Thursday, March 1, 2012

living in the shadow of the castles

i live in the middle of hollywood proper. what that means is that i do not live in west hollywood, east hollywood, or the hollywood hills. i live in the "flats", as they might say in some other part of the country where i have obviously never lived. the apartment building i live in is surrounded by movie production houses: the places where most films are finished. there are even a couple of smaller film studios, like this one:

this place was actually built in 1918, and used by howard hughes to film "wings", but now it is mostly a space for whoever wants to rent a soundstage--it has no affiliation with any of the big studios. of course, about a quarter mile from there is my favorite film studio of all, paramount pictures:

i have been on this lot many times, during the days when i used to do studio deliveries for catering companies. paramount is beautiful because it is closest to the way it was back in the day--very regal and stately, and it really looks the way one would imagine a film studio looking, unlike, say, sony studios, which barely resembles the famous mgm lot that it took over. i used to love going onto the lots--i got to see the insides of every major working studio in los angeles, and of course i used to fantasize that someday i would be arriving there as a film actor. ah that did not happen. i like my life as a regular joe.

finally, i have an emotional connection to the nearby ren-mar studios, for two reasons: it used to be the home of desilu productions, where i love lucy was filmed, and secondly, it houses the front gate that madonna drove through in a scene from her "material girl" video. ha. showing my roots, there.


on sunday the 26th of february the 84th annual academy awards were held here in hollywood. on hollywood blvd., even. can ya beat that? yes i can. they were held at the hollywood and highland complex. ha! in other words, the ultimate hollywood experience. the hollywood and highland complex is next door to the mann's chinese theater, one of the most visited and iconic of hollywood movie palaces. basically, during the week of the oscars, the tourists in the area go absolutely bat-shit crazy with excitement. can you imagine travelling thousands of miles to visit hollywood and arriving in time to see them set up the academy awards? at least they are getting their travel dollars worth.

entrance to the stairs the stars will climb to the theater

here in the "flats", i am about one mile from where it all happens. every year, on oscar sunday, i can hear the news helicoptors that hover all day over the site, and occasionally i will see a stretch limo cruising around the neighborhood on its way to who knows what. obviously they are not going to the pavillions to pick up toilet paper, like i am, but then picking up my own toilet paper keeps me "grounded", so who is the winner now, mr. big shot???

this year, i decided to ride my bike into the middle of the commotion to check out the setup. i went on the day before the awards, and i took a few pictures. it was fun, and i was very happy that i did not have to navigate the area in a car, since the cars that were there were not really going anywhere very quickly. there were mostly a lot of crew folks there, busy setting up lights and carting in the large display oscars that would sit on the red carpet. there were no stars hanging out, but then i did not expect to see any. not so sure about the tourists expectations, though.

it was fun to check things out, and i was surprised that the security guards i encountered were nice about how they handled all the lookie-loos. i don't always have good experiences with police and security guards, especially when i am on my bike, as they all mostly look at bike riders as troublemakers. they are right. but still...

anyway, they were okay on this day. in this picture, they had to close off the sidewalk for two minutes while this guy moved an oscar prop across the path to the red carpet. i love this stuff...

i only stayed around long enough to snap a half dozen pictures, and then i got my butt out of there! but i must say that it is amazing to see how they set it all up, after all, the oscars are watched all over the world, and i was able to see it up close!

at work, someone told me that they were offered tickets to the actual ceremony. he couldn't go, but i think he would have liked to. i told him that there was no way that i would ever attend the ceremony unless i was up for an award. the reason? i am a nobody in this town, at least as far as the film industry goes, and attending the oscars as a nobody would be like going to a party that i was not invited to where i didn't know anybody. no fun! and though i have no evidence to back up this next claim, i have a suspicion that were i to attend, i would not be treated very well. because i am a nobody. and in los angeles, if you are a nobody (not important in the film industry), you had better act invisible, or you will be put back into your place (invisibility).

of course, we nobodys don't act invisible, and that is where the trouble starts. often, when i make my presence apparent, i am told to get back in line, or worse, to get out. i am speaking somewhat symbolically here, but not really. and this is where i bring my post back to the theme of this blog--as a bike riding grocery store worker, i am a nobody in los angeles. my masters degree does not matter to the casual observer, because here one is judged on externals: face, body, car, money, house. out of those five i have the first two to some extent. two out of five is not bad, but it is not enough to make me a somebody--in order to be a somebody with just those two out of five you have got to have the face and the body. following me here?

there are those who tell me that people are the same everywhere. i disagree with them. there are those who tell me that whereever you go, there you are. i somewhat disagree with them. what these well-meaning folks are neglecting is the HUGE influence that the environment has on our experience of ourselves, and our experience of the world. consciousness, as i understand it, is not isolated in our brains. it is a 3-way relationship between our brain, our body, and the environment. my environment, the city of los angeles, has begun to affect me in a way that i don't like. in other words, i don't like who i am in los angeles.

it is my fantasy, not entirely unfounded, that in san francisco i will be valued for more than my face, body, car, money, and house. it is my fantasy that i will be valued for my education, and what i will eventually do with it (psychotherapy). it is my fantasy that i will be valued for my writing, and my cooking, and what is in my head, rather than just what is on the outside. it is my feeling that age is less of a stigma in san fransisco than it is here in los angeles.

if it sounds like i want to "break up" with los angeles and "date" san fransisco, then you are right on the money. i was once told that we break up relationships NOT because we fall out of love with our partners, but because we fall out of love with who WE are in the relationship. i love this viewpoint. i have fallen out of love with who i am in this city, and i want to be in a city where i love who i am. i want to be in a city where the castles are universities, not movie studios. in a city like that, i will most likely live within the castle, rather than in the shadow of it.

i will be somebody.


  1. It must be a real mind-buzz (I'm old, OK!) to see all of this so up front and personal, Tony. From here it is so far removed but something that attracts a lot of us at least on a yearly basis. I have watched the Oscars since I was 11 years old. This was the first year that I admitted it really needed a change....the 'mold' that was/is Hollywood needs to join the 21st century.
    I see what you are saying about LA especially in Hollywood. I know SF has a huge gay population (we stayed there for a few days right in the middle of it all) which also has it's focus on those top 5 LA traits. Hopefully there is a much more diverse mix. This is just me talking....the 'gay' scene has always scared the beejesus out of us because of it's narrow perspective and shallow base. It did not fit us.
    You will soon have to plan an 'engagement' party for you and SF. I can't wait for 'wedding' highlights!! lol Sounds like it could be the fix you are looking for Tony.

  2. jim,
    it is a mind buzz! i have been here 20 years and i am still awe struck by it being so close. i do love the movies and that will never change. i just don't like the industry! and like you, i have never been a big part of any gay community--even now i can walk into a local bar and not one person would even know me. i prefer it that way--i get to be myself! or whoever i want to be that night...;-0.

    i do hope that i fall in love with myself in san fransisco--i don't want to date too many more cities at this age--i am ready to "settle down". i would like to build a life in one place--a life that will last until mine ends. sounds like you found that--i am hoping to find that. i do know one thing that feels pretty certain. once i leave los angeles, i will never return. i just know it. i'll invite you two to the "wedding"!