I repeat at the beginning my last paragraph of my previous post, which details how meetings in LA go down. Then I continue with the secret information you need to know to survive Hollywood.
So the person walks towards you, shakes your hand and tells you how much they love you. Then you say how much you love them. (Sometimes I say, “I’m in love with you. Is that weird?” which sometimes gets a laugh and sometimes does not.) Then you stand there until they tell you where to sit.
DON’T SIT UNTIL THEY TELL YOU WHERE TO SIT!!!
Why? Because seating is another form of parking and there is nothing – NOTHING – more important in Hollywood than parking. California is, of course, a car culture. More so than any other place in the world, what you drive is who you are. Your car is the single most important determinant of social class in Los Angeles. Far more than clothes. That’s why you might see a photo of Jessica Simpson wearing a pair of sweatpants and a baseball cap but you will never see her getting into a 1998 Chevy Malibu. Briefly, here is the vehicular pecking order in Los Angles in descending order:
• Maserati, Alfa Romeo (Bentleys and Rolls are other exotics are also okay, but you kind of look like a douche in them unless you are a retired game show executive or a dentist.)
• Mercedes, Land Rover, BMW (These are the preferred autos of the rich and powerful because they make a statement. The statement they make is: “I am rich.”)
• Jaguar, Escalade, Lexus (A run down the ladder. Still good, but a little passé. You don’t want to be passé in LA.)
• Hybrids (Hybrids are a great way to say “I love money but I love the earth more.” That way, you can get away with actually not having a lot of money because people think you’re sincere in your love for the earth.)
• Any convertible from the last three years (Convertibles are still considered cool in LA.)
• Any imported car from the last three years (If you’re going to have a random Honda Civic, at least let it be of recent vintage.)
• Any American car from the last three years (People in LA are liberals. Liberals hate America. Therefore people in LA do not drive American cars. To do so is gauche, which is not an American word.)
• All other cars (At least they have wheels. That’s the best you can say for these people.)
• Public transportation. Nobody takes public transportation in LA unless they are an alcoholic, homeless, or a rock musician, which is the lowest of the low.)
Because car culture is so important, parking has evolved its own caste system. Simply put, the more important you are, the better your parking space. A parking space’s worth is determined by its proximity to the front door. The closer you are the more important you are. Only in Hollywood are the closest parking spaces reserved for the sturdiest people instead of the handicapped. After all, what would be the point of having the best car if you are parked so far away that nobody can see it?
These spots are reserved. Nobody else can park in them. Ever. Their names are painted on the curb. Even if the person is in Bangladesh working with the impoverished (which happens all the time in LA), that parking space is reserved for when they return. It is kept free of debris and old chewing gum. The parking space is as inviolate as a Pharaoh’s tomb and lo those who enter its sacred space.
Most-up-to-date including new Philly and Boston dates.
Oct 11 — Detroit!
Royal Oak Music Theatre
Oct 13 — Chicago!
Oct 14 — Milwaukee!
Oct 15 — Minneapolis!
Oct 17 — Denver!
Oct 22 — Los Angeles!
Oct 23 — Oakland!
Oct 27 — Montclair, NJ!
Oct 28 — Washington, D.C.!
Sixth & I Synagogue
Oct 29 — Philadelphia!
Oct 30 — Boston!
Enjoy Abe Lincoln reading from his introduction to my book, My Custom Van, now available in paperback. Thank you, Abe Lincoln, for everything you did for this country and also for the country of Trinidad, which you may never have visited but which has a funny name nonetheless
In which I discuss the importance of liquid refreshment in the Hollywood kabuki theater known as "The General Meeting."
When you arrive at your meeting, the first thing that happens is you tell the receptionist that you have arrived. The receptionist places a call to the assistant who tells you the person you are there to meet is either “tied up on a call,” “stuck in a meeting,” or “running behind.” It does not matter when you arrive – nobody is ever ready to meet you when you show up. This is understood.
Then the receptionist asks if they can get you “something to drink.” They always ask it in exactly the same way. “Can I get you something to drink?” Always. No matter where you go in Hollywood, the first thing somebody does is offer you something to drink. Even if you get a haircut, as I did while I was in town, the stylist asked me if I wanted something to drink before she asked me what I wanted done with my hair.
Whether or not you accept their offer of a drink is up to you. But if you decline, the receptionist responds by saying, “Are you sure? No water… soda… coffee?”
“No thank you,” you might say. “I’m fine.”
Then the receptionist says, “Okay, take a seat. They’ll be ready for you shortly.” Then the receptionist goes back to their computer monitor, where they are looking at either Perez Hilton or the website of an obscure LA jewelry designer. These are the only two websites they are allowed to look at. So you sit down and look at the same old copy of Architectural Digest. It’s possible Architectural Digest only published one issue because that same issue is on the coffee table in every office in Los Angeles. Once in a while, they have Us Weekly, which is of course always the current issue.
About five minutes later, the assistant comes to fetch you. I don’t know why the person you are meeting cannot come to meet you, but they can’t. It is not permitted, just as you couldn’t expect the Pope to meet you at the Vatican gift shop. The assistant comes down and says, “Hi, I’m Ryan. Sorry to keep you waiting.” The assistant’s name is always Ryan. I don’t know why, but it seems to be true.
Then Ryan asks if he can get you something to drink.
At that point, even if you are thirsty you cannot accept something to drink because you’ve already refused liquid twice before and it would seem weird to suddenly say yes. So you say, for a third time, “No thank you.” and they respond with, “No water, no soda, coffee?” And you say, “No thank you. I’m fine.”
Then Ryan leads you through a maze of hallways and cubicles to see whoever it is you are there to see. You and Ryan will probably exchange small talk about how much he loves you. You don’t have to tell Ryan you love him because he is just an assistant and nobody loves assistants. But you have to be nice to Ryan because in three weeks he will be running a movie studio.
In Part III, I will reveral the most important thing in Hollywood.
In the next few entries, I will explain a little bit about Hollywood for those curious about how things work there:
Whenever you are in Los Angeles, as I was for the last week, you have meetings. That’s what people do. They have meetings. All day, every day: breakfast meetings, morning meetings, lunch meetings, after-lunch meetings, dinner meetings, followed by more meetings over after-dinner drinks. I meet you. You meet me. We meet. We might even arrange to meet again. Often, these meetings aren’t even about anything specific, but they give purpose and structure to a town whose entire existence is predicated on the creation of fantasy. Everybody’s hope is that these whirring, airy meetings will somehow magically spin all those sugary words into delicious Hollywood cotton candy.
Over the hundred years or so of Hollywood’s existence, these meetings have evolved into their own intricate art form as ritualized and strange as a Japanese tea ceremony.
The first thing that happens is your people call their people. In Los Angeles, everybody has people. All kinds of people: agents, managers, lawyers, business managers, publicists, personal assistants. And all of those people have people. Even if you don’t want people, you have people. You have no choice in the matter. In Hollywood people are like the cute little Tribbles from the old “Star Trek” show. Somebody brought one onto the Enterprise. It seemed harmless enough, but soon there were a few more Tribbles, then hundreds, then thousands. Eventually the ship was stuffed with Tribbles, threatening to suffocate everybody with their cuteness. At the end of the episode Captain Kirk figured out how to get rid of the Tribbles, but nobody has figured out how to do that yet in Hollywood.
So your people call their people. You cannot call yourself. Even if you did, the person you are trying to call would not answer the phone. People do not answer their own phones in Hollywood, which is strange because everybody is always on the phone. Who are they talking to? People. Probably agents. Agents are the gatekeepers to the meetings. Without agents, meetings could not happen. Nobody would ever meet anybody. Hollywood would be a town filled with people who have not met but because there are agents, everybody seems to know everybody else. If you don’t know somebody, you take a meeting.
So your agent sets up a meeting. Or, more precisely, your agent’s assistant sets it up. Because the agent has people, too. Your agent’s assistant calls the assistant of whomever it is you are hoping to meet. A meeting is set. Your agent’s assistant calls your manager’s assistant, who calls you to tell you about the meeting. If you are an actor, you need an agent and a manager. What is the difference? I have been in this business for twenty years and I still have no idea. Basically each is there to make sure the other one is doing their job. You might think it would make sense to simply hire one person who will simply do their job, but that is not the way of Hollywood; their philosophy is why hire one person when two will do the job just as poorly?
So the meeting is arranged, the assistant calls you (or if you are like many actors, your assistant) and you ask, “What is this meeting about?” And they say, “It’s a general.”
A general is how people in Hollywood get to know each other, kind of like a first date. Except that it’s far more intimate because unlike regular dates, the first thing you do at these meetings is to tell each other you love them. This is a very important part of the ritual. As soon as you are in the same room, they tell you how much they love you, you tell them how much you love them, you agree that you love each other and will continue loving each other in the future, and then you never hear from them again.
In Part II I will tell you about how these meetings go down and the amount of potential liquid involved.
It's a weekend morning here at my Connecticut mansion. The kids are awake and watching television, the wife is asleep, and the dog is trying to outwit the invisible fence. But she can’t because she is a dog and she is not smarter than electricity. As for me, I am sitting in the kitchen waiting for the New York Times to be delivered so I can haul it in, snap open the front section, and then pretend to give a shit about what’s happening in the world. I may even say things like, “Honey did you hear about the Pashtuns this morning?” Something like that to make me sound educated on one hand, and allow me to say “Pashtuns” on the other.
So it’s that kind of lazy Saturday, which follows my lazy Sunday-Friday. The hardest work I’ve done this week was get the kids ready for school, the hardest part of which is making their lunches. I solved that problem by encouraging them to buy hot lunch this week. The money is incidental when compared with slicing apples and stuffing them inside of tiny sandwich bags five days a week. I don’t know why packing their lunches feels like such a chore, but it is. Even feeding myself seems like a chore most of the time, which is why I take nine out of ten meals at Taco Bell.
The other day I told my wife I was going to the bank, which I did. But then I also went to Taco Bell without telling her. I felt extremely guilty about that, like I had betrayed some kind of trust. I had, but it was with my lower intestine, not with her. When I got back, she didn’t ask why the trip had taken so long and I didn’t volunteer the information. Had she asked, I would have told her and she would not have cared but it is hard to maintain emotional neutrality about Taco Bell; I don’t think there is a person on this earth who can say, “I just ate at Taco Bell” without wincing.
Part of the problem with Taco Bell is the clientele. Whenever I go there, the first thing I do is scan the room for anybody who isn’t obese. In doing so, I am attempting to reassure myself that there is no causal relationship between consuming food from a restaurant currently advertising a “Nacho Crunch Half Pound Burrito,” and people who waddle, not walk. I have yet to prove that such a relationship does not exist. This is also a restaurant who, for years, has been encouraging Americans to eat a “Fourth Meal,” which they cleverly call “Fourth Meal.” The people I usually see there do not need any further encouragement to eat more meals. And yet, I am one of these people.
I am Taco Bell.
Because I love it. God help me, I love it. I love the reconstituted “beef,” the watery sour cream, the tomatoes which usually contain at least a little bit of tomato core. I love the wilted lettuce and soggy taco shells. I love the hot sauce, whose only ingredient is salt. Individually you could argue that those sound like disgusting ingredients. Collectively it is pseudo-Mexican nirvana. When Taco Bell is hot, there is no finer taste on God’s good earth. When Taco Bell is even room temperature there is nothing more disgusting, except perhaps Domino’s Pizza, which suffers from the same problem, although the highs with Domino’s aren’t nearly as high as the lows are low.
So even though Taco Bell is not what I wanted to be thinking about this early on a Saturday morning, because it is making me queasy, as so often turns when I find myself caught in reverie, that is where my thoughts have wandered. Will I go there today? No. No, I will not. Because it is not good for me and I want to live a long, long time. And because I’m going to Los Angeles tomorrow without my family so I can eat there all I want and they will never know.
Myself and the guy I work with are going on tour! Below are the first announced dates. There may be a few more to follow. On a scale of 1-1000, in terms of awesomeness, I think it's going to be a 600!
Sept 19 YMCA Boulton Center, Bay Shore, NY (Black Only)
Oct 11 Royal Oak, Detroit, MI
Oct 13 Metro, Chicago, IL
Oct 14 Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Oct 15 Pantages, Minneapolis, MN
Oct 17 Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO
Oct 23 Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA
Oct 27 Wellmont Theater, Montclair, NJ
Oct 28 Sixth & I Synagogue, Washington, DC
Oct 29 Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA