Thursday, June 15, 2006


I think about Ted Demme often, which might seem odd because we didn't really know each other. My wife and I worked with his sister Jen for years but he left MTV right before my tenure began.

But that is not the reason I think of him as often as I do.

I followed Ted's career closely because he seemed to make the transition that I dreamed of making. He went from producing VJ shows for MTV to directing feature films. He was the legendary frat brother you hear the seniors talk about. "Remember the time Ted did this..." or "Man, this one time Ted..." And he never forgot his roots. Each time Ted released a new movie he held a private screening for the MTV Production department. "Beautiful Girls" is easily one of my favorite films of all time.

But that is not the reason I think of him as often I do.

On January 13, 2002, at the age of 38, Ted Demme died of a heart attack during a charity basketball game.

His family held services in New York and L.A. Krissy and I attended in New York, where we were living at the time. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The term "service" should be used very loosely. Of course we assumed it was a service in the traditional sense of the word. Our first clue should have been the location - Chelsea Piers. We were told it was being held there because of the huge turnout expected.

I wore my best suit, Krissy a conservative black dress and we went to pay our respects. Man were we overdressed.

In true Ted fashion it was a motherfucking party to end all parties. Open bar, waitresses making the rounds with fancy little food, a DJ. Although I only met Ted a few times it was all starting to make sense.

About an hour in, people started to get up and speak. First was Dennis Leary, one of Ted's best friends. Watch "Rescue Me" - his speech was pretty much an episode of "Rescue Me." It was funny, angry, full of expletives, touching and scary. He told stories of the legendary pranks Ted pulled on him. We were all in tears from laughter and sadness.

Other spoke - then MTV President Judy McGrath, actress Gina Gershon, his wife Amanda and of course Jen.

But that is not the reason I think of him as often as I do.

At one point the director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) spoke. He explained how Ted video taped everything - almost obsessively. Paul combed through the hours of home movies and put something together. Roll tape...

The piece was incredibly well done - duh, Paul wrote and directed "Boogie Nights." It was also very unsettling. It was too personal, very voyeuristic. It was obviously not shot with the intention of being projected on a 15 foot screen at a club at Chelsea Piers.

Ted left behind two children. At the time, if memory serves, a three year old daughter and a one month old son. A lot of the footage was shot by Ted's wife and focused on him playing with the kids. In one "scene" Ted and his daughter were in their California living room, palm trees outside, dancing like Tasmanian Devils to some song on the stereo. They were completely lost in the moment.

The "service" ended and we all got a party favor - a fucking t-shirt with Ted's face on it (genius!) on our way out. I announced right then and there that when I pass THIS is what I want. A party and a God damned T-Shirt. Awesome.

Flash forward four years. I no longer work at MTV. My family has relocated to California - a state I swore I would never live in. We have two amazing children, Ella is three, Sadie is about a month. My wife is shooting home movies of us. Gwen Stefani's "Holla Back Girl" is blasting from our living room stereo, palm trees outside. Ella and I are full on going to town. We are busting out our finest moves and cracking each other up.

Does this scene sound familiar?

I am not spiritual. I am not "granola-like" in any way but I swear to God I had a fucking outer body experience. I was in the middle of the exact scene that touched me the most from Ted's tribute video.

Since then, I think of Ted often.

It reminds me that we can go at any time. That I might go at any time. What will my children's last memory of me be? Will it be a 35 year old dad dancing in the living room? Will it be walking one of them down the aisle? When? Who the fuck knows.

If I am scared of one thing - it is death. Freaks the shit out of me. The thought of not "being" is just unthinkable to me. I don't believe in God or an after life so I just picture myself rotting in that box and it fucking freaks me out.

But for the first time my fear is not selfish. It's not what am "I" going to do. It is what are THEY going to do.

And that freaks me out even more.

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