9.13.2013

Write Young, Stay Pretty

A former student called to tell me he's giving up. He's tired of Hollywood and frustrated with his night job editing scripted barbs for some low-rent "unscripted" show. Some guy he personally hand trained was promoted to day shift above him. This means big benefits, such as permission to sample the congealing Poquito Mas while clearing the crafts table. My guy is done trying to fight his way up, covets a vintage Mustang and wishes he'd majored in accounting. He's twenty-five years old, after all, and at this for nearly three years now.

I got here way back when the first Clinton was in the Oval Office and nobody suspected the rude kind of stuff he was up to in there. Around this time the little wiener on the phone was celebrating his first big boy birthday at Chucky Cheese. "Snap out of it!" I wanted to say. "Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiance, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident," I would add, because that's another great Cher line from Moonstruck.

All of us doe-eyed Hollywood types arrived here convinced to the core we had that kind of gold to offer -- rightly or wrongly, judging from the mixed bag I've read over the years. It all feels so random, though, the way things turn out -- who made it, who didn't, who's been teetering so dangerously close to the edge for years. Who gave up and went home without so much as checking into Foursquare with a status update as the new Mayor of Nowhere.

In film school I knew a girl who didn't have the five dollars I was collecting to buy our teacher a class gift. "I'd have to give you my food money," she apologized. "For the week." She ended up marrying one of the creators of Lost, and picked up a few Emmy nods herself writing on The Office and Modern Family -- before selling her own series to ABC as part of seven figure deal. I'm pretty sure she has groceries now, though I doubt she does much eating. She's probably trying to lose her recent pregnancy weight with a celebrity trainer before turning a new baby over to the back-up nanny up in Bel-Aire Canyon.

A guy in my first writer's group wanted notes on some teenage alien script he was polishing. He became a big TV director before jumping to four-quadrant features and marrying the highest paid female screenwriter in history (for all those vampire movies), though not necessarily in that order.

My funniest collaborator ever, ironically, has had as tough a go of things as I have. After college, we did improv in a space rented from a downstairs tow truck company, and starred together in some TV commercials. For awhile he was Mr. Goodyear. Or was it Mr. Goodwrench? I don't know, one of the good guys. Meeting the other day across another wobbly coffee table over another slice of pie, it hit me that somewhere along the way we grew up. While I couldn't pinpoint the exact moment it happened, there's no real mystery as to how things are going to turn out for us. He's been married for twenty years and has a daughter studying abroad. I have a fairly useless master's degree, an on-and-off professorship and some kid calling to insist I make sense of the whole deal.

Given the gift of prophecy, what secrets would I have revealed to the earlier versions of any of us? For even the casual dreamer, I'd announce at one of those coffee houses bubbling with aspirations, Hollywood is the best game in town. For us there is no other game or town; there's nowhere else to go and nothing to do when we get there. Time passes. Everything changes. Nothing changes. And we are only young for now.

9 comments:

  1. Again, another interesting installment about your odyssey. There's something intoxicating about these windmills we keep stabbing at.

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  2. You just like this one because you're in it.

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  3. Great pitch. If I were a producer, I'd produce this post. Sadly, all I am is an alliterist.

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  4. I am just happy somebody isreading me after all this time. An alliterist is good but I would settle for a semi-literate.

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  5. I'm an expert semilteralist. Or, rather, I is one.

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  6. And, of course I'm reading you. I love House of Pies. Hey, do you know the story of the Earth, Wind and Fire dude who is always there drinking coffee?

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  7. No! Is he single? Sorry, channeling my mother.

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  8. I'm guessing. I don't know but whenever I'm there there's a guy dressed up like a member of EWF at a center table drinking coffee.

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  9. Wow, That's a loooong time to be rocking that look.

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