Sunday, March 09, 2008


Well, it’s done. After an absurdly short preproduction period, a shoot challenged by weather, budget and greedy hillbillies, and an editing schedule which would have challenged the likes of Ed Wood Jr.

creator of the film "Plan Nine From Outer Space"

and commonly known amongst bad film afficianados as the Worst Director Of All Time, which is only true if you don’t count half of the self-styled “auteurs” working in Hollywood - we have delivered “Ice Blues” and “On The Other Hand, Death”, the latest pair of The Donald Strachey Mystery Movies.

The studio plans to release the first one in the early summer and the second some time around mid-autumn and while modesty prevents me from speaking the absolute truth about either film, suffice it to say that these two cinematic gems may well change the future of the motion picture industry for all time.

Of course you, dear reader, will be the final judge; don’t let the fact that I know where many of you live and where your children go to school influence any comments you may make on one of those dreadful Internet movie nerd review sites. I want you to feel free to express your opinions honestly without worrying about what someone might have slipped into little Alicia’s juicebox during nap time.

Speaking of the studios, it’s that season once again, when filmmakers like myself make the endless pilgrimage from Warner Brothers to Paramount and everywhere in between peddling our talents around town like a twenty five dollar hooker trying to make bus fare to the beach. For those of you for whom Hollywood exists solely on the screens of your television sets it must all look terribly glamorous but trust me, that glitter you see on the red carpets of the Kodak Theater is little more than used Botox needles, and beneath all that Prada cologne one can clearly make out the distinct aroma of fear in the air.

This year it's been more pungent than ever, since probably half of the writer/producer deals around town were recently cancelled thanks to the “force majeure” clause invoked by the studio bosses who used the three month long Writers’ Strike as justification to clean house and get rid of the dead wood.

(“Dead wood” in this case can be defined as: B-list actors with “development deals” trying to come up with vanity projects which will possibly make their budgets back by the time they reach Pay-Per-View; old guard producers whose last film was shot in VistaVision but who have retained their offices and a rotation of large breasted secretaries because of some handshake deal made with Louis B. Mayer; and ex-journalists whose knowledge of a Major Box Office Star’s Dirty Little Secret or What Really Happened To That Up And Coming Star Who Died In That Freak Accident – and willingness to keep their damn traps shut – resulted in a three picture deal. With gross points. )

The remaining players in the game are hustling harder than ever, trying to keep up their payments on the Bentley, the house in the hills and their plastic surgery and things are getting ugly; why do you think Starbucks stock is slipping? It's not the credit crunch, it's because Joel Silver decided to save money by installing his own espresso machine at the office.

But in spite of the competition, most of which is “stiff” only because of the Viagra of old relationships letting them trot the same tired ideas out year after year (do we REALLY need another tv cop/doctor/medical examiner show? Do you people REALLY watch this crap or do you just turn the televisions on to drown out the sound of your respective spouses droning about how “we never talk anymore…”?), I once again have been convinced by my agent Endora

to throw my hat into the ring and offer up my considerable abilities to the Dream Merchants of the Silver Screen.

This involves meeting half a dozen rather nervous middle management types per day and letting them lie to you about how much they “love your work”, as well as lying back at them about how excited you are by their new projects “in development” (usually featuring talking animals, sex-crazed teenagers or remakes of crappy movies from the 1980’s ABOUT talking animals and sex-crazed teenagers…”with heart…and some nudity”.) and then pretending to believe them when they say they “hope we find something to do together soon”.

Oh, and you get a free bottle of water at every stop.

Whether or not they accept my kind invitation to hitch their studios to my wagon, thereby not only assuring themselves a successful film but also a coveted spot on my IMDB list - - I at least have had the chance to spend several happy hours reacquainting myself with Hollywood.

Strolling along its “Walk of Fame”,

dodging disappointed tourists, heartbroken actors and the occasional certifiably deranged loon – today’s “special” guest marched in a circle near a bus shelter howling “I have to take a dump and I can’t get out of my robot suit! I have to take a dump and I can’t get out of my robot suit!” - is certainly more entertaining than anything on the movie screens these days.

Unfortunately on this particular sojourn I didn't get to see any of the costumed characters outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater get arrested; last summer a fellow dressed as Chewbacca was charged with assault

when he headbutted one of those annoying tour guides hawking Maps To The Homes Of Stars Who Died Before Color Film. And of course who can forget the day that Elmo was handcuffed in front of a crowd of horrified children and their mortified parents for roughing up tourists who wouldn't toss him a measly five bucks for posing for pictures?

(One wonders if the poor fellow spent a sleepless night in LA County Jail fending off other inmates intent on finding out if Elmo REALLY liked to be Tickled?)

Still, getting to guzzle seven complimentary liters of Arrowhead’s finest as I catch up on the “trades” – Variety, Hollywood Reporter, the Betty Ford Center Newsletter – for free in the waiting room before yet another shell-shocked assistant has had the chance to shove me into his or her boss's office makes the whole thing well worth the drive from Palm Springs. And while virtually nothing ever comes of these meetings, at least I’m well hydrated by the end of the day.

Of course Los Angeles has charms outside the studio system as well, and whenever I venture into the City of Angels I make sure I avail myself of these.

The Pantages Theater, for example, is currently home to the Los Angeles company of the stage show WICKED, a revisionist version of The Wizard of Oz which has been a massive hit on the Broadway stage.

Faithful readers of this blog will know that my taste in live theater runs to the slightly less reputable; I like strippers and puppets and if the strippers actually USE puppets in their act

well, as far as I'm concerned that’s worth a cover charge AND a two drink minimum.

However, with the recent occurrence of Black Thursday – some of you may know it by its colloquial name “Valentine’s Day” – I found myself inexplicably moved to purchase two rather pricey seats in the orchestra section of the aforementioned presentation for myself and The Boyfriend, for whom live theater is practically a religious experience.

This particular peccadillo of his has led to several lively “conversations” as he tried to indoctrinate me into the cult of “Miss Saigon” or, worse, “Les Miserables”

(a play so aptly named I walked out at the intermission: it’s a loaf of BREAD for god’s sake – get OVER it!), but thus far I have resisted his attempts to – as he says – “broaden” my horizons. My “horizons” are just fine as they are, thank you, and hardly need to be “broadened” by the leaping about of part-time waiters for whom even life’s more tedious events become a series of dramatic moments punctuated by an endlessly repetitive series of songs written by Andrew Rice Mackintosh or whoever the hell it is this week.

Fortunately The Pantages has a bar. In the lobby.

And another one up the stairs.

There's also another across the room on the other side of the lobby, up another set of stairs.

And in case you missed any of those, don't forget about the one down in the basement.

Basically, the whole place is a bar with a stage plopped at one end which is, in my opinion, the way theater should be seen. Drunk.

I must admit, however, that the experience wasn’t as unedurable as I expected. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud, nodding at the emotional parts and – god help me – almost singing along with the show stopping numbers we’ve all heard on the radio: “For Good”, as delightful a piece about regret and friendship as there is and, of course, “Defying Gravity” – a terrific piece of music which, in its original form, is almost frightening in its intensity. It certainly isn’t well served by the unlistenable travesty of a “dance mix” version put together to play in gay bars across the country so that my theater queen brethren can have their cake and Idina too.

It mustn’t be assumed, though, that this brief foray into the world of culture has swayed me from my usual Tinseltown haunts. The next morning, when The Boyfriend packed his Cindy Crawford skin creme and headed back to the desert to check on some feathered houseguests (801 has currently become a bit of a “birdsit” as we care for a couple of redoubtable cockatiels

and one simply cannot trust someone with my houseboy Panton’s cultural pedigree around fresh poultry for more than a day or two, no matter how many times I’ve tried to explain the concept of “pet” to him – just last week I caught him reading up on recipes for squab in an Ecuadorean cookbook)

I headed back to a few of my favorite spots in Dreamland. Some I’ve mentioned before:

The Spotlight Bar (corner of Selma and Cahuenga, Hollywood) for example, is one of the oldest established lounges in Hollywood and has, for as long as anyone can recall, been the kind of place where Gentlemen Of A Vintage help out the “Boy-jolais Nouveau” as it were who have been drawn like moths to the flame of fame and are, perhaps, having a hard time making the rent while waiting to pick up their Oscars.

Others - like Musso and Frank

(Hollywood Blvd. at Cherokee) the oldest restaurant in Hollywood - offer the delirious experience of actually being served lunch by somebody who mixed drinks for the likes of Bogart, Welles and – dear god – Mr. Hitchcock himself.

My weekly ritual during the Meeting Season never varies; I insist on finishing my Dog and Pony Show on Wednesdays by noon, so I can make it to Musso’s in time for my standing 1 pm reservation, wherein I have exactly two martinis, three slices of sourdough bread and one large Caesar Salad, hold the anchovies. Sometimes I am joined by my glamorous sibling Jane, a member of the Sacred Order of the Sisters of the Rotating Husbands,

or on occasion by a certain Academy Award Nominee who was all but raised on Musso’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

But more often than not I sit quietly, alone in the big room as I am now,

reading a book picked up from Larry Edmunds’ brilliant literary shop across the street

and wonder what it must have been like to be a part of all of this when the word “Hollywood” conjured up dreams of magic and glamour.

It is, admittedly, a far cry from trying to cobble together a thriller or two out of the muddy cow pastures of a Canadian tax credit production deal and I certainly have no delusions of my own grandeur. But if I squint a bit, and let the late afternoon sun coming in through the film-noir-worthy venetian blinds of this beautiful old restaurant, it doesn’t seem like such a long distance after all...


Blogger bbkp said...

Fabulous news re the release dates of your new chefs-d'oeuvre. For those of us who can't access here!, will the DVDs be out at the same time?

5:31 PM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

hmm...good question bbkp, not sure about that. sometimes they do a day/date release theatrically and PPV, and then the DVD 60 days later or thereabouts. I will look into this for you and announce it herewith...but if you can't access heretv, perhaps you'd better have a chat with your cable provider? Tell them you need your Strachey fix!!

12:50 PM  
Blogger bbkp said...

Indeed we do! However and sadly, we do not live in your country and, oh those silly communications regulators take *years* to consider these necessities of life, d'apres nous of course. 'Twould be ever so faster to buy the DVD if your dear distribution people would help us out. Ta!

6:36 PM  

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