Zebrahead

Sun, half-naked bunnies and a second chance

It is unbelievably hot today at the Playboy Mansion. The sun is blazing, beating, boring down upon the estate's sprawling, manicured lawns, grand walkways, imposing arches and stately fountains, leaping off the sparkling pool, making the hefty oiled wood of the poolhouse glisten, heating the metal rims of the patio tables to an untouchable degree, and threatening to melt the plastic of a large black binder, which belonging to the production company and features notes on today's video shoot, that sits atop one of the tables. The sun is relentless, bouncing off the bright concrete underfoot to the thick stone walls of Hef's Victorian estate and back again, trapping any creature unfortunate enough to be left outside in its infinite regress of light and heat. Today's the kind of day when you'd be smart to stay inside—apparently, Playboy Enterprises king Hugh Hefner has secluded himself somewhere in the hushed interior of the house—but it's also the day that La Habra band Zebrahead is filming their video for "Playmate of the Year," the first single from their upcoming album, also called Playmate of the Year, and so, despite the grueling weather, despite the fact that they had to cancel three shows on their tour with the Kottonmouth Kings to come back to LA to do this video, despite the fact that their first flight was canceled and a second one delayed and they ended up getting about two hours of sleep last night, here they are.

There's Ben Osmundson, the bass player and "business" mind of the band, a guarded guy who graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in marketing and who, according to the other guys, is always thinking about the band's direction. Right now, Osmundson is scratching the mosquito bites on his hand and watching intently as his girlfriend shows him how she digs her fingernail in an X formation into her own mosquito bite, and then offers to score his as well. There's Justin Mauriello, the charming singer/guitarist who's an eternal ham, always joking, always goofy, always silly, sometimes frustratingly so, who tells you his parents give plasma as a career and then tells you they actually raise cockatiels, neither of which is true. Mauriello is described by his girlfriend as "a big 4-year-old, but also the most genuine, real person I've ever met." Right now, Mauriello is trying to convince a group of Playboy Playmates (who were talking loudly about how there should be aerobics classes—and manicures and pedicures—at the Mansion because they never work out anymore) that he and Hefner just got finished working out together. There's Ed Udhus, the sweet, thoughtful teddy bear of a drummer, and Greg Bergdorf, the soft-spoken, keenly aware guitarist.

And then there's Ali Tabatabaee, the handsome rapper who graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in biology who was supposed to go to the University of Chicago Medical School, was accepted and everything, and then decided to do the band instead. Last year, Tabatabaee went through the kind of tough shit you pray you never experience. He's the only band member not in a relationship, and so, for most of the morning, he's been talking to and transfixed by Miss September.

"Yo, yo, yo," Mauriello whispers into your tape recorder, "check out my dawg Ali trying to hit that shit. This is funny. It's like a fly on shit, you know what I mean?"

"Like white on rice?" his girlfriend offers.

You chime in with, "Shit and stink?"

"Right," says Mauriello. "Like a dart and a dartboard —no, wait, damn it, that wasn't good. It's like a booger on a finger! Try to flick it off but it just doesn't move."

"All right," the young director yells to a group of Bodacious Dream Girls, eight of them actual Playboy Playmates and the rest dancers from local clubs. "We need more 'Woo-yay, they're here! Those guys are here!'" he shouts, giving them their, uh, motivation. Some speaker somewhere begins blasting for the zillionth time the summery, bouncy "Playmate of the Year," and the girls—their glistening flesh wrapped tightly in the hottest of hot pants, tops bound just barely by tiny bikini tops, managing to balance, somehow, atop unbelievably stacked fuck-me shoes—begin for the zillionth time to bounce around and look the epitome of woo-yay as the five Zebrahead members, each dressed to resemble a miniature Hefner, walk through the crowd.

"It's the fat, dorky white guy's version of Jay-Z's video for the song 'Big Pimpin','" says Osmundson. "It's a 'we're dorks, we don't belong here' kind of thing. This whole video is a dream—us dreaming or wishing that we could have something like this happen to us, which will never happen."

But it is happening to them. I mean, here they are at the Mansion, bouncing around with a bunch of hot, nearly naked women who are making a fuss over them. Of course, the women have been instructed to make this fuss, but does that make it any less real?

Zebrahead's girlfriends, sticking together, making little snippy comments about the Playmates, and sporting looks ranging from mildly amused to shocked and exasperated, seem to think not.

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