Big Hollywood Homecoming

My father packed me a lunch for my flight back to L.A. Ham salad and liverwurst sandwiches on rye with pickles—food you wouldn’t think of picking off a menu because it’s totally disgusting unless your dad makes it for you. Mine also tossed in a baggie of unsalted peanuts in the shell and two tangerines, which I washed down with a bottle of orange juice hand-squeezed from his little groves by the lake.

We’d picked the fruit together, when he took me for a ride through the mud in his new Mule, showing off a pricey set of upgraded swamp tires. If I were a little girl, I would have clung to the roller bar and squealed in terror. Instead I wondered why there was a roller bar. I made a mental note to research the statistics on tipping these silly machines I would later report back to my mother.

It’s never easy getting on a plane. This might have something to do with the seats getting smaller while my butt keeps getting bigger. It might be about the way I always traveled first class back when I was a journalist, where you get hot nuts and bottomless Bloody Marys, and a "flight attendant" who understands very well this is just a fancier term for "waitress."

More likely, though, it’s that even after all this time returning to L.A. never really feels like coming home. Like some starstruck newcomer, I took a wrong turn exiting the airport and ended up in Redondo Beach. When I finally made my way back toward the West Side, I passed Spike Lee’s landmark Meaty Meat Burgers on Fairfax and noticed its long boarded up windows tagged with graffiti. I remember my sister pointing out the one time hipster hangout the first time I visited her here. What a groovy town, I thought—picturing Spike himself at the griddle flipping burgers while personally re-claiming the hood.

Tomorrow is my tenth anniversary in Hollywood. Traveling by car, I had hit Phoenix at sunset on New Year’s Eve and thought about skipping the roadside motel—reasoning that I could make it by midnight if I could only pick up the pace. On good days, I still believe that. On bad days I realize how very long a ride it’s been, and here I still haven’t made it. How easy it would be to run back home and be a little girl again, to grab onto that roller bar and shriek at the top of my lungs. Which makes me wonder why I couldn’t manage a peep when given the chance.

Along with my little brown bag, Dad sent me off this last time with a bear hug, yet another sizeable check and an apology for the surprise visit to his grave on Christmas Day. “I only wanted you to see my name in print,” he said. I should have said I understood. I didn’t say anything, except goodbye.

Down Home Julie

In film school, many of the screenwriting students swore by the arithmatic-driven, year-long feature film development class taught by Jodie Foster's producing partner. Personally, that stuff scared me to death. I wasn't even sure what "development" was, let alone why I would want to call on such a seemingly businesslike process in the creation of all the quirky little films flickering in my head.

I sat in on class the first night anyway, mostly to see if Jodie would show. She didn't. It must be she already knew that filmmaking requires not a writer, but rather an idea, an accountant, one or more superfluous blowhards, their toadies, and a star. The latter can't be just any old celebrity, mind you, only one proven able to "open a movie" without the help of a co-star, big name director or even a script. While the studio number crunchers can tell you who these rarefied individuals are, concluded our lecturer, you can just as easily put that together yourself. "If you think Uma Thurman alone is going to get your movie made, ask your Uncle Harold back in Podunk," she said. "It's a bad sign if he can't even pronounce the name."

At the last minute, I decided to spend the holidays in the small town in Florida where my parents recently retired. On Christmas morning, my father made me a pecan waffle with Benecol and sugar-free Log Cabin, then took me to see his grave. My mother's, too.

I looked him up and down, checking for a suspicious mole or visible tumor. Mom smiled brightly from the car, where she sat listening to the new Rod Stewart CD she got for Christmas. Maybe they'd made some kind of a pact to crank up "Maggie May" and end it all if they weren't able to reserve a verandah suite on their next Caribbean cruise. "Pretty spot, isn't it?" he boasted, giving the marker etched with their names a little kick like the tire of some sweet new roadster.

"You're sixty-nine years old!" I wanted to shout. "Mike Wallace is eighty-eight and he beats up cops!" But I couldn't speak at all, so I just stood there and started to cry. Female outbursts really aren't Dad's strong suit, so he mumbled something about bringing around the car.

All I could figure is he couldn't face the idea of death without dragging me and my mother along—as if on one of his ridiculous camping trips separating us from another fabulous sale at Lord & Taylor. Or maybe he just wanted to remind me that he wouldn't be around forever so I'd eat the wild pig he'd shot in the woods and pretend it didn't taste like shoes. Or maybe he just wanted to pick the next movie for a change.

After dinner, I put down my fork, knocked back the last of the Sauvignon Blanc and announced my willingness to see King Kong. "I saw the first two," he said. Though relieved, I also knew that trying to sell Brokeback Mountain as a reinterpretation of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid would be pushing my luck. I suggested The Producers. It turns out he'd already seen that, too, with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. "Wouldn't you like to see the musical version?" I asked. "I hear Uma Thurman wears a thong."

"He doesn't know who Uma Thurman is," my mother chimed in.

"I do so know Oona Thurman," insisted my father. Though a brilliant, well-read man, his cinematic tastes reveal a childlike sense of wonder. The last really great one, by God, was The Polar Express. On the other hand, he can't seem to get through Sideways because it's about two losers. "I like heroes," he said with a shrug.

It suddenly occurred to me why it was so important for him to show me his grave, and why it was equally important for me to see it. Everybody needs a hero, and here mine sat right across the dinner table, with all his flaws and ticks, for a limited time only. Unlike us Hollywood types, he'd mustered the courage to get up and go to work every day without ever questioning whether or not it was fun. Though I wasn't equipped to argue the concept in film school, finally getting something onto the big screen might well mean knowing less about Uma Thurman and more about Umatilla. It might mean really knowing my dad. "We could just stick around here," I suggested. "I'm not sure if I'm up for hiking, fishing or gunplay, but I am willing to cook up some of that dead pig of yours."

Visions of Cabbage Rolls Danced in Her Head

I don’t talk about my Croatian ex-husband much because people think I’m making it up. “We met at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve,” I’ll say. “On a cruise ship. Somewhere in the Caribbean.”

“Is that so?” some Carlsbad housewife at one of my sister’s parties will patiently respond while opening another juice box for little Maximillian.

“He was a maitre d’. I asked him for extra walnuts on my hot fudge sundae and he demanded a kiss in return. Right there at the buffet table.” As a former journalist, I had helped Aleks escape the Civil War in former Yugoslavia, marrying him seventeen days after we met. “Most of these were in Frankfurt,” I’d explain. “After the cruise line sent him packing for beating up the food and beverage manager in the galley.”

“Speaking of which, how about this spinach dip?” she’d say. "How does your sister do it?" Determined to finish, I would narrow my eyes, backing her into a corner. “The Serbs had bombed the airport in Dubrovnik, so that was as far as they could deport him! He had to escape back into the country by taking a blockade running boat from Vienna!”

“Maximillian!” she’d shout. “Mommy wants you to stop hitting your sister! Now put down the Whiffle bat and take a time out.” She’d then turn back to me, this deluded, would be screenwriter who also fancied herself some clandestine, international figure. “Please. Go on.”

Since Aleks was ethnically part Serbian, returning to Croatia would have proven particularly treacherous. Both armies would try to enlist him. If I hadn't saved him, he’d have never been sure whether to shoot the guy in the distance or the one beside him.

In film school I wrote a political thriller based on these events called “Cruising to Nowhere.” My instructor was Dan Pyne—who’d most memorably written Doc Hollywood and the Johnathan Demme re-make of The Manchurian Candidate—so I figured he’d get both the romance and the intrigue. Wrong again. “Can't we make some of this more plausible?” he asked, thumbing through my draft.

“Et tu, Brute?”

“Sometimes you have to boil even a true story down to its more pedestrian elements. Can you think of any of those?”

“Well, I tried to make his mother’s cabbage rolls one Christmas and it turned out they were Serbian instead of Croatian. He spit on my cookbook and threw it out.”

“There’s your poster moment.”

“No, that’s when his mother came in the flesh the next year and tried to tell me how to cook a turkey. The avowed Communist had my Butterball splayed out across the length of the oven with its legs in the air like a dead cockroach.”

Declining to fly her back over the next year, I kindly requested she fork over the blasted cabbage recipe. For Aleks, being raised in a socialist country had always meant observing the holiday on the non-secular New Year’s Eve. So, four years to the day since we met, I finally got his national dish right—but it was still in the oven when Aleks had to rush off. On the busiest night of the year, my big, hulking husband was set to work the door of a white hot Miami Beach nightclub called Bash, owned by the actor Sean Penn.

Lying alone in the wee hours of New Year's Day, I received a call from the hospital. Aleks had been seriously injured breaking up a barfight, nearly losing an eye.

He had a hard time bouncing back, marking the beginning of the end of our marriage. Living on disability payments, he spent his days drinking espresso and his nights drinking slivovitz, licking his wounds with some equally disenchanted expatriate friends. Finally, I’d had enough, sending him packing back to Europe by year’s end. He tried to join the French Foreign Legion, but was turned away after training, deemed to large for covert operations. Too drunk, too, I'm guessing. “He never got to eat those stupid cabbage rolls,” I told my teacher. “I hate cabbage. Cabbage stinks. That pedestrian enough for you?”

“This isn’t a spy story,” he said, handing me back the draft. “It’s a Christmas story.”

I suppose if I’d ever had the wherewithal to re-write it and submit it to Lifetime, I might have a mini-series under my belt by now. Millions of housewives would be tuning in for the details—including the mother of little Maximillian, president of my fan club's enormous Carlsbad chapter. The trouble is, another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that when truth is stranger than fiction, the bittersweet, life-affirming holiday version—complete with lingering kitchen odors—might just be too much to re-visit.

Thirty Isn't So Young In That Carnival of a Town

When I told my mother over lunch in Miami that I was going to Hollywood to become a screenwriter it was as though I’d announced I was moving to Calcutta to open an Outback Steakhouse. “A screenwriter!” she gasped, as if discovering something alive in her soup. “You’ll end up working as an office temp! You’ll have to eat boxed macaroni and cheese and sell socks at the flea market!”

Not in the farthest reaches of my considerable imagination could I have known that I would indeed suffer these horrors and many more in pursuit of my dream. Alas, my fate had been sealed one Christmas morning by a bookmarker stuffed in my stocking, inscribed with the words of George Eliot, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.”

With that, I finally mustered the courage, as so few do, to risk it all on the tiniest off chance of satisfying a life-long passion. I also knew instinctively that every scene is a battle one character ends up winning. Clearly I had to win the one with the little woman across the table who’d birthed, loved and supported me were I to have any shot at all of conquering a town as famously unwelcoming as Hollywood. She inquired into the benefits package that came with this supposed screenwriting job. “What about the retirement plan? You don’t want to end up an old woman with high blood pressure living in a trailer park with the poor people.”

Being raised by a struggling single parent—factory worker by day and coat check girl by night—goes a long way toward explaining my mother’s fascination with “the poor people.” Teaching English at a Catholic girl’s school, she’d managed not only to marry well, but also to become highly educated in her own right, earning an advanced degree in British Literature. “Can’t you see the romance of it all?” I asked, reminding her that Ernest Hemingway went to Paris and ate pigeons when he was young.

“Thirty isn’t so young in that carnival of a town.”

“I’m twenty-six, Mother, and if you ever tell anyone anything differently I’ll go totally Jennifer Aniston on you!”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You don’t hear Demi Moore saying anything nice about her mom, do you?

“Or little Meg Ryan either,” she sighed. “I guess the first thing to go out there is the mother.”  Deftly applying her sensibly priced Revlon lipstick without the aid of a mirror, she reached for the check—confident, I’m sure, that she’d won this little lunch scene of ours hands down.

“You’re the one who gave me that bookmarker!” I cried.

“I did not. What bookmarker?”

“The one about becoming who I might have been. You wanted me to know it wasn’t too late.”

“So what if I did?”

“I have everything I need to go and do this thing because you gave it to me. Grandma, too.”

“Grandma? What’s she got to do with it?”

“You always said she was the most independent woman you’d ever known.”

“She was,” she said, tears welling in her eyes for the mother she’d recently lost and the daughter she was about to. “Now I guess that’s you.”

Proverbially, I won the battle but lost the war. While I’d already started to see my life as a movie, mine wouldn’t exactly turn out to be the feel good story of the year. The problem with real life is the heroine doesn’t always wake up in the nick of time, discovering that she’d known the way home all along.

In fact, this is the first Christmas since I first arrived in Hollywood that I won’t be making it home at all. Mom agrees this is a good thing, since the little chunk of money and time resulting from my eviction settlement represents my last chance to make any headway here if I’m indeed to avoid packing up and calling it a day for good.

She called today to say my father had put out every last Christmas light anyway, and he’d planned a snow crab feast, my traditional welcome home dinner, for only the two of them. “There’s always next year,” she said.

“Next year, it’ll all be different, Mom. I’m absolutely, one hundred percent sure of that.”

Another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that winning a key scene, no matter how noble the heroine’s intentions, sometimes involves a little white lie.

Woody and Me, Fairfax and Sunset, Saturday Afternoon

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.

The Humorist Makes Fun of Herself

Back in film school, my Legendary Story Structure Professor, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of screenwriting, told how he was once asked by a Los Angeles Times reporter if he's able to predict who among the students is most likely to make it. After all, he's taught so many of the town's Million Dollar Screenwriters over the last forty years—surely he must recognize a pattern.

After a long, signature pause, he replied, "It all depends on how well they deal with panic and despair." This was not the answer the reporter expected. He thought an early marker of success would involve the perpetual wearing of sunglasses, perhaps, or being left-handed and smoking filterless cigarettes. Panic and despair aren't words people want to associate with prosperity.

I had a phone meeting with three Paramount executives yesterday. I'm not sure what this level of effort signifies, other than I'm not important enough for anybody to get dressed up for. In retrospect, maybe they were fully coiffed and clothed and I was the only one sitting there in my jammies. It seems the new regime at the studio, all abuzz with new regime professions of looking for hot, new talent, has greenlit a film about knitting. Yes, and crocheting, too! Apparently yarn is all the rage across America and I've somehow managed to miss yet another hot trend, just as I have houka clubs, speed dating and, thankfully, the wearing of knickers and newsboy caps popularized by those sickly looking Olsen twins.

I yammered on and on about my affinity for the home arts, which happens to be accurate, though I'd have been no less enthusiastic on the topic were I weaving a yarn, so to speak. While I'm always happy to have the opportunity to pitch a big studio movie, it's so very tough to lose out in the end to the director's "niece," Spielberg's cousin, or Nora and Delia Ephron. This inevitable rejection is especially hard to take after robbing time from my own projects to break a story I'll never get to write.

While I don't know anybody who can claim to deal happily with being rebuffed, I realized that my way of handling panic and despair is to do the suffering in advance. Count myself out up front and it's no surprise when I lose by a hair's breath in the end. Just in the nick of time, I've subscribed to The Writer's Almanac, a daily e-mail compiled by Garrison Keillor. Today's edition featured humorist James Thurber, who, like so many writers who eventually made it, had a circuitous route to the top—and a tip for getting there that's been as close at hand as my trusty dark sunglasses and easy way with a quip. What is the opposite of suffering, after all, but choosing to have a good time, come what may? "The wit makes fun of other persons," Thurber wrote. "The satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself."

It's the birthday of the humorist James Thurber, born in Columbus, Ohio (1894). He was one of the most important early staff writers for the New Yorker magazine, but he had a lot of trouble getting started there. He started submitting humor pieces to the New Yorker in 1926, when the magazine was barely a year old. He said, "My pieces came back so fast I began to believe the New Yorker must have a rejection machine."

He took a job at the New York Evening Post, but he knew he wanted to write humor, so he kept at it. He was living in a basement apartment with his first wife. She thought that after twenty of his humor pieces had failed to find a publisher he should probably give up. But one night, he set his alarm clock to go off forty five minutes after he'd fallen asleep, and he woke up in sleepy daze and wrote the first thing that came to mind: a story about a man going round and round in a revolving door, setting the world record for revolving door laps. It was the first piece of his published in the New Yorker.

Best Little Whorehouse in Hollywood

The reason Christmas occurs in so many romantic comedies is because there’s something so viscerally sad about being alone this time of year. Who could forget the image of Sally dragging home her own tree after she and Harry had made the formidable task look like such fun the year before? Or Miracle on 34th Street, ostensibly a children’s movie, where it ultimately becomes just as important for Natalie Wood to believe in Santa Claus as it does for her jilted mother to know that men don’t necessarily suck. One of my favorite holiday songs is “Hard Candy Christmas,” which Dolly Parton sings in Best Little Whorehouse In Texas after Burt Reynolds dumps her because he’s a cop and she’s a whore, and all this finally occurs to them. Gets me every time.

Last night I heard it on the radio while driving home from the mall, where I’d finally given in and bought a double bed. “Are you sure I couldn’t interest you in the queen?” said the queen running the big holiday mattress sale. Translation: “Although you evidently sleep alone, dear, you’re hardly a petite woman.” The salesman bearing a suspicious resemblance to Reuben Kincaid from The Partridge Family had a tuft of curly red hair teased into a ball of cotton candy atop his head. I somehow doubt his bedroom is exactly a catalogue spread for Abercrombie & Fitch. “I just moved,” I informed him. “Smaller bedroom, smaller bed.” Translation: “Who are you to judge, shop boy? And by the way, how are Laurie and Keith? Danny is just a mess, judging from the scandalous promos for Breaking Bonaduce.”

But then, so what if he really was a former sitcom star relegated to selling down-sized furniture to single women at Robinson’s May? If my life had gone differently, I would be the mother of all mothers. I’d be the perfect scout leader in whose highly accomplished troupe only the exceptionally clever girl had the slimmest hope of landing a spot. My own children, a religious musical ensemble known far and wide for their pitch perfect, five-part harmonies, would always headline the church pageant because I’d be the one hand stitching the meticulously researched shepherd regalia costuming the entire city of Bethlehem. My holiday cookies, brownies and fudge would raise more money for the PTA than any other confectionary assortment in the history of the Annual Holiday Bake Sale; while my Christmas lights would be the star attraction along the Seasonal Parade of Homes in some sleepy hamlet known for its painstakingly restored Victorians, most notably mine.

Instead, I came to Hollywood, where to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, I put all my eggs in one bastard. This was my choice, of course, and whatever the future may hold, I’m proud to have made it so unflinchingly. Besides, it’s not my Croatian ex-husband I miss at Christmastime, it’s who he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be Fred Gale delivering the winning courtroom argument about who gets Santa's mail; and Billy Crystal and Burt Reynolds when they woke up and came back. He was supposed to be my hero, while I ended up having to be my own. Another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that while lots of people have a tough time during the holidays—when they look at their own reflection in some storybook Christmas window and suddenly realize that their lives haven’t turned out exactly as they’d dreamed—you already know all that.

Hey, maybe I’ll dye my hair
Maybe I’ll move somewhere
Maybe I’ll get a car
Maybe I’ll drive so far
They’ll all lose track
Me, I’ll bounce right back

Maybe I’ll sleep real late
Maybe I’ll lose some weight
Maybe I’ll clear my junk
Maybe I’ll just get drunk on apple wine.

Me, I’ll be just fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let sorrow bring me way down.

I’ll be fine and dandy
Lord it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down
’cause I’ll be fine
(I’ll be fine)
Oh, I’ll be fine.

Dialogue Polish

Just when I was counting down the hours remaining in my pointless temp job taking subscriptions at the Legendary Hollywood Trade Paper—thirteen, to be exact, less two lunch hours and three ten minute breaks—Bill Paxton called. "The actor?" I asked, so flustered I then added the following signature witticism: "Wow. Cool."

"That's right," he said, obviously flattered. "Who's this?"

"Julie. It's, yeah. Julie." This sparkling and pithy exchange of bons mots felt like some kind of failed audition for Annie Hall. "You gotta stop sending me all these magazines, Julie." Mysteriously ignoring the invitation to conversation implicit whenever a movie star addresses a girl by name, I told him the offending subscription might be a complimentary mailer from the Motion Picture Academy sent out during awards season. "Don't you need to know who to vote for?"

"I'm thinking I'll see the movies and figure it out. How do you like that approach?"

"Interesting." Interesting? Here's a guy zero degrees of separation from Jim Cameron—a big studio A-lister who's also worth a cool ten mil in foreign independent financing—and I'm somehow electing to keep things monosyllabic between us. Why didn't I just grunt a few times and show off my casual way with Cro Magnan?

I suppose everybody longs for a chance to re-write certain key scenes from their own life stories from time to time. As someone who spends so much time whiny-whining about her god-given, long overdue right to ascend to the rank of Big Hollywood Screenwriter, I propose a Fred McMurray/Barbara Stanwyck-worthy Double Indemnity dialogue polish.

Julie: Subscriptions, this is Julie.
Bill: Hi, Julie. This is Bill Paxton.
Julie: Bill Paxton. You don't say.
Bill: Listen, I need to cancel my subscription. I never even ordered the thing.
Julie: May I make a confession, Mr. Paxton? I've always confused you with Bill Pullman. Though you're clearly the hotter Bill, since you always get the girl, even if it's only in the B-plot.
Bill: I got two of them in Twister. Is there extra credit for that?
Julie: You get that for pulling off a treasure hunter named Brock Lovett in Titanic.
Bill: Most people only remember the name Jack Dawson.
Julie: I'm not most people.
Bill: You're not going to cancel my subscription, are you?
Julie: You've got to give Leo credit for that steamy handprint in the back window of the red Model T. Hottest love scene in movie history.
Bill: That belongs to Redford in Out of Africa. When he tells Meryl Streep to stop moving.
Julie: And she says she can't, but she does and then they're just lying there, breathing each other's breath.
Bill: You don't sound old enough to remember the details.
Julie: I sneaked into the theater on the arm of a helpful college boy.
Bill: You've got a real way with words, kid.
Julie: It happens I'm a writer.
Bill: In this town? Imagine that.
Julie: "Action hero" hardly smacks of originality.
Bill: It happens I'm in the market for something more meaningful.
Julie: It happens I have a Hilarious Little Funeral Comedy on hand.
Bill: Maybe we should talk.
Julie: We are talking.
Bill: Maybe we should do it in person.
Julie: What was all that nonsense about a magazine subscription?
Bill: I have no idea.
Julie: In that case I'll bring the screenplay. You bring the Coeur de la Mer.
Bill: That would be somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.
Julie: Then all you'll have to do is find it.
Bill: Something tells me you're not an easy girl.
Julie: Define easy.

The Clydesdale in My Window

There’s a heartbreaking scene in You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan, having lost her late mother’s beloved bookstore, turns around to take one last look. She sees a shadowy memory of herself as a little girl, dancing around the place with her mom. While this film will be best remembered as a genre-defining romantic comedy, to my mind it’s a story about managing loss. So are Sleepless In Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, come to think of it. Meg could never manage to work through her various losses until the very last page, when she’d hook up with her one true love and order a coconut wedding cake with a side of chocolate sauce. Maybe it was her scarecrow build, goofy giggle or sunny blonde hairdo, but along the way she always had a real knack for making profound sadness feel deceptively fun.

This past weekend I emptied out the last of my things from my little Hollywood bungalow as the Santa Ana winds blew through town. The Stripper Next Door, who’s also been evicted, paused knowingly before saying the weather was telling us to “move, move, move.”

She’s always been unusually in touch with her mystical side, so I've come to rely on her translating services. I had a cinematic memory of my own, recalling the night she first came over bearing a stick of orange blossom incense like a torchlight by which to read my tarot cards. Turning over some kind of upside down grim reaper, she flatly informed me I would never have a career in sitcom. I found this pretty hard to believe at the time, since I’d just landed a spot in the comedy writing program on the Warner Brothers lot. “The universe doesn’t lie,” she insisted.

Turning around to survey the empty house gave way to a barrage of these memories, as vivid as movie flashbacks with a bittersweet Harry Connick, Jr. soundtrack. Though he’s been dead for years, I saw my two-hundred-pound Mastiff, Bunny, whose oversized jowls had shaken loose a strand of spittle so violently that it still sticks to the ceiling. I conjured up my friend Debbie, who's also passed on, nervously primping to appear on a game show taped nearby on the old I Love Lucy stage of the former Desilu Playhouse.

I saw my sister at the kitchen counter, coming to my rescue yet again to cater the last minute wedding of my friend Amy—whom she’d only met once before. A committee of old film school pals marched by, tying white picnic boxes in tulle netting to be ferried out to a staging area on the lawn.

My father somehow appeared from the past, looking out from my porch amazed that a flock of wild parrots had found its way to a red chili pepper tree abuzz with hummingbirds here in the heart of Hollywood.

“High acid fertilizer,” echoed a distant voice from one of my mother's past visits as she fingered my anemic gardenias.

Snapping me back to the reality of a communal pile of moving rubble, my neighbor handed me a 2002 Traci Lords calendar for which she’d so proudly done hair and make up, and a half-empty bottle of Coco Chanel Refreshing Dew Mist whose oily base had congealed over the top. I don’t know why this made me cry, since emoting wasn’t really something she and I had done much of together as we grew up here side by side, however inadvertently.

Hugging her goodbye, I realized I’d never actually touched her before. “Want my Riverside Shakespeare?” she offered. “I took it off some smart guy I made out with.”

“Couldn’t you have scored a Pelican?” I wailed. “Everyone knows it’s better annotated!”

“Snap out of it,” she finally said. “Can’t you see this is our chance to be someone new? I don’t have to feel naked any more. You don’t have to feel fat.”

 “I am fat!” I cried, stuffing a good two grand worth of Milanese lingerie that no longer fits into a Goodwill bag.

 “The universe is saying we leave all that right here. How many times I gotta tell you that's what the wind's for?"

Here I thought it was meant to keep me up at night.

Lying down to sleep in a brand new place always feels odd, as though you’re some squatter off the street navigating an unfriendly warehouse piled high with cardboard boxes.  In thematic keeping with my big Hollywood circus of a life, however, I moved in the night of the 74th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade. The event inspired Gene Autry to write “Here Come Santa Claus”—and I quickly discovered I live directly on the original Santa Claus Lane.

Virtually imprisoning me, dozens of high school bands lined up outside my front windows, and just when I’d manage to cry myself to sleep, some overzealous drum major would mark time for a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock,” heavy on the tuba.

I got up to close the shades and found myself face to face with a Clydesdale blinking back at me—as well as a camel, several elephants, and two hundred members of the California Highway Patrol Motor Brigade. With that, my profound sadness did give way to something strangely fun—and even without the redeeming love of Tom Hanks suddenly I felt perky, and long-limbed, and yes, even blonde! That big, snorting horse had delivered a message, I had to believe, and I somehow knew that maybe, just maybe, the universe might finally be telling me something good.

Originally published November 30, 2005. Since that time the universe has indeed told me a number of things -- some good, some bad, but mostly that neither tends to last long enough to matter either way. So much for a big Hollywood finish.

Turkey Time in Hollywood

People can easily mistake Hollywood for one big movie lot, where there's nothing much but the occasional sandbag propping up the flimsy faces of our trompe l'oeil houses. While it's true that we star-struck, image-obsessed dreamers don't pretend to be nearly as genuine as the folks we've left back in Umatilla, we do have our own traditions—and come holiday time they mean an awful lot to this otherwise soulless bunch.

Last night a big, black Hummer ran a stop, took out a school crossing sign, rolled three times and landed atop my neighbor's car, parked at the foot of the drive. While we don't have football here, we do see some spectacular wrecks this time of year, and this one heralded the holiday season as dependably as Santa's Thanksgiving Day Parade arrival in Herald Square. The model-thin driver enroute from a Big Celebrity Event—judging from the expensive gold party shoe somehow abandoned in the middle of the accident scene—never once dropped her cell phone. She was still yammering away as the self-consciously hot firemen, no doubt aspiring underwear models themselves, strapped her into a cervical collar and wheeled her off on their backboard, nodding to the crowd.

All of the neighbors turned out, the Stripper, the Stuntman, the Jazz Musician Whose Name You'd Recognize, the Failed Comedian Turned Prosperous Private Dick. Even the Drug Dealing Cholos on the corner closed up shop to observe the event, although I'm sure the model wouldn't have turned down a nice dime bag to take the edge off after her inevitable DUI arrest and subsequent stint in re-hab. Nobody brought hot chocolate, but Stuntman produced several pharmaceutical quality ice packs as mysteriously as rabbits from a hat, administering to a pair of pedestrians who'd been injured while hurling themselves out of the path of the corkscrewing truck.

Since I'm moving away in a couple of days, I looked around at this cast of characters I've grown up among, quite by happenstance, over the last nine years. As the music swelled and everything turned to slo-mo, it occurred to me that while so many of us were waiting for our lives to happen, they did. Along the way, our crazy dreams—the wild triumphs, the spectacular disappointments—have been more like those of everybody else than we eccentrics would ever freely admit.

This afternoon I'll sit down to a traditional feast with my Type A Lawyer Sister and her Stockbroker Husband Who Golfs, having fled the carnival today for the all-American normalcy of their San Diego ranch house. In deference to custom, I'll then go home and share the leftovers this one last time with Stripper, since her parents are long estranged and her boyfriends are usually indifferent, married or D-list actors who can't see the stock in taking her out in public. She sometimes brings over this former fan who reminds me of the hulking half-wit from Of Mice And Men, and I've always been worried he might kill her by accident. Sometimes I think I should remind her of that timeless cautionary tale, but then it'll occur to me she probably doesn't know her Steinbeck all that well.

Anyway, she's going to have to watch out for herself now, since it's just not the kind of town where friendship survives a move, even one only a few blocks away. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is that we should all learn to recognize the good old days when they're as close at hand as a brand new pair of party shoes.

Surrender Dorothy, and Your Little Friend Julie, Too

Does everyone have recurring nightmares, or is it only unproduced screenwriters? I have one where my teeth loosen so much I can yank one out and spit it into an ashtray. My Deeply Concerned Mother believes the teeth represent words, symbolizing my need to dole mine out to the world, whatever the personal cost. There’s another where I’m chewing this huge wad of gum and it grows backward down my throat if I don't keep blowing bubbles. Deeply Concerned, no stranger to the self-help section down at the Umatilla Barnes & Noble, feels certain this one is either about compulsive overeating or writer’s block.

My most frequent nightmare feels almost interactive—like some early Technicolor musical I’m orchestrating from the sidelines on my debut directorial assignment for MGM. I’m back in New Orleans as an undergrad; classes are about to start and I can’t find a place to live. In my desperate journey to find a home, punctuated with rousing song and dance numbers, old college friends pop up like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz to taunt me with their real life successes. One has a husband and kids, the other a Connecticut farm house and a Ph.D. I haven’t discussed the underlying subtext with Deeply Concerned, but I’m guessing she’d say it’s more concrete evidence of my abject failure, over these many years, to land a man, get a job, buy a house and open a 401K.

Ironically, since the big life twister whisked me off to Munchkinland, my little Hollywood bungalow has been the only real constant. While I plan to fight my illegal eviction with all I've got, the city would mandate some handy “relocation" expenses were I to give in now. So I’m figuring some looking around wouldn’t hurt.

Yesterday, I visited what could have been the set of Melrose Place, only rendered in three-quarter scale. The apartment had a half-bath and a third of a kitchen, with a miniature refrigerator you could sit upon with your legs crossed and roll around paddling a broom. The smarmy owner, an "Argentinian film editor," who never said exactly what kind of films so I'm going with soft core porn, informed me he'd be running a criminal check on me. He said I may as well come clean, since he'd already backgrounded my neighbor the former stripper, a fellow evictee, revealing something "not so cool" in her past. He was obviously referencing an old misdemeanor conviction for lewd conduct, connected to her once having unlawfully touched herself during a lapdance. I wonder if the undercover cop she was straddling at the time has trouble securing adequate housing.

I moved on to a vintage building in the heart of Hollywood, near the storied Knickerbocker Hotel and the landmark Capitol Records Building. All very charming, save for the bars on the windows, the junkies in the communal courtyard and the warlock who hexed me for stealing his parking spot. "Don't bother, freak," I told him, jamming nickels in the meter. "It's really redundant at this point."

I went home and happened upon a dream setup on Craigslist, a charming, one-bedroom gate house with a screened-in sleeping porch on a ten-acre Malibu ranch. The rancher, who revealed himself to be a Certain Big Deal Producer managing to get away from it all, said the rent is so low because he's looking for someone who likes to cook and garden and could watch the dogs when he and the wife are in Aspen. "Maybe an emerging screenwriter," I hinted, "whose career you could gently nurture in the quiet of the countryside." I then realized that a film school chum had formerly been his assistant and ran his name past her. Her response, in summary, was that the guy is Satan in a pair of Osh Kosh B'Goshes. The only one of the seven deadly sins he hadn't committed repeatedly upon or in front of her was avarice, and that's only because she's never been exactly sure what that is.

I spent most of today on the phone with the Rent Stabilization Board explaining to the mouth-breathing morons why they might want to enforce state and local law on my behalf. In truth, I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight, knowing it won't be the toothless or the bubble gum dream, but rather the one where I'm homeless and tapdancing for my life. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is when you spend your whole day dreaming about the limitless beauty of what might be, your nights can't help but surrender themselves to the ugly reality of what actually is.

Julie Makes a Dream Date

The best thing about working nine to five for the first time is not working at 8:59 or 5:01. While flat out quitting would mean losing my unemployment, I am ticking off my sentence on the calendar like Clint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz. Should I arrive a couple of minutes early to my mindless temp job taking subscription orders at the Legendary Hollywood Trade Paper, I sit in my car with the radio blasting. While my real hope is to cause a minor earthquake, I'd settle for news of some freak snow, hail or locust storm causing everyone to flee the premises indefinitely. Failing that, at day's end I'm so adamant about leaving work on time that I covertly turn off my computer a minute or two early and sit there like Warren R. Schmidt, watching the clock strike the hour.

At 4:57 on Friday, the phone rang. I considered picking up the receiver and putting it down again quickly, knowing it would then ring through to one of the other girls. But then I saw the trio of office snipes, among whom my precision-timed departures are a running joke, purposefully yukking it up clear over by the Xerox machine.

"Subscriptions, may I take your order?" I asked through gritted teeth, cradling the phone to my ear while gathering my keys in one hand and my bag in the other.

"Yeah, how you doing today?" said a voice double for the rapper Fiddy Cent. "You sound like you fine, baby. You fine?"

"Spell your name, please. Come on, chop-chop."

"First name, "Aggravated." Second name, "Hollywood." A-g-r-a-v, then the number eight --

"Wait, shouldn't there be two "g"s?

"Oh woman, you fine."

"It's one of my favorite words. I also like obliterate, sanguine and nunchucks."

"When I blow up, I'm gonna take you out on the town," said my dream date, "Agrav8ed hOLLYwOoD." Since he takes his mail in Seattle, Washington, I figured that was more a threat than a promise. "I know it's not easy, but you really should try to get down here," I told him. "I mean, since you're already bastardizing the name."

"Oh, I'll be there, baby. I'll buy us a crib in Bel-Aire, how 'bout that? Show off my shorty on the T.V. show."

"Your shorty?"

"That's you, baby."

"Oh. I thought you were being disgusting." When he lowered his voice to whisper his credit card number like the combination to the Philadelphia Mint, I decided he might be crazy, but he sure wasn't stupid. He made me swear the issues would start arriving on time, since he likes to get down to "bidness." Any delay and he'd have to "put out" my "fine ass" and get me fired instead.

"Promise?" I cooed.

"Don't you come at me with any of them nunchucks, girl."

That I couldn't promise in return, since it was 5:01 by the time I walked out the door, past my heartless co-workers high fiving each other and snickering. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is that some people have an uncanny natural ability to fake it until they make it, for as long as that may take. For the rest of us, hanging on even one more obliterating, sanguine, nunchucked minute can feel like too much to bear.


When I was an eighth grader growing up in the San Fernando Valley, my best friend Debbie and I rented Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet pretty much every weekend. By the twelfth or so viewing, we had basically memorized the entire script, focusing on the key party, balcony and wedding night scenes in which the star-crossed lovers meet, woo and do it—defying their clueless parents at every turn.

In keeping with our teenage girl sensibilities, we laid primary blame for the ensuing tragedy not on the lovers' youthful indiscretions, but rather on Juliet's mother. She's the one who manages not only to convince her kid to marry the wrong guy, but further persuades the Prince of Verona to exile Romeo to Mantua for knifing Michael York. Though he, too, had been very hot as Juliet's blue-eyed cousin, we felt banishment was way extreme a punishment.

That summer, I met Debbie at the foot of a cloistered stairway half-way between our two houses to tell her my family was moving to Florida. To a couple of Valley Girls, relocating as far as the Palisades would have felt like the forced march of the Cherokee Nation along the Trail of Tears. "'I am banish-ed!'" I sobbed, echoing Romeo's dramatic, two-syllable pronunciation. "'O shut the door, and come weep with me. Past hope, past cure, past help!'"

"'Hence from Verona art thou banish-ed,'" said she, channeling the kindly doofus Friar Laurence. "'Be patient, for the world is broad and wide.' Meaning, like, you can always come back. They won't, like, own us forever." We sat there for hours, hatching a plan to go to college together at a Certain Big Deal University on the Westside. We then got on the bus to Topanga Plaza to seal the deal over a couple of barbecue beef sandwiches at the Seven Kitchens Food Court overlooking the ice rink.

Growing up to become a working travel writer, my world turned out to be broad and wide indeed—though it took me fifteen years to make my way back to Southern California. By that time I'd already met, married and divorced my Croatian Romeo, who'd coincidentally nicknamed me "Giuletta." What I couldn't fight any longer was that old girlhood passion to immerse myself in the movies, professionally, if it killed me as dead as an amorous Elizabethan. Debbie had bought her own house in the Valley and was shocked—along with the rest of our suburbanite friends and family—by my determination to set up housekeeping in the heart of Hollywood.

My return pre-dated a major Disneyfication-type program transforming the once seedy neighborhood virtually overnight. Just steps from my house, vintage theaters like the El Capitan, the Mann's Chinese and the Cineramadome underwent long overdue facelifts, while the Kodak, the centerpiece of the sprawling new Hollywood & Highland hotel, dining and shopping center, became the home of the Academy Awards. These days should I get the itch to run out to Ralph's on Oscar night, working my way home means a very long wait in a very long limo line.

The attempted eviction from My Little Hollywood Bungalow by
The Greedy Foreign Landlord feels like my earlier banishment outside Verona's walls. While I find myself looking for cheaper dwellings on the outskirts of town, I always phone first to ask if you can at least see the Hollywood sign. "Can you walk to the Walk of Fame?" I'll ask. "How far is it to Schwab's Drugstore?" These are not institutions I tend to frequent, but suddenly it feels important that I could do so on foot.

Despite the 60-Day Notice to Vacate, for now I'm staying put, visions of coming home one day to find my things and my dogs out on the street be damned. I owe it to Debbie, after all, to see this dream of mine through until the end. After a long struggle with lupus, she died the year I started film school at the university we'd promised but failed to attend together. It took me quite a bit longer to find my way back to the girl I'd vowed to become and the place I'd vowed to become her. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is how to survive the disappointing princes and vindictive kinsmen—the concealed daggers, the poison vials—and just keep sticking it out in that endless bitch of a limo line.

Julie Takes Fountain

A reporter once famously asked Bette Davis if she had any advice about Hollywood. “Take Fountain,” she barked, invoking the name of the less traveled route running parallel to both Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. She herself lived and died overlooking the avenue, ensconced in what I can only imagine to be the turret of a glamorous old apartment building near the one that doubled as Catherine Oxenberg’s family manor in Dynasty.

I don’t know why the location of the off-Fountain enclave of little Hollywood bungalows where I live—whose vintage Craftsman cottages visitors have variously described as Pleasantville, Munchkinland and the Technicolor Village—feels like such a strong reason to fight the Greedy Foreign Landlord and his illegal eviction. I can’t really afford to live in Hollywood at all without the benefit of rent control—and “Julie Goes To Silverlake” “Echo Park” or “Koreatown” were starting to seem like really stupid character names. Let’s face it, though—my dramatic need to be Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, Karen Silkwood and whoever it is Charlize Therone is playing this year in a pathetic bid for another Oscar was really behind my decision to stand and fight. This is my life story, after all, and that’s what the heroine does.

Which is why it’s with so many mixed feelings I announce that a deal has been struck. Persuaded by my Type A Lawyer Sister to avoid both her wrath and that of the Department of Housing—Greedy offered a large enough cash settlement for me to live on for the next couple of months. This means no more silly temp job at the Legendary Hollywood Trade Paper, where the puffy little woman I got stuck replacing during her fourth annual pregnancy is about to return anyway. It means finishing my spec, writing a Big Hollywood Book Proposal and polishing that script a Certain A-List Actress “loves, loves, loves.”

It means, in short, one last chance.

In some wildly implausible Hollywood twist of fate, yesterday I discovered yet another vintage hamlet, where I am going to be living as of Sunday. I’d never before noticed the hidden village despite living only blocks away for the last nine years. Its sky-high front gate gives way to a cloistered courtyard, shaded by hundred-year-old oak trees—and flanked on either side by attached patio homes with storybook front stoops and original wooden awnings. It must have provided housing for the old Charlie Chaplin studios, now the Jim Henson Studios, also in the neighborhood.

Hollywood was little more than a sprawling orange grove when Chaplin built his landmark lot, with its Colonial clapboard cottages and Tudor mansion fa├žade. During the TV craze of the 1950s, CBS took over the space to house The Adventures of Superman, The Red Skelton Show, and Perry Mason. It was later the headquarters of A&M Records, where so many musical legends gathered to record Michael Jackson’s "We Are the World."

My nearby unit was recently vacated after many decades when they carted some poor old guy off to the nursing home. I hope I go like Bette Davis, chain smoking Vantages smeared with red lipstick, enunciating every last word as though it Begins With A Capital Letter. What I can’t get out of my mind is the scene at the end of the 1992 film Chaplin, where Robert Downey, Jr.’s exiled Charlie finally returns to town to take one last look at his legacy. Having somehow managed to stave off my own exile at the top of my rousing third act, I guess now all that’s pretty much up to Kermie and me.

The Stripper Next Door

Every town has its share of live nude girls, but Hollywood gets the good ones—fresh off the bus and firmly convinced that their irrefutable star quality will pave the way to a more legitimate brand of celebrity one day very soon. I suppose you could say the same thing about aspiring screenwriters.

I met The Stripper Next Door when we rented two of seven renovated bungalows in a village newly emptied of old guard Hollywood junkies, the elderly and oversized immigrant families. Among the gentrified new crop of fresh-faced tenants were a Working Studio Musician, a Rising Jazz Saxophonist and a Reality TV Producer.

It's no wonder that between moving day and the first time I saw The Stripper—wearing pigtails and red lipstick, pedaling a vintage beach bike to the foot of her front porch—she'd already changed her name. Legally. Belying the black fishnet stockings, Betty Page bangs and spider tattoo on her neck, she now also claimed to be a "make-up girl for the movies"—and demanded to know what I was after. Looking down the nose of my Gucci sunglasses, purchased on assignment for a travel magazine in Hong Kong, I replied that I'd long been a working writer. Figuring out how to do that for the screen would be a mere technicality. "Yeah, not so original," she said, her voice completely devoid of the Jersey accent she'd shaken using a voice improvement tape from Samuel French. "Plus which you need to work on your look."

Though I was also newly divorced from my Croatian Ex-Husband who'd left me to join the French Foreign Legion, The Stripper never became entirely convinced he'd ever existed in the first place. "Too exotic," she'd insist. "Why not just make him a dentist?" I embarked on a long string of Internet dates, heeding her street savvy thumbs down when something about one of these arrivals—his alleged membership in the CIA, for example—didn't quite add up.

She fell in love with a Certain Soap Opera Actor, a former underwear model best known for having dated Madonna in the eighties, who'd tipped her a hundred bucks for a lap dance to Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows. Though he never once took her out in public, I often heard him slinking out of her back door in the middle of the night—even as the tabloids connected him to a Washed Up Country Singer. Spooked during a thunder storm, my unlikely friend once ran across the lawn to my door, asking to sleep over. "You'll have to put something on downstairs," I said, since she was standing there naked from the waist south. Flouncing onto my bed, she advised me to take the stick out of my ass, which I said sure sounded funny from someone who spent so much time with a pole between her legs. She eventually taught me the basics of the oldest artform as I whirled around the trunk of a red chili pepper tree, scattering the hummingbirds in our communal yard.

While my lifestyle took a steady nosedive in pursuit of my elusive dream, her fortunes only changed for the better. That's probably because while I went to film school, she went to beauty school. After leaving the sex industry in the past for real to open a small salon, she proudly counts among her clients the wife of a former Backstreet Boy and the self-professed on again-off again girlfriend of one George "Oh My God" Clooney.

I wasn't alone this month when The Greedy Foreign Landlord served me eviction papers in an attempt to break rent control. He also wants The Stripper gone, claiming he somehow intends to live in both our houses. While I plan to give him the fight of his life, it's only because despite my skills, breeding and education, after all these years I still have nowhere else to go. Meantime, the retired lap dancer who used to come running when she smelled dinner cooking since she hadn't found enough dollar bills in her underpants to buy groceries, has rented herself a lovely Hancock Park townhouse. I guess another thing they won't tell you in film school is it doesn't matter who you are the day you get off that bus. Once you decide to give it all up to shoot for the stars, you're just another girl from another town out there all alone, dancing naked for strangers.

I was down at the New Amsterdam
staring at this yellow-haired girl
Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation
with this black-haired flamenco dancer
She dances while his father plays guitar
She's suddenly beautiful
We all want something beautiful
I wish I was beautiful
So come dance this silence
down through the morning
Cut Maria!
Show me some of them Spanish dances
Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones
Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
I want to be someone who believes

Mr. Jones and me
tell each other fairy tales
Stare at the beautiful women
"She's looking at you.
Ah, no, no, she's looking at me."
Smiling in the bright lights
Coming through in stereo
When everybody loves you,
you can never be lonely...