In his frenzied autobiography, Marin County native Glasgow Phillips invites us to peek behind the curtain of the ridiculous freak show that was Hollywood during the dot-com boom and bust years. Most of us who weren’t part of the fools gold rush that closed the 20th-century had a feeling the whole thing was smoke and mirrors, but to take that ride with Phillips driving is still a mind-bending rush.
To his credit, Phillips paints an unvarnished self-portrait and I wasn’t sure that I liked him or even cared enough about what happened to him to read beyond the 100-page mark. On one level Royal Nonesuch is very much the story of a privileged screw-up who pisses away a sizable inheritance hanging out with his crazy friends. It does eventually become apparent, however, that there is something more going on with this guy.
At one point, Phillips seeks to point up the tawdry truths that lie beneath modern media’s love of death and destruction by producing an online millennial hoax involving an Antichrist-related snuff film. Phillips wrestles with his conscience, and his demons, while frantically scheming for funding and freaking out everyone that comes in contact with the project.
The looming collapse of the mini-media empire that Phillips and his partners have struggled to keep aloft comes at the same time his mother is diagnosed with cancer. The prospect of real loss puts the perceived gains and losses of the boom/bust into tight perspective and Phillips grows, matures, and finally becomes a fully realized person because of it. Good on him.