Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A terrible anniversary

On April 6th of last year, I had no blog to place thoughts like these. It was a year ago today that my circle of friends and the whole wide world lost Stephan X. De leon to a fucked up, stupid traffic accident. I know that I wanted to write a few words about it, but here we are, a year later. I comment not so much from accurate memory, more from the toll, and what the ensuing time has felt like.

I met Stephan at a wrestling event at the Sports Arena in 1985, he (and Loren) were dressed in Rowdy Roddy Piper mode, both in kilts. Piper wrestled Hulk Hogan that night. I remember after meeting Stephan that I had met the living incarnation of Bugs Bunny, mainly because at one point later, he leaned over and appeared to kiss Nico on the lips, slipping his hand between his mouth and Nico's to prevent actual mouth to mouth contact. For his part, Nico played it beautifully, coming out of the moment spitting and sputtering madly.

It's easy to look back and ask, my god, how could a force like Stephan be long for this world? He was one of the most fearless people I knew, an inspiration to just about anyone that spent 5 minutes talking to him. He had the same infectious enthusiasm for my crappy-ass drawings and his co-worker's crappy music, as he did for the multiple projects he juggled. And compared to the previous examples, his projects were larger in magnitude and also much more accomplished. I have trouble sometimes maintaining excitment for my own projects, but Stephan was a cheerleader for anyone that he respected, and anyone he loved. I am fortunate to have enjoyed his love, as a brother, and as a fellow artist. It's been easy to convince myself in retrospect that all of that drive must have meant that he could only be here for so long.

I have to mention a couple of things here that are Stephan-related, my brightest memories of him:

I mentioned the night I met him, and that Nico-kiss.

The night of my son's first birthday party, and Stephan and Loren traded wearing a SuperStar Destroyer mask and shirt. One of them asked me to get pictures of each of them in the full SuperStar Destroyer get-up, standing next to the other, so that they had photographic evidence that allowed each of them to deny being the SuperStar Destroyer. (Loren and the S.D. in one pic, Stephan and the SD in another pic: this proved neither man was the SD)

Holloween night, 1987 at Joanie's house (where I lived and threw several parties), a group including Stephan, Nico, Loren and I happened upon Joanie and several girlfriends who were attempting to conduct a seance. Well, unfortunately for Joanie's group, I got wind of her plans before she knew who was with me, so I took advantage of this fact. Before we walked into the house, I instructed Stephan to stay near the door, count to 60, and then start pounding the wall with his knee, once every 20 seconds or so. Leaving Stephan at the front door, we walked into the candle-lit living room, where Joanie (who hated me at this point) and her friends were seated around a ouija board. She introduced her friends around. On cue, there came a loud, dull THUMP from the front door area. I turned my head, and with all of the malice I could muster, I said "What the hell was THAT?!?" This was probably the most successful prank I have ever pulled, because with Stephan's second thump, I saw raw fear in every set of eyes that was not in on the gag, and one girl, Suzy (I was told later) almost wet herself. I laughed for days, Joanie's hatred for me probably never ever burned hotter. Jesus, it's STILL funny!

June, 1988. Joanie's place for my graduation party (from 'Camino): I normally slept in the living room, but we partied until 3 am or so, and then Renard, Loren and Stephan passed out around me in the living room. I had trouble falling asleep, but as I was drifting off, a sound, a horrible sound began coming from Stephan. He was snoring. LOUDLY. He was 15 to 20 feet away from me on another sofa, but it was so loud that I couldn't get to sleep! I don't think it's possible for humans to snore that loudly. I stumbled over Renard's unconscious body to get to Stephan. I shook him violently, and he finally opened his eyes. I yelled "YOU'RE SNORING TOO LOUDLY, STEPHAN!" He looked at me like he didn't recognize me, and said some equivalent of "Pshaw," and fell back to sleep. I ran back to my sofa bed, and tried to fall asleep before he started snoring again.

I have to mention the homosexual pickup attempt I endured at the Gauntlet, a gay/leather bar in Hollywood that Foreign Object played in 1996. I was shooting super 8 film (it was too dark, as it turned out), and I became aware of this little guy, Bill Oddie (of the Goodies) -looking character. He wouldn't take his eyes off of me; I was afraid to look around the room at one point. His outfit was hilarious: jeans, sneakers, and because he was at the Gauntlet, a leather shirt. When Foreign Object finished their set, the little guy came up to me, scratched my chest hairs like a cat and said "RRRrrrroooowwwwwwww!" (Why can't women be this forward?)

I last saw Stephan in June of 2002; the same night as a party at Nico's, where I would also see Nico's auntie Arlene for the last time in life. Before the Garage show, I finally got to ask Stephan if he was interested in acting in Ed Wood Jr. Post-Mortem. He expressed strong interest; but of course I couldn't have known that night that we wouldn't shoot in time to take advantage of his interest. I don't see how he would have had time to help, given all of the demands on his time. Knowing Stephan as I did, I am certain that if I gave him a time and location, he'd have shown up.

I look at the outpouring of grief and love for the man, today online and in my memory of the days and weeks that followed. I get angry because the words and ideas all seem like such cliches in the face of what he was in reality. But I understand, because here I am doing the same damn thing. I love you, Stephan. I feel your spirit whenever I am reaching for something that's just out of reach.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I'm sure that I am not alone when I say that not a day goes by that something makes me stop and think about Stephan.

He gave so much to so many in his life and I like to think that even with his passing he gave everyone who was touched by him a gift. On that terrible day we were all bonded as a family, we all shared the loss. We came together and supported each other to the best of our abilities, because that is what he would have done.

Stephan made us all want to be better people. He made us want to be better, more fearless, more caring. I believe that everyone who came together during his funeral and after to support each other all have a bit of Stephan permanently in their hearts urging them to be better people.

I think Stephan would have liked that.

10:42 AM  
Blogger TRS said...

There couldn't be a better tribute to him!

I didn't mention the funeral because it wasn't a living memory of him. But, I couldn't do it justice, with but words. Anyone that was there knows what I'm talking about. But, of course I will try to anyway...

ALL of the people! Forest Lawn's Little Church of the Flowers, standing room only, packed to the rafters. I know this blog is supposed to celebrate hyperbole, but I would estimate the number to be around 300.

EVERYONE was crying. I know people cry at funerals, but this was the most sorrowful I've ever seen, so many people crying so hard...I among them, drained at the end by the intense emotional catharsis. Stephan generated so much love in this life. The Beatles adage comes to mind: the love you take is equal to the love you make. We witnessed it.

The star studded lineup of people offering eulogies...

The burial was amazing, and difficult. Amazing to see the spectacle of a 5 foot tall Giant Robot statue being buried with his owner, per his desire. But because everyone stayed until the very end, we saw something I know I have never seen before: the casket actually getting buried. the moment the earth mover started tamping down on his grave, I for the first time in my life considered cremation for my body's fate.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous - john w. said...

Wonderful post, Thomas. Your words were just right. The name of that gay club was the Fault Line, for what it's worth, near the corner of Melrose and Vermont. I still have a Hi8 tape of nearly the whole show which I plan on sticking on a dvd someday for you and Loren and anyone else who wants it. I'm glad I had the chance to meet Stephan those few times I did.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Loren said...

Nice post, TRS. Thanks for sharing those memories. I'd forgotten about a lot of that, so I'm glad you were able to fill in the fuzzy memories. Did you actually take those Superstar Destroyer pics? I don't recall ever seeing them.

Looking back 20 years ago and over the years at all the hilarious and sometimes insane things we did, I am embarrassed sometimes at the person I've become, but I was always proud of Steph. As you and both of your other readers have pointed out, he was eternally fearless and supportive. Truly, he was one of my heroes, a great inspiration and a frriend like I will never have again. I have no way to express how much I miss him.

10:02 AM  

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