[I’ve been thinking about what I might write after I’m done with my memoir about having the babies. One idea is another memoir, this one about my time in Los Angeles. It’ll be called How to Make it in Hollywood in 20 Years or Less. That gives me 2 more years to make it in Hollywood. If I do write that book, the opening chapter may read something like this.]
Not to date myself too much, but the day I first arrived in LA was the day the first Jurassic Park movie opened. I’ll save you the trouble of googling. It was June 11, 1993, a date that now looks virtually prehistoric itself but which back then seemed like the very beginning of the future.
I came to this city blindly, having never been here before but somehow, thanks to that boundless wisdom 22-year-olds possess, knowing that this was where I wanted to spend my life. I moved out with a friend from college named Jay, in his dad’s car, with everything I owned (probably about one box of clothes, two boxes of cassette tapes and a shopping bag full of books from college that “meant something to me”) in a U-haul car top carrier.
I didn’t know the difference between Hollywood and North Hollywood. (About 5 miles, or 30 minutes in LA traffic, as it turns out.) Or for that matter, between Hollywood and West Hollywood. (Homeless people and drunks vs. gays and gay drunks.) I didn’t know anyone except for Jay. The night we arrived, we went to Universal CityWalk, a place which I’ve come to revile as the most touristy spot in the city. That night, it was everything I wanted to believe LA was. Flashy, colorful and oversized. Jurassic Park was a Universal movie, so synergy was in full effect. Right outside the multiplex stood a replica of the Jurassic Park gate from the movie (or was it the actual set from the film shoot? Sure, probably.)
The place was packed with people eager to see a T-Rex devour Jeff Goldblum, and little did I know, there was no more apt metaphor for what LA was about to do to me. The movie was playing on about 8,000 screens, with shows starting pretty much every 20 seconds. Jay and I decided to buy tickets, but even though it was 3pm, every screening was sold out until after midnight. We bought tickets anyway, for the 12:25am show. Why not? We were young and technically homeless, and we had no reason to wake up early. We could use the time in between to find somewhere to sleep that night.
I remember walking through the crowds and thinking, “There’s no chance I’ll see anyone I know here, unless one of them is the cashier from Jack in the Box.” Yes, Jack in the Box was my first meal in Los Angeles. I’d heard so much about it, and I always wanted to see what West Coast fast food was like. I haven’t gone back very often in the last 17 years.
Jay and I read an ad in the LA Times for a hotel that would let us pay by the week. The rent was $200. It was on Hollywood Boulevard, which sounded glamorous to us. We walked into the run-down lobby, and I immediately thought of the Happiness Hotel from The Great Muppet Caper, except instead of puppets, there were prostitutes, junkies and people who, if I weren’t seeing them indoors, I would’ve assumed to be homeless.
We spoke to a cashier who sat behind bullet-proof glass. Through a slot in the window, we slid him $220 in cash. The extra $20 was for an 12-inch TV set, which operated with rabbit ears and a channel knob, no remote. There was no way we were missing the summer season of 90210.
TO BE CONTINUED…