I’m sorry that this post has taken a few days. Given that the time immediately after Tentmoot’s epic demise was insane stressful, I wanted to make sure to recount it accurately. Which meant comparing notes with Diamond and Little Sam. In addition, I’ve spent the last few evenings chatting with them and Bob online, which is the first time we’ve all talked together since that time. It has been wonderful; although we lived as a group for less than a year, we forged bonds that evidently cannot be cut. I thought that by virtue of being the closest to Andy, that having been the “mouthpiece” for his lies so often, that having stayed for so long meant that I could never be anything but the enemy. But I was wrong, and I am grateful for them every moment.
So. One thing I had not yet mentioned was how very sick Little Sam was during the Tentmoot debacle. She had come down with what we all assume was the flu. Not that any of us had health insurance, nor did the Elf doctor (who was named Imrodyr) do any good for her, especially given that Andy was in the 48-hour lockup for his “suicide attempt.” She had a vicious high fever, over a hundred, with a serious ear infection. Which is just awful; she really should have been taken care of better than that. The rest of us were adults; crazy, deluded adults, but adults nonetheless. As it was, she spent most of those several days curled up in a ball, alternately sleeping and whimpering.
Andy was still in the mental hospital when we got the call that Jed Brophy, Paul Randall and Brian Sergent had checked in to the New Zealand airport before Jeanine had cancelled their airline tickets, and thus had boarded the flight. They were now stranded at LAX airport, hopping mad because their tickets to Portland had been cancelled, as had their return flights to New Zealand. Further, there was no longer a convention to go to, which mean any money they would have been paid, or made in autographs, was gone. Lawrence Makoare had checked in a few minutes later than they had and was still in New Zealand – and given how furious he was, I’m really glad.
We had no idea what to do, and looking back, none of us remember exactly how it played out. I know that I made some calls to people who might have a place for them to stay, as we had no money to put them up in a hotel. Somebody had family who had a condo that they thought we might be able to use, but that fell through. Meanwhile, I had to go pick up Andy at the mental hospital, as he was being released that day. Eventually it became clear that, if they were unable (or unwilling) to pay for hotels for themselves, they’d have to stay in our apartment. Bear in mind that our apartment had virtually no furniture – just a giant couch that we’d gotten from Craigslist and mattresses on the floors. Literally, that was it.
So, Little Sam continued to sleep as Diamond began frantically cleaning up the house. I dropped Andy off at the house and headed to pick up the actors (or, as we did and still do refer to them, the Kiwis) at the airport. We pooled all the money we had left, which was not much, and I took most of it so that I could at least take them out to dinner. The rest went to buying some food (which we also had none of) for the next morning. It wasn’t a lot of fun for Diamond to try and make the house look less like the insane asylum it was; I was so proud when I came home and found the house spotless, with nicely made-up floor mattresses, complete with towels, bedside lamps and other little homey touches. She’d really done a great job.
Meanwhile, I drove my ancient, rusted, graffiti-ed, falling-apart ’87 Ford Aerostar (the one with no seats in the back) to LAX to pick up three real, live celebrities. Jed Brophy, who played a number of roles in the LotR movies and has been in most of Peter Jackson’s other movies. Paul Randall, better known as Tall Paul, who was one of the “size doubles” used to make the hobbit actors seem smaller (among other things), and Brian Sergent, who played the hobbit Ted Sandyman. The biggest names we’d been able to bring to our failed convention, and I had to walk up to them, completely alone, and explain what had happened. And take whatever heat they threw at me.
They piled into my van, and we drove to Santa Monica for dinner on the Promenade. I don’t know why we chose there; I can’t remember enough about the LA freeways to know if it was easy or not. I really don’t remember at all, because my stress level was through the roof. I know that we picked a restaurant with an outdoor seating area. I remember quietly panicking that they would order more food than I could pay for (I don’t think they did, but I honestly don’t remember). I remember Tall Paul had beer in the biggest glass I’d ever seen, and everyone joked about that.
What I remember most, though, is that all three of them were very kind. Jed was the nicest – he was very gregarious, curious about Bit of Earth and what we’d done before, and generally tried hard to make the best of a bad situation. Paul was much more quiet; he seemed very shy and uncertain about what was going on. Brian was almost as chatty as Jed, although I remember he was not as warm, and was a lot less reticent about his annoyance with the whole situation. I wish I remembered more of that dinner, because we did talk quite a bit. But what I remember was how hard it was to hold myself together as I explained how very poor we were, and that we could not get them hotel rooms, and that their only option was to come stay in our empty apartment, way the fuck out in San Dimas.
Brian had family in Los Angeles, so he opted to meet up with them. He offered to let the other two stay with him. I probably looked somewhat crestfallen, given how hard everyone had worked (and I felt terribly guilty that I was the only one who got to hang out with them, even though I wasn’t enjoying it). Jed was the one who decided he wanted to stay with us, and Paul kind of went along with it. So, if I remember correctly, we dropped Brian off somewhere and then drove back to Bag End (now seems like as good a time as any to explain that Andy had named our home Bag End, hence our nickname of “Bagenders”).
At the house, everyone was introduced around. It was fairly late in the day, so we weren’t up that long. We showed the actors their rooms and then we sat around the living room and talked for a while. I wish I could remember that conversation too. Jed told many stories, while Paul was very quiet. I know that Paul kept giving Andy strange looks – Andy later swore it was because Paul “somehow knew” that Andy was secretly Elijah Wood. At some point Paul did comment that we smoked the same brand of cigarettes that Elijah did – which was waved in front of us as “proof” after the fact. I’d wager that Paul was really just staring at the truly bizarre, creepy person doing crosswords and pretending to know way more than he actually did about the movie industry.
The actors eventually went to bed. We had three bedrooms, but one was unusable. Andy told us that it was because Bob had trashed the place as revenge when he moved out, but subsequent discussion has proved that not to be the case; when he left, Bob still thought he was coming back. Which means that Andy had gone so far as to trash the room and piss on the mattress to vilify Bob. So Little Sam, Diamond, Andy and I all slept in a heap on the floor of the otherwise empty dining room. Andy called it a puppy pile, but what it really was was sad and messed up.
The next morning, somebody made breakfast. I remember eggs. Little Sam remembers Nutella on toast. I remember an awkward phone call with Jeanine, who was hoping the guys would speak at her alma mater, as a way of making their visit more purposeful. And here’s where it gets sticky.
Jed and Tall Paul both told me (over the phone) that I was blamed for the whole thing, but they didn’t give me any details. Can you share the story that they heard?
I do remember blaming Jeanine, and I’ll apologize for that again now. I remember at first that I just told them exactly what I knew: that Jeanine had volunteered her credit card but changed her mind when questions came up, and they were already on the plane. I said I still didn’t really know what had happened. I apologized a lot. I know they had a lot of questions, and I just kept repeating the same thing. The truth, as far as I knew it, pointing fingers as hard as I could at Jeanine because, from where I was standing, she was the bad guy that ruined the convention. Andy persisted that the convention would have worked, that the tickets would have sold and the precarious equation he’d based the convention on would have worked out, if only Jeanine hadn’t pulled the plug. Even later, when he (as a different “core”) admitted that there never had been a donation, he said it still would have worked out if not for Jeanine. Jeanine was why things failed, not Andy’s lies.
I’m not proud of any of that. At the time, in that space, the most important thing seemed to be to just get through the day, with the fewest number of people yelling at me. It felt like the world was falling apart and every single person in my life except for Andy, Diamond, and Little Sam had turned against me. And I had not knowingly lied to people about Tentmoot. I cannot equate lies directly related to Andy’s gender identity with lies that were intended to defraud. I knew it wasn’t exactly right that the convention would have gone on without a hitch if not for Jeanine; I suspected it would have been a disaster in any case. But I was very used to pushing past my qualms about Andy’s version of events.
There was a lot of debate about how the actors would get home. Jeanine was begging them not to just use the other half of their tickets, which, if I remember correctly, would have either cost Jeanine more or would otherwise further negatively impact her. They, however, wanted to go home since there was no event. Ultimately they decided to hell with it and just used the other half, although Diamond ended up paying for some kind of fee or portion of the cost. At the time, I thought it was more than fair that Jeanine pay for them to get home, since it was because of her decision to yank the plug so abruptly that these guys were still in my apartment. And I wanted them out; we had no more money (and food was very, very scarce for several weeks after that) and I couldn’t stand the stress anymore.
It was just Diamond and I that ended up taking the Kiwis sightseeing around town before they left; I don’t actually know where Andrew was. All three of us remember Andrew not being with us, so I guess there’s the better part of an afternoon right in the middle of all this where he can’t be accounted for. It was a beautiful day. I can’t remember where we drove, although I remember a lot of traffic. I want to say we went somewhere to see the Hollywood sign, based on what roads I remember driving on. At some point, we stopped at a store so they could get snacks for the flight. Before they left, we promised to pay them back every cent they’d spent (something we had all been saying since the moment we found out they were in L.A.).
One thing I can say is that I kept that promise. I know that we settled up with Brian Sergent early on; I can’t remember how much, but I know he ended up having a nice family visit, and his agent sent an email saying “no hard feelings,” or something to that effect. I have some email records of my communication with Jed and Paul; I was able to find emails confirming the second-to-last payment, and I remember sending the final checks. It took a long time, and by the end it was straight out of the money I made as Fiona (and if I am incorrect, I am of course willing to pay the rest).
And then they were gone, and Diamond and I went back to the apartment. She hadn’t yet learned about The Mindhole, Andy’s “secret identity” or the rest of it, but already she was so deeply tied up with us that it was only a matter of time. We still had to deal with the premier of RotK, with the decision whether or not to go to Oregon (and face our accusers), with trying to figure out how to manage a three-bedroom apartment with only one income. Little Sam would be taken back by her parents very soon. It was the beginning of a long, dark winter.