by Vikki Lizzi
I write this with still, a heavy heart, over the shocking, sudden passing of one of my closest & dearest friends. My soul brother in this lifetime, KUBA KA.
Kuba left this earth, strangely enough, exactly a decade after my beloved Jeff Conaway’s also untimely passing on May 27, 2011. And as with Jeff, history repeats itself, in the most heartbreaking and devastating of ways. Not having the chance to say goodbye to either of them. 2 men who made up a big part of my life, aside from my father. In fact, Kuba Ka entered my life in the immediate months following my dad & Jeff’s passing, being one of a posse of angels I believe God sent my way to aid me with the darkest of recoveries and vice versa, for me to help him navigate his way upon first moving to L.A. Relax and sit back as I share a bit of my life and adventures with Kuba with you.
For some who knew Kuba, most would agree he was one of a kind, unique, and something quite out of the ordinary. His endless energy, persistent dedication, unrelenting discipline and defiant determination made him a force to be reckoned with, while sparing no expense and giving new meaning to the words Work Hard, Dream Big & Do It Big, not only utilizing such fearless confidence needed to dream on such a magnanimous scale but also possessing the unwavering diligent devotion needed to make those dreams a reality. And if one route didn’t work, multiple back up plans would already, strategically be in place, awaiting orders to be fired into action and implemented the Kuba Ka Way, with no hesitation.
I’ve never known a 24/7 workaholic aside from myself. Nothing was ever too big nor too far out of reach for his sights, an ambition that had no limits with never an inkling of a doubt. Anything and everything was attainable. Within a couple years of first meeting him, he was already ok-ing new blueprints & 3-D designs for his very own theme park he planned on building in Las Vegas that carried the name of his production company/ headquarters in Vegas, “Kuba Ka Empire”.
His relentless positivity and zest for life, undeniable, as was his constant upbeat mood, graciousness & sparkling personality, at once, drawing you in, greeting you at a first meeting as if you were an old friend. His quixotic tendencies combined with a high spirited sense of self, endearing compassion and love for all things pure was leading him to become a true visionary whose thoughts, big ideas, pure intentions and future goals rendered a genuine hope for the future of mankind and could very well have made a significant breakthrough in the current struggles the world faces today and would persevere in the fight to make a difference that could very well “make that change”, through his song lyrics, disciplined work ethics and genuine sincerity. He stood for peace…his aura reflected a certain kind of power which, once harnessed, in a clear and focused mind would generate an immense following of fellow revolutionaries.
He was a bright light on a constant search for adventure who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He found 2 loyal, loving best friends, PR Superwoman Charmaine Blake & myself, in a town where finding loyal & genuine souls can be an arduous task. If he wasn’t with me he was usually with her and vice versa and when his mother, the lovely, equally passionate, fiery attorney Tina Trozzo would be in town from Rome, he was always in the best of hands. Now if there was a time all 3 of us were away, unfortunately we could always expect to come back and see one or more drooling, energy-sucking vampires, sharks, rats, or manimals, ready to pounce, promise & possess, all while attempting to empty his pocket books and planning the typical schemes & wicked Hollywood machinations that have made this town what it is. But til the end he was still unstoppable and doing what he loved best. Being an entertainer.
Both of us grew up entertainers. We met and bonded at “Hello”, at an anti-bullying event in Hollywood, held at the Rolling Stone in 2012, where we were introduced through our publicist at the time, Kelly. He was wearing a bright multi colored blouse and tight jeans looking like he might’ve come straight from a wardrobe pull, right off the costume rack, backstage at an 80’s Menudo concert. An aura of such child like innocence enveloped him and coupled with his wild blonde 80’s rocker hair, it took but a moment to figure out he was from out of town. An absolute far cry from the now polished, regal~like, statuesque man he’d become, who only just recently, had grown into his newly darkened, poised graceful looks.
Kuba was discovered and managed by Michael Jackson’s former manager Frank DiLeo, and with all Kuba’s admitted eccentricities, wild and sometimes questionable costumes & get-ups, red carpet gimmicks, stage persona and over~the~top way of doing things, (which usually drove, oh, just about everyone completely mad at times lol), but that’s who Kuba was and most wondered if it was all an act, especially in combination with his naive’ child~like innocence. Nobody could relate because nobody had met anyone like him. With the jaded masses that mostly make up LA, he was not someone you’d normally run into, hence people would try to take advantage. I can assure you, an act it wasn’t. It was all him. A young man who only saw the good in people, and trusted so openly. He believed in magic. He believed in doing good. He arrived here from Poland, naive, young and trusting. The norm for most, and probably the very reason Charmaine and I felt compelled to guide him along the way, the best we could. With one so ready to take on the world ‘now’ as he was, with wide eyed vigor, in the type of way he saw fit, made things a bit tricky…despite having someone around whose sound advice & warnings would have prevented some pretty hefty disappointments early on. But just as I had to learn in my youth, he had to learn in his. In his own time, in his own way.
In 2014, Reelz network offered him his own reality show. But to everyone’s shock & dismay, he very cooly turned it down as he was not interested in a reality show. Now if it was to be shot in a Beyoncé’ style docu-drama type of way, then he might be on board with it, but other than that they could forget it. The utter silence in the room was that of every single one of us wondering if we had heard right, all heads cocked, questioningly, in sheer bewilderment. Kuba knew what he wanted and there was no deviating from that. Period. It turned out as it was, the E! Channel would be doing a special on him, most of the filming taking place in Vegas while he was staying at the late Elvis Presley’s penthouse suite at the Westgate. We all had a blast during filming.
As our friendship grew into a soul connection, we spent many a nite at our favorite hotel and restaurant hangouts after countless events & shows I hosted for him and we’d sip cosmo martinis & jalapeño margaritas well into the early mornings while sharing our life stories. Coming from the same background as showbiz kids do, we had similar tastes in almost everything especially when it came to food & dining. One nite at the Polo Lounge I was feeling the effects of food poisoning and couldn’t eat dinner so he motioned our waiter over and ordered me a vodka with lemon, pepper and bitters. An enormous, way too generous a serving of black pepper for my taste, almost half the glass! But a remedy he had insisted upon nevertheless, explaining he had learned many survival techniques while spending time as a child in South Africa and that I must trust him. So, as horrific as it sounded, I chugged it down and within 2 minutes, magically did the trick and I was back to myself! I was impressed beyond belief! His survival skills were beyond impressive and sincerely, this story would not be complete without sharing with you how he saved my life. I began suffering from overwhelming fatigue and lethargy so much so, that I couldn’t even raise my fingers on the fone to text anyone. I lost all energy and severe mood swings had me in a tornado of sadness one minute and the next I’d be crying at the drop of a hat. This wasn’t me. Yet doctors could not figure out what was wrong despite test after test. When I told Kuba what I was going through, he instantly, instinctively knew who & what could help me. He sent me to his doctor in Santa Monica, a specialist in sports medicine and endocrinology. He knew what was wrong with me in one meeting and guaranteed I would have my life back in less than 2 months and he was right. If it wasn’t for Kuba, I’d probably still be trying to lift the fone to text. No joke. And with someone who is also a workaholic, fatigue can put a sudden drastic stop on life with all sorts of other symptoms resulting from an undiagnosed condition such as stress which we all know can have an adverse, irreparable effect on our health, sometimes leading to other serious health ailments not to mention putting a strain on ones phone habits lol. Although it was through this doctor, it was Kuba who saved me.
My business partners Patrick and investor/mother Shirley, along with myself agreed we’d sign Kuba to my agency V Entertainment Group in Beverly Hills and as fast as he had signed on the dotted line was just as fast as it took us to realize with his needs and tireless energy, we’d have to solely dedicate our time to him but the real problem came down to the fact he just had too many cooks in the kitchen pulling him every which way and all wanting control as if he were a puppet on a string and that is a sure fire recipe for DISASTER so back to advisor per job which had worked perfectly in the past. Soon the details were ironed out for his cameo appearance in Mike Hatton’s comedy “Live Nude Girls” in which he plays Krol, an International flamboyant playboy (his scenes viewable in Video section of this site and via IMDB & Kor Entertainment). There’s a funny scene that reminded me of when I hadn’t met him yet but had heard through the grapevine and was told he was the Prince of Poland ...knowing Poland does not have a monarchy, only when I saw the film did I realize they meant the Prince as in the artist formerly known as Prince ...sure had myself a laugh as did everyone else who finally realized it too. We barely had a day’s rest before the next adventure...
Fast forward to his limo breaking down leaving us stranded in Vegas after shooting for the E! Channel and all that he could get at 11pm was a white van with no windows which ended up also breaking down in the middle of who knows where resulting in us having to call my mom in the middle of the nite, as we realized that both our wallets had been in the one suitcase that had been stolen earlier that evening at the Westgate. Probably sometime during the time we called for our luggage to be brought down and held in a closet in the hotel lobby (while waiting for the broken down no-show limo)and having dinner, so mom had to get us a room for the nite somewhere in b.f. Egypt while awaiting another form of transportation...and there’s no way I can’t not mention his first ever performance at the Supperclub, the hottest club in Hollywood at the time. We were in a mad rush, as we knew Chris Brown was coming but would not be staying long once he arrived, as he had somewhere else to be. Kuba shows up at The Rubix, my place in Hollywood, literally half naked dressed in boxing shorts and a satin robe looking like he was ready for the fight of his life rather than a performance, and requested that I assist him in the process of making him look like he was in the middle of a boxing match and mumbled while gesturing as to where he wanted me to create the effect of a boxer in the ring, applying black eyeshadow here, there & everywhere, making him look more like Tarzan the Warrior, in what could be his first fight with Kong, or maybe even Jane by the time I was through lol...and there at the club sat one of my good friends Prince Charles, who did me the favor of a last minute booking 2 days prior, sliding Kuba in, yet instead of the smiles we should have had on our faces, we sat there, looking at each other in horror, speechless & stupefied, neither one of us knowing what to say, not to mention the enormous crowd that came out for him, my specific industry friends, the VIP’s including Chris Brown, etc...I still could not explain what happened out there on that stage nor could Charles but the energy he had was off the charts and before long he was in the hands of top Industry choreographers who had worked with Cher, Janet Jackson and others.
A couple last stories to share with you, a doozie mind you, my mind just wandered to the Versace unveiling of the first pop superhero event in which PR King Ed Lozzi & Associates had come on board. He and I would never be able to forget that evening as over a crowd of 500 had crowded the halls of the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills literally crashing the ballroom before the 7pm start time of the event so that the invited celebrity guests and VIPs were held off from entering until Ed & I calmly went table to table requesting the uninvited guests to please finish their champagne and hors d’oeuvres and kindly leave through the exit doors. Unbeknownst to him and I, we had just instructed a group of high powered executives to get up and leave, unaware they had paid a few grand for the table they were sitting at, that they were now being asked to give up. You cannot imagine the expression on their faces, nor ours! Ed handled it magnificently as only he could, and helped save the day despite the fact neither one of us really needed to step up and do that. We took up shop at the lobby bar afterward, still in disbelief at the evening’s unfoldings but entirely glad Donatella had not been there to witness the thankfully short interlude of chaos & mayhem. The rest of the evening went without a hitch and all turned out magnificently.
The last time I had worked with him he was being groomed the new poster boy for Scientology...yes you heard right, and after hours upon hours of mtgs at the celebrity center and planning the elaborate bash on the palatial grounds for his introduction soiree’, suddenly was canceled a mere 5 days prior, with some of the vips already flown in...on what grounds you ask? We both were suddenly being accused of an attempt to take down the church. As in the Church of Scientology, SMH (Something I had warned him might happen, so why did I still proceed with the event you ask)? Because he argued that no one else could put on the type of bash he wanted and he would return the favor one day. And so it was…but I didn’t do it for the promised future favor, I did it because he was my friend, my brother.. And even tho I was relieved they would be parting ways, knowing it was a blessing that it turned out the way it did, It hurt me to see him so deeply affected by what happened.
It was always one adventure or another with him. In the end, sadly, he was too trusting a spirit for this town and many took serious advantage. Some tried to talk sense into him through me in certain situations as did I, but the one fatal flaw he had was not listening. And I say that as with these type of mistakes, whether it be business or personal can result in grave consequences. Mistakes bring baggage, brokenness and sometimes even death. I could no longer sit back and watch the vast amounts of cash he handed out, contract after contract, eagerly awaiting what would be one false promise after the other, just to walk away defeated yet onto the very next mistake, when had he listened, things would have transpired sooner than later and he’d be where he wanted long ago, making millions instead of giving away millions. The result of countless mistakes of not listening to the people that genuinely cared, whether it was sheer stubbornness, stars in the eyes syndrome, impatience or just plain being young can affect the heart mind & body negatively.
In the months before his passing, he had been shooting a new film in the lead character of Amen Rah, but tragically no longer here to enjoy the fruit of his labor. May this post serve as food for thought to anyone in this industry trying to find their way. Take the time necessary to make sure mistakes aren’t made and more importantly ask God to guide you in times you may be in doubt. He will never lead you astray if you truly seek Him. Especially in these troubled times, now is a good time as any to build your relationship with the Father.
As I look back, I see a tender heart and a gentle soul in every sense of the word, full of compassion, generosity and light, who always carried himself in a majestic manner, showing me chivalry was in no way dead, always a gentleman in my presence. And in return, he had my respect and admiration, and a true friend for the short time he was here on Earth. I am and always will be honored to call him my brother. From his once harrowing childhood fear while escaping through tunnels in Poland, to his love and compassion for humanity and passion for different charities, among them several animal charities we both supported, he had the heart of a true Prince, raised amazingly by his equally charismatic and beautiful, loving mother Tina. He had the soul of an Angel, and is finally able to spread his wings and fly among them. That you were taken so soon, at so young an age, I simply have no words... except I love you...always & forever, in my heart. RIP Kuba KA aka Jacob Stepniak aka Amen Ra, or whatever you chose your name to be this season, but really...aka my brother.
A bit of soul advice for the day. If you truly care for someone, don’t let time pass by simply because you might be in your own world or too busy with projects or in another country having needed to become a hermit to study the calling the Lord has summoned you to, or caught up on Wall Street with the stocks of the day, month or future, or still miffed about something petty that may have occurred, when in reality that person brought more to your life than any small petty circumstance or could be you haven’t been feeling too well or you may have dropped your new IPhone in a Pina Colada over the wkd, or any reason that’s made you procrastinate about letting the special people in your heart know you care, especially in these dark, evil, chaotic and challenging times when it might just be too late. Anything can change in a person’s life within a year, 6 months, maybe even 3. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. Pick up the FONE. DON’T TAKE THE ONES YOU LOVE FOR GRANTED. Tell them you love them. Don’t wait til they might never be around to hear what you want to say. 💔
Thank you to the people who were there on his journey...Tina Trozzo, father Andrej Stepniak, Sabrina Parisi, Pamela Hasselhoff, Oscar Benjamin, Prince Charles, Dave Scott, Clinton Wallace, Garry Sun, Amy Graves, Bob Delgadillo, Travis Jourdain, Edgar Clemente, Wayne Wright, Glenn Francis, Molly Hollywood, Guillermo Proano, Eric Zuley, Mike Arnoldi, Al Ortega, Winston Burris, Mike Hatton, Corey Feldman, Janice Dickinson, and so many others.
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