Tuesday, June 21, 2011

You Mean "True Romance" Was A Fantasy?

The Quentin Tarantino-meets-Tony Scott masterpiece True Romance was one of the defining films of my life. My dream of meeting my soul mate in a movie theater probably existed before that movie, but I credit Tarantino because his screenplay gave me incentive to believe it could, should, and WOULD happen.

Love In Conversation: Nine Minutes of True Romance

On September 10th, 2006, exactly thirteen years after “TRUE ROMANCE” opened in the US, I spent four hours conversing with a brilliant, dashing Greek journalist at my favorite Amsterdam coffee shop: “The Other Side”. Nothing tangible came of that epic night of rolling cigarettes and learning about one another, except that I couldn’t believe I was living my life as opposed to rewatching Casablanca. It all seems more surreal now, as I never saw him again. I gave him a glass pipe I had dubbed “Mr. Pointy” (after Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s stake),  but I left Andreas with nothing else to remember me by.

Two years later, in Miami, a less idealized reenactment of True Romance would be spread across 36 hours of my life. I was living in South Beach, working on a screenplay, tracking the relatively disappointing chart performance of Madonna’s Hard Candy album. In an effort to show whatever support I could, I emailed a favorite Madonna site to tell them about an upcoming release party for the “Give It 2 Me” single, being held at the popular gay nightclub Twist. 

Monday, July 28th was the release party for “Give It 2 Me”. I showed up alone and crushed hard on the bartender, a Madonna fan who bought me a drink for being the “Robert” who spread the word online. Upon realizing that his politeness and charm were still not to be taken as interest, I embarrassedly snuck out and walked home alone down Washington Street. 

Two nights later, I decided to go back to Twist because I wanted to go home with someone this time. I still had the same foolish mentality—sit and wait at the end of the bar just like Jessica Walter in Play Misty For Me. That night, someone played the role of Clint Eastwood.

I’ll call him ‘Renoir’, for he was a rapper who adopted the name of a legendary painter. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to ask Renoir what his real name was, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love at first sight. In such a state, names don’t matter. Neither do logic, tact, nor self-respect. Renoir took a lonely boy at the end of the bar and made him feel like “the most beautiful girl in the world”. I was literally swept off my feet. Renoir was part of a group celebrating a friend’s birthday at Twist, and he immediately spotted me from across the bar and honed in. 

We exchanged hardly any words before he said he’d like to talk to me in a place where we could hear each other. He went on to say his good-byes to friends while I patiently waited and watched one of my all-time favorite movies that so fatefully happened to be playing on the TV in the bar: SHOWGIRLS. I kid thee not, it was the scene where Nomi decides to throw away her ethics and go home with Zak. I don’t remember how much I saw that night of the infamous pool sex scene, for it wasn’t long before Renoir was leading me out of the bar and into my new life. It began with a stroll through South Beach, to the stone ledge between Ocean Drive and the sand. There we sat talking and smoking, just like Clarence and Alabama. His voice was beautiful and comforting. So were his eyes. He told me that he had to kiss me, and I felt so safe that I couldn’t fathom not falling in love.

Indeed, Renoir turned out to be a con artist. ANYONE could have picked up on that. Anyone, that is, who had not been so driven by the enduring adolescent fantasy of making True Romance an adult reality. 

I could tell he was brilliant, and when he played me his music, I knew he was talented. The combination is deadly to an artist in love. Over the course of a day spent getting to know each other and a night spent clubbing, I found that he was sweet, witty, smart-alecky, sexy, carefree, protective, and bursting with enthusiasm. In my head, I swore off every other man, knowing I’d be faithful to Renoir alone. 

Renoir and I were inseparable—for exactly a day and a half. Making plans that included my best friend seemed to prompt his sudden exit. Renoir disappeared while out running an errand, making up a story via text messages for why he would never be back. I was devastated, having lost a man I loved and intended to spend the rest of my life with. Even though I didn’t know his real name.

When I realized just how fantasy-oriented the preceding thirty six hours had been, the dark weight of reality caved in on me. I went to my laptop and looked at what he’d left on my screen: the fanpage for his music career. Reading the online biography, I finally learned his full name. I had already gotten his birth date, being an avid astrology fan, and so armed with this information I used an employment screening  website to do a background check on Renoir.

Reading this stranger’s horrifying criminal record, I was suddenly paralyzed by the fear that the man behind the dead painter’s name would break into my apartment at any second to slit my throat. Renoir, who disappeared with a great deal of my money after we had been so intimate both physically and emotionally, turned out not only to be a career criminal but a sex offender as well. Reality invaded my being, and left me hollowed out. For over two years, I had no intimate relationships with men. The thought of having felt the way I did about a sex fiend temporarily snuffed out my libido. I became every bit the bitter, frustrated stereotype that one might expect a sexually deprived twenty-something to be: the aftershock had left me dismantled.

Renoir walked out of my life on August 1st, 2008. I subsequently lived in Boston and Los Angeles, and not until Valentine’s Day 2011 did I return to Miami. While there, I became intimate again, finished (most of) a screenplay, and made peace with memories of the experience and of the ensuing shame.

"Amid the chaos of that day....": The Ending of True Romance

Renoir was arrested several days after I last saw him, for failing to register as a sex offender in the state of Florida. But, as it turned out, that wasn't all. It would not be until 2012 that I learned he had committed an armed robbery in Boca Raton the day before I met him, and was using my apartment to hide out while on the run. Since then has been behind bars in a federal prison, where I often can't help but wonder if he remembers me.

Perhaps Renoir viewed me as a john and himself as a prostitute, having no idea that I believed him when he said he’d be with me forever. But I choose not to look at the story this way. The last words that Renoir sent me, in a text message, were “Don’t worry about me. I love you”. Renoir may have been a sociopath, a criminal, and even a sex offender, but deep in my heart, I was convinced these last words were not a lie.

"You're so cool, you're so cool, you're so cool....." 


  1. You are such a wonderful writer! I must watch "True Romance"!!! Lots of love from Texas ♥

  2. Have you thought about writing a book, memoir-style a la Augusten Burroughs? I think your writing style would lend itself really well to that. People would respond really well to your intimate honesty, as they have with your Vogue video! Consider it.... your sharing IS inspiring!

  3. Thank you both so much!! My writing is my area of concentration and the place where I hope to grow (as opposed to dancing, which I still do love!;) and so both of your words warm my heart AND encourage me to improve. I hope you will LOVE watching "True Romance" Doodles, it would not have influenced me so if not such a great film! :) Elizabeth thank you especially for your suggestion, I am SO honored!! Other than this blog my work is almost exclusively screenwriting, but I hope to see what all of these entries will look like when put together over time. Maybe there will be a book there? Either way I'm THRILLED that this side of myself can be inspiring and thank you for the further inspiration with your recommendation! ;)

  4. Some critics have wondered if romantic comedies make people (women, especially) have twisted expectations of what relationships are. They see these horrible, irredeemable bitches -Cameron Diaz, I'm looking at you- on the screen who eventually find love despite what petty antics they have engaged in up until the last reel. Kinda like pop culture versions of Mme. Bovary.

    This makes me wonder if Tarantino fans end up having violent, twisted (albeit much better written) perceptions of sex and dating. God knows there's a couple of exes I'd like to give the five-point-palm-exploding-heart technique.

    Fascinating story, thanks for sharing! Looking forward to the next entry.

    1. Thank you so much Maotsetweet!! I'm sorry it took me nearly a year to discover your insight, which I think is incredibly thought provoking!! I'm thrilled that you read this and I hope you have liked the subsequent posts!!

      PS. Your comment about romantic-comedy-as-influence was especially pertinent! Recent insights I've made into the role that the great films John Hughes made in the 80s had in shaping my teen years inspired my newest blog post, and I hope you will like it!! :)