I threw on my Blu-ray version of the 1996 classic Swingers tonight. It is by far one of my favorite movies of all time. I try to throw down a double feature of Made and Swingers when I go into that mode. Two completely different films, but yet equally amazing. Something about the team up of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau just works. It’s good cop, bad cop and straight man, funny guy that has an amazing chemistry on the screen. It’s hard to believe it has been over 15 years since I saw this movie in the theater. I saw it on the big screen at least 3 times. I knew the lines, and I got sucked into the Swingers lifestyle.
In Cleveland we had our own band of brothers like the Swingers guys. A lot of fashion and culture came out of that little indie flick. You had the chain wallets, the thrift store chic, the retro Sinatra music, swing dancing, the womanizing and man oh man the booze was out of control. The movie paralleled my life at the time much like the characters in the movie. I had a recent breakup I was getting through but imagine rather than the Mikey character if it had been Vince Vaughn instead? I was out of control and this movie was the catalyst that sent me into a spiral of epic proportions. It also sent me to the indie movie theater, The Cedar Lee, almost on a weekly basis to catch the next indie hit. I saw some duds like the necrophiliac love story Kissed but for the most part some of the best movies I ever watched came in 1996 and 1997.
Swingers was one of those films. As were Albino Alligator, Sling Blade, Touch, and Shine. These are honestly on that top 5 list of like 100 movies I say are in my top 5. Swingers just floored me on the self mockery of film, and thinking well here are my California Doppelgangers on the big screen. Finally a romantic comedy about bros, and how we deal. I think every guy can relate to Mike in the film over a break up. The self loathing, the sadness, and the general getting over the girl. It plays out exactly how life played out for me multiple times before. I am not saying I didn’t do a lot of dumping girls and breaking hearts myself, because I did, but nothing stings like the pain of being dumped.
I was in a real in between stage of my life in 96. College was gone, traveling the world came in bits and pieces when I could scrape up the funds for a road trip here or there. I had already been to Sydney, and LA and by that time I was kind of in a rut. I escaped in movies at that point, and some music here and there. I was just done with the rock and roll scene after spending most of the 80′s in and out of it. I was in a god awful film in the early 90′s. I ran for local city government (and lost by a narrow margin mind you). I was burnt out and I was 26 years old. I did more shit in the 10 years before that most wouldn’t do in a lifetime. Film and films like Swingers were my escape.
I was the hip 20-something that had lived this amazing existence but the reality of that was I had not a damn thing to show for it. I was dating a lot during that time. I mean I was really dating a lot at that time, like a different girl every night of the week sort of “dating”. I was a blue eyed devil and somewhat of a folk hero to those foolish enough to fall for my lines, stories and tales. I was also abusing myself on a nightly basis late nights that turned into early mornings waking up at Motels on Pearl road with former Boxing Ring girls from Vegas. I even dated a Romania girl that spoke zero English for a couple weeks. I was very into this karaoke thing at the time too, mostly crooning Sinatra and the songbook of Swingers. It helped apparently having a good voice in the karaoke circuit to make the girls swoon. The sophistication of drinking scotch and the air of the snobbery of someone that had seen it all and done even more of it oozed from my pores.
I am not trying to glorify this time of my life, because it truly was ugly. It took me a while to snap out of that shit. I was burning the candle at both ends and burning everyone I touched in the process. I hurt a lot of people during that time, many of which I can’t even remember their names to even say I am sorry. However, if anyone walks up to me on the street and punches me directly in the face or kicks me in the balls I know deep down I completely deserved it. I took from the art of film and fabricated a persona that was such a character I started believing it myself. The booze led to ulcers and and a string of really bad decisions. It also led me to working in bars, to fuel my love of the nightlife. A place to drink, hang out and get paid for it? Sign me up.
Thankfully my career in the bar business was a short lived one and I got a real job to pay bills which led me to a long term relationship that ended sour however snapped me out of what was pretty much a road to self destruction. During that time I was able to meet the girl that would later become my wife, old habits die hard because I would shamelessly flirt with her while I was in a relationship. Had I not flirted with that particular girl, and had I not had that devil lurking always in the background I never would have asked for her phone number when I saw her a couple years later at a My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult concert at the Odeon.
So you see, in many ways the movie Swingers changed my life. Either that or I just know how to tell a good story. You tell me. The one thing about the mid 90′s though is when I do write the book I won’t have to change most of the names because I seriously don’t remember them.