Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

One Crazy Week






















What the hell were they thinking?



This has been one crazy week, so pardon me while I wander way off the reservation. There will be no pontificating in this post, no finger-wagging, tell-it-like-it-is, set-the-record-straight lecture explaining the real nature of life here in Los Angeles, the city America loves to hate. I won’t whine about the looming actor’s strike, nor carp about the lingering reverberations of the WGA stoppage.

I will, however, discuss the weather.

Why (you might ask) this sudden lack of bile, this absence of heavy irony, this refusal to bite the gilded hand that has fed me for these past thirty years? Has my eternally half-empty philosophical glass suddenly filled to the brim with 100 proof Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon? Did I win the Mega-Lotto and jet off to some tropical paradise accompanied by a dozen nubile love slaves culled from the casting couches of Hollywood, eager to indulge my every whim?

Sadly, no.

But the Gods of Tinsel Town have indeed deigned to smile upon me. Not the wide, diamond-encrusted, 24 carat grin of Fantasy Land, but an honest smile welcoming me back into the warm embrace of a sit-com – and not one of those nightmare-on-wheels, single-camera comedies, but a real multi-camera show shot in front of a live audience, as God and Desi Arnaz intended.

That job that was jerked out from under me a few weeks ago? It came back. One of set lighting crew left the show for greener pastures, thus opening a slot for me – so with five episodes left on the schedule (four, after last week), I’m back on the regular crew of a sit-com for the first time in three years. True, this chariot will turn into a pumpkin come the end of June, but such is the finite reality of sit-com life. It happens to everybody sooner or later: even the crew of “Back to You” -- the high-octane, star-studded Kelsey Grammar vehicle we all thought/hoped/prayed might lead the Industry back to the Promised Land of multitudinous sit-coms – is suddenly floating belly-up in the pool, roughly seven years ahead of schedule.

It just goes to show, in the immortal words of William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything.”

Not that it was an easy week. Monday and Tuesday were typical lighting days for a sit-com – we did our work without unnecessary abuse – but Wednesday’s blocking and pre-shoot day spanked us for 12+ hours, most of which were spent doing actual work. This is hardly the death march pace of an episodic show, but homie don’t do episodics no more... Still, after shoot night, and an unusually long Friday hanging lights on the new swing sets for next week’s show (thanks to Monday’s holiday, we have just two days to get ready for the next show, rather than three), I was one tired puppy.

But it was a good tired. It’s nice to be back.

Meanwhile, the weather went all the way around the bend. Monday was another sweaty ordeal in the Tandoori oven of broiling desert heat, but by Friday, a cold and blustery rain was pelting LA for the first time in weeks. We went from summer to winter in three days. Riding such a meteorological roller coaster is pretty much the norm in other parts of the country, but we’re used to more stable (read: boring) weather out here on the west coast.

Then there were the tornadoes...

Granted, these twisters were nothing compared to the lethal vortexes of doom that have already killed dozens of people in the Midwest this spring -- but still, tornadoes in LA? Earthquakes, fires, and an occasional flood are the usual Act ‘o God vectors of death and destruction here on the west coast. These are bad enough -- none who live under the tectonic Sword of Damocles here in California could watch the news these last two weeks without an inward shudder. What happened in China will happen here sooner or later – “later” meaning sometime in the next 30 years, according to the recent grim pronouncements of earthquake experts. Granted, California survived the last three quakes (Landers, Northridge, and Loma Prieta) with a couple of hundred dead and a few billion dollars worth of damage – but none of those quakes even reached 7.0 on the Richter scale, nor lasted more than 15 seconds. The monster quake in Szechwan apparently shook for something like three minutes at close to 8.0 -- a magnitude ten times greater for more than ten times longer than anything experienced by a major urban population center in California for the last hundred years.

Despite our stricter building codes and widespread programs to retro-fit older structures, three minutes of that kind of shaking would reduce most of LA and San Francisco to rubble. Our buildings probably wouldn’t come down as fast as those in China did, allowing people a better chance to escape, but in the end, the damage would far exceed that done by Hurricane Katrina, over a much wider and more densely populated area. After the ground stopped shaking, a total rebuild of the physical infrastructure would be required. Whatever future Los Angeles and/or San Francisco emerges from that cloud of dust will be nothing like the cities we know today.

It was hard to watch the televised images from China this week, seeing all those weeping parents standing helpless at the edge of a mountain of rubble that had been their children’s school, and is now their tomb. If you got through that dry-eyed, you’re a better man than I.

Me? I’m just hoping those California earthquake experts are wrong.


Now, about that billboard pictured above...

I’ve never seen “Sex in the City,” HBO’s long-running portrayal of the sexual/emotional travails of four 30-something urban women. Not only am I in the wrong demographic for this sort of show, but I don’t have HBO. Maybe it was a great show I really should have seen – but I’ve missed a lot of great shows on HBO, many of which are lined up on my Netflix queue. It’s a good bet I’ll go to my grave never having experienced the full wit and wisdom of Carrie Bradshaw and her three friends.

Life is a finite endeavor. The banquet may be rich, but choices must be made.

So here comes the movie version of “Sex in the City,” and from what I read, female America quivers in anticipation. That’s great -- I hope everybody looking forward to this film gets to see it and has a wonderful viewing experience. But judging by the enormous billboard that stared me down while I was stuck in rush-hour traffic coming down Highland Ave the other day, whoever is marketing this film might be taking that audience for granted. Although I never saw the television show, I have seen many photos of S.J.P as Carrie, and she’s always looked like an interesting woman: smart, sassy, and sexy – and above all, very human, with all her strengths and frailties etched upon her face.

But this billboard is just awful, depicting the latest incarnation of Carrie Bradshaw as the mutant spawn of some unholy union between a Beluga whale and Medusa -- her enormous shiny pink face buffed, puffed, and botoxed to the max, jutting out from a monstrous mane of hair that looks like a nest of flaming snakes. And then there are those eyes: Stepford orbs of a metallic turquoise hue not found in nature, a color straight from the digital palate of Photoshop. This Carrie Bradshaw does not appear remotely human, but rather like some ghastly animatronic simulacrum “imagineered” by armies of brain-dead worker drones in their underground lair deep beneath Disneyland.

I'm no art director or marketing expert, but this is the most unflattering picture of Sarah Jessica Parker I've ever seen.

Maybe it won’t matter. Maybe the fans of “Sex” will ignore this horrendous image, and flock en masse to theaters everywhere. But man, that is one butt-ugly billboard.

Carrie, they done you wrong...

1 comment:

roger said...

Man, it has been one crazy week for you. At least you should have seen the Sex and the City movie. They even made adult toys as merchandise for the movie.