Page 5 of 10
When I ask Quick if I might speak to his mother, Sofia Quick, who lives in Australia, he says she can't talk with me directly -- because she recently went deaf -- but agrees to let me send her questions by e-mail. When her responses arrive, of course, there's no way of knowing if they are another Beeaje Quick construct.
Sofia Quick writes that her son was born on April 12, 1964, in Buenos Aires, and that she and her husband were both born in Argentina. Beeaje's grandparents on her side were Russian. On her husband's side, his grandfather was Moroccan and his grandmother was Argentinean. The name Quick, Sofia says with her son's gift for gloss, was a matter of convenience. "We worked and traveled in countries where there was political duress," she writes, "and it was common practice to change your name to suit the sensibility of the political climate." As for her son's first name, the family called him BJ, which, she says, "eventually became Beeaje."
Beeaje's father, Emanuel, was an engineer in South America for 22 years, but he "went bankrupt due to a company that wouldn't pay their bills." When the family moved to Australia, Sofia took odd jobs sewing because her husband was unable to get recertified. She says they felt "weak and dysfunctional," and that she turned to her son for support. "In these times, I thought it was more important to have a friend than have a son who was going to school."
She confirms that Beeaje never properly learned to read and write, that he didn't speak English until he was 10. "He hated school and did everything to get out of going," she says. "He even tried to join the navy, but he was too young, and he worked in a restaurant instead." However, in his late teen years, Sofia says, her son decided he wanted to be a writer, and "became very self-conscious of having little skill to do so." In order to learn, he "broke down the dictionary into little pieces of paper and hung them so the walls in his room looked like wallpaper of words and definitions."
Between working and studying, his mother recalls, Beeaje had little time for socializing. "A beautiful girl used to wait around for him when he was working, and I finally told her my son was strange and to look for someone else. She kept waiting. When I asked him about the girl, he said, 'I'm going to America. I don't have time for that now.'"
Boldness asphyxiates the breath of mediocrity.
PEOPLE WHO KNOW BEEAJE QUICK CAN USUALLY remember the moment they met -- it's often a turning point in their lives, or at least the beginning of an unlikely chapter. For Tashia Hales, that moment happened in 1985, the day before her 25th birthday. She was sitting in the shade in a friend's back yard in Sydney when Quick pulled up on a scooter, wearing a three-piece suit. They clicked immediately, and soon moved in together. "He was unique back then, even," says Hales, who is slight and nymphlike, with clear blue eyes and a warm, open manner. She says she was drawn to Quick's enthusiasm and his ability to accomplish the impossible. "It's his will," she says. "He'll say, 'I'm going to do this.' It seems insurmountable, but he'll do it."
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 Recycler and 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.'"