The value of what you went through, it only has value in sharing with people who are going through that exact same thing.
— Bob Forrest
I cried while watching Bob and the Monster during a scene where the movie’s subject, musician/drug counselor Bob Forrest, recounts receiving a letter from an inmate in a maximum security prison. The inmate writes that hearing Bob play his song “Memphis” live on the radio gave him hope; he threw a noose he had fashioned into his cell’s metal toilet and made the decision to live.
And that is the power the power of the creative spirit which clicks into the imagination of the audience, opening up personal meaning for individuals, colored by their own experience. That is the skill of an artist, of Bob Forrest.
At 18, Bob Forrest came to Hollywood from Palm Springs where his cheery, typical middle class adolescent life had been torn apart by a series of revelations and tragedies. Lured by the seductive magic inherent in Bukowski and Kerouac, he threw himself into Hollywood’s burgeoning underground music scene, starting a band and beginning a crash course in drugs and alcohol. Anthony and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers became his roommates after a two minute conversation on Hollywood Boulevard; Flea later produced the demo for Thelonious Monster, Bob’s band, which became the critics’ darling, with Forrest compared to Bob Dylan and John Lennon:
Bob was the artist who had all the aces and the trumps and he tore them up
explains author/club owner, the late Brendan Mullen. Suffering from massive drug addiction and a heavy dose of Lead Singer Syndrome, Bob dumped his band for a solo deal which failed, then resurrected Thelonious for another major label deal and disastrous tour, ending up
homeless and toothless.
Bob was arrested copping dope in a car that had been reported stolen. The LAPD and county jail did for Bob what dozens of rehabs could not: He got clean and stayed clean, and made it his mission to help other addicts do the same. (In a particularly disturbing scene, we see the horrific depth of guitarist John Frusciante’s addiction before Bob stepped in).
Adding archival footage and interviews–Courtney Love, the Chili Peppers, the Circle Jerk’s Keith Morris, Dr. Drew Pinksy, and members of Fishbone and Jane’s Addiction are just some of those giving color, humor and gravitas. Director Keirda Bahruth filmed and assembled Bob and the Monster over a six year period, following Bob’s rise, fall and reinvention as the “punk rock recovery counselor” and co-star of VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. The film culminates with Bob’s frustration with the recovery industry, then launching his own program, Hollywood Recovery Services with fellow Celeb Rehab counselor Shelly Sprague.
(There is an interesting parallel to the music industry and rehab combines: Both promise great rewards, but at the hands of bean counters have become a trap).
What’s really above whether you succeed or fail at music is that we’re all still alive, and that’s an important message
— Bob Forrest
Ultimately, Bob and the Monster shows the transformative, healing power of creativity. RHCP’s Anthony Kiedis says about Bob Forrest:
Drugs and alcohol were not the fuel, fuel was his connection to the universe.
Bob and the Monster shows how Bob Forrest (and ultimately, ideally, any of us) can find compassion for others and love for ourselves through that connection.