Friday, May 9, 2008

The Audition

People think LA is Hollywood and Hollywood is LA. I certainly did. But it's more like the Town & Gown phenomenon in Oxford, England. Yes, you see all the impressive University of Oxford buildings, and you see the students and the dons, but unless you're part of the University, you have very little to do with it. A great part of the city of Oxford is distinct and separate from the University. Well, it's the same in LA. Unless you work in the entertainment industry, and most people don't, Hollywood has very little to do with you.

But Hollywood does touch you in unexpected ways. For instance, there are so many D-list celebrities milling around -- eating vegan plates at cafes, shopping at Bristol Farms -- that everyone looks vaguely familiar, like you went to school with them but didn't ever really talk to them and can't remember their names.

And you catch people auditioning. Like the guy taking my order at Aroma Coffee in Studio City. Blond, average height, stellar smile, very good-looking face. He glistened, seduced, flirted, charmed. So in the Zone -- until a co-worker mocked him in a sing-song voice. Flustered, he dropped the ball and forgot the lines. Bad co-worker. I was really enjoying the performance. This is what makes LA the most entertaining place on earth.

Not that you don't see this kind of behavior elsewhere. You see it frequently in Paris. But while in LA this is an audition, in Paris, it's life. Like the guy selling foie gras in a make-shift shop, late in the evening, snow falling on the streets of Ile St Louis, Noel scenting the air. The shop was really a tent in between two buildings. That was strange in of itself, but to see this guy: fine, noble features, lean build, long, dead-straight blond hair tied back into an elegant ponytail. He was selling foie gras with his mouth, but listen to what he was saying with his blue eyes: "You only have to lead the way..." Right out of Maupassant, le bel ami, the snow, the old cobbled street. And none of this for my benefit. For him, this was life.

Back to LA: while some people are auditioning, others are auditioning you. The eyes staring at you intently, picking you up, dangling you in the light, discarding you. Like the time I was at The Container Store. This guy, mature Hollywood type, evaluating me at all angles. He signals to a well-groomed woman. She too evaluates. In five minutes, the audition is over.

Friday, May 2, 2008

L.A. Cracks Me Up or Maybe It's Just Cracked

There are times LA really cracks me up. Pretty much anything goes. Like the mall that's designed to look like an Assyrian castle. Or the drag queens manning the registers at the supermarkets. You have New England style houses right next to Spanish villas. Billboards billow smoke. And where else can you see a Veyron getting ticketed? The other day I saw this old woman driving a 1970s Rolls Royce -- she was dressed in a Chanel suit and had perfect 1960s hair and makeup. It was like something out of an old movie! And there are these huge ethnic enclaves where people don't speak English -- it's like teleporting into another country. These are the times when I'm luvin' LA.

And then there are times when I'm baffled and perturbed. Like when I'm watching the news and I being to wonder if someone hasn't flipped a switch and I'm now in a parallel universe where LA has been sucked into some kind of post-apocalyptic spoof in the lines of Starship Troopers or Idiocracy.

In this LA, planes fall out of the sky. All the time. Kenneth Wyatt was watching TV and boom! Plane smashes down next door. It's his second neighborhood plane crash. News just isn't news without a plane crash.

In this LA, you need to declare cease fires. I thought you needed a war for a cease fire. Is this LA or Iraq? California or the Middle East? The sheriff's office sends their officers out in full combat gear. With a tank.

In this LA, bank robbers still fly the Wild West flag. It's only a matter of time before you get involved in a bank robbery. Recently, a getaway car got spotted by the police. Mayhem ensued as the bank robbers started throwing money out the car window like some cheesy Burt Reynolds chase film.

This might be chicken or egg, but I sometimes wonder if all this violence isn't because of the LA police. They look very fascist with their black uniforms and mostly black cars. Maybe they could go Tiffany blue — blue is very calming and Tiffany blue has a nice place in my heart. And they need to be calming because they're everywhere. I've never seen so much police. And not just the LA police, but LA County sheriffs and the highway patrol. But instead of feeling comforted and secure, seeing all this black makes me feel creeped out. There's authority. And then there's Stasi. I have a feeling I'm not the only one making this connection. Yesterday, for the May Day immigration rally, the police were on bikes, dressed in purple! A really nice shade, I might add. They looked a lot less threatening, although a little plump in the tight bike outfits. Less black and more exercise?