Sun, half-naked bunnies and a second chance

Tabatabaee: Girls are asking if I want to go out. Playmate girls are.

Osmundson: So why aren't you going?

Tabatabaee: So I can go out with my mom and dad.

Osmundson: You can hang out with your mom and dad every night. Don't be an idiot.

Tabatabaee: I can't, because we're never home anymore, man.

Osmundson: Well, there's tomorrow night.

Tabatabaee: No, there's not. We're leaving.

Osmundson: Oh, yeah. Well, your mom and dad will understand.

Tabatabaee: Dude, they're throwing a big barbecue tonight.

And this is how it is for Zebrahead and most members of major-label touring bands, who must constantly choose which priority to neglect, since something important must always go neglected, and who, when it really comes down to it, if really forced to choose between fun on the one hand and family on the other, would rather choose sleep.

"The never-getting-to-sleep thing is really upsetting to me," says Mauriello. "I see little green men running around and I'm completely sober."

"As much as you want to say it sucks, we're here at the Mansion, and how horrible is that?" asks Osmundson.

Nearly every member of the band will say something like this to you at some point in the day, as if constantly reminding themselves—or even trying to convince themselves—that they should be happy and grateful.

In fact, you're trying to remind yourself. It's been a long, hot, monotonous day. There's something really horrible and stilted about watching band members lip-sync to themselves over and over, something disquieting about watching so much manpower (the crew, the equipment, the entourage, the wardrobe tents, the catering, the shuttles, the walkie-talkies, the air of importance, etc.) going into something so minute, something that is really only a blip on the screen. You could leave—you'd like to leave—but you still need to interview Tabatabaee. Plus, you may as well wait out traffic. At the same time, though, here you are at the Mansion, a place people would kill to visit, so what the hell's wrong with you? How can you really be itching to go?

If you follow one of the paths away from the pool, past the manicured lawns with the gigantic dice and the flamingoes and peacocks that roam the grounds freely, you will notice that you are suddenly surrounded by dense foliage, and unlike the other neatly tailored areas of the Mansion that offer sweeping vistas, you no longer know quite where you're going. The uneven dirt trail goes off in a few different directions, and any which way you look, all you see are trees up above and the light shining through. If you keep going, you will find the huge zoo-like cages in which Hefner keeps exotic animals, including any number of birds—like toucans and parrots—and, perhaps showing he has a sense of humor, cute, fat bunnies. And then there's the cage with more than a dozen tiny squirrel monkeys. They're amazingly agile, jumping from the walls of the cage to the ropes hanging in the middle of the cage and swinging around the ropes and then springing off the netting halfway up near one side of the cage that acts like a monkey trampoline. Throughout it all, they squeak and chirp, moving suddenly, their small furless faces darting around nervously. You really could watch the monkeys forever—in fact, you have been—and it's time to head back to the other side of the bars, where the cameras are trained on a group of Playmates as they frolic, topless, in front of a huge reflective surface, bumping, grinding and being hit with streams of water. 

"It's nice here, huh?" Tabatabaee asks matter-of-factly as the sun begins setting over the pool area. There is a purplish mark on the left side of his neck, near where his neck meets his chest, sort of near the collarbone. You assume it's a hickey, though it doesn't look exactly like one, but after all, he's young, handsome, single and in a rock band.

When Tabatabaee was a bio major at UCI, he noticed something really strange about some of the other people in the program. "They couldn't talk to you. They were smart, but they couldn't talk to you, and that really tripped me out, and I tried as hard as I could to make sure I was never like that," he says.

He wasn't. At UCI, Tabatabaee minored in theater, and he says he's always been drawn toward the arts. "I always wanted to do music—I just never thought I could," he says. He intended to take one year off after graduation to take the MCAT and apply for med school. He began playing with Zebrahead for fun, just to fuck around. Suddenly, things started happening. "I didn't expect music to go anywhere. I thought I'd do it for a year and then I'd leave, and in a week's period, I got an acceptance to med school and we were supposed to do a showcase and the label was going to fly us to New York and I had to tell the school; they wanted to know. So I deferred for a year and then decided that I didn't want to go back after a year."

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