Short feature about filmmaker Scott King and his decision to sell nearly everything he owns, including a 1939 Seeburg jukebox that I picked up for $400. Score!
Give it Away
Two weeks ago I came home from a 4th of July sale with three double-breasted suits, a stack of pulp paperbacks (Flesh Therapist! Dead Yellow Women!) and one happy discovery: one man’s existential crisis is another’s bargain bonanza.
The man in crisis is Scott King, a 36-year-old filmmaker from Silver Lake who recently shocked his many friends, admirers and hangers-on by announcing his intention to sell, dump or donate nearly everything he owns. This was no small proposition for Scott, the heir of a Bay Area banking fortune who has spent much of his adult life amassing and fetishizing huge collections of old weird stuff.
“Scott King’s tired… That’s right… Tired… Of his empty materialism!” he proclaimed in the invitation. “After a great mystical journey, he’s realized how his possessions have served only to enslave him. And now they can enslave you… At low, low prices!”
Among the items going for next-to-nothing were 400 pieces of Franciscan pottery, an Addams Family pinball machine, a 1900’s writing desk and the surprisingly substantial remnants of a brief but intense obsession with puppy dog stickers. That was just downstairs. Up the creaky staircase, friends squeezed into a closet packed with suits and jewelry, inspected a selection of vintage guitars and pawed through boxes overflowing with props and memorabilia from Scott’s first feature Treasure Island, a black-and-white mystery he made three years ago about World War 2 intelligence officers remarkable mostly for its complete period accuracy.
Outside, a few steps from the grill where Scott spent most of the afternoon in a plume of pungent BBQ smoke, the hood of his 1939 BMW opened to reveal an immaculate restored engine, the whole gleaming headache available for $20,000, half of what Scott paid for it two years ago.
Scott hoped to end the day with little more than the clothes on his back and the tongs in his fist. He was thrilled, he insisted, to be rid of the rest of it, all of it, the accumulated evidence of a life he’s determined to walk away from forever.
He may be ready to forget himself, but it won’t be so easy for the rest of us. There’s never been any mistaking Scott King. Rarely spotted out of a suit, fedora and stubby tie, his lapel dotted with a Nixon button or union pin, Scott always looked less like a trust fund hipster than a thuggish homicide detective traipsing around in, say, 1946. But unlike the zoot-suited swingers who spawned the now quaint mid-‘90s revival of all things ‘40 – “those people are so retarded they should wear helmets,” he spat at the time – Scott’s rejection of most things new-fangled went far beyond clothes. He outfitted his house with a network of pneumatic tubes and coated the walls in paper decorated with the logo of the WPA. Last year he hired an artist friend to build a 9-hole miniature golf course on his property, each hole modeled after a period landmark (On hole #4, the ball takes a spin around the brim of the Brown Derby). Apart from an enthusiasm for big Hollywood blockbusters --- he goes to the movies about 250 times a year and claims the Bruce Willis musical Hudson Hawk as one of his favorite films ever – Scott found a way to spend his life far removed from the rest of the world.
So it was with some alarm that friends began noticing changes in Scott late last year. He was spotted, it was said, getting out of a late-model station wagon wearing a plain T-shirt and khakis. His hair had grown out. He mentioned something about selling the house and scouting real estate in Malibu. He was in therapy.
Scott says he turned a corner in a post-Sept. 11 fit of reflection. He’s far from patriotic and didn’t know anyone hurt or killed in the attacks, but coming at a time when he was already mulling over his life and what he was living for, the events prompted a complete mental and physical overhaul. “For the first few days afterward, everyone was going around saying we now know what life is about – it’s about your friends and your family and connecting and that’s it. All that other stuff, politics and money and fashion and everything else, it’s all bullshit and we know it. And then after three days, most people went right back to it. And I just don’t want to go back.”
Satisfied that he now possesses nothing less than “the meaning of life” – “Other people,” he says simply. “Other people and food, obviously” – Scott suddenly can’t see the need for all the clothes, the collections, the stuff. Things he once found fascinating now look like distractions or, worse, tools of intimidation. “I thought I was just being cool or challenging or intriguing,” he says. “But I was really just kind of scary.”
He now hopes to find a tiny house on a big plot in Pt. Dume, where he’ll work on his next movie – this one a thriller about the end of the world set in contemporary Russia – and live an uncluttered life with his two beloved dogs and a wardrobe of J-Crew basics. That may or may not be just another big affectation, but I for one can only root for the new Scott. Especially since along with the other loot, Scott left me his 1939 Seeburg jukebox stocked with vintage 78s. It may be a distraction or tool of intimidation, but for $400, I couldn’t resist.