(if you missed Part 1, you’re gonna be confused)
Probably the number one thing I miss about living in the heart of Hollywood is being able to walk to giant events and goings-on around me. It makes you feel pretty g’damn awesome when you can just walk out your door and go to the most famous movie theatre in the world just to see a matinee. Or to the Pantages to see one of your favorite bands of all time. Or to any number of play houses to see Broadway productions and then casually strolling to a dive bar a block away from your apartment.
The day of the Larpies (the official name for the 2006 LARPY Awards), I only had to grab a black robe and walk 2 blocks away from my apartment to be a part of what was promised1I’m not using the term “promised” literally here — merely that it was presented to me and others as a bigger deal than it … Continue reading to be a historical event. It’s always nice to be involved in the first of something. While you never know if it’ll sink or swim, the idea is that you can look back many years later and say “yeah, I remember when it was a scrappy little operation, but I believed in the project!” — even though fucking no one believes in the first incarnation of anything, everyone likes to say that once it finally takes off. In spite of my skepticism that there’s just not enough people who even know what LARP’ing is, much less are so damned excited about it that they’d watch — and enjoy — an awards show for it, I will never deny that I thought “well, maybe I’m wrong, and this is the start of something huge” and I was genuinely proud to be a part of this fledgling thing, getting in on the ground floor.
With such short notice of my role in this event, I had to come up with my own reason for why the Emperor was there, and how to properly transition to just being myself, and come up with an outro (as a reason to leave the stage, instead of “y’all have a good time tonight!” or something).
My plan was to come out on stage, flanked by stormtroopers, to the Imperial March. I would give a speech as Emperor Palpatine, talking about how I wanted to take over the Earth — starting with America — but it’s not so bad cause “I hear this Bush person is an incompetent ruler”, and ask them to join me in becoming the “new ultimate battlestation in the universe”. With the hope that they would cheer, I would turn around, remove the robe and just get right into my standup routine. At the end of my routine, I would say a key phrase, and then a group of Jedi Knights would come out to try and “capture” The Emperor, but he would be nowhere in sight, and they would take me offstage for protection.
It may sound strange, but I honestly don’t recall if David had told me that he’d have members of the 501st Legion (the definitive Stormtrooper cosplay group) along with a group of Jedi Knight cosplayers, prior to asking me to cosplay Emperor Palpatine. In hindsight, either one is either insane or makes perfect sense. I think it makes far less sense for all these Star Wars cosplayers to show up without a Vader or Emperor in sight, but I also don’t know how he managed to get famous cosplayers like Elvis Trooper and ObiShawn (and his car) in less than a week’s notice. I’m guessing the former is the case, and that’s why I worked in this complicated plot about Stormtroopers and Jedi Knights. That makes the most sense to me, but still seems weird cause… WTF are a bunch of Star Wars cosplayers just waltzing around a LARPY Awards show? Or maybe that makes perfect sense?
Here’s a short, incomplete, list of the celebrity guests :
- CC Deville (Poison guitarist)
- Debbie (“Deborah”) Gibson (Popstar from the 80s)
- Ken Foree (the badass from my fave horror film : Dawn of the Dead, amongst other credits)
- Jose Canseco (baseball player, and one of my personal heroes as a child, who did the weirdest Reddit AMA of all time)
- Adrien Brody (yes, the Oscar-winning actor, who — at the time — had just done King Kong)
- Bill Goldberg (football player, WCW wrestler, I don’t really know who he is)
In my standup act, I was going to reference the band my friend and I tried to start as kids that he wanted to call “Poison II” (and we later agreed to call “Kidz”, at my insistence), how my sister had done a Mall Music Video to a Debbie Gibson song and how I got my first erection to a poster of Debbie Gibson (weirdly, only the part about my sister doing said music video was true), a semi-made-up story about winning a game of RBI Baseball (of which the prize was a giant bag of gummy bears) against a friend of mine on classic NES playing as the Oakland A’s because me-as-Jose-Canseco hit a Grand Slam, and then a rant about how King Kong is basically a defense of jock mentality.
These seemed like prime nerd subjects, and referenced some of the more well-known celebrities that were supposed to be there. Alas, Adrien Brody had other obligations that evening (read : probably literally anything else), so I had to awkwardly say “and Adrien Brody, who was supposed to be here…“. I was going to end on the King Kong bit by saying “…who’s with me on that?”. That was the cue. That’s what was supposed to send out the Jedi.
Jumping back to before I had to do my set, here was the reality : there were maybe 60 people in the crowd. All of them sitting in the upper balcony. A 2000-seat theatre, occupied by 60 people in the upper balcony, a handful of photographers standing in an empty pit in front of the stage, and two cameras swooping around on cranes. Go ahead and picture that, I’ll wait.
Just prior to taking the stage, I was sitting on a sofa in the green room and Jose Canseco took a seat next to me. I told him I was a huge fan as a child, and I was honored to be here with him. He was very shy, reserved, quiet. He just said “oh. oh… umm… cool… okay”. Like a wounded puppy, oddly enough. I get being stand-off-ish towards a “fan”, but this was more like he was wildly nervous and scared. I’d later find out that he was in a bit of hot water with his wife (who was in the room at the time), and was likely just trying to stay out of trouble by not engaging with anyone since there were a few Playboy models and lingerie models as part of the night’s affairs wandering around as well. I told him “I have a little joke about your glory days in my act tonight, but it’s all positive stuff” and he let out this weird laugh, as if I had just told him a joke and he didn’t know where the punchline should be but felt like he was supposed to laugh anyway.
I went onstage, opening the show, to the Imperial March. In retrospect, I never asked if they had right to the music, but that was their problem as far as I was concerned. Walking out to the Imperial March had long been a dream of mine. Being flanked by Stormtroopers? Even fucking better. Looking out over a legendary theatre house to a crowd of… literally not a single visible face2the photographers faces were covered in cameras, the 60 attendants in the balcony were invisible from my vantage point was… fucking awkward, at best. I did my Emperor speech, and I think I heard some clapping and hollering, at least on the line about Bush. Once my set started, I was basically doing a monologue in silence. Once I got to the King Kong material, I fucked up and said the “trigger” line way too early. I think I said it just after the opening line of “I think King Kong is just a defense of Jock mentality….”, which would normally be followed by “let me explain”, but since there was absolutely zero reaction to that line and I didn’t need to cut off the laughter with “let me explain”, I just said “….let’s see if you’ll come with me on this….”. I hadn’t even realized I said it before hearing a voice behind me say “hey.. dude… it’s time!” and realizing “oh shit. the Jedi came out early”.
I left the stage, as I’d choreographed, and immediately went outside for a smoke break. A few seconds later, Ken Foree came out and asked for a light. The highlight of the evening was chain-smoking and talking horror movies with Ken Foree for almost a half-hour, before we both groaned and went inside to see how this was all gonna turn out.
Backstage, I ran into Jose again and I just gave him a head nod. I wasn’t going to ask if he heard what I said, or what he thought, cause… frankly, it was shit. I wasn’t “on”, the audience didn’t give a shit, and the “jokes” were … pretty fuckin’ mediocre at best anyway. I’ll give Jose credit for at least saying “cool shit, man” on his way out a few minutes later, even though I haven’t clue why he said that, or to whom he was talking but since I was nearest to him when he said it — I’ll take it. Debbie… err… Deborah… Gibson gave me the stink eye and I said “hey, I’m honored to…” and she just walked away before I could finish. CC Deville was quietly sitting in the corner and when I walked towards him, he just said “oh hey man” and got up and walked past me. It was so odd. I don’t blame any of them for having no desire to hang out, talk, or say anything to anyone — especially to me. I don’t even think any of them took the stage, they just basically waited until it didn’t seem awkward to leave.
As the night progressed, almost every person in attendance also won an award. Two separate award-winners stole Bill Hicks’s line about “I’d like to thank God, but that’s impossible because he doesn’t exist, so…”, and the “after party” was basically a dim-light back room of the Avalon with a punch bowl and a room full of people that I sincerely don’t think had showered since they got their nomination letters. Or so it
The night ended with a “meh”, as even the few people in attendance filed into the “after-party” area, and all of the celebrity guests had emptied out of the green room long before the end of the ceremony.
Months later, I came across a blog post by the aforementioned semi-famous Jedi cosplayer, where people asked him about the LARPY Awards and, while he called it a shit-show, he also took time out to lambast me for my performance and claim that they were “sent out early to cut off that comedian’s set”. I harbored quite a bit of resentment towards him for that, but I get it. I’m still a little bummed that he tried so hard to elevate himself above the level of the shit-show we all had to endure that he had to lie about why my set ended in the middle of the final joke, but… again, I get it. He needed as many scapegoats as possible to maintain his integrity as an… artist? of sorts?
The long and the short of it is this : LARP’ing isn’t a big enough industry to warrant an awards show, and it’s even less so in a giant theatre in Hollywood. If you did that today, where LARPers are taking HD-quality video, and YouTube allows live streaming for even zero-budget channels, you could maybe make it work within the niche community that follows and enjoys LARP’ing. But in 2006? In Hollywood? At the Avalon? No amount of celebrities could suddenly infuse interest into an activity that even they didn’t understand, and fucking no one (outside of some of the nominees and their friends( could afford to fly out and attend. Lastly, I haven’t a g’damn clue when/where it has ever been shown or even archived. Even a search on YouTube only shows promo videos and the same clips that were nominated in the first place.
All of this being said, whenever I’m within earshot of someone saying something like “do you know what LARP is?”, I can either smile and laugh or tell them “yeah I was the opening act for the first-and-only LARPY awards”. Not to mention having lived out a dream of walking onstage to the soundtrack of the Imperial March, flanked by Stormtroopers. Frankly, both of those are worth a lot to me.
So… thank you David. Thank you, LARPY Awards. We’ll always have… whatever the hell that was.