By doggedly working business leads, on Friday June 2nd, we were offered the opportunity to pitch our concept to a panel of venture capitalists in Los Angeles. This period became so hectic that there is no surviving media (photos, journal entries, or video). Only my recollection. Los Angeles is where dreams come true. I’ve believed that since I was a little girl, when my parents took me on a trip to Hollywood to see Shirley Temple at the wax museum, and performed a dead-bang “Good Ship Lollypop” complete with platinum ringlets, dance. I remember the applause from the small crowd.
I took off for Los Angeles on flight 793, at 7:55 PM on Monday, June 5th, 2006. During the lineup for boarding, I remember meeting a Rabba on her way home from performing a wedding ceremony. I told her briefly of my ambitions, and my excitement and nervousness about presenting. I remember her taking my chin in her hand, turning my face and saying “You have a beautiful spirit, you’ll do fine.”
I arrived in the middle of the night. On the drive to the Sunset Strip, and my waiting hotel room at the Hyatt, I soaked in the moonlit beauty of Los Angeles, and had nothing but a sense of wonder at how exciting the future seemed, and profound gratitude for my good fortune. I went right to sleep after a nightcap with my roommate and co-presenter, Gerry. We discussed our plans for the first day of the conference, and the launch of the first episode of Anterockstar.
I awoke the next morning bursting with excitement despite my jetlag and lack of sleep. I plunged myself into the lifestyle. I remember freezing my butt off, and it being dreary in the typical early morning haze, but I did get to enjoy a swim atop the roof of the Hyatt, overlooking the LA skyline with its rolling hills. After satisfying my urge to luxuriate, I returned to my room, put on one of my best outfits, and headed to my conference to impress the world.
Back in Toronto, Andy and Kevin launched our Youtube channel. It was Tuesday, the 6th of June…. 2006. 6/6/6.
The cab ride into the Universal Hilton offered me my first glimpse of sunny LA, the morning haze having burnt off by the time we grabbed our Starbucks coffees to go. I love the small things that make places different. I remember the cabseat being black leather (or was it pleather?), the billboards (everywhere), and the dry desert landscape that seemed go on endlessly on every hillside, except where all the lush vegetation had taken over. We arrived at the Universal Hilton. Their gardens were like things I’d seen out of a movie, with giant hibiscus blooms, and even riverlets populated with live Koi. The whole experience took on a fantastical feel, and I began to feel like I was living out my dreams, like all this was meant to be… like I’d prepared for it… like I earned it
Upon my arrival at the conference I suddenly felt my size. Being big in your head is different than being big in a room, and these were big rooms. I found myself one in a crowd of a few thousand, all clamoring for gold in online video. The story du jour being the Lonelygirl15 phenomena, where millions of Americans fell in love with a teenage girl with an exceptional amount of drama in her life. LG15 turned out to be a hoax. We were betting money on the possibility that they might fall in love with the real thing. I spent the morning touring the trade tables, attending seminars, and making acquaintances. I met the masterminds behind monetizing the Mentos/Coca Cola fury. I was struck by how friendly people were. I’ve always found Americans very friendly, but I was heartened by how genuinely enthusiastic people were about what I was doing. Reality production. Turning my life into product. Over a lavish buffet lunch, with everything from seafood to fruit I couldn’t name, I sat at a table full of strangers and introduced myself as a producer for the first time in my life. Until that moment, I had never thought of myself as a business leader, I had always been somebodies assistant. I was fascinated by the reactions I received. I watched intently, and learned what these people were interested in, and what they wanted to hear, and I prepared to deliver them just that at our pitch that afternoon.
Our pitch involved two components, our content, Anterockstar, and NetTeams content management system. Our goal was to demonstrate the power of using emerging web technologies to fuel creative collaboration. Gerry and I worked out that we would have two and a half minutes each to present. I sat nervously watching Gerry walk the audience through the technology, just about twitching to get up there and take over. I somehow managed to hold myself still, and eagerly took the stage when Gerry surrendered the podium. With a great big shining smile I stepped up and gave my pitch, speaking for first time ever into a microphone. I can’t remember what I said, but I do remember reactions from the audience, and being done with time to spare. The first episode of Anterockstar was now live online for the world to see, and attracting audience. After our pitch, I stepped outside for a much needed nerve soothing smoke. While I stood among the sunsoaked palms on the patio of the Universal Hilton, Eric, VP programming at AOL introduced himself, and told me to give him a call, to talk about syndicating my content with AOL. I told him that’d be great, and silently, inwardly, peed my pants and ran back into the conference to find Gerry, so we could sit down together and watch the first episode of my freshman production, Anterockstar. I found him in the lobby in conversation with a young filmmaker, who joined us at a table in a quiet spot, and together we watched the episode on Gerry’s laptop. I didn’t absorb much of the storyline, I was just so impressed that we’d produced anything at all, nevermind that people were watching it, and enjoying it. My new filmmaker friend was enthralled that he was meeting me at such a momentous occasion in my career. Like he knew he was looking at a star. Gerry treated me to a walk through Universal Studio’s Citywalk, and a new pair of stockings, black and white checked, chosen for our theme song creators, Newspaper Taxi.
That night we celebrated our success taking in laughs at the Comedy Store, a few steps from our hotel. Los Angeles continued to deliver a magical adventure. On our way out of the hotel, the doorman I’d met the night before who had told me all about his script for a vampire series, announced that he’d be having a meeting with network executives to pitch the next day. He told us all about how his life would change, should he be successful. After over a weeklong adrenaline rush, and so much excitement and hard work, I fell asleep in the club, one of LA’s most famous comedic landmarks, in the middle of some poor comics set, although he took full advantage of my unconscious state to make what I’m told were very funny jokes at my expense. Gerry brought me home to bed, where I drifted off to sleep with dreams of fulfilment of my lifelong pursuit of creative purpose.
The phone started ringing at 6 am the next morning. I heard Gerry answer, and took the phone from him before opening my eyes. My youngest sisters voice came screaming through the receiver shattering what had been up until that moment a fantasy come true.
The intensity of the wake up call sent my heart racing, and my brain in a million different directions. I could hardly make out what she was on about she was screaming so loud my ears began to ring. Something about the episode destroying my father, and threats of legal action if I didn’t immediately remove it. I hung up the phone after a few earsplitting minutes, out of breath, deflated, and panicked. I was completely confused, and crushed that I was being asked to withdraw my work. How could the fulfilment of my dreams destroy my family? The magnitude of my precipice forced me to remove myself from the action. The rest of my morning turned into a blur of phone calls to Kevin and Andy to take it down, my father begging mercy and shouting defiance, my sister, my lawyer, all interspersed with short periods of crying on Gerry’s shoulder. I remember standing out front of the hotel, in the early morning LA haze, shouting into my telephone at her, thinking what a beautiful setting I was in, despite my black circumstance, and losing myself in the cactus in the rock garden, and the blooms climbing the white concrete walls in vines.
I returned to my room after a walk to Starbucks for a sweet treat, and to compose myself. I set out to cash in on my efforts from day one of my conference, to cement plans for Anterockstars future, and hopefully mitigate what was quickly turning into a mess. I remember packing and being very anxious about the day, keeping myself composed despite the pounding worry in my head, and my heavy broken heart. I was leaving that night, and I refused to leave without a deal in hand. I did my best to be “present” that day, and I remember it being a hurculean effort, and aside a brief moment with the editor of AdAge, and meeting Barry Layne from National Lampoon, I don’t recall much of the rest of the conference at all.
I hopped the courtesy bus from the glass doors of the Universal Hilton, and bid her goodbye. I had so enjoyed the setting of being in the middle of what was the hottest action my short business life had ever seen. The sizzling afternoon sun reflected off the creme concrete and glass, rays blinding me as we pulled away, and I started my long overnight voyage home. On the ride to the airport I spent my time immersed in a strange elixir of exhaustion, elation, and despair, letting the scenery soak into my eyes, fixed upon the large smoked glass windows of the bus. Taking on passengers, letting passengers off, the social traffic of Los Angeles playing itself out for me in this compact space against endless horizons of alternating scenery, concrete, desert, flowered shrubbery… reaching tall palms, billboards. All of it real, and me in the middle of it. Paradise, within oblivion. I came to from my reverie around the La Brea tarpits and was reminded of Bugs Bunny, and smiled within myself. I began to focus myself on thoughts of returning to my babies and Kevin, and how much exciting news I’d have to share with them about my trip. I arrived at the airport around 6 o’clock for checkin, with about three and a half hours to kill before my departure. The ticket agent at the counter told me that the only bar in the complex was in another terminal, so I made my way from Terminal 2 of Los Angeles International Airport, to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, ten minutes away. I did some shopping in their Duty Free, and bought some gourmet candy for the kids, and made my way up to the bar for some supper, and a well earned beer.
I sat down next to the most colorful character I could find. I needed the company to relieve me from my endless thoughts. The hippie wasn’t hard to spot with his tattooed sleeve begging notice on his arm. The Leprechaun in particular called to me, and I started a conversation with him on this topic, having a small shamrock at the base of spine at the time. He introduced me to his travelling companion, Arnel, with whom he was going to Amsterdam to attend the wedding of a friend, the hippie’s former flame. We chatted for a long time over a few pints about everything and nothing, and parted ways shortly before 9 o’clock. As I stood outside the terminal, finishing my cigarette, debating whether or not I should go wait for my flight or go back up for another drink, I witnessed the most stirring murder of crows vacate the massive tree outside the terminal. I remember seeing this as a sign of deep foreboding. I lit another cigarette. I caught the eye of a security guard, who came over to me and introduced himself. We had a short chat, and noticing the time, I excused myself to go take my flight. He teasingly told me he was shortly going on break, and would welcome me to have a toke with him. I hadn’t had one since I left home, and the thought of relief from the strain I’d been enduring was too alluring. I joined him in the parking garage, and we got high.
When I finally realized what time it was the panic in my entire soul was like vertigo. My friend dropped me off in front of the Terminal at 9:45. When I walked in, not even having gone through security, I heard them announce the last boarding call for my flight. Panic is not a strong enough word to describe the ensuing cascade of thoughts, nightmarish outcomes, sleeping in airports, points tickets nontransferable, endless crying phone calls and $7 US in my pocket… and a scene from Home Alone. There was no way in hell that I was not making it home to my babies and my husband on that flight. I dashed. I dashed through security, and still don’t know how or why they didn’t stop the madwoman who ran up and literally throw down her bag on the conveyor belt, pushing everyone else aside, pausing only to allow a swift wand sweep before grabbing her bags and dashing off again, not even waiting for permission or clearance from any one of the bewildered agents standing by. I had no way of knowing how long this marathon would last, but I knew it would end at my gate, which thankfully I didn’t need to hijack a golf cart to get to. I arrived at the gate, the last person on board, with blood pressure well above human tolerances, and a pulse to match. I was also the happiest woman alive to be there. The adrenaline surge was too much for me to bear and I started cracking jokes to anyone within earshot and line of sight, boarding agents, crew, fellow passengers. One man was so entertained he asked me what I was, and I asked him what he thought I was. He said I must be a performer. I said I must be. I sat in my seat, higher than I’ve ever been in my life, and waited for takeoff. Before long it became clear that we would not be taking off anytime soon, and our captain eventually made an announcement that the flight would be delayed, and that they’d be serving drinks for our trouble. I thanked Mr. Milton aloud (Robert Milton, former CEO, AC). The longer we waited the more my chemically enhanced imagination churned, and I began to think of this moment as possibly the last of my life. That perhaps this would be where the story would end, on a note of tragedy in my death. For the first time in my life I truly contemplated the thought of dying in that moment, and what I would feel about leaving my life at such a time, when I had so much to look forward to. I decided that if I were to die then and there, that I would die a happy woman because I would have died pursuing my dreams at all costs, living truly until the last adrenaline filled moment. I savored that takeoff like it was my last breath.