This was the car I bought when I first got to LA in 1996. At the time, it wasn't painted. It was just a traditional, 2-door Toyota Tercel that I paid a hard earned $2,600 for.
I wouldn't land my first union gig as an extra in Fight Club until 1998 and I wouldn't start earning real money as a principal actor until 1999. In those early days, I worked in catering to pay my rent, but the goal was to not like my day job too much so I always had time and energy for the acting I loved.
But acting in LA is expensive. Head shots, classes, workshops, reels. It all added up. And the last thing I had was extra cash for a sweet ride. So I made due in my tercel.
Then I misread a two-way stop as a four-way stop and ended up on someone's front lawn. Soon after, we were run over by a beer truck making a turn on top of us. She was beat to hell, but she kept running. The driver's side door was in bad shape, but we persisted.
When two nefarious looking gentlemen (straight out of The Godfather) in a mall parking lot told me they could pull out the massive dent in the door for only $60 I didn't know how to say no. They set up this bizarre looking mechanism that they yanked at, slowly pulling the dent out but smashing holes all over the side of the door.
When one of them ripped his hand open, they gave up, still demanding to be paid. To be candid they scared the shit out of me, so I paid and bolted.
Now the drivers side door wouldn't even open or close. I had to enter from the passenger door and climb over the stick shift to drive.
All this time, I somehow survived amidst a fair amount of humiliation. I even dated during this time which I still find remarkable. I compared myself to everyone around me and I seemed to be a joke. The only one who hadn't taken a "real" job yet. The one willing to look ridiculous if need be, but also the one feeling like a loser on the inside. The damage to my tercel made an old cheap car look even more pathetic. And that was a reflection of my worth. I felt pathetic.
So we did the unthinkable. A group of friends and I all got stoned and painted her. We each took a side to design however we liked. In the picture you can see Steve Herd's side. He rocked it with geometric shapes. And you can see a little of the back end that I painted, which looked like the frosting on a sweet treat. Michael Maize took on the biggest challenge of the driver's side and turned the black hole of dents into a sunburst.
From then on, we called her Cupcake.
I remember driving around LA in that car feeling absurd, ridiculous, embarrassed, and bold all at the same time. That version of me was passionate and willing to risk total humiliation while chasing my dream. I admire him.