Robert LaSardo has been gracing us with his body of work on screen and skin since the 70’s. You know some of his best work from Nip Tuck, General Hospital, Ghost Whisperer, and Anarchy Parlor. A beautiful, ethereal, sharp, hypnotizing, and deep man to talk to.
I walked into a rather dim tattoo studio on the very outskirts of town; it was empty, but the open sign was still on.
“Hello?” I said a bit hesitant, “I’m here to get tattooed by someone named Sardine. I called and……….”
Out from one of the back rooms walked Robert LaSardo and I got so nervous, I almost wet myself. I stood there for a moment with my mouth open.
“Um, I’m ah…..” I uttered and just stood there in awe.
He walked passed me, turned off the open sign, locked the door, and motioned for me to follow him to a back room and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We walked down a long and dimly lit hallway, down some stairs and to a very raw and stony walled room that was cold and a tat ominous and behind a heavy door.
“OMG, are you tattooing me?” I hollered like a geeky fan.
He smiled and nodded his head yes. I lay on the tattoo chair, gave him the pic of what tat I wanted.
“Nice,” he said and smiled devilishly with a soft tone, “just relax.”
“Ok,” I said and snort laughed, “I’m such a huge fan of you and everything you do.”
“Well thank you,” he said and started cleaning the area of skin he would tattoo.
“Ooo, that’s cold,” I said, “is it ok if I ask you questions while you work?”
He nicely nodded yes.
“Besides acting and tattooing, have you started another poetry book yet?” I inquired.
“No I haven’t. I’ve been writing everyday and working on a screenplay and a story. I was compelled to write this story within the last year. Some things in my life, personally, that have affected me spiritually and I just felt it was time to release that mythos and mythology that makes sense to me,” he started, “and communicate certain archetypes that I relate to and I think others might be able to identify and appreciate. A reclamation for the spirit to try to rectify something; trying to find their way out. I think for so long I’ve been kind of puppeted by people’s perception of me. Like in a moving picture, grab the bull by the horns and move forward to and do something a little more challenging than the usual. Not to say the usual is bad, just as an artist, you always try to grow. And when there’s not an opportunity for that, you have to create it yourself.”
“You are a VERY BUSY MAN,“ I hollered as the needle plunged deeper, “muther that hurts. What are you working on now?”
“I’m working on a project called Pizza Joint,” he savored, “it’s a comedy and I’m very excited to be a part of the collaboration. Based on the writing, it’s lends to humor and some intelligence to the characters. It’s always fun, you know? Its different than some of the other stuff (he chuckled). It’s directed by an actor who I’m a fan of, thou he’s done some directing now. His name’s Nola G and also Leonardo Molina; he’s a very talented and intelligent man. It was a pleasure to work with both of them. We’re in the process of finishing some more scenes we have to do to complete the project. I know the producers are very excited. It’s a really great cast they put together.”
“Can you talk about the screenplay at all?” I grimaced at the continual pain.
“I don’t want to go to much into it. It’s basically a drama,“ he said, “there’s a supernatural elements in it, story of reclamation and it’s a love story too. It’s not the traditional, by the numbers, mushy nonsense. It’s more realistic of how love plays a big part in human relationships; and at times, how it can heal and those challenging aspects of human nature that we all deal with; good and bad side. I try to utilize that as a way to celebrate life. It’s hopeful, it doesn’t end in a dire consequence; it releases the human experience from captivity. A way to be free as an artist and communicator. I also think I have a responsibility to write and share with the talents I’ve been given to the people that hunger for that; so they don’t feel alone. I take the feedback of all of it, positive or negative, and I see what my response to that is, not just to the words, but to the action so I can create something that people could move forward with me on. So it’s not just all conflict and you can appreciate that. Because in that, sometimes you can learn. But there has to be balance and I think I’m just desperately trying to find balance as a writer and actor.”
I started to get light-headed from the pain and then it turned into a hazy high feeling.
“It sounds very personal,” I started, “like a new identity. Your body of tattoos are a communicator as well. It’s like wearing yourself on your sleeve. (the needle sound got loud as he did details on my sleeve to be) You’ve talked a lot about how identity is so important to you. How would you handle waking up one day and not having any identity or past?”
“I think I’d be ecstatic. (he laughed full belly for a few sec),” he wiped my skin and got filled the gun, “no past (I chuckled as well) to haunt me? Wow, let me try to be serious about this.”
“No I like the raw, first thing to your mind,“ I said and got chills a bit when he held my arm, “it’s the most honest answer to any question.”
“That could be a state, I don’t know (laughing thru words),” he said, “I could look at it several ways. I think it could be nice to be free of some of the guilt mechanisms that come with being a slave to certain ideologies and things that have held us captive because of what we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves to be true. I wouldn’t miss that part of it. Um, I think there’s a certain freedom that comes from that. I’d probably be wandering around the street asking for directions because if I had no identity or reference for self. It could also be very liberating.”
“Depends on what state of life you‘re in,” I said and started to giggle because pain was getting to me differently.
“Right, frame of reference is key,” he paused and looked up to grasp what I’d just asked, “so you wake up in the morning and as you perceive yourself, what you perceived to be is no longer. Here’s what I think, it’s happening always, already.”
“You have no idea how right you are,” I said. (I closed my eyes to relax more)
“It’s up to the individual to peel away the layers and discover a new self,“ he said and leaned closely to my skin to get details, “you can re-invent; not because you’re trying to fake on anything, you’re trying to evolve and grow as a person. (I started to feel something around my throat and it got a little tight) The old identity, the old frame of reference is not as out anymore and you come to a new realization and it gets into the possibilities of the things around you. You have no attachment to the past or identity that you used to imagined it to be or how other people have re-enforced the idea of you through their perceptions. You can break free of the tendency and introduce a new way through meeting new people and being open to a different way of seeing things. (I started to grasp for air and felt his hands around my neck, he’s choking me!) What the driving force is and you go to that core; you have more dexterity in your life experience. The way you find a sense of self that’s not connected to the past is truly in the present. A health sense of self and then sharing that with other people so that they can also feel release from whatever negativity they’ve been taught. Everyday for me now is try to move into the experience thru writing and acting and interpersonal relationships. To let go of the past and forgive myself of the lunacy.”
I opened my eyes quick to beg for my life and noticed him taking a large centipede off my throat. As he continued to talk in excitement, I noticed a vein bulging from between his eyebrows and traveling over the top of his bald head; it became very vascular the more he went on. I started noticing the art on the light grey walls with many quotes.
“Whoa, that’s deep and brilliant,” I awed and giggled again, “I love the way you look at the human psyche and characters you play. That you find the humanity in every character you portray. That you strip yourself down to a non-judgment being. I love that. Very Neiche and Antonin Artaud Theater Of Cruelty metaphysical way.”
(“I myself am an absolute abyss.” Antonin Artaud )
“I’m glad that it affected you and I’m glad you found some merit in what it communicates, he said, “I’m just trying to be my best at being responsible as I can; as a human being on many levels.”
“Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes and being reborn again,” I said, “that’s what that tattoo is here.” (I pointed to the one on my chest and he nodded understanding)
“Where I come from doesn’t exist anymore,” he said, “piece of yourself have been fragmented.”
“Right on! That’s all bone there,” I hollered and tried to breath thru the pain, “I see you’re a fan of Charles Bukowski.” I continued as I read a quote of his on the ceiling.
“I love his books” he said.
“I love Dr Seuss,” I said, “hey, if those two wrote a book together, they could call it Green Eggs And Ham On Rye.”
He paused for a moment, the only sound was the loud machine and I could see the work DORK on my forehead as I was the only one thought that way funny. He continued without commenting.
“What philosophy do you live by?” I said digging myself out of a hole, “you talk a lot about spirituality.”
“Can I take a moment for that?” he said and drank some water, “well, don’t step in the same shit twice. (paused for a moment) I’m trying to learn to continue to embrace the principles of love, forgiveness and acceptance. (energy was very fired up) I want to stay away from the arrogance of knowing and just be humble and continue to learn. To forgive myself.”
“That’s the hardest person to forgive, yourself,” I said trying to forgive myself from that lame joke, “you’ve done so much horror work. What movie affected you deeply?”
“The Exorcist,” he said with urgency as he had me roll onto my stomach.
“That movie was way ahead of it’s time,“ I said, “What about that one?”
“It’s a great drama first. Then it deals with what it does later on. Some people think it’s God and the devil. Some people think it’s a metaphor for child abuse. Some people think it’s the corruption of innocence. It’s all these things, which is beautiful about that canvas that William Friedkin created his interpretation based on the book. The performances, they’re so involved in what they’re doing that people believe in that shit. (his voice pattern sped up a bit and there was the sound of excited desperation in his voice) You want to believe. The conviction of the actors and the way they embrace the character, you’re hypnotized. You have to start with a solid story and great characters. You want people to identify with those characters and care a little bit. Even if you don’t like the character and you can’t wait for this person to get fucked up. You hate them, they’re real to you. And you know a person like that in my day-to-day life. The task for the director, the writer is to authenticate those people and if they don’t do that, I don’t care how good your special effects are, I don’t care how good your lead is, you’re movie’s gonna suck.
(urgency in his voice now and the needle plunged deeper in my skin and the machine sound got louder) I want to learn something; if I don’t know everything, great, then I can learn something. If it doesn’t have integrity and credibility, if it’s got no merit to it and doesn’t develop anything except create a situation for masturbation. (we both burst in laughter and I snort laughed again) Now if you wanna make a porno movie, go make a porno.”
“Why do you think horror movies are necessary for society and people?“ I asked.
There was a cold stinging on my back, like a knife was cutting my skin and I was bleeding. He strapped my arms down on the arm rests and my waist with a belt. I couldn’t move and felt paralyzed.
“Oh my gilly,” I screamed, “I’ve seen Anarchy Parlor! I don’t wanna………..”
“Sandee, relax,” he said calmly into my ear close, “I think it helps some people come to terms with and exercise their inner conflicts in a safe environment. If an individual has a proclivity towards violence, watching a psycho-drama played out in a fiction could be a healthier way to deal with feelings of frustration rather than acting them out. I also think people like to test the fabric of their mortality by witnessing extreme situations that involve some sort of catastrophe. It can be a way to appreciate the value of ones life again by watching others suffer some terrible fate and be grateful you are safe for the moment.”
“What have you done?” I asked.
The pain continued on my back and I felt faint again. The room started to get dimmer and there was a stale smell in the air.
“The outline,” he said flatly.
“Oh ok,” I said and sighed relief, “what do you think a conversation would be like between the 52 year old and the 17 year old you? What advice would you give you?”
“Oh god, what a question,” he pondered, “I still have that 17 year old guy in me that wants to get loose sometimes. Now I’m the 52 year old guy that would say to that 17 year old, man lighten up. People do like you, you can smile, it’s ok. Cover yourself, watch your back, take care of yourself, be smart, eyes open, study, read some books, get some knowledge, stay away from drugs. Flex your feathers, man I understand that. Stay away from conflict, if you feel like you’re gonna get jammed up in a situation, even if people are laughing at you, walk away. Be careful how you experience life; don’t destroy yourself in the process or somebody else. I would say consequences, consequences, consequences.”
He stopped and went into another room; there was a grinding sound. He came back with a cup of something with a straw in it for me to drink; he set it under me so I could drink it.
“I am a huge fan of your work,“ I said, “I loved your character in the movie Strangeland; one of my favorite horror movies. You’re portrayal of the character in Anarchy Parlor is very hypnotizing, enigmatic and against the grain texture. It was visceral and guttural. You have onion-layered talent; many never ending layers a little different taste each time.”
“I’m glad that portrayal affected you. I’m not always sure the perception of that film or the character,” he said.
I blacked out and woke up sometime later. I was standing surrounded by mirrors and thought, this is it, I’m gonna watch my own death.
“Please don’t, I……what do you want?” I screamed and he escorted me to the middle of the parlor, “what else are you going to do to me now? What can I do to …………..”
“Just pay me,” he said and opened the register, “you watch to many horror movies. Try comedy man.”
I left there sore, embarrassed and feeling like an ass.
Follow this brilliant man’s career at http://robertlasardo.com/.