Back in the 90’s very young kids were making very big money on underground raves and designer drugs. The raves were off the hook, thousands of people in factory warehouses the size of football fields, with chill rooms, black lights, trippy visuals, go go dancers, and a market driven proliferation of the drug ecstasy, or simply, X. These were the days before “rolling” was a term. “Ex-ing” was still de rigeur term in Seattle. The kids that threw the raves were rich kids who got even richer selling drugs to other rich kids and leveraging the drug money to throw massive underground raves. Because of the questionable nature of these massive events, they were rarely, if barely, legal. All the financials were off the books, for obvious drug related reasons. Therefore there were elaborate systems for getting to these raves, meant to elude any heat. First of all advertising was mostly through hand delivered flyers. The flyers were often ornate masterpieces of design. On the flyer would be a phone number. On the day of the rave you would call the number to find out the “secret” location. Often that number would refer you to another number. In those days this ruse seemed to be enough to deter police intervention. And when the parties were successful these guys would clear $100 grand.
The guys that threw these parties would sometimes come in from out of state, LA or NY. When that happened they would often rent out suites at the Alexis Hotel, the small upscale boutique hotel on the Seattle waterfront where I worked at from 1992 to 93. The entourage would typically roll in around Wednesday and party every night. They would throw their big warehouse party on Saturday night and then stay on at the hotel a few days afterward. After a successful rave they would usually throw massive parties in the suite. We loved giving room service to that clientele. They tipped outrageously and the girls were beautiful (incredible/ not to be believed), not to mention dressed to kill. The free ecstasy was a nice tip too.
After one especially successful party the producers ordered about $10,000 of room service from me, which equated to over $2K in gratuity. This party turned out to be great because they invited me and a few of the bellmen to join them after our shift was over.
One of the bellmen, Steve, was my closest friend at the Alexis. His dad was a local Fire Chief, so during the days Steve would fight fires as a junior firefighter, with his dad, and at night he would work at the Alexis. Steve milked that bellman job even more than I milked my roomservice job. It was a sweet set up.
Steve was mostly an upstanding citizen, even, at times, a brave and heroic one. One time he talked a major 80’s rock star from shooting himself in the head. The rock star was suicidal because he had cheated on his wife with one of the hostesses from our 5 star restaurant, The Painted Table, in the lobby of the hotel.
Steve said he was in the middle of talking the gun away from the rock star when the phone rang. The rocker ran to the phone, ripped it out of its socket and tossed it out the window. It landed on our chef’s car in the lot below. As soon as the phone hit the car below another phone rang. It turned out to be the second phone in the adjoining room. Steve raced the rocker to the phone and held it behind his back so the guy couldn’t throw it. The rest of the band sent him a $1K tip a week later in gratitude.
That’s the kind of guy Steve was. But Steve was also the kind of guy who would do sneaky shit too. For about 3 months of my year at the Alexis we had the cast and crew of The Little Buddha staying at the hotel. Chris Isaacs, Bridget Fonda and best of all, Bernardo Bertolucci. Keanu Reeves, the Buddha, was staying with a friend in town. The producer of the movie, Jeremy Thomas, was staying at the hotel too. Jeremy Thomas is a legend. Check out this pedigree. He’s produced films directed by Nicolas Roeg, Nicolas Roeg: Bad Timing, Eureka and Insignificance, Julien Temple's The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and The Hit directed by Stephen Frears, Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic, The Last Emperor, Bertolucci's film of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, David Cronenberg’s films of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, J. G. Ballard’s Crash and Christopher Hampton's A Dangerous Method. Heady stuff
Anyway, Jeremy had a block of the highest caliber weed I had ever seen, up to that point in my life, in his hotel room, kept under a glass cake dome. So Steve, and some of the other bellmen, would sneak into his room and smuggle out small pieces of the “cake” now and then for the staff. And that is what Steve brought to the raver’s party that night and it made me see pastel spirits and plaid faces.
I also dropped some acid that night. I remember taking it with the ecstasy, after I got off work at 2am. We called ex and acid together a “dose equis” back then, or sometimes a “candy flip.” That was the only time I ever tried that combination and it was probably a bit much. I don’t remember much of that night. Copious amounts of Jeremy Thomas’s weed and Veuve Cliquot were on hand too which didn’t help the memory.
I do remember at one point being curled up on a couch with three or four women and maybe one other guy and we were cuddling and slithering around the couch while watching the TV, out of our minds. We were watching a late night rerun of 90210, an episode in season 2 called "U4EA". In this episode Brandon takes another walk on the wild side when his devilish girlfriend, Emily Valentine, slips a hallucinogenic drug in his drink at an underground club.
Then my memory goes black, until I woke up in the suite at about 5pm the next day, still “tripping balls” and with two minutes to get my uniform in order and go downstairs to work.
The first order I got was for two omelets, croissants and orange juice, strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream. I remember the table presentation was very imaginative. Let’s just say the strawberries were legally married to the emperor of ice cream in a mock ceremony.
I took the tray up the room and to my surprise Brandon, from zip code 90201, opened the door, with bed-head, hangover eyes and stubble. Because of my delirious state I thought for a second that I had fallen into television life.
I stared for a minute until Brandon raised his famous eyebrows as if to say, “dude!”, and I snapped out of it. Suddenly this was not Brandon, but Jason Priestley and he was small and there were bags under his eyes and his breath was off. He also didn’t want me to come in the room because he had a girl in there. I could see her in bed behind Jason just well enough to see that the girl was Christine Elise, aka Emily Valentine!
Much later that same evening, after I had returned to a near state of normal, I got an order from Bernardo Bertolucci himself. Bertolucci was a hero of mine. I had studied his films in school and even written a paper about his film The Conformist for Marxist critic Kaja Silverman. So I was thrilled to be serving him a late night shrimp cocktail.
Bertolucci didn’t disappoint. The great artists are often great even in their most mundane moments.
I rang the bell and heard an Italian voice say, “the door is open.” I opened the door and Bertolucci was sitting at his table in his bathrobe, smoking a joint, undoubtedly from Jeremy Thomas, staring into space. He seemed to be listening to the hauntingly beautiful violin music coming from his stereo. It was as if he were in a dream.
As I set the tray down and handed him the check. I told him I thought the music was beautiful. Without saying a word Bertolucci stood up and walked toward the stereo. He stopped the CD. The sudden loss of music startled me, the silence. He ejected the CD, put it in the case and handed it to me. It was Arvo Part’s Requiem. I took note and then handed the CD back to him. He gestured for me to keep it. That was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, even better than the windfall from the night before.