By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Still holding his car keys in his left hand, and bleeding from a small cut on his right eyebrow, Red walked a ways from the vehicle, just in time for Cassady Jeremias, one of Kenny Hughes’ friends in the car ahead of him, to see him pick up a sharp stick and begin ramming it into his chest. Interviewed recently, she remembers thinking, “Well, who’s this joker — he’s not going to kill himself with a stick jabbing himself in the chest?” Undaunted, Red picked up a broken glass off the floor, approximately two inches thick, and slashed once at his neck, cutting it deeply. According to the police report, kitchen worker Ray Garcia and several patrons wrestled him to the ground, then tied a waiter’s apron around his throat to stanch the flow of blood and covered him with a tablecloth to prevent shock. Red continued to speak, telling Wacks, “Don’t bother, I just want to die,” and Garcia, “Don’t bother with me, I’m not worth living.” Alan Levy, who was headed eastbound several cars behind Red and saw the whole thing, told police, “This looked like road rage to me.” And in a follow-up police phone call, bartender Tavey claimed he believed the collision was an intentional act.
Red was spirited to UCLA Medical Center, as were many of the victims, where he was kept on a ventilator in intensive care. The next day, David Roos succumbed to massive internal injuries in the same hospital, bringing the death toll to two. Medical authorities quickly ruled out drugs or alcohol, and Red remained an additional 11 days for psychiatric observation — against his will, he declared under oath. According to Red’s medical report, his doctors noted a scar on his right wrist, which Red said was from a construction accident in New York City in 1981. In an odd footnote, Red was admitted to UCLA under the name Mario Kan. He claimed later under oath that this was standard procedure for nominal celebrities, or for anyone involved in a controversial matter that might attract press attention, and that the name had been selected for him. Yet UCLA spokesperson Roxanne Moster says a patient would have to formally ask to be admitted under an alias. “They would have to request it from their side,” says Moster.
Despite an initial flurry of media coverage, with Red sequestered in the UCLA psychiatric ward and no one around him talking, the entire bizarre incident remained shrouded in mystery. (The traffic collision report labeled the incident “Auto vs. Auto vs. Building.”) But as the investigation dragged on through the summer and fall, an explanation began to emerge.
In a meeting with Detective Mike Farrell and attorney Arthur Greenspan at police headquarters a month and a half after the collision, tapes and transcript of which are in the police record, Red claimed that after working all day on the budget for his latest project, a horror film titled Teacher’s Petslated for Artisan with Pamela Anderson attached, he left his apartment at 855 Moraga Drive to drive to the McDonald’s on Wilshire. He had canceled his standing every-other-Wednesday dinner with his 13-year-old daughter — a visitation arrangement reached after much rancorous court wrangling with his ex-wife Taia — due to chronic ankle pain from an old sports injury.
Passing Q’s on the right, Red turned left into the McDonald’s parking lot, where all five spots and a handicapped-parking space were full, when he suddenly began to feel “lightheaded and nauseous.” Exiting onto Brockton Avenue, he pulled back into rush-hour traffic on Wilshire, hoping to find a parking place. At that moment, triggered by the pain in his ankle, yellow spots began to fill his field of vision, and he blacked out. While he was unconscious, the Jeep changed lanes and negotiated the 175 yards to the light at Westgate, and Kenny Hughes’ Honda. When he woke up, he was in Q’s amid the pandemonium of the aftermath of his accident, and he tried to commit suicide for the first and only time in his life. “I was in an absolute, overwhelming condition of panic, horror and shock,” he said in his deposition. “I was not in my right mind.”
Moreover, he offered a medical explanation: Since 1994, Dr. Herbert A. Rubin, a Beverly Hills gastroenterologist, had been treating Red for syncope, a fainting condition for which there was no known cause or cure. He had suffered five or six such episodes of “frank syncope” over the past 10 years, and many more episodes of “near-syncope,” all allegedly well-documented — although none of them while driving. He had also undergone a series of tests at UCLA at the time, and could provide medical records and firsthand testimony to corroborate everything.
On December 8, after six months of investigation and to little media fanfare, L.A. Deputy District Attorney Robert Savitt announced there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges. Red’s driver’s license was suspended indefinitely on October 10, 2000 for negligently causing or contributing to a fatal accident. He claimed afterward, “I’ll never get behind the wheel of a car again.”