When I Was Thomas Kinkade
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I shared an apartment with my friend Paul Chadwick (creator of the character "Concrete" and a brilliant artist) in a rundown apartment complex called "The Golden Palms." The building had become low-rent housing of choice for former and current Art Center students, and my next door neighbors were Jim Gurney (creator of "Dinotopia") and next to him, Thomas Kinkade.
In those days (and maybe still) apartments were rent controlled, meaning the landlord couldn't arbitrarily raise your rent more than a specified percentage unless the apartment changed hands. Our landlord was a mostly absentee fellow named "Mr. Tung" who would come to each apartment every month with a bag that literally had a dollar sign on it and the name of the local bank, to collect the rent.
I went through some major emotional "stuff" soon after coming to L.A., and Tom and his wife (who barely knew me) were kind enough to take me to dinner and soothe my ruffled feathers. Not long after that, Tom decided to move (wise choice, the GP was a hellhole) and he graciously bequeathed his apartment and most of his furniture to yours truly. I also continued to live under the name on the rental agreement. Despite my headline (revising the truth because it makes a better story), Kinkade's apartment was actually still under the name of some guy who has been renting it two or three tenants ago. Mr. Tung didn't seem to mind and I was broke, so I took over the low rent payments.
Funny how life intersects, twists and turns... I didn't see much of Tom after that, but I was certainly impressed by his incredible success. But mostly I recall those acts of kindness...