What Not to Do When You Meet a Rolling Stone

I was introduced to one of the Rolling Stones at a dinner party. Apparently he's the fifth one, though he's not skinny, old, or even English, so I'm not sure he really counts. Also he didn't have a supermodel on his arm, but rather a perfectly lovely conceptual artist around my age.

We talked local architecture, earthquakes and heart health, but I can't say I found him all that fascinating. Hollywood parties are about figuring out who has what you might want, and I'm just not looking for a backstage pass. I gave up champagne with the rest of my illusions, weed is something to be whacked in the garden, and I can put together my own late night snack table, with or without glutens.

What I am after is a lasting connection. To my mind, that means either a very big job offer or a request for my hand in marriage. Either or, I'm really not picky.

Imagine my reaction to a second pair of party guests visiting the same home on another occasion. He's a network executive credited with saving a certain ensemble sitcom from implosion after the cast created a mafia. She's his wife. They met on a bus tour of the Holy Land shortly after her starter marriage to some lesser specimen fell apart. "We were just friends," she said of the gem at her side in four brilliant words, translating from the Yiddish, "no chuppah, no shtuppah."

I could not decide which of them I loved more. He was a king. She was a goddess, and also a lawyer, which is a pretty cool combination in any town. Forging a friendship with either half of this power couple could only mean promising introductions and the sharing of well-guarded secrets. I would finally learn where to winter in Maui when Aspen gets snowed in! Oh, the laughs we'd have about the time I was single and on a budget.

Wouldn't you just know I'd be stuck on the far side of a huge table beside some ass yakking at me about his political opposition to Twitter. "All that 'liking' and 'following'?" he offered up like a stock tip. "Corporate conspiracy, look into it."

A delightful elderly lady on my other side suddenly began gushing about having found not one but two great dresses on sale somewhere for sixty-nine bucks each. Then again, she may have been visiting another era, since she was said to be suffering from advanced dementia, but given the right cut and fabric her enthusiasm made perfect sense to me.

This is around when I caught Tweetboy checking a baked salmon for extra eyeballs. With the steely determination of a Nazi hunter, he laid out the inevitable world domination of Norway's fish farmers, snapping a picture for his files. "Be afraid," he said. "Be very afraid." I definitely was.

The evening was over before I could reel in either one of my own catches. I vaguely remember a desperate attempt to pull focus with an off-color joke about some sexually ambiguous filmmaker, followed by a weak request to pass the potatoes.

I later reached out to the husband on Linkedin, though he has yet to accept. Like it or not, there is a food chain in Hollywood. It must be respected, even after you make your way into the right parties -- where rambling old ladies understand you completely, and rock legends are dismissed with the full-fat cheese, and the only thing certain your future holds is looking back at you from a beautifully polished silver platter.

Is That a Pipe Bomb in Your Pocket or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

When people hear I’m a former travel writer, they often ask if ever I feared for my personal safety while abroad. Sometimes I nod my head yes, somberly exhibiting a burn scar on my left hand that I actually earned as a toddler reaching into the oven for a grilled cheese sandwich. In truth, I was not one of those flak jacket-wearing Wolfe Blitzer types reporting in a fetal position from some Baghdad bunker, but rather a pampered feature writer contributing to any number of breathless travel magazines you might leaf through then not buy at Barnes & Noble. I wrote about honeymoon hotspots for a bridal magazine and island life for one about pleasure boating. I compared cruises and tours for a sponsored publication mailed free of charge to travel agents; updated hotel reviews and restaurant listings in best-selling travel guidebooks; published sweeping personal reports, complete with original photography, for Sunday newspaper travel sections.

From time to time, though, I would in fact find myself covering an area that could best be described as, well, totally unstable. Following the bad press surrounding a civil war, political coup or loosely organized uprising, whatever regime left standing will quickly invite in the travel media in hopes of restoring foreign tourism. If the host committee were to jump the gun, so to speak, the first sign of trouble would be my reception at the airport by a heavily armed “Tour Guide” with a waxed black moustache and a nervous laugh bearing the news that the treaty hadn’t technically been signed yet. “Not to worry,” he’d assure me, reaching across my lap to lock my side of the armored Jeep after muttering something indecipherable into his wrist watch. “We dance on their graves tonight!”

Reviewing a string of falafel stands in Jerusalem, I dodged a pipe lobbed by a Palestinian kid of no more than twelve. At a Santiago naval station, the cutest little Chilean sailor you ever saw knocked the camera out of my hand with the butt of a machine gun when I tried to take his picture. On my own in gang-infested Kingston, Jamaica, I was advised never to publicly wear purple and red—or was it green and yellow? I do recall sleeping with my dresser barricaded in front of my hotel room door against a staffer wearing a hateful look and a passkey around his neck.

Perhaps I best remember the Balkan Mystery Girl who cornered me in the ladies’ room of a Dubrovnik restaurant to tell me she had incontrovertible proof that the recent local plane crash death of then U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown hadn’t been an accident. “This is big story, very big,” she whispered off my blank look. “You are reporter, yes?”

“But I’m here writing about your potato pancakes.”

Though I never pursued her claims, the encounter changed my life forever as the catalyst for my becoming a screenwriter. I could no longer fight the desire to make up stories about people and places far more interesting than those I’d been chasing around the world. Within the ancient walls of the Old City, I actually found Syd Field at an English language bookstore. Taking this as a sign, I got down to work right there on my first feature script—about an embittered correspondent and a beautiful refugee fighting over a Miami home each believe she’d inherited from a dead photographer who owed them both.

After nearly ten years of fighting my own uphill battles here in town, this morning my Showrunner Friend Who Wants More e-mailed me that a Big Producer Pal of hers is looking for an assistant. Call me a prima donna, but not in the farthest reaches of my imagination can I picture opening someone else’s screening invitations and free CD offers all day while tethered to their desk by a headset. Knowing that plenty of people spend their days tending to the minutia of others doesn’t make it seem any less impossible to someone who once had to overnight her passport to Washington so extra pages could be installed. As for my personal work ethic, the reason I can write fourteen, sixteen hours at a clip is because I don’t even hear interruptions. At this kind of place, I’d finally look up from my computer screen and be like, “I’m sorry, what was all that noise about your coffee?”

While my friend feels certain this job would endear me to people who might eventually offer more meaningful work, knowing very well how hard I’d suck at it I’d have better survival chances combining red with purple in Jamaica. Though my screenwriting would surely suffer were I to return to the demands of journalism—especially if it meant being constantly on the road, or leaving town altogether—on days like this it all seems so inevitable. Another thing they won’t tell you in film school is if you can’t do something you love, at least do something you’re good at. -- Originally published October 13, 2005

Djulie Unchained

Luckily there are no rules in Hollywood, or I definitely would have broken one by telling Darren Star he should be reading my blog. I also told him I would be referring to him here only as "Mr. Bigger" which was both a bald-faced lie and not terribly clever, simultaneously breaking two more rules that don't exist in the span of six seconds, give or take.

In my defense, the chances of Darren Star actually reading my blog aren't much better now than him doing so had I never spoken to him at all. He has people and minions who have people and minions of their own to not read my blog, so I can't imagine him wanting to not want to read it himself. Then again, if there's one thing I've learned about Hollywood it's that anything can not happen at any time.

We were at a Writer's Guild event where famous writers gather to tell the rest of us how that happy event comes to pass, and apparently it has something to do with following your instincts, except when it doesn't. Also it's about luck and timing, except when it isn't, and at the end of the day, it's about story and character except when it's about other stuff. One of these is being in the right restaurant at the right time with the right network president prepared to pitch a high concept medical procedural. "It's not a who done it, it's a what done it," you are supposed to lob across the table with the bread rolls. "The germs are the bad guy," you should add. You might want to use both your napkin and the finger bowl at this point, though both are optional.

This was apparently how "House' was sold, and though I never saw "House," I am impressed by the fact that the TV show, rather than say the United States House of Representatives, comes up first when you Google the word, with or without quotes. I didn't even stay to hear the "Breaking Bad" guy speak, since I never never saw that, either, and the sum of what I know about both series is 1) They are about guys,  2) They win awards and 3) None of this has anything to do with me.

Darren Star, on the other hand,  created an iconic show about four separate and fully-formed women, all around my age. One of them is a writer. Who writes about sex. And the city. He created Melrose Place even as I lived all that right here in these pages.  He gave the world Beverly Hills, 90210; I got a parking ticket there meeting with an agent who never signed me. On top of all that, he's a fellow Bruin, who told at least three anecdotes I'd heard or read elsewhere, including in the pages of a UCLA doctoral thesis around his work.

Really, there comes a point when failure and success are just a hair's breadth away from one another, and there is something incredibly liberating about being the one without a single thing to lose.

"Darren Star to produce irreverent new comedy based on unknown blog discovered en route to the men's room!" Variety would declare once we get our cast-contingent pilot pick-up after a lucrative network bidding war. "Not That Much Sex in This City," Nikki Finke would sniff come awards season, in the event it ever becomes legal for her to live snark the red carpet again. Oh, the early morning quips the big deal producer and his overweight sensation will trade with Al Roker about our kooky friendship that would have never happened but for my inappropriate stalking  old school Hollywood moxie.

I told Darren Star I had no idea why I'd shown up to this event, which was probably the nuttiest thing possible to have shared, being the painful truth and all. I write unproduced features and I write them alone at Starbucks, where we screenwriters don't even look at one another, let alone tweak pages meant to be shot in the morning while simultaneously knifing one another in the back.

"The name's Djulie," I wish I'd added over a shoulder, blowing on an imaginary six shooter and walking off into the sunset with my head held high. "The D is silent, hillbilly." He would have forgotten it either way, but he might have had someone who was anyone call the police first,  and you can be dead sure one or all of them would most certainly not check out my blog.

Diary of a Mad Screenwriter

One of the best ways to tell if you're a real writer is you don't feel normal unless specifically engaged in the act or writing, which is to say hardly ever. Certainly there are days when I spend virtually all of my waking minutes working, but this only happens once the characters have sprung forth fully formed from the bare bones of my story. At that point, they're pretty much running the show until they've dictated every last one of their assorted wants and needs, which I'm expected to serve like a scullery maid between brief and fitful bouts of sleep.

What would seem to most people a disturbing psychiatric diagnosis indeed is in fact the writer's version of an overall sense of well-being.

It's hard to explain all of this to "regular" people, such as my brother, although in his case I use that term loosely. He chooses to live on some tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where they frequently run out of important staples such as diet Coke and cheese.  To my mind this is where they ship guys named Chuzzleworth to go away and die in Dickens novels.

He returns stateside only occasionally to buy electronics at Wal-Mart, complain about the traffic and question the veracity of this supposed little Hollywood career of mine spanning the better part of two decades now. "I've got something going with Forest Whitaker," I'll report brightly. "The Forest Whitaker. That guy."

"Call me when the funding comes through," he'll sniff. Somehow convinced I'm supported by space aliens who drop little wads of cash around the garden for me to dig up on the full moon, he's equally mystified by this blog. "I don't see the point," he said during a recent visit. "What kind of writer writes for free?" 

Did he really not know that some of Mark Twain's most memorable work comes from his journals? Oscar Wilde wrote his diaries behind bars, as did Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, Václav Havel and pretty much every Russian with a pencil. To translate the tenacity of the genre in a more familiar language, I considered offering up some free porn from the memoirs of Anaïs Nin, Henry James and Simone de Beauvoir.

I settled on hitting him with the monetary potential around getting noticed in Hollywood. "If you build it, they will come," I said.

"No they won't," he scoffed. "Get out of the fairy tale."

Though most of our conversations end with these last words of advice, part of me had to wonder if he was right. I've been "building it" my entire life -- hellbent on getting into the fairy tale. This is where my Oscar awaited, along with my beloved Prince -- the artist, not some idiot on a horse -- eager to compose the imaginary soundtrack on the imaginary movie of my imaginary life. "I'm just creating an online repository of my work," I sighed.

"Why didn't you say so?" He returned to his laptop, presumably to scan some real work by real writers paid real money to put it there. Maybe I should be writing Wal-Mart ads instead of this nonsense. Nah. It looks like a full moon tonight, and the aliens are bound to deliver.

Search-Friendly "Scarlett O'Hara"
(Make That "Foul-Mouthed Buxom Belle")

Here in Hollywood, it used to be that getting someone to read a kicky little sitcom spec was far easier than eliciting a look at your challenging drama pilot -- or an intricately woven feature of all things. Even meriting the coveted weekend read, a half-hearted once over by the pool, wouldn't amount to somebody who was anybody cracking your actual script, but rather absently skimming a half-page of coverage. This unschooled opinion came courtesy of some twit on break from cheerleading camp whose dad was supposedly Spielberg's dentist. While they always wanted you to think content was king, the truth is nobody but your mother ever got that far.

Making matters worse, Mark Zuckerberg happened. In an age when every semi-literate with a pre-paid cell phone has a big story to share from moment to moment, even a young Truman Capote couldn't hope for much beyond a few limp "likes" for an intriguing status update. "Had craziest breakfast at Tiffany's. Pics on Instagram @hollygolightly."

It's been awhile since I've sought attention for myself as a writer, since I was getting far more of that than I wanted at work. I'm not sure how to get the rest of Hollywood excited about my newfound freedom, since they were never all that interested in the first place.

The last script I waved around in hopes of joining a network writing staff was a brilliant little episode of Frasier. "The best Niles-Daphne patter I have ever taken a really quick buzz through," gushed the up and coming William Morris agent who knew my sister in college. Oh, the fruity cocktails and frothy praise we girls shared that once before she abruptly stopped returning my calls.

I ultimately left it to my Very Supportive Manager to set up studio meetings that went nowhere and meant nothing after some big shot loved the breakthrough sample he never downloaded. Last time I heard from Supportive, she was urging me to online register for some live interactive social media short-form digital forum. Yeah, I had no idea what she was talking about, either.

Which brings me to last night, when I found myself trolling Twitter to promote my work here in 140 characters or less. I've always been good with a headline, so I quickly put to use my "leg up" over the other "girls girls girls." It turns out these particular search terms will perform far better than something like "clear advantage in the field" when Googled by some perverted studio executive. Oh, I am not above garnering the wrong kind of attention. After all, Hollywood heavyweight Mason Novick was admittedly trolling for porn when he happened upon "Candy Girl" by Diablo Cody -- the suggestively pseudonymous writer blog of a part-time Wisconsin stripper who later won an Oscar for Juno. 

So enjoy the super naughty pics pics pics of the ultra booby hot hot hotties you'll find right here here here. Julie gives it away free free free, you nasty boys boys boys, so you may expect an all-new and so so sexy sorority sister live cam visit extra fresh every day.--Originally published May 3, 2013