Truth is, I didn’t fall in love with L.A. as quickly as I thought I would. I drove out from Boise, Idaho, in a 1982 Toyota Corolla with chipped gold paint. Anytime it rained, the trunk would fill up with water, and you would have to skip from first to third gear because it would grind in second. But I love that car. And it got me to L.A., so I owe a lot to it.
I moved when I was 17 years old. My mom helped me into my first apartment—this little studio at Laurel Canyon and Burbank Boulevard. We were bringing in boxes, and you could hear gunshots down the street. I plugged in a radio, and they were talking about this Bank of America robbery that was happening blocks away from my apartment. Of course my mother got incredibly scared for her son, but then she got on a flight and went on her merry way.
I had $5,000 to my name. The rent was only $495 a month, and even though I was living on Top Ramen and water, I had to get a roommate. I’d sleep in the bed for a week—on a mattress I found on the balcony when I moved in—and then I’d sleep in the walk-in closet the following week. It was a tiny spot, but it was mine, and I loved it. My first job was as an usher at Universal City’s movie theater. Two weeks in, we did a premiere for the film Primary Colors, and the first celebrity I recognized was Steven Spielberg. I couldn’t believe it; I was this kid from Idaho taking Steven’s Spielberg’s ticket at a movie theater, and I thought, “I have made it into the business. This is so much easier than I thought it was going to be!” I didn’t see that guy again for another 15 years. My first meeting with him, I told him the story about how we almost met one time. He said, “Man, I wish you would’ve just told me you were an actor and wanted to work with me.”
I was a young kid with nothing better to do, so I went to The Price Is Right three times. I was looking to win some prizes and then sell them. There is a reason people get chosen, and we cracked the method behind the madness: They want good television, so you have to be as energetic and excited as possible. If anyone has seen me on The Price Is Right, I look like I’m on some heavy-hitting drugs. That’s because this was right when Red Bull had come out. The time I got chosen, I had dumped six cans of Red Bull into a Big Gulp cup from 7-Eleven, and I downed the whole thing in line. I’d pasted a CBS bumper sticker on my back, I had Bob Barker postcards on my knees, I wore one of my nephew’s baby Puma shoes around my belt. I looked like an absolute idiot, but I knew I would stand out. I was a walking CBS billboard, so why wouldn’t they choose me? And they did. I won a desk to get on the stage, and I had a chance to win a car. I lost, but then I spun the wheel and ended up spinning a .90 or a .95. I overbid on the Showcase Showdown by $132, and my heart was broken—I was still driving the 1982 Toyota Corolla. My friends decided to stay for the next taping, and one friend ended up winning the entire Showcase Showdown. So I was heartbroken. He was not.