10:15AM The alleyway behind the West Hollywood Motel 6
Used and broken drug paraphernalia, some of which is not even mine, litters the pavement. Mario Lopez is standing with his head cocked to one side, like a dog, listening. Every once in a while, just when I think I cannot possibly take the stillness for one more moment, he springs into action, moving nearly faster than the eye can see. When he is still again, a rat lies dead on the pavement, stomped to death by the man who played A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell. Then he is still again. "So ... um," I venture to break the terse silence. He rotates to face me, and I know this sounds crazy, but I swear to God his feet did not move. He gazed at me with that same cocked head, that same curious expression. There was no difference between me and the rat.
Pictured: Mario Lopez. Not pictured: Earnestness."Yes?" "What was with that whole lying about waxing your chest thing on Dancing With the Stars? Why would you lie about something like that?" "I like to be smooth. It makes me faster, more efficient. This is somehow frowned upon, so I told them what they wanted. It's better if people hear what they want to." "You can lie just like that?" He motioned for silence, and we were quiet until I couldn't take it anymore. "Sooo ... this is what you do for fun, huh?" "Fun? I like to keep my reflexes sharp. Nobody minds if vermin are exterminated, correct? This is acceptable? To kill them?" "Yeah, I guess. It's just a little weird." And it's like I've flipped a switch in his brain. In an instant, cheery, good-natured
Pictured: Mario Lopez. Not pictured: Empathy.
12:43PM The Heron's Inn, a nearly empty dive bar that has clearly seen better days, and even those were likely terrible.
Lopez and I sit at a beaten and worn bar, watching a beaten and worn bartender lift the heads of the career drunks so she can wipe away the accumulated tears beneath. "I will fuck that bartender," he noted, and strode off mechanically in the woman's direction. I waited outside the bathroom until they were done. When they came out, it looked like the only reason she wasn't crying was because she had forgotten how. He smiled at me. Genuinely, I believe. I still see it when I close my eyes.
8:09PM The parking lot outside Our Lady of Peace
Mario is pacing the empty parking lot, scanning the pavement for something. I do not know what. "OK, so I get the chest-waxing thing -- that's just hiding embarrassing info -- and the rape stuff was never concretely proven, but on Dancing With the Stars you lied again, saying you've never had any training. That I just don't get. You were on Kids, Inc., where you received formal training, and your IMDB profile says you worked as a dancer before getting Saved by the Bell. Surely you had to know people would call you out on that." "Yes, but by then I was already cast on the show and my career was improved. People like it when you are good in your field. They let you get away with more. Ah, here." He stooped and picked up a triangular chunk of loose concrete, and in one smooth motion hurled it through the window. I did not have the energy to ask him why. "So Kids, Inc., hey? I forgot about that. So you really were a child once."