By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Within a year, the two moved to L.A. With no friends and very little money, they bought an old bus through an ad in the Recyclerand moved in. Quick says it was "a piece of shit," and Hales recalls that it was "painted in blue house paint and ugly as sin." But, she says, "it had a bed and a shower and a heater and a carpet, and we could stand up straight."
The bus became their constant project. They tinted the windows black, painted the outside red and paneled it with wood. Inside, they installed a bathtub and kitchen â with a working stove and laid a black-and-white tile floor. Then they cut a hole through the ceiling and built a rooftop deck, complete with wood flooring, a patio umbrella and a satellite dish. "Everything we had was going into the bus," says Hales, who was supporting the effort by waitressing. Quick spent his time scouring the streets for usable stuff -- wood, furniture, whatever he could find. "We met a guy who was really eccentric and who knew an incredible amount about construction," Hales says. "He let us park the bus at his house, and he helped us build the deck." The overall effect was charming and ingenious. "Everybody who came onto my bus, they didn't say, 'Oh God, I hope you get some money so you can get a real place,'" Quick says. "They all said, 'Wow, I'd like to live here.'"
As he settled in to life on the bus, Quick's thoughts drifted back to movies. "One day this guy came up to the bus, and he said, 'What do you want to do?'" Quick says. "And I told him that I wanted to make a film. So he said, 'Well, if you can make a film as well as you made this bus, you could make a very good film.' And I said okay. So the next thing I did is I said to Tashia, 'Let's make a film.'"
Hales and Quick saved $2,500, bought a Hi-8 camera and spent the next year shooting Street Life. "The film is about myself living in this bus," Quick says, "in this fantasy environment." In the 20-minute short, Quick juxtaposes that lighthearted pseudo-homeless existence with the much harsher reality of life on skid row. In 1989, Street Lifewon the Grand Prize in the American Film Institute's prestigious Visions video contest, whose previous winners included Tim Allen and Steve Oedekerk. Francis Ford Coppola, Billy Crystal and Quincy Jones were among the judges. Sony, which sponsored the contest, hired Quick a publicist, and he was an instant star. He was featured in the L.A. Timesand on Entertainment Tonight. "I got offers from studios and from production companies," Quick says. "I had actors leaving their résumés at my bus."
Full speed ahead does not guarantee advancement.
ONE OF QUICK'S VISITORS WAS MARK HARRINGTON, an investment banker with a hankering to break into Hollywood. Quick had come up with the idea for Donut Men, and Harrington, in partnership with an old friend, director Marc Toberoff (who recently made My Favorite Martian), immediately signed on. Speaking by phone from his Houston office, where he now runs Harrington and Company, providing advice on corporate mergers for the oil industry, he recalls his fascination with Quick.
"My thing has always been to look for ways to create value from things that appear to have no value," he says. "When I was introduced to Beeaje, I found him a sort of kindred spirit. He was creating his own artistic value out of nothing. With his bus he created something quite magical. I think it is the mark of a genius that can do that."
Harrington says he was "a typical L.A. bachelor, running around with a lot of girls" when he met Quick. The cash, he says, flowed freely, and Quick was a major beneficiary. Harrington moved Quick into his Hollywood Hills home. He flew Quick's parents from Australia for the Visions awards and put them up at the Chateau Marmont. He also funded the trailer for Donut Men. "I've forgotten now how many checks I wrote," he says. "It was not insubstantial."
Yet Quick says what at first seemed like a miracle of good fortune quickly started to feel like a trap. Squatting on a sofa in the middle of the darkened Vogue theater one afternoon, he seems eager to cast himself as the earnest naif. He worked on Donut Men for eight months, with little success. "I found myself in this big house with a white robe and a heated pool," he says, frowning. "I got a lot of attention, and out of that attention a lot of people came forward and said, 'We'd like to make movies with you.' But what happened was, I'm a very loyal person. And when a person flies your parents over, when a person treats you to a lot of things you haven't experienced for a long time, and you don't have any experience, you're going to, you know, that person is going to father you. That person is the devil, or God himself."