You know the kid from Malcolm in the Middle? That's Frankie Muniz. After the show went off the air, he moved to Scottsdale to get away from all that Hollywood zaniness and be near his girlfriend's family. Her name is Elycia Marie. Actually, it's Elycia Turnbow, but no one calls her that. She's a Twitter tour de force who bills herself as a publicist for an agency called InXcess. She helps Frankie plan and publicize the various disparate endeavors that pass for his "career" while the 24-year-old spends his residuals and tries to figure out what to do with his life.
Elycia's agency, InXcess, doesn't seem to exist in any tangible way outside her Facebook employment info, which lists as its clients Frankie Muniz (he's still considering acting), along with You Hang Up (Frankie's fledgling band), InXcess Racing (Frankie is tooling around the minor-league racing circuits), and a Glendale water-filter seller named Krystal Klor (they did not return an e-mail).
Tweetgazette.com, the blog of record for Twitter-related news, describes her as such: "She's a publicist for a firm whose only clients are her boyfriend, her boyfriend's band, and her boyfriend's racing company. She kind of sounds like the character 'E' on Entourage."
Martin Cizmar Sonic Truth
Here's the really weird part: Somehow, she's become my Internet nemesis. Crazy, I know. I understand that no one gets to pick his nemesis, but I'm still sort of awed by how fate conspired to pit a music editor at an alternative-weekly newspaper and a wanna-be publicist/girlfriend of an aging child actor against each other. Yet it has.
The thing is, it wasn't supposed to be like this. I just wanted to pen a funny, interesting, and mostly sympathetic story about why Malcolm — er, Frankie — wanted to play drums in a Phoenix band. Honestly, it was a bit of a puff piece. Things went horribly awry. Within months, she was calling me "a gap-toothed, double-chinned, blubbery whale" and posting an unflattering picture of me as her Twitter background. Weird, right?
The whole thing began with a press release from the guys in You Hang Up, a local band who'd been toiled in obscurity before a friend of a friend hooked them up with Muniz. They met and he agreed to join the group. The next day, I got an e-mail announcing that he'd joined — before they'd even heard him play drums in person. It was an obvious ploy to cash in on the dwindling fame of a former child actor, and I jumped on it.
Our correspondence began friendly-like. After I got that press release from the YHU guys, I messaged Elycia, a local Twitter celebrity, to say I wanted to work on a feature about Frankie. He and I talked and made plans to meet up. Frankie even called me back to ask advice on booking an appropriate venue for his first show, and I gave it to him.
Things might have turned out fine had another New Times staffer not publicized that show with a vaguely condescending blog post. I got an angry call from Frankie, with Elycia screaming in the background. We worked it out, but she passive-aggressively tweeted: "AZ friends . . . who does the music reviews/stories for AZ Republic/AZ Central?"
Whatevs. I explained to Frankie that I would simply cover the show, as I would any other band's show, and do a feature down the line, with or without his cooperation. He said he was cool with that.
You Hang Up outfoxed me, however, "canceling" its first show at the last minute. Then, without telling anyone outside a close-knit circle of sycophants and admirers, the band scheduled a new show for the same weekend. Honestly, it wasn't the worst idea ever. As Malcolm — er, Frankie — had told me, he'd never played his drums onstage before. Still, it wasn't the sort of thing I could let pass without comment.
So, on our blog, I chastised You Hang Up for that little stunt, mocking the questions an interviewer from Popeater.com asked Frankie the day before:
Interviewer's question: "Were you leery You Hang Up might've just been drooling at the prospect of 'Agent Cody Banks: The Drummer'?"
Frankie's response: "Nah, I could tell. After 10 years in show business, I can tell when people are really excited because I was on TV. These guys were super-cool. They could tell I just like playing drums. I've never felt like they wanted me 'cause I was on TV or in movies."
My analysis of that exchange: "I don't know if Frankie thinks other bands send out e-mails informing the media that they have a new drummer, but it was a first for me. Methinks these dudes are aware of the potential his starpower brings, but it's nice they're keeping it cool."
That post, for the first and only time, drew a tweet from Frankie himself: "Dear Martin Cizmar, good luck with your blogging career. Since when is a death in a band members family not a valid excuse for canceling?"
Was there actually a death in the family? I e-mailed one of the other dudes in the band, who had been very helpful until that point, and got no response.
Things pretty much got quiet after that. For a few months, anyway. Then the band released the design for its new T-shirts, and I made fun of the super-douchey Affliction-meets-Tap Out styling on ye olde blog.
Elycia went crazy in response, linking pictures of me and calling me "Sloth." For five days, her friends tweeted back and forth about it, even drawing up a new T-shirt design with my picture on it. The next day, she tweeted an old YouTube video of me with the message "Live footage of Sloth!!! What a fat tub of human waste. I'm DYING laughing."
A full four days later — days in which I had nothing to say about the band, mind you — she tweeted, "Sloth as my Twitter background? Yes, please!" So that seems to be when she made an unflattering photo of me her background. Eventually someone re-tweeted something about Frankie and, while catching up on the weekend's happenings to prep myself for the workweek, I clicked over to check in on our old pals, only to find a full-on hatefest in progress.
So I tweeted: "Wow, Frankie Muniz's gf @elyciamarie set an unflattering 2-year-old photo of me as her Twitter background. #stalker?"
Her reply: "@PHXmusicdotcom unflattering? that's an understatement, Sloth . . . SLOTH the piggyface is stalking me, oh noooo!!!"
My reply: "@elyciamarie Have you ever heard of TMZ? I feel like Frankie Muniz's Crazy GF Launches Vendetta Against Music Journalist might work for them"
Her reply: "So you can dish, but can't take it. Typical Liberal. Go away, Sloth."
My reply: "@elyciamarie You do understand you are tweeting these things publicly, right? Like, people can see this stuff?"
Elycia deleted all her replies to me — and all the really vile ones she wrote to others — a few hours later. Not before I'd copy/pasted them, of course. Because though she may be only a semi-professional publicist, I am a professional journalist, and we're wily like that. The next day, she made her account private, so random netizens would not be able to read her tweets. As another person who messaged me noted, that's pretty ballsy for someone who is only famous on Twitter. She later made it public again.
Then, I was drawn deeper in. After our Twitter war, I received e-mails from a few frenemies willing to slag Elycia (if you've ever seen Nik Ritchie's Scottsdale-based TheDirty.com, you know how this works). It amazes me, but apparently there are lots of people willing to dish on disliked acquaintances, offering up embarrassing pictures and damning information.
I found out, for example, that Elycia graduated from Glendale's Deer Valley High School in 1996, making her nearly 10 years older than Frankie. I won't use the word "cougar," but others have. They met in L.A. before moving to far North Scottsdale. No one seems to know how rich Frankie is, but he is depicted as the kind of entitled former child star who'll take a free meal or drink whenever he can get it and stiffs service industry employees lucky enough to wait on a star. Elycia, who dated a few other entertainers during her Hollywood years, is said to believe he's "the biggest celebrity on the planet" and that people are always staring at him.
Maybe a video is worth 10,000 words. You can watch Frankie and Elycia's attitude play out in hilarious and sad fashion in a YouTube reel of the pair posing for paparazzi on the red carpet outside the première of the latest Star Trek movie. "That bitch just keeps trying to pose," said the person who sent the video to me, noting how an exasperated woman in black tries several times to give the pair the bum's rush to make room for other celebrities after the flashbulbs stop popping. Elycia and Frankie don't move, apparently intent upon soaking up the moment for as long as possible. They're finally wrangled along, but Elycia gets momentarily furious about it.
I watched it and laughed. Then I wondered how I got sucked into this world.
I've had a Twitter account since mid-2007, when it was a pleasant diversion and social-planning tool for my actual friends. It wasn't until I was required to tweet for work two years later that things started getting weird. Like most people with strong opinions and lots of followers I don't know in person, I've had a few epic showdowns. It's been interesting.
This is what I've learned: Twitter is too fast. It breaks down the barriers between private and public thoughts way too far. It enables people to publish things that go against their best interests way too quickly and without the mitigating nuance that comes with 141-plus characters.
Just look at what happened to New York Times writer Lynn Hirschberg, who pissed off hipster rap icon M.I.A. a few weeks ago with a vaguely unflattering profile. The piece juxtaposed M.I.A. championing the Tamil Tiger terrorist group with her life of luxury as the fiancée of an heir to the Seagram fortune, quoting her spouting ridiculous propaganda while munching on truffle-flavored French fries. The "Paper Planes" phenom responded by tweeting the reporter's cell number and writing a song about her, which she published on her blog.
Would M.I.A. have started down that path without Twitter? Would Elycia have gone where she did? I sincerely doubt it. Twitter's immediacy causes that.
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No one — save, maybe, a true loon like Brown Bunny actor/director Vincent Gallo — would sit down to write a proper letter with such vile words in it. If, however, someone semi-famous has had a few glasses of wine and happens to have her smart-phone handy, we've got a situation brewing.
People involved in music are often a little weird. Used to be, a band would gripe to their friends and family when a critic bashed them in some sort of review. Now, if they're stupid, they tweet about it. If they're even stupider, they tweet back when said critic drops a little chum into the water. If they're stupidest, they set a photo of that critic as their wallpaper or tweet the critic's phone number.
Like I said, I set out to do a puff piece. I had no intention of writing a salacious gossip column. It just sorta happened, ya know?
If someone like me can somehow end up the archenemy of Frankie Muniz's girlfriend, I think we're about to enter the Golden Age of writer versus minor-celebrity feuding. It'll be interesting, I guess. Maybe this is a mark against me, but, most days, I'd rather just write the damn puff piece.