After months of waiting, there it was. Sticking tantalizingly out of the mail slot was my economic stimulus check. About damn time! My mother (who is nothing if not patriotic) had given me a good stern talking-to a few weeks ago, reminding me that when it arrived I was not to treat this as “savings account” money. This was “spending” money. According to what she had heard, it was our duty as Americans to blow through these government checks ASAP since it would help our troubled economy. I was delighted to participate in such a noble plan. Having been raised in a family that prided itself on stretching a dollar, this was an ideal job for me. Plus, I had another agenda. I was sick of hearing how the recent writers’ strike had so crippled the entertainment business in Los Angeles, so I decided to use my stimulus check to personally give back to the industry that had fed and clothed me for so many years. I was a man with a mission. I had $600.00 with which to save show business and I would do it in one day.
My first stop was Target where I decided to pick out some cheap, but presentable patio furniture. Yes, I know. Patio furniture doesn’t appear to directly connect to show business but bear with me. As you may have heard, all the big entertainment deals are initiated at social gatherings and fundraisers. Granted I have a small backyard and my patio is only 10’ x10’, but I’ve managed to throw some rocking parties out there over the years. Not wanting to blow my entire wad right away, I passed by the nicer wicker pieces and headed for the clearance aisle where I found some sturdy folding stuff that looked like it could take a beating. As I wheeled it into the checkout line, I felt both practical and extravagant (my favorite combination). Price: $161.
The next stop was the optical store where I finally replaced my very scratched eyeglass lenses. I’m like a nine-year old when it comes to my glasses. I never use a case and when I shift to my sunglasses, I always hang my specs on the neck of my T-Shirt where they are guaranteed to fall off and hit the cement at least twice a week. The salesgirl was so nice and informative that I couldn’t stop myself from ordering the progressive tri-focal lenses with the scratch resistant coating plus an additional feature I didn’t entirely understand, but was guaranteed to provide me “a slightly wider, mid-level field of vision.” It sounded fantastic! How does this help the industry? I can’t very well write brilliant scripts if I can’t see, right? Price: $289. (Wow. That scratch protection really adds up).
Next I hit Borders where I loaded up on paperbacks including new short story collections by cool writers like Denis Johnson and Jim Shepard. Because I’m cheap, I rarely buy hard covers. However, I draw the line when it comes buying used books from places like Amazon. It upsets me that the authors never see a dime on those sales. Something to think about in this age where the whole concept of residuals is under attack. I also grabbed a book on marketing just because I’m interested in how it’s slowly ruining our lives. How does this benefit the entertainment industry? Because books are crammed full of ideas. I’m always shocked by the number of actors and screenwriters in L.A. who don’t read; preferring to try to extract dramatic art from our largely un-dramatic lives. Gym, Starbucks, Traffic, Meeting, More Traffic. Not exactly “The Bourne Conspiracy,” is it? I’m too lazy not to read. Reading gives me tons of ideas for stories and characters. Plus it reminds me how many skilled and imaginative writers are out there and how I always need to step up my game. Gathering up my purchases, I march self-righteously out the door with about a hundred dollars worth of books.
With my funds quickly dwindling, I need to prioritize so I charge into Trader Joe’s for a couple of cases of cheap wine. Sorry, but if you don’t understand the connection between show business and cheap wine, I can’t help you. Finally down to chump change, I swing by the newsstand to grab a copy of “Entertainment Weekly” so I’ll know who to be deeply envious of this week. As I wait to pay for my magazine I can’t help but notice the tabloid rack and realize that someone other than me received a little good news this week. On July 12, at 6:27 pm (local France time), Brad and Angelina welcomed their new twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline into the world. Now, I feel selfish and bad. With my last few dollars in hand, I scoot over to the Rite Aid and buy a “Congratulations on Your New Baby“ card for the Pitt-Jolie’s. Since I don’t know the zip code for the planet “Plu-Tarr” (where they apparently live), I sent the card to them in care of CAA who will no doubt take care of delivering it.
Finally, I was home. It had been a long, but rewarding day of stimulating Hollywood. I poured myself a glass of cheap red and decided to try out my new patio furniture. The sun was setting and it was one of those magical L.A. twilights where the colors seem florescent and it really does feel like all of one’s hopes and dreams could (and maybe already have) come true. As I reclined on my new vinyl chaise, I thought about Brad and Angelina and their ever-enlarging family. According to the rag I’d perused at the Rite Aid, even as the birth of their twins impended, Angie and Brad were already talking adoption again. Having come from a large and cobbled-together family myself, I couldn’t help but wonder if they fully understood what they were getting into. I wondered if someday Angelina would find herself (like my mother) lying on a sofa with a cold cloth over her eyes; wondering why the fuck she'd had all these children. I wondered if one day, an utterly exhausted Brad would (like my father) be driving up to his home, spot a pack of screaming kids starting a fire in the front yard and consider the possibility of speeding past without stopping. Although it seems hard to imagine, I’m sure Brad and Angelina must have their moments of doubt, fear and disillusionment just like the rest of us. As a breeze ruffled the palm frawns overhead, I sighed and toasted their unknowable lives. Then I thought a little about my own. I reflected on how the chips had fallen for many of the kids my folks had taken in, and realized that although I might not be able to save the entertainment industry, the entertainment industry might well have saved me. The Pitts (as it turns out) are not the only lucky people in the world. With that, I flipped open my shiny new copy of Entertainment Weekly, breathless to see whose guts I would be hating this week.
Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
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David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being extraordinarily middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv