It was a tremendous honor for me to meet Susan Tyrrell. She pumped my shaky nervous hand up and down, hazy in my memory as this was now many years ago, at a very late night party thrown at her eccentrically decorated home, a glassy and brassy 60s affair filled with keane paintings and pixie figurines fashioned into lamps, burning bright into the small hours of Echo Park after dark.
She surprised me by gushing at the sight of me and telling me, in her tinkly, crackling voice over and over again how much of a fan she was of my work. No matter how many times she may have said it to me, I was exponentially more a fan of hers, and I had the sweaty shakes to prove it.
My VHS copy of Fat City got played so much that I actually lost the box and just used the vcr to store the tape.
Susan was nominated for an academy award for her devastating and brilliant performance in the bleak landscape of Fat City. She should have won, and in a way, she did, as the film immortalized her, crystallized the true genius and breadth and depth of her talent and captured a moment in time when movies were great and movie stars were greater forever in amber. Sometimes when you are exceptional, it’s far more dignified to lose. Why flaunt your superiority in everyone’s face? Why rub the world’s nose in your profound gifts? Better to be the beautiful loser than a forgotten winner. Losers are far more interesting. Always. Losers are anything but losers.
Quentin Tarantino and I watched Fat City once and then rewound the tape to watch it again. We loved the movie and we loved her. We couldn’t believe how goddamned good it was and we had to prove it to ourselves not only again but right away. So the tape stayed in the player for possibly years.
Susan was older than me but not by much really. I marveled at how young she seemed when we were introduced, by the late Eddie Kurdziel – who was then playing with Redd Kross, the band I followed with religious zeal and fanatical fervor, thumping my autographed cds and limited edition vinyl as if it were the bible itself. I had always hoped to go on a date with Eddie, but he died before I ever got a chance. I know many beautiful rock stars no longer bound to the earth. It makes me glad that there will be friends on the other side to see, when the time comes. In heaven, there’s a hell of a show going on. Perhaps eddie will escort me there. And I hope susan comes along too.
I remember Susan wrapping her tiny thin arms around me. her embrace was cold from the heavy metal studs on her leather vest, little leather riding cap jaunty on her platinum blonde ponytail. She looked every inch the ultimate motorcycle mama, and as the night bled into morning, she straddled her much younger live-in lover as if he were a harley and passed joints in between the other illustrious and famous guests, of which I didn’t partake in then, as it was my sober phase. I looked at her and I felt proud and electric and independent and new, freshly grown up and howling at the moon with these artists I idolized and now shared this precious moment with, and I thought, “I will remember this forever.” And I have. And I will.
RIP Susan xo