
After a couple more travels back & forth between Chicago & DC, the distance between us got the better. She’d go on without me to earn her pro card and completely dominate these events over the next 2 years.
1999 Jan Tana Amateur Grand Prix – 1st (HW & overall)
1999 NPC USA Championships – 1st (HW & overall)
2000 IFBB Jan Tana Pro Classic – 1st (HW)
When next we spoke a year or two after, she was excited to tell me of her success, and how she’d just found Jesus, while I in turn explained how I’d just lost him. We said our goodbyes on the phone and never spoke again.
I’m hoping this story finds her well and her memories are as fond as mine of that incredible time in my life when a female bodybuilder beat a bully for me.