Today the Legendary Hollywood Trade Paper where I’ve worked in Subscriptions for the two longest, lowest days of my life celebrated its 75th Anniversary. The ceremony, to which I was not invited, was held up on Hollywood Boulevard, re-christened H----- R-----
Boulevard for the day. I’m guessing the star unveiled in its honor along the Walk of Fame punctuates the original Art Deco-era building, which once boasted its own barber shop and haberdashery. Unfortunately, drawing the full story out of the woman I now work under was no picnic, since she only went looking for free cake.
“They should have put the star in front of the old Ciro’s,” I muse while paper clipping Very Important Things to each other. Near as I can tell, this is the most challenging part of my job, besides shuffling them like a deck of cards into matching red and black piles. “Billy Wilkerson owned all kinds of night clubs up on the Strip.”
“Billy who?” she says, pulling some errant black things from my pile of red ones.
“The guy who founded the place,” I tell her. “Very colorful fellow, back in the day. A regular Damon Runyon.”
“Right,” she says, not bothering to ask who that guy was, too. After all, I am the student here and she is the Big Puffy Teacher I'm to replace during her fourth annual pregnancy leave. I wonder how anybody can afford that many kids, since I’m too broke to buy dog food this week and am feeding the Wieners freezer-burned Lean Cuisines.
“Did you see at least see any movie stars?” I ask. I’m thinking they’d have to trot out a Kirk Douglas or a Debbie Reynolds for the occasion.
“Too hot,” is her non sequitur of a response. She clamps her long mane of black hair into one of those plastic banana clips that should be forbidden by law to leave the beauty salon. “Anyway,” she sighs. “It took me forever to park.”
I look at the rest of the heavy-lidded Cubicle Girls within earshot, each sporting a telephone headset and staring down a screen scrawled with blinking codes like something terrifying and curious out of A Beautiful Mind. I have the sudden urge to point to one and marvel over a fascinating apparition of the Big Dipper.
Instead I continue my history lecture, informing every last one of them how The H----- R----- used to have a verve and jargon all its own. Studios were referred to as "the plant" and directors would sign on to "megaphone" a picture. When out-of-favor producers were shown off the lot, so-and-so "took it at a trot." Blind gossip items referred to this “cagey blonde” or that “bad boy bachelor” in deference to a system bent on controlling the images of its stars.
"How do you know all this?” Puffy wants to know.
“It’s in today’s edition,” I say, holding it up. “Didn’t anybody read it yet?”
The revelation that I actually subscribe to this rag is met with a round of snickers. I decide to leave out how the proudest moment of my life was the day my name appeared on the front page after winning a Big Deal Screenwriting Competition. I am both incomprehensibly exotic and completely ridiculous to these girls—especially in light of all the sorting, stacking and stapling activities before me.
Monday I will learn how to encode orders into The Big System. My hidden agenda, at the suggestion of a loyal reader, will be to secure Steven Spielberg’s cell phone number so that I may publish it here among many others. What’s more, I will fend off the tedium of my unhappy circumstances by loitering near the pencil sharpener and lurking on the toilet with my feet up to ferret out the kind of smut you’d never read in the pages of a legitimate publication. Because even when she’s down and out, Julie Goes To Hollywood still knows how to dig deep for the dirt and she’s not afraid to spread some lies of her own around this false promise of a town.
Or maybe not. Maybe it will be all I can do to just sit there all day punching numbers into the abyss. I guess another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that when a girl gets down to that last shred of dignity along her treacherous trip to the top, the next thing she's bound to lose is what's left of her beautiful mind.