I had dinner last night in a fancy Hollywood restaurant. The kind of place with a platoon of recent immigrants parking cars out front and no sign to announce that this is any kind of business open to the public.
Accessed through a wooden gate in a vine-covered wall, it is expected that only the right type of Hollywood movers and shakers will know that this is an acceptable place to get your grub on in a place that keeps the Great Unwashed on the wrong side of the velvet ropes out front. Don't worry about getting the unlisted telephone number to make a reservation, your assistant will get you booked into a prime spot. From a power table you will be able to command the room while the stylized minuet of Hollywood deal making occurs around you. For the mere mortals who wish to observe you might be able to get a table in the bar, but the main room is reserved for the Pros who have serious work to accomplish while pretending to dine.
While hardly a Hollywood heavyweight, I am connected well enough to score a decent spot on the playing field, err... dining room. A consciously casual patio ambiance belies the scary menu prices this French-cum-Moroccan joint charges. The wait staff sport faux French accents and crisply pressed slacks while the patrons schmooze in the patois of the Movie Biz in their designer denim. The diners are slim and beautiful; the handsome young Best Supporting Actor nominee sitting at the table next to ours blended nearly unnoticed amongst the tables of Actors, Script Doctors and Producers.
At my table I was the only "civilian" not "in the business." I have made my living helping to report the news on local TV in Los Angeles for many years, but in the Social Strata of Hollywood, local TV is on a par with Lepers, Mimes and Lawyers. My wife, the Movie Editor, wanted to get together with her friend the Writer/Director who was celebrating his recent Vegas marriage to the Production Designer and so we made two couples to share a table for four.
We talked about past productions and future projects, movies we had seen and movies we will see soon. The philosophical content of the evening covered the difference between hiring a stranger for sex or casting an actor to engage in real sex for the camera. The table's majority felt that an Actor in a role is vastly different from a Prostitute in a business transaction. But we all agreed that there is probably no difference between a Pimp and an Agent.
And we talked about cars. If broadcasting is my vocation, cars and all things automobile related are my avocation. We talked about cars we own and cars we will purchase or lease in the coming year. My wife the Movie Editor has always driven performance cars, possibly stunting her children's growth by making them ride in the vestigial back seat of her 924 Turbo during their toddler years. The lease on her Infiniti Coupe is due to expire at the end of the year and she is reluctantly considering making a BMW M3 her next lease. Reluctantly because she really would rather drive a rear-engine Porsche but its rear seat is too small by even her standards.
The Writer/Director's Maserati and the Production Designer's Audi TT are both two-seat roadsters. The Writer/Director's son from a previous marriage makes three, a potential baby adoption will make four and so they must exchange one of their cars for a more practical four-seater. The Writer/Director has no intentions of loosening his grip on the paddle shifters of the Maserati. The Production Designer has an eye for design and she insists that her primary transportation must not offend her aesthetic sensibilities. She wants something stylish… although she was impressed by the Land Rovers she drove on African safari and could see herself crushing the Los Angeles landscape in a Brit bog-hopper.
I ventured a suggestion that maybe the newly weds might want to consider something less than an Armored Personnel Carrier for the mean streets of Los Angeles. Maybe a Mini Estate would be stylish enough while offering four seats.
"Ooooo," the Production Designer purred happily, "those cars are cute." "Nah," said the Writer/Director, "I've done the Mini thing in a script I sold. It would look bad to revisit old territory."
"How about a Lexus IS or an Acura TSX? They have four doors, lots of horsepower and nice features," I said. "If you are lucky enough to adopt a baby you will really value the back seat access of a set of rear doors."
"Four doors? Forget it," said the Production Designer. "I need something sporty."
I sighed, asked the waiter to bring the desert menu and changed the topic to wondering why the handsome young Academy Award nominee at the next table did not have seem to have a date.
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