Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Adventures in Hollywood

Adventures in Hollywood

I've never been a big player in La-La-Land. I've had some small experiences there, animation writing for the tube, a few movie scripts that haven't made it to the silver screen, like that. But in the vein of what I think is funny, lemme tell you one of my Hollywood stories ...

The story is true. The names, as they used to say on Dragnet, have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty ...

Some years ago, my then-writing partner and I -- call him Roy -- got a freelance gig to write an episode of a cartoon show, let's say it was Funny Little Critters. At this point, the show is being written and boarded, so it's months away from being on the air.

Eventually, we wound up writing several scripts for the producers and a fine time was had by all.

Face-time is important in the Biz. So I go down there, since I was living in Oregon, and Roy and I go out to lunch with the story editor and his assistant. They'd be, let's say, Sammy J, and Gary. We go to a nice upscale burger place, called The Good Earth, a SoCal chain. Burgers, bean sprouts, whole-wheat buns, like that.

The waitress, an attractive young woman in her early twenties, comes to take our order.

Now there is a thing you may not know, but in Hollywood, there are folks in the Biz who, for reasons I can only guess at, feel the need to impress service people with how important they are: These guys will go into a 7-Eleven store, usually in pairs, and comment loudly to each other about their latest deal, dropping actor's names like rose petals at a formal wedding, and for some reason, lacing their monologues liberally with profanity: "Yeah, I got this piece of shit dramady to do for Disney, they think maybe Brad and Angelina to star, but the fucking director is a motherfucker ..."

I think this bespeaks a basic and deep insecurity, that you need approbation from the minimum-wage 7-Eleven clerk, but that seems to be part of what Hollywood runs on ...

Anyway, back at the Good Earth, Gary decides that he is going to impress the hell out of the waitress, and so he says to her, "Do you know who this is?" and points at his boss.

"No, should I?"

"This is Sammy J! He is the story editor for Funny Little Critters, the new animated show!"

Which, you recall, isn't on the air yet. And, in the Hollywood pantheon, animation impresses nobody anyhow. Cartoons? Plus, writers don't impress anybody even more. Think of your three favorite movies -- can you name the writers of them? I didn't think so ...

And the waitress says, "Huh. And who are you? One of the funny little critters?"

In Hollywood, they do love a snappy comeback. Roy, Sammy J, and I all grin and chuckle. Point for the waitress.

Gary, being very high on the insecure-list, turns red and fumes, but doesn't say anything.

So she takes our orders and then asks what we want to drink. Gary decides that if he can't impress her, he can, by God, put her in her place. So he says, in a snotty voice, "I'll have water. And keep it coming." Every time he takes a sip, he expects her to hurry over and top off his glass, and by saying this, he is letting her know who the boss is.

(My opinion is that guys who do such things to waiters and waitresses are, not to put too fine a point on it, pricks.)

The waitress doesn't say anything, though. She leaves.

We chat about the show, and a couple minutes later, the busboy shows up with our drinks.

Roy gets iced tea, Sammy J, some kind of juice, I have a Coke. And the busboy puts six full glasses of water down in front of Gary ...

As you might imagine, this is cause for more mirth. Roy, Sammy J, and I cackle, and Gary shades right through red into purple. Score another point for the waitress, but -- wait!

A second busboy shows up. He's carrying a five-gallon plastic bucket full of water, with a slice of lemon on the rim, and he sets this down on the table in front of Gary.

The rest of us are now on the floor, trying to find our asses, which we have all laughed off.

Eventually the waitress returns with our orders. Smiles sweetly. "Anything else I can get you? More water, sir?"

Game, set, and match for the waitress.

This time after we stopped howling, Sammy J takes a business card from his wallet. "You do any writing?" he asks her. "Come by and see me ..."

Now, I don't know if she ever followed up; I'd like to think that she did and is now a big-name scriptwriter making big bucks; but what this story illustrates to me is the culture that it the media-biz down in LaLaLand, which is to say, passing weird. Larry McMurtry says that going to Hollywood is like going to a town of very powerful two-year-olds, and it's true. They aren't like thee and me down there ...