Concealed Weapons

Despite some misfires, The Pistoleros keep looking for a break and say that rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated

After escaping the influence of the psychiatrist, however, things just got stranger for Zubia. Sharing a house with his ex-wife's sister, Zubia worked days bussing tables at a French restaurant in Scottsdale. There, his boss, Alain, a Frenchman who had entered the U.S. through Montreal and who admired the Al Pacino character Tony Montana from the movie Scarface, hatched a get-rich plan with a restaurant patron named Leo. Leo was from the Ivory Coast, a French-speaking nation in West Africa, and he moved into Lawrence's room while a plot was formulated to smuggle diamonds into Africa without paying duty and then sell them at a huge profit.

Like Ishmael from Melville's Moby Dick, who shared his bed with the tattooed idolater Queequeg, Lawrence had to give up half of his bed to the odd Leo, who, like Queequeg, carried talismans. He insisted that Lawrence put some under his pillow for protection.

In February 1987, Alain and Leo launched their scheme, promising Zubia $2,000 to accompany Leo on a flight to Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's capital. But when they got there, Zubia, who had flown with only a carry-on bag, a one-way ticket and $50 dollars (most of which he had spent on cigarettes and vodka in a JFK duty-free shop), was detained by customs officials.

Leo disappeared into Abidjan with the diamonds while Zubia spent four days detained in the airport. He says he was only fed when other detainees felt sorry for him and shared their fish stew with him. Finally, after hearing nothing from the U.S. embassy, Zubia was escorted by armed guards to an Air Afrique plane that took him back to New York. Eventually, Alain paid to fly him home.

"I must have been completely out of my mind," Lawrence says today, recalling the episode. "I guess I had no regard for my well-being. It's the state of mind I was in at the time."

Zubia says that his former boss, Alain, meanwhile, followed through on his Tony Montana fantasies, and was ultimately deported after being busted for selling marijuana to Chandler undercover police.

Mark Zubia says his brother's excesses nearly decimated Live Nudes. Sometimes, when Lawrence was hooked to a morphine drip at the hospital, the band would have to go on without him. But for the most part, Lawrence managed to remain a steady performer. In 1990, the brothers moved in together, and their place, known as the "Live Nudes house" to musicians, became a kind of flophouse. Mark was doing what he could to keep Lawrence from completely self-destructing, but he admits that he was living wild, cocaine-fueled times as well.

One of the regular visitors to the Live Nudes house was Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins, a gifted musician and songwriter who was plagued with his own problems of alcoholism and depression. After Hopkins was kicked out of the Blossoms during the 1992 recording session of their album, New Miserable Experience, Hopkins made a proposition to his new friends.

Hopkins asked Lawrence to ditch Live Nudes and start a new band with him. Lawrence agreed, and they decided to call the new venture The Chimeras. "Doug and Lawrence in a band together at that time in their lives was a volatile situation, to say the least," Lawrence says, speaking in the third person.

Mark was furious that his brother had left Live Nudes, but eventually, Lawrence says, Hopkins talked Mark into joining as well. The trio then stole the best rhythm section in town when they pulled bassist Scott Andrews and drummer Mark Riggs from Chuck Hall and the Brick Wall.

"In August 1992, we did our first gig at Edcel's Attic to a record crowd," Lawrence says. "In the next couple of months we gigged and gigged and gigged."

But Hopkins' depression only seemed to deepen. Just six months after he formed the band, Hopkins quit during a gig at Compton Terrace. Riggs quit not long thereafter.

The Zubias spent months auditioning new members, eventually adding Pete Milner and Gary Smith to The Chimeras.

Lawrence, meanwhile, remained good friends with Hopkins as the former Blossoms guitarist sank further and further into depression. In late 1993, Hopkins left his wallet, which contained a receipt for a .357 Magnum, in Mark's pickup truck. Lawrence confronted Hopkins, demanding that he turn the gun over. Surprised that the Zubias knew about the gun, Hopkins did give up the weapon to his girlfriend Sandra.

But several weeks later, Hopkins' closest friends knew that he was inconsolable. They demanded that he leave his front door unlocked so they could check on him, which they did frequently.

On December 5, 1993, Lawrence knew he could walk right in when he decided to check on his friend. He entered Hopkins' bedroom, which was empty, and then went to the other bedroom, which Hopkins used as a music room. Lawrence saw that Hopkins was lying on the bed.

"Doug, it's Lawrence," he said.
"The second I looked and saw him, I knew something very bad had happened. I touched his knee, and that's when I realized he was dead. Then I ran from the room," Zubia says.

He had seen that Hopkins had suffered some sort of head wound, but in a confused state, Zubia ran to the living room and kitchen. He found a telephone and called 911. "The operator told me to make sure Doug wasn't breathing. That was the last thing I wanted to do."

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