This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop The Presses; Roll The Cameras

"I hate snoops," Holly Golightly proclaims early on in Breakfast At Tiffany's. She'd taken care of herself a long time and felt no need to answer to anybody. And why should she?

I'm a snoop. That's right, I said it--er, wrote it. Given a choice, I'd prefer the term sleuth, but that implies that I'm playing detective and searching for something in particular. And I am no Nancy Drew-- that's for sure. I wouldn't even consider myself in the class of Harriet The Spy. I barely got through that little wimpy kid's diary-- I mean journal, but whatever.

This dirty little trait of mine dates back to childhood. In those days, I was an expert at unwrapping gifts and re-wrapping them to perfection with no one being the wiser. I got away with it for years of Christmases past until my little brother squealed on me. [ I could've told him that his beloved Castle Grayskull was from mom instead of that jolly red giant named Santa, but I didn't want to be mean.] Instead, I took to bugging phone lines and writing in ultra-mysterious code I thought no one could crack... [ 1=A, 2=B, 3=C.] I coiled a bunch of wires together and built a crystal radio that picked up strange signals when tapped into our rotary phone. On most days, I could be found in a tree somewhere, high above the rooftop, looking down on the world and eavesdropping on people. Naturally, these tendencies led to my interest in writing.

Later, I went to journalism school. There, I was forced to read books by the likes of Katherine Graham and Walter Cronkite. Cronkite complained that good, solid journalism was quickly being replaced by what he called infotainment. The integrity of news media and print media itself, he feared, could become something of the past. This was after AOL's annoying You've got mail, but before Kindle and ipods and TMZ took over.

Newspapers ceasing to exist? I thought Cronkite was being a bit of an alarmist. Less than a decade later, my favorite newsstand is now a Tijuana-style vendor stand of noisy, blinking electronic toys and ipod/cell phone accessories. The only magazines left on those dwindling racks are tabloids that everyone reads for infotainment sake, but no one admits to buying.

Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time in an old newspaper building. As the newspaper moved out, the film crews moved in. This one is playing host to no less than three television pilots in the next few weeks. As the size of the newspaper shrank, so did its news staff. [They moved into a much smaller building to cut their losses.] At the old haunt, the hallways are long and narrow. The lunch room still has tables and a humming refrigerator. Circulation sits abandoned; Advertising is hauntingly quiet, and the presses have been cold now for quite some time.

If there's anywhere where the temptation to snoop beckons, it's on a film-set---especially on-location and especially in an old newspaper building. The typically brutal, long hours and sheer boredom contribute to the childish curiosity of snooping. After twelve hours, you kinda sorta wonder what might be in that desk drawer. You might want to do some sleuthing, that is detective work, to see what was left behind.

Paperclips, old business cards, and photo sensitive tape only tell part of the story. What was this so-called newspaper world like? I'm on the case. I open a drawer or two, in the name of sleuthing. I flip through a pile of papers as part of my investigative work. I am using my journalism degree after all, I tell myself. I find canisters of mints emblazoned with the logos of old sponsors and complimentary ticket vouchers for any Clippers game... during the '93-'94 season. I wonder if they'll swap them out. Probably not. I toss them aside. Then in the bottom drawer of a desk in one corner office, I find a golden nugget--a relic of the not-so-distant past. On a sheet of yellow-lined legal paper, a former newspaper executive handwrote:

"... The business graveyard is crowded with the tombstones of enterprises, including newspapers, that refused to recognize economic reality."

Even the newspaper business, with its most famous saying: All the news that's fit to print [The New York Times] was ill-advised as to how quickly technology would replace it. Turns out, I did think of Cronkite well beyond that journalism class. In those moments of ahem, investigative work, I stopped to ponder how the collapse of one enterprise [the newspaper business] could benefit the likes of another [the film/tv industry.]

Stop The Presses. Roll The Cameras and we begin again...

Every enterprise, every business must change to fit the new era. We may not know exactly what the new rules are, but one thing's for sure: Those who blink will lose the fight.

"Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away, they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is."
--Walter Cronkite (1981)

P.S. And that little wimpy kid's diary--I mean journal, but whatever-- apparently, it's now a major motion picture. We've definitely entered a new era and even if we're surrounded by a bunch of morons, it's time we face up to it.

Copyright © 2010 by KLiedle

Photo/illustration credit/Flickr as follows:
Harriet The Spy/Louise Fitzhugh, News Presses/Belly Button Window
Nancy Drew/Peril In Pink

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chew 'Em Up and Spit 'Em Out: Toxic Hollywood

I could see it in her eyes, things weren't the same. The bubbly, blue-eyed blonde, devoutly Christian girl from Illinois liked to sing and dance. She was a rising star in her hometown-- the one to watch. Like so many others, she loaded up her car and moved out to Los Angeles to be an actress. She got an agent and a personal manager (with a company I worked for.) Right out of the starting gate, she booked one of the first roles she'd auditioned for-- a principal role on a kids cable series.

She was the envy of all her acting friends. She thought she'd taken off. She thought her star was rising-- that her wholesome beauty and talent would fuel her to the zenith of Hollywood-- that the promise of fame would nourish her. Things sped along beautifully until-- the cable show tanked, the industry slowed down, and the auditions dwindled down to nothing.

We told her we needed new photos. She said she would, she just needed to get some money. She told me to submit her for anything-- even roles with nudity (something she'd vehemently been against before.) Bills were piling up; desperation had set in.

The last time I saw her, I couldn't ignore the changes. Her bubbly personality had flattened as she tried to force a smile. Her blonde hair had lost its luster. Her skin had lost its glow. Hollywood wasn't as easy as it started off to be. She walked out of our offices as a ghost of her former self-- or the "self" that she thought Hollywood had been looking for. She stopped returning our calls. A few weeks later, we ran out of her headshots.

There are so many like her-- the Ellie Parkers. Hollywood is harsh and shark-infested. It's a survivalist's game. Even those who succeed are only moments away from drowning. I think of this now, with the passing of Andrew Koenig last month and Corey Haim just a few short days ago. Oddly, I'd just watched License To Drive about 2 weeks ago for the first time in at least fifteen years. As I'd listened to the interview of Corey Haim on that disc, well before his untimely death this week, I felt the same as I'd had the last time I'd spoken with the blonde: Something in them had been forever altered.

Hollywood loves to crown its kings and queens and is quick to knock them flat. Hollywood can be toxic and it will poison you if you let it. Don't change yourself to what you think Hollywood wants. Be the person you want to be. Those with the surest sense of themselves-- the ones that know who they are as people, not actors, have the best chance of survival.

Acting is not everything. Success doesn't make you. Money can only do so much. And none of it will last. Keep stretching toward your dreams, but don't ever let them consume you whole. And if you feel that you are drowning, resist the urge to reach for drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive crutches-- instead reach for help. It is out there.

© Copyright 2010 by KLiedle