What HooDoo Do You Do?

By Thom Fowler
Posted 02/10/02 17:39:37

Where our intrepid hero begins a semi irregular column about life in Los Angeles.

If there was any glamour in Hollywood, its long since faded. Everyone is feeling the pinch from the "economic downturn" in much the same way everyone still references the nine eleven tragedy when trying to make whatever they are about to say have some import in light of our current mass consciousness of the preciousness and fragility of life.

I.E. After the Nine Eleven Tragedy, I really understood how important it is to: fix the plumbing, do the laundry, write a script, be yourself, tell the people you love that you love them, live with immediacy and integrity, slow down, pay attention, be more intentional, you name it, its come right after that sentence.

You can't talk about LA without talking about the entertainment industry just like you can't talk about Mountain View without talking about Silicon Valley. Here in Self-Important Los Angeles with its Self-Important Entertainment Industry, everyone wants to associate themselves with the cause du jour. Remember when wearing a red ribbon to the Oscars was in vogue. Who wants to look like the asshole? What, you don't care if people die from AIDS??

So even at the DIY convention ( I attended yesterday with all its very established Industry players trying to find some business in the wake of the "nine eleven tragedy" and the "economic downturn" had to drag out how they felt five months ago when they saw the World Trade Center crumple like a little sissy-boy wearing hand-me-down panties and tearing a hole in the fabric that weaves together all the money in the world.

Who knew there were actual people under all that capital.

Hollywood is desperate. I'm going to say it again, because its true.
Entertainment lawyers are losing business. DV is gonna keep people employed. Nobody has a good script. Television (except NBC who proudly spreads its tailfeathers for all the networks to see) has turned to Crap. Nobody has anything to do and there are still people out here with money looking for a place to invest.

It's all about The Deal. Dealmakers want to make deals, they want to get excited and horny over risky ventures and make history and cum hundred dollar bills all over the Sunset Strip. But everyone is being cautious. Nobody wants to play catch with a hungry monster.

I think people still come to LA with a dream but for many, the dream is bigger then their talent, business sense, or ability to communicate with humans. The only thing that competes with the bigness of their dream is their ego.

The place I live now is sort of a halfway house for dreamers. The last guy who was in my room slogged around LA doing solid extras work. GET EXTRA WORK! shouts half a dozen ads in the LA WEEKLY, so this is hardly a feat. But this guy was also going to acting school? Eventually he was able to work out deals like, guy closest to the camera in the background?but after eight months, he went home. Just left. He was a casting directors nightmare. Perfect face for comedy. The kind of guy you look at and just like and trust and feel warm and good about his good natured innocence. But he couldn't do comedy. He wanted to be serious and dramatic. Darwinism took over. Its like how all those silent picture stars lost their jobs when the talkies came into vogue. The voice and the face just didn't match up.

If you want to find the suckers in LA, go to the acting schools and the film schools. Not the reputable places like USC or UCLA but the ones that say things like "jumpstart your hollywood career" For all the snake oil salesemen, it's a wonder there are still so many snakes slithering around in the belly of this greasy beast. And so many trusting, wide-eyed farmgirls thinking LA will make them a star.

For some, it does. We hear about the success stories all the time. But I'm fascinated by this other Los Angeles. The desperate and decaying LA.

I just moved to LA so there is a novelty about it. Like I'm an anthropologist working on the biggest dig since Tutankhammen. Secret mysteries and treasures untold await behind false walls and trap doors. I'm Indiana Jones with a laptop. I hear rumours of gold idols and holy grail and while looking for these things, life happens.

I drove up to Griffith Park to get a panoramic view of the city. When I got up there, the fog was so thick I could barely see a mile away. The sun was setting and I could look directly at it and sustain no more retinal damage then if I had quickly glanced at a lightbulb. I do not recommend staring right at the sun. The air left a metallic taste in my mouth and a slight pain in my lungs. The next day, the headlines of the LA Times reads, ôSmog causes cancer.?

A little too late for that bit o?info now, isn't it?

Nobody walks in LA. I make a point to walk to my friends house a few blocks away just to remember what being bipedal is like. He tells me I'm still "San Francisco." I ask him where I can park my car and just walk around. First he laughs. The park. The beach. Larchmont Ave.

Larchmont Avenue is two blocks. Not exactly a promenade. Melrose will add a few more blocks. If you really want to go for the burn, do laps at Costco or IKEA. You can easily cover 2 miles in one trip. I'm thinking I'll be spending my weekends in Lake Arrowhead, the original playground of the stars.

I used to live in Lake Arrowhead. There was a camp ground with a big lodge and the lodge had autographed pictures of all these stars from the 30's and 40's and 50's. They had pinball games in there twice as old as me. The pictures all stopped somewhere in the 50's. The stars all left and followed Bob Hope to Palm Springs.

Rumour has it that Bela Lugosi used to stumble around Lake Gregory Drive in Crestline after knocking back a few too many in Switzerland?which was the campy name they called the strip. Just for the record, Lake Gregory is a man made lake. It's a detail that adds richness to the story of this playground for the stars, like Las Vegas, created by an enterprising person who saw the value in a clean, well designed set. Old Hollywood wouldn't survive in the real world. They need faux the way Mickey needs Main Street.

I came to LA looking for the preening, posturing masses. The guy I drove down here with told me "everyone is performing in LA." I'm intrigued. Guerilla Street Theatre? Only if that's the show you came for.

David J of Love and Rockets, Bahaus, et al. is hosting a caberet at Goldfingers in Hollywood. I went because it's one one of those unbelievable, impossible things. He's got a four night run. David now lives in San Diego to be "away from the LA scene" but he's assembled a coterie of session players and acts of subtle strangeness. David is a solid performer with a catalogue a mile long to pull from but he chose to do covers, acoustic covers of people like Madonna. While Wrong Dimension Boy sang covers of Love and Rockets songs to music by AIR in between rattling off inspired neo-Beat poetry. Wrong Dimension Boy is the one time assistant of Timothy Leary, who by all accounts, is as deceased as Allen Ginsberg.

Goldfingers itself is a vinyl padded asylum catering to the blonde and boobs set so it was all the more appropriately inappropriate that David would take over the place and make purple velvet, chandeliers and mirrors make sense. The bar is small and narrow and really feels like an intimate caberet club from some other time, in some other place. The spirit of the night evokes Berlin in the 30's, New York in the 50's, San Francisco in the 60's. I think it's the most genuinely bohemian thing I've seen in Los Angeles, or anywhere. And I went just to "get it in me."

There was one obnoxious audience member who kept heckling in a way she thought was adding to the atmosphere but just made her look like a dumb-ass. She was definitely LA.

That floating part of LA that's not really from here and won't stay here but is visiting, lottery ticket in hand, hoping their number comes up. And they write home to their friends or post to their live journal about they met this person and that person, which you can't help but do since everyone is pissing in the same pool but meeting people isn't going to make you saleable.

You have to bring it. She was bringing it all right. Bringing it down. More than once I wanted to tell her to either shut up or say something relevant. I think she was running off a script in her head and her off comments weren't absurdly funny the way Ralph Wiggams, "my cat's breath smells like cat food" comments are funny. They were just dumb.

There was more than enough room for inspired chaos at the David J Caberet.
INSPIRED only rhymes with TIRED. Tired also ryhmes with FIRED. That should be a slogan; the secret, dark, bitter, slogan of out of work writers. You are either inspired, or fired.

After the sun sank all the way through the haze and dropped safely down the other side of the horizon, I drove down to Venice beach. The air is cleaner and cooler at the shore and I missed the constant sound of the waves rolling into the shore. In San Francisco, I lived a block away from the Ocean and I got used to hearing it and now that I don't hear it, its disconcerting. Someone told me Venice has some kind of a hippy boho vibe which I definitely wasn't feeling unless LA interprets "hippy" in a way that means, "shops at Banana Republic and makes their lexus payments with their credit cards." Wannabe yuppie posers doing what we all do, looking for a good time, looking for the perfect looking human complement to our wardrobe to hang off our arm for a few weeks and pretend we are in love, trying to get drunk enough to fuck someone you wouldn't call the next day just because that's what you are "supposed to do."

I stopped at a cafe and listened to the folksy cranberry-esque duo perched on a tiny alcove over the foyer.

The cafe spilled right onto the street into a puddle of chairs and tables where some old crusty hippy guy (a-ha!) and some girl trying to be a Jerry's kid were hanging out, looking enraptured and forlorn, respectively.

The dreadlocks may fool the casual observer, but her clean clothes, fresh, milky skin and clear eyes and the absence of a cloud of kind and patchouli emanating from her made her seem more like a prop than a person. But hey, she was out there doing the Venice thing. More power to her. Sometime the authentic thing is so nasty that it's better to have the lite alternative. Alternative Lite. Hippy Lite. Boho Lite. Smack Addict Lite. Skinny people with darkened hollow eyes. Whoever thought that could be beautiful and glamorous.

The glamour of Decay. Its not out yet, but soon. Decaysia - a feature documentary(?) of recovered, decaying black and white film footage set to a rousing, symphonic theme. There is something haunting and beautiful about the ghosts and echoes of time when you rub away the layers of paint and grime. Sometimes you don't even have to rub them away.

The purveyors of "shabby chic" will sand away at pieces of furniture found at garage sales, flea markets, rural backyards, to unveil the layers of paint and the whims of style. But a real find is a piece that has revealed itself. One that had gone through several transformations and time has worn and cracked and peeled the layers off as if to return to its natural, pristine state. The wood can't decay and join "all that is" until its exposed to the elements again. All of nature is conspiring with itself to do what it does.

I found a wallet outside the cafe and if it wasn't for the business card size head shots inside, I've never have been able to return it. Those head shots were pretty worn around the edges. I don't think he's passed them out any time recently. The guy behind the counter recognized my now wallet-less acting friend as a regular. I thought he should call the guy so he wouldn't freak out and cancel all his credit cards. That would be a pain in the ass. Without any credit, how's he going to pay for his lexus?

I think it's a requirement of the floating LA to have head shots. One day there will be a police state instituted around it, guarding the doors of the restaurants, caf?, clubs and boutiques where the hopefuls go to mingle with the power players. "Excuse me, but do you have your headshots?" Terry Gilliam could do a completely new version of Brazil and call it Ell Aye.

The air was easier to breath at the beach. I walked along the combed sand and passed embracing couples who had wandered near the shore hoping to shroud themselves in darkness and passion. If you were under the lights a hundred yards away, you can't see anything. When you are at the waters edge, the canopy of dark covers everyone the same and you find you went into the closet with thirty other people, all of whom are keeping a respectable distance from each other.

Its so romantic. Macking on your honey at the beach. Like being stuck at a high school party in the Valley where everyone is getting drunk on wine coolers and hoping to get stupid enough to make the right decision.

High School Romance. That's a topic that hasn't been adequately explored since John Huges. American Pie doesn't count.

I took Santa Monica Boulevard all the way home. I thought about stopping in West Hollywood, but then this column would have gotten even longer. There will be time for that.

Coming next time, whenever that is. The French Market on Santa Monica Boulevard, Celebrity Bingo, The Open Mike Spoken Word Scene, Mexican Los Angeles and all the random weirdness that occurs in spite of my plans.

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