Remembering Taylor Negron*

By Victoria Looseleaf

Hello, my name is Victoria and I’m suffering from PTSD – post-Taylor stress disorder.”

That’s because Taylor was like the latest Tesla – on insane mode. He could go from 0 to 70 in less than 3 seconds. Taylor was like a Mouton Rothschild, Premier Cru – unspeakably divine and in a class by himself. Taylor was like Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony – once you heard him you could never forget him.

He was also like the finest bespoke Brioni suit – the apotheosis of taste – although on occasion, one could see his ass crack when he bent down, especially at the gym, where he’d make me laugh so hard during our workouts that I couldn’t get through my reps. Who needed B-boys, Krumpers or Flexers in their low-riding pants when we had Taylor Negron in his?

I met Taylor shortly after I moved to L.A. in the late 80’s, through another friend, serendipitously called, Neal Taylor. Taylor Negron and I, both being somewhat, well, quirky, immediately connected.

In 1994, I asked Taylor to read from my then-unpublished – and still unpublished – book, Whorehouse of the Mind: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and the Space Program. It was a series of readings that Beth Lapides hosted at Luna Park, then a new club, where different actors read different chapters each week. Since the protagonist of Whorehouse, written in the first person present tense, was a young woman floating through the fog of the 1970’s, Taylor felt he needed a way into the character. (Click here to listen to Taylor read a passage…)

Yes, Taylor as Southern Belle.

Taylor also knew absolutely everybody – from Beck and Benazir Bhutto to Babs – as in Streisand, claiming he met her when he had a speaking part in The Main Event. But, as we all know, Taylor was prone to hyperbole. It’s not that he conflated the truth à la Brian Williams – Taylor wasn’t our trusted news anchor, but a source of his own, well, anchored Taylorness.

However, when he told a few of us that he’d actually had dinner with the late Prime Minister of Pakistan – the afore-mentioned Benazir Bhutto – and I can still hear his mellifluous voice, the one taking extreme delight in such almighty alliteration – we were, to say the least, highly suspicious. So, when I saw the picture of him with Benazir Bhutto – and this was before Photoshop and Selfies – I was somewhat flabbergasted. But I should have known better, because, as it happens, most of Taylor’s hyperbolic tales were actually true.

Well, there was that oft-told tale, the one in which he described himself as being part Jewish

When I interviewed Taylor for the LA Times in 2001 – at that point he was playing an Hispanic nanny in the Olsen Twins’ series, So Little Time – he told me he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent, which I duly wrote in this town’s paper of record.

And again last year, when I interviewed him for his one-man exhibition, Snow Paintings, at the Laemmle Royal – I wrote that Taylor was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent…because that’s what he told me and I believed him. How could I not, as that phrase had been printed in our paper of record.

It was only on the day that Taylor passed, and some of us were in his apartment, trying to cobble together an obituary from a variety of sources, when I suggested we write that he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent. Since his mother, Lucy, was there – we decided to go right to the source.

Lucy said, and I quote, “Both Rod and I were born in this country – making us Americans – but our parents were born in Puerto Rico. So we were of Puerto Rican descent…but,” she paused in true Taylor-style, “there was no way Brad had Jewish blood.”

Oy, I thought, I believed him all these years. But then – a mere few minutes later – Lucy stood up and blurted out, “I don’t want to make my son out to be a liar. Write that he was of Puerto Rican and Jewish descent.”

For a while, Taylor lived on Lloyd Place – in the so-called Norma Triangle – which was up the street from me, so I was a frequent visitor. It was only natural then, that on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I would go to Taylor’s house – a house, by the way that he had told me and thus had I written, again, in the paper of record, was once owned by Nina Foch, which, incidentally, I recently learned was NOT true (this courtesy of Frances Diaz, who was Taylor’s next door neighbor and owner of the Foch finca).

In any case, several people had already congregated there – one being a Mob kind of guy named Carlo from the Bronx, who was covered in tattoos and cooking spaghetti at 10 AM – not the sauce, mind you, but the noodles. Taylor put on a Frank Sinatra record – he had an actual turntable – and we danced around in a haze to Strangers in the Night – thinking it was the end of the world.

Taylor then put on my album, Harpnosis – this music was, for all intensive purpose, healing, although it didn’t work on O.J. Simpson, who’d been my neighbor when I lived in Laguna Beach – and we were all crying, laughing, eating, drinking, watching the television, holding each other, telling stories, as if it were really the end times. In fact, it was that day that Taylor began writing a song, My Taliban Lover. I’m not sure exactly what became of that ditty, but as the day wore on – and limp noodles just wouldn’t do – we decided to take a walk – to, of all places, the Abbey.

There we wound up drinking, crying and holding each other even tighter, because, after all, if the world were going to end, it had to end, Taylor figured, at the Abbey!

In closing I want to say that Taylor Negron – great actor, fabulous writer, incredible artist, performer, songwriter, raconteur and, most of all, my friend – was so much more than a pizza delivery boy. For one thing – he could actually bake his own pizzas, which he did for me, Melissa Carrey and Mr. Pete not that long ago.

And speaking of cuisine, Taylor, I treasure your last email to me. You were out of town and had written, “I love you. When I return I’ll cook again.”

Oh, I’m sure you’re cooking something, somewhere, right now, Taylor, telling a group of adoring fans how you once cooked dinner for…Benazir Bhutto.

Well, I don’t cook, Taylor, but I love you, too.

*This text is what I read at the Comedy Store Memorial Tribute to Taylor Negron on Sunday, February 15, 2015.

(Cover photo: Aaron Boldt, bottom photo: Christopher Turner)



About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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