Perhaps nowhere is this contradiction more evident than in literary wonder gay boy turned grumpy old queen Bret Easton Ellis’ rst-time novel, Less Than Zero— considered by many literati to be the most signi cant account of Los Angeles’ contemporary soul. Published in 1985: 200 highly-celebrated pages of all these white, spoiled, over privileged, morally vacuous sons and daughters of neglectful Hollywood royalty scoring grams, popping pills, and fucking all over the scenery of a dimly lit but brightly shellacked Los Angeles, while up the block in Crenshaw, America’s senseless “Drug War” was in full force and terrorizing every “suspected gang member” (a.k.a Black male between the ages of 8 and 80) in Los Angeles county. Spread eagle against police cruisers, beaten senseless, constitutionally violated, illegally jailed, shot dead—in one word terrorized—by the tri er happy “redneck army of occupation” known as the LAPD, is where you’d nd us, and from 1974 – 1990, the LAPD had arrested two-thirds of all younger Black males in California and a ood of captives—four- hs of whom were substance addicted and less than half of whom had committed violet crimes, overwhelming the state prisons—84,000 inmates in a system with room for 48,000—while programs with weird acronyms like HAMMER and STEP gave police an open season to kill and brutalize via a state-sanctioned violence based on the “probably cause” of red shoelaces or blue bandanas.
Less Than Zero highlights that white boys, in Cali, can be reckless, and high, and selling dope all the time—basically really, really, really horrible people—and still win(ning). But Black boys, play it straight, because let us not forget where we are—this is Hollywood—and they can always, they will always, unfairly sentence your dreams to “life with no chance.”
In an article that appeared in the Times around the time of Ellis’ book release, a reporter wrote:
“Under new federal statutes, defendants convicted of selling 5 grams or more of
crack cocaine, worth perhaps $125, receive a mandatory minimum of ve years in prison. However, it takes 500 grams of the powdered drug, nearly $50,000 worth of ‘yuppie cocaine,’ to receive an equivalent sentence.”
It’d be over 30 years and take a Black President to give enough fucks to address these sentencing atrocities disparities via his “Drugs Minus Two” policy revamp
in 2014 (in which 6,000 nonviolent drug o enders were released early from prison) and much-publicized commutations of 2015 (by which he’s commuted
the sentences of nearly 200 Brothers locked up for nonviolent drug o enses).
But note: today, 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans,
yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug o enses at 10 times the rate of Whites—more than 500,000 Black men behind bars for pushing bags of blow to the same kids that made Ellis famous. If you scratch just beneath its surface, Ellis’ Zero amounts to nothing more than an expose written in minimalistic prose on the class and racial bias of the Anti-Drug years which have had lasting e ects up until this very day.
Ellis went on to become one of the most canonized writers of his generation, a member of some so-called ‘80s “literary Brat Pack,” but Ellis, like Singleton, didn’t really live up to his hype with endless rather uninspired versions of the same novel like Rules of Attraction (1987) and American Psycho (1991). Lit critics hated them, Hollywood loved them, Ellis went on to be a reluctant star, sick of his success,
with works optioned by major Hollywood studios and a career that once he’s six- feet-under will set o a wave of posthumous worship by douche-y white kids for generations to come. Where’s Singleton again? He doesn’t even show up on any trade rag’s list of Hollywood’s most important directors, ever. No shade, someone needs to go to jail for this crime, but no worries, the sun and the sounds reminded me that life in L.A. was wonderful.
So wonderful that even with its appetite for crime stories—fuck, who doesn’t live for the Black Dahlia?—I was assured that THE GAYS were not on the menu out here. Whew! I felt a great weight had been li ed from my m bag. The L.A. Times reported last September that even with a slight uptick in numbers for 2015, “the good news for Los Angeles County is that the number of hate crimes reported in 2014 was the second-lowest total in 25 years. The lowest number came in 2013, with 384 hate crimes reported.”
So while America owns dead white kids hanging like scarecrows on its prairie’s and will ultimately have to pay for its silence on the murders of 20-25 trans women of color in its urban bowels last year, Los Angeles has kept its sales pitch of good fortune in tact ... it’s outlook of getting ahead in front ... because remember, out here, should you get caught cruising Gri th Park, there’s always a studio publicist around to clean up the mess if you’ve actually made it.
Dick sucking Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean got ahead; The 6-foot-5 power bottom bachelor Rock Hudson too, proving that in Hollywood, you can be a di cult, ornery psychopath or a perfectly respectable leading man—as long
as you’re camera ready, and white, you’ll never have to su er professionally for your homosexuality. Harry Hay got ahead too when founding the pre-Stonewall Mattachine Society—believed to be the rst modern gay rights group—in 1950 among the cultural bohemia of Los Angeles at a time when homosexuality was still de ned by The American Psychiatric Association as a mental illness. The New York Times wrote at the time of his death in 2002: “Although little known in the broader national culture over the years, Harry Hay’s contribution was to do what no one else had done before: plant the idea among American homosexuals that they formed an oppressed cultural minority of their own, like blacks, and to create a lasting organization in which homosexuals could come together to socialize
and to pursue what was, at the beginning, the very radical concept of homosexual rights.
A whole grip of white boys got ahead when they incorporated a city in 1984 (West Hollywood, originally called Sherman), and every white boy in a dress got ahead inon the heels of Muther Ru as that city became the uno cial planet of origin for any boy in a dress back in 2009. As I put on my heels for an evening out with the girls at The Abbey, I realized I wouldn’t even have time to list all the white boys in Hollywood that have gotten ahead—Patrick-Harris, Bass, Quinto, Bomber, Gro —and well, it seemed to me that the queens out in Hollywood had retained their manners. Until I shimmied onto the dance oor—a fucking unbothered Black sissy—and they all turn their backs on me in unison, one even accidentally spilling his drink on me in protest.
A er that experience, trust, I did pose more racially conscious questions to boys who looked and acted just like me like: “What’s up with all these white boys?
Why are they so hateful? What’s your take on the pedago of the oppressed?”
But if I had struck a chord, I wouldn’t have known it because they’d strike right back with a vibrant chorus of loose racial terms and post-racial ideologies, sort of saying in e ect, “This doesn’t really concern me.” For a moment, it was profoundly alienating for me. Was I being shaded in the same town as them, or nah? Maybe nah, because upon following their orders to take o my sunglasses (the sun was already rose-hued out here) I was reminded, that life in L.A. was wonderful.
Los Angeles had its dark side, ne, but my battery was drained from the impromptu history lesson and I was sorta nausias from overdosing on truth and tra c on the I-10. Finally, my Uber pulled up to a place called Los Globos on Sunset where Karim playing Gracie and Matty playing the “It Boy” snatched me
out of the car and past an assortment of other boy wonders to dance the night away on some secret oor of a Silver Lake nightclub that a mutha-fucking-ova-ass- kunt-bitch named Rhonda had taken over for the evening. I hadn’t danced like that in years, I didn’t know Special K was still a thing, but for what it’s worth, I felt heavenly atmosphereics out there on the oor, and before the clock had struck
2 a.m, obviously, the Angels for which the city is named and their dusts of white powder in capsules, in lines and in spirits had erased all residue of L.A.’s most sordid a airs.