SEASON 1, EPISODE 6

It’s funny how quickly things unfold. I went to a premiere party and met Simon, the charming producer. I asked him to lunch and found out he owned a music venue in Lower East Side. He had a headliner in two weeks without an opener. I had a new—no, re-newed— performer in need of an audience. He had three glasses of wine at just after noon. He agreed to let Saturant play, without even hearing a beat of her music. And then he paid for lunch. “I can tell you’ve got it in you,” he said. “I trust she’ll be great.”

“Are you sure we’re ready for a show just yet?” Joanie asked at rehearsal. “I’m not so certain I can do a gig unless I recycle some of my old music.” I replied: “Reusing music wouldn’t be the worst thing. It’s good material and…pardon the honesty but I’m not so convinced that people will remember it.” She flipped me off lovingly: “Pardon THIS, dick head. Besides—what about the drummer?” She was referring to the fact that we had recruited two of her former classmates as keyboardist and bassist, but nobody yet on drums. “I’ve got someone in mind,” I lied, trying to keep her calm. “We’ll be just fine.” Note to self: find a drummer—fast.

I got dinner with my friend Mads the next night, and things unfolded quickly again. I told her about Joanie’s new project and how I was helping out. “My colleague’s boyfriend is a freelance drummer,” she said as she beckoned for more cabernet. “I don’t think musicians refer to themselves as freelancers,” I remarked. “But I’d love to call him in.” The next day, he joined rehearsal, looking and sounding perfect for the part. It was obvious that Joanie felt confident with her three teammates. Her posture had this prowess to it; I couldn’t wait for the crowd to see her in this new light, but was mostly just proud of her measurable progress. I wish I could have said the same for myself, because after rehearsal, Jack spent the night. My getting over him wasn’t unfolding very quickly.

When Jack wanted to fool around the next morning, I was in no such mood. My mind kept thinking of Simon, and each time Jack would kiss me, I just imagined how Simon’s were better. More sincere. It was relieving, knowing I was capable of detaching from Jack when he was not 100% attached to me. Over breakfast we prepared him for a job interview, and I conducted it in my underwear to make him feel better, but also to flaunt myself without giving him any reward. He made a dumb joke about it being a “blow job interview” and grabbed at my butt. It was kind of cute, so I gave in.

Joanie and I were walking through SoHo the day of her show, elbowing our way past every idiot ever. “Look at all these jackasses,” Joanie remarked. “It’s like they’re in character, trying to be discovered or something. Taking themselves so seriously. How does anyone else take them seriously?” I gave Joanie a real disapproving stare, pointing out her skintight, acid wash overalls, saying “I take you seriously, don’t I?” “Please,” Joanie replied. “I’m the biggest offender here. That’s why I’m 29 and virtually starting over. Who wants to start anything over at 29? I want to warn these jackasses not to turn out like me.”

Saturant’s first show was better than all of Joanie George’s shows combined. Simon had strategically not announced her as an opener, and so the crowd filled up thinking they would see the headliner at 9, which is when Saturant took the stage. She sold 22 CDs that night—we made 25 wondering who would possibly buy a CD these days—but since her stuff wasn’t online yet, people paid in person. Joanie was bewildered: “Eric, half of these songs are the ones I performed before. This is outrageous!” It was good to see her finally feeling validated. “I’ll bet she sells out the venue next time,” Simon predicted. “As a headliner. These people talk.”

“I’ve got you a car out front,” Simon told me after the show. “Except it’s going to my house, and I’ll be in it.” His eyes begged for the company as he looked at me intently, adding: “You don’t need to sleep with me to get what you want, since it seems I’ve given you that already.” I was a bit put off that he would say anything like that. “I’m coming over because I want to come over,” I said, pinning him against a wall. “And tonight is when you’re going to give me what I want.” We had terrific sex, made terrific because I thought of Jack the entire time.

SEASON 1, EPISODE 5

 

“Please please please introduce me to James Thurston,” Peter begged as our cab pulled up outside the premiere party. James Thurston was one of Sam’s clients—he had two Tonys, an Oscar nomination, and movie star sex appeal—and we had just seen the opening of his new Broadway play. His husband Ken was a big playwright, making them quite the power couple. “I brought you because I figured you wouldn’t be star struck,” I said. “But not because I’m your best friend?” he joked. “OK, that too,” I replied. Coincidentally, James cornered me at the party later: “Who’s your friend? An introduction, please?”

Peter and James spent most of the evening chatting, and their flirtation got a few people talking, especially after Ken joined the conversation and started touching the small of Peter’s back every few minutes. “Eddy, should I be worried about your friend?” Sam asked. “I can’t have a PR situation, and those two faggots aren’t smart enough to avoid it themselves.” Sam’s boyfriend Jeff mouthed “Sorry” following the slur—he was always apologizing for Sam. “He’s fine,” I assured Sam. Mostly, I was happy that Peter was getting the attention he deserved—his broken heart needed healing, and I figured some A-list affection might boost his confidence.

I cozied up at the bar for a seltzer, tired of shaking hands and talking small. These receptions were a necessary part of the job, and I had to drop Sam’s name whenever I could, especially around actors. Turning my back on it allowed me to be Eric-not-Eddy for a few minutes. An older man parked himself on the stool next to me, asking if he could buy me another. “It’s just a seltzer,” I responded. He flagged down the bartender. “Just a seltzer. And for me, an old-fashioned.” He turned to me: “But I’m not old-fashioned. Don’t get the wrong idea.”

He was the show’s producer. I knew his name—Simon Stephens—since he had called the office numerous times during development. He had this thick Scottish accent like Sean Connery, and I had pictured him as such. He was more of a Roger Moore in person, which still had me blubbering like an idiot. “So you’re the famous Eddy?” he asked, giddy. “I never knew you were so handsome. Telephones do you few favors.” “Oh, so my phone voice isn’t sexy?” I laughed. “Not really,” he said, bluntly. “It’s stunted….It’s…frustrated.” We locked eyes as I stirred my drink, frustrated that we were in a public place.

“I assume you’re single,” said Simon. “Since my hand has been on your thigh for five minutes and you haven’t moved it.” Ha—so it was. At this point, we had covered where we grew up, upcoming travels, and after I revealed my real name, spent a good 15 minutes ragging on Sam (Simon wasn’t a fan… most people weren’t.). We finished our drinks and he squeezed my inner thigh as he stood to leave. “No doubt you have my number on file?” He pecked my cheek and left. I turned to locate Peter, catching his eye as he flirted in one corner with James and Ken. I threw him a thumbs up and an “Is everything fine?” expression. Everything was fine, though my heart was racing.

“Eddy, where have you been?” Sam quizzed me as the room thinned. Thankfully he hadn’t seen Simon and me flirting. “I’ve been here. Was chatting at the—” “Whatever,” Sam said, cutting me off. “Listen, I’ve got a noon meeting with Connie at ICM tomorrow, so I’m just going to work from home all morning. You got things covered? Who am I kidding? Of course you do. Thanks bitch.” His boyfriend Jeff mouthed “Sorry!” as they both skirted away drunkenly. I left alone since Peter was about to get doubly lucky. I passed Simon on my way out, and we made plans for a noon lunch.

I caught the 2 train back home. As I popped in my earbuds for the journey, a breathless Peter saddled up beside me. “Hey Eric, trying to ditch me?” “Oh, hi. Sorry—I thought you would go home with James and Ken,” I said. “They asked me to,” he replied. “But they probably do that all the time since they can get away with it. No thank you.” We rode the rest of the way without a word, and I could tell he was upset. When we emerged onto Eastern Parkway—with the Brooklyn Museum as our dramatically lit backdrop—Peter broke the silence: “I’m not over Dale,” he said of his recent ex. “And because of that I lost out on an Oscar-nominated threesome.” That got a good laugh from me—and from darling Peter, too.

SEASON 1, EPISODE 4

 

This wasn’t the first time Jack had canceled our evening plans. He needed a night alone, which I understood. I often did, too, though I hated knowing that our once promising romance was slowly wilting away. We were averaging one night a week together lately, but only ever on my prompting. We took a rain check for the upcoming weekend, where we would surely have incredible sex, conversation, food, and sex again. Our relationship—whatever it was—was intoxicating, passionate, but not without frustrations. I had told him multiple times that I wanted to be his boyfriend. And the dance worked like this: the more affection I showed, the less he reciprocated.

I met up with Bart and Peter for dinner in Crown Heights instead of seeing Jack, a nice consolation to be with my best friends. Peter had just been dumped by his boyfriend, kicked out of the apartment they shared. He moved to be closer to the two of us, which made for many frequent dinners together. We chatted briefly about Jack. I made excuses for him. Bart’s phone buzzed—he got a message on Scruff, his preferred hook-up app for its more hirsute users. He used a photo of his torso on his profile—to stay somewhat anonymous—and had just received an invitation from a pouty-faced Jack, asking him over for anonymous sex.

“Do you want to run with this?” Bart asked, as my stomach churned. I did. I did want to run with it. Bart handed over his phone. Peter was more cautionary: “He’s not your boyfriend, just remember. Don’t make this harder on yourself.” Jack had no idea he had propositioned one of my best friends. I flirted a bit with him through the app, which prompted him to send a picture of his crotch. I laughed in disbelief. “He told me three months ago he was seeing me and only me. Yet he’s on here, not-so-secretively using a photo of his face. And now his junk.”

Jack requested a face photo, so I screenshot some other guy on the app and sent it to him. Then I got him to give me his address—yep, that was certainly his address—and told him I was on my way over. At this point, Bart and Peter were having their own conversation about Bart’s recent fling, and I finally returned his phone. They stared at me silently, as I pouted and flattened my pinto beans into a mush. “Eric. Sorry.” Bart put his hand on my thigh. Then I texted Jack from my own phone, asking him how his night was going. No response.

I confronted Jack about his Scruff profile that weekend, saying that a few friends had seen him online. “You’re embarrassing me, as I go around telling people we’re exclusive.” “We aren’t boyfriends,” he said, echoing Peter’s sentiment. “Right,” I responded. “But three months ago we agreed to only date one another, so I guess I thought we were on our way to being boyfriends.” His retort: “I’m not going on dates with anyone else. I’m not looking for dates on Scruff.” He said it like it made perfect sense, like I was in the wrong. “Now, Eric, let’s go to bed and I’ll make you feel better.” It felt wrong to oblige—rather, when I obliged.

After two hours together in his bed, Jack spent the evening unknowingly reminding me why I was holding out for him: he made dinner at his apartment in East Village, surprised me with tickets to a concert, and then laid me down once more when we got home—fully clothed, but with German chocolate cake in tow. I thought it was one big blanket apology, until he rolled over on his side and said “I can’t believe it’s been six months. Happy anniversary, babe.” I choked on a piece of cake, thinking it was a joke. But he was completely serious, adding: “I really love every second with you.” Finally, a change.

I made breakfast the next morning while Jack showered. His phone buzzed beside the stove, and I saw a text from someone named Kev Scruff: “Hey handsome. We still good for noon?” Then, another buzz: “Craving you.” When Jack was finished, I asked if he wanted to see a movie. “Yes, let’s,” as he checked his phone. “Oh, wait… I forgot, I’m seeing a friend this afternoon. Maybe sometime this week?” I left his apartment at 11:45, but I didn’t leave the building—I sat on the stairs one floor up. At 11:58, a text from Jack: “Always the best time with you. xo.” At 12:01, I peered around the corner to see a stranger knocking at his door. Short. Muscled. Like a running back. Like a punch to the gut.

SEASON 1, EPISODE 3

 

“Thanks for coming, guys. As always.” Joanie hugged Bart and me before her opening set. Bart chuckled in response: “Well, I work here, so you shouldn’t thank me.” Really, though, it was Bart who often booked Joanie, despite her band’s mediocrity. It wasn’t hard to support her—she was good enough to be something big. Her voice has this folksy sincerity, this heartbreaking earnestness. But for some reason, she wasn’t taking off, despite years of trying, and a Berklee degree to boot. Thankfully, Bart could keep booking her, to the venue owner’s chagrin.

The audience filled up toward the end of her set, the people arriving for the main act. Joanie, who went by her full name (Joanie George) on stage, always picked up a new fan or two, but never saw things snowball. In the cab on the way home, she broke out into sobs. “I’m sorry to be your charity friend. You don’t have to keep coming. I should just give up.” Given her talent, her focus, and her lack of any applicable work skills, I assured her that she wasn’t wasting anyone’s time, especially not her own.

I got an email from Joanie the next day, asking about how I juggled my work persona, Eddy, with my actual self. My reply was a bit heavy: while I would like to just have one identity, being Eddy gave me a dissociative disorder, which allowed me to do things that I didn’t feel Eric would do. Mostly, Eddy had thicker skin and was a better bullshitter. He was a businessman, born and raised in New York. I worried that parts of Eric were falling away—certain Midwest charms—but Eddy was responsible for Eric’s well-being, if not also threatening to absorb it entirely. So ultimately, a balancing act.

My doorbell rang at 8am that Saturday. I spoke groggily into the intercom: “Go away, Witnesses of Jehovah.” Then, another ring. “What? Who is it?!” Joanie’s voice responded: “Eric, it’s me.” I buzzed her in. She looked drastically different: Her once long, auburn hair was now bobbed and bottle blonde. Despite the morning hour, she looked ready for a night out, with dark eye shadow and a short black cocktail dress. I still saw Joanie in there, except she seemed ten years older. Suddenly, her email inquiry made sense. “And who are you?” I asked, matter-of-fact. “Saturant,” she replied, smiling with confidence. “Okay…okay,” I said, keeping eyes locked, nodding in support.

“Joanie wants you to manage her? She’s fucking crazy.” Bart was skeptical, and assumed that I agreed with him. “Bart, she’s good enough. You know she is.” He wasn’t having it: “Is this some phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes metaphor? It looks desperate. What’s her big plan? Her band still sucks. And do you know the first thing about managing musicians? It’s a helluva lot different from actors.” “Maybe,” I replied. “But isn’t she just acting anyway? It’s a character. And I’m good enough at my job that I could learn the rules for music.” Bart didn’t buy it. I’m not so sure I bought it either.

Sam was surprisingly supportive when I asked for his blessing—I would manage Joanie in what little free time I had. He said I would have to start my own side project, and that he wasn’t going to stop me from helping my friend, especially since her work wouldn’t conflict with our clients’. “Just be mindful of the friendship,” he advised. “These things rarely end well.” He asked for a copy of her music. I sent him two songs she had recorded acoustically. He called me into his office after listening to them. “You’ve got gold here, Eddy. Let me know where I can help.”

I met Joanie at a rehearsal in Clinton Hill later that night. She was ecstatic that I would help her, and I was equally ecstatic that she trusted me. I wasn’t thrilled, however, that aside from her Saturant transformation, everything else was the same. Moments into the first number, I cut the group off: “The band needs to go.” Obviously, the band was none too pleased. “‘Scuse me bro?” said the drummer. “But who the fuck are you?” Joanie turned to me: “Is that Eddy in there?” “The band is gone,” I said, knowing this was what Sam would have done, too. The bassist spit in my face as they exited.

SEASON 1, EPISODE 2

 

I’m always hurrying to work. Nobody knows I’m late—it’s just my boss Sam and me. He’s in by noon, when our LA counterparts start their day. But I’ve got to cover phones, emails, and scheduling for our actors from the start of the New York morning. I’m a master of the snooze button, and am just never eager to turn on my work alter ego, Eddy. Sam already had an assistant named Eric whom he hated, so he had me go by my middle name—Edmond—and then Hollywooded it. He seems to like me—as Eddy, of course—enough to keep me for three years. It’s the longest relationship either of us has had.

Our actor clients are mostly high maintenance. They’re all insecure, no matter how successful, needing constant fluffing and reassurance, which is a large part of my job. “The casting director looooved you” or “I think they went in a different direction, but they said you were easily the best” or “I think this Broadway role was revived for you.” On this particular day, I had to reschedule one actress’s auditions because she had “morning voice” and didn’t want to sound raspy on tape. I called each director, found afternoon time slots—apologizing profusely—then called her back. “Everyone is so happy to give your voice the time it needs.”

Sam came in around 1, a bit later than usual. “Get Marissa on the fucking phone, now,” he said, without any “Hello” or “How are you”. I handed him his drink—a grande skinny latte, extra foam, splenda stirred in by me, not by the barista—and dialed Marissa, one of our better known clients who was the lead on a cable network cop show. We had heard rumors she was switching managers, so Sam was playing defense. “Hi Marissa, it’s Eddy. I’m well thanks, how are you?” From Sam’s office: “Stop with the fucking Midwest manners and send her through to me.”

Marissa and Sam were on the phone for an hour. She did have new representation lined up, despite Sam plucking her out of college and getting her more than two dozen roles in TV and film. Chances are, the new guy had better contacts or was a better negotiator—she wouldn’t say. Sam was madder than I’ve ever seen him. I shared some good news about another client who had been picked up as a series regular on his show. “Eddy, not now. Jesus. You know—if you had made her feel more desired here, then this might have never happened.”

There is a 15-minute window each day where I sneak away for food. It’s around 3, when LA is out on lunch meetings. It’s Sam’s least favorite part of the day because it means he’s on phones and doing scheduling, both of which he put behind him after his assistant days. I spend each lunch break crossing Madison Square Park, going to a simple cafeteria-style place nearby where there is a cheap buffet. Even if I bring my own food, I take the 15 minutes, mostly to remind Sam that he needs me. He’s always nicer when I get back.

I moved to NYC thinking I’d work in film production, but a series of events derailed things for two years, and then Talia heard about Sam’s opening and referred me. It’s a good gig, and I’ve proven skilled at preventing and putting out fires, understanding people’s priorities and needs and personal politics. I think I’ll be a great talent manager but just hope I don’t end up like Sam—he’s good at it but seems miserable. And his temper shifts constantly: “Have a good night, Eddy. Another awesome day from you. Best assistant I’ve ever had,” he said as he left at 6. He always ends the day with positive reinforcement. I’ll still work another three hours to coincide with LA, telling myself that it’ll pay off soon.

I get to be Eric from the hours of 9pm and 9am, shedding Eddy as I leave the office. Despite being perpetually exhausted, I walk through a calm, brightly lit Manhattan for 30 minutes before getting on the subway, and then go right to my gym in Park Slope to work out before it closes at 11. I have to stop any hurrying, to see my city slowed down and to hear its soundtrack of traffic and conversation, before sweating away the day’s stress with a soundtrack of Top 40. This routine clears my head and reminds me that I am in control of my own well-being. I have to end each day with this positive reinforcement.

SEASON 1, EPISODE 1

New Yorkers have a way of pitying those people who choose to move away. “Can’t hack it in the big city, eh?” As if the person is giving up, too defeated to live and die for the hustle. I didn’t feel this pity toward Talia when she announced she was quitting her successful casting career and moving home to Kansas City. “I’ve got so much potential I can’t use here,” she said. “I’m over being stifled by the cost, by the rat race. I want a house, and a family, and quiet.” I felt disillusioned. She was once indefatigable. And now, quite logically, Kansas made more sense.

Talia waited until our lease was done to uproot herself. Leases, like subway delays, take people hostage here. This left me a clean break to get a new roommate on the lease or to find my own place. I opted for the latter. I had just negotiated a raise at work, and knew that in a year or two, finding an affordable studio in Prospect Heights would be impossible. And without question, I had to stay in Prospect Heights. I owed my sanity to these brownstones, to the park, to the best-of-both-worlds feeling one gets from living in residential Brooklyn.

Our landlord owned a few other buildings in the neighborhood, and fortunately had a garden studio available on Underhill just two blocks away. She even cut me a deal on the place since we had good rapport from my four years as her tenant. It still meant I nearly doubled my rent, but I would finally have my own place. “Wow, Eric, I’ll pay a third of that on my mortgage each month in Overland Park,” Talia reminded me. My response: “Don’t be that person who suddenly convinces herself she was never happy here. Just be happy for me.”

Talia was surprised and overwhelmed that nearly 50 people attended her farewell party in Park Slope, having been certain that a central Brooklyn location would keep things small and more personable. But that’s just it—Talia was personable, and people were sad to see her go. There were a few big time casting directors and agents—her boss even teared up upon saying goodbye. That was what confused me: her life here was set. She was on one of the biggest platforms in the world and stepped off of it. She made New York look easy, and walking away even easier.

We spent Talia’s last full day together. A morning jog in Prospect Park. Then bagels on Vanderbilt. Then we boxed up our lives while sipping seltzer, sent her things on a moving truck and pushed mine into the living room. I would rent a pickup truck the next day to move myself around the corner. The big task of the day was painting the walls white. Each stroke felt like one more memory we were clearing away. Picnics in the park. 4 a.m. taxis. Stories of shameless hookups with cute boys. Talia finally broke down, with half a blue wall to go.

I called a car for Talia early the next morning. Our goodbye stretched out for 10 minutes as the driver waited patiently. “You’re the only reason I stayed as long as I did,” she said. “You’re the only reason I came in the first place,” I replied. I hugged goodbye the person who got me my job, who spent four years as my roommate, who introduced me to my first boyfriend, and who helped me through my mother’s death. “Will you miss me?” she asked. Honestly, I just wanted her to be gone already.

New Yorkers are assholes. If you aren’t one when you arrive, you become one to survive. Or else you move away, because you’re too sweet and too levelheaded to tolerate all of the assholes. I quickly moved my stuff into the new studio, called up Bart and Peter, and made plans for a night out in East Village. Talia texted me that evening: “At my new home. Can’t believe it’s real. Miss you.” I didn’t text her back til the next morning, because I kind of pitied her. She had all the potential in the world, and she failed to use it.