The Celebrity

Written and Illistrated by:
Whit Brayton


The room was very still. I sat in a small, uncomfortable chair that looked inviting until I
actually sat down in it. The chair was a lie.


Across from me and behind a cheap Ikea desk was the Suit. The Suit was dressed in a
white satin button up with silver embroidering, a spiked dragon pattern of some sort that
was neither Asian nor modern, but was trying for both. His hair was dyed just so. Silver
with feathered lines of black, and cut with precision, styled with gel and comb. It struck a
symmetrical balance. Perfection.


Beneath the table his foot clicked within his pink clog-like rubber sandal shoe. I was
trying to remember the official name of said shoe, was it the style or brand that defined
it? Gators maybe, but not, no that referred to alligator skin shoes, a style the Suit would
call ‘tacky’; the irony so completely lost on him that it pushed the threshold of comedic.
It made me want to cut my wrists right there in front of him and let the blood spray all
over his office and white shirt.


“I think drowning, or being eaten by sharks, or burnt alive, slowly, like burnt alive with a
bic lighter.”


“What?” he looked up from my resume to find me staring back, hands folded.


“Those are some of the ways I’d prefer not to die,” I jutted out my chin, as if to say


“Well those are terrible ways.”


“They are.”


“Did you know Dennis Hopper is dying?” he laid the resume down on his desk and sat
back in his chair, folding leg over knee, hands behind his head, his un-named sandal still
bouncing on his foot. I had heard about Hopper.


“No,” I said, “what’s wrong with him?”


“Cancer, they say he’s down to 98 pounds with cancer, terminal, obviously.”


I reached forward and grabbed the bottle of water his secretary had delivered to me upon
my arrival to the interview. She was wearing a white sun-dress and as she leaned over me
to set the bottle on the desk, the sun cutting through the windows illuminated the contours of her tits and naval beneath the thin, white cotton. It was a stimulating silhouette and I remember thinking so that’s why they call it a sun-dress.


“That’s terrible,” I said to the Suit as I swallowed a taste of water, “but with Hopper it
was only a matter of time, he lived it pretty hard.”


“Doesn’t mean he deserves a painful death.” the Suit scoffed at me.


“Not what I said at all,” I set the water back down on his desk, a droplet sliding down its
side and pooling at the base, a ring would soon form beneath the bottle, staining the
cheap Ikea wood. The Suit wouldn’t like that judging by his hair.


“I’m just saying you can’t live all the way and expect to live forever. In my estimation
it’s mostly timid, boring people who die peacefully, and even within that cross-section
it’s a crap-shoot.”


“Dennis is a fine man, he deserves better.”


“Why because he’s famous? Because he made art?”


“Because he made the world a better place, yes, through his art, his work”




I looked past the Suit out the window and watched the wind whip through the trees,
“nobody deserves anything more than anyone else, we put stigma on things because we
need definitive hierarchy, but no one is better than anyone else, I mean inherently, you
can’t possibly argue with that?”


“I absolutely could, people are smarter, more talented, better yes, inherently.”


“Ok,” I stood up and straitened my shirt, “this is where I get off the train, you’re an
arrogant cocksucker who defines self-worth by the societal value of his ‘friends’, you are
perpetuating a cast system of value because without it you would be forced to face your
general lack of worth, along with your own mortality, which scares you most of all, as it
does most narcissists.”


“At least I’m not a nihilist,” he let out a short laugh like a donkey sneeze.


“At least I’m not wearing pink crocs!” It was like finding a diamond in a sea of shit.


“Get out!” he bellowed.



I turned and burst through the door, slamming it behind me, and it doing so, shattering
the glass window within its center. The glass tumbled from its wooden pane like the
world trade center. The Suit stood screaming at me from within his office.
“And learn how to use a fucking COASTER!”




The city bus lurched to a stop on Hollywood blvd, steam releasing from its pneumatic
brakes like an old train clicking into the station. I stepped out onto Hollywood, a manila
folder full of resumes gripped under my arm. Certainly without a shot at the job, I figured
I’d send a follow up email when I returned home as another deftly executed fuck you.
Again, fleeting, but worth while none the less.



I pushed through the crowded streets, with its tourist T-shirt shops, wax museums and
franchised Pizza kitchens. There was a hustling electricity in the air, and I wondered why
today, of all days, the throngs of tourists seemed even more thick and zealous than usual.
As I approached Grauman’s Chinese Theater I noticed the flash bulbs popping as the
crowd’s cumulative gasp tipped its hand. Celebrity was afoot.



I pushed my way through the fanny-packed tourists to a steel safety gate separating the
prince from the paupers, all mouths hanging with shock and awe. As the tank-tops parted,
there he was, standing hunched and withered, as if he’d been separated from his precious
for many moons. It was Dennis Hopper.



A sleek black suit cloaked his boney figure, he smiled weakly at the crowd, who were
caught between awe and horror looking at the once beloved icon displaying his humanity
for all to see. He was dying, there was no question, no doubt. His eyes sunk into his skull.
His hair missing in matted clots. His whiskers stiff and white, jutting from his face
chaotic. He raised his boney hand, cupped like a half-moon, rotating like a broken
satellite dish, a little this way, a little that. His handlers stood by as a speech was being
given by a lesser, modern day version of the cinematic star. Behind the orator and
podium, Hopper stood, swaying beneath the pressure of the wind.



When the speech finished, a thick man standing idle gave Hopper his arm, leading him to
a grey square in the street roped off with velvet chains, crushed red, offset by the shiny
gold hooks that suspended them. Hopper knelt down to the ground, raising his hands up
to the sky, as if giving praise to Mecca. He froze there, his palms outstretched to the
heavens, eyes closed, face bathed in sunlight. His arms pushing toward the sky, light
pounding off his thin, white palms, reflecting the crystalline light. The crowd watched,
waited, taking short breaths in anticipation of something beautiful.



Hopper’s neck cocked back, his eyes were squeezed tightly shut. He opened his mouth as
the crowd hushed, letting out a long guttural moan. It wheezed from his body, like the
thin slap of air escaping a balloon. The sound faded as all the air in his lungs was
evacuated from his body. He held still a moment more. Silence.



The crowd let out a shared scream as Hopper toppled forward into the wet cement, his
palms diving into the slushy grey, his face sinking forward, mouth open, gaping. The
handlers exploded off the stage running towards him and wrenching his body from the
cement square. There was an old hippy lady standing next to me, and I realized she was
sobbing, hands on her face, fingers splitting at her eyes so she could watch the fallout.
Her body heaved with grief. She didn’t even know the man.



The large, bulky handler dragged Hopper’s stiff body from the stage towards a tinted
limo, blacked out and hearse-like. The crowd followed behind, mauling the vehicle as it
catapulted west toward Cedar Sinai. The final image of Dennis Hopper was branded into
my mind, his face frozen, slathered with chunky grey cement, like a beard of steel wool.
I walked a bit further down the rail to get a better look at the impression left in the
Hollywood Blvd. cement. As I reached it, I peered over the rail, finding two hand-prints
and a face, ambiguous in its features, there was no signature, no definition, just a face and
two small hand prints that could have belonged to anyone.




Two months later the rains came. Half days of pounding rains split the sunshine of Los
Angeles once every fifth month. It happened to be one of those days as I rode the
Hollywood bus once more to a job interview. My tenth of the month. I was at the point
were simply five minutes of face time was an orgasmic experience. Desperation had set
in, and I was on my way to meet with a Pornography Director who needed a personal
assistant/ tutor for his three well-adjusted children.



Water hammered the streets like a typhoon, then suddenly the skies closed up, all in one
instant; the sun breaking through the mist as if nothing had happened. Traffic moved
again. The bus rattled down the street, rainbowed and gasoline slick with beauty. I stared
out the window as we crossed Highland. Grauman’s Chinese. The street performers. The
grime encrusted history.



As the bus rumbled past, I looked through the crowd and spotted a homeless man
kneeling next to Dennis Hopper’s face. His cloths we ragged and stuck to his body with
rainwater, his hair ratty curls balled into twine. He leaned down to the cement, cupping
his hands and dipping them into Hopper’s indented face, a reverse death mask full of
rainwater. The man pooled the water in his hands, lifting it to his mouth and drinking it
in. Droplets of water dribbled down his face and wrists. The man closed his eyes and
savored the taste of it. And nobody on the street seemed to notice.