Overture, Curtain, Lights!

Actually, before we set foot on the Warner’s lot, let’s go back one day and talk about Bond.

James Bond.

lazenbySee, the day before I wound up auditioning at Warner’s, I actually had my first movie audition since coming back to Los Angeles.  It was for a film called, of all things, “Becoming Bond: The George Lazenby Story.”

Because, clearly, people are simply clamoring to know the life story of the only guy to only perform the role of James Bond in one film.

Actually, and I’m not kidding, they should be.  Lazenby’s biography- how he bluffed his way from fashion model to 007 – is a fascinating one and including the true tales (once thought to be rumors) that studio executives would set him up with beautiful women- and then stay in the room to watch him cavort with them- just to be sure their new Bond wasn’t gay.

lazenby-skirt

“Totally not gay!”

Ah, the sixties!

Anyway, I had submitted myself on a few auditions through Actors Access (which I’ve done throughout my stay) and…boom.  I got called in to read for the part of a British casting agent who meets Lazenby and is clearly taken with his smoldering good looks.

It was – like Lazenby’s career as Bond – over quickly.  I went into a casting agency down in Culver City, read for the folks in the traditional banged-up little casting room and was out the door before you could say Ernst Stavro Blofeld (look it up).

Still, it was the first audition I’d had this month and I was as hungry to audition as hippos (really hungry, hungry ones) are for marbles.

It turned out to be a nice, and perfectly timed, stretch of the acting muscles.

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Now to the main attraction:

csun

CSUN- Home of the Matadors! (Because that’s not offensive.)

The next day, I had gone through the routine of my usual, predictable morning.  I dropped Milo off at school, returned home, recorded an hour or so of my latest audiobook production and- when I could no longer spend another, sweaty moment in Ft. Raphael (it gets awfully lonely in there)- I had gone out for a long run around the CSUN campus to clear my mind.

I do this every morning, rain or shine.

Ha!  There’s no rain, silly.  But still:  Every morning.

exploding-phoneUpon my return on this particular morning, however, I was shocked to see that both my email and telephone had exploded in my absence.  It was my agent – the lovely and talented Orion Barnes – and he wanted to know if I could be in Studio City that afternoon for an audition on the Warner’s lot.

I checked my calendar:  Any plans?  Hmmmm.  Let’s see.  Noooo, I looked pretty good. Yeah, I could maybe do that. (Inside: Omigodomigodomigod!)

The audition was for the television show “Shameless” and was with one of Warner’s casting agents, Kimberly Wong, who I did not know but who now- almost immediately- became my favorite person on this Earth.shameless

Now, it wouldn’t be cricket for me to describe either the scene or the plot from the “Shameless” episode (potentially giving away spoilers and all that), so all I can really safely say is that the audition was for a cop.

And he wasn’t a nice cop, either.

You see where I’m going with this, right?  Right.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 6.40.09 PM

Did someone say…?

So I cleaned myself up, spent some time looking over my sides, snazzed up in my best sleazy Detective outfit and drove down to the Warner Bros. lot.

You know why?

Because I was needed down at the Warner Bros. lot.  (I swear, I could write that all day and never get tired of it.)

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This was not, in fact, the first time I had ever visited a movie studio.  Those who read this blog regularly may recall that I visited the Universal Studios lot earlier this year when I was invited to lunch at the commissary by my friend Jamie Pachino. And that was awfully fun.warner-bros-logo

But this….this was different.  I was going to enter a movie studio for the first time as an actor.  I had been summoned by an actual casting agent at an actual movie studio to read for an actual TV show and…

…okay, calm the hell down.  Just look over your sides and don’t get all teenager-going-to-see-the-Beatles for crying out loud.  You’re a grown man-actor auditioning for a part.  You’ve done this before.  Act like it.

I had driven past the Warners lot before, of course.  Most anybody who has ever driven through Studio City has.  My voice over agent has her offices just on the other side of Warners and let me tell you: movie studios are hard to miss, even if you aren’t looking for them.warners-exterior

For one thing, they have (as you’d expect), these giant sound stages littering the lot. These stages are often situated right next to the road, with towering walls that feature gigantic billboards advertising whatever movie or television show is hot at the moment.

wb-tourAnd, of course, you can tour the studios, too.  For a fee, guides will show you about the place, pointing out this or that famous building and…hey, what’s this?  Why it looks like they’re shooting something today, folks! (And you can watch as they actually film a commercial or scene from a movie or something.)

I have never been on a studio tour, but I imagine they’re a lot of fun.

But not quite as fun as this.

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I was directed to park at “Gate 2” which is actually just a parking structure across the street from the studio itself.  I was issued a gate pass and told to leave my car there and then walk across the street and enter the studio.  I’d be directed where to go from there by security.dsc02252

I walked into Gate 3 at Warners, had my bag searched and sent through a metal detector and then shown the winding path through the lot for my audition.

And then…they turned me loose.  Inside the studio lot.  To go wherever I chose.

animaniacsOh, the temptation to go all Animaniacs on the place.  You have no idea. (And yes, the tower is there, just as you’d expect.)

warner-bros-water-tankBut no, I am a professional and I was expected by Ms. Wong, so I solemnly and calmly walked down the alleyways between the sound stages and made my way to the casting office.

As you stroll along through the studio, you simply can’t help but notice a few things.  For one, I passed the studio where they shoot the Ellen DeGeneres show which, while interesting, had no real “Wow” factor for me…until I saw the plaque on the wall outside.

See, at Warner Bros. studio (because of the long and storied history of the company) they make a point of posting on the side of each sound studio exactly what films and TV shows were shot within its confines.  In the same studio as the Ellen show, for example, they had also shot:

treasure“Strangers on a Train”, “Now, Voyager”, “Bonnie and Clyde” and…”Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Gulp.

This wasn’t some back-room, stand in front of the video, sorry-about-the-coffee-stains-on-the-couch, rinky dink audition.

I was standing in the middle of Movie History Central.

Okay, quite enough of that. Get to your audition.

So I did. I refocused. I continued on my way down the alley, banishing images of Alfred Hitchcock and Humphrey Bogart (almost) entirely from my mind.

dsc02246I even managed not to yell out, when I passed the parking space that had “Malpaso Productions” stenciled on it, “Hey! Does everyone know that Clint Eastwood works here?!?!”  I was cool, calm and collected.

I was ready for my close-up.

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It sounds ridiculous to say it, but it must be said:  The studio looked like something out of Central Casting.  I mean, I know it was a movie studio, so this is going to sound dumb but:

stage24It looked like a movie studio.

They had the little bungalows scattered around the lot, just like you’d expect.

They had the rows of writer’s rooms right in the middle of the place, just like you’d expect.

And in the casting office, they had a shit-ton of actors waiting to audition.

Just like you’d expect.dsc02247

But then, on closer inspection, I noticed that…no, these guys weren’t auditioning for the same part as me. Unless the producers were so unsure of what they were looking for that they were seeing both middle-aged Irish guys and mid-twenties overweight Hispanic guys for the same role.

Turned out that, as I had deduced, they were casting three roles for that episode that day and that the competition for my role amounted to…five guys.  Those are my kind of odds.

The big Hispanic guys, by the way, they all seemed to know each other.  Every time another one came through the door (and each one was bigger than the last) they would all greet each other by name.

waiting-room-2This was hardly surprising. I had no doubt that they ran into each other at similar auditions all over town.  When you put out a casting call for some very serious, extremely heavy, badass dudes with multiple arm- and neck-tattoos…these were the guys who would show up.

Apart from the big, mean guys sitting there, bulging out of their tiny waiting room seats, they were apparently also casting the part of an African-American newscaster.  Thus, the room looked like this:  about ten, big, scary gangbanger looking dudes, another half-dozen extremely polished and professional looking black men in suits and another six schlubby, rumpled Irish guys with attitudes.

Casting agents bring together strange bedfellows.

waiting-roomNow, as any actor will tell you, when you show up at an audition and see a room full of guys, you know you’re in for a long, long afternoon. Casting sessions are brutal in that they (a) almost never start on time, (b) go much, much slower than they actually should and (c) usually feature long, incomprehensible waits between each actor.

Not this time.

They cut through that room of actors like a chainsaw through a teddy bear.  Before I knew it, the big dudes were edging their way sideways out the door at a rapid clip until they were no more.  Then the black newscasters were gone.  Pretty soon, it was just me and the other asshole cops.sound-stages-41

In audition situations, by the way, I always figure you either want to go first or last.  Be the guy who sets the bar or, if that’s not in the cards, be the last (and presumably most memorable) guy to be seen that afternoon.

On this day, I was last.  Every other guy had been in, out and vanished.  That left one asshole cop:  me.

Another thing about these types of auditions:  You almost always go into a room and have to deal with only one or two people.  They set you up with a piece of tape on the floor, showing you your mark.  They will input your name on a video monitor, have you speak your name into the camera (which is called a “slate” for those not in the know), and will usually read the scene partner’s lines with you if a reader is needed.casting

But for this audition?  At Warner Brothers studio?  I walked into a room full of people.

I don’t know which one Kimberly Wong was because there was simply a sea of faces out there.  I counted at least six before I told myself it would probably be best to stop counting.

There was a group of women seated on a couch in front of me.  Another couple of people sprawled in chairs.  Another person to run the video and at least an intern or two in the back. They were extremely friendly, un-intimidating and uber-professional.

out-the-doorOkay, campers, now what’s the rule?  Do you remember?  What’s the #1 rule of auditions?

That’s right:  Play the character.  That’s it.  Do your work, show them your interpretation of the character and then get out.

So the big question is:  Did I do my job?  Did I keep my head, play the character, finish up and leave?

C’mon, people.  Of course I did.  I can tell you, in all honesty, I wasn’t in the least bit nervous.  I was off-book, relaxed and loose.  I even got laughs from the assembled group (and at the right times, too).

Plus, they asked me to do the scene twice.

Then they thanked me, I thanked them…and I got the hell out of there.

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Tempted though I surely was to take a stroll around the Warners lot and see if I could see anything interesting (look, George Clooney’s stunt double!), I thought it best to simply continue my plan of behaving like an aloof, been-there-before actor and just make my way back to the car. The last thing I needed was to have security pick me up and call back to the casting office to ask why they just let their actors wander about anywhere they pleased.warner-bros-studio-1

But really, I could happily have stayed there on that lot for the rest of my life.  Moved into a bungalow, lunched every day at the commissary, I would have been fine.

Instead, I made my way back to Gate 3, past security, across the street and back into the car.

dsc02254As I pulled out, I got this wonderful view of the studio entrance. And all I could think of was:

Please lord in heaven, have me back. Don’t let this be the last time.

And then I pulled out of the lot and…went home.

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For the next day or so, despite my glaring at the phone with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns (or maybe because of it), the call never came.  The part clearly went to someone else.  Those are the breaks.stare-at-phone

But Orion, bless his heart, had kept his word.  He had not just gotten me an audition, he had gotten me a beauty.  Walking onto that lot and into that casting office- while not a big deal by any means in the grand scheme of things- was another ceiling I had broken through on this trip. Another rung up the long, long ladder I had mounted so many months before.

But I couldn’t help but think, as I always do:  Would it be the last?

Stay tuned.

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UPDATE:  I would later learn, from my agent, that according to the folks in casting at Warners, I had “won the room” during my audition and that those who had seen me live in the session wanted to cast me in the role.  Sadly, one of the producers- reviewing it later on tape- shot me down and hired someone else.

That’s showbiz!

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Laundry Day, Every Day

One of the great perks – indeed, maybe the great perk – of the apartment where Milo and I are living, is the fact that we have free laundry facilities.laundry-4

That bears repeating:  Free.  Damn.  Laundry.

I know, I know, it might not seem like a big thing.  And maybe, big-picture-wise, it isn’t. But to me, the fact that we can walk down the hallway and pop our clothes in the washer/dryer anytime we like, for free, make this one of the greatest places I’ve ever lived in my life.

Allow me to explain.

laundry-1When I was growing up, my parents would do the laundry, naturally.  (Hey, I was a baby. Not a big lazy baby. Just a regular, non-laundry-doing baby.)

Then, after my folks split up, it was mostly my mother who took care of the dirty clothes. That was, among many other things, her job.  Does that make me sexist? No, it makes me five years old.

But soon after that, and I mean the very second my brother and I were old enough to sort the coloreds from the whites (yes, in the laundry room, there is segregation now, segregation forever), my mother had us doing clothes on our own. And I mean milliseconds after we appeared to grasp the concept.

laundry-2Since then, for whatever reason, I’ve been a huge laundry fanatic.  I know it might sound a tad obsessive, but it’s true:  I absolutely love doing laundry.

Why?  Well, for one thing, it is probably the least labor-intensive chore there is.  You pick up the clothes.  You drop them in the washer.  The washer does all the work of making your clothes clean without any input or effort on your part whatsoever. They churn, they rinse and they spin around and in no time…ding!…they are totally spic and span.

laundry-6After that, you move the clothes to the dryer.  No great effort involved in that.  Basic lifting and dropping, right? You pop a sheet in the load with them to ward off static cling and…once again you are free to do what you wish for another forty minutes or so.

When the buzzer goes off, then comes the most demanding part of the laundry adventure: the folding and actual putting away of the clothes.  It is, truly, the only part of the laundry process that involves actual work and, I’m assuming, this is what causes people to despise this particular chore.

laundry-5Oh, the horrible, horrible folding.  Is there anything worse?

Ah, grow the hell up.  Laundry is awesome.

Now take a knee.  Because this next part is important.

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About two weeks into our California Adventure, Milo piped up to offer me some criticism. (He’s sixteen.  That’s what sixteen-year-olds do.)

“You do laundry too often.”

I beg your pardon?  How is such a thing even possible?  Doing clothes too often?  Ridiculous.

laundry-3Clothes get dirty.  You wash them. They are clean.  You wear them. You presumably sweat and fart in them.  Sometimes you wear them to they gym and you work out in them.  Then, once soiled, you take them off, deposit them in the hamper and, when enough dirty clothes have accumulated, you wash them again.  How can you wash them too often unless you are actually washing clean clothes?

“Don’t be silly child,” I responded (or words to that effect.)  I explained my perfectly reasonable laundry habits to him and, at the conclusion, was convinced that my logic, on the laundered clothes front, was entirely unassailable.

laundry-4Milo was having none of it.

“The loads you’re doing.  They’re too small.  You do laundry every other day.  It’s just too much.”

I was incredulous.  I certainly did not do the laundry too often.  I did it only when necessary. I mean absolutely necessary.

Didn’t I?

The thing about kids:  Even when they’re way off base, totally wrong and entirely uninformed…they make you examine your own habits. Question yourself in ways you normally might not.

They cause you to look at yourself and ask stupid questions like:

Do I do the laundry too often?

And upon reflection and in the harsh light of unassailable truth:

I suppose I do.

So the question, naturally, is why?

Why in heaven’s name would I look around the room (as it turns out I do every other day) for items that need washing and gather them together into ever-smaller and laughably tiny piles and insist on running a load when I could clearly wait another day?  Or, really, another week?

Well, thanks to my observant (and now largely despised) teenager, I was forced to examine this question.  Why do I do the laundry so freaking much?

And the answer came, as plain as day:

Because I could.

controlIt was something over which I had control.  Here, on the seemingly warm (but actually frigidly cold) West Coast, at the mercy of the endless sea of uninterested casting directors, never-to-be met film and television producers and directors who would, rarely if ever, see my face….

…I could control one thing.

I could take clothes that were dirty and magically, quickly (and economically!) turn them into clothes that were clean.  With very, very little effort, I could fill our tiny chest of drawers with fresh-smelling, just-from-the-dryer garments which were without stain or blemish and with which my son and I could happily start each day.

in-controlI could not, try and I might, make auditions appear out of the ether.

I could not, despite my fervent wishes, cause my name to suddenly pop up on the screens of every casting agent in town.

I was unable, through sheer force of will, to draw the attention of the all-powerful directors who possessed the ability to once and for all recognize my talents and forever change my life by bringing me aboard their latest projects.

I could not do any of these very much wished for yet impossible things.

Nope.  I am entirely handcuffed.  Powerless.  Hopeless.

But by thunder.

I could sure as hell wash the living bejesus out of those goddamn socks.

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And then, one day, you get that call. The call you’ve been waiting for.

And you think:

Jeez, I hope my favorite shirt is clean.

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First, let’s back up a couple of weeks.

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Frustrated by my phone’s seeming inability to ring, I finally reached out to my film/TV agent out here, the wonderful and talented Orion Barnes.  Basically, I was checking in to see if there was anything that I could do to boost my own prospects and visibility.

Oh, I knew there was one thing.  There was an avenue here in Los Angeles down which I had not yet ventured on this trip that could very well lead to my being seen and called in by casting directors.  But I had long ago vowed not to travel down that particular road again.

I refer, of course, to the casting workshops.

devils-bargainAs previously recounted in my post on this subject, “The Devil’s Bargain,” there are these insidious little “Pay to Meet” evenings that are sponsored at a number of venues here in town where, for a price, you can audition for many of the city’s top casting directors.

The key phrase being:  for a price.

It is a shameful practice and one that I, to my own horror and embarrassment, took part in briefly during my first trip to L.A.  After all, I had been told, that’s just the way they do things out here.workshops

Well, as I am unwilling to judge almost anything without giving it a try first (for example, I was recently delighted by a simply wonderful beet salad and- ask anyone- I flippin’ hate beets), I spent the funds necessary to participate in about five or six of these “Pay to Meet” sessions back in January.

And it was…what’s the word I’m looking for?  Ah yes:

Awful.  It was fucking awful.

The unions shouldn’t allow it.  The studios shouldn’t allow it.  The actors shouldn’t allow it.

casting-actors

“We’re actually dying inside!”

Yet, they roll on and, with very few exceptions, the practice appears to be flourishing.

Well, not for me.  Not this trip. I have drawn my own, personal line in the sand at will categorically not participate in these sessions.  Orion knows this and, even if he thought it was a good idea, I knew he wouldn’t recommend my taking part in these workshops.

But the question remained:

Was there anything else I could do?

Orion’s response?  “Come by the new offices.  Let’s talk.”

So…off to Burbank I went.

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You want to know the one phrase I heard more often from my actor friends out here in Los Angeles than any other?  Here ’tis:bad-agent

“My agent sucks.”

It was shocking to me how many actors I talked to out here who were displeased with, almost to the point of loathing, their industry representatives.

“I never get sent out.  Ever.  My agent sucks.”

Not, “I’m getting a new agent because my current agent doesn’t send me out.”  It wasn’t as if they were willing to actually dump their agent and seek new representation.

lemon-carThis was resignation.  They had bought a lemon, but they weren’t going to take it back to the dealership for a replacement.  They were going to keep driving the lemon.

It was as if they had been cursed and couldn’t do anything about it. Like their agent had been assigned to them for life and there was no remedy.  Just have to live with it.

It was more than a little puzzling.

grossmanjackFor my part, I have been very lucky in my career, agent-wise.  Back in Chicago, I am repped by the terrific Grossman & Jack Talent agency and can honestly say that they are highly respected, honorable, loyal and have gotten me a lot of work.  What more could you ask for in an agency, right?

orionWell, out here, I’ve got Orion Barnes of the Rogers Orion Talent agency and, once again, he has an excellent reputation, a long (but not too long) roster of successful clients and could not be a nicer guy.

It was, therefore, a great pleasure to visit with him a couple of weeks back and get the reassurance I needed that he was, indeed, submitting me to casting agents on every project he could and that it was just a matter of time before something finally hit.

rogers-orion“It’s been a rough year across the board,” he told me. “But be patient.  Something will happen soon.”  He is well aware that I write this blog, by the way, and told me: “I want your story to have a happy ending.  I promise you, I’ll do everything I can.”

Thus reassured, we shook hands and I walked out the door.

And what do you know?

Five days later, I was walking onto the Warner Bros. Studio lot for an audition.

More on that…in Part II.

warner-bros

We Laughed, We Cried, We Podcast(ed)

Okay, we’ve had fun with movies and baseball games (and more of them are to come, for sure), but let’s get back to basics.

After all, the purpose of this trip is to find work, right?  So, let’s talk show bidness.

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Being a theatre person for my entire adult life, I am naturally superstitious.  I believe in portents and signs, I cringe when a black cat shoots across the path in front of me and I never, ever say the name of that Scottish play, either within a theatre or without. (You can never be too careful.)superstitious

I therefore took is as a very encouraging sign when, only three days after arriving in Los Angeles (and without alerting them to my presence in the city), I got an invitation from the Flappers Comedy Club to come back and perform one more time in their Yoo-Hoo Room.

yoo-hoo-roomFaithful readers of this blog may remember that, back in January, I had the audacity to go to a Flappers audition after honing my comedy chops in Los Angeles all of a month and, to my shock, they called me up and booked me for my first professional gig. (For a refresher on how the event proceeded, here is an accounting of that night from February.)

Once again, this invitation was for me to appear at one of their “Pro-Am” nights, which is a combination of professional and amateur comics and, once again, part of what the club expects is that the young/aspiring comedians (I qualify as “aspiring” anyway) will show up with lots of friends and family members in tow (both to buy tickets and order drinks and such).standup

But really…it doesn’t matter to me.  All I ever want is to get on stage.  The rest of the details are usually unimportant.

So, a couple of weeks back, in anticipation of the Great Event, I spent a few days running over my planned routine (waiting until Milo wasn’t around so I wouldn’t torture him with the repetition).

oreosAnd after reviewing my previous successes and failures in the comic realm, I decided to go with this bit where I rant and rave against the perversion of the Oreo cookie.  I adopt this stuffy English accent and levy a dire warning about how altering the perfect cookie is causing the end Western civilization.  This particular routine always seems to get a nice response.

Remember, though:  I hadn’t done stand-up comedy for about six months.  I mean, there’s rusty, there’s really rusty and then there’s Jack Haley’s freakin’ Tin Man.

tinmanI was the latter.

Still, I have one advantage that usually rescues me in such situations:  I have no shame.

If I bombed, I bombed.  I truly did not care.

And if it worked?  Fantastic. That would be a lot of fun.

I had no idea which way it would go, but in the end, I knew it didn’t matter much.  In five minutes, my set – for good or ill – would be over and if no one died, I will have judged it a success.

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The evening, as you’d expect, was a very mixed bag.  It still astonishes me how many comics will get up and expect to be imbued in the moment with something hilarious rather than having a fully-planned and (generally) prepared routine.  But there were at least

VIETNAM AIR BOMBINGS

three comics who appeared to think “I’ll just get up there and something will inspire me.”

The muse, as it were, took one look at them and then unceremoniously flipped them the comic bird.  Ka-BOOM.

The ones who had prepared sets? They did fine.  And the headliner, a comic named Tom Clark, who has had years and years of experience and alternated between prepared jokes and truly inspired audience banter, did a terrific job.

tom-clark

Tom Clark

As for me?  Well, I can let you be the judge, because I not only taped my routine, I created a video file out of it and loaded it up to YouTube.  You can watch it here (I am introduced as “Kevin TEECE”) and let me know how you thought it went.

For myself, I could not have been more pleased.

Oh, and the lady who booked the talent for that night? She asked me to sign a waiver so they could post video of my act to the club’s website.  And has since checked back to see when I might be available to return.

So….I took that as a good sign.

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But that’s not all of the video treats I have in store for you in today’s episode.  No indeed. Because since we last chatted, I have completed….*ahem*…..

Boris Karloff Bride of Frankenstein

“Christ, not this again.”

The Greatest Audiobook of All Time.

Yes, that’s right.  The one-and-only “Bigfoot & Frankenstein” is now available for sale and I could not be more proud and/or ashamed of my work on this piece.

To be honest, when I was in the middle of putting it together, I thought to myself “Jesus, I hope the author isn’t offended that I am essentially turning this into the ‘Showgirls’ of audiobooks” (i.e. “so horribly bad it’s actually good”).  But it turns out that he’s either in on the joke or completely oblivious.

I’m going with the former, because the latter is unthinkable.

bigfoot

“The Bigfoot Stamp of Approval”

Anyway, you can get a sneak preview of Part One of the “Bigfoot & Frankenstein” audiobook right here.  But for God’s sake buy it (here’s the link for that).  It’s about three bucks and, I guarantee:

Worth.  Every.  Penny.

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Still not done with the video clips!

See, I’m not just in California to get acting work, tape audiobooks and show off my comedy chops.  No sir.  I’ve also got books to sell!

COATFor those of you who may not know (because I only mention it in every OTHER post):  In 2012 my dear friend Ron Fox and I wrote a memoir about our lives growing up in the warm embrace of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in South Florida and entitled our little tome, “Confessions of a Transylvanian.”  (You can have a look on Amazon or on Audible, if you so desire.)

Since it was first released, it has done very well on the cult book circuit and has enjoyed a small following amongst Rocky Horror fans.

movie guys builder3But now what we’d really like to do is to try and interest someone (anyone) into optioning the story either for a television show or a film.  (I will doubtless write a screenplay for it myself one of these days, but I’ll have to find a couple of free months to do so.  Stay tuned.)

The reason I bring up the book is simply this:  Last month I was invited to be the featured guest on a local podcast here in L.A.- called “The Movie Guys“- to talk about “Confessions,” the RHPS phenomenon itself and about movies in general.

scholz-steve2

“I made this happen!”

This whole thing was put together by my Chicago compatriot Steve Scholz, who is a contributing writer/creative guru behind the scenes of the podcast and an all-round super guy.

The whole “Movie Guy” operation is deceptively simple.  Literally put together out back in the garage, the podcast is simultaneously taped and videotaped for your listening and/or viewing pleasure.

The hosts, Paul Preston, Karen Volpe and Bart Kias (regular contributor Adam Witt was out that week), put on a wonderful show, reviewing movie trailers, chatting about upcoming (or current) films and then interviewing their guest on whatever they are shilling (or willing to spiel about).screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-09-41-pm

You can check out the video link of my evening with “The Movie Guys” here.  To skip to the interview (wherein I chat about Rocky Horror, Scientology and my favorite movie of all time), you can go to 50:30 in the broadcast, but the whole show is worth watching, I think.  They’re a funny bunch and I would happily join this merry band again anytime.

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So…on stage, yes.

tick_tock_wall_clockProducing audiobooks….check.

Appearing on podcasts and hawking the memoir?  Roger.

But…still waiting on TV audition #2 and movie audition #1.  Which is a problem.

And how we deal with that predicament will be dealt with….

…in our next episode.

 

Baseball – West Coast Style

During my first trip to Los Angeles back in January of this year (a/k/a Odyssey #1)- in between attempts to find work and visit with old friends- I did my level best to explore just about everything there is to see in this fine city. And there is, it turns out, plenty to explore.

visitors-mapAs I’ve chronicled, I visited parks, theatres and museums. I went to fancy malls and farmers markets. I was dazzled by scenic vistas and bored silly by tar pits.  From the gritty streets of Downtown to the airy heights of the Getty Center, I attempted to do it all.

However, try as I might, by the time I finally skedaddled back to Chicago, I had left a number of things undone and a great many sights unseen.

But.

Now that I am back in town and have the boy in tow, (and weekends to fill with wonders and delights) I am trying to remedy these oversights during Odyssey 2.0.

(Also, when you spend most of your days in a homemade blanket fort telling stories to yourself, you tend to get a little…antsy.  So we get out a lot.)

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There is an extremely popular L.A. tourist attraction that I had to skip entirely back when I was here the winter months.  And, truly, my inability to visit this landmark caused me no little bit of heartache:  I refer, of course, to Dodger Stadium.dodger_stadium_field_from_upper_deck_2015-10-04

Now, those astute readers out there will no doubt cotton to the fact that it would have been impossible for me to see a baseball game during Odyssey #1 as it was, as previously mentioned…winter.

ball-in-snowBy the time I left, in March, the Dodgers were just finishing up Spring Training and wouldn’t even take the field here in L.A. until a few weeks after I split.

What’s more, since I spent the majority of the summer strutting around an outdoor stage in Oak Park teaching Eliza Doolittle how to speak proper English, there was a very good chance that I could miss out on California baseball entirely this season.

cubs-v-dodgersLuckily, however, my return trip happened to coincide with the tail-end of the Dodgers’ season and, more importantly, with a weekend home stand against…the mighty Chicago Cubs.

Let me pause to say:  It feels funny to write that.  “The mighty Chicago Cubs.”  But you gotta calls ’em like you sees ’em and as the team is currently about forty games above five hundred, sixteen games ahead of the dreaded Cardinals and their magic number (in early September, mind you) is seven, there is no denying it:  the Cubs, for the time being, are actually mighty.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

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It almost goes without saying that the day we visited Dodger Stadium, the weather was perfect.  Frankly speaking, the weather is almost always perfect out here, which can be both comforting and, at the same time, a little disconcerting.perfect-weather

To wit:  When Milo and I were house-sitting last month, the family who left their place to us were having some construction done in the main house (we were in the guest quarters…lah-di-dah).

To make space for the construction crew to do their work, the owners had moved a bunch of personal items out on to the back porch.  Nothing much, just some cardboard boxes of books, office supplies, some lamps, that sort of thing.

forecastI was astonished to see, however, that when they moved these items to the porch, they had just plopped them, haphazardly, out in the open. Nothing was covered or under any kind of protection.  They were just sitting there, exposed to the elements as if there was absolutely no possibility of any weather event occurring that could potentially soak (and therefore ruin) their stuff.

As indeed there was not.

no-rainThey were not concerned about rain suddenly appearing and destroying anything  because…it isn’t going to rain here.

Until April.

sudden-stormAnd I’m sorry, that’s just bizarre.  To know, without question, that there is literally zero chance of precipitation is almost inconceivable to me.  Because let there be little doubt:

If I were home in Chicago and accidentally left my cell phone on my back porch, there would be a sudden and catastrophic typhoon within the hour to turn my phone into just so much digital flotsam.

But out here?  Perfect weather is not simply to be expected.

It can actually be banked upon.

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Tiny bit of LA. Dodger history.  Because why not?

brooklyn-dodgersIn the early 1950’s, the Brooklyn Dodgers were owned by a guy named Walter O’Malley and if there were two things O’Malley knew, it was baseball and money.  Consequently, his early 50’s Dodger teams were good at (a) winning baseball games and (b) generating cash for Mr. O’Malley.  Unfortunately, the stadium they played in- storied Ebbets Field – was falling into disrepair.

O’Malley tried to strike a deal with the city of New York to build a new, domed stadium in Brooklyn but the deal failed to materialize.  Some blamed a sour relationship between O’Malley and the urban planning guru of New York at the time, Robert Moses, who helped shoot down O’Malley’s proposal.

omalley

Who, me?

Who knows?  Maybe O’Malley was a jerk.  It happens.  Even among baseball team owners.

In any case:  O’Malley, in his frustration, have the novel idea to turn his sights to the West Coast and put out feelers to the city of L.A. to see if they wanted a Major League baseball team.  Turned out that, yes indeedy, they did. In fact, they were so enthusiastic to have the Dodgers move to Los Angeles, they were ready to displace all the Mexican residents of Chavez Ravine to prove it.

Actually, the story is a big more complicated than that (see here), but there is little doubt that the story of the birth of Dodger Stadium is one fraught with intrigue, betrayal, public corruption and, of course, money money money.

ebbetsNow, a lot of team owners, when they’re looking to pry civic money out of their home towns, will try to bluff the city elders into building them beautiful stadiums by threatening to leave town if the money and the facility is not provided to them. But few are actually serious about moving.

O’Malley was no such owner.  In tandem with the rival Giants, who agreed to move to San Francisco at the same time, O’Malley actually picked up and moved the Dodgers to L.A. in 1958 – heralding the birth of West Coast baseball and breaking the mighty heart of, among many others, a young Doris Kearns Goodwin.

doris

“Nooooo!”

For their first few years here, the team played in the L.A. Coliseum (90,000 seats!) while they waited for their new stadium to be built. Dodger Stadium was completed and open for business in 1962 and was actually the home of two California ballclubs for the next three years (the Angels played there until 1965).

It remains the third oldest ballpark in the country (after Fenway and the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field) and is, if I may say so, one of the best looking stadiums in which it has been my pleasure to attend a game.

And now, back to our story, already in progress:

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My wife Sara’s extended family on her mother’s side are- happily for me – all big, big baseball fans.  True, most of them are devoted to the *shudder* American League, but nobody’s perfect.dodger-logo

In this case, Sara’s Uncle Dave, Aunt Caron and cousin Brian were kind enough to offer Milo and I a pair of tickets to one of the Dodgers/Cubs matchups this past month and the two of us jumped at the chance to reconnect with family, catch some late-season baseball and, for the second time this year, see the Cubbies in action. (We had seen Jake Arietta mow down the Pirates at a game in Chicago back in May.)

As it happened, we were treated to the third of a three game series and, as the teams had split the first two outings, we were to attend the tie-breaker or the “rubber game.” Always a treat.

jon-lesterOn the mound for Chicago was Jon Lester, a fireball throwing left-hander who, prior to today’s matchup, sported a 14-4 record and an ERA just over 2.1.  (For you non-fans, that is very, very good.)

The Dodgers, for their part, had a young right-handed hurler named Brock Stewart going for them, a rookie pitcher whose numbers- on paper anyway- were anything but impressive.  He had an 11.25 ERA going into the game and had only thrown 16 innings in his entire career.brock-stewart

We were going to eat this guy for lunch.

Well, not so fast there, “mighty Cubs.”  Because Mr. Stewart brought his A-game that Sunday afternoon and managed to keep the best offensive team in baseball to two hits- striking out eight–  during his five innings of stellar work.  Plus the little s.o.b helped himself to his first major league hit during the game, lining a single off of Lester in the third.

Keep an eye on this kid.

Lester, for his part, did all that he could, throwing six shut-out innings. But with Stewart holding the Cubs’ bats at bay, there was little to be done to help Lester get the win.

In the end, it all came down to a poor decision by the Cubs’ shortstop during a fielder’s choice that made all the difference.

javier-baezWith two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, the Cubs’ relief pitcher Carl Edwards, Jr. induced Dodger batter Adrian Gonzales to hit a ground ball to the Cubs Javier Baez at short who, thinking he could beat the runner, whipped the ball to second base for the out.  But Corey Seager, streaking from first base and sliding under Ben Zobrist’s tag, was called safe and…

…the stadium fairly exploded- with joy from the Dodger supporters (as their team had finally scored a run) and with indignation from the thousands of Cub fans in attendance who could clearly see that the runner was out at second.

Until they ran the replay, that is.

mlb-instant-replay[Side note:  Baseball has made a lot of decisions to ruin the game over the past couple of decades- inter-league play and over-priced tickets being among the worst of these atrocities in my opinion- but the new “instant replay” rule, whereby coaches get to have a call by the umpires reviewed on videotape for accuracy, is just horrible.  The next step will be to be calling balls and strikes via digital readouts.  It ain’t right!  Here endeth the old man rant.]

l-flag

Upon review, it turned out that the call was correct and that Seager was safe and the Dodgers had all the runs they needed to carry the day. The Cubs, unable to push even a single runner across the plate, went home empty handed.

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dodgerdog1But not us!  We had a fine old day at the ballpark, downing Dodger dogs and frothy cold beverages.  I hollered at the Dodger batters in my own, inimitable fashion as Milo (in his spiffy white Cub jersey) and I (in my tatty, 30-year-old Cubs cap) proudly represented our home town.  (We were happy to see hundreds and hundreds of other Cub fans in attendance that day, too. We are legion.)

img_1259And our hosts, Caron, David and Brian, did everything they could to make the entire day as enjoyable as possible. (They’ve already invited us to attend an Angels/Blue Jays game at Anaheim Stadium later this month, so…stay tuned!)

As for the outcome of the game itself, the mighty Cubs had fallen that day, it was true.  But further triumphs await.

We hope.

And if they go to the Series?

How the hell am I supposed to keep from going back to Chicago for that?

 

American Cinema 101

When I was growing up, from the mid-70’s through the early 80’s, my upbringing happened to coincide with one of the most fertile, innovative and groundbreaking periods in American cinema.1970s

You can argue if like that the 30’s or 40’s produced the best films in our country’s history, but you’ll be wasting your time trying to convince me.  I grew up with Coppola, Lumet, Foreman, Polanski, Scorsese, Spielberg, Kubrick, Penn and a whole slew of daring, fascinating directors who were testing the limits of the medium and I’ve been a devotee of this period ever since.

70s-moviesSean Penn (at least that’s who I remember saying it) noted that back in the 1970’s, if you compared the list of the top ten best reviewed movies of each year to the top ten box office champs …the lists would be virtually identical.  Sadly, such a thing can certainly not be said today.

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I bring this up because, as a result of my son Milo being cooped up with me in our little pseudo-dorm room here in Northridge, I have been slowly introducing him to the wonders of 1970’s cinema.

Not every night (and certainly not every movie) but as the weeks stretch on here in Los Angeles, I figured it was finally the right time for me to finally expose him to some of the movies that changed my life when I was his age.jaws

Some films from this period- “Jaws,” “The Sting,” “Close Encounters,” “Star Wars,” even “The Godfather”- have been previously screened back in Chicago (and only when he had reached an age where he was deemed mature enough to handle the subject matter).

But now, at sixteen – and about as seasoned and jaded as a post-millenium kid can be – I have deemed him ready to meet some of my old pals- Jake Gittes, Sonny Wortzik, Harold Chasen, Jack Crabb and Benjamin Franklin Pierce.

And so far…”Old Timey Movies with Dad” nights have been a big success.

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So where to start?

dog-dayEasy: “Dog Day Afternoon.”

This masterpiece from 1975 would have won every conceivable award had it not been for the fact that it was released in the same year as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next” which, deservedly, swept every Oscar right off the table.

Relating the semi-true story of Sonny and Sal, two bank robbers who find themselves caught up in a long, hot, completely unpredictable hostage situation both inside and outside a Brooklyn bank, this movie is an actor’s dream.  pacino

Featuring Al Pacino (Sonny) and John Cazale (Sal) fresh off their performances in “The Godfather, Part II,” the movie is brilliantly directed by Sidney Lumet and sports an amazing ensemble cast with standout performances by Judith Malina, Charles Durning and the amazing Chris Sarandon as Sonny’s wife, Leon.

amd_dog-dayPacino is simply eye-popping, wallowing in his Method genius and Cazale- one of my favorite actors of the period- was never better.  This movie stands up in every way, even forty years after it was made.  If you haven’t seen it, come on over to my place.  I’ll give you a smack for your cinematic negligence.

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Next on the hit parade: “M*A*S*H.”

mash-posterIf your memory of “M*A*S*H” is in any way tied up with the iconic 70’s television show, then it’s high time you reintroduced yourself to this flick.  The first really huge breakout film for director Robert Altman, M*A*S*H (1970) is a dirty, funny, moving and gritty depiction of life in a mobile surgical hospital during the Korean War and has the kind of ensemble cast you can only wish for:  Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Gary Berghoff (the only actor to make the jump to the TV show), Fred Williamson, Rene Auberjunois and Tom Skeritt.mash

Told episodically, it jumps from little plot to little plot, all adding up to a beautiful anti-war film disguised as a comedy, both of which are still incredibly potent.

Plus, the football game remains a hoot.

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“Forget it, Jake.  It’s Chinatown.”

chinatown-posterWhen private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes is hornswaggled into publicly embarrassing Water Commissioner Hollis Mulwray by a woman pretending to be Mulwray’s wife Evelyn, things go swiftly and decidedly downhill for Jake in 1974’s “Chinatown,” Robert Towne’s brilliant yarn about life, sex and water in the L.A. basin during the late 1930’s.

chinatown-1

“I like my nose.  I like breathing through it.”

Roman Polanski, widowed when his wife Sharon was murdered by the Manson family five years earlier (and soon to become a fugitive from the law for statutory rape himself), directed and briefly appears in this film- giving Jake some much-needed advice about the dangers of being too nosey- and created one of the most enjoyable, quotable and fascinating movies of the decade.

find-the-girl

“Find the girl, Mr. Gittes.”

Jack Nicholson (who starred in easily half of the best films of the 1970’s) is absolutely perfect as Jake and is paired with the lovely Faye Dunaway as Evelyn, who was also smack-dab in the middle of a streak of unforgettable films that began with “Bonnie and Clyde” in ’67 and would be capped by her taking home an Oscar for her work in “Network” in ’76.

They’re joined by John Huston- delivering the creepiest performance of his life- Diane Ladd and Burt Young, but the headline is Nicholson, Dunaway and the crackling screenplay.

Besides, if you’re going to move to L.A., you’ve got to watch “Chinatown.”  It’s a history lesson, dammit!

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broadcast-newsFlash forward to the 80’s.  I meant to stay firmly rooted in the 70’s, but I couldn’t resist showing Milo one of my favorite movies of all time, the network news satire “Broadcast News.”

God, what a fantastic movie this is.  Everything about it, from James L. Brooks’ phenomenal writing and direction to the incredible performances by the trio of lead actors: William Hurt, Albert Brooks and the red-hot Holly Hunter (playing my favorite role of her career..and that’s saying something). holly-crying

See this movie for any of a dozen reasons, but specifically watch it for the scene where Brooks confronts Hunter about the danger of her life choices (“How do you like that?  I buried the lead.”) and the fall-out-of-your-chair hilarity of watching Brooks when he finally gets a chance to bn-anchoranchor the news (“Nixon didn’t sweat this much.”)

Funnier now than when I first saw it and I howled when I first saw it.

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Okay, jumping back into the 70’s and one of my favorites of all time:  “Harold and Maude.”

harold-and-maude-1This is an easy movie to pigeonhole and forget about.  “Anti-establishment, anti-war, pro-life, light comedy, blah blah blah.  Cute, sure.  But not really an important movie.”

Don’t be fooled. This movie is just amazing.  More timely than ever and, if you’re even the slightest bit depressed, the cure for whatever funk ails you.harold-and-maude-2

Relating the story of morbid, semi-suicidal, post-graduate Harold, a young man with no direction and no joy in life who stumbles upon soon-to-be octogenarian Maude who, in the space of a week, turns his life completely upside down, “Harold and Maude” is one of those magical movies that was written at exactly the right time was directed by exactly the right person (Hal Ashby) and sports a perfectly-cast ensemble that never hits a false note throughout the course of the film.

harold-and-maude-3Bud Cort is Harold, his moon face and saucer eyes gaping in wonder at the transcendent Ruth Gordon as Maude.  Gordon is absolutely superb, managing to deliver Maude’s life-is-worth-living-to-the-fullest messages without the slightest hint of treacle.

Cannot recommend revisiting this one enough.

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And now for something completely different.

invasion-1Milo is a big fan of horror movies, so we went ahead and dialed up 1978’s remake of the classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

An early effort by director Philip Kaufman (who would go on to direct one of my top ten 80’s movies, “The Right Stuff”), “Body Snatchers” is fun but ultimately not a truly successful thriller.

invasion-2The ensemble is a wacky mix:  Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright and…hello!…Leonard Nimoy.  They’re all just fine, but the movie itself doesn’t measure up to the first film (though it does feature a great cameo by the star of the original, Kevin McCarthy).

invasion-3

“My movie was better!”

Happy we got to see it (and to check a classic horror flick off of Milo’s list) but…nothing compared to the other movies this month.

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Another quick jump to the eighties for a viewing of “The Witches of Eastwick.”

witchesMan, this movie is just as fun as I remember it, with the trio of vixens (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer) summoning the Devil Himself- portrayed by (who else?) Jack Nicholson – to their little New England town, much to the dismay of society maven and local scold Veronica Cartwright.

Directed by “Mad Max”‘s George Miller (forgot that, didn’t you?) witches-3this movie is a riot, with Nicholson and the rest of the gang fairly chewing up the scenery.  Jack’s final monologue in the church (“So whaddya think? Women… a mistake?  Or did He do it to us on PURPOSE?”) is a reminder, in case you needed one, of why he remains one of the country’s most revered performers.

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Then, this past weekend, we finally did something I’ve always wanted to do in L.A. but missed out on the last time I was here:

hollywood-foreverWe went to see a film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Yeah, that’s right.  Movies.  In the cemetery.

cinespia-2Now celebrating its fifteenth year, the Cinespia organization has been offering outdoor showings of movies in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery since 2002.  If you’re thinking (as I did at first) that you’d actually be sitting among the graves while you watch the film, you would be either happily or sadly mistaken, depending on your opinion of picnicking over a burial plot.  The experience is not nearly as morbid and creepy as that (though it’s plenty morbid and creepy).

cinespiaThe movie itself is projected on the outside of the giant mausoleum at the East end of the cemetery and the patrons are asked to confine themselves to the Fairbanks Lawn, which is situated just South of the tombs of Douglas Fairbanks and his son.

So, yeah, just a little creepy.

Milo and I got our tickets early (the movies at Hollywood Forever sell out every week) and showed up in plenty of time to stake out a terrific spot on the lawn up close to the screen.  We were joined by my friend Amy Ludwig and fellow ex-Chicagoan Tanya White as well as the charming and talented James Sie (who biked down from his house up the road) and Celine Hoppe, the director of the short film I did back in March.the-birds

Tonight’s showing?  Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Appropriately (we thought), Milo and I brought roast chicken for dinner (“Take that, avian species!”) and settled back among the four thousand patrons spread out on the enormous lawn to take in this classic of the horror genre.

Well…I don’t know when you last saw “The Birds,” but the plot is absolutely nuts.  Tippi Hedren, who is pranked early in the film by the dashing Rod Taylor, pursues Taylor up to his family home in the town of Bodega Bay, California all so that she can sneak into his house and anonymously leave a pair of love birds in the living room for his younger sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright).

the-birds-2That’s the premise. No kidding.

Soon, almost as an afterthought, the birds of Bodega Bay go absolutely apeshit and start killing people for no discernible reason, other than the fact that the women (Hedren, Suzanne Pleschette and Jessica Tandy) keep glaring at each other so intensely you wonder why Taylor doesn’t just sacrifice himself to the gulls just to escape them.

There are some great set pieces in the movie (the crows in the playground among the most famous), but it’s a totally bizarre movie that sometimes borders (but does not quite creep over into) camp.

birds-playgroundStill, it’s a fine flick to watch in a graveyard, sitting amongst those dear to you, sipping your favorite beverage and waving away the clouds of smoke from the very, very 420-friendly crowd.

Just try not to keep in mind that the building they’re projecting the movie onto is the final resting place of Mickey Rooney and Rudolph Valentino.

It might make the night…just a little less enjoyable.

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So…how many of you caught it?  The fact that Milo and I essentially embarked on a Veronica Cartwright Film Festival?  (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Witches of Eastwick” and “The Birds”- one from each decade from the sixties onward.)  It wasn’t on cartwrightpurpose, but it worked out beautifully.  She really is amazing in each flick.

And for those of you who may be wondering what else is on the menu, I’ve got the following movies lined up for the next few weeks:  “Little Big Man,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Dr. Strangelove” and….yeah, that’s right…”Being There.”

We’re taking requests, too.  Bring ’em on.

cuckoos-nest

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

When Milo and I were searching for apartments last month, we would often come across this phrase in the real estate listings:

“Must be 420 friendly.”

420-friendly-77922744For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this whimsical term, here is the translation:

“We are potheads.”

Okay, that’s a bit unfair.  But there is no question, out here in the land of live-and-let-live,  that while there may not be a chicken in every pot (you can see this coming, right?) there more than enough pot for every chick. And rooster, too, for that matter.

Cali flagWeed is ubiquitous in California.  No exaggeration:  You cannot go to a public space in Los Angeles without sooner or later catching a whiff of someone sparking up nearby.  And while it still may not be technically legal for full-on recreational use in this state- at least not officially– it may as well be.

Medical marijuana laws have been on the books in California for a two decades now and the horrifying chaos that was bound to result…never occurred.  Life continued, albeit in a much more subdued and mellow way, without huge cartels rising up to claim the new, highly lucrative drug trade.Pitt Pothead

Well, at least not yet.  Because in November, California is likely going to join Colorado, D.C. and a few other states in voting to make recreational pot legal.  And after that happens…hello, Phillip Morris.

You don’t really think that corporate America is going to let billions of dollars in profits go up in smoke (pardon the expression) just because they’re too high and mighty (pardon the expression) to engage in the business of pot dealing, do you?  Not on your life.

420 Daily[Side note:  The origin of the term “420” has been debated – in slowly drawled, laid-back tones- for many years.  About three years ago, the Huffington Post did an exhaustive piece of where the expression may have come from, but I don’t think it definitively settles the matter. If you want to fight me on it, all I can say is, “Chillax, man.  It’s all good.”]

For now, though, pot is still technically illegal.  Technically.  But sidestepping this law- such as it is- could not be simpler.

BluntSee, while pot is still a controlled substance, according to Federal law, the advent of states lining up to make it legal has caused the Feds to back off considerably (though not entirely).  You can still go to jail for a long, long time if you get caught with tons of pot in the wrong state, but you really have to try hard to go to jail for weed in California these days.

Possession of an ounce of pot in Cali used to get you tossed in prison.  Later, once they started moving toward legalizing medical pot, it became a misdemeanor (though your record would be expunged after two years).  Then, in 2011, fifteen years after introducing medical marijuana, they knocked possession of an ounce without a medical card down to an “infraction” with a $100 fine.

Pot FamilySoon, it should be illegal for you not to be carrying.

But honestly: if you get busted in California with an ounce of pot and you don’t have a medical marijuana card, you frankly deserve whatever punishment you get, in my opinion, because getting a pot card from a doctor out here is about as difficult as getting a frequent flier number.

I have no doubt that, about five seconds after the medical marijuana law was passed here, half the state suddenly realized that they suffered from blinding headaches and that they had no other conceivable treatment other than sweet, sweet ganja.

The result:  medical weed in California (we’re talking legal pot here, people) is a $3 billion+ industry.

And….ahem….growing.Weed Money

How common (and unremarkable) is the prevalence of weed in L.A.?  Here’s an example:

Back in February, I went to see the highly enjoyable “Sins O’ the Flesh” cast perform the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” one Saturday night at the Nuart Theatre down in Santa Monica.  And, as is traditional at RHPS, the folks running the pre-show brought everyone from the audience who had never seen the movie before (aka “virgins”) up to the stage to take them through a ribald (yet perfectly harmless) initiation.

NuartDuring the ceremony, the “Sins” hosts running it decided to have two teams of virgins perform a scavenger hunt to round off the initiation.  Points would be awarded if the teams could find certain items in the pockets or purses of the theatre patrons (and the patrons were encouraged to hold up these items if they currently possessed them).

The first item?  Condoms.  (Smash cut to dozens of people holding up Trojan packets in the audience as the participants rushed to grab them.)

Virgins!The next item to be retrieved?  A pot card.  This is the easy-to-get, doctor certified and state-issued card that allows you to possess and cultivate (but not sell) small amounts of pot.

And almost everyone in the audience had one.

This is not surprising, really, is it?  I mean, the state finally makes it legal for people to carry and use marijuana (under the care and supervision of a medical professional, of course) so…naturally people are going to sign up to get a card, right?

But that wasn’t what surprised me that night.  Because the tie breaker for the scavenger hunt at the Rocky Horror show was…

med potGo out and get actual bags of pot from people in the audience and bring them back to the stage.

Which they did.  Looked like they found pounds of the stuff.  I was a little non-plussed, frankly.

I mean, if I walked in there with a beer in my backpack, they would have tossed me out onto the street.

But a baggie full of weed?  No problemo, dude.  Doctors orders, after all.

homer-potheadI am not, by the way, looking down my nose at people who smoke pot.  Let’s be clear about that, if we could.  After all, I have known people who enjoy pot on rare occasions (at parties or special events).  Likewise, I have known weekend tokers and moderate, recreational users.  And, quite frankly, I have known more than a few dedicated, dawn-to-dusk, wake-and-bake stoners.

My opinion?  I’ll take the potheads over the drunks any day of the week.

angrydrunk

He looks harmless.

When it comes to the dangerous partaking of substances, pot is pretty low on the list. I’ve never heard of anyone OD’ing on weed.  I’ve never seen an angry stoner start a fight in a bar or ruin a wedding.

But lemme tell ya:  there’s nothing quite like booze to turn a perfectly nice guy into a raging asshole.

Marijuana just doesn’t do that to folks.  It’ll get ’em super interested in coloring books or their own hands, maybe.  But get hammered and blow chunks in the Denny’s?  Not so much.

So.

Snoop

The guy in 301 ?

Every morning and afternoon, as Milo and I make our way to and from his school, we walk down the common hallway in our building that leads to the parking garage.

And every morning and afternoon, we get a contact high from one of our neighbors.

Because someone down the hall (I can’t say who, exactly) is really, really, really 420 friendly. Milo and I get cotton-mouthed just walking past his apartment.

spicoli

His roommate.

Seriously, if they ever did a urine test on this guy, he’d have stems and seeds floating in the jar.

He likes pot, is what I’m saying.  And he has no problem blowing huge clouds of it out of his apartment and into the hallway morning, noon and night.

But…that’s life in California.

Out here…it’s 4:20, 24/7.

Cheech & Chong