Michael Reich used to be a dog groomer and currently lives in East Hollywood. He has directed music videos for My Chemical Romance, The Shins, Bad Religion and Ryan Adams. A decade ago (while he was still working with dogs), he started documenting the Los Angeles underground punk scene with an experimental video-based website called Videothing.com. He also made a bunch of short films that played at many film festivals including SXSW, Tribeca and Fantasia. Michael’s first feature film, She’s Allergic To Cats, an autobiographical account of his life as a dog groomer with artistic ambitions, is now available on VOD. This movie was funded solely with savings accumulated from working as a body double for one of the Daft Punk robots (he’s the gold one). He has been a robot since 2005 when he starred in their feature film Electroma which premiered at Cannes. Michael has been in blockbuster movies, hit music videos and graced magazine covers as Daft Punk. But he is always wearing a helmet and pretending to be a robot, so that’s probably why you don’t recognize him. Spectacle is hosting online screening of She’s Allergic To Cats on April 30; for all the relevant details, click here.
I live in Hollywood and I pay rent to a strange creature named Honey Davis. I don’t think that’s his birth name, but that is who I write the checks to. Honey Davis is a small and striking man; a bizarro version of Marty, the Dude’s landlord from The Big Lebowski, crossed with Crispin Glover in one of his more eccentric roles. There is a cadence to his voice that has an awkward slipperiness to it. He plays music for spare change on Hollywood Boulevard, but he also owns multiple properties in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Arizona. So that’s something. Below is a photo of Honey Davis holding a photo of my house.
Honey has been my landlord for almost 13 years now. I live in a house right off of Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of Hollywood. The house is more than a hundred years old and I’m pretty sure it’s haunted. The Red Hot Chili Peppers lived here right before Honey bought it in the late ’80s. I like to think that they wrote their breakout hit single, “Under the Bridge,” on my front porch, but I have no proof of that. Much like the Peppers, Honey too had dreams of becoming a world famous rock star. He fluttered around the edges of the L.A. rock scene without ever finding himself in the spotlight. He played all the Hollywood dive bars and punk clubs, but his own unique blend of lo-fi blues/rock fusion just didn’t catch on. The self-proclaimed “Prince of the Blues” never seemed to find his kingdom (princedom?).
I moved to Hollywood to make movies … but instead I wound up grooming dogs. I was working at an upscale canine salon called Tailwaggers when I first met Honey. He was having a yard sale. I was a 27-year-old who loved collecting random vintage oddities, so naturally I stopped to see what treasures I could find. Within the clutter stood a scraggily haired man in his mid-fifties wearing a fringed leather jacket over a tight-fitting purple shirt. He was proudly peddling his junk. A heavily used cat-scratch post. Some broken furniture. A tattered pile of sequined clothing. There was a dented Dr Pepper lamp that was mildly cool. I asked how much it was and he told me that every item was $25. Frustrated, I scoffed, “What?! That’s so expensive! This is all just trash.” Honey looked at me and with total seriousness replied, “Not to me, it isn’t.”
At 27, I didn’t understand what he was talking about; now, as someone with 45 sculptures of dogs, I connect with this sentiment.
In the early days when Honey was my landlord, I thought of him as kind of a joke. He’d moved to L.A. to become a rock star and now he was fixing my garbage disposal when it broke. He seemed a victim of the Hollywood Dream. And that was not what I wanted to happen to me. I was better than that. I was pursuing my dream of making movies, whereas he let his dreams fall apart. But was I really? I wasn’t making movies. I was working as a dog groomer. Honey at least was making music, even if it was only on a street corner.
After a while, the dog grooming just wasn’t paying the bills anymore. Desperate, I asked Honey if I could make music videos for him instead of paying rent. Shockingly, he agreed. And thus our collaboration began. I spent hours listening to his songs on repeat. Admiring his bold, unabashed sense of style. His ability to truly not give a fuck. So genuine and strange that it cannot be faked. I started to see him as someone I really respected … both as an artist and as a human being.
As I aged deeper into my thirties, I couldn’t really see the difference between what Honey wanted and what I wanted. We had both set goals for ourselves that were so difficult to attain and made us feel like shit when we couldn’t get there, often for reasons that were entirely out of our control. I began to see what an amazing life Honey had created for himself. Sure, he had to fix a toilet or two, but he was making music all day, every day. So what if the only people that actually heard it were tourists stopping to see some dead celebrities’ names in star-covered cement? He would play for hours on Hollywood Boulevard, not caring about how much money would be tossed into his bucket. He was playing for “his fans” (as he calls them), and that is all that mattered. There’s something so beautiful about that.
The road through Hollywood that Honey has carved out for himself is both depressing and inspiring. It all depends on how you see it. And that’s why when I finally did make my movie, I wanted him to be a part of it. He’s plays the role of Honey Davis, the landlord, in my indie horror-romance abstract comedy She’s Allergic to Cats that’s currently (shameless plug) available now on Apple TV and Amazon Prime. Needless to say, he plays himself in the movie. He also wrote the titular theme song and I directed a music video for said song. It’s a very catchy tune. Here is the music video.
Honey started out as my landlord. He then became my weirdo muse. Now he has kind of morphed into my role model. I mean, who doesn’t want to own multiple properties and be free to do what they love every day? In a way, we should all aspire to be Honey Davis, just doing what we love in this world.