A Little Bit of Zelig

Stephen P. Conrad
8 min readJan 1, 2022

High on the Sunset Strip

Photo on iStock

Late nights, Hollywood horror parties and porn star parties, what else can a guy ask for. It’s been, well, it’s been, it’s never been boring that’s for fuckin’ A-sure. I mean hey I might not be Johnny Wads with a pocket full of cash, but I’ve sure lived like it at times. Yep, I’ve had a bulge in my pants with forty large in my pocket. Forty stacks’ cash that is, cold and hard.

Then, I’ve had nothing, zip, zilch, nada, living off of 50 cent Whoppers at Burger King on the Sunset strip. What was that Wimpy used to say to Popeye? “I will gladly repay you Tuesday for the price of a cheeseburger today.”

Yeah, I’ve been there on that Hollywood Hills trip when suddenly your Armenian landlord shows his unibrow head up on your doorstep, “It’s Tuesday mother fucker bro I come for the rent”. Rent? Who’s got rent money? Been there, not fun crawling out a third story window with nothing between you and the cement sidewalk below except a dangling fire escape and a window ledge covered of pigeon shit.

But! I’ve also dined with mayors, mobsters, movie moguls and mad men. I’ve had dinner with Dustin Hoffman and shared an espresso and a game of checkers with Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’ve been in front of the camera trying to make it onto the big screen and I’ve been on camera against a wall, numbers across my chest trying not to be seen.

I’ve slept with absolute bat-shit crazy hot women and heart-of-gold honest hookers. I mean shit, I only bring this up to make a point that it’s been real, well, a real blast and I’m only halfway through this shit show of a life. A strange journey it’s been thus far.

Most days I’m either in a room creating with artists actors, and writers, in a bed with that honest hooker or at a dimly lit dinner table in the company of real gangsters talking about the way things used to be and hoping one of them are picking up the check. They usually don’t. These days everybody wants to be a criminal, yet nobody wants to commit a crime.

But hey, at the end of the day what’s the difference? One is trying to steal your imagination for free and make you believe in the pretend, another is charging you to steal your affection and the others your money and morals.

Morals you say? I gave those away a long time ago, too much unnecessary baggage for me. A pocket full of morals and a quarter won’t get me bus fare across town. It seems everybody wants a piece of the pie. Maybe it’s just human nature everybody wants a little somethin’ extra. Me, I’ve always been pretty content with what I got and maybe that’s the problem.

Anything that’s ever been worth something is in the life experience. Doing things most folks would kill to do, some literally. The way I’ve got it figured the reason I’ve survived so long is an ability to adapt to my surroundings, even in the most dangerous of situations and I’ve been in a few.

I’ve always had a little bit of Zelig in me. That’s how I’ve managed this crazy life. The two rules, don’t push the envelope too far and try not to get killed. Sounds easy, huh?

It may have been crazy at times, shit it’s been a lot of things, but it’s never been boring and well, maybe that’s why I get so bored these days. It just ain’t like it used to be. Maybe I was in Hollywood too long for my own good.

It’s just not the same this fly in a straight line version of life I’m living now. Chilling out and settling down though currently necessary isn’t all they cracked it up to be. It’s hard to beat living life like a career criminal, hobnobbing in the upper circles of Chicago machine politics and making movie magic under the bright lights in the big city, then having to wait in line for your morning coffee at Starbucks like every other jagoff.

Hey! There’s still time, once the dust settles, we’ll see what happens next.

I don’t have much but I got passion and I love a good life experience. I find passion in my pain and in the void and hardships of my life experience. There’s a certain attractiveness about the uncertainty of life. I’ve never been a nine-to-five kinda guy.

I’ve always tried my best to put together a life and a living with what I’ve got to work with at the time. They don’t really prepare you for that kind of thing when you get out of the joint, so you just have to kind of wing it I guess. I didn’t too bad for an incorrigible kid I suppose. If there was a rule to be violated or a law to be broken I found it.

There are only a few rules I ever really followed in life. One, you always share with others in this life and there’s always be room at my table for anyone who needs to eat. Greedy people eat alone, and their table is always empty. Fortunately, my table has always been full enough, many times it was a fat steak but as often it’s been a can of spam. I’ve basked in the light and lived in the dark. I slept at on satin sheets at the Ritz and a dirty mattress in a park.

I have to say while I love being noticed in the bright lights of life, I’ve learned my most valuable lessons hanging out in the shadows. The best lessons I ever learned were from the worst kind of people. Strange things can happen when we’re all alone in the dark with only our voices and secrets. We learn what we’re made of and what we’ve gotta do to get where we wanna go. It’s never as easy as it sounds but nothing is impossible either.

There’s an echo in my brain bouncing around and crashing into the walls of mind and memory. The more I try to ignore it the louder it gets. It’s like a monkey on your back that won’t go away poking out its ugly little head just when you thought you had beaten him off.

Those things we try so hard to forget are also the things we tend to hold on the tightest to. Most times it’s a pain in the dick really but there’s something about the pain and dark side of life that’s always seduced me. It’s sort of like a hot barely legal Sunset Strip Lolita in a sundress looking for her way under the bright lights. We always want what we can’t have, those things we know will damage us the most.

Ah fuck it, I’m a junkie anyway. Maybe not in the traditional sense, though I’ve never met a drug I didn’t like, but what’s the difference, right? A junkie for the action. A junkie is a junkie when it gets right down to it any monkey will do, whatever gets you off.

Like I said, I’ve always tried to put together something that loosely resembles a life out of what I’ve had to work with and believe me my life has many times very loosely resembled a life. Those who have nothing, want something. Those who have something, want more. Those who have more, want everything. The LA story.

It’s hard not to regret mistakes made, things left unsaid or remember things you wish never happened in the first place. I try to not dwell on the past too often, yeah, the past hates trespassers, that I’ve learned the hard way.

You know that big sign hanging over your head in the back of your mind, the one that says, STAY OUT, well it means, stay the fuck out. But me being me, that just ain’t gonna happen.

If there’s a circus traveling through town, I’m the kid who wants to run away with it. In fact, I once did just that, well, it was more of a carnival. I almost forgot about that. I was maybe fifteen and not even shaving yet? It came rolling through and I did it, jumped on the wagon with ’em. It didn’t last too long, a couple of weeks maybe, but it was fun while it did.

You gotta love the midget’s, clowns and fat ladies, the freak shows of life, and broke down carnies. They do those things most wish they could do but are to afraid to.

I would eventually find more freak shows in this carnival of life and I would again have a midget to call my own. His name was Freddy, little guy, tough bastard, and a thieving little shit. He was good, no he was great. He could steal the sweat off your balls and you would never even know it was gone.

Freddie was a nasty little prick but cool and he had a way with women. He died when his spine kept growing but his body didn’t. Yeah, one day right there on my couch after too much Vicodin and too little whiskey.

He knew it was coming and so did we. But who the fuck wants to die in a shitty hospital room hooked up to a bunch of tangled tubes and treated like a pin cushion for some high-priced doctor with a xerox copied sheepskin in a low-rent hospital?

Our lives were already a tangled web of insanity so why complicate things? Nah, he did it his way and we let him. Nothing had to be said, we all lived the way we wanted to and none of us had room to judge anyone else. We didn’t have to say a bunch of goodbyes when we passed out that night, we just shut the lights off and that was that. But Freddy is a story for another time, remind me later.

Looking back on your own life can be painful, that is unless you’ve lived a charmed life. That wasn’t the case with me. But hey, it could’ve been worse. It’s all relative I suppose. I’ve met some interesting people and did some crazy fun shit. It’s too much for someone living a normal existence to really believe.

I’ve hung out with my idols, partied with my heroes and told off people who thought who they fuck they are. I’ve had friendships that started out good and ended badly and others that started out badly and became rock-solid. I’ve witnessed some ride that train to success and watched others become train wrecks and ride it until it crashed.

So many of the people I’ve known in my life are dead now, many moved on to what’s closest to their hearts while many more are just simply gone. MIA. It’s strange how some people can just one day — be gone.

Yet, I keep them all close to my heart. Each one took a little piece of me with them. With enough time and space our minds tend to rewrite relationships. It’s a mental self-defense thing, I suppose.

I’m running out of interesting friends. I think it’s time to start cold calling people.



Stephen P. Conrad

A nomad, a gypsy at heart, writer, actor, artist, anti-sycophant, socially maladjusted and comfortably near complete insanity.