Casting Call

After you graduate your Big Deal Film School to begin a daily ritual of Humiliation And Obscurity, it's very important to have a friend who's a Former Child Star. Not only do you get special treatment at restaurants from waiters who grew up dreaming she'd some day be theirs, but also she might agree to play you in the movie. She and I became friends in screenwriting class, where she fell in love with the role of a Neurotic Wounded Poet named "Donna," the heroine of my Hilarious Funeral Comedy. "That's me," I confessed. "It's the story of my life."

Oh, come on, she said, unable to picture me reuniting with my Estranged Siblings and a Small Amish Community to pull off a heist during my Dead Grandmother's funeral mass. I never said it was the true story of my life, I told her. I believe the Hollywood term is "inspired by true events." What I didn't share, though, was how alike she and I looked as teenagers, in part because one of us got fat when she grew up and it wasn't her. I'm also older than she, who only played the Girl Next Door Coming Of Age In The Seventies, while the tail end of them were my real-life wonder years. But who among us hasn't sat around and wondered who'd portray them on-screen in the unlikely event all their Big Hollywood Dreams came true?

Just in case, though, I should probably prepare to make other casting suggestions as well. Not everyone I've ever known shows up in this particular script, of course, but I'd like to be helpful when A&E comes a'calling regarding the staged re-enactments needed to flesh out my Biography.

Certainly it will be necessary to feature the tenants here in my little bungalow complex, seven pastel-colored houses dating back to the 30s, which one of my Failed Actor Friends Who Can't Admit It used to call "The Technicolor Village."

Lately I've been fascinated by my New Next Door Neighbor, the self-described "actress, trainer, golf instructor," who sort of reminds me of Sharon Stone, but a little younger and not so crazy around the eyes. She's only just moved in, so it wouldn't be much of a role—unless of course she attempts to seduce my Imaginary Boyfriend. Though I've never met "Dirty Harry," whom I love from afar though he lives just across the drive, I have to admit they'd make a darling couple. She lounges around her front porch in an aqua blue kimono, petting the two Snow White Sheepdogs she swears are rescue mutts she adopted years apart after spotting them on the news. When she gets dressed to go out, she upgrades to mint green sweat pants with matching sports bra, bearing a midriff so ridiculously tight Kerri Strug could bounce off it to corkscrew over the balance beam. Oh, let him have her, if that's what he wants, a woman who's had her lower ribs removed, and is tan and adorable and gets up early to run.

On the other side of her house lives a dead ringer for Steven Wright; he, too, had once wanted to be a Vaguely Psychopathic Stand-Up Comic, but ended up posing as an Old College Pal in order to track down Credit Card Deadbeats. His willowy wife, a florist who makes painted wooden windowboxes on the side, could be played by Alanis Morrissette, if she's looking to cross over. Alanis wouldn't have to sing, or even speak, because I've never in six years living spitting distance apart from this girl heard her do either. Though she once lost her cat and I saw her frantically pacing the driveway, screaming "Dave! Dave! Dave!" Maybe he never came back and she went mute with grief.

Ebony And Ivory, the guys on the corner, used to make out and feel each other up in the driveway a lot, just in case you were wondering how they stood on the whole Same Sex Public Intercourse Issue. Now that they've made their position clear—several of them, actually, we've only spoken a few times. Mostly it's about why I won't share my parking lot storage bin, with which they are oddly obsessed despite there being a nearly empty one adjacent to it. I've caught them lurking behind me when I happen to go out and grab a suitcase or a box of sweaters. "Any room in there yet?" they'll casually ask, peering around me as I somehow manage to push a towering avalanche back inside and get the door shut behind it. "I often see you licking each other on the lawn," I want to reply. "What's that about?"

It wouldn't be L.A. without a "Former" Exotic Dancer Who's Now A "Hairdresser." She's legally changed her name at least three times since we met and frequently gets a new phone number. I've discovered a number of Suspicious Characters standing at the foot of her porch asking about "Violet" or "April," neither of which is any of her names. She has a Pit Bull named Dante and a Bona Fide Sugar Daddy, who has variously claimed to be a Physician, a Musician, and the Deposed Dictator of a Sizeable African City-State. All I know is he drives a Jag and wears plenty of man jewelry. I'm thinking Chris Rock, if he's willing to pull a DeNiro in Raging Bull and put on a few pounds. Or Cedric The Entertainer if he'd go Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and shave a few off.

I'm leaving somebody out. Fading Hipster, early-30s, could generally use a shower and shave. The High School Prom King, no doubt, he made tracks for L.A. only to discover A Town Full Of Prom Kings. Though disappointed, he quickly rose above all that and got himself a Big Job In Computer Graphics. He has a Designer Dog bred to lead sleds in Norway, which needs to be shaved to the bone March through September or be kept in a refrigerated industrial chamber designed to store fine wines and cheeses.

It wasn't always this cold and anonymous among us folks here in the village. When I first dumped my Husband, Career And Condo and drove into town, so excited was I about My Big Hollywood Life that I continued on to the beach to see the Pacific before doubling back along the winding, neon river of Sunset Boulevard. My first neighbors here became my first friends, each one of us bursting with youthful optimism about the riches our futures were certain to hold. One by one I saw them succeed and move up or fail and go home. Even the family of Ten Mexican Day Laborers and their Mentally Challenged Son-In-Law qualified for HUD housing and got their own very nice spread in the Valley.

Me and the semi-retired stripper are the lone hold-outs from those early days, still waiting for our lives to begin, biding our time, keeping our distance, and hoping against hope we won't end up another Live! Nude! Girl! working for tips on The Strip. No way would Little Winnie Cooper play me in that movie. I'd have to find someone like Courtney Love, God forbid, or maybe Kelly Osbourne—Sharon for the later years, when my desperation turns into excess waterweight and I have to run off with a Carnie Barker who appreciates the world's largest pole dancer. So when are all these folks due out of re-hab?

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