A screenwriting instructor I studied with here in LA often pontificates, ‘you won’t succeed in Hollywood until your best friend fails.’ I recall sitting in his class thinking, is this something you should be teaching aspirants of Tinseltown? He speaks of a law of averages, however, the estimation pretty much sums up how brutal/cynical it is here in the Thirty-Mile Zone. But, hey, it’s sunny/75 every day, which helps.
She wasn’t my best friend by any means, and I can’t say I’m much of a success, however, I’ll never forget the hour she told me she was giving up. It was supposed to be happy, but five minutes in it got all pawn-shop-in-Hollywood.
We were meeting for drinks as we often did since the morning we first ran into each other on the trails of Runyon Canyon. Our dogs took a liking to each other — mine, old/set in his ways, hers, youthful/teach-me-new-tricks. We exchanged names, where-you-froms, and our vocational incentives for weathering the 30-Mile Zone on a daily basis.
“I’m a writer.”
“Why?” she inquired, a tad of resentment disrupting our courtship.
“I don’t know. Might have something to do with the script pages in your back pocket.”
“Oh,” she whispered, then laughed. “I have this audition today.”
“Why don’t you tell me how it went later,” I said. “Over drinks.”
That was the first time I saw her do it — she smiled with just her eyes. Reminded me of Tuesday Weld, back in the day.
Late that afternoon, we rendezvoused for happy hour at The Good Luck Club. She didn’t get the part. The honesty of her silence as she kissed her first glass of vodka told me that.
Funny thing about happy hour in this town — they often include uninvited friends. Bitterness/regret over failed auditions or a lack of callbacks starts ordering up round after round. In my case, anger over rejected/unread queries and scripts starts picking fights with every Tim, Dick, and Harriet in the place. But hey, drinks are half-price, which helps.
A half-an-hour later she was smiling at me with those Tuesday eyes.
“Wanna tell me about it?”
“What’s there to say? I crashed the audi.”
“The audi. The audition. 80 miles an hour, right into the wall. No survivors.”
Frustrating the thing about Tinseltown that drives some inhabitants insane, before it drives them away — there’s no university to graduate from, no residency, no clear path, just absolute dreams being chased down by perseverant talent hoping to get lucky one day/someday/soon.
“You know, someone once said, ‘talent plus perseverance equals luck. Be ready when it happens.’”
“Who said that?”
“Mister sex, lies, and videotape. I like that.”
“Anyone ever tell you you look like Tuesday Weld?”
“I like that too, writerman. And, no. That’s a first,” she said, kicking back the remains in her tumbler, those eyes of hers doing their thing.
Dozens of happy hours later her eyes weren’t smiling. They were spent.
“You can’t leave.”
“Yes, I can. I have to. I’m done. I’m not happy. I’m just not.”
There was a moment of silence before I filled it with, “You know, someone once said, ‘this thing we call failure is not the falling, but the staying down.’”
She pursed her lips, then parted them to say, “Mary Pickford said that. But that’s just it, writerman. I know I’m mixing metaphors here, but I am getting back up, and right back on the horse. It’s just…I’m going to start heading in the right direction.”
“East. It feels right.”
And we left it at that.
A week after she left all abandoned Los Angeles, a short film script I had penned won First Place in a contest I entered months prior. Amidst the sunny/75 light of my minor success, I remember thinking, sometimes I fucking hate Hollywood.