He plans to start a new fitness program either later this week or next week
HOLLYWOOD–The first thing you notice upon entering the West Hollywood apartment is the filth. The floor is littered with empty fast food wrappers and beer cans, some crushed into odd shapes that call to mind shattered hearts. Everywhere is wreckage. But you still haven’t recovered from the face of the man who invited you in. No longer youthful, the chubby cheeks now appear puffy and covered with pock marks and graying stubble. The feathers have mostly fallen off his wings.
“I thought you were someone else,” Cupid says, apologizing for his suspicious questions before opening the door, “There’s been a guy snooping around. I’m a couple payments behind on my Hyundai.”
Remembering the interview, he seems invigorated for a moment, his bloodshot eyes briefly flashing and his movements through the garbage-strewn apartment fluid and graceful. There is a hint of the boyish charm and charisma that once brought him worldwide fame.
“I’ve been working on some things,” he says excitedly, “Not on the Jay Z/Beyonce level, but a boy-band type. I can’t really say who.”
He seems distracted. You want to believe him, but there will always be skepticism. You notice the bow, once brilliantly golden, resting amid cobwebs in the corner, tarnished and dull. There are no arrows in sight. The stench of urine and weed stings your nostrils.
“I definitely have some great ideas,” he goes on, “If I could get someone to put up with Taylor Swift for more than a couple of months, just a few weeks really, I could be back on track. But she’s a little bit…”
He trails off, his mind lost in the haze of failed promise. It wasn’t always like this. In the old days, his phone never stopped ringing. Even his failures were spectacular. People loved the spectacle of a Sonny and Cher. In the heyday, Johnny and June Carter Cash would play his birthday parties. Ronnie and Nancy Reagan skinny-dipped in the grotto at his mansion. He was big. Some said too big.
“I guess I let it go to my head, sure,” he allows, “But who wouldn’t? Everyone wanted a part of me. I went on tour with fucking Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith! Do you think it’s easy getting Steven Tyler laid?”
With the rock stars came the drugs. An innocent cocaine habit became an addiction. The $25,000-a-month retainer Hugh Hefner was paying started disappearing up his nose. The 80s blurred past, and his aim began to suffer. When Madonna married Sean Penn, the voices, once a whisper, grew into a chorus of criticism.
“I was off my game, definitely,” he recalls, “I was starting to screw up at work. I knew I needed help.”
After a stint at Promises, he went back to work with a renewed focus. At the same time, America was falling in love with a pretty young actress named Julia Roberts, fresh off a star-making turn in the blockbuster hit, Pretty Woman.
“She was going to be my biggest smash,” he says, “It was absolutely can’t miss with her. Or so I thought.”
A few episodes of poor marksmanship and his once can’t miss prospect was starting to look like a disaster. And Cupid began to panic.
“I had a couple of bad shots there, with Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric,” he says, “I mean, she was basically going through the whole cast of The Lost Boys. She was starting to look like a little skank. I was afraid if I didn’t do something quick she was gonna end up in a three-way with the Coreys.”
In hindsight the decision he ultimately made looks shockingly bad, but at the time, he saw it as his potential masterpiece. At the very least it was an incredibly daring choice. He would pair her with a homely crooner named Lyle Lovett.
“Honestly, I was feeling total desperation,” he recalls, “I had fallen off the wagon and my judgment wasn’t sharp. I was actually doing some mescaline when I took the shot. It’s a wonder it even landed.”
But land it did, and so began two decades of a downward spiral that has been marred by subsequent failures like Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley and Macaulay Culkin and Mila Kunis. He was targeted in a number of lawsuits, most notably by a shell-shocked Tom Arnold following a doomed pairing with Roseanne Barr. Country singer Leanne Rimes publicly accused him of stalking her, after a series of sexual encounters with men who she claims she otherwise would have never slept with. The parties stopped and the mansion went into foreclosure.
“You definitely find out who your friends are after something like that,” he says, “That kid from Jerry Maguire won’t even return my calls.”
In recent years, there have been minor rumblings of a planned comeback. He was rumored to be involved in the Tom Cruise couch-jumping debacle, a charge he angrily denies. Jennifer Aniston has publicly distanced herself from him. Missed opportunities like Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth haunt him.
“A dude selling ecstasy got credit for that one,” he sighs, “A fucking drug dealer.”
But nothing haunts him like Julia and Lyle. It was the moment that changed his life forever.
“To this day I’m still not sure why I took that shot,” he says, his voice quaking, “I see it over and over again, like a fever dream.”
He mutters something else in a broken whisper, but it is impossible to ascertain if his words are directed at you or the wind. As he shows you the door, you wonder briefly if you will ever see him again, or if his final act has already been staged. But, just for a moment, he flashes that boyish smile again. You want to believe he has one more story to tell. You want to believe that, after all the love he has spread in this world, Julia Roberts won’t be the one to end his reign. You want to believe.