The Documentary About Celeb Rehab's Bob Forrest
Before he was Dr. Drew’s right hand man, Bob Forrest was a famous mess—a transition captured in the documentary Bob and The Monster. Meet the director who separated the Forrest from the trees.
Keirda Bahruth has, by her own admission, a fire in her belly. She also has a determination to see something through that should put mere mortals to shame.
Both qualities, as it turned out, were required for her passion project Bob and The Monster—a documentary on the life and times of former Thelonious Monster front man and Celebrity Rehab head counselor Bob Forrest, which features interviews with Courtney Love, Flea, Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante and Dr. Drew, among others, premiered at South by Southwest last year and has taken prizes at film festivals in Chicago, Maine and New York. But Monster’s journey is, in many ways, just beginning: it's screening in Amsterdam this week at the International Documentary Film Festival and will be released theatrically in early 2012.
While Forrest and the film are flourishing now, Bahruth actually started working on the project seven years ago, during which time she got married, had a baby, produced the award-winning documentary We Live in Public, and raised $30,000 in 10 days to finish the movie. Here she tells The Fix all about it.
What first made you interested in Bob?
When I was 16, I moved from New York to Los Angeles to live with my mother and my friend took me to the east side of Hollywood to a place called Raji’s, telling me I had to see this band Thelonious Monster. Bob was really the king of Raji’s and when we got there, he was onstage talking about his love of classic rock. It really was a pivotal moment for me to see that you didn’t have to be so hardcore to be punk rock and to have that energy and fire. He was already breaking down barriers and labels and changing them, which was my immediate connection to him.
I’m so glad the film took as long as it did. If it had only taken two years, it would have been an entirely different film.
Did you see him again after that?
I went to their shows for a while. And then, a few years after I stopped, I went to go see them play at a place called the Blue Saloon in North Hollywood. There was nobody from Thelonious Monster there except for Bob, and he was just horribly, horribly wasted and falling all over the place. I asked him if he needed a ride home or any help, and he just cursed me out and told me to leave him alone. I was devastated by that.
How did you go from there to making a movie about him?
Years later, in 2001—after I’d lived in New York and worked on commercials and at Saturday Night Live—I was back to LA and at Amoeba shopping for records and I saw, in a “What We Like” booklet, it said, “The Bicycle Thief, Bob Forrest from Thelonious Monster.” I hadn’t thought about him in years and years. I bought the record and it really had a profound effect on me. Before, Bob had been writing about destroying relationships and “fuck authority” type of songs, and now here he was [sober], writing about washing dishes in a restaurant—he was talking about being humble and repairing relationships. It was really beautiful and really earnest and powerful. I called my friend, Iris, who knew Bob, and said, “Could you put in a call and see if he’d be interested [in my making a movie about him]? I think there might be an interesting story here.” Bob and I met and I brought up the idea. He was like, “Sure, sure, how long do you think it will take?” I said, “Two years, tops.” [Laughs.] So we began shooting, and that was it.
Celebrity Rehab hadn’t started at that point.
No, it was still two years away from being conceived. Looking back, I’m so glad the film took as long as it did, because it ended up covering Bob opening up his new treatment center. If it had only taken two years, it would have been an entirely different film.
I imagine that having all that time allowed you more opportunities to secure some of your high-profile interviews.
It’s true. Nobody ever said no—nobody refused an interview so we just waited it out until they said yes.
Who said yes first?
Flea. Flea was the very first interview, Dr. Drew was the second.
How did Courtney Love come around?
Courtney came through Bob. She was doing a show at the Henry Fonda Theater and said, “Come to my hotel, we can do the interview before my show,” so I sat with her for an hour and she was fabulous. I loved her.
At a certain point, you launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the movie. How did that work?
I had been resistant to that idea forever. I’d said, “I don’t want anybody to know about the film, I don’t want to fail,” and then it was quickly looking like, “Okay, it’s either this or you’re not going to South by Southwest—you’re not going to have a master.” I said, “Fuck it, I’m going to go on Kickstarter,” and, without talking to my production team, I go on the computer and I set up the rewards and I hit ‘live’ at midnight. I asked for 10,000 dollars in 10 days, and of course, everybody was like, “Are you nuts, why didn’t you talk to us? We’re never going to make that in 10 days.” But we made 10,000 dollars in 24 hours. I had been acquiring people that were fans of Bob’s and Thelonious Monster for a year, so I had a solid base already. I posted the information for them, but then there is just a huge network of Red Hot Chili Peppers fans—obsessive ones who will transcribe a trailer and say, “John comes in at 1:02…” They took it and posted it in their forums and it blew up. So we raised 30,000 dollars in 10 days.
One of the most disturbing parts of your movie is the footage of John Frusciante when he was bottoming out and looked like he was about 90 pounds—before Bob helped him get sober.
That was from a Dutch television show. I chose to show a little bit of it, because I wanted you to see where this guy was coming from, but in watching it [the whole interview], I felt like I shouldn’t show the whole thing to anyone. It’s shocking footage.
What is it about Bob that you think helps so many bottoming out drug addicts to get sober?
I think his real talent is that he’s able to come in and assess a situation quickly because he really listens to what somebody’s situation is and then he’s able to guide them in the right direction. I call him the Addiction Whisperer.
Anna David is the Executive Editor of The Fix and the author of the books Party Girl, Bought, Reality Matters and Falling For Me. She's written about Tom Sizemore and Steve-O, among others, for The Fix.