I’m in California to film a TV documentary for the BBC about the election. I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk or Tweet about it, so it’s radio silence from here on in. All I can give is a couple of impressions of Los Angeles. Earlier in the week, we got into an argument with Darth Vader on Hollywood Boulevard over a patch of ground we were both trying to work. He (being an actor in a costume posing for tourist photos) was reading us the riot act when he was joined by a man dressed as a storm trooper. The storm trooper wasn’t there out of necessity but instinct: he saw his fictional boss flexing his authority and thought he ought to stand next to him in the bodyguard position. The cameraman said to them, “These are not the droids you are looking for.” Behind his mask, Darth breathed angrily. A few yards away, I spotted Wonder Woman smoking a cigarette behind a parked bus.
Venice Beach continues to fascinate and terrify. There’s an outside gym where absurdly muscular men throw around barbells. They sit on the concrete steps, rising up in order of biceps like lions using higher ground to assert their authority. Sitting at the bottom was a huge fat black guy in a pair of red trunks and a golden medallion. Perhaps, thirty years ago, he belonged on the top. Now he lived on the bottom rung, his life’s possessions squeezed into a plastic bag.
Two observations about LA people. Frist, few of them have just the one career. I met an Englishman who moved out here to become an actor. He does do work in movies but has also branched out into building orphanages in Haiti. Another friend now combines real estate with movie directing and being a lifestyle coach. The latter seems to involve sending clients emails every morning with a phrase plucked from a Chinese fortune cookie: “Tomorrow will be another day.” “Yesterday is all in the past,” etc. A lot of people say they are in between jobs, which is code for “can you find me one?” The line between conversation and begging is thin.
Second, a lot of people lie all the time. Everyone is doing fine, everyone knows someone, everyone can help, everyone is a friend of Steven Spielberg. Don’t believe a word of this and doubly beware overuse of the word “friend.” It means nothing. For example, “I’m a close friend of David Geffen,” translates as, “I once saw him across the counter in Dennys.” For friend to really mean friend, they have to up the stakes by saying something like “I had his love child in the 1960s,” or actually show you his cell number tattooed on their arm. The exception to this rule seems to be Shia LaBeouf, who is easier to meet than Rod Blagojevich. Seriously, just look him up in the book and give him a call. He’s got nothing better to do.
I fly out of here on Wednesday – straight to New York City. Out of the frying pan and into the fire...