March 4, 2008
I just think it has been awhile since I told one of my of stories. The blog was supposed to be about my life and the people I met, but it is easy to get away from that. At least for today, it is back.
After my first year of law school, I didn’t have a paying job for that summer, but decided I would head out to Los Angeles because a friend’s father was a managing partner of a law firm and was happy to have all the free help he could find. So began a miserable summer.
During college and the first year of law school I had supported myself by promoting concerts and doing a little booking of bands as well. It worked out well and gave me a nice cash income that was not necessarily all reported as accurately as it could have been.
My hope for the summer in LA was to see a bunch of new bands and basically just get drunk on Sunset every night of the week. Instead I found myself working in a firm that did and does tax law. Other than construction defect law, I can think of no other aspect of law which would make me want to kill myself more quickly. Even though I was unpaid, I was working 50 hours a week and living way out in the Valley which wasn’t very conducive to getting drunk on Sunset every night.
After about a month of this, I was done. I really wanted no more. One of the partners took pity on me and said that his wife owned a public relations firm and that they needed someone for an assignment that upcoming weekend. Basically it was a film festival of some type in Palm Springs. Yeah, I know, Palm Springs in the summer. Hot, but it was better than sitting around a backyard with my friend’s parents as they argued about the proper way to play bridge.
All I thought I was going to be doing was directing the press here and there and everywhere. Instead I spent almost 72 hours getting an education like I never though I would experience.
I was replacing someone who had an audition of all things and so could not be at the festival. Because it was last minute, and lots of persuasion, I got the job. I still keep in touch with that partner and his wife who was talked into the job by her husband.
Anyway, it turns out my job was to make sure that this multiple Academy Award nominee made it to where he needed to go. Although this A list film actor was well known, and had been nominated when I met him, he was in a kind of quiet period in his career.
From the whispers and hints and innuendo the reason for his career gap was a lot of drug use and also some serious anger management problems. I never saw the drug problem firsthand, but there was definitely something going on with my charge because he would get this glassy eyed stare and would mumble for an hour or two straight. He was speaking English, but it was so low and he mumbled so much that it was impossible to understand unless you concentrated completely and were standing 2 inches from him. Of course when you did that, you were subject to him suddenly going ballistic and screaming at you for being in his space.
For much of the previous five years I had been around more musicians than almost anyone. I had interacted with some really small guys in a van to guys on a world tour with 200 employees. But honestly, nothing prepares you for spending the weekend being a gofer for a guy who was this f**king big, in an acting sense. Not a tall guy in real life. For most of the first day I just walked around in a sense of look who I am with and being a kiss ass and feeling a little self important.
I’m not ashamed of it and if I put you in the same situation you would be the same. Now, I don’t get that way about anyone really. But, I can still recall that feeling when I met our actor if I try hard enough. I can still feel the stomach jumping and me telling myself to not screw anything up.
Most of the time my job was to shuffle our actor around to interviews. Instead of having the reporters all come to one place, the way it worked was actors and actresses had times they needed to be at a certain hotel or event and they would spend 5 or 10 minutes with a writer or photographer.
This was kind of the year before our actor hit it big again. You could sense it though. He had not done much, but the film he was there talking about paled in comparison to the questions of what he was about to start filming. One right after the other for about a year.
There were limos some of the time, but most of the time it was a hotel courtesy van and one of the biggest cell phones you ever saw glued to our actor’s ear. Apparently he could mumble into the phone and people could understand him.
If you ever have wondered where I got into the tipping thing, it was that weekend. Our actor would fill me with his life’s statements. At the time he had no children, but he was feeling paternal I guess and so in one of his life lessons he told me that you should tip everyone who does you a service including hookers. Those were his exact words. He always tipped the van drivers a $20 bill. Always. Even if it was the same guy there and back, the driver would get a $20 for each of the trips. $20 was his favorite bill. He had a stack of them and he always seemed to have more. When I went to his hotel suite to get him one morning, he had me grab a stack from the top of the television. There were about 100 of them in a stack, and he had four or five of them on the television. He just left them there all day and night. When I asked him if he was afraid they might be stolen, he asked me if I had seen his films. I said I had seen some of them. He said people had a hard time discerning real life from film and that he had no fear at all that someone would steal from him.
He was invariably polite to women but didn’t seem interested in flirting. Women would fawn over him and he would smile and be nice, but as soon as they were gone, he turned the switch off and he would go back to mumbling.
As far as his anger management issues, they were numerous. His favorite way of showing displeasure in food which he did twice over the weekend was to drop it on the floor, plates and all and ask if anyone had a dog, because he sure as hell wasn’t going to eat it. But, his dissatisfaction with the food never carried over to the server even if they got his order wrong. He always left a huge tip.
He told me that people only remember certain events in their life and that if he left a large tip, invariably that would be what people remembered about him ten years after meeting him. They would think he was generous even if he wasn’t, and the sliding the plates off the table would be recounted as humorous rather than obnoxious.
Judging by the results of future relationships he had with women, I’m not sure they ever saw the humor in his anger issues. Although he never yelled at anyone we met during the weekend, he would yell and curse constantly in about half his phone calls, and then mumble into the other half.
I remember the same morning he had me grab the stack of money he had about ten pairs of shoes lined up and to me they were all the same color and all had lifts in them. I could not tell them apart, but he literally spent twenty minutes looking at them closely before he decided on a pair. If he had a good day he explained he would keep wearing the same shoes. If he had a bad day, he would change shoes, but would try and find the next pair that would bring him good luck. I say good luck, but I get the feeling that what he wanted was a good day not filled with drama.
As the weekend went on, he became more comfortable with me and so he began to yell at me. Apparently he enjoyed being yelled at back which I did when I felt he was mistaken about something. He didn’t like people to shrink from him, and seemed to revel in the confrontation. I would never have thought of myself capable of yelling at him when I first met him, but it kind of came naturally.
One of my favorite things I took from him that weekend was that no matter what you are doing in life as long as you are excited about waking up every morning and not looking for an excuse not to get up, or do what you have to do, then you have succeeded in life. You should never feel miserable about something you can change. Great advice, which I still follow to this day. With that advice and the $2000 tip he gave me for the weekend, I found myself a place to share with about four other people for the rest of the summer and did what I wanted to do. Listened to some great bands at night and had an incredible summer.
I ran into our actor about ten years after that, and I really didn’t think he would remember me, but he did, and actually saw me before I saw him. He came up to me, and gave me a hug and then started mumbling something about his shoes. Seriously.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
March 4, 2008