Jay Bulger has a penchant for stretching the truth.
"I make up life as it goes along. I've always BS'd my way through everything. I cheated in school. I lied saying I worked for Rolling Stone. But when the boxing bell rings, there is no excuse: It's do-or-die. I thrive in those situations."
What is fact is Bulger, 31, grew up in Washington, D.C., and went to college at Fordham University in New York. He boxed in several Golden Glove tournaments in 2001 with "the hopes of becoming the middleweight champion of the world," he said. One of his fights was photographed and displayed in the New York Daily News, and a fashion editor said Bulger should become a model. He did, traveling the world for Armani and Calvin Klein.
Burned out on that in 2005, Bulger returned to his roots of discovery. He focused on his love of music and became obsessed with colorful rock recluse Ginger Baker, who played for Cream and Blind Faith.
Bulger badgered Baker for a story, moving to South Africa and writing an article that Rolling Stone"eventually published. The story and more filmed interviews are the premise of Bulger's new documentary, "Beware of Mr. Baker," just released in national theaters a few weeks ago. It won the grand jury award for best documentary feature at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival.
Playbook had a few minutes with Bulger to talk about his boxing, modeling and movie career.
You've done so many things, including photography and music video directing. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
"I don't really know. I was class clown. I was really skinny. I was insecure. I did learn quickly that I didn't like getting beaten up. I love skateboarding, and I would take photos for a skateboarding magazine. I thought I should be a photojournalist. After a while, I found the skateboarders so uninteresting. I fell out of love for that. I wrote [for] the high school paper. I had my own music column. I thought I could be a music journalist. Then I read Hunter S. Thompson. I thought I could be him."
But boxing was there at the beginning, right? Although 6-foot-4 and only 155 pounds, you were pretty good, winning a few fights.
My friend's dad took me to the gym. And over the years I kept going. It was Finley's Boxing Gym. It was above a mechanic's garage. It was someone's house. There were couches and a living room and a ring over to one side. The locker room was the guy's bathroom. The great thing about that place was it really was a tale of two cities of Washington, D.C. I always wanted to become middleweight champion of the world. I put aside all academics and other interests. I decided if I'm going to college, I'm going to box also. So I moved to the Bronx and went to Fordham. It was a perfect situation for me. It was a great learning experience. New York was awesome because it wasn't just black and white. People from all over the world were struggling to make it like me. I fit in. One loss and they take my photo, and the fashion guy said I should be the face of Armani."
It doesn't sound like a tough life to travel the world and walk a runway, but you hated it.
"It was hilarious. It was the greatest acting job of my life, pretending to be a waif, a starving child. To sum up my modeling, I never got hired twice. Luckily there were a lot of jobs to go around. You do have to shut up when you realize they tell you to fly to Australia, give you $20,000 and stand there and look like an idiot."
Do you wish you would have kept boxing?
"Actually, I wished I had never gotten into boxing. I saw one of the best neurosurgeons in the world and explained to her that I was boxing four hours a day, every day. I was training to hurt people, and I was always getting hit in the head. When you box, you don't practice against people on your level. You always practice against people better than you. I realize that I need to use my brain as a creative force. I have some memory problems now. I can't blame boxing, but I can't imagined it helped."
So tell me how this documentary came about. It's also being released on Video on Demand via SnagFilms on Feb. 26.
"I was always into music and was fascinated by [Baker's] story. So I contacted him and moved down there in South Africa. He had lived in seclusion for years. We talked about Afrobeats. We talked about everything. I fell in love with him and his stories. I told him I was going to have a story published, and I stuck to my word. I did lie by saying I worked at Rolling Stone. I always wanted to. Rolling Stone eventually did use it. And I think it turned out well."
What's next for you?
"I have a few feature films lined up. I'm going to direct 'X-Men 10.' I'm kidding. My lies are going to get better. I learned about life on the streets. One time riding in a car in D.C., we pulled up in front of a nightclub. We hear gun shots. We take off and go two blocks. My friend says, 'Hey, want to go eat some kabobs?' That's my life. It's like boxing. I'll get in the ring and figure it out. I love challenging myself to take myself to places I don't feel I belong."