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)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life in LA: The Cigarette Woman

As one who was once addicted to cigarettes, but finally managed to quit, I understand the lure and appeal of smoking. And as a then-new ex-smoker (this was 30 years ago), I swore on the proverbial stack of bibles that I'd never become one of those well-meaning but incredibly irritating born-again non-smokers determined to convert all their lost soul (read: still-smoking) friends to the joys of a smoke-free life. Nor do I ever want to turn into a sour old crank like Andy Rooney, whose professional-curmudgeon act on CBS's "60 Minutes" was tiresome twenty years ago, and is even worse today.

So I won't.

Still, I don't quite understand the actions of this young woman, who I spotted on the way to work one recent morning. With a burning cigarette between her fingers, she's clearly a smoker, yet she insisted on keeping the smoldering weed outside the car (so other motorists can experience the pleasures of second-hand smoke?) until her lungs were ready for the next infusion of toxic burning chemicals.

Presumably she enjoys breathing smoke -- after all, she's a smoker -- so why not keep the cigarette inside until all but the filter had turned to ashes? Why assume this very awkward and possibly painful posture?

Back in the day, I kept my cigarette inside the car until I'd smoked it down to the nub -- then I put it out in the ashtray. Maybe her car doesn't have an ashtray, or perhaps she was afraid she might burn a hole in her blouse, or stink up her outfit with the stale reek of smoke.

I really don't know.

This didn't bother me -- I couldn't even detect the smoke from her cigarette through the famously noxious LA air. Besides, although the Health Nazi Goon Squad would pummel me with tough-love clubs made from organic, free-range hemp for admitting such heresy, I kind of like the scent of second-hand smoke. Maybe it reminds me of my youth.

This just seemed odd to me, but then life in LA is nothing if not odd.


If you’ve read this post, you know exactly how I feel about stunts and why. Still, although I haven’t enjoyed watching truly dangerous stunts since that ugly day, I have tremendous respect for the people who perform them, and love to hear their stories. So it’s no surprise that I was riveted by a “Fresh Air” broadcast this week featuring a long interview with Hal Needham, the acknowledged king of modern stuntmen – who by his own reckoning, remains the highest-paid stuntman in Hollywood history. Whether that’s really true or not, I don’t know, but this is a fascinating and highly entertaining interview. Whatever your feelings about stunts or stunt-people, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Patrick Goldstein had an interesting column in the LA Times last week, on the kind of people who make it big in Hollywood, where a degree from Harvard or Yale might help get you in the writer’s room of a sit-com, but won’t necessarily propel you to the top. That level of success requires something a considerably more basic than a fancy academic pedigree.

Needless to say, working below-the-line requires no such credentials. I'm trying hard to imagine some guy with an Ivy League degree hauling sandbags and mombo-combos or a cable cart full of 4/0 -- but no image is getting through the static. A fancy degree is just about the last thing anybody needs (or would want) when working in the trenches. But if you do happen to have such a degree hanging on your bedroom wall -- and have somehow fallen through the looking glass all the way down to the Hell-Hole of below-the-line toil -- I wouldn't recommend broadcasting the fact.

Believe me, you'll never hear the end of it...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking maybe it's a rental car with a non-smoking clause that carries a big fine on return with evidence of smoking, or.... perhaps her husband / lover / significant other wants her to stop smoking and she's promised not to smoke and she's on her way to pick up him / her / it and doesn't want any trace of smoke smell in the car?