The "Lost" Pieces: What's Been Written and Submitted But Never Printed or Published

posted Feb 1, 2013, 1:18 PM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 1, 2013, 1:24 PM ]

I have occasionally been asked to write articular pieces that for some reason or another never wind up being used or published or printed or posted. 

Since I refuse to let any of my brilliance go unseen by the world, here are three such pieces: 

This first piece, about why I was putting myself through yet another relocation, was originally written in November for the digital San Francisco-based Kraven Magazine. It was not included in their December edition in favor of my piece about Straight Bartenders working in Gay Bars. 

Here We Go Again: New Jersey to Los Angeles to New York to Los Angeles to 
Massachusetts to Los Angeles to….Pick a Place and Stick With It! 

Well, here we are again…

It’s the great running gag of my life – yet ANOTHER move. For fans of the TV show Friends, my numerous moves are akin to Ross Geller’s numerous divorces. Over the last decade or so, I’ve averaged about one per year -- including two in 2006 alone (that was a bad year.)

Some of you may be asking the question why I don’t just pick a place and stick with it. It’s a very valid, simple question. But like most questions asked of me, this is one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

It all began in September of 2001. I was four months out of college with no job, no prospects and very few contacts. I was raised in northern New Jersey and figured I would just work in New York City because that’s just what people from North Jersey aspired to do. While I was waiting for something to manifest in New York City, I spent two weeks in Atlanta with family friends and another week in Los Angeles with college friends.

A couple months later, a sublet opened up in my college friends’ Los Angeles apartment. With nothing going on for me in New York, I decided to move from the 90s version of Mayberry where I grew up to the spawling, expansive City of Angels. I soon found a job, established a social life and joined a church (because that’s what I did in those days).

Then the Perfect Storm of Life hit me. By 2005, I had come out of the closet, my parents were headed for divorce and my career in TV advertising hit a peak that I pushed for but was woefully unprepared to handle. I was paranoid, scared and in therapy. Inspired by the movie version of Rent, I decided to quit that really good job and move to New York City with my best childhood friend Jasper. Together we would create a circle of Friends and live like Will Truman of Will & Grace – because that’s what people thought when they went bat shit crazy.

Believe it or not, this did not work out as planned. Jasper opted out of moving with me. I couldn’t find a job despite over thirty interviews, hundreds of resume submissions, dozens of applications filed and signings with several temp agencies and staffing firms. The sticking point with most of them was my lack of a clear answer as to why I had left Los Angeles in the first place. From my vantage point, this was really none of their business in the second place and should have had no bearing on my getting hired since I was already living there in the third place. But what makes sense to me doesn’t always make sense to other people – and vice versa.

New York City and I parted ways after nine depressing months. So I went back to Los Angeles to get the life back that I had abandoned.

Believe it or not, this also did not work out as planned. I moved back into my old apartment and slept on a couch for nine months waiting to move back into my now-occupied old room. I took a job at an advertising agency hoping to find some way back into my old career with my old company – even though I was embarrassed and ashamed for having quit in the fourth place.

Less than a year after returning to Los Angeles in defeat, I let my old life go. But I didn’t particularly like the new one, so I accepted a job transfer to the thriving metropolis of Marlborough, Massachusetts located thirty miles west of Boston. For the better part of twenty-two months, I tucked myself away into an apartment in the early 21st century version of Mayberry -- a quaint, quintessential New England town twenty miles south of the office.

Then that job went to pot. Because I had moved to the area for work and had largely eschewed much of a social life (though I all but fell in love with a classically trained pianist who lived in Boston proper), I decided to make one more final triumphant return to Los Angeles. With a new outlook on life, on Los Angeles and on the previous four years, I was hell bent on finally become the writer I never thought I was before but always wanted to be.

I took another job in TV advertising with the intent that it would be my last job in that shrinking industry. While it financed the writing I was doing on the side, I knew it wasn’t a fit. Eventually, they knew it wasn’t a fit. After eighteen months, we all knew it wasn’t a fit and I was laid off – which set me free to write full-time.

As you read this, I have been unemployed for a year-and-a-half but have worked steadily to establish myself as a writer. I’ve interviewed up-and-coming actors. I co-wrote a web series. I appeared in three others. I completed a short story series. I launched my own website. I helped with the casting of a short film. I self-published a book. All the while I stubbornly refused to go back into advertising (not that anyone within it asked me to come back in the fifth place). I even more stubbornly refused to get another survival job because I wasn’t going to give up fifty hours per week of valuable time spewing forth brilliance into the Universe.

But sometimes it takes having to borrow money from your father to come to terms about certain things. Perhaps you aren’t going to have that writing career you wanted…yet…or at all (fret not -- I’m always going to write). Perhaps you’re going to have to move out of that Hollywood apartment you really love. Perhaps you’re going to actually have to find fifty other hours per week to spew forth brilliance into the Universe so that someone can pay you chicken feed in exchange for some form of service that will put money into their wallets. Perhaps the city you love so much isn’t the place for you anymore. Perhaps you’re going to have to start over…again. Perhaps you’re going to have to move…again.

This brings us to my latest flirtation with relocation and the ever-lingering question as to why:

Well, why not?

On one hand, I have neither an apartment nor a job in Los Angeles – two things I can have (or not have depending on how you look at it) anywhere. On the other hand, it might be easier to have neither in a place that’s more familiar and where you have friends. On the other other hand, the best way to maintain those friendships is to not be the guy they are trying to avoid because you want to spend a week on their couch.

Admittedly, this is a situation I put myself in with a series of very risky decisions that may or may not have worked out – once again depending on how you look at it. But no matter how you look at it, I wouldn’t change anything about the last eighteen months. I would make the exact same decisions and live with them just like I am now.

There’s a freedom to being at such a crossroads and able to choose where to start over…again. And if you’re going to start over again, you may as well start over again someplace completely new to you as opposed to someplace rich with personal history where you’ve already started over three times.

At the end of the day, one choice is safe and familiar. The other is exciting and rife with possibilities. While I laugh and shake my head at the thought of moving…again…at the age of thirty-three, I pride myself on knowing that when something is no longer working, I make a change because at the root of all these changes is a desire to find my life – wherever it may be.

Is it possible that I may have eventually found my life in New York City, Massachusetts or Los Angeles? Maybe. Did I want to wait and find out? No. Will it catch up to me or will I catch up to it? I sure as hell hope so – and soon.

So eenie, meanie, miney mo -- I’m headed up to San Francisco. And no, I can’t just go back to Los Angeles if it doesn’t work out. In the case of such an event, my next stop will be Barcelona.

This next piece was written in June shortly after West Hollywood Pride. I had been volunteering with Equality California for a couple of months. After my first couple of visits, word spread that I was a writer and I was tasked with writing an article about being a volunteer. I submitted the article and after some minor back-and-forth edits, I was told that they may want to place it with "broader media organs". As far as I know, that did not happen. No worries. That's why I have a website. 

I worked with Equality California from about May until September of 2012, when I put myself on a writing intensive. Then my life fell apart and I never wound up going back. 

An Activist is Born

“Hello, may I speak to Terrence Moss?”

“This is Terrence Moss.”

And so it began. On the other end of the line was a phone canvasser from Equality California. But she caught me at a bad time. I was holding court at Larrabee’s bar.

Still, I didn’t want to be rude to her because the worst thing she was doing was her job. As she was going through her spiel, I tried to figure out when and where I signed up to be on their radar in the first place. It was probably outside a grocery store or on a prominent street corner where I tend to sign up for any number of things. When you live in Hollywood and your primary mode of transportation is your Vans shoes, one street canvasser tends to blur into another and into another until you can’t keep up with all the organizations in the first place that you can’t even remember you’re supporting in the second place.

I was familiar with EQCA in the sense that they existed, but not so much in what they did. I knew their work was important so I couldn’t really say no to anything – which is how I wound up already being a monthly donor in the third place. But when the phone canvasser asked me to come in and make calls to voters about one of their current initiatives, that’s exactly what I did because I don’t like to talk to people on the phone. When she asked me if I wanted to join one of their street canvassing events, that’s exactly what I did because I don’t like to talk to people to their faces.

Then, just as I was sounding like one of those jerks who are all about rights but not necessarily the fight for them, she told me that I could come in and do data entry. We hit a jackpot. Data entry didn’t require any talking.

This was a Sunday. I went in that Thursday to do the three hours of volunteer work I had signed up for. I had planned to just do those three hours and move on with my life feeling good about myself, but well…

I walked into the West Hollywood office of EQCA at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights Avenue. I was welcomed enthusiastically and introduced to everyone within the general vicinity. They set me up with a computer, data to input and a quick training session.

As I started working, I observed the cast of characters sitting around the table that day – a group of young people with varying personalities who don’t just get along for the sake of the work at hand. They seemed to actually enjoy doing that work alongside one another and even enjoyed each other’s company outside the office.

There was Stella who, despite her young age, has already been at this for a few years. Because of that young age, she is able to maintain a wide-eyed enthusiasm to fight the good fight without any noticeable level of jade.

Nell is equally young. And no matter how innocuous any comment she makes may be, the slow delivery and high, heavy timbre of her voice makes anything she says even funnier.

Nancy is a few years older than Stella and Nell but has already been married for several years. She speaks of her husband with an even mix of giddy school girl affection and the loving exasperation of a middle-aged woman.

Sony is a higher-up who is feared, admired and respected in equal parts by his underlings. The nature of his work keeps him focused, more serious and behind closed doors in meetings or conference calls. Occasionally, though albeit briefly, he’ll join in the light reverie before moving on to the next task.

And the there’s Raul, who bounds into a room with a playful energy that you’re still basking in after he’s already passed through into the next one.

As the new guy, they were all interested in my story – who I was, what I did and where I was from. They even invited me to lunch with them, but I had to decline on account of the fact that I’d only be there for three hours.

At the end of those three hours, I gathered my things. Stella asked if I could come back the following week. With pleas from Nell and Nancy, how could I say no?

Over the course of the ensuing weeks, I met more and more people. I started to feel less like a volunteer and more like a part of the organization as a whole – even if I was just doing data entry. But it was through data entry that I was able to find out more about the initiatives such as the FAIR Education Act and SB 1172 that EQCA was working on. I began to understand my small part in the process. I started to take ownership of my contribution. It wasn’t just data entry. It was becoming what I swore I never would…

I was having one of those “getting to know you” conversations with Bella when she told me about EQCA’s participation in LA Pride. She asked if I wanted to work the booth at the festival and march in the parade. I said yes to both.

In recent weeks, I’ve been a bit fired up about the continued string of teen suicides due to bullying. I’ve been paying more attention to the marriage fight – first with the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and then the measure in Washington State that put gay marriage on their ballot (our fate yet again in the questionable hands of voters).

I have never considered myself to be an activist – nor have I ever wanted to be. So much of this fire has been burning on Facebook and Google-Plus. I’ve always considered activism to be on the front lines involving confrontation with the opposition under the threat of violence. It’s scary. And takes far more bravery than I feel I have.

So that was never anything I was interested in.

But activism takes on many forms and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with or even be called activism.

For me, it’s been about sharing my personal experiences in a way that people can relate to or at least understand. It’s been about being truthful and honest about who I am and what I’m about. It’s been about presenting myself in such a way that contradicts long-held misconceptions about gay life, gay culture and gay men -- without pandering.

Marching with EQCA at LA Pride was a turning point for me on three levels. It solidified for me what I was really doing with them and why. It forced me to admit to myself that I am more of an activist than I ever wanted to be. And it made me feel a part of something really important and life-changing for millions of people.

So until we achieve equality for all in all aspects of life (including marriage), until EVERYONE’S history is taught in schools (FAIR Education Act), until our young people aren’t being subjected to torturous conversion therapies that have no scientific basis (SB 1172), until young people are no longer bullied in their schools, until young people are no longer killing themselves and until young people are no longer being kicked out of their homes simply for being who they are, then there is work for me to do.

A new breed of activist has been born. You may want to warn the opposition.

At the end of 2011, an actor friend of mine took some control over his career to create, write, produce and star in his own web series. I appeared in it, wrote a couple of promotional pieces, interviewed the lead actors and profiled them for this website. 

Once all five produced episodes were posted to YouTube, my actor friend sought to take the project into new directions. An upscale food/wine/nightlife magazine had approached him about putting together a piece for their launch issue. Since I had so much material from our earlier interview, my friend came to me to help him put together a similar piece tailored to the magazine. 

I have no idea what became of the article or the magazine itself but no worries -- this is why I have a website. 

Actor and Producer David Gunning Parlays Years of Service I
into “Bitter Bartender” TV project.

“I started washing dishes in my mid-teens,” David Gunning begins as he recounts his experience in the service industry. “And then it just seemed to be this cycle of upgrading.”

This sounds like the typical Hollywood story. But while many actors and actresses resent such experience as they pursue their dreams only to put it behind them once they achieve them, both industries have run hand-in-hand during much of Gunning’s career.

It’s a typically bright and sunny weekday morning in Los Angeles speaking with Gunning at a Hollywood coffee shop. A busy schedule these days left him with only an hour to meet before hitting the gym. He apologized for his appearance -- basketball shorts, a tee-shirt and mussy hair. We’re practically old friends so I took no offense and bought him a cup of tea as a gesture of acceptance for his humble apology.

Gunning graduated with a degree in Communications and Theatre from Temple University in Philadelphia. He also trained as a broadcaster. By senior year, he was working with a local station announcing football games.

Toward the end of college, he also began taking commercial classes. With strikingly handsome features, it wasn’t long before Gunning started booking commercial work.

By his final graduating days, Gunning also found himself on live television reporting the traffic for WCAU – NBC10 in Philadelphia.

“That was a pretty crazy time for me. Monday through Friday, I would take the bus from Philly to New York a couple times a week to audition. If I didn’t have any auditions, I would drive from Philly to Cape May, New Jersey to work as a service bartender,” Gunning recalls.

His schedule was even busier on the weekends. “I’d wake up at three o’clock in the morning to get to the news station and report the traffic until noon. Then I would head into downtown Philly to tend bar Saturday night and then be back at the news station the following morning to report live for NBC10,” Gunning adds.

“I used to tell them that the harder I work, the more it will pay off,” Gunning explains about why he was working so much when he already had a job working in television. “But it was all a blur to say the least.”

That hard work did pay off for Gunning. How wound up booking his first national commercial that summer for Budweiser, along with a few regionals. Those projects funded his move to New York City to pursue his true dream of working as a TV and Film actor.

He took a job at a restaurant/nightclub on Sixth Avenue in the Garment District while studying acting at the Penny Templeton Studio in Midtown and Black Nexxus with Susan Batson.

Working at the bar also helped Gunning become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. A few of his regulars were casting directors who brought him in to read for roles. He eventually booked a few of them and became eligible for Guild membership.

“Working in the restaurant industry has always been a great blessing in disguise,” Gunning states.

Gunning made the transition to Los Angeles a little over a year later, where he enrolled in the Stella Adler Academy and found work at a local bar/nightclub in West Hollywood.

For quite some time, Gunning had wanted to create or write his own series. A slow night at work last year sparked inspiration. “Every customer that night seemed to present some kind of ridiculous story in my mind. I thought to myself, ‘Ok, this is it. You can’t write this type of idiocy, but you can certainly write about it.’”

That idea became the self-funded Bitter Bartender, under the basic premise of “Everything the bartender wanted to say to you…but couldn’t.”

For the next two weeks, Gunning fleshed out the first several episodes of such a series and sent them to a director friend of his to help him tighten the scripts. He then presented them to a local director in Hollywood, who had two seasons of his own web series under his belt. The director in turn presented it to the rest of his production team.

By March, five episodes had been shot, edited and uploaded to YouTube.

“For me, Bitter Bartender is a tribute to anyone who’s ever had to work in hospitality or deal with the public,” Gunning says. “A lot of people don’t understand the type of struggles wait staff and bar staff go through when dealing with the public because they’ve never worked in the industry.”

Gunning wants people to be entertained by Bitter Bartender, but he also wants people to learn a lesson that will make things easier for the bartender and the customer. He feels that there are so many things people can learn from a show like Bitter Bartender.

With the following admonishment that “a bartender can make or break your night”, he offers the following tips:

  • Don’t just ignorantly order without acknowledging the bartender’s existence.
  • Know what you want to drink and how to order it properly.
  • Understand that the bartender is a normal human being working their job. They’re not there to be your slave. They have a job just like you have a job. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s office and grab them, poke them or demand whatever you want -- so you shouldn’t act like that at a bar either.
  • When have you a question, make sure it’s short and succinct. Don’t have an attitude or act entitled. If the bartender gives you an answer you don’t like, work with them. You make the bartender’s job a lot easier when you’re nice. Copping an attitude is just not acceptable. Be friendly to your bartender and they’ll be friendly to you.
  • Make sure you tip properly. Bartenders are making their money off of tips. They’re not working a bar for hourly wage. And the standard tip is 20% (or more) for good service.

Gunning says that the biggest mistake a customer can make is to tell the bartender how to do their job. He lists out the top ten phrases that are completely frowned upon by bartenders:

    10. “Hook it up.”

    9. “Give me less ice.”

    8. “Lemme get a Grey Goose and Vodka.”

    7. “How much is…”

    6. “No, no, no. That’s not how you make that drink. Let ME tell YOU how to make it.”

    5. “Yo, I’m a bartender.”

    4. “Do you sell blended drinks?”

    3. “Hey, there’s no liquor in here!” (Before he or she tastes their drink.)

    2. “It’s my birthday, can I get a free drink?”

    1. “So…what’s your REAL job?”

These types of phrases are what drive Gunning’s thoughts as he continues writing episodes of Bitter Bartender. When asked what’s next for the series, his reply was simple: “Bigger and better things.”

“It’s going to be larger than just being on the web, but at the stage that it’s in right now I can’t really say,” he explains.

Gunning says he’s ready for bigger and better. “I honestly feel like everything I’ve gone through as an actor and in the restaurant industry has been preparation. I feel like I’ve taken all the proper steps to begin a really successful Hollywood career. I understand the process. I understand how people work. I understand the casting side, the production side, the post-production side and the side of being an actor.”

Gunning’s recent work includes commercials for Toyota, Time Warner as well as a national print campaign for MGM Grand (he’s also the face of their website) which appeared in “Vanity Fair” and “US Weekly”. He recently co-produced “Stigma”, a short film which is currently in post-production. When Gunning is not acting, writing or producing, he studies Kenpo Karate, in which he currently holds a green belt. 

The five episodes of the “Bitter Bartender” web series can be accessed through the following link:

Terrence Moss is an independent writer and America’s foremost opinionist (a self-designation) who operates a website for original longform content at that features actor/actress profiles, commentaries, reaction pieces, essays and a short fiction story series.