THE SEED OF BOONDOCK SAINTS
Whenever I blast my bike past 8623 Melrose Ave., a big smile splits my face. It used to be this cool little bar, sitting in the shadow of the Pacific Design Center called J. Sloan’s. After my previous place of employment was raided by the Feds and shut down, I became a bouncer / doorman here and it was in the tiny 4 by 4 foot space of the corner doorwell at Sloan’s, that I would write Boondock Saints, furiously scribbling into notebooks between checking IDs and ‘addressing occasional discourse in a professional manner.’
When I started at Sloan’s it was unseasonably cold in L.A., so I wore my Navy Pea Coat from back home. It was so strange how many people commented on that jacket that I figured I’d drape my two main characters, the indomitable MacManus Brothers, in Pea Coats. Speaking of indomitable, by then, my younger brother Taylor had joined me in L.A. Separated by just a year, we had been playing guitars and singing together all our lives and now we joined forces to pursue our joint dream of forming a band.
I liked my new boss right away, bar manager, David Della Rocco. A fellow east coast transplant, Rocco wasn’t much for rules. We’d usually lock the doors at 2 a.m. and hang out inside with a few privileged regulars while Roc did the drawers and poured a few shots…often more than a few. At my urging, Rocco had also hired my brother as a bouncer.
Sloan’s was in West Hollywood, known for its large gay population. One day during the gay pride parade, a clearly lost parade-goer in a dog collar and hot pants wandered in and decided to stay for a drink. Rocco was working the bar and me and Taylor giggled the whole time as Roc nervously waited on this guy with the attentiveness of a royal staffer serving tea to Queen of England, horrified that he would unintentionally offend. That night after lock-down, we gave him a ton of good humored shit about it and ultimately laughed out the suggestion that he may be homophobic. Roc turned to us with fire in his eyes, “Hey! That’s not me, alright! I’m not homophobic! I’m just…you know…scared of homosexuals.”
One night, Taylor was at home locking down a new song and it was myself and fellow doorman, Matt Chaffee having a ‘few’ after a good night’s work. Matt was another L.A. transplant who was originally from Chelmsford Mass., just outside Boston. He would eventually play the role of ‘Officer Chaffee’ in Boondock and the hijinx surrounding his first close up in a film would give us something to dine out on for years to come. Say, let’s have him tell you about it. Go ahead, Chafe…
Of all the stories I could tell, you chose this one? FU Duffy. That’s your name now. FU. The journey from working the door at J. Sloan’s to finding a 50 cal shell under the body of a dead, bandaged Russian in an alley in Toronto is a long one…with more than its fair share of insanity mixed in… but yes let’s focus on this. It wasn’t my first acting gig, but it was the first time I was watching the whole thing come together from humble beginning to glorious end so I was super fucking determined to help in any way I could, make my friend proud, and deliver an oscar worthy performance as a young douche with a Boston accent. I think I pulled most of that off. I can’t really remember. It was all a blur, moving with a pace that you can’t imagine for something that costs so much. Here’s what I remember: I’m in an alley. Willem Fucking Dafoe is there. He’s funny and quirky and intense as you would expect and he knew my name before he met me. I got three moments we’re carving out. 1: Hold up the police tape for WFD. 2: Nod with some honest concern about what WFD is telling you. 3: Struggle to find the shell and have WFD tell you where to go. Easy peasy. So we did it once, twice, thrice….On the third take, as I’m happily finding the casing, and stating such, I hear “Okay…moving on!” I look up and see a camera set up inches from my face. “Was that a close up?” I ask. “Yep” Duffy replies…”And you fucked it.” Great. So yeah, look for the top of my head in that alley… You’ll notice the cameraman AND the editor both wait on me for just that extra beat… probably both thinking “He’s bound to look up… Surely he will look up…Any minute now.” Nope. Watch that moment knowing that and knowing that a minute later, I’m MF’ing Troy Duffy to anyone who will listen. So yeah, we’ve laughed about that since. Well, one of us has.
Ok, back to Bizz! On the night in question, prized regular Weepin’ Mike Cox was passed out on a stool, face down on the bar top as we had our usual after hours pow-wow. We had bequeathed him this nickname on the 5th or 6th time he’d gotten drunk enough to spurt tears while opining on how much he loved all of us. Matt and I had set two bar stools upside down and leaned them together like a tee-pee over Mike’s head. We had gingerly balanced full ashtrays, half empty pint glasses and bowls of peanut shells on the cross-braces of the stools, all set to crash down upon Mike’s awakening – an east coast tradition called a yard sale. In minutes Roc would blast an air-horn in his ear and the fun would begin.
Chaffee turned from my notebook giggling, “This is wicked funny, Rocco trying to have a mask like the Brothers.” Rocco paused from polishing the brass, “You talking about my character again?!” It was all just a dream back then. The guy who bags your groceries in Hollywood is writing a script too but for some reason we didn’t care. We were all getting into this little story, a story with no name yet, no concept, just errant cool scenes that we loved chatting about. Chaffee laughed some more, “I can just picture it. He’d look like Mush-Mouth from Fat Albert!” As I balanced another loaded ashtray on our pyre, “Oooo. I’m using that.”
We talked and drank into the night, forgetting all about Weepin’ Mike. Then right in the middle of it CRAAAAASH! Mike was up, goose stepping around, throwing punches in the air and covered in pub shrapnel thinking he just woke up in Hell. Good times. I jumped on the Clydesdale and buzzed back to our squat on Sycamore and Hollywood Blvd. Taylor and I shared a 600 square foot studio apartment at the “Sycamore Lanai Apartments.” They give all the buildings these fun little names but for all intents and purposes the place was a crack house. Guns in the halls, drug dealers, hooker flops, all the shit you see in the movies.
When I pulled up there was a coroner’s van and some squads out front. I parked my bike and went up. As I approached our door, I saw that all the commotion was coming from an apartment across the hall from ours and two doors down. Its occupant was a wandering zombie that Taylor and I had dubbed, “Heroine Guy.” My brother was already standing at our open door, “What happened?” Taylor shook his head, “Some girl died in there, I think. Od’d.”
This was confirmed moments later, when they wheeled her body out. She had been left in there a long time because rigor had set in and even though she was draped in a sheet, you could see the unnatural position she had froze in. Her bare leg, wearing a cowboy boot was exposed, hanging stiffly over the side of the gurney like a single scraggly tree jutting out of a cliff face. As we gaped in horror, “Hey! That bitch has got my money!” Heroine Guy burst from his apartment and slammed his hand down into her boot, yanking out a few greasy bills.
My brother and I turned into our place and shut the door. Silence. For a long…long…long fucking time. We sat in our little shit hole, littered with guitars, mics and drums having a wordless conversation. Many brothers and sisters out there know exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes we don’t need our mouths, we use something else….Was what we had just witnessed how fragile, how savage and meaningless all this truly was?
I went to our old reel to reel 8 track, put on the headphones and listened to the new guitar parts Taylor had added to mine in drop D tuning. Magic. That night we wrote a recorded a song those tracks called “Find Me The Sun.” Years later, it would go on the one and only album we would ever record for Atlantic Records.
I will always regard this song as not only a final testimonial for a nameless, faceless girl whom we never knew but also the first seed planted inside me from which Boondock Saints would spring to life. I could never have imagined then, that this little seed would morph into an unstoppable genetic engine, a Mother Strain that would replicate itself over and over again and take root in millions across the world…
To any that are interested, click below to download the song for free.
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