top of page
Search
  • Writer's picture

Spaghettio

Updated: May 13


This painting I did on a cut up cardboard refrigerator box was the O.G. “Pussycat’s new lifestyle”  (alternate title:) “Picture it… 1993 Pussycat feels deserving of her own spin-off.” 




Also, picture it… November 2014.  I’m 25 years old and having my fourth proper art exhibit at Teddy’s nightclub at the iconic Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood. A very tall, awkward salt and peppered man grabs my arm, pulling me from my guests that showed up opening night to support me.  He wore an aged, off white fruit of the loom undershirt, paired  with a plain black Tom Ford blazer.  Finished off with some well-worn filthy white chucks.   You know the type… it’s the official uniform for the tech multi billionaire. The accomplished successful white older man who believes that “the uniform” makes him appear like he don’t give a fuck. It worked for the time.  Still does.  Even though the secret is over.  That outfit drew in all the hungry, young Instagram thots.  The more understated, the more well off.  “I don’t have to try… you know who I am… and if you don’t, you’ll soon find out” kinda vibe.  


This man’s strong opener he used on me was to convince me how down to earth he was.  He told me he was from a dumpy small town in Ohio or something?  Prior to attending my exhibit,  he told me he had a can of room temperature spaghettios for dinner. Opening the can with a Phillips screw driver he found in the hallway.  Drank the cold spaghettios from the can, and made his way to my show.  I could tell he wasn’t lying from the orangey red dried splatters all over his neckline.  I even noticed an actual petrified pasta O peeking out from under his lapel.  I want to make a good story better by saying the corners of his gray mustache were stained orange, but I can’t confirm that for a fact.  Anyone who knows a thing about me knows I love eccentric, socially off-putting wealthy people.  They love me even more.  I wasn’t scared or put off by this strange man.  I actually found him rather charming.  Bless my close friends for giving me the eye signals from the distance as if to say “Do you need saving?”  With my eyes, I told them to hold back.  I was having a lot more fun over here. 


Carryon.  After the Spaghettio relatability bit finally came to a stop, he asked if I’d heard of him?  No, I said.  With a smug half smile he proceeded to tell me he’s LA’s most revered celebrity glamor photographer.  He’s shot countless Vogue shoots for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Sandra Bullock, amongst too many more to list.  Also mentioned JLO and he were best friends and he just went to her birthday party.  Before he went any further Allison Melnick (the queen of LA’s Nightlife, if you know, you know) leaned in to whisper into my ear.  “Do you know who you’re talking to?  He’s the highest paid and most sought after glamor photographer LA has to offer, and has been for decades.  Work him.”  Allison always looks out for the underdogs, and I’ll always love her for that.  Me being 25 and the opportunist I am, I leaned into entertaining relatable Spaghettio man.  To make a long story short I agreed to leaving my exhibition and taking Spaghettio up on his offer to walk with him to his place.  


He lived in a really posh, tall luxury apartment complex up the hill of Doheney that apparently Cher had a penthouse in.  Sierra Towers or something or other?  It was a short enough walk.  Most people in Hollywood who start off hard like that, typically, the truth unfolds quickly.  They in actuality live with their overbearing Jewish mothers, or have roommates, or live within the vicinity of the fancy complex they claim to be theirs.  Sometimes not even in the vicinity.  Sometimes not even in the same area code.  (I don’t date 818)  In my experience I found this to be true more often than not.  Don’t come for me for generalizing.  Generalization is an art form of mine, and I'm good at it.

 

I skeptically followed along side Spaghettio as we made our way through the perfectly manicured hedges of Sierra towers.  The door man opened the door for us and said “Welcome home Mr. Spaghettio”.  My surprise continues as we approached the perfectly polished elevator doors.  Spaghettio proceeds to push the penthouse button. We exit the elevator, walking toward Spaghettios front door.  He types in a code. The door opens and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  We were greeted by a very stupidly handsome, extremely tall, fit young straight man with the epidermis of a salamander belly.  Or something dewy habitats under water.  Naturally he was shirtless, wearing the signature fuck-boy gray sweat pants that delivered their purpose of letting the viewer know he was A: hung, and B: cut.  I think his name was Indigo or Preston?  Something of that nature.   Spaghettio released Kaden for the night, and he walked his gray sweat pants down a dark hall to what I presume were his quarters.  He needed to be plugged in for the night and recharge.  Once Hendrixon was put away, I was able to take in my surroundings.


The largest, most opulent, tasteful penthouse I’ve ever seen.  Vaulted ceilings.  Muted earthy gray and black tones.  Layers upon layers.  SPAGHETTIO HAD TASTE! A grand Steinway made of all ivory hanging by golden chains vaulted from the high ceiling.  The richest, most unusual sofas I can only imagine were custom imported from Italy.  Fur throws draped casually over the arm rests.  There was nothing casual about it.  It was all intentional and expertly thought out.  The wafting smell of precious ouds that definitely didn’t come from LeLabo.  Only Dubai or Lebanon could be responsible for what was floating through all that spaciousness.  

An open balcony with a tall glass chimney with a fire already crackling inside.  Waiting to give us a warm welcome.  A wrap around day bed made of the finest velvet.  The kind of modern throw pillows you wouldn’t even find at Dovetail.  

Actual mink blankets. One for each seat.  A sambura hanging swing woven in rattan with exotic royal satin cushions.  Making our way back to the parlor, giant sizes of thick Calacatta marble slabs used as partitions to give separation and flow. 

Spaghettios art collection was of a degree I had yet to see.  The exposure to the art hanging on the walls, as well as sculptures intimidated me as an artist.  Yet gave me a healthy gut nudge to want to level up my personal craft.  He even had one of those glass clear refrigerator doors where you can see what’s inside.  Perfect militant rows of what I can only assume to be the most expensive glass water bottles one could buy.  

The chandeliers and light fixtures had to have been shipped in from a far away land.  I could go on… Spaghettio wasn’t full of shit after all. 


It’s only fair to say I was beguiled.  The hook Spaghettio had on me, was back at the Roosevelt.  He had interesting takes on my art.  Before pulling me by the arm, I did notice him spending more time than anyone else, getting close to my pieces hanging on the walls.  He put the time in examining my work.  A couple times I observed his facial expressions.  He appeared to be expressing a full range of emotions.  Disgust, a crooked smile, something close to an almost laugh.  I could tell things were churning in his mind.  I’ve seen that look before.  It always ignites me.  Any type of reaction is an artists dream.  For context,  the exhibit I’m referring to was called “Getting to know you.”  It was in the height of my celebrity fascination era.  Spaghettio mentioned the obvious paradox between the both of our work.  What he took in as an obvious theme of my work was that I had a subconscious way of drawing extreme attention to the grisly.  The ill-favored.  The grotesque (his words).

His craft and medium he uses in his personal work was a heavy-handed focus on hyper flattery.  Softening the flaws of our beloved celebrity icons.  Locating the best angles of his subjects.   Digitally deleting the imperfections.  Discovering a way to appease the A-listers he shoots.   His main objective is to shoot his subjects in a way where when they see the finished portrait,  they are taken back by their own lure.  In the best making it so they almost don’t recognize themselves.  A new discovery of their own asset.  This is why they loved Spaghettio taking their photos.   Credit where credit is due, this is a power inside Spaghettio that out of all the famous photographers, the Richard Avedons of the world, Bruce Webber, fill in the space… They could never access the power that solely belonged to Spaghettio.  Everyone knew it.  He possessed that kind of talent that was worth the absolute Freddie Kruger nightmare on Elm street he was to work with. 


Spaghettio was notorious in the industry for his disrepute.  Rumors of spitting in female models faces for showing up on his set, on his time, not meeting his weight standards.  Sending them home unpaid for being what he deemed “fat.”  I even heard he pushed a model off a rocky hill that landed on the freeway inner pass.  I also heard he had a shoot in the middle of the desert, and because one of the models wasn’t delivering the energy he required, he loaded all the other models in the van, and left the unfavorable one naked in the desert.  Her clothes, purse, phone in the van he took off with.  There are too many more allegations to list for the sake of the story I’m writing.   However, he always delivered flawless quality.  He had a certain standard that was so beyond what other photographers could accomplish.  This is why he had the long standing run he had.  This is why clients turned a blind eye, and continued to work with him.  In all honesty it may have been a selling factor in hiring him.  This was long before the me too movement.  Crazy and talent went together in a neat package back then.  We were years out from that being challenged.  The gray areas weren’t as prevalent the way they are now.   To be wildly talented, humane, and professional was never an appealing selling point in this industry.  Especially in the fashion editorial world.  The abusive theatrics were currency for an artist like Spaghettio.  


Still on the subject of him examining my work,  I loved listening to the feedback he gave me.  It was so much deeper than the typical “Yas… Goldie Hawn… slay!  Cool exhibit.  Why haven’t you done the housewives?”   Spaghettio was poignant and direct.  “I spend hours upon hours in post pulling late nights in front of my computer screen struggling to find the balance.  Glossing the imperfections of my subjects in a way where it’s not so obvious that the subject gets offended by my assumption that what I see as unflattering, they accept as a fundamental characteristic of what makes up their look.  Yet, here you are putting a magnifying glass over what I labor countless hours over trying to cover up.  It’s quite nervy really what you do.  Who are you?  Meeting you, you’re lovely.  You don’t seem mean spirited?  But are you?”  He said.  I found that to be such an astute observation.  No one had ever went that deep with me regarding my work.  No one had ever questioned the possibility of my intentions being malicious.  At least to my face… 


A 25 year old, naive,  easily seduced artist flying high from the lip service of one of Hollywood’s seasoned legends finds himself in the penthouse at the tippy top of Doheney boulevard.  A popular women’s shoe designer by the name of B.  Atwood hired Spaghettio to shoot the campaign for a new high-heel he invented called the “Fuck me pump.”  They were the sexiest, sleekest babies with a heel so impossibly high, they were nearly scientifically impossible to even put on, god forbid walk in.  Atwood, being the horny man-eater he remains to be, god love him, his whole campaign was supposed to be a Coffee table book, but ended up being more of a paper back magazine of a collection of photos of his top spank bank fantasy male models he hand selected from Instagram.  Buck naked boys.  They were all anywhere from 19-23, wearing nothing but his new “Fuck me pumps.”  Atwood loved himself the visual of straight young young young naked male models piled on top of each other pretending to wrestle… or some shit.  It still perplexes me as to how he thought this particular approach of advertising would drive women to feel compelled to go buy the heels after looking at that.  I don’t think he gets women… But what would I really know? Just self fund yourself a homoerotic passion project at this point. 


Meanwhile I was still at the penthouse.  Spaghettio pulled out a large military duffel bag of the pumps Atwood shipped him from New York for spaghettio to get straight to work on.  He pulled the pumps out of the duffle bag and Spaghettio demanded I try them on.  Much like Cinderella’s ugliest step sister, I grunted my way into a pair.  Largest size Atwood sent, and still wouldn’t budge.  “A guy like you surely has some gun oil lying around… I’m sure it comes out of your faucet?”  I suggested.  Spaghettio vanished to what I’m sure was a secret passage way.  I’m sure he pulled a book from the book case, and the case rotated into a dark room I hoped I’d never find myself in. 

Moments later, he returned with a Costco size amount of my requested gun oil.  He slimed up my little toesies, and the glass slipper glided right into place.  He told me to stand.  My knees buckled like Ariel right after she got her sea legs and had that pervy little string of seaweed perfectly covering her little sixteen year old nipples as she wobbled around.  I’m no quitter so I took my first step. 

Spaghettios  temper begun raising and becoming more and more rapidly impatient.  So I leveled up.  My first few attempts landed me flat on the floor.  You have to understand these heels were so aggressively high that it tilted your posture forward in the most unnatural way.  The kind of forward tilt only MJ can do. The heels themselves were as thin as a number 2 pencil.  However, that pencil thin heel was made of pure iron connected to another iron plate on the sole.  They were much to my surprise, STURDY. 

After some yelling and some coaching, I could run the catwalk up and down.  Next came the moment I knew would be next.  “Take off all your clothes.”  He orders me.  I was young.  I was pure at the time.  A Virgin even. But I wasn’t dumb. I was intelligent enough to comprehend that his expectations of me weren’t ending there.  I knew it wouldn’t end with the catwalk.  I recall a moral conundrum in my mind.  I could either take the heels off, say it’s been interesting, and make an exit.  Or I could learn to get used to the ways of how the industry ran.  Spaghettio had my number.  He knew exactly how to make me feel like a small town, mormon Virgin dork with no future in this town if I left.  I couldn’t have that. 

My toes seemed to morph into a flipper as I settled into the torture chambers welded to my feet.  For a brief moment I envisioned myself tapping the points of these pumps together three times and audibly saying out loud “There’s  no place like home.  There’s no place like home.”  Hoping all this would be but a scary dream once upon a time in Hollywood.  With the hope I’d end up back in Morgan, Utah in my childhood backyard.  Looking down at my feet to see my well-worn work boots covered in horse shit. Funny enough the fuck me pumps compressed around my feet were bright cherry red… just like Dorthy’s.  They didn’t sparkle, but they were that exact shade of red.


I Opened my eyes and came to a sharp realization my toes were still smashed into the red fuck me pumps.  I had never been completely naked in front of a grown man.  A complete stranger that I left my art exhibit I’d worked so hard on for.  I left all that to follow home an older, odd man with tomato sauce stains on his shirt.  I abandoned my own vision I tirelessly executed to wear women’s heels no fucking less… once upon a time in Hollywood, right?  Let’s collectively just rack it up to “Zach’s adventurous”.  Takes some of the idiocy off myself.  

I was too far in to go back.  The more aggressive spaghettio became, my safer option felt like it was in my best interest to follow every direction he barked.  

I’m going to make the choice to leave out what transpired the rest of that night.   I’m not writing a “me too” exposé.  Was I taken advantage of?  Yes.  Was I sexually assaulted?  Darn tootin.  Was I in danger?  Yup.  It’s Hollywood.  You hear of these stories.  Up until more recently, they almost seemed like folklore. I discovered the hard way that night, they were truer than I could have imagined.  Beyond being true, they were far worse than the rumbles and rumors.  My mind went to Richard Gere allegedly shoving a gerbil up his asshole… it was most likely a possum… not a gerbil.  Let’s be real at this point.  Whatever horrifying absurdity you hear buzzing around Hollywood, don’t only believe it… multiply it exponentially.   


At that particular time, and as a man, probably out of self preservation, rather than leaving the gilded bird perch of Sierra tower, I stayed hours longer.  The moment finally came where I could make what I endured through the course of that night beneficial to me.  I was not leaving after all I was put through with nothing to show but festering blisters on my feet.  Spaghettio brought out his camera. He begun shooting me.  This was the moment when the power dynamic drastically switched.  This was my window.  I didn’t leave my art show to be sexually assaulted by a bag of gray nose hair, peppered on top of a cold, half slurped spaghettio can.  This is not in any way how I would allow this exchange to end.  I wanted to see myself the way he sees those he photographs.  I wanted to be beautiful.  I wanted to not recognize myself.  I wanted physical evidence of the external beauty only spaghettio could conjure out of me.  Only he possessed that authority.  I was curious.  I was eager to meet this man that may possibly be an extension of myself. I was in my primest of primest years.  This deserved a moment. 

I love looking at pictures of my parents when they were that age.  Black and white photos of my mother and how strikingly gorgeous she was, and remains. Her 1960’s cat-eye.  Her long peroxide platinum hair rolled into a perfect beehive.  My father with his strong jaw and cocky smirk.  His beefy, sun tanned forearms and dark swarthy brows.  A glimpse in time.  How I love pulling out the photo album and gazing into my parents eyes.  Wondering what they were thinking in that moment?  

At this time I still believed I’d have children of my own one day soon. I needed to give them this snap shot in time the way my parents gave me.  Obviously skipping the story of how I was able to get my photo taken by the legendary Spaghettio. I wanted my kids to say how handsome their daddy used to be before he let himself go.  I wanted this for my posterity.  Mostly for myself if I’m being honest.  One dark day years down the line when I’m not feeling or looking like myself, I can pull out my portrait from once upon a time in Hollywood, and see myself the way Spaghettio saw me.  This fantasy was what kept me from ripping the heels off my feet and running for the Hollywood Hills.  I was not leaving this nightmare until Mr. Campbells took my close-up.  


Three or four shots in, something I can’t explain took over me. An overwhelming surge of sexual, destructive confidence came over me.  The moment the lense was pointed my direction I shifted gears into “power slut mode.”  I knew all my angles.  I accessed my theatrical, dangerous, live wire alter only few have seen. None of them made it out alive.  When Spaghettio would open his mouth to direct, I told him to shut the fuck up and keep shooting like the little pathetic beta, sexually deprived cuck he is.  As naked as the day I was born, I jumped on his glass coffey table and kicked his precious Jewel Royal chess set as hard as I could with those red pumps.  Kings, queens, and knights flying in all directions.  Funnily enough the only one that didn’t shatter or chip was the Queen.  Could have been adrenaline?  Could have been the steel toe in the pump, but it didn’t hurt.  It felt incredible.  It felt so good I continued kicking more of his expensive trinkets.  What appeared to be an award of some sort, perched on the top console of a very tall sectional caught my crazy eye.   I used the shelving as a stepping ladder, climbing my way to the top.  Grabbed the glass trophy and threw it at him.  He dodged it much to my dismay, but the dramatics delivered.  “I GOTCHUR CRAZY!”  I even pierced one of his throw pillows with my heel. 

Spaghettio wasn’t angry.  Quite the opposite.  He kept rolling the film.  I took this destructive persona further into his bedroom, jumping on his bed, with my Red Devils.  These heels became a lethal weapon of mass destruction.  I felt like a combination of Charlize from Atomic Blonde, and Britney from the Womanizer video when she’s the chauffeur, and steers the wheel with her heel. 

I shouldn’t love this about myself, but getting even has always been an area I excel in. My siblings still mention it to this day.  Bringing up stories from childhood about them throwing dirt, and Zach throwing razor blades.  Only difference was, Spaghettio and I were nowhere near close to even…  We are now though.  We’re barely ten minutes in after the beginning credits.  The story gets so much more daft.  Depending on how this goes, I may possibly continue telling you part two and three of how I splattered spaghettio all over the white wall.  

Spaghettio got exactly what he wanted.  He bullied me.  He disrespected me.  He robbed me of my important event I curated all on my own.  He pulled me away from the people that went out of their way to support my artistry.  I hated myself for allowing him to do that.  He made me as uncomfortable as he could so I would break.  That was his thing.  That’s why he gets the shots he gets. That’s his method.  You don’t go to the zoo to take a picture of a sad, caged gorilla sitting under the sparse shade of an artificial tree with flys harrassing its eyeballs.  You throw rocks.  You spit your blue raspberry icee, aiming for its sad face, to get him angry.  To get the reaction you want for the mere sake of a good photo.  It all made sense. 

I felt satisfied after my destructive outburst.  Especially after what he did to me physically and mentally on that long night.   But not as satisfied as I needed to feel in order to leave Sierra towers with my head held high.  Still naked, I grabbed the duffle bag of heels and switched into a black pair.  The moment the soles of my feet sunk into position, a new alter appeared.  This alter was DARK… not playful like the red.   I felt an unadulterated psychopath surge from the bottom of my swollen feet, coursing its way up to my unhinged head.  I felt the back of my neck and ears burn and pulsate. 

I slowly click clacked my way to the three-quarter-powder room in the entry way.  I was possessed by the black pair.  They were in charge now.  I stood several feet from the toilet and drained my main vein all over the seat.  The wall.  I doused the LV decorative towels.  A remaining heavy flow continued as I stepped out to the foyer, grabbed my clothes, threw my long coat over my naked body and slammed the door behind me.  I had no intention of returning the heels.  They were a part of me now.  They became my catsuit.  Selina Kyle is pushed through a glass window, falling several stories and chewed up by feral street cats.  She revives herself from the dead with black shiny latex, a spool of white thread, and a sharp needle.  I had black shiny fuck me pumps. 



It was a forty five minute walk back to my apartment.  The sun was up at that point.  Picture it:  4:30 AM, me limping down Sunset.  A red plaid trench coat draped over my nude shoulders.  Swollen, bare feet walking over Hollywood filth.  B. Atwood black, fuck me pumps in one hand, vintage Armani pin striped suit I wore to my exhibit in the other.  These heels hadn’t even hit the market yet.  They were basically classified top secret information.  I still have them. I wear them sometimes when I feel a hypo manic episode on brew. 


Spaghettio met his match that night.  I share all of this to explain the original painting of Dorothy Zbornak.  Spaghettio reminded me of her.  He looked like her.  The wild gray and white streaked hair, his posture. How he positioned his hands. His impatience.  His irritability.  It was all just too damn funny for me not to translate it into my work.  I made this painting the following night. 

Art was once a vehicle for me to journal things that traumatized me.  Painting the true ugliest nature of someone once brought me a sense of regaining whatever was taken without permission.  Somewhere down the line I lost touch with that ability.  Too many awful things have happened back to back for me to document them in this particular way.  I want a moment to catch my breath from it all so I can return to this. 

I suppose I answered Spaghettios question about the intentionality of my work, didn’t I…  Am I a malicious person?  I believe I am.  But never for no reason that didn’t provoke me.  In all honesty, I have to believe if I didn’t possess this dark magic I have of using paints and pencils to expose someone as nefarious as Spaghettio, I fear I would result to violence.  I can’t even really say that.   After all I did throw his asshole of the year award at him, aiming for his stupid face… it’s a mystery even to me where the real truth of my intentions begin and where they end.  


Time has softened me.  Fuck spaghettio.  But Dorothy Zbornak was worthy of a redo.  A proper moment void of any tomato sauce stains.   This is what inspired me to remake this piece.  Now you have the history.  Catch me in a different circumstance and I’ll share part 2 and 3 of the rest of what transpired between spaghettio and I.  











215 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page