by Burt Prelutsky | Los Angeles
The other day I was asked if I thought I would ever come face to face with writer’s block. I had to laugh. Inasmuch as I generally write about things that annoy, frustrate or just plain drive me nuts, running out of material or losing the impulse to complain in print are among the very least of my worries.
When you factor in that Barack Obama is my president, Joe Biden is my vice-president, Nancy Pelosi is next in line, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are my senators, Brad Sherman is my congressman, Antonio Villaraigosa is my mayor and Jerry Brown is lurking in the wings to be my governor, do you really think I’ll be turning my pen into a plowshare anytime soon?
But at least now you might have a better handle on why I look back so fondly on what I have come to regard as the good old days when an American’s major complaint was that he had taxation without representation.
On top of everything else, I live in Los Angeles and have spent most of my adult life laboring in Hollywood, a place that some people regard as less an actual location than a state of mind. I agree it is a state of mind in the same sense that paranoia and schizophrenia are states of mind.
After working in the field of entertainment for about 40 years, I swear to you that there are a fair number of normal, decent human beings who work in the industry. But truth compels me to say that the lower you go in the pecking order, the likelier you are to find them. That’s not to say that every producer, actor, director and writer, is an arrogant, leftwing, coke-snorting, bottom-feeding egomaniac, but that’s certainly the way to bet.
Sometimes, when I’m daydreaming about what Hell must be like, I envision a place where every day you wake up and have to go work for someone like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, nasty sourpusses who think that their every whim should be immediately pandered to and who regard themselves as God, but with a bigger expense account, a larger staff and a better pension plan.
In short, Pelosi, Frank and Reid and their congressional cronies, could find true happiness working at a TV network, a movie studio or a theatrical agency. Perhaps you think I’m making this up, but I’m not. Liberal politicians are doing their best to shove Obamacare down our throats, pretending it’s manna from Heaven, but you may have noticed that they haven’t the slightest intention of leaving their own medical care up to a lottery system. And can you really blame them? Do you think Pelosi wants a bunch of strangers deciding if she can get another dozen face lifts? You think Robert Byrd wants to leave it up to a death panel to determine if it’s time to put the old Ku Kluxer on an ice floe?
You could call them hypocrites, but I call them Hollywood hopefuls. They’d fit right in. This is the town, after all, where people are still whining over the fact that a handful of mediocre actors and hack writers were blacklisted 60 years ago because they were, for the most part, unrepentant Communists whose allegiance was to the evil Soviet Union. But these same people think nothing of blacklisting writers and directors who have done nothing worse than made the fatal mistake of turning 50.
Many years ago, radio wit Fred Allen observed that “You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, stick it in the navel of a flea, and still have room left over for two caraway seeds and an agent’s heart.” I say he was being too kind. Although I regard myself as basically a loyal person, I’ve had about two dozen agents in my life. What’s more, in what was a moderately successful TV writing career, by getting my own jobs, I made money for all of them, except the last one. Which was just as well because she’s the one who went to the slammer for stealing her clients’ money.
The reason, by the way, I kept leaving agents wasn’t simply because none of them ever earned his or her 10%, but because eventually they all lied to me about what they would do for me or, worse yet, what they had already done.
In my experience, agents are people who like to have lunch, shmooze with other agents and con young women into having sex with them. Those are the male agents, of course. Female agents, on the other hand, like to have lunch, shmooze with other agents and con young women into having sex with them.
In other words, if a genie somehow managed to switch everyone in Hollywood with everyone in Congress, you would barely notice it. In fact, aside from the fact that the paparazzi would all have to pack up and move east and that “Henry Waxman: The Musical!” would finally be green-lighted at Universal, life would go on as usual. CRO
copyright 2009 Burt Prelutsky
Television scriptwriter, former humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine.