Exploiting the Archives: I Got to Hang Out at Robert Evans' Mansion Once!

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A couple of days ago I got an invitation that may not change my life at all, but has certainly enriched it immeasurably: I was asked to be a speaker at the Juggalo March on Washington. I said yes of course because it’s not every day you get to be a part of something that you love and feel passionately invested in. 

It was an amazing invitation, but I’ve received my share of amazing invitations through the years. I was obsessed with The Onion as a teenager. I never could have imagined that I would have spent sixteen years as an employee of Onion Inc., and a few more as a freelancer. When I was invited to audition for a movie review panel show eventually be to unknown as Movie Club with John Ridley, I couldn’t believe my luck in being considered for a television TV show. 

A few years later, I found myself once again receiving a surreal invitation when I was asked to audition to be one of the fill-in hosts for an ailing Roger Ebert on what was then known as Roeper & The Movies. I didn’t get the gig, but it was a surreal honor just to be asked. 

I also was invited to be a guest on Analyze Phish with Harris Wittels and Scott Aukerman. That was pretty cool. 

 This was pretty cool.

This was pretty cool.

 

A few years after that I got the Direct Message of a lifetime when my childhood hero “Weird Al” Yankovic contacted me via Twitter to tell me that he’d considered every writer in the world, and after due consideration, had chosen me to tell his story via a slick coffee table book from the prestigious folks over at Abrams Image. I would have offered to throw in a typo-riddled, borderline-amateurish, self-published 197 part online series about every single one of his songs for free, but I apparently didn’t need to do so at that point. 

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Al’s invitation was amazing and genuinely life-changing. The same cannot be said of Robert Evans’ invitation to spend a weekend at his home but I can genuinely say that no invitation has thriller me more than being asked to spend a magical weekend in one of the most enchanted places in all of show-business. 

When Robert Evans invited me to his home, he was preparing for the release of The Fat Lady Sing, his long-awaited follow-up to The Kid Stays in the Picture. He’d seen, and been impressed, with a Silly Little Show-Biz Book Club piece I’d written about The Kid Stays in the Picture and thought I might be a hip, connected young writer with good connections and a sense of how best to sell Evans’ new book to a generation that didn’t know of him either as a God of 1970s Hollywood or as the smooth-talking bon vivant of The Kid Stays in the Picture. 

Boy oh boy was he wrong! He may have been expecting or hoping for a show-business player, but what he got was an awkward, shambling mess of a man, dressed in rags for the most part, who was shy, self-conscious and exceedingly awkward. I was flown first class to L.A. and, being a nice Midwestern Jewish boy, I felt like I had to justify the expense of flying me out to Hollywoo so I came up with a number of ideas to re-introduce Evans to the public that died an unmourned death not long after Evans told me that he’d like to promote the book, and promote it aggressively, without having to talk to anyone. 

The Evans that I encountered that surreal weekend was achingly sad and heartbreakingly vulnerable, a man who had lived a full, rich life that nevertheless filled him with doubt and sadness. He was a melancholy man habitually clad in pajamas who never rose from his bed and seemed to view the world from a distance. 

I was excited to be in the company of a man I worshiped but I was also proud of the piece I wrote about the experience. I felt like it captured the man and his world and the bittersweet nature of my trip to L.A 

I felt like my essay about Robert Evans was easily one of the best things I’ve ever written but that didn’t keep it from being rejected lots of places, including The Dissolve, where I was working at the time, and Buzzfeed and plenty of others, many of whom would sit on it for months before sending me an email like, “Yeah, the audience for Vice doesn’t know who Robert Evans is, nor are they interested in a 5000 word essay about him.” 

After nearly a year the piece finally found a good (and lucrative) home over at Playboy. They published it here

http://www.playboy.com/articles/my-weekend-with-mega-producer-robert-evans

and the response was pretty much non-existent. I had an amazing experience with one of the most charismatic and entertaining show-biz figures of the last century and nobody seems to have noticed. I was a little bummed by that. I wanted the piece to do well, and to be read and shared and commented upon, but that just did not happen, so I’m giving this piece a second chance to make a first impression. So please do read it, and then The Kid Stays in the Picture (if you haven’t read it already) because no matter who you are, you need a little more Robert Evans in your life. 

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Am I saying that to sell my big, sexy article on the man? You bet your sweet ass I am, but this time at least it also has the bonus of being true. 

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