Hollywood – Part II
After watching the Logan Lucky premier at the Director’s Guild theater on West Sunset, I caught a Lyft back over to the Dream Hotel in Hollywood for the afterparty. My driver asked if I had any fun plans for the weekend. I told him: “This.” When I made the same query of him, he mentioned he had recently moved out from Ohio to be an actor and was celebrating finally having landed an agent. He was hoping his driving days would be behind him and he might finally be able to support himself solely through film and TV. We pulled onto Selma at around 9:30 PM and he dropped me at the curb. I wished him luck, closed the door, and made my way through the throng of young club-goers, each worming their way closer to the velvet rope that was preventing their entrance.
Not sure of where exactly I was supposed to go, I spotted one of the actors from the film walking to a private entrance around the side and followed him. There were about five girls standing around the barrier to the door, seemingly trying to explain to the bouncer why they should be allowed access to the rooftop bar. I checked in with the party planner who verified my identity, and a gigantic man in a black suit motioned for me to follow him into the elevator. The actor and his girlfriend were already inside the lift. I nodded at them with politeness and stood back into the corner as a few more execs from the movie packed into the space. Arriving at the top, we each made our way into the party, past a lighted swimming pool with aquamarine water, and into the private terrace at the end of the patio, roped off and guarded by more large bouncers. I was in, so I did the first thing I always do when I arrive anywhere with alcohol: I went to the bar and got myself a drink.
I spotted Steven in the corner, the only person I knew at the affair besides the event’s organizers who I’ve worked with closely over the years during the initial phases of Singani 63’s development. The backbar was packed with the bright orange and yellow labels that adorn the brand’s clear glass bottles and the menu offered a variety of options. I looked around briefly and watched a bevy of servers offer snacks to people who were not interested in eating. No one eats in Hollywood. Those calories have to be saved for the liquor. Following Steven’s example, I ordered a large Singani on the rocks—the Subwoofer, as he calls it. Not wanting to bother him just yet, I moved over to the back of the room where I saw a man sitting by himself, sipping a glass of wine. Looking closer, I realized exactly who it was. He was another famous actor; not from Steven’s latest film, but someone whose work I am intimately familiar with.
“Are you alone over here?” I asked him with an air of familiarity.
He looked up from his phone and smiled; “Yeah, running solo tonight.”
“You mind if I hang over here with you? I don’t really know anyone here,” I responded.
“Of course,” he answered cordially and introduced himself. I told him my name and we shook hands.
There’s a rule in Hollywood that requires non-celebrities to never mention the fact they recognize famous actors when meeting them. When in situations like this, I keep that adage in the back of my mind, but I don’t follow it exclusively. Acting like you don’t recognize someone when you do feels wrong to me. That recognition doesn’t have to be the subject of the initial conversation, but when I watch other people say things like, “Oh, are you an actor?” when faced with these situations, it always pains me—as if they didn't know! In this particular instance, it never really came up. We fell right into an easy dialogue about city living, drinking, and married life before any of that potential discomfort came to the forefront. It wasn’t until a few others decided to join us that the invisible barrier was broken and we were allowed to talk about the very thing we all knew was the case.
“Do you remember when selling out was considered a bad thing?” he asked me rhetorically at one point; “I feel like no one really cares anymore. Today actors go to paid conventions and make thousands of dollars signing autographs and taking pictures—and it’s no big deal. I still have trouble with that, however.”
“Do you not enjoy it?” I asked him earnestly.
“No,” he answered, “but not for the reasons you might think. I can't just take people's money and turn off my emotions. When I meet fans of my movies I give them my entire heart. I’m excited that they’re excited, so I want them to have everything I can give them: hugs, photos, autographs, everything. But when you give everything that you have repeatedly, over and over—for hours on end—it takes something out of you. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. I don’t think people were meant to do that.”
I was taken aback by his forthrightness, but also by how much I related to his explanation. I responded by telling him about what I did for a living, how I spend most of my time answering emails around the clock, fielding phone calls and in-store questions from boozehounds who want to pick my brain or ask for my advice. He was surprisingly rivited. I couldn't tell who was more interested in the other by this point. He asked me more questions about the unique facets of my position until he seemed to find catharsis.
By the end of the night we had exchanged numbers, embraced, and promised to reach out to one another soon. My experience in Hollywood over the years has taught me that, ultimately, everyone's just looking for a little understanding, no matter how famous they are. Despite all the barriers, the limited access, and the esteem, most people just want to find a similar connection. I know I do.