(I'll probably be blacklisted for writing this one, but hey, I had to... )
Hollywood, despite the common myth, really isn't all that glamorous.
Look past the opulence, the great dining, the crazy nightlife, and all the beautiful people, and you will find a treasure trove of history, people-watching opportunities galore, and an energy that is simply indescribable. Lying even further beneath this, you will also find dirt, trash, poverty, and find yourself wading knee-deep in bullshit and insecurity.
There is a reason why this is the entertainment capitol of the world, why every day 40,000 men and women flock to this movie-mecca in pursuit of fame and fortune, and why every day 40,000 more leave to go back to wherever they came from, penniless and jaded, their spirits crushed. This place is almost alive, it keeps the balance. Everyone is acting. All the time. Even the people who don't call themselves actors.
Actors are funny people. As you know, Los Angeles is, according to moi, effin' weird. And the actors can, at times, have a pretty big hand in that.
A few weeks back I was asked to host the wrap-party for The Sarah Silverman Program, and by host I of course mean stand at the door and check people off the list. I gladly accepted, of course, because I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity to see these people, these "actors" and - dare I say it? - "celebrities" in their natural habitat interacting with one another. I was told to dress nice, and arrive at 6pm.
There's a song that says, "It never rains in Southern California." And that song is wrong. It was pouring that day. Seriously, like buckets. Cats and Dogs. Rain rain rain. Walking in the rain sucks to begin with, especially for us ladies - we have hair issues, okay? So I had to show up to this party and somehow not look like a drowned rat. And if anyone has ever tried to walk down Hollywood Boulevard in the rain, on those black tiles the Walk of Fame stars are embedded in, try doing it in a pair of 5-inch heels. Yeah, that's what I thought.
Well, thankfully, it had stopped raining, and was now just a little humid and misty and gray, which I quite liked, seeing as I had spent what felt like an eternity of summertime frying in an apartment with no A/C. And as an added bonus, I didn't end up slipping and falling on my ass and made it to the party early, which looked good for the sucking-up-to-my-boss factor.
Everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and I set out to light the candles that went on the tables for the dinner and screening, all the while looking around for any other way I could make myself useful. My boss handed me the guest list, and gave me the run down on what my task would be for the evening: stand at the door, check people off the list, and look cute.
Simple enough. And I was getting paid to do it. Sweet!
I was like a kid in at Christmas, looking over the list. Andy Samberg, Missi Pyle, Maria Bamford... and, of course, the guest of honor, Sarah Silverman herself... I was giddy with anticipation.
The night began slowly. Maybe because it was cold, maybe because it was dark and rainy and crappy outside. Eventually, guests began to trickle in - all very nice people. In that aloof, cautious, L.A. kind of way, but nice all the same.
I don't get starstruck, but I have to admit I do get a little kick from seeing actors I really respect and enjoy, Missi Pyle being one of them. Actually, I see her all the time. She comes in to the restaurant quite a lot; she's very relaxed, pretty quiet, and doesn't bring any bullshit with her. That's what a celebrity is, or should be. If you have the talent and conviction to do your job and do it well, and you are secure enough in yourself, then you don't need to be an obnoxious ass to announce your presence to the world. Which is why, when she walked in, and I reflexively asked for her last name, she gave it to me, even though she knew that I knew who she was.
Even Miss Silverman was gracious about it. Granted, I heard her before I even saw her - she has this laugh that carried down Hollywood Boulevard - and she came skipping in, all little and cute, and I said "Hi! I know who you are... welcome."
And she literally replied with, "Tee hee!" and scampered up the stairs.
The night was going so smooth, the cynic in me should have been at least the tiniest bit suspicious. I mean, things go well, but never that well. Never perfectly. Which is why, when he arrived with his girlfriend, Bill Maher made me feel about two inches tall, even though I tower over him.
In my defense, before I tell you exactly how it went down, let me fill you in on a few details:
1) It was really effing dark in there. So dimly lit, in fact, that some of the older guests were adorable enough to ask me "how in the world are you able to read that, young lady? You must have some great eye-sight." And I do, but still, it was really effing dark in there.
2) I had a head cold, and I was high on DayQuil.
3) Put yourself in their shoes: if you were famous, and had people trying to stick their heads up your ass all day just because you're on t.v., and you want a little normalcy in your life but you can't because some stalker keeps trying to send you chocolates and roses and pictures of his genitals and really wants a lock of your hair to complete his shrine to the almighty greatness that you are, would you want some bitch at the door of the party you're attending to gush like a maniac at the sight of you? I wouldn't. But that's just me.
4) Oh yeah, and if you're bored, you can Google "Why is Bill Maher such a dick" and see what you find.
Taking all of that into consideration, it is not surprising that I didn't recognize him, or at least pretend like I was really impressed that he was standing there before me - I mean, he's really not all that aesthetically remarkable, and I probably wouldn't recognize him if I were standing next to him in line at the supermarket because, well, I'm just that way.
But I guess it was just his reaction that threw me off when I very sweetly said "Hi! How are you!" and, receiving no response, asked "What's the last name?"
He stood there, blinking, as though dumbfounded, and scoffed. "Maher," he said, with such arrogance that, if his words had eyes, they would have rolled them. And if looks could kill... ooohh boy...
And that was when I realized it was him, and felt a sinking feeling in my gut, and the "Oh Shit" alarm in my brain went off, and without any further adieu welcomed him to the party. With that, he sauntered up the stairs, girlfriend in tow.
Like I said before, I felt reduced to about the size of an ant. I spent the rest of the evening avoiding him. But as the night went on, and everyone got more and more drunk, I made it a point not to let it get to me. The people-watching opportunity was priceless, as I had expected.
And as for Mr. Maher, I will give him this: the guy is smart. He's successful. He is loved and un-loved the world over. And hell, I really don't have a leg to stand on, because let's face it, I'm nobody. I'm a statistic, 1 in 40,000. Sure, I've made it for the past couple years, I've survived, but I have yet to make a mark (and that's okay). Anyone who can really "make it" deserves respect, so I have to give him and everyone else at that party their much-deserved kudos. They worked their asses off to get what they wanted, and that might entitle them to be arrogant dicks. Or not. Who the hell knows.
But it made me think even more about the idea of the so-called "celebrity." I mean, they're just people. Just ordinary human beings, for the most part, like you and me. Sure, they have something different or unique about them that sets them apart from the rest of us and thus enables them to have that title, but why is it that we as a society put them on pedestals and worship the ground they walk on? I don't care if you are really good looking, or funny, or brilliant. If you're going to be a dick about it, then all of that may as well not even matter.
Even more recently, I was working the late night at the job, and a very pretty, polite, and familiar-looking girl came in with a small entourage - about 5 other people. It was really late (or really early, depending on how you look at it - about 5 AM) and I seated her at one of our best tables, right by the window, in a big cushy round booth, a coveted place for anyone who's trying to be someone, so that passersby can look in at them through the big plate-glass windows and say "Wow, they're so glamorous! They must have it all!"
Anyway... so I'm lookin' at this girl, and I know who she is, but I can't quite put my finger on it. And then it hits me: she happens to be a 90's R&B singer named after a popular alcoholic beverage that is often served in a snifter (If this isn't obvious enough for you, I really don't know what to tell you).
So they sit, and eat, and laugh and talk, and about an hour later they're finished and getting ready to leave. At the same time, one of my coworkers says he's gonna drive down the street right quick and buy himself some cigs. He walks out, dressed in full uniform (and, by the way, our uniforms are quite unique and covered in the company logo) and gets in his ginormous pickup truck parked across the street. The aforementioned pop-star is walking out the door right as he's flipping a u-turn, and I watch as she runs up to the car and pokes her head inside the window. Dialogue is exchanged; co-worker drives off, and R&B Singer whirls around looking distressed. Absolutely mortified, actually.
We're all watching this from inside the building, and seeing as we couldn't hear a word that was said, we're perplexed as hell. We run outside to see what the problem is.
Us: "What's wrong? Oh my God, are you alright?!"
Her: "Oh Lord... was he paparazzi?!?"
Us: (Silence...) "Uh... no. He works here."
Her: (Throwing hands toward the heavens) "Oh thank God! For a second I was like 'oh dear Lord!' I thought he was paparazzi! I thought I was going to have all kinds of cameras in here! (looking relieved) Thank you!"
And she walked away. Down the empty - I repeat - EMPTY street. Because it was 5 AM. And no one was out. And the 90's are over. And we were left standing there, going "Really?"
Yeah, I'm mean. I know. I'm a total bitch, in fact.
But seriously... I don't get it.
Only in Los Angeles, right?