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Tuesday, June 10, 2003


The One and His Four Strings Dept.

So I accidentally saw Keanu Reeve's new band last night at the world-famous Viper Room (and infamous backdrop of River Phoenix's fatal overdose). (Is it possible to talk about the VR without mentioning that? They might as well have chiseled the chalk outline outside the smokers' entrance on Sunset.)

We were smuggled in through the kitchen, in a fashion similar to those dramatized in such movies as Goodfellas and Swingers, lacking only the shaky Steadicam chasing us weaving among chefs and busboys giving us a confused, yet hairy, eyeball. This is the preferred method of entry of the Hollywood in-crowd. Only an unconnected chump would go to the front door and tell the bouncer they're on the list, then stand there as he looks at his clipboard, asking how you spell your name, bending your driver's license while hunting around for your birthday and maybe saying that he knows someone from your hometown.

So in through the back door, and there I was, in front of the stage, inadvertently getting an earful of Keanu's new project. It was a feeling not dissimilar to walking into a bathroom at a crowded party and discovering that someone's getting blown in there, not two feet in front of you -- a flash of embarrassment, a few seconds of quizzical interest and open-mouthed staring, followed by a hasty retreat and some muttered apologies. Keanu, sporting a patchy beard and a painstakingly mussed garage-band hair-mop that his stylist must have spent hours on, lashed out at his bass like it a personal assistant who just dropped a conference call with Harvey Weinstein. As an actor-cum-rockstar, I am compelled by precedent to claim that his stylist "painstakingly mussed" his hair and clumsily compare his musical prowess to the abuse of a personal assistant. These are the Laws of Writing About an Actor's Just-Crappy-Enough-to-be-Onstage Rock Band.

Furthermore, I am bound to acerbically note that this band made me long for Dogstar, his previous musical effort, even though I am totally unfamiliar with their music. Or, in lieu of the musical rimshot, I can long for Little Buddha. (I will refrain from twisting quotes from his film work to disparage the band [i.e. "Whoa. I know Kung Fu" becomes "Whoa, I to suck!"])

[Deleted: treatise on why rock-groupies are better than movie-groupies, and why movie stars will only enjoy the attention of movie-groupies despite being in a rock band, referencing various unlikely marriage of supermodels and actresses to rock-stars that look like white grapes mounted on a microphone stand.]

I must also speculate that Keanu took up the bass ("Dude's it's just four strings? How hard can it be?") because most four-piece rock outfits do not carry a dedicated triangle player and there is no way for an action star to look dangerous spanking his wrist with a tambourine.

After racing through seven or eight songs, Keanu's New Band left the stage. Weary from the furious mental note-taking of all of the details I would need to fulfill the obligations of Writing About an Actor's Just-Crappy-Enough-to-be-Onstage Rock Band, I flashed Keanu an overly-enthusiastic devil-horns. He acknowledged me with a simple nod, and a mouthed "Thanks, bro," as he pushed into the booth next to mine. It should be noted that Keanu and I once engaged in a heated best-of-three session of scissor/paper/rock for the rights to proposition a particularly stunning cocktail waitress at Skybar, which he won by throwing down three consecutive "rocks," (who does that? Where's the gamesmanship in that?) and so there's been a fragile, worthy-adversary vibe between us ever since.

After we settled in to watch the headlining band, Keanu sent me three bottles of Rolling Rock, delivered by the cutest waitress in the room, who placed them in front of me, saying, "Rock. Rock. Rock." I looked over to his booth and he looked away quickly, stifling a laugh.

You may have won this round, Keanu, but I am obligated to post an unflattering photograph and write that your new band sorta sucks.

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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