Obvious History: Brad Pitt and Jason Priestley’s shower competition

By
Photography Ellen Von Unwerth

Published January 25, 2018

In collaboration with @velvetcoke, Obvious History is a weekly series which unearths forgotten moments in pop culture’s past, where the famous and the fascinating collided.

In 1987, when Thelma & Louise [1991] was still a twinkle in Ridley Scott’s beady eye and Brad Pitt was merely a “redneck, hayseed Okie from Muskogee,” he was living in L.A. and doing the rounds as a struggling young actor. His roommate at the time was the actor Jason Priestley, who had not yet landed his career-defining role as Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210. Both lived on meager salaries while gigging as extras and performing odd jobs. Pitt briefly worked as a chauffeur for strippers. “We lived on Ramen noodles and generic beer—the kind that came in white cans labeled ‘beer’—and Marlboro Light cigarettes … We were broke,” Priestly wrote in his self-titled 2014 memoir.

The pair were sometimes in the running for the same roles, having both appeared on undercover cop series 21 Jump Street. There was a friendly sense of competition between them, but it didn’t stop on the casting couch. “Just for fun, we used to have competitions over who could go the longest without showering and shaving,” Priestley admitted in his memoir. “Brad always won. Having to go on an audition meant cleaning up, which is what usually put an end to the streak.”

While rumors abound about Pitt’s poor hygiene (his kids allegedly changed Pitt’s Facebook name to “Stinky Daddy” in 2013), the yuck pales in comparison to the foulness of Pitt and Priestley’s shared digs. Their apartment at North Hollywood’s Klump Regency apartment building was shared with a third roommate, the actor Bernie Coulson. “There was no wrestling, but … Bernie, he had a penis pump that he bought because he thought it was gonna make his cock bigger,” Priestley told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live! “He used to go in the bathroom and like put this thing on. And we could hear it making this pumping noise and stuff. And me and Brad used to sit outside like, ‘What is going on?!’”

Priestley added, “He had his junk in that thing all the time!”

In mid 1988, Pitt moved out to another apartment in West Hollywood and invited Priestley and Coulson to be his roommates there. As roles dried up due to a Writers Guild strike, Priestley turned down his offer and temporarily relocated to Vancouver.

“Our careers went in such different directions that we sort of lost touch with each other,” Priestley wrote of their relationship. “Brad went off and was making movies all over the world, and I was sort of stuck in one place making a TV show, and it was back in the days before computers. It kind of tore apart our whole group of friends that we had. The fact that the two of us went off and got strangely famous—we had a pretty good group of friends and all of a sudden we all sort of dissipated, and it was sad.”