Remember the letters you sent in for Elliott a few years back?

©Christian Lantry

“Remember the letters you sent in for Elliott a few years back?
I have been meaning to post something about this for years.
Remember a few years back when Charlie asked everyone to email him letters to Elliott?
Well, Elliott got your letters and he loved them. Bear with me as I try to tell a story that needs to be told as we reach the one-year anniversary of Elliott’s death. I was a fan of Elliott’s music and would hang out with the band whenever they would come through Texas.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and lived right behind the El Rey Theatre on Wiltshire. I had my own record label and CD, and sometimes I would stand out front as the concerts let out and handout CD’s.
One night Built to Spill was playing, I saw Doug making his way out of the venue. I was going to walk up and give him a cd; after all built to spill was an influence of mine. But as I did, Doug was overtaken by this homeless guy. This guy was hugging him and sobbing, as everyone looked on.

Doug obviously knew the guy, and everyone around watched curiously, wondering who this guy with dirty clothes, long hair/beard, fresh bandages on both wrists, hardly standing, unbathed person was.
As his girlfriend picked him up, and began walking him towards me, I immediately recognized those sad eyes. My heart literally stopped. I was shocked and sad, and had to catch my breath. I started walking home, rounding the corner of Dunsmuir, when I heard a loud sobbing and younger female voice. There curled up in a ball was Elliott Smith, as his girlfriend tried to talk him into standing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I mean I would have had to be standing next to Mark Chapman when he shot John Lennon, to witness anything as disturbing as this.
I mean my fucking hero was overdosing on my god damn street corner (or so I thought) and there was nothing I could do about it.
His girlfriend assured me she just needed to get him home (not Chiba by the way), and I could tell police or ambulances were the last thing she wanted around. I helped her carry him to their car, and they drove off. I had to do something. I emailed Charlie and told him that I wanted to put together a book of letters for Elliott. I asked for his assistance, and he posted the request. We get responses from over 200 of you worldwide, in less than a week. I hate to do this to you, but I have to go to bed. It’s real late here in TX and I have to work in the morning.
I will finish this story and tell you guys about how I got the letters to him, and the phone call I got.
Later,….Sorry I had to cut short last night. I am a slow typer. Anyways, for those of you wonder why I am reciting this story “to the world”, very few have heard it, and all of you who sent letters should. The incident in my last post is what inspired me to email Charlie and ask for his help.
Within a week we got 100’s of emails from you guys. It was amazing.
Scanning over the addresses I could see that there were many fans of both genders, of all ages and from all over the world.
I printed them out and had them binded to make a book.
I made a cover for it and put my letter as a preface. I reminded him of that night, (which he probably didn’t remember) and I told him how concerned all of his friends were. I asked him to read these letters whenever he felt down,
and to see how much he means to so many people. I told him that I would assist in anyway I could in his recovery, and put my phone number at the end.
Getting the book to him became a problem. He was no longer checking his mail or answering his door. The shows that would be scheduled around town would quickly be canceled.
But the Sunset Junction show did happen and, as many of you witnessed, Elliott was at his worst. He had locked himself up in his tent back stage, and wasn’t coming out after the show.
Luckily, I saw Farmer Dave (Beachwood Sparks) backstage and I knew he was pretty good friends with him, so I explained to Dave what the book was and asked him to be sure to get it to Elliott.
About 6 months went by and I hadn’t heard anything. Worse yet, no one around town had seen Elliott for a while.
I would worry and wonder about him periodically, but I was working and keeping busy. I didn’t really have time to track down Farmer Dave, but I was sure he probably had delivered the book.
One Friday night, I got home at around 12:30, and I had three messages on my voice mail.
12:10-“Hey Cody, this is Elliott Smith. I just came across the book that you guys made me. Wow,
I really love it. I have been pretty sick for a while, and this made me feel really good. So.. yea,thanks again.”
12:13-“hey, this is Elliott again. give me a call when you get this.
(and left his number)
12:15-“hey,it’s me again. By the way this really is Elliott, it’s not somebody playing a joke or anything.
Please don’t give my number to anyone because I don’t want to have to change it.Ok, bye”
I couldn’t believe I missed his calls by minutes. I tried to call him back, but I just got his machine.
I’ve always wished I would have been there for him, when he needed someone to talk to that night.
Months went by, Elliott went into therapy and started to turn his life around.
He had a new girlfriend and would finally be seen out again around town.
His shows began to come alive again, and his skin gained it’s color back.
When I finally ran into him, he gave me a big hug and thanked me again for the letters.
He told me how special they were to him, and that he read them all the time.
A few weeks after his death, one of his close friends told me how he carried that thing around with him for months.
She said he would read it, whenever he felt depressed.
You see, I have seen fans come up to him and tell him how much he meant to them.
I have seen people draw beautiful pictures of him and give him poems.
He was always polite in accepting, but Elliott was never good at receiving these gestures.
He would get embarrassed. But by you guys writing him those letters and spilling out your hearts about the difference
he had made in your lives, you gave him a very non-confrontational gift that he could read and experience on his own terms as he was ready.
It saved his life at that time. It inspired him to finish his CD.
It inspired him to get his life together.
And most of all, it inspired him to appreciate himself and every one of you guys.
He was so excited about finishing the Cd on going on tour again. I got to work with him in the studio a few times,
and we would talk whenever we saw each other and he ALWAYS brought up your letters.
You all made a big difference in his life.
Don’t believe that he killed himself. Don’t believe he wasn’t clean. Don’t believe he wasn’t happy
Peace and love”
Cody Lee


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