Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following story from Curt Chiarelli, who is a designer, sculptor, illustrator and author who’s worked in the motion picture/television, toy/collectible, video game and museum exhibit industries for over 30 years. The photos show Curt’s work that the sociopath he describes attempted to plagiarize.
Things that Go Bump Behind the Backstage Curtain
By Curt Chiarelli
According to the ancient druids, Samhain is the season when the membrane between our world and the nether realm becomes dangerously thin. In the cursed places of the earth, portals would sometimes open and allow monsters to slip through to terrorize mankind.
And although it is of monsters that I wish to speak about, it is not the fabulous, fire-breathing beasts of ancient lore that are the topic of our discussion tonight. No, rather our subject of inquiry is a soulless, parasitic creature who passes as one of our own, yet is not. A thing formed like a fellow human, yet is missing those parts which make him so. A creature that stalks a myth-shrouded, sunbaked land of fabled wealth, glamour and tragedy, driven by an unquenchable need to seek out his next host organism, his next fix of narcissistic supply, to hijack that which was made from the sweat, tears and toil of others. Tonight’s topic of discussion is the Hollywood psychopath. And you, Dear Reader, are on the menu.
What follows is a cautionary tale of what happens when narcissism and amorality are allowed to trample stallion-mad through the lives of others. It is a story of someone whose arrogance, vaunting ambition and unlimited greed out-galloped his low-wattage talent and limited intellect. It is a tale of how the delicate ecology of human relationships is thrown out of balance by ruthless self-obsession, leaving behind a wide radius of collateral damage, the effects of which will haunt him for decades to come. Having alienated nearly everyone who truly cared or mattered, he wound up sealing himself inside an echo chamber, isolated amongst a herd of braying sycophants; his career dead-ended by his own mindless hubris.
The portal is now open. Peer inside if you dare . . . .
This creature – whose name shall not be invoked so as to save your author’s scalp from the tender ministrations of his attorney – operated out of his lair in Orange County, California and carried the odious reputation of being fired from every special effects company he had ever worked for. As vain as a homecoming queen, he lied about his age to seem younger and to misrepresent himself as an artistic wunderkind. To bolster this illusion, he had a portfolio largely made up of images culled from my work and the work of several other talented, high-profile artists like Simon Bisley, Hayao Hama and Jordu Schell. He wasn’t an art prodigy, but he was a prodigal in the art of disposable relationships.
A man’s character is defined not only by the friends he keeps, but also by the quality of the enemies he makes. Just as his public persona was all smoke and mirrors, so too his creative engine ran on fumes. He siphoned off of others like a vampire, cast aside their husks when he was done using them up and then moved on. A born con man, you could hear Seventy-Six Trombones playing in the background whenever he entered a room . . . . and smell the stench of sulphur riding behind him whenever he left it. The charm switch got flipped off as fast as he was done squeezing the last drop of juice from you. To him, “friendships” were fraudulent, fair-weathered and fungible. Unfazed, he bull-nosed his way through life, from one testosterone-fueled break-up and legal debacle to another without any concern for the long-term consequences and turned every relationship into an outtake of an episode of Survivor hopped up on steroids.
For a guy who claimed that his reputation was his most precious asset, he certainly did everything imaginable to debase it. When he wasn’t stealing client information from Randy Bowen in his hotel room during a fan convention, being issued a restraining order for stalking George Lucas, impersonating a border patrol officer to gain special effectsman Steve Johnson’s trust before scamming him, pretending to have cancer to elicit sympathy from his deluded fans, nearly drowning an actor on a location shoot due to his own negligence, claiming full credit for graphic designer Chip Kidd’s creation of the Jurassic Park logo and Steve Burg’s design for the N.T.I. from The Abyss (1989), going berserk after his work was rejected and driving a rental car into the plaster shop during the making of The Crow (1994), flooding special effectsman Vincent Guastini’s shop during the filming of Dogma (1999), bragging about his attempts to manipulate famed designer Syd Mead by flirting with him, raving about his personal relationship with producer Gary Goddard or just backstabbing, baiting and bullying others on the internet while masquerading behind a female nom de plume, he was busy using, abusing and defrauding his workshop elves out of their pay and rightful credit. I should know because for a brief time I was commissioned by him to re-design and sculpt his projects. And for an even briefer time he was taking all the credit for my work, telling his clients at several major league toy and collectible corporations that it was his designs and sculpting they were ogling at and praising to the skies.
Some people wander the world motivated by a primitive, but delusional, territoriality. Ever the glory hound, the subject of this essay enjoyed lifting his leg on the possessions and talents of others, marking off and usurping them as his own.
There is nothing lower or more parasitic than the theft of another man’s artistic legacy. In many cases, the art we leave behind is the only evidence that we ever existed at all. Such a piracy is devastating: it erases a man’s past, his present and his future, all in one fell swoop. A bacterium decaying under a toad’s ass stood taller than this guy.
Before I got wind of this plagiarism and sued him for it (plus the unpaid wages he owed me) – and before those corporate staff attorneys sent him a letter informing him of his breach of contract by hiring a third party (me) without a signed non-disclosure agreement – he would pompously lecture me: “You know, Chiarelli, you have a f*cking distorted grasp of how this industry really works! Mucho importante, amigo: life is broken down into two camps – the winners and the f****t losers. Look at how handsome and successful I am. Look at what kind of car I drive and the clothes I wear. And every night I have a different woman, each one a ‘ten’. Of course, someone like you wouldn’t know what it’s like to have a beautiful woman whose p***y tastes like mango or cherry vanilla. Which is why winners like me have been placed here on earth: to give people like you something to aspire to. That’s why you need to show more gratitude for the privilege of associating with me.” What I wanted to show him was my boot buried so far up his ass he’d be able to taste shoe leather, not my lips puckered up to kiss it. What restrained me? His cheques hadn’t started to bounce. Yet.
And a boot up his ass was certainly his pleasure. Not my Alden-shod foot, of course, but rather the shiny, stiletto-heeled variety worn by the high-priced S/M call girls he flew down to Cabo San Lucas with on an impulse. This made a kind of twisted sense: his masochism and desire for punishment was the flip-side of his abusive, exploitative nature. It was also intimately tied to the habits of his Catholic upbringing; it had nothing to do with feelings of shame, guilt or remorse. Thanks to the ministrations of the mango or cherry vanilla-flavored escort girls he rented, he was refreshed and ready to commit the same sins anew when he returned to California. The human windsock held forth again, this time his sparkling wit and penetrating insight focused on the subject of women: “Once again Chiarelli, you have your head up your f*cking ass. You’re looking for a girl who’s an intellectual equal to share ideas with, someone at your level. Well, that’s NEVER gonna happen. Never. Women aren’t the intellectual equals of men and never will be. They worship money and power, not talent and intellect. That’s just the nature of the beast, so you’d better get that into your f*cking thick skull if you ever wanna get laid.” To him, the world was little more than The Cathouse That Capitalism Had Built; a laissez-faire bazaar where everyone was either a pimp/madam, a john or a whore – the exploiter and the exploited hustling for ascendancy in the food chain. Everything could be bought or sold and little had intrinsic value beyond its market price. That, for him, was the depressing, deterministic breakdown of life. It was also an apt metaphor for his social and political outlook, too.
Sexual perversion doesn’t come from a man’s orientation, but by how he uses his sexuality towards foul, selfish ends. His rabid misogyny and pretentious nature were both symptomatic of his own ego-dystonic homosexuality. Declaiming to the back rows about his sheer damned manliness and the virtues of male bonding achieved through the act of killing animals, his feverish chest-thumping carried a strong and unmistakable undercurrent of homo-eroticism. What resulted was often as unintentional as it was cringe-inducing and hilarious. The über-butch, 100% hetero persona he so desperately tried to project backfired, often impaling the messenger upon his own double-edged messaging.
And then there was his racism. A humorless arch-conservative who adulated fellow malignant narcissists like Donald J. Trump and General George S. Patton, he also lacked any sense of gratitude or honor. As a prime example of this witness the following: he detested Mexicans, yet he owed so much to his mentor, Henry Alvarez, a highly-respected film industry veteran who was of Mexican-American heritage. I remember the hand-wringing histrionics he indulged in when his younger brother fell in love with and married a Chinese-American lady. That contempt for Asians extended well past the personal and leaked like a toxin into his professional life, poisoning his relations with colleagues. The buffoonish hectoring he inflicted upon me about why one gifted Asian-American colleague named Steve Wang’s first directorial effort didn’t garner him bigger notices made me grind my teeth . . . . and churn out ulcer acid: “You see, Chiarelli, that’s because Steve is Chinese and the Chinese just don’t have any personality. They just aren’t capable of it . . . . unlike me, who naturally exudes tons of great personality.” He then proceeded to usurp the credit for this man’s outstanding, innovative paint design on the Predator alien. But the parade of race baiting and lying didn’t stop there: he went even further, claiming that he actually taught him how to use an airbrush at Stan Winston Studios during the shooting of that film. Ironically, his favorite airbrush was manufactured by Iwata, a Japanese company. It was abundantly clear into which end of his anatomy that airbrush compressor of his was pumping air . . . .
Humility, like empathy, personal responsibility and integrity, clearly had no part to play in his simple-minded master race theory which (naturally) seated him at the top of the dominance hierarchy. Paying your dues? That was for the “retards.” In his repeatedly stated view, he deserved to “start out at the top.” There were many others besides myself who disagreed with his self-serving worldview. One night he came out of a production meeting in L.A. to find his beloved Porsche 911 missing. To save face he feigned panic, called the police and reported it as a theft when, in actuality, he knew it had been repossessed. Apparently, paying his bills was beneath the consideration of a “winner” like himself and a trifle best suited to the petty, unimaginative plodders at the bottom of Life’s greased totem pole. Yeah, right . . . .
There was nothing to aspire to or be grateful for. If I’d burrowed to the center of the earth I couldn’t descend to the depths he’d clawed his way up to.
So how does someone become this way? I claim no pretense to being a trained diagnostic clinician or a degreed neuropathologist, but it would appear that both nature and nurture had a hand in creating this monster of conceit. He once told me a story which I think was quite revealing. When he was in grade school he cheated on an art contest by tracing someone else’s work. Being no fool, the principal punished him and had his entry disqualified. Outraged, his mother stormed into the school office and bullied the principal into relenting. We’ve all seen the sorry byproducts of such faulty parenting and even faultier genetics. The high-flown delusion of being the world’s finest is swiftly grounded by its kryptonite: a good old-fashioned reality check, something of which Life keeps in plentiful supply . . . . and something of which the subject of this essay seems constitutionally resistant to. The Mommy’s-Little-Darling-Who-Can-Do-No-Wrong of yesterday often grows up to be the morally spavined Momma’s-Boy-Who-Can’t-Do-Anything-Right of tomorrow.
Several years after I severed all ties with him, his taste in victims became decidedly more upmarket – and, consequently, more perilous to his future career viability. He produced a short film that infringed upon the copyright of no less than three major corporations on three high-profile franchises they owned. As was typical of him, this was a calculated and cynical maneuver motivated not by a need to express a compelling and unique artistic vision (as he claimed), but rather by his unfettered egomania, passion for one-upmanship . . . . and a lust for vengeance.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s he squandered much of his time lurking online in chatrooms behind a pseudonym, attempting to coax his former victims into libel entrapment and impugning the films, talent and character of other struggling film-makers. He was so clumsy at concealing his true identity that everyone soon figured out who he was and called him out on it and the fact that he’d never produced a film of his own. (A helpful hint: don’t spam the boards with shrill declarations of what a “groundbreaking genius” you are – it’s a dead giveaway.) Exposed as a self-promoting shill, hypocrite, coward and self-aggrandizing bully, his wounded narcissism demanded vindication. So this glorified fanboy plunged into producing a fan film, perhaps the last word in masturbatory self-indulgence. He could have taken the path of courage and integrity; he could have created a movie with original characters and an original story. But that strategy was too much hard work, too risky. It didn’t guarantee him the meteoric prestige, profits and adulation that he felt were his rightful due. Besides his over-weening sense of entitlement, he was also hobbled by being emotionally barren, not to mention artistically and intellectually bankrupt. His own artwork was mediocre in quality and heavily derivative in content. And he’d never voluntarily read anything more challenging than a comic book during the course of his entire life. He was, however, a natural at overstating the obvious, which served him well in the television commercials he directed, but not the narrative films he tried to make. What resulted weren’t stories of depth populated by characters who compelled their audiences, but rather shallow advertisements for himself which repelled you with their crassness. In summary, he had nothing to say and lacked the talent to say it with, thus proving that the loudest, flashiest things are always the emptiest.
So he fell back on his old default strategy. He took the easy way out. He cheated and stole. He was now like a lit match dancing on the rim of a urinal during half-time at a Laker’s game.
In an industry which is synonymous with moral turpitude, the theft of someone else’s intellectual property is considered just another pedestrian business transaction. However, Hollywood does observe one firm boundary: the big thieves reserve the exclusive right to steal from the little thieves, but not vice versa. His towering sense of entitlement overrode commonsense, transgressed this unwritten law of Tinsel Town and, once again, he burned his bridges before ever crossing them. This time, the crossing he sabotaged was of the magnitude of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, finally, he began to receive the attention his insatiable ego craved – but this time it came from unwanted corners, namely from a phalanx of studio attorneys who served him cease-and-desist orders . . . . instead of a deluge of offers from studio execs to direct his first feature film. The tables had been turned by his own hand. The predator was now the prey. Thus, his nascent directing career was deep-sixed before it ever got out of the starting gate.
The fast track turned out to be the third rail.
Several years later, his first indie feature film was pirated on a European compilation and his executive producer was imprisoned for embezzlement. The wheel of sweet, poetic justice had made a full revolution. Yet, somehow, no lessons were learned or any wisdom acquired. They deflected off of his concrete-reinforced skull like Kalashnikov rounds off of Rambo’s pectorals.
Like a bad penny he keeps cropping up, but it is his relentless narcissism that drives him forward (and holds him back), not a restless creative intelligence. Thanks to the low barrier entry threshold of the internet and the ease with which anyone can manipulate their online image, he continues to buttress this charade of virility, wisdom, artistic brilliance, manly self-determination and relevance by feeding vapid “positive thinking” pop homilies, palliatives and platitudes to his gullible dupes, fawning fanboy servitors and clueless apologists – his unquestioning squadron of “flying monkey” proxies who troll anyone who questions his word. Such is the relationship between a matchstick man and his marks in their closed-circuit circle-jerk codependency.
His has been a Potemkin Village of a life. With a desperation that would be considered pathetic had he been less pretentious, he hurls unlimited time, energy and resources into carefully crafting his domineering, macho public persona and vigilantly perception managing online criticisms . . . . while lurking behind this smokescreen of condescension, superiority and plausible deniability he contradicts these platitudes by remaining unemployed and parasitically mooching off of his father, falsely posing as a Navy SEAL while indulging in climate change denial by driving a fossil fuel-guzzling, two ton metal penis extension that churns out greenhouse gases in wildfire-prone Southern California, wallowing in self-pitying nostalgia, projecting, triangulating, gaslighting and harassing his critics from a number of sock puppet accounts and posing as the benighted victim of everyone else’s jealousy in his sick little psycho-drama of an existence.
This is not a man. This is a microbe.
There’s a good reason why he is a lightning rod for the collective outrage of so many people. He represents a symptom of a much wider malaise which is afflicting this nation. He is the blackened, pulpy, diseased corruption which festers at the heart of the American Dream – the shallow, predatory hucksterism which preys upon human desperation and self-delusion; a diseased worldview where nothing has intrinsic value and everything is commodified; the ruthless, reckless psychopathic drive for wealth, status and power that warps and perverts the character of our nation. The poster boy for toxic masculinity, he also embodies the cold, dead heart of celebrity culture, consumerism and American capitalism.
If you are astute enough, you can discern the hollow, dull, sniveling little man-child hiding behind all the bluster, bombast and bloviation; behind the fragile veneer of a grandiose False Self. If you are bolder still, and need proof of his pathology, all you need do is challenge him. His reaction will be swift, disproportionately vicious and retaliatory, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the shallowest waters are indeed the most treacherous of all.
Copyright 2017 © Curt C. Chiarelli
Wow – what a story Curt! Thank you so much for sharing it. It sounds like the guy is getting what is coming to him.
Thank you very much Donna! Yes, it’s been a long time coming, but the tide is finally turning. The truly remarkable part of this tale was how long he was able to run his con. This was due, in part, by those who knew about his pathology, but did not have the courage or cared enough to speak out.
Mr Chiarelli – I love how you write! Such eloquent and wonderful descriptions of this despicable lowlife! Hope he gets his comeuppance…or at least very public recognition for his horrible behavior. Love your work, by the way!
Thank you so much, emilie18!
I have a relative who is an artist and someone tried to sell her paintings as their own.
This is the dark, unspoken side of the arts/entertainment field. Artists and their patrons in the business community operate under and are driven by mutually diametric, antagonistic motives. The artist (or at least any artist worth his or her salt) is driven by their creativity, curiosity and a compulsion to express their inner lives while the business community is organized around a single agenda: greed and the power that comes with it. Although the exploitation of labor is often a direct result of this agenda, many business people savor this aspect of their job. (It thus could be claimed that our whole economic model expresses itself in a form of institutionalized sociopathy, but that is a discussion beyond the scope of our current topic). In such a dynamic it’s easy to see why the artist will always negotiate at a disadvantage in our society and be abused.
Curt – a very interesting perspective. That’s why we all need to know about personality disorders – even artists who really would rather be creating than worrying about being scammed.