The bacon saver
February 8, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
On September 16, 2000, I visited Scott and Georgia Thunes in the Bay Area to collect photos for In Cold Sweat: Interviews with Really Scary Musicians. We had a really nice time.
I took a few photos. Here’s Scott’s one-woman Praetorian Guard, his wife Georgia. I’d won her over by then.
She designed my Website, which was pink and orange, I believe. I chose the colors. It was a nice site, but after In Cold Sweat failed, I didn’t bother renewing the yearly Web-hosting bill, so the site went off the air in 2003.
As an aside, nothing creeps me out more than those Flying Dutchman Websites that haven’t been updated in years—blogs that peter out, or author sites that have one book, and it’s five years old. Dreams that have crumbled into dust. I know how the writers feel. Still, take down those dead sites! I beg you.
An aside to that aside: Read William Hope Hodson’s short story “The Derelict.” It would make a brilliant film, and it’s the reason all those long-dead Websites haunt me. I wonder what’ll happen to them if they stay on the ‘Net long enough.
I never heard such a sound of comprehension and terror in a man’s voice. The very horrified assurance of it made actual to me the thing that before had only lurked in my subconscious mind. I knew he was right; I knew that the explanation my reason and my training both repelled and reached towards was the true one. Oh, I wonder whether anyone can possibly understand our feelings in that moment? The unmitigated horror of it and the incredibleness!
Back to Scott Thunes.
I call him the “Collateral Ghost” in Ghosts and Ballyhoo because he haunted me as much as “Carmen,” the Cardinal Ghost. Despite being a ghost for several years, Scott was still a bacon saver. He saved my bacon by giving me good interviews and by setting an example. “Requiem for a Heavyweight?” put me on the map. People still talk about it nearly twenty years later. It was a finalist for the 1997 National Magazine Awards.
Under different circumstances I would’ve been a successful music journalist. The confluence of my own chronic rage, my refusal to accept reality, and the implacable drive of my former editor to exile me from the industry combined to create years of aimless wandering. I was a different person back then. Today, I can handle setbacks. Next week I formally begin my quest for another publicist. Got my query letter written and everything.
Even as I meandered in a state of murderous fury, I thought of how Scott Thunes handled his own misfortunes. He set an example for me. Since it was so long ago, I can now admit that there were times when I fantasized about taking a shotgun to where my boss worked. This would never have actually happened because I have a special loathing for workplace shootings.
But I imagined cornering this calm, happy destroyer and aiming at him, saying something like, “What do you say we publish my Ray Shulman article, hmmm? Think you want to change your mind about it after all?”
During the period that my career was being dismantled, I had undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder with secondary psychotic features (PTSD-SP). I didn’t know why I was consumed with swooning, all-enveloping rage that made me contemplate doing terrible things. Everybody involved in the whole stinking mess—including me—is really lucky.
I never actually met the editor in person. One of the reasons was because Scott Thunes inspired me to not add to my misfortunes. If I’d driven to the Bay Area to scream or grovel or cry, nothing would’ve changed. At the end of my performance, my editor would’ve continued on his course. I’ve learned the very hard way that the majority of people will refuse to stop doing something that doesn’t work.
Are you familiar with the French frigate Medusa? On July 2, 1816, it ran aground on a sandbar off the coast of present-day Mauritania. The captain, Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumareys, ignored warnings that the route he chose was insane. Rather than admit that he was an incompetent buffoon who had no idea what he was doing, he plowed ahead, having arbitrarily decided on a course of action. The Medusa hit the sandbar, and the idiot captain then refused to jettison the vessel’s fourteen cannons, ensuring that the ship was stuck for good.
One hundred forty-six passengers were put on a hastily assembled raft that found its buoyancy point several feet under water. The crew tried to tow the raft with the ship’s longboats, but the weather and the hysteria of the raft occupants made that iffy, so they cut the ropes, abandoning the raft in the ocean. Over the next two weeks, the raftees fought, were swept overboard, and cannibalized each other until only fifteen were left alive. They were rescued by a passing ship.
There’s a famous painting of the raft by Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault.
All my life I’ve been afraid of captains who’d run me aground. But I was even more afraid of degrading into a hysterical cannibal.
So at my worst moments, I found myself pondering Scott Thunes. Here was someone who’d had it all and lost it, but he’d refrained from destroying either himself or others. He was angry, but he wasn’t crazy with rage the way I was. When I thought of driving to the Bay Area to confront the editor who took such cool pleasure in telling me that another of my articles was as dead as John Wilkes Booth, I remembered of what Scott had said.
I have achieved something many musicians will never have: happiness. Everything else comes second. I don’t want to come off like a hibernating Zen monk; it’s not that I stepped down off the mountain. I spent ten years in Los Angeles thinking my $300 a week from Dweezil was the best I could get. I was depressed, but I did my job with as much aplomb as I could. And that’s what most people want. Most people just want to be in a rock band. They want their musical ideas to be valid. I’d rather have my life be valid.
It wasn’t until I’d lost just about everything, including my health, that I finally arrived where Scott was.
A lot of our interaction must remain private, but Scott saved my bacon yet again by alerting me that Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity are frauds. This was after they’d scammed me of $40,000 by exploiting the suicides of my parents.
In gratitude, I’ve decided that I must do what Scott asked me to do in 2012, but which I refused. Scott is a fan of photography. He’s a good subject himself.
He also takes good photos, such as the one he snapped of me on September 16, 2000.
Here’s how he got that image: He held a photo in his left hand, put it in my face, lifted his thumb off an area that had been covered, and snapped my portrait with his right hand.
Without further ado, here is the photo that Scott has asked me to publish. It shows the worst sunburn of his life. I agreed on the condition that we please, please, PLEASE make one addition to it. To my weepy relief, Scott acquiesced.
Fourteen years had passed since I last laid eyes on this picture. Time has not softened the horror. In 2000 there was no flowered black rectangle: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”
My debt to you is paid in full, Scott Carter Thunes.
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