One of the first lessons new arrivals to Hollywood learn is that you make friends with people who can do something for you.
It’s a secret that is out in the open, one that many imagine they alone own.
I was as guilty of it as anyone else when I moved here in 1994 and thought a 15 year friendship with a television producer would lead to work and connections. Instead it just ended in bad words and we never spoke again.
Poisonous as it is, the tendency to believe that high connections produce happiness and fulfillment leads people into dead ends. And the idea that every single new friend should have some mechanical use is part of the reason people here have so many friends, and hardly any good friend.
This was one of the weeks I was back at work turning people I hardly knew into friends. Because I have written a webseries. And I want people to work on it. And I’m pitching it around and thinking that I’m getting somewhere by speaking personally to those whose skills or interests might correlate to mine.
You own a studio and you build sets?
You went to film school and you’ve shot video?
You are funny and you act?
You’ve never acted and you want to?
You’re a producer because you call yourself one?
I’m going to be your next friend.
This is the time of year when the weather turns colder and leaves turn golden and I think of those times I would cook Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and father in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, and she would rip out the entire food section of the New York Times and we would try and create something artistic like Creole Oyster Wild Rice Stuffing that would later be eaten and despised by my father and brother.
And when my parents were here in California, on a holiday visit, or living here, we would all gather at a relative’s house. And my mother and I would drink many glasses of wine and eat several helpings of turkey and stuffing, potatoes and pie, and wander around, not talking to anyone, but just enjoying a stuffed stupor, while outside Christmas lights twinkled and cold winds blew. And life was bracing and lovely and numbingly satisfying.
Those occasions were times I had to testify to my mother on plans and ideas and money-making schemes I had dreamed up. “I think I might work on a new documentary in January Mom. Nobody is hiring in December. The whole city is dead.” Some of those Thanksgivings, especially in the 1980s and 90s, involved a blonde woman named Carmel on my arm, and a message handed out by matriarchal authority that I was only welcomed home as a heterosexual.
Everything is gone now, the house, my youth, my Ralph Lauren tweed jackets and wool pants, my mother and father. My brother and his family escape to luxury in San Francisco and eat burritos and sushi in the Mission District while I stay back and think about which friends or family are really true and who are not.
Thanksgiving (like Halloween, Christmas, Hanukah, Easter and the Fourth of July) is not thought of too highly by my Malaysian born partner, but he is willing to eat everything provided it is drenched in maple syrup.
This year we were invited to several places but we will cook at home. It sounds cozy and dull. But I should be thankful I think.
Some friends from out-of-town, people whom I know from years back, may visit Los Angeles and I will see their photos on Facebook but they will never call. They will be busy, they will be showing off their children, their production photos, their visits to Disneyland. And I will still call them my friends.
One poetic and articulate friend is now an executive producer rebranded as an authentic Southern voice and storyteller. He was one of the quality people I met when I moved here. If I live here 20 more years I will probably encounter others of great self-importance.
Living in Hollywood for twenty years I still have idea how to quantify or recognize authenticity.