By Bruce LaBruceIt's all about paedophilia these days, we all know that. From JonBenet to Pokémon to little Aaron Carter (Backstreet Boy Nick Carter's sizzling hot younger brother), youth culture has never been at such a premium. So when I was presented with the opportunity recently to hang out with not one but three movie stars under the age of 20, I really couldn't find the strength to say no, despite my notorious aversion to celebrities in general. My friend Esthero had already introduced me to the dazzling Bijou Phillips, of whom I gave you a thumbnail sketch several months ago, and now to be added to the mix were the lovely Dominique Swain, star at of Adrian Lyne's updating of Lolita , and cute as a button Brad Renfro, so mesmerisingly convincing in the vastly underrated Apt Pupil . Interestingly, both movies are about nubile 14 year olds who may or may not know just how adeptly they can control middle-aged men by ingenuously utilising their own considerable sexual charms. Appropriately, all three starlets are in town to appear in the movie Tart . Who am I, a homosexual and filmmaker in a perpetual state of arrested development, to say no?
I get the call from local music industry figures Mutt and Jeff - er, Mark and Jeff - to hook up with them and the famous kids in question at the Cibo Matto show at Lee's Palace in Toronto. As my Soviet dissident poet-cum-hustler friend had been playing the new Cibo Matto CD practically non-stop the last time I was in New York, I couldn't wait to see them live. Jumping the guest list, I enter Lee's to find a shockingly small yet enthusiastic crowd gathered around the stage. I grab a beer from handsome Starvin' Hungry behind the bar - who incidentally looks ravishing in the naked portfolio I took of him for Honcho - and head for the front. I am soon joined by the trouble twins, Mark and Jeff, and our hot little stars minus Dominique, who will materialise later. After a rousing good show, Bijou, who is friends with the band - she is in fact the most connected young lady I have ever met, and at this rate could replace Kevin Bacon in the Six Degrees of Separation game - leads us to the inevitable tour bus, where we have some milk and cookies. That's right, milk and cookies. What did you expect, Special K?
It's eerie yet exotic to be in the same bus with the respective offspring of Papa John Phillips and Papa John Lennon (Sean is, of course, a member of Cibo Matto, and apparently dates either Hatori or Honda, I can't remember which). Darling Bijou sings me an entire song right there and then. Timo, their percussionist, is trying to pick up Leyla again. He's so nice, and cute in his Playgirl T-shirt. I met him before, at the Up and Down Club. (No, that's not a euphemism for sex, but it should be! - as in, when referring to someone you've just had sex with, "I just ran into her at the Up and Down Club.") Also in attendance: several members of the Toronto sensations Robin Black and the Intergalactic All-Stars. Someday you'll clamour for their glamour.
We Sebastian Cabot over to the Bovine Sex Club, where various illustrious people have congregated, including sensational Sasha the stripper scribe and our mutual publisher Sam Gutter, his pal Mary-Anne who is an editor at Bomb magazine, and her boyfriend Luis Guzman, the ubiquitous actor whom I had just scene in a double bill of The Bone Collector (which would surely make a better porno movie) and The Limey (big Lesley Ann Warren fan). Someone who shall remain nameless has already virtually forced an E down my throat, so you'll have to excuse me if from now on I have the memory of Sporadicus.
I think I'd just knocked over a couple of beers and stepped on a few toes and whatnot when all of a sudden in a flash of pink and blond Bijou grabs my arm and floats me out of the club and into a cab. For the next 15 minutes or so, on the way to her hotel, I sit transfixed as she speaks into her flashing pink cell phone. She reads a passionate, epic love poem into the futuristic little instrument, then modestly dismisses it as piffle. She stretches out her long legs and nestles cat-like into the seat as if she's in a perpetual state of limousine. I gaze in wonder at a girl who has the world at her little feet. Her sloe eyes refract the street lights like white diamonds. I think I'm in love. If only I were 20 years younger, and not a faggot.
Somehow everyone who is supposed to arrive at her hotel room does. Dominique enters in a faux fur affair, her red hair in pigtails, her face aglow with youth and beauty, pure and simple. Bijou and another young actress and I sit on the bed and watch the end of What's Love Got To Do With It? Snuggling ensues.
It's time to move on, but Bijou - who, oh yes, can be a terror, make no mistake - deigns not to participate. Who knows what psychodramas play behind the scenes of every waking moment of her existence? Mark and Robin Fuckin' Black and Fro (that's Brad) and Dominique and I end up at a party somewhere uptown where we have some ice cream and cake. Well, it is a birthday party after all. Now I'm really flying, so naturally we have to go glow-in-the dark bowling. Yet another cab takes us far out into the suburbs where we rendezvous with other members of the birthday party (alas, sans Nick Cave) and throw multi-coloured balls at distant pins that seem to be wobbling (too much birthday cake?).
Before you can say "it seemed like a good idea at the time" we're back in the cab and hurtling toward the afore-not-mentioned-which hotel. You see, the jacuzzi beckons. It's six a.m. and still dark, but we are hoping it's already open. While the others change, I accompany Fro to his room as he is only 17 and needs constant chaperoning. By design, we instead enter the room adjacent to his, where his grandmother and guardian Joanne smokes nervously and awaits his homecoming. When he confesses that he's had too much birthday cake, she reams him out but good for squandering his allowance and staying up until all hours of the night. She speaks, as does her grandson, in a deep Tennessee drawl, is wrapped in a cotton night-gown, smokes a Cool in a cigarette holder, is pissed off. He praises her as the most precious woman in the world, sings, in fact, her praises until she softens a little, but not much. They pose for my camera, family photos.
Here and there I hear snips of the young stars' stories. Brad was discovered at the tender age of ten to appear in Joel Schumaker's The Client , shot in and around Brad's hometown of Knoxville. His parents have a shady past, something about the illicit selling of milk and cookies and birthday cake and ice cream. There's a bizarre story about one of his relatives putting out a contract on the life of his little sister and his grandmother, of both being shot and both surviving. There's the fact that he has to go back to Tennessee to face charges of grand theft auto and possession of cocaine and marijuana, which I only mention because it's already all over the internet. He's such a sweet boy though. He adopts me as his Aunt Bruce ("you must admit you're pretty effeminate, and you should be proud of it," he learns me), probably because he's used to being adopted by gay director types (Joel Schumaker, whom he's stayed with; Bryan Singer). He promises his grandmother he won't leave the hotel again tonight.
We're on the way to the jacuzzi. Four of us have made it this far; Robin Fuckin' Black has gone missing. Fro brings his guitar and Dominique brings the cigarettes, Mark and I bring our tattoos but the stolen Jägermeister has gone missing. We hit the jacuzzi in our underwear as several middle-aged men ride stationary bikes and run on tread mills on the other side of the room. The lights of the city lay before us in the darkened morning. Dominique surfaces and smiles.
Back to Dominique's room for some mini-bar candy. We decide to head to my apartment because we can't get beer from room service until 11 a.m. and it's only seven-ish. Brad puts on his pyjamas and his parka and his black oxford shoes. He looks like an eight-year-old kid who's just come back from the drive-in. He plays and sings his guitar, bluegrass, for me and Mark and Dominique and the cabby in the umpteenth cab of the night. He's in love with Dominique; she fends off his charming barrage of sweet-talk like a seasoned pro.
At my apartment the morning sun pours in through the windows. We head for the kitchen and the beers. Brad freaks out at the photo montage of River Phoenix that hangs over my kitchen sink, which includes the photo published in the National Enquirer of River in his casket. You see, people often compare Fro to the late, great Phoenix. Fro tells me I'm morbid, then shakes it off. As we drink our cold Coronas, Dominique dances dreamily to Iggy and the Stooges in the new light of day. She is going to sail through all the bullshit of life and Hollywood in her boat of grace and beauty. She's angelic. We like the way she moves.