Saturday, May 4, 2013

Another Average Day in Hollywood

A dead body. A court case. And a cat’s funeral. 

Just another average day in Hollywood.
The body at the top of the staircase outside my new apartment in West Hollywood appears to be dead. Very dead. White face, no movement and no response when I poke it. Then, I do what they do on TV: place my two fingers against her neck (I have ascertained that the corpse is female) and turn to the assembled throng (well, non-assembled in this case) and shake my head.
Going downstairs to get better phone reception, I call 911 and explain the situation. Returning to the corpse to await whatever service is on its way, I am more than a little surprised to witness a resurrection before me. Moreover, a resurrection with a very bad nosebleed dripping all over my carpet. “You wanna chill,” says the ungrateful Lazurus.
I call 911 again and tell them of the miracle that has occurred, but stress that the body is still in need of urgent medical attention. The last I see of her, she is in the middle of the road, trying to flag down a taxi. For all I know, she was run down and is now in the morgue, which is where she should have been in the first place. Some people have no sense of drama.
A few hours later, I find myself in court – a place I have been just twice in my life. The first time was as a witness for the police in the UK, when they had decided my complaint against a taxi driver warranted a case for "rude and aggressive behaviour".
The Appeals Court (he didn't turn up for the first trial - ok, a tad melodramatic, I admit) put the problem down to there not being "enough charisma" between us. How much charisma do you need to go from Wardour Street to Brewer Street (less than a mile) behind a pane of glass, I asked the dumbfounded police afterwards.
The second time was in LA in 2011, when I successfully sued my landlady for non-return of a huge chunk of my deposit. Everything I put into practice I learned from watching just one TV show: Judge Alex. And so, for the second time in a day dealing with LA law, I find myself in court for the third time: not in the handcuffs (alas) I fantasised about when I first saw the TV show, and not, thankfully, with my being sued for being the judge’s stalker.
Judge Alex used to tape in Houston but is now in LA, and it is not only the best of the courtroom shows, it is one of the funniest shows on TV. It helps that the judge is stunningly handsome, brilliant and witty, and Twitter is packed with legions of swooning female fans; but it is a brilliantly edited show, too.
So, I am on the set and asked where I would like to sit - on or off camera. Anyone who knows me would know they could have just plonked me on the Judge's bench at the outset and downgraded me from there.
In  fact, anyone who knows me will be surprised to learn that I was not fully robed, gavel in hand, shouting "Action!" with the poor Judge locked in a cupboard elsewhere on the studio lot.
So, I am seated second from the left in the front row, and the first person to talk to me is an actor. So is the second. And the third. And the . . . You get my drift. They join lists that provide audiences for studio shows such as Judge Alex and get paid by the day.
"They get paid more than we do," says RAN 1 (Resentful Actor Number 1 on my left, who has been to every show today), nodding towards the hallowed ground beyond the wooden barrier where he is penned. "When I was a litigator . . . " he begins. I decide not to point out that he has never been, will never be, a litigator. I also hesitate to point out that he will never be an actor, either, but hold my tongue. (When I returned to see my second show, he was shunted off to "Standing room”. Quite right, too).
Behind me sits RAN 2. She's a nurse. Not a real one, of course. She has been a "background actor" in several hospital dramas, but is ready to move centre stage.
"Do a monologue - NOW!" shouts RAN 1, a little frighteningly. She stumbles. I think of reciting Henry V's speech from the Battle of Agincourt, but in the millisecond I take for breath, RAN 1 is already off again. "I'm a Shakespearean actor really . . . “
There is a very handsome younger man behind him who has played a detective (albeit a "background detective"). He has the kind of look that gives me the feeling that he might just make it, and he comes to these shows to network. He claims they have been very useful.
 Oh, Hollywood, I love you. The hope.
The cat’s funeral is an altogether more sombre affair. I don’t like cats, but felt I had to support Chrissy, a fellow journalist, in her hour of need. “Mr Love” had been one of her feline companions for 14 years (“Slut”, his mother, lives on, and is very unperturbed by her son’s passing), and had been kept alive by his owner’s adoration and acupuncture, which is big pet business here. The decision to have him put down was a tough one.
My biggest concern is when I get a call from Chrissy saying that Bradley, the homeowner hosting the event, can’t find his iPod with Memory from Cats on it, the number Chrissy has chosen for the funeral, so could I gen up on the lyrics ready to sing.
When I arrive at Bradley’s, Mr Love is in a box wrapped in Christmas paper, with three sunflowers on the top. Memory is playing on the iPod, which has been found. Phew.
Basil, Bradley’s dog, is hovering a little too enthusiastically close to the box, and when we enter the garden for the ceremony, he is locked away.
After Chrissy reads an e-mail from a friend, praising both Mr Love and his owner, I decide to sing. I wasn’t going to waste a morning’s practice, after all, so I go for the Welsh hymn Calon Lan, which means a pure/honest/happy heart. I tell the sobbing throng that it’s a love song. I decide to leave out its associations with being sung on the rugby terraces. 

It’s what Mr Love would have wanted.
Like I said. Just another average day in Hollywood.


Professional Brits Abroad - Doncha Just Love 'Em!

Professional Brits abroad. 

Doncha just love ‘em. 

They save all year to have an experience of a lifetime, only to moan about it once they get there and then spend the whole time whingeing about how much happier they would have been, had they stayed at home.
So, yesterday, I was sitting in Il Pastaio, one of my favourite restaurants in Beverly Hills. It is always packed, but especially so on a Friday. The weather has been sensational this week, and yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far. Everyone was smiling. Laughter was contagious on the outdoor terrace of the restaurant. Inside, where I sit at the bar, I touched base with waiters I hadn’t seen in over a year and was welcomed like a long lost member of the family.
Then, THEY arrived. Two overweight, red-faced, sweaty Brits from the north of England, sighing heavily like two stab victims stumbling in from the street.
“Bad day?” I asked.
And they were off. “We hate this weather . . . just been on one of those open top tour buses . . . not really us . . . so hot . . . we hate this weather . . . wish we’d never come here . . . not really our thing . . . can’t wait to leave . . . not our thing at all . . . “
On and on and on. “So what is your thing?” I asked.
 “The Grand Canyon.”
Then why don’t you just piss off to the Grand Canyon, I thought, but politely declined to say. Instead, I said: “Well, at least you’re now in one of the most famous, nicest restaurants in Beverly Hills.”
“Really?” said the female lobster. “You wouldn’t think so. It’s very crowded. And there are more waiters than people.”
Now, that’s not strictly true, is it, love? There are a lot of waiters because there are a lot of people. If there were more waiters than people, that wouldn’t make economic sense. It would be silly. And if you two shifted your fat backsides off to the Grand Canyon, there were would be room for at least another dozen customers, thereby solving the problem.
Having gleaned that the male lobster liked wine, I suggested that as they were staying in the Best Western in Santa Monica, they visit Wine Expo, about five minutes walk from their hotel. It is one of my favourite places in LA and, with daily tastings and a huge store, has the best Italian wine selection outside Italy. The lobsters showed about as much interest as the Pope in a brothel. As they were in LA for another three days, I went on to suggest other places that they might visit off the tourist trail. “It’s just not really our thing” was the response to every idea.
Brits in America make the worst tourists (second only to Americans in France, who are the rudest, most ignorant on the planet). Despite the great service, choice of restaurants, and, at the moment, prices that are way below those in Europe, they still find something to moan about. Back at home, they have doubtless been moaning since Christmas about the British weather, their mounting debts, the escalating fuel prices, and there being nothing on the telly. So, they plan a trip to escape it all, only to spend the whole time dreaming about the hellhole they have left in the north of England.
I love America, but I especially love LA. True, it’s odd in many ways – you never really know who anyone is. Unlike New York or London, where people tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, in LA you’re never quite sure what you’re getting. People wear many faces, and you can never be sure which is the real one.
But I have found it to be incredibly friendly. I love the work ethic and the fact that it is the centre of the universe for film and television. I love everyone’s belief that anything is possible. Who cares if most of their dreams come to nothing; better to have a dream and live in hope than to look permanently to a black horizon.
I don’t care if it’s not your thing. It’s mine. So take your lobster flesh off to the Grand Canyon and then back home, where you can tell everyone about the two-mile radius you believe is LA.
Me, I’m off for a stroll on the beach, followed by a frozen Margarita and half an hour watching the sun set over the Pacific. 

Safe trip home, lobsters.