I was perambulating over my own private cyberscape earlier. Just checking stuff out. It’s what I do because I don’t do much else.
I don’t remember exactly how or why I stumbled across this story from 2007. But I remember it.
It happened on the night, or rather, early morning, of December 9, 2007. Two “executives,” of which there are plenty in the elitistified Hollywood community, were driving home from dinner at 1 in the morning in a Honda Civic headed south on Gower Street through Hollywood. As the Honda drove through the Sunset Boulevard intersection, an Acura travelling about 70 miles per hour slammed into its side, killing the 2 passengers instantly. The Acura was pioneered by a drunk driver who ran the red light well into its stop cycle, about 20 seconds by witness accounts. In other words, the driver, Jose Luis Vargas, 31, didn’t know what he was doing when he should have. He was cruising with a blood alcohol level about 3 times the legal limit when tested an hour after the accident. Responding police immediately arrested him because his inebriety was so apparent.
Riding in the Civic were a couple of young high-flying Hollywood ascending bigwig-adjacent people whose lives and careers were cut tragically short by the drunken Mexican. The driver of the Civic, Samuel Robert Cassel, was a vice president at Scott Rudin Productions, and his passenger was Rhiannon Meier, a Stanford grad and vice president of creative development at Red Wagon Studios, a small firm ensconced within the wide umbrella that is Columbia Tri Star, ie, Sony. Everyone in Hollywood these days works for about 1 of 5 companies. Cassel and Meier were both 28 and were part of that Hollywood striving Mover and Shaker communal up-and-coming elite. They had grand ambitions and undoubtedly lived the esteemed and respectable life of those “above the line.” They were a testament to the proliferation of grandiose titles and positions within the Hollywood corporate power structure where VP titles are as ubiquitous as twelve-dollar lunch salads. They were productive and ambitious young adults, and they might have been going places.
And then there was Jose Luis Vargas, one of my people. Strangely, there is minimal info of him living on the internet. Who is he, where did he come from, what made him tick. Yeah, enter my people to really fuck up the picture and skew the parade. Vargas was a drunken disaster on par with myself. He had 2 previous DUI convictions, in 1998 and 2004. Vargas was 31 years old when the accident happened and apparently his previous transgressions didn’t do much to remedy his alcoholic, abusive tendencies.
This would be the last time he drove drunk for a while.
On October 9, 2009, Vargas was sentenced to 30 years to life after jurors found him guilty of “two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.”
I remember walking by this intersection the following week and seeing the memorials placed by families honoring the victims of Vargas’ cold thoughtlessness.
I don’t like this town and I despise most of the people who populate it. I blog about it all the time. Yet, it is manned by humans who I find it easy to disregard, but Cassel and Meier never deserved to have their lives lacerated so abruptly by Vargas. Personally, I think people like him should just be hanged, no questions asked. I think that would make the rest of us think twice about doing the shit we did and are doing.
When I ran my car off the road (probably at the same speed), the only victim was a tree. It could have been a person or a group of people in a less fortunate universe. I understand, more than most, the thankless twists of fate that thrust some of us into a life of doom and others into a live of what-ifs. What if that hadn’t just been a tree. When I came out of my coma, the first question I asked was if I had killed anybody. What if someone had been in the car with me? It’s impossible for me to point fingers or castigate in light of my own failings. All I can do at this point in my life is to warn and caution. My preaching has lost substance but my experience has lent me irrefutable wisdom. Listen to me.
I’ve played with fire and won the gamble. You know me, there are two of us in the room. Your odds have just decreased! Yet, I hope you win the gamble because when you do, it means someone survived.
In this life, there is the thinnest line between sanity and madness.
Between respect and infamy.
Between freedom and caution.
I lost my freedom and got it back. How else would I know its sweet taste if not for the taste of death?