Review: Icarus Falling by Christopher Paul Meyer ★★★★

Icarus FallingIcarus Falling: The True Story of a Nightclub Bouncer Who Wanted to Be a F*cking Movie Star But Settled for Being a F*cking Man is the raucous, often hilarious, memoir of Christopher Paul Meyer’s time working as a bouncer in what was then the “most popular nightclub in Los Angeles.” Given the number of bars in L.A. that’s really saying something, so Meyer comes toe to toe, and fist to fist, with an entertaining assortment of drunks, celebrities, homeless people and everything else L.A. has to offer.

There’s an addictive quality to Meyer’s writing. He really knows how to turn a phrase. You’ll keep turning the pages just by the force of Meyer’s prose. At times, though, the prose is macho to a fault. Though there’s a kind of Bukowski flare to a lot of Meyer’s writing, Meyer is such a world beater that the book has a different flavor than drunk downtrodden Bukowski. Put another way, while Bukowski lost his fights, Meyer wins most of his. Even when he’s getting beaten up, he does it with pure confidence. This is at once a marvel, and makes for entertaining reading, but at times it’s so superheroic in its machismo that it’s tougher to empathize.

This passage from page 52-53 gets to the gist of the book:

I wasn’t filled with bloodlust. I wasn’t coming to work looking for fights. But I was coming to work to prove myself. Self-doubt is a high-octane motivator. So, if it got physical, so be it. I was prepared to redline my engine and see what I had under the hood. I wanted to know – was I that guy? The guy you instantly respect. The guy with his own muse. The guy she can’t help but love. The guy with long hair, no shave, a jiu-jitsu black belt, sharp one-liners, a great apartment who just happened to be a phenomenal lay. It didn’t just sound like a movie. It sounded like L.A. It was the fantasy people moved here for. I was going to be who I’d always wanted to be.

Even when he’s doubting himself, he’s being “high-octane,” so it doesn’t really seem very self-doubting at all; it comes off as more bravado.

The finest moments come when there’s some balance, such as when he describes his total failure during an audition for a sitcom pilot. His face starts quivering and a potentially triumphant moment turns into a nightmare. This is where the true vulnerability comes through. Not the vulnerability of failing to land a punch, but true self-doubt and weakness.

Likewise, the people he meets in the bar are not as fully realized as they could be either. Women are oftentimes basically legs and hair (or T & A) without really getting into who they might be in their non-nightclub days. Probably a lot of them are aspiring or failed actresses, in the same way as Meyer is himself, so this could have been a richer portrait of the other side of Hollywood.

There’s a story there: failing to make it into movies, people go to popular bars and try to make the experience as cinematic and glamorous as possible. There’s pathos in that story, not just glamor, and Meyer could have focused more on the desperation. Ironically, Meyer’s memoir is as glossed over as a Hollywood movie. That may be his point – failing to be cast as an action hero, he becomes one in his life – except action movies are a total fantasy that don’t have a lot to do with real life.

All that said, Meyer is an extraordinarily engaging and funny writer. The book is a great window into what it’s like to be a bouncer at an insanely popular and crowded club in L.A. There are great moments of insight about L.A.’s darker side, just a shade too many about what it means to be a Man’s Man. Meyer has great books in him, this much is certain. He’s an incredibly gifted writer. So much so that he doesn’t need to prove himself so much: there’s enough bravado in the prose alone.

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Icarus Falling: The True Story of a Nightclub Bouncer Who Wanted to Be a Fucking Movie Star But Settled for Being a Fucking Man

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