I have officially experienced my most surreal, life imitating art, Hollywood moment to date. Taking one of my many daily scheduled breaks from writing my latest spec script, I tuned in to CNN to watch my personal idol, Nancy Grace. Naturally her topic was the Lindsay Lohan Affair, not to be confused with the many previous Lindsay Lohan Episodes or Lindsay Lohan Scandals, none of which involved fleeing the scene of an accident, subsequent arrest at the hospital, and the alleged possession of cocaine. Apparently the poor dear's felonious odyssey began at the Hotel Roosevelt, which is just far away from my house for me to have the ideal view of its famous, seventy-five-year-old sign. Nancy's correspondent, Sibila Vargas, was reporting live via satellite from a place that looked strikingly familiar. I walked outside to discover her crew just down the block and her cameras pointed in the general direction of my house.
I don't write much about movie stars here, except the few I've met, most of whom have gone on to annoy me enough to inspire only thinly disguised identities. To my mind, this town doesn't belong to them at all, but to the rest of us. The people who truly run Hollywood do so on the sheer force of our undying desperation, fueled by those big dreams and persistent passions even protracted failure can't quite seem to tamp down. For people like me--who've enjoyed some measure of success only to find even sporadic employment is no guarantee of Hollywood immortality--talent is a curse. With it comes the indefatigable belief that moving on, rather than staying to put up a fight, is clearly the hollower of two flawed dreams.
All this makes me wonder what life here must be like for someone whose meteoric rise to the top began at the age of ten. My friend D. was a child star, appearing as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years from the time she was in seventh grade. We met in film school, where D. was auditing screenwriting classes, and she went on to play the role of me in a staged reading of my semi-autobiographical thesis script. D. told me she hadn't been interested in acting until a friend of her mother's--the actress Lesley Ann Warren, who played Cinderella in the Rogers & Hammerstein movie in the early 60s--told her she had star quality. Though D. had a recurring role on The West Wing a few years back, her adult career has been less than remarkable. She remains, however, both suprisingly balanced and completely realistic. She writes and develops her own material, manages her money well, does stage work to hone her creative muscle and studies ballroom dancing for fun. Once in awhile I see her posing on some red carpet for the fashion page of the National Enquirer, which I'm not the least bit ashamed of telling her I read, adding that I always buy it along with that week's edition of The New Yorker.
I suppose the difference between D. and other child stars is superior parenting. D. is very close to her mother, who really looks more like a sister, as well as to her actual sister, who was also a child actress. The three of them sent me a Christmas card last year costumed as full-on elves, complete with North Pole scenery and prop reindeers. It's the kind of thing my family would do if we were all show-offy instead of only me.
Would I trade all my struggles for a shot at being an A-list actress by the age of twenty? You bet. Would I like to be rich and famous and skinny as a rail? Absolutely. Would I like to have my pick of all the best projects, to spend my days shopping on Robertson Boulevard, my afternoons poolside at Chateau Marmont and my nights sipping cocktails at Teddy's? Hell yes. What I wouldn't dream of trading in exchange is a mom and dad who love me with all their hearts and would be there if I fell, no matter how far away I was or how long it took to bring me home. I don't think Lindsay Lohan has any of that. I don't think she has anything.