Sunday, July 26, 2009

True Colors

A couple of months ago, a leaking pipe wreaked a little havoc in one corner of my living room. Happily, the management company took care of it promptly and re-plastered everything, but the workman assigned to the job explained that he would be unable to match the original paint color. Apparently, he was only authorized to use “Navajo White.”

Although I was reasonably sure I still had some of the original paint buried in my garage somewhere, I wondered if perhaps it might be time for a change. As I sat contemplating the future of “Navajo Corner,” visions of a new, hipper color scheme began to dance around in my brain. I had recently seen a spread on celebrity homes and did notice that many of them had chosen bright, vivid shades to adorn their walls. I wondered if I should follow suit -- because celebrities (as we all know) are right about everything.

One of my neighbors had recently repainted his place using some big, dramatic color choices. But my neighbor is a designer whose home is very spare, metallic and elegant -- Sort of like the waiting room of a space station. My home is a bit more on the cozy side. Having come from a Southern background, I have lots of mementos and knick-knacks (or as my late grandmother used to call them “what-me-nots”). I had, over the years, taken lots of ribbing from my best friend, Tom, who once referred to my sense of interior design as “early Loretta Lynn.” I didn’t care. I liked my cheery yellows, minty greens and baby blues. But maybe Tom was right. Maybe I had fallen off the style train.

I decided to strike out for Home Depot and see if perhaps I could broaden my stodgy color palette just a little. As I drove along Sunset, however, I flashed back on a couple bad decisions I’d made in the past. The first was when, as a rebellious teenager, I’d demanded to paint my bedroom entirely black. My mother, fearful this would lead to worshiping Satan, initially refused. But after several screaming fights, a compromise was reached that would allow me to paint my room “half black.” Clever kid that I was, I hauled out the masking tape and created a jagged line horizontally across the middle of each wall. I then painted the upper half black, while leaving the lower half white. Although the original idea had been to create sort of a lightning bolt effect, the resulting pattern looked more like a set of big scary teeth. At first I loved it, until I started having nightmares that I was being eaten alive by a giant Jack O’Lantern.

The next fiasco happened just a few years back, when on a whim, I’d opted to paint my home office a vibrant shade of orange. The choice felt daring and reckless. I was certain “Vivid Tangerine” would energize the room and stir my creative juices. But before I was even half finished, I began to have doubts. The aging carpet (which I couldn’t afford to replace) was sort of a grayish-blue and the place began to remind me of a Howard Johnson’s motel room I’d once stayed in. Unwilling to admit my mistake, I soldiered on. I even managed to live with it for an entire year before finally conceding that it was a disaster. Sitting at my desk, surrounded by “Vivid Tangerine” day after day, had done nothing but make me feel sleepy (and strangely thirsty for “Sunny D.”)

Now, standing in the paint chip aisle, I felt intimidated, not only by the vast spectrum of colors before me, but also by their sexy, exotic names. Who knew such shades as Sublime Saddlebury or Dunmore Mist even existed? Did happiness lie with walls painted Cobalt Canyon, Tradewind Teal or Gothic Moonrise? Grabbing a vibrant cross-section of chips, I raced back home where I held them up, one by one, in the afternoon light gracing “Navajo Corner.” I hated them all.

And that’s when something occurred to me. I’m not a hip person. Why was I trying to act like one? If one’s home is one’s castle, I guess would make me the King (or perhaps the Queen). And royalty answers to no one (not even those bitches from HGTV). If a paint color (or anything else in your life) has kept you happy for the last eight years, why change it? Tomorrow, I would dig that rusting paint can out of the garage, put on the soundtrack to “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and get busy. I might even ask my friend Tom to come help me, but he hates it when I sing along to “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.”

Copyright 2009 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Little Work










I like my dermatologist. He has a sense of humor which is something I very much appreciate in any branch of the medical profession. Not long ago, I was having a mole checked out and as he was peering at my cheek through his mini-magnifying glass, I made a casual joke about my ever-expanding crow’s-feet. My doctor, unimpressed with my mole, began slowly turning my face from side-to-side, while muttering that the “damage wasn’t too bad,” but a little resurfacing here and there wouldn’t hurt. “Maybe a little tuck on the upper lids” and a “small injection of collagen” might help with the lines around my mouth. What lines around my mouth?! With each turn of my jaw, I began feeling increasingly anxious (and ancient).

As I was paying my bill, I spotted a conveniently placed rack of pamphlets, advertising all the various cosmetic procedures my dermatologist now had to offer. When the receptionist turned away for a moment, I stuffed a few of them into my pocket. As I rode down in the elevator, I felt a wave of shame roll over me as if I’d stolen her favorite pen or something. I mean they were free, right? People were supposed to take them. That night, with all my curtains pulled, I began to peruse the glossy three-fold brochures that promised me everything from a tighter jaw line to noticeably plumper lips. Part of me felt utterly insane, while another part kept gently chanting that this is Hollywood where youth (or at least “youthfulness”) reigns supreme. A little nip. A little tuck. A tiny injection. Who would know?

This particular bout of lunacy probably stems from the fact that I recently turned forty. Well, actually it was about ten years ago, but it seems like only yesterday. I’m told that age is just a number and the only thing that matters is how old one feels on the inside. I’m happy to report that when I wake up in the morning, my “inside” generally feels pretty young. In fact, I tend to think of myself as being about twenty-eight. I remember that age as being a great time in my life when I was full of boundless energy and enormous optimism. However, when my twenty-eight year old “inside” reaches the bathroom mirror, it’s confronted with my somewhat weather-beaten “outside” which is looking more like my maternal grandfather by the day.

Truthfully, I don’t really believe in plastic surgery. People tend to go into it wanting to look younger and I’m sorry to report that looking younger is simply not an option. Most plastic surgery simply looks like plastic surgery. I recently had lunch with a friend who finally confessed that he’d been having Botox injections in his forehead for the last two years. “Really?” I replied, trying to sound surprised. What I actually wanted to say was “What a relief! I thought you’d had a lobotomy.” My friend is a great-looking guy who was quite a head-turner in his youth. And nothing dies harder than allure. “See!” he said, raising his eyebrows about a 1/16 of an inch. “You can’t even tell.”

For women in Hollywood, some kind of “work” is almost unavoidable. It’s sort of criminal the way we discount our older actresses. A courageous few manage to get away without having their eyebrows pulled halfway up their foreheads. These gals are easy to spot. They are the ones who get stuck wearing a high collar over a turtleneck with the scarf wrapped around it – as if the costumer is trying to hide a neck brace or something.

One night I was at some entertainment event, when a very sweet woman approached me to say she had enjoyed my work on “Boston Legal.” It was a little hard to determine her age since she’d had a massive amount of plastic surgery. So much so, that I found it tough to focus on what she was actually saying. Suddenly remembering my manners, I introduced myself and asked her name. I was floored to discover that she was a very well-known actress from the 70’s and I hadn’t recognized her. Had she not told me her name I would have had no idea who she was. I felt bad for her. In an effort to revitalize her image, she’d totally destroyed it.

In case you were wondering, I came to my senses after a couple of days and tossed out the brochures. Most plastic surgery for men has a weird feminizing effect on the face and given that masculinity is not exactly my strong suit, I decided to leave well enough alone. My favorite definition of aging comes from an old issue of the National Lampoon I recently came across. It described the aging process as follows: “Everything gets bigger, hairier and closer to the ground.” As for me, I just try not to think about it. In the same way I try not to think about my measly retirement account or the future of social security. I guess I’m lucky. All things considered, I’m holding up reasonably well. I can still do everything I did when I was twenty-eight. The only difference is now it hurts.

Copyright 2009 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Bad Neighbor Policy

I live in Hollywood (one of the slightly edgy, but still affordable neighborhoods in L.A.) With its numerous apartment buildings and proximity to the studios, it has long been home to young hopefuls trying to make it in the entertainment business. For the last 15 years, I’ve lived in a complex made up of Spanish style townhouses situated around a courtyard. Although a little threadbare, it’s got a lot of charm. Constructed in the early 1920’s (before the invention of sub-woofers and big screen TV’s), my only complaint is that the houses are built somewhat close together and noise travels pretty easily from one unit to the next.

On one side of me lives a very talented (and very quiet) production designer whom I adore. On the other side is a unit that I used to refer to as the “House of Irritation,” since for years, every time somebody moved in, it was bad news.

When I first arrived, two young actors lived there who threw huge, out of control parties that lasted till dawn. After they were booted out, a casting director moved in who enjoyed nothing more than hiring male prostitutes to come over and give him a good spanking in the middle of the night. When he left, a couple of independent producers took over the place, who were always borrowing things like scissors and screwdrivers and never returning them.

All of these people however paled in comparison to “Nyla” (not her real name). Nyla was a 40ish blond entertainment publicist who struck me as trouble from the moment she arrived. Nyla went out to a lot of clubs with her clients and had a habit of bringing said clients (and whoever else she picked up along the way) back to her place once the bars closed at around 2 AM. The party would then amp up as Nyla and her guests would dance and sometimes sing along with the music while Nyla (who apparently had a little gypsy in her) would accompany them on a tambourine. The first time this happened, I tried to wait it out. Finally, around 3 AM, I banged on her door, but got no response. The next morning I wrote her the most polite note I could manage (given I’d only had three hours sleep) and invited her to make all the noise she wanted until midnight, but requested that she keep it down after that. I tucked it into her mailbox and hoped for the best.

The next day, I found a hand-written reply from my new neighbor taped to my door that was three pages long (front and back). The first couple of pages were filled with humble apologies plus a little background info. Having just moved here from New York, she was still getting her bearings, she explained. She loved the courtyard and only wanted to make friends with her neighbors. Then gradually the tone of the letter changed as Nyla began to recount the events and timeline of the party as best she could recall them. Right around page three, the letter started developing a slightly sinister, accusatory tone as Nyla began to question how I could "possibly have heard that.” Adding to the weirdness, the letter had been written using three different pens (each a different color) which I suspected meant that composing it had been an all-day affair. I took a deep breath. Clearly, my new neighbor was either a drunk or insane. As it turned out, she was both.

Nyla worked out of her home and talked on the phone all day and (if she was home) all night. With a voice like a foghorn, I couldn’t help but overhear everything that went on with her and her roster of lackluster clients. Whether she was keeping me up half the night, blocking my car or stealing my garbage can, for the next two years, it was war. There were occasional cease-fires, a couple of screaming matches and lots of calls to the property manager (usually made by Nyla, complaining that I was stalking or harassing her). Mostly, I just tried to pretend she didn’t exist.

Then one Sunday night, Nyla arrived home from an out-of-town trip to find herself locked out of her townhouse. Parking herself on the front steps, she began making a series of loud, angry calls to her assistant (who was apparently supposed to have been present to greet her, keys in hand). Unable to locate him, she began calling her many friends to express her outrage that she had been stranded in such a horrible, horrible situation. But none of Nyla's friends were home, so she was forced to leave long, explicative-filled messages about how she intended to deduct the cost of calling a locksmith from her idiotic assistant’s salary.

As I sat in my living room, trying to read a few scripts, I could hear Nyla recounting over and over how her lovely weekend (spent at a spa with her lone celebrity client) had been utterly ruined by this crime against humanity. After about an hour, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went outside and invited her into my house. She seemed utterly stunned by the gesture. It was getting cold and I suggested that she might be more comfortable on my sofa than sitting on the steps. “I’m sure your assistant will call you back soon. Come on, I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

Nyla slowly rolled her luggage into my living room, glancing suspiciously from left to right as if she were expecting an ambush or a gang rape. Despite the fact that I’d already heard the story about ten times, I invited her to tell me about her weekend. Relaxing a bit, Nyla began to chatter away about what a wonderful human being her client was and what a fabulous time they’d had - until this sacrilege had occurred. I knew her actress-client to be a well-known psycho, so I tried to imagine what a wonderful weekend they must have had terrorizing the staff of the spa and thanked God that I wasn’t employed there.

One disjointed story led to another and as Nyla rattled on-and-on without taking a pause. Then suddenly, in mid-sentence, she stopped and looked down at the cup of tea I’d made her as if it had just magically materialized in her hands. Slowly, her eyes drifted up to my face. “You’re really very nice, aren’t you?” I was a little thrown since what (I think) she’d intended as a compliment had instead come out as a question. It was as if she were asking if I was for real or had I secretly urinated in this tea before serving it to her. I forced a smile. “Well, I’m not a saint, Nyla. But I try to be nice.” The awkward silence was broken by the sound of Nyla’s assistant arriving. Immediately, her game face was back on. Storming out of my place with guns blazing, she made sure her assistant was well-aware of how his thoughtlessness and dereliction of duty had ruined everything. She even tried to include me as a co-complainant, saying I had been forced to interrupt my busy screenwriting career to take her in.

As I flopped back onto my sofa and cracked open the next rotten script, it occurred to me that this had been the first civil conversation I had ever had with Nyla. Yes, she was insane. Yes, she was an utter toxic waste dump of a person, but I was going to have to live with her. I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps I’d invited her over for that lousy cup of tea two years earlier, we might have been able to avoid some of this hell.

A few days later, as I was retrieving my garbage can from the curb, Nyla's psychotic celebrity client pulled up alongside me in a huge, black SUV and told me that Nyla (who was “one of her favorite people on the planet”) had told her of my kindness and that she (the celebrity) now loved me. Two weeks later, she dropped Nyla and two months after that, Nyla abandoned L.A. to return to New York - where she is no doubt making some new neighbor’s life a living hell.

Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
http://www.daviddeanbottrell.com/

David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/