Sometimes you just never know. I really thought this job would be my last go-around in Hollywood -- a nice little two-day-a-week gig at full union scale on a network sitcom to carry me onto the sunny beach of retirement… but I should have known it wouldn't work out so neatly.
The job evaporated due to circumstances as old as Hollywood. After working the rig and the first few weeks of the show -- earning my slot as the "extra guy" -- the phone stopped ringing. Although the Best Boy had assured me the job was mine for the duration, he works at the pleasure of his department head, the Gaffer, who has final say on matters concerning the crew. I've know this Gaffer for several years now, and he's a good guy -- I've always liked him -- but at some point he decided to give my job on this show to one of his old pals.*
So there it was, one last knife in the back from a smiling face. Lulled into a false sense of security, I didn't see it coming -- but then neither did Julius Caesar, whose dying words still resonate.
Still, that's the way it goes in a business where the tribal bonds of blood and friendship dictate who sits by the campfire and who remains out in the cold. The Gaffer was just helping out an old friend, which meant somebody -- me, in this case -- would end up the odd man out. Although I don't have to like it, I certainly understand. Having been the beneficiary of such tribal bonds in the past, I'm in no position to bitch about drawing the short straw this time around.
Wiser heads than mine tell me that it all evens out in the end, and maybe they're right. Besides, I've got a ton of work to do sifting wheat from chaff as I pull up forty years worth of LA roots and prepare to load the ship for my final return voyage to the Home Planet. Deciding what to take and what to leave behind isn't easy, a task made all the more difficult by the emotional land-mines I keep tripping over -- letters from old girlfriends and photos from the past of better times when we were all younger, full of hope and laughter. Then there are the photos of friends who disappeared into their own far-flung lives, never to be heard from again, or slipped into the grave -- dusty images from another world I once knew so very well.
But that's life, kiddos. Stick around long enough and it'll strip you bare, take away everything and everybody you ever cared for, then kick your sorry ass into the dark abyss of eternity.
I'm not quite there yet, of course, which means I still have to make what money I can before setting sail into the Horse Latitudes of fixed-income life. With that sweet "extra-guy" gig gone with the wind, the job on my plate is -- wouldn't you know it -- yet another insultingly low-budget, 20% under-scale cable-rate beat-down. Rather than a juicy steak hot off the grill, there lies a cold, soggy melange of kale and turnips that will keep me alive until I hit the "eject" button in January, but sure as hell won't go down easy.
Ah well, it's just one last bitch-slap from the Gods of Hollywood, and yet another reminder that the only thing you can count on in this business... is that you really can't count on anything at all. Sometimes a bitter pill is all that's left to swallow -- or as the last line from my favorite movie of the 70's sums it up:
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown…
* This put the Best Boy -- a great guy I've worked with for a long time -- in an impossible situation. Not wanting to embarrass or put him on the spot, I made a few discreet back-channel inquiries to suss out what was going on, then let it go.