Champagne Dreams & Caviar Wishes

Julie went to Hollywood,
where life was a bad dress rehearsal.

Ten years later, my terrible fortunes
needed some major reversal.

After pitching an R-rated comedy,
A big studio finally wanted me!

Yup, meet the new Julie, now under contract to Universal!

It Girl

I received the following e-mail from "Kevin" at Tenspeed and Brown Shoe. This, if I’m not mistaken, was a short-lived eighties TV show starring Jeff Goldblum and Ben Vereen, a reference I’m not sure I get unless Kevin is a neurotic Jewish Broadway star who wants to run a failing detective agency. He’s tagged me by way of what I can only interpret as a slam:
I guess the thinking behind your blog is that everyone is always talking about how bad everyone else is. I want to know what YOUR worst was...Please answer on the blog!
Kevin, dear, the thinking behind my blog is not that everyone else is bad. It’s that everyone else is stupid. If they were smart, since we're dealing in caps, THEY WOULD HIRE ME. My mistake is continuing to believe that they will do this ANY TIME NOW.

I must point out that in direct violation of the rules, rather than picking one sorry sucker, you have tagged much of the scribosphere in one fell swoop. I see that John August and Ken Levine, both much bigger men than I, with careers and assistants and sizeable residuals checks, have already responded. Who am I to pass? Seriously, while I thank you for including me in this company, your questions seem directed at people enjoying some measure of success, which isn’t exactly how I’d describe myself at this point.

However, in the interest of being a good sport, I will play your silly game of tag, one I didn’t particularly care for as a child because you didn’t get candy if you won. All you got was not to be it any more. I wanted to be it. I am an it girl, born and bred. But then, you’ve already noticed that.

Jihad Barbie, a teen comedy about a sleeper terrorist inadvertently abandoned at University of Miami. She changes her mind about bombing the Orange Bowl after being nominated for Orange Bowl Princess. It wasn’t badly written, just a life-threatening career risk. Put the names Parker and Stone on it and the thing would have sold for 2.8 mil and inspired an episode of South Park lampooning the fatwah on their heads.

“I wish I knew how to quit you!” Oh wait, that wasn’t me.

Of course you should go to film school! What’s sixty-five grand in exchange for a lifetime of fame and fortune?

I was working in Thailand when a Japanese tourist started beating a little girl with a stick for letting her fall off the back of an elephant ride. To this day, I wish I’d gone Charlie’s Angels on the old bitch and dropped kicked her clear back to Osaka.

I will never again agree to another “phone meeting,” as if that’s not a contradiction in terms. It’s really important to know the exact moment when their eyes start rolling back in their heads in order to time the next inappropriate, self-loathing joke and hone in on something good to pocket on the way out.

Jake Gyllenhaal. Our spontaneous lovemaking tends to interfere with the work.

A comedy called Rivals, in which Jane Fonda would compete with her granddaughter Lindsay Lohan and ultimately get the guy. High concept to be sure, but there's something really creepy about sampling grannie’s greasy leftovers.

That I’m not.


Throwing over Jen for Angelina. I’m so over the weird pelvic tattoo that says “Billy Bob” in Swahili now that we’re talking stretch marks.

The Secret of My Success

Some day I’ll be one of those grandly self-important, million-dollar screenwriters invited to speak to a film school class. The awestruck students will hang on my every word, careful not to miss the key phrase, life philosophy or meaningful anecdote revealing the true secret of my success. I’ll saunter up to the podium, bestow a mouthed hello on a vaguely familiar face, blow on my no-foam latte, and dispense the following bit of advice: "Never wear your first thong to an important lunch meeting."

Yesterday afternoon, throwing caution to the wind in preparation for the most important encounter of my life, I flagrantly defied the All-Black Writer Rule, and even the Sneakers And Jeans Exception. It's springtime in Hollywood, after all, and there I stood naked in my closet on the verge of becoming The Next Big Thing. Bravely selecting some white linen Capri pants that wouldn’t have worked at all with panty lines, I also reached for a previously unworn pair of thong underwear I affectionately refer to as “up-butts.”

I soon discovered how very odd it feels walking into a restaurant with your see-through pants and fundamentally exposed cheeks, publicly apologizing by way of a visible length of rope up your crack. “Nice seeing you again,” I might have said to the Big Deal Producer Guy holding my entire future in his hands. “Please don’t mind my wedgie.”

On the plus side, the restaurant turned out to be a super hip, happening hang-out on a trendy stretch of La Brea between Wilshire and Melrose. Who knew this was the new Robertson between Sunset and 3rd? Producer Guy, who’s based in New York, lunches here so often they addressed him by name while delivering the Arnold Palmer he didn’t have to order. You don’t get that kind of fawning at Chateau Marmont unless you're a dead celebrity.

The bad news is I was not officially hired right there on the spot, as I’d naively imagined this scene from my life story would play out. Instead, we broke our bread, dipped it in red pepper-infused olive oil, ordered our in vogue high fiber low fat entrĂ©e choices, and talked. About regular things, like regular people. We discussed where we’d gone to college, mutual early aspirations to do stand-up and how far we'd walk in this town to get a good macaroon. By the time I'd backed into and out of the ladies' room, I found myself having fun of all things. That's around the time he mentioned that while both he and the producers feel I can get the job done, they’re obligated to hear the remaining pitches they’ve requested over the next couple of weeks.

Two hours later, what I’d conjured up as a quick rendezvous where I’d be let down easy over a ham sandwich turned out to be one of the most memorable days I’ve had here in Hollywood. Only when I forgot the garrot between my legs and stopped looking around to see if anyone big was at the next table could I really focus on the obvious. After all these years, here I was chatting with a smart, accomplished fellow who loves movies as much as I do about the possibility of our making one together.

What’s that quote about Hollywood being like high school, only with money? This was like film school, only real. Maybe the true secret to my success will rely not on a better choice of panty styles, but on learning to seize the day even while counting them with baited breath.

Power Lunch

I’m a little nervous about the proposed location for tomorrow’s lunch meeting with the Big Deal Producing Partner of the Two-Time Oscar-Nominated Actor who holds my entire future in his hands. I was hoping for a big Hollywood power lunch at The Ivy or The Grill, where the agents talk in low, important voices so it’s easier to eavesdrop on the next table.  Or maybe Hamasaku, where A-list celebrities gather with Paris Hilton to pretend they hate the paparazzi, like each other and actually eat their thirty-dollar California rolls. Poolside at Chateau Marmont would have worked, although there’s the lighting issue. After thirty in this town you learn to lurk around in the shadows, like Blanche Dubois only not so openly crazy, hoping nobody notices you’re a botox-free adult sporting a deflated pair of original lips. While there’s no such thing as a “smoky enclave” in L.A., I’ve always felt the seventy-five year reign of the Hollywood Roosevelt as the place to see and be seen, sort of, owes itself to its being as poorly lit as a Moorish dungeon.

It was a very bad sign indeed when my Very Supportive Manager called to direct me to some no-name sandwich shop on LaBrea. “I’m not getting this job,” I told her.

“What are you talking about?” She’s the Hollywood insider, why did I have to share the unwritten rule that deals are sealed exclusively in A) a studio commissary, B) a recently refurbished grande dame, or C) west of Robertson, anywhere between Sunset and 3rd? “I’ve never heard that rule,” she said flatly. She then pointed out the proximity of this Hancock Park "hot spot" to my afternoon meeting at Paramount. Since it’s just like Supportive to put a positive spin on things, I Googled a restaurant review while I still had her on the phone. “It’s a ‘quiet little storefront boasting organic produce and hormone-free meats’,” I told her. “Are we going to select a free-range Kosher chicken or ink a deal?”

“Ink a deal?” she said. “Honey, you’re spending too much time reading the trades.”

“They only have twenty-four seats in the whole place,” I told her. “That kind of set-up always makes me feel extra fat.”

“Wear black,” she said. As if I’d even entertain another color. Who does she think I am, Josh Friedman, walking around town in an irreverent Juicy Couture sweatsuit? Probably not, since he works. Me, I just do a lot of overdressed meeting in out of the way, Lilliputian luncheonettes where I hope the plastic chair doesn't break under the great irony of my physical heft. "Chin up, stomach in, lips out," Supportive might have said to sign off in the event she truly understood a single thing about me. Instead she just said her mom was on the other line. "And go get 'em, kiddo."

My Date with Tad Hamilton

When you put the word “Professor” in front of your name, you immediately sound like you’ve made some better life choices than those of your typical self-absorbed Hollywood loser. Back in film school, I dreamed of some day returning as the kind of hard-assed yet beloved professor whose legendary class is frequently unavailable because I’m busy mounting a living history play at the Parthenon. Or off on a Romanian movie set. Or researching some vanity project set in the world of Italian wineries. I would reappear from time to time to find the adoring students clamoring for a coveted spot in my classroom, laboring under the delusion that merely basking in my glow will assure them a future in the field. I would be known around campus as "Indiana Julie."

The quarter after I graduated, I did return to teach. Then, in one of the great ironies that is my big Hollywood life, the course was eliminated for lack of funding just before two of my former students won the College Emmy for work produced in my class. Last night I joined them for the black tie ceremony at Culver City Studios, which I suppose felt like some measure of vindication. The glamorous, star-studded to-do was held on the soundstage where they shot parts of Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind and Bewitched, one presenter noted, without mentioning which parts or which Bewitched, the show or the movie. I pictured Mrs. Kravitz dropping in just as I quietly asked the waiter to leave the whole bottle of red wine right there by my salad plate and scram.

Melissa Rivers hosted the ceremony and refrained from making fun of anyone’s dress, at least not openly. She was actually much more appealing out of the shadow of her mother, bright, authentic and easy with a quip—although she was sporting some big hair and a deep, dark, spray-on tan embedded with flakes of glitter. In the wrong light, she resembled a radioactive cigar store Indian.

I asked actor Josh Duhamel to pose for some pictures with my students. He won his Emmy playing hunky, Euro-trash playboy Leo du Pres on All My Children, so he has a very special place in my heart. I told him I cried for two weeks when they killed him off, which was only a slight exaggeration. “I have a very small life,” I explained. “Very. Small.” He kept telling me I was cute, though he probably didn’t mean this in the sense that his girlfriend Fergie from the Black-Eyed Peas is cute, only that I’m cuter than your typical giddy housewife who accosts him in the shopping mall.

I wouldn’t have been invited to this event at all if not for my friend who’d been a competition judge. We went through film school together, something he managed to parlay into a steady job on AMC’s Sunday morning entertainment show. He was recently promoted to producer, receiving a fat raise allowing him to cover the whole rent with one week’s pay. I plan to pay next month’s rent by selling my car for cash and either leasing a new one or riding the bus. Hey, it was good enough for Quentin Tarantino back in the day.

The thing about Hollywood is things can go either way, any time. One minute you’re a daytime soap star, the next your estranged stepmother pushes your dead, lifeless body into a ravine so you can become a nighttime soap star after a brief, disappointing turn at the box office as Tad Hamilton. If you’re very lucky, at some point in between, you end up with a nice statuette for your trouble. Even if I never work again, two kids have one this morning in part because I was once their teacher.

Quotes of the Day

I have gone through a long apprenticeship. I have gone through enough of being a nobody. I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment the star! Everybody from the studio gateman to the highest executive will know it.
Gloria Swanson, 1922

There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn't good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! Talk! Talk!
Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard, 1950