Facebook memories can be a bitch.
Today it reminded me that, six years ago, I was fairly convinced I was about to be the next Anthony Bourdain or, if possible, a somewhat-awesomer Guy Fieri. At the time I’d been putting together this website called the San Francisco Burger Blog with friends from the TV station my wife and I worked at (the original site has since been hijacked but lots of the reviews are now up here).
This was the period in my life where I was an on-air Weather and Traffic person on local TV news. I was 30-31-years-old, and this silly website where I wrote David Foster Wallace-esque prose about hamburgers had somehow gotten a little attention, leading to an endorsement deal with GM at one point and then, six years ago, a production company out of NYC began reaching out.
The production company loved the format and tone of the site and they wanted to move ahead on putting together a smart, interesting travel show about hamburgers. They wanted me to be involved as the writer/creator of the site, with the rest of the crew possibly having roles as well…but the big talk was of me being the host of the show.
So, first up we had to have a conference call, during which I realized that they thought I was somebody ELSE on the blog crew from the pictures on the site. Namely, a slightly younger, more in-shape guy, and not the apparent roly-poly bridge dwarf they tried to not sound like they thought I looked like. It was very gently suggested I go on a bit of a crash diet for a few months, with an eye towards a potential pilot shoot to put together a short version of what the show would be to pitch to the Food Network or Travel Channel.
Having been on local TV and exposed to “consultants” whose job it is to tell on-air talent they are disgusting, awful and should be grateful just to be let out of the house in the morning (right before contract negotiations strangely enough), my feelings were not that hurt and I agreed and said I would. Next up, they sent a tiny (soooo tiny) check and paperwork and asked me to shoot a tiny bit of footage of the whole crew, just so they could have a sense of what they were working with. I cashed the check, signed the papers without having anybody look at them and shot the footage.
The footage was shipped via a USB stick (large files were still too much to send online) and conference calls kept happening. We discussed the tone of the narration, writing process, how big of a crew we should have on shoots, everything. I tried to act like I knew what I was talking about and I had no fucking clue. I had stars in my eyes. “Do they GIVE me the bowling shirts with flames on them or do I have to shop for them myself?” I wondered.
Then one day when we were supposed to have a call, nobody called me. I emailed and called my direct contact and left messages and never heard back. “Maybe they’re sick,” I thought.
The next day I tried again, no dice. The third day I called the office again and got a “this number has been disconnected” message from the phone company.
So I looked up the production company online. The site was still up, but there was a news story about the company going bankrupt from the day before.
At that point I’d dropped about 25 pounds in a month from barely eating and I’d been doing my best not to shoot my mouth off about how I was moving ahead on shooting a pilot for cable, which means I talked about it at every chance I got. And now it was definitely gone, with no explanation or warning.
It was devastating. I had been on a bit of a roll in life, with being on TV in the #6 market in America and apparently heading towards national TV on a show about hamburgers based on a website where I had literally written barbarian fan fiction for 400 words before mentioning a burger in one review. I thought I had it all figured out.
Given this setback, I did the smartest, most responsible thing possible and went on a nice heavy binge of booze and shitty food for the holidays and into early 2012. I was shortly taken off the air by station management and my contract was not renewed and I slid steadily into depression, anger and resentment. Even on a small scale, it gets really easy to fall into that “I coulda been a contender!” mentality.
Drew of 2017 would see this situation much differently and as the typical setback it was, and would also keep in mind that I had learned some valuable things in the process:
-I had a product that COULD be sold
-the production/pitching basics so I could be smarter the next time around
–keep making shit until they pay you to make it.
But Drew of 2011/2012 was not that person. I opted instead for the self-indulgent choice that led to eating a ton of crappy food, drinking eggnog with Brandy in it like a maniac all through December (I think I gained back all of the weight I crash-dieted AND another 15 to boot that season) and eventually just helped my life get worse because of my choices.
In a lot of ways I pulled back on everything, and it took until just the last year or so that I feel like I’m pushing ahead the way I should be. But it took having a bad job experience, quitting drinking and having my ass kicked again and again and again to get me there.
I haven’t thought about the whole experience in a while, because it was unpleasant but a pretty typical story for anybody creative. The only real difference in these stories is who dusts themselves off and gets the fuck on with their lives and who becomes the guy who never stops being bitter about the one shot that didn’t work out.
Yesterday Facebook also reminded me that we adopted one of our cats eight years ago. She has gotten really fat since then. Maybe she missed out on a TV deal too.