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.

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