The Brothers Maloof, Dateline 2015

What will Sacramento's widely reviled owners be up to in a couple years? Something terrible, most likely.
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July 28, 2015. Los Angeles, California -- 65 minutes after our predetermined meeting time of 11:00 AM, Joe and Gavin Maloof pulled into the parking lot of the café in a bright yellow 2007 Hummer. The brothers sat in the backseat and rolled down their windows so that they could snipe at the driver to open their doors. The driver, a weary-seeming man in denim shorts, lazily exited and opened both doors, not pausing for the brothers to get out before he returned to the driver’s seat. The Maloofs were apologetic, to me if not to him. They explained in stereo that they were “knee-deep in some next-level real estate shit” here in SoCal. I said okay and suggested we get some food, I have a lot of questions. Gavin called me ‘Hoss’ and nervously giggled as he lit a cigarette and led the three of us inside.

Of course the smoking laws of California prohibit this, which Gavin obviously knew since he eagerly agreed to wait outside. As we were in line, he would yell his order in at his brother. But he was indecisive. “HAM AND EGGS!” he bleated, “UHH WAIT, DOES THAT SPELL REUBEN OR BACON?” “CAN YOU ASK THE GUY WHAT CHEVRE IS? ASK HIM IF THEY HAVE BUD LIGHT PLATINUM ON TAP!” Finally, Gavin settled for a T-Bone with the outside shaved off and curled as a garnish on top of the steak core, which he requested well done. Joe ordered chocolate cake and three tonic waters. His wallet was velcro; I counted 27 credit cards. No tip was awarded.

I took out my notebook, looked up, and found Joe winking at me and brandishing a skinny, silo-shaped bottle. “This is our new Zing! product,” he said. “Salt-flavored Vodka. You mind if we party?” I said I did not, and Joe poured a healthy amount into his tonic. “You know, Patrick,” Gavin said as he took a swig of his brother’s V+T, “Vodka was invented by the Ancient Egyptians to celebrate their god, Anubis. It’s true.” (Editor’s Note: it’s not true.)

I sipped the horrid, frankly pretzel-ish cocktail and asked the brothers, by now at full strength and describing to me how they used “real saline” in making their vodka, how they were keeping busy. What was their next scheme? I honestly didn’t know. Since having been excommunicated from the NBA’s ownership fraternity two years ago, the family hadn’t been nearly as visible. Once these men had ruled an empire of bro culture, sea to shining sea: a skateboard tour, a basketball team that became some elaborate mean-spirited prank on an entire city, cake-flavored vodka and bedazzled clothes. Its capital was a stately pleasure dome in Las Vegas, reeking of energy drinks, top-shelf male grooming products and success. Luminaries like Guy Fieri and Lil Jon kissed the ring. The Maloofs were big. But when I asked what they were up to, it was because I really didn’t know. Two years can be a long time.

***

“Was every idea a success? No,” Joe admitted. “But is that business? Yes. You’ve gotta break a few eggs to make a Zing!  Speaking of which, we have an egg flavor Z coming soon...”

“Dude,” Gavin corrected him. “He means, ‘Do you have to break a few eggs to make a bottle of egg-flavored vodka? Yes.”

“My bad,” Joe grinned, tapping his chest. “It’s called Zegg, right now. I can have my girl send you a bottle.” I told him it would be unethical to accept such a gift.

Gavin leaned in close and glanced side-to-side. Up close he looked unwell, like a fleshy and distended turtle. The blood squeezed into his forehead like a bag of Franzia. “Okay, I’m going to keep this hush,” he said. “But you can use it. So you know how we have a serious background in development? Well this takes that experience and combines with our great passion for getting crazy. We thought, look, let’s stick to what we know. Like, both things we know. So we came up with the idea for the Party House!” Joe winked. Mouthed the words “party house.”

“In, like, real estate developments, we designate one house as the community Party House! That way, the people of the suburb can all get loose and conversational together. Plenty of Zing! Vodka flowing. All the flavors. Salt. Egg, coming soon. Nordic Rush. Strappleberry. And they’re partying with friends, not just like drinking in the backseat of their Hummers as they cry over a life wasted, unearned privilege squandered, years dedicated to spite and avarice and simple childish pettiness. Or whatever.”

I told him, after a heavy moment, that this sounded to me like a nightclub. “Well no,” Gavin said, suddenly a bit huffy. “Because the Party House is for the community only, and serves a menu of drinks catered to the community’s tastes.” I said I didn’t quite get it, and they looked almost crestfallen until I smiled and took a sip of the salty vodka tonic. “It’s good, right?” Joe said. He freshened his drink. I wanted to know about my community, Sacramento. Why had they been so insistent upon leaving the Capitol?

“More like the crapitol!” Joe yelled as he smacked five with his brother. “You see, it’s like this: we are purveyors of the bad boy lifestyle. We’re bad boys. We like to get bad and we like to do stuff. I’m not saying what this is, okay? We do stuff.”

“We do cocaine off of stuff,” Gavin said. “Mirrors or strippers or Ed Hardy belts or diamonds. That’s on the record, you can use that, I don’t care. We’re bold. That’s Maloof.”

“And there’s no place for the Maloof brand in Sacramento,” Joe continued. “It was bad for our brand, and also it is a shit city with mostly shit coke. And they have this mayor, dude thinks he can tell us what to do because, ‘Oh, well, I’m elected.’”

“Elected how?” Gavin interjected. “Where’s the proof? At least the voting process for, like, Penthouse Pet of the Year is clear and democratic.”

“So we left because that’s what we do: we’re a family of boldness,” Joe continued. Gavin wrote “Maloof” on a cloth napkin and held it up for me to read. “We don’t shy away from problems and let others deal with them. We simply refuse to see the problem. And, like, we did our best to deal with them. I told Kevin Johnson, we told Sacramento: you guys, we have money. We need more money. Like, how can you not get this, right? Sacramento became that problem that wouldn’t disappear.”

“There are types of herpes like that, by the way,” Gavin said. “Very exclusive. Most people don’t know about them.”

It became clear, in that moment, that both were toasted. Joe admitted to being “way hungover,” and Gavin corroborated. The egg vodka was revealed to be part of a hangover-cure line, “breakfast flavors, like mom used to make,” Gavin said, resting his head on the table. There would be no more answers to any questions about Sacramento.

But it went on, it just went on. The driver sauntered in, told them they were going to be late to see Junebug. Joe started smoking again, insisted to the driver that he was good to drive. The driver disagreed, but brought the Hummer around. Papa Roach was loud from the custom speakers, and Gavin awoke with a start. He looked me in the face, his eyes cloudy, and said “Bonzi?” And then his brother hustled him off, out, back into the desert.  


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