Shane West: Shane Gets Stripped

Ever heard of the band Jonny Was?  Nope, me neither.  They were a punk band headed by actor Shane West.  Fifteen years ago, West was best-known for the TV show Once and Again as well as the movie A Walk to Remember.  He was also starring opposite Sean Connery in the comic boom adaptation, A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  The comic book was exceptionally smart and British, so of course the movie was loud, stupid and created a major role for an American character played by West.

This article has very little to do with the movie in which West was appearing.  It comes from the July 2002 issue of Movieline magazine.  This was a pivotal issue for the publication in that it marked a change in direction.  Like a lot of magazine, Movieline was struggling to make ends meet in the digital age.  Before finally closing shop, the magazine reinvented itself as a lifestyle magazine called Hollywood Life.  This issue, which still bore the name Movieline, was the first to include the Hollywood Life name on the cover.

The change is reflected in the issue’s focus on music.  Beyonce Knowles (back when she used her surname) graced the cover which proclaimed in big letters that it was the music issue.  In this profile on West, who was better-known for acting than being in a band, Dennis Hensley toured the Sunset Strip with the members of Jonny Was.

Shane West joins his Jonny Was bandmates for a guided tour of L.A.’s famed Sunset Strip, where The Doors once broke on through and stars like Brad Pitt take in shows today.


For decades, the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles has been the place where aspiring rock bands go to get discovered. A few–The Doors, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses–succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Others have fun trying. Still others totally crash and burn. Among the middle group–for now, at least–is Jonny Was, a punk-tinged “power pop” trio headed up by actor Shane West, best known for the TV series “Once and Again,” in which he played the sweet screwup Eli Sammler, and his big-screen breakthrough A Walk to Remember. He’ll soon be seen in the action film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is based on a comic book and stars Sean Connery and Monica Bellucci.

The 23-year-old Louisiana-born actor, who plays guitar and is the lead singer of the band, joined forces with his friends Ben Gould (bass and backing vocals) and Jerry Fitzgerald (drums) to form Jonny Was nearly three years ago. Since then, they’ve recorded a four-song demo; played Eli’s garage band, Anti-Inflammatory, on “Once and Again”; landed a song on the soundtrack for A Walk to Remember, and gigged at various clubs around the city.

At the moment, West, Gould and Fitzgerald are holding up the bar at The Roxy, stop one on our whirlwind tour of the Sunset Strip. “Our first-ever show was here,” recalls West of the club that on this particular Wednesday night features a lineup of unsigned local acts. They’re still a bit starstruck when they think of the legends who have preceded them on the Roxy stage. “The last time we played, I remember looking at these pictures,” says Fitzgerald, pointing out photos of Tenacious D, George Clinton and Jane’s Addiction, “and then, here we were. That was pretty wild.”

After their first performance, the band went next door to celebrate over pizza at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, the 30-year-old music industry hangout that has served slices to everyone from Elton John to the Rolling Stones to John Belushi. Tonight, we do the same, taking a table on the patio so we can keep an eye out for famous faces.

“Holy shit, Ron Jeremy just pulled up in a Saturn!” marvels the Sacramento-born Gould, as the porn luminary, wearing a T-shirt that says “Decadence,” hands his car keys to the valet. “That’s so awesome.” Jeremy is followed in short order by everyone’s favorite fuchsia-headed teenage malcontent, Kelly Osbourne of MTV’s “The Osbournes,” who holds court in an inside booth with a gaggle of friends.

Our next stop is the Key Club, formerly known as Billboard Live, and before that Gazzari’s, where we crash a wrap party being thrown by a special effects company in the downstairs VIP Plush Room. We order beers, then listen raptly as Skip Buccola, one of the club’s managers, recounts his various adventures in celebrity-sitting. “The best star I’ve ever dealt with here is Dennis Rodman,” he tells us. “He’s one of the few people in the limelight who really treats the employees well.”

“Any not-so-nice celebrity encounters?” I ask.

“You mean besides kicking Shannen Doherty out of here?” he asks.

“Not you, too,” I say with a sigh.

“Let’s just say I’ve had a couple of run-ins with her,” Skip says, proving that though nightclubs can change and evolve, some things on the Sunset Strip remain constant.

Next up is the House of Blues, a great place to catch big names, both onstage and in the audience. (The last time I was here, for a John Mayer concert, I rubbed elbows with Jackson Browne, Hanson and an Olsen twin, though I’m not sure which one.) Tonight, with a lineup of unknowns on the bill, is another story, though we do manage to worm our way into the cozy and exclusive Foundation Room upstairs. “When I first moved to L.A., The Pharcyde played here,” the Boston-born Fitzgerald recalls. “I brought a girl but I didn’t have any money. I noticed there was a door that nobody was standing by, so we opened it, went downstairs and the next thing you know, we were in the club.”

We don’t do much talking at our fifth stop, the legendary Whisky A Go-Go, as we’re too busy steering clear of the ever-shifting mosh pit while taking in a rap/rock/hip-hop outfit called the F.I.L.T.H.E.E. Immigrants. Like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin before them, the men of Jonny Was eventually bid adieu to the 38-year-old Whisky, then walk down the Boulevard toward our sixth and final stop, The Viper Room, which is part-owned by Johnny Depp. On the way, we happen upon a perky blonde girl who Gould dated in the past. They exchange pleasantries, then we resume walking. “If you wanted to pick up a hot chick on the strip, what club would you go to?” I ask the guys.

“House of Blues, probably,” says the currently single West. “It’s bigger, so there’s better odds.”

It’s after midnight when we arrive at the Viper Room, where A-listers from Tom Hanks to Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt to Drew Barrymore have dropped by for a show.

Tonight’s headliner, former New Kid on the Block Joey Mclntyre, has already finished his set, so the boys of Jonny Was, who’ve played the club before themselves, opt to do a little people-watching on the sidewalk.

“That’s where Ben and I got our tattoos,” West says, pointing to a shop across the street called Tattoo Mania. He pulls up the back of his shirt to reveal a Celtic symbol for Gemini on his upper back, then adds, “We went on a double date there with our ex-girlfriends.”

“Is it romantic to get tattooed on a date?” I ask.

“Not when I puke,” says West, laughing.

As the Joey Mclntyre fans file out and the cars whiz by, I ask the band what images come to mind when they daydream about the future of Jonny Was. “I just want to see ‘Behind the Music: Jonny Was,'” says Gould, “you know, with heroin addiction and cocaine use beyond belief and us in hotel rooms gluing furniture to the ceiling and vomiting on ourselves.”

“When we see that,” concludes West, “we’ll know we made it.”


Dennis Hensley is the author of Screening Party, coming this September from Alyson Books.


Posted on July 15, 2017, in Movieline Articles, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Why Hollywood won’t cast Shane West anymore

    Shane West stole the hearts of millions when he appeared in A Walk To Remember as Landon Carter, a high school screw up turned sweetheart when he develops feelings for the school nerd Jamie Sullivan, played by Mandy Moore. Since then he has appeared in dozens of television shows and films but none have made the same impression on fans or critics, leaving many to wonder what he’s been up to these days.

    West was a heartthrob on the rise in the early 2000s, with the potential of becoming a major Hollywood actor, but for some reason he has since disappeared from the spotlight. Is it Hollywood who has turned its back on him or is it purely bad luck?

    He got his start on television

    West moved to Los Angeles when he was just a teenager to pursue an acting career, and like most actors, he struggled at first. According to an interview he did with in 2002, he never even considered a career in acting until he moved to California with his family and many of his classmates were acting and appearing in commercials. In the interview he claimed, “… I got the bug. It started working for me so I kept going.”

    West had guest appearances on a few major television shows when he was just starting out, including Boy Meets World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and landed his first major role in 1999 on a show called Once and Again. He played Eli, one of two children who are products of divorce, in this TV drama that didn’t pick up much of a following. While it was noted for being controversial and being one of the first shows to introduce a gay relationship between two characters, it was cancelled after just three seasons. He went on to make his first movie appearance with a small role in Liberty Heights soon after, which was received well by critics.

    He was only cast in teen movies

    Even though West had entered his twenties, his characters seemed to be stuck in high school. In the 2000 film Whatever It Takes, West plays a high school nerd who falls for the most popular girl in school. Appearing alongside big names like James Franco and Aaron Paul didn’t seem to help put this movie at the top of everyone’s must-watch list, and it didn’t do very well in theaters. Rotten Tomatoes gave it just a 16 percent rating. The movie had a $32 million budget according to Box Office Mojo, but didn’t manage to even make a third of that back. The only thing this movie seemed to accomplish was to get West another role as a teenage high school student, this time with a strange accent.

    After filming was wrapped up on the set of Whatever It Takes, West was interviewed in a bar by The New York Times and was quoted saying, “[Whatever It Takes] will probably be my last teen movie. I don’t think I want to do another one. I don’t want to get stuck.” That might have been smart thinking, but he wasn’t being offered many parts that allowed him to play more diverse character. In his next film, Get Over It, West played a foreign exchange student who claimed to have been the lead singer of a boy band abroad. The film had a slightly better reception than Whatever It Takes, receiving a 44 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and making just under $20 million. With a budget of $22 million, that makes this movie a bit of a failure in the eyes of those who matter. Regardless, these films made it difficult for West to break out of his roles in teen movies and he soon went on to film A Walk To Remember.

    A Walk To Remember was very successful, but his next films flopped

    Before A Walk To Remember was filmed, West appeared in the film A Time For Dancing as a DJ that begins dating one of the main characters, but it never appeared in theaters in the U.S. The movie gained a small following in Italy and was eventually released years later on DVD for Americans to enjoy, but few people are aware the movie even exists.

    Right after he filmed A Walk To Remember, West was finally presented with the opportunity to break away from these teenage roles, playing Tom Sawyer in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Based on a mini comic book series created by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill, the story follows popular fictional characters from classic novels who were chosen to form a group of evil-fighting heroes set on a secret mission for Queen Victoria circa 1900. It was expected to do well, but even with Sean Connery playing the lead, critics felt the movie was a flop, receiving only a 17 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    From there, West put teenage romantic dramas and comedies to the side while he pursued darker roles in horror movies. Unfortunately, these movies didn’t attract much of an audience either, and West made the right decision by accepting more television acting roles.

    He spends a lot of time playing music

    If you can picture a young Shane West then you can probably imagine him on stage in head-to-toe punk rock getup, belting out his band’s latest hit in front of hundreds of people. That’s because he was in several bands, including Average Jo, Johnny Was, and Twilight Creeps. He even spoke about his music in an early interview while promoting A Walk To Remember, as his band was included on the soundtrack.

    West stated, “… Our first proactive move to get us out there is that we have a song on the soundtrack to this movie. We don’t go by Average Joe because we’re going to have to start changing our name. We ran into some legal problems because it’s taken by so many other things. On the soundtrack, we go by our last names. I believe it’s track 11. We’re looking for a career… We’re looking for a label and manager.”

    While West never made it big with any of his own bands, he did get a feel for stardom playing with punk rock legends, Germs. West spent a lot of time with the group during when he was preparing to appear in a biopic about the band called What We Do Is Secret. In the documentary, he played the band’s lead singer, Darby Crash, alongside several other actors. Filming was done on and off for four years before the movie was finally released, but during that time West actually started performing with the band and eventually went on tour.

    In an interview with Rogue, he explained how this developed by saying, “… we played a gig where the actor Germs played first, and then the real Germs came on stage. I had to sing with them because Darby Crash had passed away many years ago. There were actually a lot of Germs fans at that party. And they just ate it up. They really enjoyed the performance, and all we did was play five songs. And people started kind of asking us to play gigs.” While his time spent performing with Germs has come to an end for now, he continues to work toward a career in music and performing with his latest band Twilight Creeps. Unfortunately, that means he’s spending less time acting and auditioning for parts.

    He started working behind the scenes

    Like many of those who work in Hollywood, West took some time to work behind the scenes on some of the films he was starring in. He started by working as executive producer for the documentary What We Do Is Secret, a film he called “a labor of love” in an interview with Home Media Magazine. He continued saying, “… it was very trying on the patience, and it was very difficult because we lost funding a million times.” Not long after producing the documentary, West went on to co-produce and star in the horror movie Red Sands where he played one of several U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan who accidentally unleash deadly creatures. It was received with mixed reviews, but didn’t reach many viewers as it went straight to DVD.

    West doesn’t seem to be leaving his acting or music career behind anytime soon, but he might consider producing more since he seems to enjoy juggling several projects. When asked by Home Media Magazine what his plans are for his future, music or acting, he responded by saying, “I’m gonna do what I wanna do. That’s how I think most people can and should live their lives.”

    He got a big break on ER…and then he left

    West got his next big break after A Walk To Remember when he was offered the part of Dr. Ray Barnett on ER, joining the list of some of the sexiest men in Hollywood who’ve played doctors on the show, including George Clooney and John Stamos. Even though he started on ER in it’s 11th season, the show still had a huge following and his appearance certainly helped boost his career, but he left after just three seasons.

    West left ER to take a role in the anticipated pilot Supreme Courtships, which depicted the professional and personal lives of six members of the Supreme Court. The show cast some pretty big names including Kate Burton, best known for her role as Ellis Grey in Grey’s Anatomy, and Kurtwood Smith who played Red Forman in That 70’s Show, but the pilot wasn’t picked up by Fox. This sent West back to the set of ER, making a few small appearances as Dr. Ray Barnett to wrap up a few storylines until the end of the series.

    He starred in Nikita…but it was canceled

    Nikita aired on the CW for four short seasons, in which West starred alongside actress and producer Maggie Q. The show was about an assassin who gets revenge on those who trained her, and gained a cult following right away. However, things took a turn during the show’s second season, when it was considered the lowest rating drama on the network, according to Forbes. Many were surprised when the show was renewed for a third season, however, Forbes explained the reasoning behind their decision in their article.

    According to them, the CW has a deal with Netflix where they can air their shows for four years after the show’s series finale. Deadline reports this was a $1 billion deal that will likely never be made with any other network as few offer as much as the CW network. When Nikita was renewed for a final fourth season of only six episodes, many thought it was done to give fans what they wanted. However, Forbes reported that it was likely part of the network’s deal with Netflix. One of the stipulations of their contract is that their shows have true and sensible conclusions. Likely this was what motivated CW to give the show it’s final season, giving West a job for just that much longer — but not giving him any leads on new gigs.

    His current projects aren’t doing well either

    After Nikita wrapped up, West tried to get back into film. He starred in two movies, a Top Gun-themed thriller titled Red Sky and a horror film called Here Alone. Unfortunately Red Sky wasn’t well received by critics and went straight to DVD. The film was nominated for two awards, the Golden Reel Award and the Hollywood Media in Music Award, but won neither. Gazette Review reported that the film was criticized “… mostly for its crude special effects and underwhelming plot,” but managed to attract a decent audience due to the film’s “… star-studded cast, which included Cam Gigandet, Bill Pullman, Troy Garity, Richard Leigh Cook, and JC Chasez.”

    West also stars in Salem, a TV show that sheds light on accused witches and the infamous witch trials in America’s history. It premiered as a hit and was WGNA’s highest-rated show in seven years, according to Deadline. Unfortunately those fans didn’t stick around, and the show’s final season wrapped up in January. It seems West has faced nothing but bad luck in regards to both his television and movie career, so how can he turn things around?

    How he can turn it around

    While his most recent television project has now come to an end, the horror film he starred in Here Alone has yet to be released in theaters. It premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, receiving mass critic approval and becoming the year’s Audience Award Winner. Deadline recently reported that the movie was purchased by Vertical Entertainment and they plan for an early 2017 worldwide release. There’s no release date yet, however things are certainly looking up for West! It’s about time he was recognized for one of his horror films, and while we all know he likes to change things up, perhaps horror is a genre he can be successful in for a while. If not, there’s always room for a reboot of Once and Again, a possibility West discussed in an interview with The Wrap.

    Additionally, with the 15 year anniversary of A Walk To Remember’s release having just passed, both West and Moore have been receiving more acknowledgement in the media. Fans are still madly in love with the connection the two had on screen, and often ask about the possibility of a reunion. Moore recently brought up the possibility of the cast getting back together on Twitter. As reported by E! News, the actress responded to fans by saying, “We’re working on it!” Fans didn’t have to wait long to get what they’ve been waiting for as the Huffington Post reported that both West and Moore got together just a few days ago with A Walk To Remember director Adam Shankman. Photos of their reunion were posted on the actress and director’s social media pages. Likely this was just a photo op designed to bring attention back to the classic film, but it’s also something that will bring more attention to West and his career. Perhaps help him land a guest appearance on Moore’s hit show This is Us! He might not want to star in teen movies anymore, but he can certainly use his connections to climb back up to stardom!


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