It’s like this: you’re working for a potentially—fuck it, most likely—criminal enterprise, morally criminal if not legally, and details start to coalesce as a guide that saves you from the impending organizational explosion.
I began to feel the details swarm in my first official meeting as LPL’s VP of SEBA. We were in the offices of a major… bottled product conglomerate. The receiving executives were young, fresh faced, their dumb smiles free of the shitjargon that was to blast out of Pontius’s mouth when given some nod, the masochistic invitation to pitch. At this point, if you can’t tell, I’m starting to hate myself.
“The brandlandish—but true!—claims your previous executive product development team failed to recognize have come around—luckily for [COMPANY NAME REDACTED]— and I praise you infamous men for giving it a second look,” Pontius began, advancing past the slide with long-necked giraffe I’d come to loathe.
“The era of terroir tap water is about to begin. You can either claim to own their flavorful pipes, or lose out to your competitors. Who will bottle nether-regions of Brooklyn? Who the Western Addition of San Francisco, The Missionary District? Gentlemen. You already own the glass, you own the distribution… now own the tasting notes for America’s nuanced tap-water economy!”
He advanced the slide again, and the precious mock-ups (hand-drawn?) of “The Taste of America” bottles appeared on the flatscreen.
It is very hard not to palm one’s face in a meeting like this. And this was just one of many.
The success, the money being spent on empty language, on black hole strategy & theory… I found myself increasingly dizzy with each meeting, each check cut to & cashed by the LaBar enterprise. There were only a handful of meetings, but each did its own peculiar damage.
Then I got a call. Shailene Woodley, my cast mate, very lovely person.
She was angry. Not with me, necessarily; she just wanted to know who the fuck Pontius LaBar was. I told her about our relationship, that I actually met his assistant at your premiere, hah!, how funny, etc., fearing the worst. She said, “He showed up at my house.”
“It was about 8 o’clock and this Porsche pulls up — at first I thought it was Daren [Daren is our other cast mate/Porsche driver] but then I saw the color was off. I went outside, thinking it was maybe a friend of my upstairs neighbor’s, and this guy gets out. He’s obviously drunk, but he looked like a banker — tie, suit, he looked nice. Totally out of place in my driveway, but I didn’t think he was harmful. He starts talking fast about delivering something from you, that he was engaged with you at the executive level, whatever the fuck that means. I slow him down and tell him I’m going to get my phone and call you. He says okay, and I think he knew I was feeling uncomfortable, because he backed up and sat on the hood of his car and pulled out his Blackberry. I come out with the phone to my ear. You weren’t answering, and then he walks over to me like he’s going to show me something on his Blackberry and then he grabs my fucking phone and turns around, hunching over it like a caveman. I started screaming to get my neighbor’s attention and punching him, punching the shit out of him, but he’s still hunched over my phone, not moving, scrolling through my contacts list and yelping every time I hit him. I finally get the phone from him and kick him in the balls. He sits down. And the dude starts fucking crying.”
“He’s crying and talking about George Clooney, Ken.”
“Oh my god.”
“He’s talking about how much he loved his work in ER, that he’s such a dedicated fan, all this shit.”
“Oh my god, Shai.”
Aaaaand I started apologizing. I knew Pontius was celebrity obsessed — I walked in on him a few times pre-meeting with an InTouch or US! Weekly wedged in his little Kindle case. But I didn’t know he was assault-grade obsessed.
Shai told me that she had been receiving packages from this guy, but was throwing them away. Once she got him off her property (he drove the Porsche in reverse back the way he came in, over the Malibu dirt, still crying), she put it all together. Same creep.
I terminated my one-page agreement with LPL, effective immediately. And threatened to fly to Atlanta and kick Pontius’s ass. Say what you will about PJ — he’s a master of appeasement.
And then sometimes the phone rings twice. This time it was a certain Nick Bray. An ex-employee of LaBar Partners Limited. He told me he had it all taken down — a sordid confession, a tell-all revealing LPL’s disgusting heyday of consultation, brand management, lies & abuse. That it was hilarious in its own depravity, but it came with costs.
And that he luckily bumped into a real writer on his final plane back to San Francisco, fleeing the tornado of bullshit — he met a guy with an ear that could help him tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me God.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present…