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, March 19, 2017

Gone with the Wind

In the end, it was the matchbooks that got me. After the painful process of sorting through the vast quantities of detritus accumulated over the course of forty years in Hollywood -- half a dozen arc carbons (positives, of course), dozens of cube taps (mostly the old ones -- the good ones), male and female quick-ons, zip cord, porcelain fixtures, too many tubes of gel and white diffusion, a weathered threefer from back in the pin-cable days, boxes of old-fashioned 250 watt and 500 watt flashbulbs, an analog multi-tester, a battered old red Wiggy, my spotmeter, Minolta Auto 3 light meter, and a nifty little hand-held digital frequency meter that saved my Best Boy and Gaffer ass more times than I can count back in the days before flicker-free HMI's came on the scene, and hundreds of business cards from juicers, Best Boys, Gaffers, and grips I'd worked with (and forgotten) over the years. 

There was more -- a lot more -- but you get the drift.

What I couldn't give away, I tossed. It was hard at first, but got easier as the deadline approached: when push came to shove, whatever I couldn't use or pass along went overboard. At that point, there really wasn't any choice.

At long last I thought I was done... but around midnight of my final night in LA -- after shredding the last of the dusty, irrelevant tax records -- I opened a forgotten kitchen drawer and found a cache of matchbooks from adventures around LA and on distant location shoots doing commercials, music videos, and features... and that's when I finally sank knee-deep into the deep, soft sands of memory.  Every one of those matchbooks was a visual trigger that unleashed vivid memories of a place, a time, and the people I'd worked with way back when --  the Viva Las Vegas ZZ Top video we shot in Sin City, a video for a female hip-hop protege of Prince (whose name I've long since forgotten) in St. Paul, Minnesota, a Weber BBQ commercial in Kansas City, the Lexus commercial we filmed on an ice lake high in the mountains Colorado over the course of three long, freezing days, a Chevy spot shot at night down on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, a Miller Beer commercial in Lone Pine, California -- where my big mouth got me fired from my first real job as a gaffer -- and a Memorial Day weekend of extreme excess in New Orleans after we'd wrapped a feature in nearby Thibodaux -- where I saw a big, fat bearded man sing Cajun French in an impenetrably thick accent for the first time.

And of course, some of those matchbooks were from my days and nights chasing pretty young women all over LA...the stuff dreams -- and memories -- are made of. 

That was a month ago, and I still haven't managed to empty all the boxes or distribute their contents in the house. There have been extenuating circumstances and unavoidable delays, of course, but still... I never thought it would take this long.

One of those delays was dealing with the paperwork that comes with retirement. I absolutely hate paperwork -- filling out forms of any kind makes me feel like I'm choking -- so I avoid and put it off as long as possible. Hell, if I could tolerate paperwork, I might never have quit being a Best Boy... but with a deadline looming, it was time to stop unpacking and sit down with all those forms -- and that was no fun. After a lot of sweating, more than a little cursing, and several long distance phone calls to LA and the MPPH to clear the clouds of confusion, I got it done and in the mail.*

So now I face the annual ordeal of taxes, which promises to be infinitely more hellish than those pension forms. It seems I can leave Hollywood behind, but there's no escaping the paperwork, and only when that's finally done can I can get back to the dispiriting task of unpacking.  

Out of the frying pan, into the fryer -- retirement is a lot harder than I ever thought it could be.

But filling out all those forms (and paying the retiree dues) hammered home the fact that it really is all over -- I'm not a juicer anymore, and that jar of matchbooks is all I have left to show for so many years of hard work.** It's gone with the wind, memories blowing away with time like all that gold dust at the end of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, one of Hollywood's all-time classics.

So what's nextI'll keep the fire in the wood stove burning -- hey, it's still damp and chilly up here -- and at some point in the not-too-distant-future will resume work on the blog-book, which was shoved to the back burner three years ago when it turned out I couldn't work for a living, maintain the blog, and put together a book at the same time. That shouldn't be an issue now, so I'll get to it once things settle down, and will continue to post here as inspiration strikes.    

Like I said last time -- stay tuned... 

* Motion Picture Pension and Health. 
** Well, that and a bad back, of course -- the bane of juicers the world over... 


Anonymous said...

Too funny... Recently I went thru a small box filled with old matchbooks from long ago. I am NOT quite ready to separate myself from them yet.. Almost silly how those little matchbooks can have such a hold on our memory bank.. every city, many restaurants, nite clubs, hotels, most with some sort of tie in to a location. You will get your balance on the retirement thing.. it takes a few months. Finally having so much time to do everything you want takes getting use to and takes a while trying to figure it out... but its worth it.
always your friend k

Anonymous said...

"Well, that and a bad back, of course -- the bane of juicers the world over... "

You're not kidding, I feel your pain!

Michael Taylor said...

Anonymous --

Sorry to hear that, but I suppose it comes with the turf. The only real question for all of us is how bad does it hurt and for how long...

Anonymous said...

One thought - leave some things in boxes. What you haven't used in 6 months - send overboard. I'm doing this with my clothing - going to be an interesting experiment. Keep writing and we'll keep reading :)

Michael Taylor said...


Good idea -- I just might do that. Thanks for tuning in...