Rest in Peace

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Rest in Peace: Quentin Elias Slept Here
By J.R. Castel and Danny De La Paz

Yes he did. The former 39-year-old, French boy-band singer and iconic model who passed away February 25, of a heart attack in New York City, did indeed sleep in my bed here in Los Angeles. Of course, I wasn’t there—as far as I know George Washington himself might have slept right alongside him. . . . I slept on the sofa downstairs. The star of the 2010 documentary The Adonis Factor stayed at my place because my writing partner, Danny De La Paz, and I had just cast him in the role of gigolo Joe Kirkwood in our play The Blvd, a comedic mash-up of the films Sunset Blvd and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Danny and I knew we had a funny hit play on our hands but we needed a “name” that could bring in theatergoers. Neither one of us could have imagined that our lead would be an international recording star who, from 1996 to 1999, sold five million records with the French singing group Alliage. But seven years after leaving the band, moving to New York, and then trying to make it as a solo artist, no one in America really knew who Quentin Elias was. Nonetheless, Danny thought Quentin would be perfect for the lead role after the two of them had struck up a friendship online. “He’s just a pinup doll,” I argued relentlessly.

Danny was convinced that the singer’s recent gay cover boy persona would bring in theatergoers. Things started to take off when Quentin fell in love with our play—a story about a down-on-his-luck actor who resorts to hustling on Santa Monica Blvd only to end up in the clutches of a demented has-been actress desperate for a cinematic comeback.

Quentin believed in our script so much, he convinced a friend to finance the play in West Hollywood. Even with the tens of thousands of dollars secured, I remained doubtful about the play’s success. I was apprehensive about a letting a singer with no acting experience star in my first theatrical production.

Danny remained awestruck by Quentin’s stunning beauty. I wasn’t so taken. Quentin’s gracious narcissism was a little too much for me to ignore. But he always remained respectful and kind to me. However, occasionally during rehearsals, if Quentin didn’t get his way, his boyish charm could easily morph into egomaniac meltdowns worthy of Lindsey Lohan. Then there was that heavy French accent which gave him profound trouble pronouncing certain words—such as “rewrite.” Our staged reading proved disastrous. Not only was he unable to deliver the comedic punch lines, he managed to mangle them unrecognizable.

Quentin, however, refused to give up. The harsh criticism from the audience only pushed him harder to make the role his own. He hired a private acting coach to guide him with annunciation as well as helping him create the role of the anti-hero, Joe Kirkwood. Nearly a year went by and though he definitely improved with time, I worried about opening night. I imagined deafening silence after each joke fell flat from those sensual, pouty lips of his.

Then shortly before the play opened, Quentin revealed a secret about himself that gave me a change of heart. He explained that he wasn’t just playing Joe Kirkwood, he was Joe Kirkwood.  The singer admitted that at 15 he had run away from home shortly after his father’s death. He lived on the streets of Paris, surviving any way a gay teenage boy knew how.

When he landed the dream of a lifetime gig with Alliage, he finally found the fame and fortune he always longed for. However, he was pressured to constantly deny his sexual orientation from the media and adoring female fans in order to retain that teen idol status.

After his heartfelt admission, I began to see a vulnerable side to that chiseled bronze face and cast iron impudence. Show business had taken its toll on his spirit as he continuously tried to reinvent himself.

On opening night, March 2010, at the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood, Quentin’s hard work paid off. He rose to the occasion as the consummate performer. Along with his talented co-stars, he made theatergoers roar with laughter as the sarcastic Euro hustler. For me there is no greater satisfaction than to hear people laugh at what I have written. Quentin was able to make that happen for both Danny and myself.

After the play came to an end, so did our friendship. Quentin moved back to New York and then he toured France, making a triumphant comeback as a solo hip-hop artist. Then we heard the distressing news that he was found dead in his Staten Island apartment.

I don’t know if Quentin reached the artistic goals he had set out to achieve as that frightened, lonely teenager, or if he found the acceptance he thought fame would bring him, but I do believe that in his own way, he helped raise the vibration level on this planet by entertaining people with his music, humor and celluloid beauty.

Since Quentin’s passing, people ask whether Danny and I will revive The Blvd, and the answer is “Yes.” However, we have to constantly remind ourselves that if it wasn’t for Quentin, we wouldn’t have the confidence to go forward with another production or even a future film version. Quentin’s belief in our project made our dream a reality and for that we will always owe him a humble debt of gratitude. R.I.P.Q.

 

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