March 20, 2006

March 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 3

Welcome to the L.A. issue of Truckin', where some of the best bloggers in the greater Los Angeles area contributed stories and tales about their beloved city.
1. Let's Do Lunch by Tenzin McGrupp
We were surrounded by a gaggle of trendoids and pharmaceutically bloated ex-actress-model girlfriends of semi-famous directors who carried around eight balls in their $2,500 Marc Jacobs purses... More

2. For Sale by Joe Speaker
Two stories, four bedrooms plus the den, four baths. Too big for the three of them, but they planned to live there a long while, growing both family, possessions and equity. Of the three, they only managed the last and that was nothing but serendipity... More

3. The Pitch by factgirl
From my office I can see downtown with its chewy cloud of smog. My boss's office has the better view – the Hollywood sign. The sign is much closer than downtown, which tricks the eye into believing the air here is better. Its not... More

4. Heat by Shane Nickerson
As I glanced around the party, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of achievement. After all, I was on the Warner Brothers backlot at one of the hottest events in town... More

5. Paging Dominic Leare by Change 100
He hadn't showered in weeks. A poster of his Oscar-winning film hung behind his desk, itself buried within a hurricane of paper while an outdated laptop sat atop the mess, displaying a page of text... More

6. If I Was Homeless I'd Live In Los Angeles by Dan Keston
There are open air farmers markets in Los Angeles, everyday, that offer free samples of top quality meat, cheese, deserts, fruit, veggies and anything else you need to balance out your diet... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning back to another issue of your favorite e-zine for a special L.A. issue featuring several good friends of mine. We have a few returning writers such as Change100, Dan Keston, and Joe Speaker. We also have two new writers, factgirl and Shane Nickerson, who are sharing their stories. I even wrote up a few tales about my three week trip to the City of Angels last month. I'm sure there will be plenty moe to come. I also hope to have another L.A. edition of Truckin' in the next few months.

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.


"I mean, who would want to live in Los Angeles, where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light?" - Woody Allen

Let's Do Lunch

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2006

The 11 AM sunlight ripped through the blinds and illuminated the entire room with a radioactive glow that burned the eyelids off my face. That was my daily alarm... a high concentration of natural light piercing my retinas. If I was able to conquer the insomnia for a rare night, I never slept in too late because the solar rays prevented me from falling back to sleep. My first glimpses each day were traces of a large palm tree shooting up out of the ground and towering over the garage across the alley. That was the first reminder that I was in Los Angeles. I'd wander outside for a minute and shrug my shoulders at the warm temperatures.

"This is what winter in LA feels like," I’d mutter out loud to the anorexic chick who lived upstairs.

She always smiled when I tried to speak to her. The dark-haired twenty-something with oversized sunglasses sat on a piece of Target-bought lawn furniture and chain smoked while she yapped on the phone to no one in particular. At odd hours, she'd be found sitting outside Nicky's kitchen window. Sometimes sipping tepid coffee, but always chain smoking, she discussed every minor detail of her last audition for a sitcom at Fox or the last blind date she went on with a vegan indie label record exec from Malibu who drove a Ferrari. Decked out in pink flipflops and grey sweat pants, she spent more time on the phone sitting in the piece of shit lawn chair than she spent in her apartment.

My first week in LA went by quick. I'd wake up everyday, I'd be super tired from staying up until sunrise partying. After a shower, I'd get directions from Nicky to the restaurant where I had a lunch meeting scheduled. She'd write detailed directions on slips of paper that used to give writers notes for random scripts in development. I'd always get lost and have to call her for backup, anyway. I'd be able to find the place with no problems. Within a few days, I figured out the local LA streets. Where I'd screw up was when I'd get lost trying to find parking, taking random sidestreets and alleys and finding myself on the other side of Rodeo Drive caught on a street corner with cell phone-clutching hipster parents pushing carriages with $3,000 diamond earrings hanging from the earlobes of 16-month old children and unable to figure out where the fuck I was going. Was it walking towards the hills? Or away from them?

One day I had a lunch with my buddy JC. In the 1990s he managed two popular bands. He had burnt out on the music industry over the past ten years and switched gears. These days, he was involved with poker and several successful ventures. He wanted to discuss some career options for me. I picked La Scala on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills for the meeting. He joked that I knew it was a free meal... because I picked an expensive and high end place. Nicky recommended the Italian restaurant that was located a few blocks from her old office. Several years ago it was one of the places to eat lunch in LA especially in Beverly Hills. These days La Scala is not as cool, but still attracted a steady crowd of new money fakesters who were out to be seen rather than to enjoy a decent meal.

I just started getting used to that whole weird LA thing when people stare at you as soon as you walk in a room, or a bar, or a restaurant. Everyone stop what they are doing whether it's drinking, talking, eating, snorting blow... just to see who walked in.

JC and I were led to our seats by a former reality TV star, who spent four afternoons a week humiliating herself as a hostess in a desperate last minute attempt to catch the eye of a casting director before she subjected herself to doing hard-core gonzo porn movies in the Valley with bi-sexual hairless meatheads who had uncircumcised junks that were the size of paint cans. We all walked towards the back of La Scala while everyone casually peeked up from their Tiramisu to see who we were. Several crescent moon shaped booths along the wall were filled with shit talkin' studio execs wearing last year's fall line of Versace shirts. We were surrounded by a gaggle of trendoids and pharmaceutically bloated ex-actress-model girlfriends of semi-famous directors who carried around eight balls in their $2,500 Marc Jacobs purses. They would glance at us and try to figure out a few things...
1. Who important just walked in?
2. If I don't know them, should I?
3. If they are nobodies, I have to look much cooler than them.
4. I wonder if they have any coke?
We were seated next to a table of four soused women pounding white wine. I called them the third-wives club. Their combined plastic surgery probably cost the equivalent of two fully loaded SUVs. And on the other side of us were two young starlets with IQ points plummeting every time they open their mouths to speak. The blonde with the supple lips was high-end hooker with a sexy back tattoo and the other one looked a lot like Jennifer Love Big Tits, minus the big tits. They rambled on about shopping during the duration of the lunch, in between bitching about having to drive to a party out in the sticks later that night.

Most bathrooms in chic LA eateries were ultra nice with big stalls. Only in Hollyweird bathrooms will you find more stalls/shitters than urinals. They know their clientele and cater to executive cokeheads and other drugged out miscreants who spent the majority of their lunches shoving Colombia's finest candy up their nostrils, which accounts for the frenzied and meaningless drivel that spills out of their mouths when they come back to the tables.

Aside from the trendy crowd, the food was better than average and La Scala is known for their Chop Salads. That typical writer-doing-a-lunch experience was just one of the few I had this past week. They were all roughly the same. I might have been one of the few people who actually wanted to talk business at lunch instead of showing off a new pair of Fendi sunglasses.

* * * * *

One afternoon last week, Nicky took me to a kick-ass breakfast joint called John O'Groat's. On our ride over, the typical blonde California pothead and I took turns smoking a bowl of medicinal marijuana. She told me should could hook me up with a special card. She knew a doctor that you could bribe for $150 to get a prescription card. There were very few people who smoked as much as I did, and one of those people was Nicky. She was perpetually stoned. Nicky held a semi-important job in Hollyweird and was baked to the tits from the moment she walked into the interview. In show business, people are too self-involved to notice co-workers with definite drug problems. Besides, most people mistook her stoner behavior as ordinary flakiness that most blondes are prone too.

As we circled the block for parking she lowered the volume on her iPod as Beck blasted. She admitted, "OK, now I have to harness my parking chi."

She took a deep breath and centered herself. Focused on finding parking, her eyes darted back and forth anticipating an open spot in the heavily trafficked road during lunch hour. She was locked in and when she found an empty space located in a prime spot only a few stores down from O'Groat's, a lady in a black convertible Mercedes 500s cut her off and stole the spot.

"You fucking twat!" Nicky yelled, clenching her fist.

Nicky drove past the lady in the Mercedes who avoided eye contact. Nicky rolled down the window and bitched her out.

"That was my spot, you fucking whore!" she said as she flipped the lady the middle finger.

Inside of a few minutes Nicky went from a laid back stoner to a maniac on the verge of road rage. That's what retarded LA drivers and intense vehicular congestion can do to sane people.

"Imagine how stressed I'd be if I didn't constantly smoke?" she said trying to justify her heavy daily weed intake.

We needed to smoke another bowl before we went inside. Nicky was still steaming. She was on parking space tilt. We had to wait a few minutes to get a table at John O'Groat's. The place is a legendary LA eatery. Originally it was just located in one store space. As the popularity grew, the owner purchased the adjoining two stores and eventually expanded. Despite the additions, they were always packed with hungry customers.

The daily special was Oreo French Toast, where the chef melted crushed Oreos on top of the bread. I didn't even need to use syrup because it was so juicy. The side order of bacon was just how I liked it because it was crisp enough that it melted in my mouth.

At the table behind us, one scenester with a receding hairline was on a date with an unknown actress.

"You have excellent cheek bones and amazing skin tone," he said in his best attempt to flatter her.

The first five minutes of the conversation were dedicated to him kissing her ass and telling her about how hot she looked. The next ten minutes were dominated by his ego and small penis. He rattled off the highlights on his resume, then dropped names of semi-famous people with whom he claimed to be friends. Nicky shook her head and laughed at the absurdity of the dating scene in LA.

"Everyone's working an angle," she explained. "And everyone is a terrible fuck, too."

That's when she clued me in on the latest trend that was sweeping Hollyweird... stripper-aerobics.

"At Crunch in West Hollywood," she said, "they offer classes. Carmen Elektra was teaching you how to strip. It was aerobics using a stripper's pole. It's the latest hipster rage! Yoga is dead. The only people doing yoga these days are hippies and pregnant women from Sherman Oaks."

I thought she was joking, but she was serious. Only in LA would women multi-task to learn how to strip and loose weight at the same time.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

For Sale

By Joe Speaker © 2006

He stood in the open doorway facing the long, empty hallway. Ironically, Marshall couldn't remember doing that before. Maybe the first day. Maybe not. The house looked much the same as when he entered it for the first time nearly two years ago. Back then, it was love at first sight, the adrenaline blitz of a new crush. He remembered the reflections off the impossibly white walls, like perfect porcelain skin, the smell of fresh paint and gloss, the subtle, intoxicating scent of sandalwood drifting from the polished floors. He wandered the house for many minutes in something resembling a stupor that day, not believing he had been so lucky to land the prize. Today, he-and the house-felt different.

The hallway runs the length of the house, a seemingly endless expanse of hardwood floor, interlocking shades of blonde and amber, stretching to the backyard. It gleamed under the sun pouring in from the French doors, set ajar at the hallway's rough mid-point. Those doors, so rarely used, never decorated, opened onto a bare cement slab, the foundation for a supposed courtyard, another plan unfulfilled. The glass itself was spotless, buffed to a high shine by the hired help, the first time anyone had bent to clean them since Marshall and his family had moved in.

He walked tentatively down the hall toward the kitchen, unknowingly avoiding spots where furniture used to be, like dodging phantom memories. He glanced inside the den, which had been Owen's play room. The carpet still showed shadowy spots where his juice had been carelessly dropped. One slat of the wooden blinds had been snapped off in some long forgotten horseplay. Once pristine, the house had picked up its share of nicks, pilot holes drilled in the drywall that remain unfilled, attempts to hang a bookshelf or a curtain rod that fell victim to laziness and Marshall's own failings as a handyman. Owen's artwork, the mad genius of a three-year old, remained visible on some of the walls, though fainter now, blurred by the hours of scrubbing. Absent those signs, it was like nobody had ever lived here at all.

Marshall hated waiting. Always prompt and forever impatient, he glanced again at his watch. The agent and prospective buyers were already minutes late. He muttered a curse under his breath, pausing to lean on the kitchen island. The blinds were all open, afternoon light shining off the white countertop like a blizzard, but the agent said to make sure the house was as bright as possible, while also admonishing Marshall for the dark colors he and his wife Carrie had used to paint the dining and family rooms. The former was a blood red, striking and perfect for their espresso-hued table. She loved that room, he reminded himself with a sigh. It was everything she was: soulful, daring, passionate. Now cleared of its fixtures, it looked sad and conflicted.

The family room was a flat brown, a glazed brunette, the kind you see in every seasonal Pottery Barn catalog that appears with the regularity of a winter’s flu, luring housewives and aspiring craftsmen into the vague idea they can turn their homes into show pieces with these oddly named pigments of some marketer's imagination. Marshall vaguely thought the shade was named "potato skin" or "corduroy fleece" or something similarly insipid. But he was still taken by the lustrous images and his own desire to prove his homeowning mettle. Marshall's father who could scarcely wield a hammer and his own attempts at simple renovation confirmed that he had inherited those traits. They wanted to accent the family room with white ledges and elaborate sconces, built-in shelves and hidden compartments for the stereo and compact discs. He and Carrie never got that far. Not even close, really.

Southern California real estate, the dream of homeownership. They were so happy that day they got the house, lucking into a neglected floor plan, beating the crowds that regularly overwhelmed the new developments during that time of buying frenzy. A hundred people, at least, walked away disappointed that day. The waiting list seemed impossibly long and Marshall's name sat unthreateningly low. He was out of his league. But some on the list didn't show, others had their first, second and third choices claimed and with one lot remaining, the honor fell to him and Carrie. Half an hour later, all their dreams seemed to have come true. Like opportunistic lovers, they had fallen into fantasy.

Before they even moved in seven months later, the price had nearly doubled, giving them unearned cache, like an aspiring starlet fresh off plastic surgery. But they weren't investors, they were a family, a family marking an important milestone: their first house. Not that all was clean and rosy. Even the starlet had scars. The down payment wiped out their savings. The house was three times as far from Michael's job and Carrie was going to have to work outside the home for the first time, meaning daycare for Owen. Changes, always changes, but they had a home to call their own and promised to nurture it, build it into something greater and more meaningful than a simple dwelling.

The house is a classic southwestern style, though spared the pink tile roof for one in a more dignified cocoa. Two stories, four bedrooms plus the den, four baths. Too big for the three of them, but they planned to live there a long while, growing both family, possessions and equity. Of the three, they only managed the last and that was nothing but serendipity.

The real estate agent priced it at over a half million dollars, a laughable sum even in this delirious market. "You're getting out at the right time," she told them and they could both only respond with grim smiles. It didn't seem that way. It seemed all over in too short a time, projects left unfinished or not even begun. The backyard, dirt when they moved in, sits neglected, over-achieving milkweeds the only sustained growth. They paid a professional to design it, fussed over the details for months, but barely broke ground before enthusiasm and commitment waned. Owen's bedroom, where at the end he never slept anyway, remained a blank canvas despite almost feverish drawing of plans.

"We're too tired," they told themselves. The house became a nuisance, a costly albatross that thinned their financial advantage. It was further away, from jobs, from friends, from the bustle of the city center or the laid-back bacchanalia of the beach cities. It was inland, land-locked, desert winds and dust banging against the craggy hills surrounding them. No longer a destination, no longer a long-realized goal, the house became a place where they barely saw each other, passing here and there on the way to another workday, another responsibility. Without time or effort, the house began to decay. Dishes piled up, clothes went unlaundered, floors unpolished. They saw this, recognized it, but couldn't bring themselves to reverse the slide. "Too much effort," they said. "We'll get around to it," they promised. And the problems simply multiplied, some overt, some hidden, but all finally exposed when the house was stripped bare.

Marshall checked his watch again. "Time," he said to himself, to the departed Carrie. "I thought I'd get more time."

Joe Speaker is a writer from Southern California.


By Shane Nickerson © 2006

As I glanced around the party, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of achievement. After all, I was on the Warner Brothers backlot at one of the hottest events in town: The Hollywood Premiere of “Heat.”

Al Pacino stood mere feet from me chatting up some blonde. DeNiro was getting worked by gladhanders on the other side of the room with the shy demeanor I had heard he possessed in “real life.” Val Kilmer basked in the adulation that all of the women present seemed to want to heap on him. “Al Pacino is right there,” I almost said out loud to myself.

I thought back to my days in New Hampshire when I yearned vaguely for a taste of the Hollywood lifestyle. Now, I was right in the middle of it. I was pretty much living the Hollywood Dream.

I balanced the glasses of wine on my small silver tray and walked towards Pacino. His glass wasn’t empty, but maybe someone in his group needed a refill. A tuxedo-jacketed woman with a bad dye job intercepted me.

“I want you to work in the street, please.”

She pointed out towards “New York Street,” just outside the building we were in. New York Street” would be instantly recognizable to anyone who has grown up watching television and movies. It’s a mocked up, generic version of any street in New York, which has been dressed thousands of ways to accommodate thousands of shows and films. On this evening, it was decorated for one of the nightly “functions” on the Warner Brothers Backlot, complete with buffet tables, rental tables and chairs, some “Heat” signage and about a hundred struggling actors dressed up in tuxedo shirts passing wine, spanikopita, sushi, wontons, and various other finger foods. To them, we were “The Help.”

I passed my wine until it was gone, and dumped my tray on a jackstand as I ducked behind the partition that separated the party from the “scullery.” In catering, the scullery is where dirty dishes and glassware go, and it’s usually the place you’ll find a bunch of bitter caterers sucking desperately on cigarettes for three to four minutes of reprieve from a job that can easily suck your soul. I was trying on smoking as a habit, mostly because it gave me something that I had control of while I was a slave to women with bad dye jobs on backlots that I had once been desperate to be work on in any capacity. Be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes. I pulled out my pack of yellow American Spirits and walked over to a familiar face standing by an exterior façade used on “ER.”

“Hey Joel,” I said.

He took a drag from his cigarette and nodded, “Hey man.”

I dug my matches out of my pocket, which were buried beneath a wine opener and a bread crumber, and lit up my four minute break. He took a drag and added, “Crazy to see Pacino and DeNiro in the same room, huh?”

I inhaled the toxic smoke, which was somehow a big “fuck you” to catering in my mind, and nodded.

“Yeah. Crazy.”

I could hear a crash of glasses out on “New York Street,” and the insulting applause that always seems to follow such a mishap, coming from the crowd of partygoers that probably never think of waiters or caterers as actual people. I inhaled deeply another drag of my cigarette and closed my eyes. This was not what I had dreamed.

“Are you working that WB party tomorrow night?” Joel asked me.

I was scheduled to, but I lied to him. “I’m not sure yet. Maybe.”

He crushed the butt of his cigarette with his cheap black shoes, that were flecked with the remnants of some kind of sauce and the sticky traces of assorted splashes and headed back towards the party.

“See you out there,” he said as he passed me. “Yeah,” I said as I took another drag off of the three minutes left on my American Spirit.

By the time I got back inside the building to get a fresh tray of wine, Pacino was gone. He’d made his appearance and bailed. Kilmer was in the middle of a nest of admirers at a table on New York Street, and DeNiro seemed to have disappeared as well. Within an hour, the party was over and the real work began: pulling linens off the tables, stacking boxes of dirty glasses, packing up the remaining booze and delivering it to the storage facility by the kitchen on the backlot. All of these things were left to do. I was making eleven dollars an hour to be there. As I stripped a linen off of a table under the glow of a backlot I once dreamed of working on, I had an epiphany. I looked at Joel, who was pulling unopened wine out of a red plastic tub and drying it off to recrate it.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I told him as I balled up a tablecloth covered in soy sauce and frosting.

He looked up, nonplussed. “Strip tables?” he said, half-joking.

“No, this. Work here, like this. These people that we served tonight... they should be our peers. How can I walk into an audition and feel like an actor if I’m passing Al Pacino wine on the WB backlot the night before? I’m never working here again.”

He nodded and grinned, “Good for you, man.”

I’m not sure if he believed me or even cared. I pulled the last linen off of the last table and left Joel by the wine to find the party captain with the bad dye job. I had more work to do that night, but I had a new sense of power, which made the last hour or so easy. The rest of the suckers were all stuck there. I was never coming back. Not until I was working as an actor on that lot.

In the moonlight, as I walked back to my car under the world famous WB water tower, I took off my wine-stained tuxedo shirt and slung it over my shoulder. The cool, night air felt refreshing to me, and for the first time since I had arrived in Los Angeles, I felt like I had just climbed a rung of the ladder. I hopped into my 1988 Honda CRX and pulled off of that lot for the last time as “the help.” Next time, I vowed to myself as I waited for the arm of the security gate to let me out, I’ll be on this lot to live the real dream. I’ll be here as an actor.

And indeed, it was a promise I kept.

Shane Nickerson is an actor and writer from Los Angeles.

The Pitch

By factgirl © 2006

From my office I can see downtown with its chewy cloud of smog. My boss's office has the better view – the Hollywood sign. The sign is much closer than downtown, which tricks the eye into believing the air here is better. Its not.

The fucking a/c is out AGAIN. I called operations but HVAC won't be out here for another day or two or three. Executives get priority so while my boss has “brainstorming sessions” in refrigerated comfort with the writers, (Riddle: how MANY hookers does it take to write an episode of Our Show? Answer: three) I get to wipe drips of sweat off of my keyboard and wring out the latest script revision.

My boss's new game is to call everyone “Sexy.”


“Hey Sexy, could you go on a Tea Latte run in Larchmont? You can take the Hummer – it needs a wash. The dry cleaning ticket is in the glove box. Thanks, Sexy!”

Gag. But not as gagtastic as playing the “D or B Game” where he breaks out his alarmingly complete collection of sex toys and has a good laugh making me guess if he’s holding up a dildo or a buttplug.

The best day of the week is Wednesday. It’s pitch day. This is one of the very few productions in Hollywood where anyone off the street can come in and pitch their idea. No agent necessary. So every Wednesday my office fills up with our fans. Most of them are just nice people who want to be a part of their favorite show. Others are real writers dreaming of their big break. Then there are the very scary few who come dressed as characters from the show. They proudly share with their co-pitchers and me how much time and detail they have put into their costumes.

Then there is Terrence. Terrence comes every single Wednesday. He is small and quiet and has kind of a big nose which makes his eyes look small. He wears a white button-down shirt, tie and black dress pants every week, and hits the Old Spice pretty hard. He sits by the spent Arrowhead water jugs and folds his hands over his script – the same script he has pitched every week for longer than I've worked here.

Today Terrence is waiting. As usual he will either be last to be called in, or the writers will ignore him altogether and go to lunch. My boss’ door opens and the previous pitch comes out. The expression on his face says his ideas “are not in line with where we want to take the show this season.” Terrence sits up like a third grader who has the answer the teacher is looking for.


“Hey Sexy, we are going to lunch. Want us to bring you back any Thai?”

Terrence is deflated. He stands and starts for the door.

“No Thai for me, thanks – Terrence and I are ordering from the commissary.”

There is a pause and then I hear laughter through the 75 year old door (does that asshole KNOW how thin they made doors back then?)

“Suit yourself , Sexy! You know where the keys to the D and B drawer is.” More laughter and they are gone.

Terrence is standing by the door, frozen. A Terrencecicle.

“So what shall we order?” I offer. “The special is Tuna Melt and French Fries.”

Twenty minutes later we have Styrofoam to-go boxes and giant Cokes delivered – all charged to the show. I crack the boss' door open to steal some of his a/c, and we eat as close as we can to the weak puff of chilled office air.

“Can I see it?” I ask. Terrence looks alarmed.

“See what?'

“Can I see your script?” I hold out my hand.


“I read scripts all the time, maybe I can give you some notes or something.”

“Well its not quite there yet....”

“What are you talking about? It must be ok if you're pitching it.”

He stares blankly at me for a moment, then reaches over and slides the script across the floor to me.
by Terrence Patterson III
I am suddenly feeling a little nauseous.

“Go ahead, read it.” Terrence sounds defeated somehow, and I understand why when I open his script. It's blank. Every page.

“You've been pitching a cover page?”

“They never want to see the actual script, so I usually just make up the story as I go.”

“Tell me one.”

“Well, I thought today I would have the captain getting sick from a virus and I could come in and save the ship from some aliens or something.”

“What was last week's pitch?”

“The captain got tied up by aliens so I had to pilot the ship though an asteroid shower.”

“Terrence, do all the episodes have you taking command of the ship?”

He looks like I've kicked him. “Pretty much. Yeah.”

“Ok. Come with me.”

We head out to the golf cart with our Cokes. Soon the cart is whining past the Staff Shop, the Sign Shop and the backlot until we arrive at Stage 12.

We tiptoe through the side door and behind the set. Black velvet hangs ceiling to floor with little mirrors glued to it to look like outer space. We sneak behind the sets, past lewd graffiti left by stagehands. I grab Terrence's sweaty hand and pull him on the set of the bridge.

He halts. Breathes in.

His face is a sweet rapture. He takes a step. Another. I go pick up the “Hot Set” sign off of the Captain's Chair, and he follows, running his hand over the leather.

“Go ahead.” I nod.

He sits. His face is bliss. After a few minutes I put the Hot Set sign back and lead him out of the maze of the starship. We board the golf cart and I drop him at the parking lot by a BMW. He puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes.

“Thanks, Sexy” he mutters.

“That’s not my...” I start. Never mind. “You are so welcome.”

I make it back to my office just in time to meet the a/c guy. As I show him the unit I glance out the window. Terrence is waiting for the bus by the main gate. I hide his script in my file cabinet and wonder if he'll ever be back.

factgirl is America's favorite psychic soccer mom. She writes from the suburbs of Los Angeles and hates Dr Pepper.

Paging Dominic Leare

By Change100 © 2006

Charlie was in early. He rarely, if ever beat me into the office and it was especially unusual given that today was a half-day Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend. These were the lazy days we lived for at the studio– a welcome reprieve from an endless string of 14-hour days. I was already dreaming of driving off the lot at 2PM, firing up the joint I had in my glove compartment, and turning on a Carlos Santana album for the drive home, up Cahuenga Pass, over the 101 freeway and through the leafy groves of the Hollywood Hills. I was dressed in jeans and a hooded cotton sweater that advertised my blissfully causal attitude about the day. Charlie, though, was standing up at his desk, trying to close the top button of a dress shirt. He looked like he hadn’t slept all night.

“What happened? You look like hell,” I said, handing him his Café Americano with three sugars.

“He’s flipping out.”

“Who is?”

“Tubby,” as he invoked our private name for the studio chief.

“What now? Universal scooped us on some teen comedy spec du jour?”

“No. He’s flipping out about Dominic Leare.”

Charlie grabbed a yellow tie off the hook on the back of his door.

“Dominic Leare has been late on every draft he’s ever turned in.”

“Yeah, but not this late. Six months is like, sicko late.”

“He sort of won an Academy Award. Doesn’t that, like, let you get away with shit like that?”

I took the yellow tie away and gave him the red one out of his desk drawer.

“Usually. But not when the absence of a draft is going to lose you your director.”

“Oh shit.”




“You sat with him at Dan Tana’s a month ago, right?”

“Yeah. For three fucking hours. He pitched out the whole thing, beat by fucking beat. He even brought his goddamn laptop.”

“So you know he has it in there, he’s just being all precious and writerly about it and won’t let it go. I mean, this is an epic. It’s a huge undertaking.”

“A 100 million dollar movie.”

“A lot of pressure.”


“You’ll get it out of him.”

“Right. And while I tell Tubby that, you’re going to actually have to do it.”


“Get it out of him.”


“I have to placate Tubby and then go to the weekend read meeting. You’re gonna have to find him, go over to his house if you have to, and not leave until there are 120 pages in your hands.”




“You can do this. I trust you. Time to step up and be a hero. How do I look?”

“You have food on your shirt.”

“I know. I don’t have any others.”

I had developed a pretty easygoing relationship with Dominic Leare. We’d talked on the phone plenty over the last few months as Charlie tried to pry the script out of him. After his first deadline passed, Dominic began to elude us for weeks at a time. After Charlie would leave a string of unanswered voicemails, he’d call up Leare’s agent, Stanley Greenberg and let him know that Dominic was AWOL, once again. It would take a couple of days, but Greenberg would somehow get him out from under the bed, and we’d get a hurried, sketchy phone call from him, where he’d frantically and profusely apologize and assure Charlie that everything was, indeed, progressing just fine. Leare probably liked me because I was by far the calmer half in the professional union between me and Charlie. Most of the time I felt like a hostage negotiator when I had him on the line and was trying to stall him with conversation long enough for Charlie to get there and pick up. I put on a calm, throaty voice. Step away from the ledge, Mr. Leare. Put down the gun...

My first call was to Stanley Greenberg’s office. His assistant picked up and I weaseled Leare’s home address out of her. Poor thing had only been there a month, she didn’t know any better and she’d certainly be in trouble when all this was through. Then I dialed Leare’s home number. It was only 9:30 in the morning. Someone had to be there. A female voice picked up. It was Maggie, Leare’s girlfriend. It sounded like I had woken her up.

“Maggie, it’s Nicky from Charlie Brewster’s office. I apologize for calling so early.”

“Mmmm, no it’s OK... How are you?”

“I need to speak to Dominic, is he around?”

“Yeah, he’s...” I could already hear Dominic shushing her.

“Right next to you... I can hear him.”

Maggie cupped her hand over the phone as Dominic started protesting in a steely grumble. “She can fucking hear you, idiot!”

“Just put him on the phone please, Maggie.”

I heard the phone clatter to the ground and the sound of Maggie’s heavy footsteps stomping away before Leare picked up.

“Hey, hey Nicky. What’s going on?” he spat, with false bravado.

“Listen, I know you told Charlie you needed more time, but we need to see whatever you have.”

“I.. I...”

“We need it today. It doesn’t matter how much you have left to finish, just print out what you’ve got and I’m even going to make it easy and come over to your house and get it so you don’t have to call a messenger.”

“Well it’s gonna take me hours to format everything properly.”

“That’s fine. Start now and I’ll wait if I have to. I’m getting in my car.”

“Really, you don’t have to do this.”

“But I do. I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”

I sped off the lot toward the 134 freeway, the studio’s legendary water tower in my rear view mirror. As I gazed at its blue and yellow logo the corners of my lips curved up in bemused bewilderment as I wondered how the fate of the studio’s next summer blockbuster managed to fall into my tiny, inexperienced hands.

Leare’s place was halfway up a steep one-lane road in Los Feliz. With some care and a decent landscape architect, it would have been a spectacular showpiece Spanish hacienda– the epitome of old Los Angeles. But this place was straight out of Sunset Boulevard, overrun with ivy growing wild up its stained limestone walls. A pair of eucalyptus trees shed leaves into onto the overgrown lawn and formed an ever-growing layer atop the kidney-shaped pool. I picked up five days worth of the LA Times as I walked up the driveway toward the enormous wooden door. I set them down in a pile before ringing the bell.

Maggie answered. I hadn’t met her face to face until that moment. She wore a pink terry cloth bathrobe over white cotton pajamas and looked like Stevie Nicks. A cigarette burned between her long slender fingers which waved me inside.

“Sorry about the stuff on the phone. He’s in a mood.”

Her valley-girl voice echoed off the hardwood floors in the vast foyer. She shuffled down two steps into the sunken living room, done up in a Southwest motif. Fancy saddles sat on display and I set my purse down on one of those tables that was made out of a wagon wheel. I took a seat on a brown leather couch while Maggie straddled the piano bench and picked out a few chords. Her long blonde hair fell in her eyes and threatened to singe from the cigarette that still hung from her lips.

“I didn’t sleep well last night. I just kept hearing music, you know. Had to keep playing.”


“Yeah. I wrote like all these songs. You wanna hear one?”

“I do, but I need to see Dominic first.”

“He’s upstairs printing out all that shit for you. Just sit. Listen to the music.”

She started playing something very Lilith Fair. After about ninety seconds I began to deflate with relief that this was an instrumental composition. But then she started singing. And not well. It didn’t stop for quite a while. There were at least five verses and two bridges.

I politely applauded when she was done and she excused herself to the kitchen for some coffee for the both of us. Once she disappeared around the corner, I inched myself out of the living room toward the bottom of the spiral staircase, listening for the sound of a printer. I couldn’t hear a thing.

Maggie returned with the coffees and we sat down on the couch. She seemed a little more awake and with it, so I did what I could in the way of small talk. She was from Encino, so we babbled about being natives in this city of transplants. Then I asked her where she went to high school. And of all the small, snotty private girls’ schools in L.A. County, this crazy bitch went to mine. She practically squealed at the coincidence of it all.

“Oh. My. GOD! No way! Did you have Miss Miller for English? She was soooo awesome! What about crazy Dr. Todd for bio?”

Maggie put out her cigarette and padded over to the bookshelf, where she opened a small wooden box and took out a joint.

“This was so fated to happen, I mean, we’re like sisters on like some cosmic level or something. It was like, you were MEANT to come here this morning.”

She took a drag and offered me a toke. Every professional instinct I had told me to decline, but if getting high with this train wreck of a woman could get me any closer to that script, well, in the name of cinema I had to accept.

I sat with Maggie for over an hour, querying as to Dominic’s whereabouts at least three times over the course of our increasingly loony conversation. Each time she assured me he’d be right out and immediately changed the subject. It was going on 11:30. Charlie was out of the meeting by now.

I asked Maggie where the bathroom was. She pointed around the corner as she shoveled Cinnamon Toast Crunch straight from the box into her mouth. I ducked out, leapt up the stairs two at a time, and started searching for Dominic.

His office was a cluttered, tiny cave of a room at the end of the hallway. Dark purple curtains blocked out any sunlight and the stench of stale American Spirits hung in the air. Dominic sat immobile in an easy chair with corduroy upholstery, staring at the ceiling fan that spun overhead. Black leather pants clung to his matchstick legs, his long, matted hair the color of the bottom of an ashtray. He hadn’t showered in weeks. A poster of his Oscar-winning film hung behind his desk, itself buried within a hurricane of paper while an outdated laptop sat atop the mess, displaying a page of text.

“I’m sorry I have to do it this way, Dominic. But I need you to give me the pages. You’ll get tons more chances to rewrite it. We just have to see where you are.”

“I’m nowhere.”

“Just show me what you’ve got.”

“I’m telling you, I’m really nowhere.”

“What page are you on?”

He was silent for a moment. I saw a tear come to his eye.




“You’re on page nine?”

He nodded almost imperceptibly.

“Oh my God, Dominic.”

He leaned forward and sighed. His hands shook as he ran his fingers through his greasy curls.

“I really fucked it up. This might be it for me. I’ll never get another job.”

“We’ll figure something out. But right now I need you to give me those nine pages.”

He slowly stood and handed me an envelope. It was covered in coffee stains and had an old Universal Studios mailing label from the 1980's affixed to the outside. Whatever had been sent to him in that envelope was sent to him when he was a young Oscar winner on top of the industry, as well as his own game. Now he was too strung out and jacked up to function.

“Please take care of yourself, Dominic.”

It was a feeble closing line, but all I could muster at the moment. My own high was wearing off and I had a lot of explaining to do to Charlie, not to mention Dominic’s agents. Maybe they could get him some help.

It turned out that the tattered envelope with the Universal label carried the last pages Dominic Leare would be paid to write in Hollywood. I told the whole sordid tale to Charlie, and then to Tubby himself. Dominic was fired off the film and Stanley Greenberg got both him and Maggie checked into Promises Malibu a few months later. I’m really not sure what happened to either of them beyond that.

As for the film, word of the stunt Leare had pulled filtered up to the highest echelons of the studio, lighting a fire under the corporate brass to push even harder to get the film made in a timely manner. The director, now truly impatient, but still invigorated with the idea (especially now that the studio was firmly behind him) got to hire his own million-dollar writer, a notoriously fast veteran, and the two of them had a draft and a star within six weeks.

Cameras rolled twelve months later. The studio wrote off a $100 million loss on the film after it bombed twelve months after that. And if Dominic Leare hadn't done enough coke to get himself fired, the damn thing might have never been made.

Change100 is an unemployed studio executive in Los Angeles, CA.

If I Was Homeless I'd Live In Los Angeles

By Dan Keston © 2006

When I was younger, I used to live in an apartment building in Greenwich Village, and every morning I had to step over a different huddled mass on my doorstep in order to get to work. I never saw their faces; all I saw were the twitching feet slightly exposed to the blistering wind chill, and the hodgepodge of knickknacks that each person had accumulated from the previous day. Some people feel sorry for homeless people and want to give them money. Others feel disdain for the stranded, wishing they would go away. I, however, just walk by and wonder, “Why don’t these people move to L.A.?”

I know that people don’t choose to become homeless, but I can tell you that if I was, the first thing I would do is stick my thumb in the air and catch a ride out west. Out here, it rarely drops below sixty. There are buildings-a-plenty in which to crash. And let’s be honest: if you walk around looking a little ratty but hold your head high, chances are somebody is going to think you are an actor just trying to keep a low pro.

Don’t believe me yet? Here is a typical day for Dan Keston, a homeless, 32-year-old man.
6:00. Rise and shine. You are probably thinking that Homeless Dan should sleep in (because he can), but that is not how Homeless Dan operates, especially when there is a kind surf breaking down at the beach. After all, Homeless Dan had planned on surfing today, so he slept on the beach last night (also because he can). Homeless Dan grabs a longboard off a yuppie’s Venice boardwalk porch, then spends a few hours catching waves while the guy is off selling art lofts.

9:00. Homeless Dan puts the board back and walks down to Bally’s gym. This is Homeless Dan’s one expense, a $19 per month membership to Bally’s. There is no question that Homeless Dan is not the only member here who doesn’t work out. Homeless Dan has seen multiple people who regularly use this place just to get a hold of the showers and have a locker. Homeless Dan cleans himself off, puts on his one other pair of clothes, and heads out to get something to eat. He likes it at Bally’s. He joined after getting a free three-week pass.

10:30. The open air market. To be honest, Not Homeless Dan sometimes wonders why he ever pays for food. There are open air farmers markets in Los Angeles, everyday, that offer free samples of top quality meat, cheese, deserts, fruit, veggies and anything else you need to balance out your diet. Obviously constructed for people for whom going to the market just isn’t expensive enough, these “fresh” food places are the regular stomping grounds of Homeless Dan. On Wednesday and Saturday, the market is at Arizona and 2nd. On Sunday, it moves a half mile south to Main Street. Thursday in Westwood. Monday in West Hollywood. Tuesday in Culver City. Friday in Venice. Everyday, there is an abundance of free food, right outside your door.

Let’s assume today is Wednesday. After eating seven tamale samples (the equivalent of a full tamale), Homeless Dan walks down to the promenade. There he walks around like a tourist until one of the solicitors comes up to him and asks if he wants to see a free movie this afternoon starring Nicolas Cage and Christina Ricci starting at 3:00. Well, of course, Homeless Dan does. He loves Nicolas Cage.

In Santa Monica, studios are constantly doing market research on soon-to-be-released movies. In order to do so, they need to assemble an audience to watch and subsequently rate them, and these random folks ultimately determine a movie’s release date, marketing budget, and possibly the ending if it doesn’t test well. So, in other words, Homeless Dan is deciding the fate of a movie that probably costs $100 million, and is telling Universal, a billion dollar company, exactly what they should or should not do. Sometimes Not Homeless Dan, who works in the movie business, cries himself to sleep at night because he knows deep down that he has considerably less power than Homeless Dan.

It’s now 12:00. The movie doesn’t start until 3:00, so Homeless Dan has three hours to earn his shower money. Why the sad face? It’s not as hard as you think. Not Homeless Dan knows. Once, when he was in college and in a fraternity, during a hazing ritual he once made one of his pledges paint his face white and dress up like a mime and perform for money. He wouldn’t let the pledge back into the car until either an hour had passed or he earned $5.00. Fifteen minutes later the pledge came back. He gave him $16.43. He wasn’t even that good of a mime.

And that was Atlanta, this is L.A. In Brentwood, there’s used to be a guy named Mr. Wendell who sold poems for a dollar. Then he became the star of a song by rap superstars Arrested Development. Now he gets royalties. There was another guy on the Venice boardwalk who ate glass. Then he got his own show. Homeless Dan, on the other hand, just wants a little pocket change. Some days he just holds out the cup and shakes it. Other days he might try the “I just need a beer” sign. Anyway, he mixes it up to keep things fresh. Homeless Dan sees himself as creative.

5:00. The movie is over (Homeless Dan gave it 3.5 stars) and Homeless Dan walks a few blocks to the public library to check his email. Yes, he has email, and yes, he checks it often. It’s how he stays in touch with his friends, and cell phones won’t work for him because he has no place to plug in the charger. Plus, it’s free, as are libraries, which have email and internet access. Homeless Dan can spend an hour checking in with his parents, friends back east, research the daily news, and finally, find out what’s going on that night in L.A.

But first, it’s dinner time, so Homeless Dan heads down to the Santa Monica indoor mall for some more free samples. This food is not quite as healthy or fresh at the outdoor market, but Homeless Dan sure loves his chicken teriyaki on a toothpick. And his gyro lamb kebob samples. And his Wetzel’s Pretzel bites. And all the other mall food court tastes that are free and while he is not 100% sure what he is eating, it doesn’t really matter because fried + food = good. And beggars can’t be... well... you know the drill.

Let’s move on. The night is for the young and uninhibited, and if Homeless Dan isn’t uninhibited I don’t know who is. Los Angeles nights are packed with world famous symphony orchestras, sizzling hot independent bands, and comedy shows – far superior shows that most people anywhere else pay for – that just happen to be absolutely free. Just pick up an LA Weekly (which, in theme, is free) and find out what is going on. Listen to a world famous author read from his novel at Dutton’s. Catch a free jazz night at the MOCA. Listen to an open air concert at the Santa Monica Pier. If there a list, just tell them you’re Tommy Lee.

Exhausted from an exciting day of surfing, eating, and entertainment, it’s time to find somewhere for Homeless Dan to rest his head. I suggest he jimmy open the guest bedroom window of the three story home next to Not Homeless Dan. Owned by some jackass who bought it during the housing rush but never figured out what to do with it other than use it as a write-off against his other, larger real estate investments, it just sits there empty. Nobody lives in it. Nobody ever goes by. Except Homeless Dan.

You don’t have to be Homeless to know that this day sure beats a day of digging in the trash cans for leftover falafel on Bleecker Street and freezing your ass off while NYU students beat you up on film. But maybe you think that this article is still just a little mean and want to punch me in the face.

I disagree, and you shouldn’t. And I’m not just saying that because I’m me. I’ll admit, my sympathy level dropped after the incident1 , but still there’s no arguing that the day I described above is not much worse, and probably even much better, that the average day of you and me.

1 The incident happened when I was 14. My mother, upon seeing a man on the side of the freeway with a sign saying “Hungry. Will Work for Food”, pulled over and rolled down her window, offering him a paper bag with half a turkey sandwich. The man asked what it was. My mom said, “It’s half a turkey sandwich, I thought you might want it.” The man looked in the bag, then replied gruffly, “No thanks, I’m a vegetarian” and handed it back.

Dan Keston is a writer living in Los Angeles, CA.