Forever Connected

I moved to Los Angeles at the peak of the City’s infamy. OJ had just decapitated his estranged wife on a sidewalk in Brentwood. Buildings were still being re-erected from the Rodney King protests. I loved the place despite how hard is was to live there. I spent much of my off time the first year there, just driving around. I loved being a part of it. My sporadic activity on the West Coast also gave me a story that may not mean anything to my children ever, but to my generation will forever give me ten more points of “cool,” (or at least I would claim.)

My first trip to Las Vegas came on the morning of September, 7th 1996. It was an impulsive trip but needed nonetheless. I spent the majority of the night gambling, mostly slots and some Casino War. I hated gambling. It was too nerve racking for a broke filmmaker who was still a degree and couple of years away from his first “paying gig.”  With that said I was done at midnight and heading back to my hotel. 

As close to Koval & Flamingo Road as I was, I did not notice the red and blue lights a block over. Vegas was chaos anyway. Who would have noticed unless you were right next to it. Who would have seen the mooring crowd collecting on the street while people took pictures and went crazy over a drive by shooting.  It wasn’t until the next day did I realize that a block from us, Tupac Shakur was gunned down on his way to the 662 Club after the Tyson/Seldon Fight. 

I was a huge Tupac fan. I thought his move, (at the time,) to Death Row was the perfect career path. I was also a kid just old enough to legally drink. I lived alone in South Central Los Angeles  ( that’s correct and true at the time,) with few friends so Death Row for a  dreamer,  was the picture of “The American Dream.”

I was devastated that he had again been shot but this had happened before and I had assumed “he would be fine.”

It wasn’t until days later that we found out in fact that he wasn’t going to be ok.  It had been “Icky,” to say the least that I had been present in Vegas when the iconic Tupac Shakur’s life had been stolen from him. It had connected me. 

Fast forward six months… March 9th, 1997, Now living on the beach in Venice. I mean I physically lived on the beach. I mean It was a closet of a place. You would walk in the back door and be in the bathroom. The bedroom  was a loft above the living room/ kitchen area. For the efficiency of the story, I’ll just say, there wasn’t much room for anything especially lady friends. So I always commuted to my girls house who lived in West Hollywood, when she called in the middle of the night.  As much as I loved Venice Beach, a 21 year old who had just moved to Los Angeles, a mere eighteen months earlier couldn’t help but dream of moving North of the Mann Chinese Theater to live out his days in a crappy third story apartment while waiting to sell his Great American Screenplay. In other words, I never minded taking the midnight trip. The route to my girl’s house was always the 10 Freeway to Fairfax Avenue, Exit 7B. 

Ironically with R. Kelly’s “Down Low,” on the radio I hit gridlock on Fairfax right before the Petersen Museum. I was pissed. I shouldn’t have left my house. I had just started the 125th run of Tombstone on VHS at the place when she called. It was 1:37am. 

A Los Angeles police officer stands watch over a GMC Suburban parked in front of the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles early Sunday, March 9, 1997, in which police say rapper Notorius B.I.G. was shot after a party in the city shortly after midnight. The rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the hospital. Five bullet holes were found in the door of the vehicle. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)

On the detour I caught a glimpse of the police tape and a GMC Surburban…. People everywhere. I hated them all. By the time I started moving again, it was 2:45. i slept on the couch that night. Only reason I was even let in is because I knew the code to the front door and had a key to her place. 

I was woken up the next morning on her couch and suddenly the dog house was the best seat in the house. My excuse hours earlier was, “Some crazy shit went down on Wilshire and Fairfax, sorry I’m late.” As relevant to Los Angeles traffic my excuse had been, it had not gone over well. By 10am, my ambiguous excuse had become more relevant than any others, because mine had been real and I had literally passed where Christopher Wallace, AKA Notorious B.I.G had been gunned down. I again was connected… 

I had loved Biggie Smalls. I had maybe not “dug” the Bad Boy New York movement as much at the time but I was a West Coaster and Sean “Puffy” Combs like Suge Knight had said, “Was dancing in the videos.” It was a terrible day because it was the day that I realized that the whole East Coast/West Coast beef wasn’t a brilliant marketing campaign. It was real and had cost two more brilliant musicians their life and a guy I thought was cool had seriously orchestrated the perfect crime.

No I wouldn’t turn up in any of the investigations that would spread over Southern California, the Blood and Crips Gangs, Bad Boy and Death Row Records for the next 14 years nor would resolve on this issue ever be met. Only lots of speculation as to who killed them. Lots of people not talking. Lots of people covering up the truth and on the outside wall of the outside bubble was this white dude who had just so happened to be “present” when both Hip Hop Legends felt what it was like to see the last moments of life. That’s a coincidence that can and will never happen again…. Hopefully.


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