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Partying With Sean Penn 1986

by Billy Ingram

In the 1980s & 90s, although I was working in the motion picture business designing move posters, I was more interested in having a good time as opposed to crawling up Hollywood’s ass and becoming ‘one of those guys’ so the celebrities I hung with were all a result happenstance.

In 1987, a friend of mine met Sean Penn on the set of the movie he was working on, ‘Colors.’ Sean invited him to drop by one of his haunts, an after-hours club on Pico (I think).

The outside of the building looked legit; on one end the signage read BJ’s Fashions, on the other BJ’s Barbeque. There were no clothes or food, it was a elaborate facade, camouflage for the richly appointed nightclub inside. Minimal lighting in the parking lot and no signs of life from inside the building made it easy to miss; if this had been the 1920s you'd call it a speakeasy.

We'd ring the bell outside ‘BJ’s Fashions’ and a slot in the door opened for the bouncers to mean mug you. We'd tell him, “We’re friends of Sean” and they'd let us in after a thorough frisking. This was a black club, we were the only whites in the place which was a maze of cozy nooks to lounge and carouse, assured of privacy. Our group mostly hung out in the back, what Sean called the “Alabama Room.”

Sean was pretty mellow for a guy with such an intense gaze and volatile nature; curious, clever, sharp, focused, fierce in defending his point of view. He didn’t look all that much like he did on screen so a lot of people didn’t recognize him at first which inevitably led to that tedious moment when some tool spits out, “Don’t you know who that is? It’s Sean Penn.” That kind of thing made my skin crawl, I couldn’t tell if Sean liked it or not, but it did mean he was going to win whatever argument he was having.

At BJ’s you could order anything you wanted all night long, drinks, drugs. A gram of cocaine came on one of those little black check trays with the dealer’s business card covering the powder. It’s no secret ‘The Falcon & The Snowman’ star was doing a lot of blow during this period, in our circle if you didn’t have coke then the person you were sexing did.

A lot of that heat came because he had been married to Madonna for a couple of years but he also had a girlfriend on the side, a statuesque beauty with a chipper personality, fresh off the boat from Kansas. She was a friendly gal, we had some interesting conversations, not the least of which about Sean’s member (as the British would say—massive).

A year and a half later, long after I left that orbit, I was surprised to read that Madonna called 911 to report her husband had tied her up and beat her for hours, she only escaped by promising to perform the sex act he was harassing her for. Lieutenant Bill McSweeny was on duty when she staggered into the Malibu police station, “I hardly recognized her as Madonna, the singer. She was weeping, her lip was bleeding and she was all marked up. She had obviously been struck. This was a woman in big trouble, no doubt about it.” The couple divorced soon after.

Just in the brief period we were hanging out Sean was jailed for punching a photographer on his movie set, was busted for drunk driving, the rage welling up inside him fueled by copious amounts of blow and booze. Although I never saw him sober, and vice versa, I suspect without those factors the future Oscar winner would never have exhibited such violent tendencies.

Hell, we were all doing crazy things back in the day, it was the eighties. Yes, that is a valid excuse, maybe you'll be fortunate enough to have a decade come along that absolves you of all your sins.

 

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