Exclusive: Author Tony O’Neill On the Three People You Don’t Want to Meet in L.A.


New York Times best-selling author and former keyboardist for the Brian Jonestown Massacre Tony O’Neill has a new autobiographical novel out called Down and Out on Murder Mile, which draws heavily upon his experiences as a heroin addict in Los Angeles and London.

On Wednesday he will return to L.A. to read at Skylight Books on Vermont alongside his literary hero, Dan Fante (Chump Change, Mooch, Spitting Off Tall Buildings).

O’Neill says that he loves his old hometown, but there’s always a part of him that will regard that city as the scene of the crime…with that in mind, after the jump, find the three people who he doesn’t want to run into while he’s back.

Names and minor details have been changed to protect the guilty.

1. Pedro Pedro was my first heroin connection, and he actually begged me to quit at one point. I asked him why on earth he was begging me to quit, and he basically told me that if I died he would lose his biggest source of income. “I have a family to support!” I ended up getting into debt with Pedro. A lot of debt. That said, he had a cocaine induced stroke at the grand old age of 29, and was deported by the INS as soon as he work up in the hospital. So I don’t think he’ll be at the reading.

2. Mickey I met Mickey in rehab. He had a prosthetic leg and a bad liver. He had stomach cancer, and wanted to get sober because he wanted to know what it was like to be sober before he died. He got a payout from the government, because he worked a defense project that was responsible for the cancer. He used to the settlement to try to drink himself to death. We became pretty good friends inside, but he was depressed and found life without booze to be unbearable. I left rehab before he did. He shook my hand, gave me a sad smile and said “good luck.”

One night, about 2 weeks later, I was shooting up with a prostitute called Genesis. My phone rang. It was Mickey. I could hear a football game in the background, and glasses clinking. He said, “My insurance ran out. I’m at a bar. I need sleeping pills. Can you get me sleeping pills?” He sounded like he was crying. I said sure. He gave me the address of the bar, and I pretended to write it down. “I’ll be there in an hour.” “OK, I ain’t going nowhere.” I turned the phone off. Genesis said, “You leaving?” I said, “No.” I never spoke to Mickey again. Maybe he’s still waiting in that long ago bar, waiting for the connection that will never arrive, crying and cursing the government and listening to the game.

3. Jim Jim lived in the next room to mine, in a hotel called The Mark Twain. Jim was a crackhead with missing teeth and an Aryan Nation tattoo. He wasn’t a racist, but he said that the tattoo helped him to survive prison. Jim was in his fifties, practically a living miracle by crackhead standards. He’d sometimes hang out in my room. He showed me how to cook down crack rocks in lemon juice to inject. One night I was asleep, and there was banging on my door. I open up, and there’s Jim in his underpants. “The bitch I’m with OD’d,” he said, “I think she’s dead. The cops will be here soon. Hold this shit for me, will ya?” He handed me a dirty looking manila envelope. I went back to bed. Listened to the commotion in the hall. Banging on doors. Yelling. Jim saying, “I don’t know what she’s on! I just picked her up at a bar. I don’t even know her name!” The next morning Jim was gone. I moved out of the hotel a week later and went to a sober living house. That didn’t work out, and I ended up seeping on a friend’s floor. I waited a good month before I opened the envelope. It contained twp crack pipes, a baggie of meth, and a small handgun. Gave the gun to a kid I knew in exchange for a balloon of heroin. I don’t know what happened to Jim. The kid that I gave the gun to got arrested a month of so later for something related to his line of work. Drug dealing is a tough profession.