I have always loved living in L.A., the good, the bad and the smog; I’ll, probably, always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in a bad neighborhood or asking a black guy for a jump-start on the day of the Rodney King verdicts, L.A. has always had an interesting adventure for me. Throughout high school, I would venture further and further into L.A for no other reason than to see what’s out there.

My father used to work in City Hall, and back when I was a kid, he took me downtown to the jewelry district. We found an alley to park in, and as we’re leaving the car I hear a real loud ruckus down another alley, as we walk by I see an old man screaming by a dumpster and throwing trash, screaming “And don’t come around here again mother fucker!” I looked up and down the alley . . . there was no one there, I look up at my dad, and he says, “Walk in front of me and keep moving.” I was in shock, I saw a man having a very intense fight with . . . no one, and my dad was unfazed. As the weeks and months went by, the more fascinated I became with the incident. Anyone living in L.A. now is probably unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation now, this probably happened in your backyard this morning, but in the early to mid ‘70’s this was wild stuff.

Fast-forward twenty years to 1995; I was working the late shift at Kinko’s in their computer department. This guy Todd is bored and calls me at work and says “I want to go somewhere tonight, if you’re up for it, I’ll pick you up from work, and can you sneak out before midnight?” I tell him I’ll get somebody to punch out for me, be here at 10:00 or 10:30 pm. Todd picks me up, and as he backs up, he says, “So, where do we go?” I thought he had a plan, so I say, let’s go to Hollywood, and go to a coffee shop or one of the weird little shops on Melrose. Todd looks a little spooked, and says “it’s late and isn’t there too many weirdo’s out there?” Too funny! I tell him I’d hold his hand, and protect him; little did I know he’d hold me to that.

We get to Hollywood Blvd, and I say let’s go to the International Bookstand. It’s a great newsstand off of Hollywood and Argyle. Todd circles the block once or twice, and finds a place to park. We start walking west towards Argyle, when a guy who looks like Charles Manson, if Manson smoked crack and took steroids, steps in front of me and says “listen brother, we need to talk about Jesus.” I politely, as I can muster at the hour, tell him, no thanks, and maybe another time. Manson instantly grabs me by the arm, and says, “No brother, we’ll talk about Jesus now!” My instant reaction to being grabbed was to throw my arm out, which knocked his arm off of me, and knocked him back and a foot. Manson gives me this glazed look and puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles really, really loud. Instantly 8 or 9 guys who look identical to Manson surround me. All these guys are holding literature geared towards junkies finding Christ, and now they’re circling me, then Manson says, “This fucker doesn’t like Jesus.” They keep closing in, and then coming from a block or two away, I hear “leave my friend alone.” My “friend” Todd was running down the block, but as he was running, became concerned with my well-being and decided to yell at my assailants.

I knew that if need be I could whip a couple of these guys, a few years earlier, I fought super-middleweight around L.A. on the amateur circuit, but I was now surrounded by ten ex-junkies, Jesus loving, Manson freaks. Then I hatched a plan, I started pacing and I remembered a story this Persian girl I once dated told me. She said one time back in Iran she took a cab, and mistakenly sat up front, the cab driver took it as a come on, so he started driving her out of the city, and when she asked where he was taking her, he said to “rape” her. She didn’t know what to do, so she started shaking, he asked her if she was scared, she said, “No, she was excited.” This turned him off, and he stopped the cab, and threw her out.

So, as I paced, I decided to start ranting like I was into this, I started throwing random jabs like I was warming up for a fight, then I said come on, “Let’s do this,” the crowd came in even closer, then I said “Let’s fight, who’s going to go first?” Just like that the crowd of ten starting hemming and hawing, and saying stuff like “Look at the time; I’m supposed to be back at church at 11:30.” Everybody left.

I spent about thirty minutes looking for Todd, I found him in the newsstand reading. I looked at him, wanting to stomp him, and I growled, what happened to you back there? He casually looks up and says, “I didn’t want to get in the way, and you seemed to have everything under control.” Under control, there were ten of them! “Yeah, you’re a good fighter, let’s go eat.”

Todd and I never returned to Hollywood together again.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie


With Christmas coming up, I started trying to remember my best holiday memory. I’d have to say my best was in December 1969 or 1970, I was three or four years old. How or why I still remember this I have no idea. My folks decided to take me to see Santa, but I was going through this, about, two-year freak-out when it came to costumes. I freaked-out every time I saw a clown or Santa or anything like that.

As soon as I came to terms with costumes, I saw the Talking Tina episode of the Twilight Zone. I was right after all; these damn toys can kill you.

Anyway, my folks packed me up and took me to my grandfather’s Carpentry Union for my visit with Santa. Mom and dad thought I would be jazzed to find that my grandfather was the Santa Claus for this occasion. Everything was cool until I saw Santa; I spun on my heels and ran a good two blocks before anyone realized I was gone. As I rounded the first corner, I spotted a sign in front of a pizza joint, I don’t know what you call these signs – they look like upside down V’s. So, I tucked myself in-between the boards and stayed. I saw feet running past me, and people yelling my name, but I stayed hidden and silent for about twenty minutes. Santa, sorry fat man, you’ll have to find another kid to kill – I got you figured out.

As time went by I kept hearing my dad calling for me, and I started getting nervous. Would he be happy once he found me, or would he be pissed that I put him through all this shit? So, I sheepishly came out and announced, “Here I am.” Now, my father, like his father, and I was blessed with a fiery and sometimes insane temper. He was, in his own way happy to find me, but it was more like mumbling behind teeth that were gritting. He swooped me up, and explained that Santa was grandpa, that he was going to surprise me. I was not convinced.

We got back to the Union Hall, waited in line and when we got to “Santa,” my grandpa pulled his beard down and said: “It’s me, Mikey!” I was blown away, how did Santa pull my grandpa into this madness? Grandpa gave me a candy cane, and we went on our way.
My grandpa passed away in 1991, he was a funny guy. He hated everyone except for my brother and me – and of course his wife, my wonderful grandmother.

Once he and my grandmother got too old to live alone they moved in with my aunt. Anyway, my brother and I came by for a visit one weekend and we walked in through the back door, my grandfather didn’t see us. Just as we’re walking into the living room where my grandpa is, our younger cousin Tommy (named after my father) walked up to my grandfather and asked if he would like some water, he’d get it for him. My grandfather, not missing a beat, stared swinging his cane and yelled “Get out of my way you fat fuck!” My brother and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. We went into the living room and asked our grandfather if everything was “OK in here?” And he turned to us and said “Could you get me some water, they won’t do shit for me here?” For my British readers, my grandfather was a senior citizen version of Lenny McLean. Have a great Holiday!

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Zane Grey

In 1977, I was in sixth grade; my Mom sat me down and told me the story of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother (that’s six greats) Betty Zane.

During the colonial war, the fortress she was in with her father was about to run out of ammunition, her father and everyone else was either injured or engaged in battle, so Zane ran out of the fort a few miles to retrieve ammo that was hidden in the floorboards of a home of one of the soldiers.

Along the way Zane was shot with arrows from the Indians, they were battling, but still ran and brought back the ammo, and they won that battle.

The book was written by my great-uncle, on my mom’s side, Zane Grey. The copy of the book that my mom was showing me was signed by Grey, and had an old news clipping, with a picture of him, talking about his former career as a dentist. It was interesting to me.

I took the book to school as a show and tell project; the teacher was in awe, she started rambling about all his great western novels, asking me if I had read Riders of The Purple Sage, or several others. I answered, “Not yet.” I hadn’t read any of his books. When I showed her the autograph, her eyes bugged out and she said I should take the book home, as it was probably worth hundreds of dollars.

I recently found out that Zane Grey gave a fictionalized version of Betty Zane’s life; for years fables and rumors swirled around what happened at the fortress, one account was Betty Zane walked out of the fortress, and the Indians saw that it was a woman and let her go by, but the version we always heard was that she was shot with arrows and still went on. I guess Zane took bits and pieces of these wives’ tales and made his own story. Like anything else, unless you were there, who knows what happened?

It wasn’t until I got older that it sunk in how difficult it is to write something worth reading, and even harder to make a living at it. I guess you have to fake it sometimes.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Father Tim

Sometimes in life you meet someone that has an incredible impact on you without them even knowing it.

Midway through my stay at Camp Wayside a busload of new campers came in. One of these people was a short fifty something year old man with a receding hairline. He looked like an accountant or a teacher. He walked into the barrack and looked incredibly lost and scared. I walked up to him and introduced myself and told him some of the rules of survival. He told me his name was Tim and he did some teaching and counseling in the Bay Area. At the time it seemed vague, but I didn’t pursue it.

A couple of days later we were walking to lunch and Tim confesses to me that he is a Priest from San Francisco. I asked him why he didn’t tell me when he came in. He said he felt he would be ridiculed or targeted and the biggest reason was that he was here. He felt that a man of God isn’t a man of God, if he is in jail.

I ask why he is here. He explains that prior to becoming a Priest, he had a drinking problem, but he was able to extinguish it. And go on to become a man of God. Great, I say. But a month before he landed in Wayside, he received a phone call at his church that his parents had been in a car accident and they both died in a collision with a truck. Father Tim immediately drives down to identify the bodies and make funeral arrangements, and to settle the estate. Turns out his sister was a district attorney, and couldn’t get away to help.

I listened to Father Tim as he told me his life story; he was filled with sadness, and guilt. The loss of family, and his feeling of letting down God. Then he told me that after everything was settled, he packed his car and headed back towards the Bay Area. Halfway home, he passed a liquor store, he stopped and went in and bought a bottle almost every kind of booze they had. Three quarters of the way to Frisco he was pulled over for weaving up and down the highway. He was tanked. He didn’t mention he was a Priest or that his sister was a district attorney. He waived his right to an attorney, and asked for the harshest punishment the law would grant.

He was sentenced to six months to a year. His sister had no idea what happened to him. He vanished. He called his church to tell them he had to face punishment.

I, kind of, took him under my wing. No one else knew he was a Priest. I told him I was going to let people know. At the time there were a few younger inmates that were bullying him; they always look for the weakest in order to look tough.

I explained to Father Tim, that as he is being punished here, he could do a lot of good, start a bible study group or counsel some of us. The guys at Wayside were receiving divorce papers or break-up letters daily; I knew he could help people through this. After a day or so he agreed. I told him maybe he was here for a reason.

I sat in on a couple of his study groups; his understanding of the Bible was astounding. The one lesson that sticks out in my mind was: the meek shall inherit the earth. Father Tim explained how the word meek has changed its meaning over the years. Meek used to mean faithful, now it means shy or bashful. So the term really means the faithful shall inherit the earth.

Father Tim got so comfortable in his ability to counsel that he forgot he was in jail. A race riot between the blacks and the whites broke out in our barrack, Father Tim started walking back to where the riot started, and I grabbed him and said what are you doing? He said I’m going to talk to them, this is silly. Then I saw three or four black guys coming towards us, I pushed him against a wall, and I took a few shots to the head, then I just shielded Father Tim until the chaos stopped.

After a month or so Father Tim received a visitor. He was surprised; no one knew he was here. It turned out one of the clerks in his sister’s office had run across his name when they were filing. So, she rushed up there. She said she was bailing him out. He said no, he did wrong and had to pay. They went back and forth like this for another month or so. Finally, she took the case to a judge, the judge recommended rehab, and then have him returned to his church. When he was packing up to leave, he apologized for leaving me there. It’s that last time I ever saw Father Tim.

In a place where every street corner junkie is a minister, it was comforting to talk to the real deal, if only for a couple of months. Every other person in the system lies about their crime, but Father Tim wanted to stay. I was proud to know such an honorable man.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie

Metal Singer

In 1986, as I was sort of going into a post-punk Hanoi Rocks stage, I found myself years away from being in a punk band. Cold War, my old band, died back in 1983, maybe earlier, and after I graduated, in 1984, I lost touch with the other members of the band.

So, like I was saying, back in 1986, there was a band playing around Los Angeles that was packing huge crowds, called Voyeur. I was at a party, and a couple of girls came up to me and started asking me about the bands I was into, so I rattled off bands like ‘Bad Religion, TSOL and I just saw Cherry Bombz.’ They stared for a minute and said they had never heard of any of them, but I should check out this band called Voyeur. They packed every club they played. I said ‘sure, I’d check them out.’ As it turned out they were playing the Country Club in Reseda that next Friday, I went with my friend Chris who lived around the block from me.

We parked in the back of the club in front of the Chinese restaurant The Great Wall, paid $7.00 and walked in. A couple of cheesy glam bands went on first, then the whole place start moving towards the stage, it was about 70% women, which was a huge difference from the punk shows I was used to.

The band had cool songs like Kiss prior to 1976, and the stage presence of the 1970’s Van Halen. The singer, Paul Lancia had a vocal range similar to Steve Perry of Journey. The rest of the band had glam-trash names like Michael Hunt, and had a cool ‘don’t give a crap’ attitude. Anyway, once you went to one show, the chicks in the parking lot would tell you to come to the next show and want your phone number to call and remind you. It became a traveling party.

So, over the next six months I went to, at least, 8 of their shows. They were good, and fun. Then one night, as I was leaving a show at the Troubadour, Paul (the singer) pulls me aside and gives me his phone number; he tells me he lives in Tarzana, to come on over the next week. So, I called him and headed on over. It was weird to be going to his place, because unlike the punk scene, I had never hung out with Paul or saw him anywhere. So, Paul wasn’t a regular dude, he was a rock star who wanted to hang out. Weird. I knock, Paul opens up, and as I walk in there is a really big guy about 200 – 250 lbs sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the wall, I reached out to shake his hand and say, “How you doing?” But he doesn’t break his stare with the wall. Paul shook his head, and said this was his uncle. Like that explained anything. We go into the living room, and Paul hands me a tape of Voyeur’s last show, he had it recorded off of the soundboard. I said, “Thanks,” and then he shows me a flyer of a group called Circus. I said, “Cool,” but I didn’t know what the flyer was for. He said in a very serious tone, this is my new group. I was surprised; Voyeur seemed to be going well. Anyway, Paul had secretly split from Voyeur; Circus was made up of Paul on vocals, Billy D’Vette on guitar, a guy named Dino on bass and I don’t remember the drummer’s name. Paul played me, the Circus demo, and they sounded very polished, not as party-trash sounding as Voyeur.

The guy who ran the Country Club was going to manage Circus, and promised them a tour of Japan. Paul couldn’t say no. We rapped a bit more about what bands these guys came from, Bill D’Vette had his own band previously called . . . . wait for it, D’Vette, Dino had jammed with my friend Chris’ old band Harlot, on and on like this for about a half an hour. Then Paul asked, “You sing, right?” I said, “It was closer to screaming.” Paul then told me “You should audition for Voyeur.” I said “Really?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll have the guitarist from Voyeur call you.”

A day or so later Billy the guitarist from Voyeur (not D’Vette from Circus) calls me at home, and says “Paul recommended you for the band; I’d like to come by and audition you.” I said, “Great, come on by.” Gave him directions from his place in Van Nuys, to mine in Reseda.

Billy comes to the door, about 5 to 6 inches taller than me, (4 inches of it was hair), with his acoustic guitar, and lyric sheets, and the original Voyeur demo tape. I look over the lyrics, and we listen to the demo, and he tells me “Make sure you use vibrato on this verse.” To this, I stare as blankly as Paul’s uncle. I had never heard the word vibrato in my life; I had never had any sort of vocal training, or singing classes. I sang punk, no skill used – just raw energy, I pushed my voice through each song with youthful energy.

So, Billy, and I start running through the set of songs he had chosen, and each second I see his expression go from smiling to, almost horror. And I hear my voice crack, and turn into a shriek. Finally, Billy picks up his stuff and says thanks. I couldn’t say anything other than “Sorry.”

Looking back at it now, it would’ve been like George Thorogood auditioning for Rush. That night as I walked Billy to the door, I saw my mom and brother sitting on the couch; they both gave me that look, the look you give retarded kids when they appear in school plays, or student presentations. The “poor thing” look.

I find out later, when I was in the middle of my audition, my brother came home from work and heard me “singing” and asked my mom “What’s wrong with Mike?” Seems he thought I was either crying or having some type of emotional breakdown. I was really freaking awful. I have never attempted to sing again, except for my children. My daughter loved my singing until she turned about 5, then she’d make faces, then I stopped, my son, Lucas, when he was three, loved my singing. What a great kid.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie


In the beginning of November of 1988, I was twenty-two, I had been thrown out of my place for the umpteenth time and I drove over to my dad’s place to crash, only to have him tell me that wife number two had left Halloween night and hadn’t returned.

Over the next few days I cleaned out all my stuff from Mom’s, and lugged it over to Dad’s. The next few weeks were spent getting used to two half-sisters I didn’t know and a handful of animals that loved to crap right outside my bedroom door, making the morning trips to the bathroom a frickin’ nightmare on my socks.

Thanksgiving morning came around and my Dad said, “Let’s make turkey dinner, just you and me, no women this year.” Sounded great, but neither of us had ever undertaken such a task. Dad went grocery shopping and came home with all the fixings. Now, the cooking. We gutted the turkey and put it on a metal cooking pan, and the damn thing flopped open, spilling the stuffing, we look at each other and let out a “What the?” Then I remember seeing strings on turkeys at the relatives. So, I tell my dad, we need string to wrap up this loose bird. He runs to the tool shed and brought out some twine, and we tied this ten-pound sucker up, and put him in the oven.

Twenty minutes later we opened the oven, and the twine had burnt off. So, we pull the bad-boy out and try to figure out our next move.

My Dad took off for the tool shed again and came back with a hammer and nails, I’m stumped. He told me to hold the turkey, and he started hammering the wings into the body and we spun the bird around a few times, and he kept hammering from every angle. By the time he’s done the bird is sealed tight. We popped the turkey back in and finish cooking.

For the rest of his years, dad would swear it was a great tasting turkey. In his later years he would buy a Louisiana deep fryer and make restaurant quality turkeys.

Whenever I think of my dad, I think of this Spider-Man comic book I read years ago. In the book Spider-Man goes off saving the universe with Doctor Strange, it happens to be Spider-Man’s birthday and he’s annoyed no one remembers, and that he has to work. They save the world and Doctor Strange said he didn’t forget his birthday, and brings back his Uncle Ben from the dead for fifteen minutes. So, Spider-Man is scrambling to figure what he wants to say or do in those fifteen minutes. Makes me think, around the holidays, did I say everything I wanted to say, and what would I do with my fifteen minutes?

Of all my Thanksgivings, that one with my dad was the most memorable.

– Last One To Die, 2011

#michaelessington #lastonetodie