A few weeks shy of ten years ago, I drove into L.A. on a typically sunny New Year’s Day. Continuing west along the I-10 well past my sister’s West L.A. townhouse, I finally reached the beach—where I pulled over and turned on my hazards, since nobody gets to park there for real unless they formerly starred in Baywatch. In fact in order to park at all in L.A., you have to be either famous, with the band, or legally disabled, but of course I didn’t know any of that back then.
Running across the sand to dip a toe in the Pacific Ocean, I realized that just about everything important to me was happening close by, and I could practically hear the intrigue of it all—the movie deals, the tabloid gossip, the entourages clucking after the stars like clueless chicks behind a dismissive mother duck. There was something strangely exhilarating about just standing there, breathing the air in and out. Ever since that day, I’ve often wished I could feel that way again, about anything, just for a moment or two.
Last week I heard Woody Allen would be making a rare, invitation-only personal appearance at the Director’s Guild after a screening of his new movie, Match Point. Armed only with an expired SAG card from having done a few TV commercials in the late 80s, I figured something this big was worth my very best shot. After all, if you asked me to describe in two words what kind of movies I want to make, I’d have to say "Annie" and "Hall." Furthermore, as an ardent follower of the big Hollywood scandal, were there any possibility of spotting Soon-Yi and the kids in the crowd, I’d have waited around the block for a couple of weeks like one of those freaks in line for another rumored Star Wars prequel.
Costumed entirely in black for a Saturday matinee, I sauntered up to the reception desk, declining to remove my sunglasses. “I’m on the list,” I informed the bright-eyed sycophant at the desk. “I’m afraid you’re not,” she said. She let me in anyway, after I threatened to call my fictitious assistant on my non-existent phone. Despite this being a small, one-factory town, I’ve learned over the years that anything can happen here—though if it doesn’t, one need only fill in the blanks. While elsewhere this is called lying—or perhaps even the early stages of mental illness—in this town serving up the wildest brand of self-important mythology is better known as “creating a buzz.”
One of these fell over the theater when Woody Allen walked down the aisle, after pausing in back to tie his signature sneaker. The jaded Hollywood crowd rose to its feet and applauded just because—and in one of those great Hollywood moments where life truly imitates art, when Woody started speaking I honestly thought this had to be a mimic doing him badly.
He talked a lot about luck, the theme of his new film, dwelling on his own good fortunes far more than you'd expect from someone who has carved a career out of neurosis and angst. "I'd rather be a lucky man than a good one," says one of the movie's characters, echoing Woody's belief that his own success befell him by mere happenstance. "If I walked out the door right now and got hit by a bus, I'd have to be okay with that," he mused, thanking the fates for smiling upon him so generously in the past. "I'd be pissed, but I couldn't complain."
As I sat there taking it all in, I was suddenly back on that beach, secure in the knowledge that ten years later I’m still right where I need to be. I suppose a cynic like Alvy Singer would take a dim view of my life here, insisting that my goodness has far superceded my luck, since the reality is not much of any significance has happened since the day I blew into town searching for that elusive parking spot. Ever the optimist, Annie Hall would argue that an afternoon spent quite by happenstance with a world famous living legend close enough to reach out and touch offers further proof that the rest of my dreams simply can’t be far behind.