Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Will Gardner - The World is in Mourning


So far, it’s been a very traumatic year in my TV viewing life. First came the news that my daily lunchtime fix, the courtroom show Judge Alex, was ending; then Harvey Specter found himself a girlfriend in Suits (she will, quite simply, have to go); and, last week, The Good Wife killed off Will Gardner. That’s three of the men in my life suddenly out of reach.
   
Tears were shed over Judge Alex; spitting blood was more the case with Harvey; while with Will, I have entered a depression so deep, we are talking coma.
   
How the cast and crew kept Will’s death (I can hardly bear to write those words) a secret for a year is, in itself, a small miracle. Josh Charles, who plays him (utterly brilliantly) . . . I should say played now, I suppose . . . will undoubtedly go on to do other great things; but that doesn’t lessen the devastation on the part of fans of this terrific show.
   
You will notice a common theme here – all the above-mentioned shows relate to the law in some way. I have always been, and am, fascinated by the law. At one stage in my life, I was going to train as a barrister, but on reflection I think I would rather play a lawyer than be one: fewer exams – and you may get to see Gabriel Macht (Harvey Specter) with his kit off.
   
I put it all down to doing The Merchant of Venice at a very early age. Durham Road Junior School in Newport started its kids young with Shakespeare – I was eight, to be precise. I recall the horror when the money lender Shylock set the bond of a pound of flesh, should Antonio fail to repay his loan (I was, and remain in adulthood, happier about the idea of borrowing money you will never be able to afford to pay back). 

But then I was even more horrified when Antonio got out of the deal on the grounds that Shylock could have his pound of flesh, provided that he did not shed a drop of Antonio’s blood when taking it. Even aged eight, I knew that this was some smart defense lawyer (apologies to British readers for my having adopted US spelling; I am an attorney now, you know), but I felt that it was a very unfair loophole. Call yourself a Christian, Antonio? At least Jesus took death on the chin like a real man.
   
I’ve always thought that being a defense lawyer must be a lot tougher than being a prosecutor. If they’re in court in the first place, they must be guilty, that’s my instant reaction (Guilty until proven more guilty, in other words). In defense, you have to come up with so many more ridiculous excuses. Take the Oscar Pistorius case going on in South Africa at the moment. He claims that he accidentally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, mistaking her for a burglar on the other side of the bathroom door. Neighbours claim to have heard her terrified screams; Pistorius’s defense lawyer is arguing that the athlete screams like a girl. 

Frighteningly, I think the judge (there is no jury in the case – how weird is that?) might go for it, not least because the defense lawyer, Gene Hackman lookalike Barry Roux, has cut a rather impressive figure. “Teeeellll me,” he says, in his thick South African accent, “how keeeen eeeet beeee. . . ?” And off he goes with his absurd, unbelievable concoction of stories about cricket bats and gunshots and men who scream like girls when they’ve just committed murder. “Eeeeet keeeennnnnnnot beeeee!” he insists, at every turn; and, for a moment, you sort of believe him.
  
Then, reality hits home, and, quite frankly, I’m not buying into the girlie screaming defense. If you can win an Olympic medal with a couple of blades strapped to the leg stumps you’ve had from birth, I imagine you done all the girlie screaming you’ll ever need in one lifetime. Let’s get Oscar on the stand, poke him with a very hot stick, and let’s test that screaming is what I say.
   
Alas, the case has been halted because one of the two assessors who accompany the judge has been taken ill. If she can’t return, the whole case will have to start again from scratch; I suspect Barry is already clearing a space on his mantelpiece for that Oscar he undoubtedly deserves – in both senses of the word.
   
Anyway, back to the lovely Will Gardner. Will is – or, rather, was – a very good defense lawyer. In fact, it was defending his client that got him shot, when the man grabbed a police officer’s gun and went berserk in the courtroom. I still haven’t quite worked out why one of Will’s shoes came off in the fracas, but then I haven’t seen Sunday’s flashback episode yet, which might explain why a man so fastidious in his work can’t tie his shoelaces properly.
   
I’m going to have to wait a few weeks before seeing it, too, as I’m off traveling again (or travelling, as they say in the UK). Ill be going back to LA via New York, where I would love to meet Joey Jackson, the defense lawyer expert who regularly appears on Vinnie Politan’s On the Case show on HLN (Vinnie’s another hot lawyer, by the way – again, in both senses of the word; and he’s a prosecutor, to boot). With Judge Alex, Harvey Specter and Will Gardner out of my life, it’s my new fix.
   
I tell you: Joey could get Judas off on the grounds that he thought the 30 pieces of silver were chocolate coins. I’ve told him that if I’m ever in trouble, I want him heading up my team. 

And if he fails in his duty, let’s just hope it’ll be Judge Alex, Harvey Specter or Will Gardner putting me in the handcuffs.
   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

AA (Alexoholics Anonymous) - and why Fox TV should pay for our treatment!

The news that Fox has not renewed the brilliant TV courtroom show Judge Alex has been met with great distress among fans, who rely on it for their entertainment fix. Here, for those who might need treatment, is a 12 Step Program that might help you through the traumatic days to come when the show comes off the air in August. Feel free to bill Fox for your treatment.

       THE 12 STEP AA (ALEXOHOLICS ANONYMOUS) PROGRAM

1.    We admitted that we were powerless over the TV show Judge Alex – that our lives had become unmanageable without it.

2.     Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. That person is Judge Alex the human being (you see how easy it is to fall at the second hurdle?).

3.     Made a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM i.e. that good looking bloke Judge Alex off the telly, so ditto number 2: if we understand God to be Judge Alex, we are right back where we started.

4.     Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. If you have never been before Judge Alex in court, you should be covered on the moral stuff. If he has yet to take out a restraining order on you, that moral inventory might be something to cover at a future date.

5.     Admitted to Judge Alex, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. If Judge Alex is happy to come to your house and lets you bring along another “human being”, should he like that sort of thing, feel free to beat yourself to absolve you of your wrongdoing. Be careful: this is where the 12 Step program can go VERY awry. Possibly time to give it up as a bad job and go to the pub.

6.     Were entirely ready to have Judge Alex remove all these defects of character. Handcuffs might do the trick, your Honour.

7.     Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. Most JA addicts want no comings removed, short or otherwise, so that’s going to be an issue.

8.     Made a list of all persons we have harmed  (Judge Judy’s viewing figures, your friends and family sick of hearing about JA, JA himself) and became willing to make amends to them all. Be warned that JA may be less amenable to your willingness to approach him on the subject of amendment than you are.

9.     Made direct amends to people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. As with Step 8, do not assume that the Judge is as keen on the directness of your approach. He can run faster than your Air Miles can catch him.

10.  Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. You are not wrong. You watched his show. You supported him. And now Fox TV have ruined your life. It is THEY who should be admitting wrongdoing to YOU.

11.  Sought through prayer (“Please, God, make Judge Alex marry me”) and meditation (“Hmmmmm, Hmmmmm, Hmmmmmarry me, Judge”) to improve our conscious contact with JA, as we understood him (that very, very good looking bloke off the telly), praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out. If you pray that His will is to declare undying love to you, don’t waste the little power you have left. Or your Air Miles.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to Alexoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Bring tissues to share your grief. There are a lot of people in the same position as you.

13.  And we have an additional step: boycott Fox TV.





Thursday, March 6, 2014

Los Angeles Singles - A Singularly Bad Experience

Their website, Los Angeles Singles, claims they are “Los Angeles’s  #1 Dating Service for High-Calber, Sincere Singles”, claiming that the people on their books are “quite a catch”. They begin with a “personal consultation” and the offer of “quality singles” “you have always dreamed of dating”.
  
Several months on, I am well over $1000 down, no match, and enduring considerable upset dealing with people who not only did not deliver what they promised, but showed a breathtaking lack of understanding and sensitivity when my circumstances changed.
  
They came to me by accident. Having given up with dating agencies, I inadvertently found Los Angeles Singles online. Having lived in LA for five years, I had toyed with the idea of meeting someone but, having had bad experiences, had not pursued this actively. Then, ads kept appearing on my Facebook page along the lines of: “Bill the fireman is just five miles down the road from you and really wants to meet”.
  
I managed to resist. Bill the fireman might look all right at the moment, but what would he be like after his next job? I didn’t want to be a fireman’s wife, swabbing Bill’s disfigured face over breakfast every morning. I didn’t want to be a fireman’s widow, either (although that might be preferable to the disfigurement scenario).
  
But once you click on any similar ads, they’ve got you, and somehow, this particular the matchmaker pursued me. I decided to fill out their form, but changed my mind halfway through. Then the phone-calls started. Non-stop. And so I found myself in Brentwood, in an office, being assured that there was a veritable plethora of men out there who would be “perfect” for me.
  
These people, I quickly discovered, operate like Timeshare merchants. They shut you in a room to do the form-filling and then, when you get them face to face, they show you pictures of how your life could be if only you were to surrender everything about the old you and hand over everything to them – which, in this case, was $8000 for “the 12 man package”.
  
Pictures of overweight, smiling couples in hideous wedding gear adorned the room, and already I wanted to run. If Bill the fireman was going to be a pain in the arse, imagine being married to George the overweight salesman in a pink shirt for the rest of my life.
  
I was asked about my dating history and the type of man I liked. I specially stressed tall. Over six feet. Apart from David the plump ginger cheat, I had never been out with a man under six feet in my life, nor did I intend to start (have you seen how many wild bears there are out there?). The interviewer tried to stress that sometimes life could take you by surprise and you might go for someone entirely different. This did not bode well. At this point, I knew they had absolutely no man over six feet who wanted a short, dark, clever, funny, successful, and not bad looking Welsh bird.
  
What about Danny DeVito, she asked. Wasn’t he an example of an attractive short man? Nooooooooo, I screamed. She pushed me on the subject. Wasn’t there ANYONE under six feet I might go for? At a stretch, I reckoned James Spader (Boston Legal – lawyer, albeit acting one). I could do Mark Harmon (NCIS – cop, albeit acting one), too. Or that lovely Latino bloke from Law and Order: SVU (cop – okay, another acting one). 

She looked slightly relieved. Finally, she thought she was getting somewhere. But I still want Judge Alex, I wailed (TV courtroom show, but real life ex-cop, lawyer, Judge – and an ex-pilot, too. Uniform. Tick, tick, tick, tick). Tall, dark, handsome, clever, funny. TALL! Are you listening to me, woman? Her sigh shook the building.
  
I negotiated them down to $2000 for the 12 man package (don’t believe them when they say their rates are non-negotiable – they are; they whacked mine down in the hope of future publicity), although they told me that I could have more dates, should I need them (trust me, a dollar a man was not even going to come close to their finding me what I wanted – I could already see that).

I told the interviewer I had changed my mind. Then the pressure started. It would be such a shame if, having come so far, I were to leave now . . . I would be “so easy” to fix up with someone . . . I was so eligible . . . so funny . . . The flattery was piled on, quickly followed by a contract and a pen. Like I said, it’s like a Timeshare: they grab you at a moment of vulnerability. I even ended up crying when the key low points in my romantic history were repeated to me. So I ended up staying.
  
After several weeks (and many phone-calls from me), they sent me the details of an interested man. Five feet seven. FIVE FEET SEVEN! That's not a man, it's a hobbit. The bear could eat him for breakfast and still have room to consume an entire McDonald’s chain. Not only that, he was living in rented accommodation – at the age of 60 – and spent our phone-call moaning about how unhappy he was in his job (that’s another thing I can’t stand: people who hate what they do and do nothing to change it). He also told me that he didn't like TV and didn't watch it. Quite how they thought that putting him together with a TV writer was a good idea is anybody's guess.

I complained. As a homeowner (one in the UK, one in Spain, plus a US rental), I at least expected someone who owned his own home. I’m not after anyone’s money, but “high caliber” carries a lot of expectations. They did not offer me anyone else - quite obviously, because they clearly had no one.

Then, my circumstances changed owing to a personal situation back home and I told them I might have to return to the UK. I was very distressed and was told there would be no problem with my having a refund.

None was forthcoming. Not only that, no one returned my calls. It was only when I left a voicemail with the threat of legal action that they got back to me; this was followed up by a letter telling me that I was entitled only to a partial refund, as I would be charged $1000 for the consultation and $125 for the one-man intro - a man I never even met because he did not fulfil even the most basic criteria. Yes, it’s in the contract - in very small print, of course - but to me the contract is null and void because they 100% could not and did not offer what they told me they could in that consultation. The additional clause, claiming that they will offer someone "close" to what you want is, of course, ridiculous, when what they offer is a million miles away from the essentials you stress.
  
So, I find myself, in my mid-Fifties, pursuing a company for having taken $1025 on the grounds of their having grossly misrepresented what they could offer me.

They are having none of it and, again, are ignoring my correspondence, so the best I can do is share my experience and warn others not to be taken in.

In my opinion, these people couldn’t match a match to its box.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Danny DeVito vs Judge Alex - the Jury's NOT Out

FACT. There are no decent, available men out there. Anywhere. In the world.

And here’s another FACT. There never have been.
  
Trust me: I’ve been out there for over four decades now and have trawled five countries and three continents (so far), so you can’t say I haven’t tried. But it’s a wasteland. A wasteland littered with penises (or should that be penii?) of so many shapes, sizes (and smells: let’s not beat about the bush – although many have tried), but trying to land one accompanied by a brain, humour and even average good looks, is an impossibility.
  
My first date was at 14 with a police cadet (the astute among you will already have noticed my lifelong obsession with law enforcement and uniform). His name was Kevin and we went to see The Sting. He kept kissing me/dribbling over me at all the key moments, which, with my already being a lover of film and television, was a real drag.
  
My first boyfriend was called Pete. He was very nice and wanted to marry me. I was 16 and he was 21 and there was no sex. We went to Barry Island funfair in his car (registration number NBX 693H – maybe you’re getting to see why I’ve never found a man?), where he attempted to put his hand down my top. My screams drowned out even those of the people on the roller coaster.
  
A bad relationship with someone much older set the pattern for me to make bad choices for the next 30 years, but there was fun along the way. Most of the guys are dead now, anyway, or at least on their way out, so I must have done something right (or wrong, depending on your way of looking at it. Hey, ho. I’m still standing).
  
Concentration on my career put any thoughts of a regular relationship on the back burner; I also love freedom: deciding to take the train to Paris at a moment’s notice; moving to Los Angeles when I had gone there only for a holiday (okay, I was in pursuit of a man. Sadly, not interested. Even sadder. Dead. After only five months of knowing me. See what I mean? But you’ll have to wait for the book on that one).
  
I don’t like being answerable to anyone. I specially don’t like certain aspects of coupledom – in particular, when one person (usually the male) wants to stay at a party, the other (invariably, the female) doesn't, but the party pooper insists on their more exciting other half leaving with them, thereby removing them from my tentacles.
  
But in recent years, I decided to dip my toe back into the dating game.

I wasn’t optimistic. The last time I tried it, when I moved to London in my twenties, I went to an Easter party at a singles club in London’s West End. A man dressed as a rabbit kept trying to force his carrot on me. Then I tried Dinner Dating and sat next to what seemed like a very nice photographer. He fell asleep. In his soup. At the next dinner, I sat next to a horologist during the starter but called time on him and moved seats for the main course. Man number two was a urologist, but after exhausting the subject of my tiny bladder and the origins of the phrase “a piece of piss”, gave up.
  
Dating in Paris, where I lived for seven years, would surely be a . . . well, a piece of piss. It was rumoured to be the most romantic city on Earth, after all, although my experience had been anything but. My one time boyfriend and I sat drinking at a wine bar in Montparnasse, where he told me: “You are the most funny, clever, brilliant woman I have ever met . . . I just don’t fancy you.” He was no Serge Gainsbourg, let me tell you. He’s probably also dead now (along with Serge), but I no longer care.
  
Paris also brought me a saxophonist, a banker, and a Grand Master who kept groping me under the chess table every time it was time for me to make my move on the board. At least, that was my excuse for never losing to him in over four moves.
  
The dating club was a disaster. With my limited French, I was never going to fit in with the philosophical tone of their events. While I can ask for a beer and offer a blow-job (“Une bière et voulez-vous une pipe, monsieur?”) in most languages, it doesn’t get you very far in a discussion about the nature of love according to Stendhal.
  
Clearly, it was Europe that was at fault, not me, so when I moved to the US, I thought I would try again. It’s a big country; there had to be ONE man there, didn’t there?
  
I tried a couple of dating agencies and was very specific in my requests. Tall (I’m only five feet, so I want a man who can protect me from a bear), funny, smart, kind, slim, mentally stable (I was so done with unstable) and generous. I had my diamond tennis bracelet nicked a few years back, so this was important. I had also paid for every single thing for every man in my entire history, which had left my bank account somewhat diminished (don’t even get me started on David the money-grabbing, short, fat, ginger bore, who went off with Bonny the nurse from Boston).
  
And he HAD to be a non-smoker who lived not more than 30 miles from Los Angeles, because, although I drive, I don’t have a car here.
  
So what do both agencies send me? Every overweight, chain-smoking, unemployed, clearly psychotic dwarf from Wisconsin.

Having given up with dating agencies, I inadvertently found a matchmaker. I hadn’t intended to, but ads kept appearing on my Facebook page along the lines of: “Bill the fireman is just five miles down the road from you and really wants to meet”.
  
I managed to resist. Bill the fireman might look all right at the moment, but what would he be like after his next job? I didn’t want to be a fireman’s wife, swabbing Bill’s disfigured face over breakfast every morning. I didn’t want to be a fireman’s widow, either (although that might be preferable to the disfigurement scenario).
  
But once you click, they’ve got you, and the matchmaker pursued me. I decided to fill out their form, but changed my mind halfway through. Then the phone-calls started. Non-stop. And so I found myself in Brentwood, in an office, being assured that there was a veritable plethora of men out there who would be “perfect” for me.
  
These people, I quickly discovered, operate like Timeshare merchants. They shut you in a room to do the form-filling and then, when you get them face to face, they show you pictures of how your life could be if only you were to surrender everything about the old you and hand over everything to them – which, in this case, was $8000 for “the 12 man package”.
  
Pictures of overweight, smiling couples in hideous wedding gear adorned the room, and already I wanted to run. If Bill the fireman was going to be a pain in the arse, imagine being married to George the overweight salesman in a pink shirt for the rest of my life.
  
I was asked about my dating history and the type of man I liked. I specially stressed tall. Over six feet. Apart from David the plump ginger cheat, I had never been out with a man under six feet in my life, nor did I intend to start (have you seen how many wild bears there are out there?). The interviewer tried to stress that sometimes life could take you by surprise and you might go for someone entirely different. This did not bode well. At this point, I knew they had absolutely no man over six feet who wanted a short, dark, brilliant, funny and (allegedly) unfanciable Welsh bird.
  
What about Danny DeVito, she asked. Wasn’t he an example of an attractive short man? Nooooooooo, I screamed. She pushed me on the subject. Wasn’t there ANYONE under six feet I might go for? At a stretch, I reckoned James Spader (Boston Legal – lawyer, albeit acting one). I could do Mark Harmon (NCIS – cop, albeit acting one), too. Or that lovely Latino bloke from Law and Order: SVU (cop – okay, another acting one). 

She looked slightly relieved. Finally, she thought she was getting somewhere. But I still want Judge Alex, I wailed (TV courtroom show, but real life ex-cop, lawyer, Judge – and an ex-pilot, too. Uniform. Tick, tick, tick, tick). Tall, dark, handsome, clever, funny. TALL! Are you listening to me, woman? Her sigh shook the building.
  
I negotiated them down to $2000 for the 12 man package (don't believe them when they tell you fees are not negotiable - they are), although they told me that I could have more dates, should I need them (trust me, a dollar a man was not even going to come close to their being able to find me what I wanted – I could already see that).
  
After several weeks, they sent me the details of an interested man. Five feet seven. FIVE FEET SEVEN! That's not a man, it's a hobbit. The bear could eat him for breakfast and still have room to consume an entire McDonald’s chain. Not only that, he was living in rented accommodation – at the age of 60 – and spent our phone-call moaning about how unhappy he was in his job (that’s another thing I can’t stand: people who hate what they do and do nothing to change it).
  
So, I find myself, in my mid-Fifties, pursuing a company for having taken $2000 from me and misrepresenting what they could offer - a disgraceful $1000 for the interview and $125 for the hobbit "intro".

I might take the case to Judge Alex. Even being a litigant in his courtroom has to beat planning Danny DeVito’s diet.

Or Bill the fireman’s funeral.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

My American Lobotomy


Phew. So I got through Valentine's Day in Paris. Alone.

It was a darn sight better than the few occasions I have ever been here with a bloke in what is purported to be the most romantic city in the world. One man, a journalist, sat with me at a wine bar in Montparnasse and told me I was the smartest, funniest, quickest and most brilliant woman he had ever met. He just didn't fancy me.

Just find me the nearest Metro, mate, and throw me under a train.
 
Another disaster was the guy who would eventually go off with a nurse from Boston (he was so determined to get that Green Card). He was a disaster from the start, if I am honest. I once sat bemoaning my fate to a friend and said: "He's too short, boring, unattractive, overweight, not funny, he doesn't find me funny and the sex is crap." "Then dump him," said my friend. "But he's 37 and single," I wailed. My friend: "But it doesn't mean he's the right 37 and single."

It didn't and he wasn't. The nurse is welcome to his ginger pubes (oh yes, that was another thing. Ginger, FFS. What was I thinking?).
 
And so, I am in Paris, the city I lived in for seven wonderful years and where I managed not to get arrested (how memories of the rue Bonaparte sidewalk at 4am are flooding back).

It is, as ever, a city of exquisite light and fine wine, and it is good to catch up with old friends, most of whom I met when making my TV series, Star Suppers. The format was that celebrities came to my apartment and cooked for me, while I sat on a stool drinking and interviewing them. Great format. Don't know how I thought of it.

Most of the celebrities were rat-arsed. The Royle Family's Sue Johnston lost her passport and her wig fell off. Emmerdale's Sam Giles (who plays Bernice) and I had a giggling fit. It took us 17 takes and two bottles of champagne just to do the intro "Welcome to Paris, Sam." She had been drafted in at very short notice after Sue Johnston had arrived at the airport to discover her passport was out of date ( what is it about that woman and passports?).

The point of the show was that people chose a signature dish that held some meaning for them, but owing to the lateness of the booking, we had to come up with something simple for Sam. "Seafood risotto," said the director, Julie. "But what's the story behind it?" asked Sam. Me: "Just say you had an Italian boyfriend." Sam: "Okay, just I don't ask me what his name was."
 
Red. Rag. Bull. "So what was his name?"
 
Roberto (as he came to be known) acquired a whole history, complete with cousins, grandmothers and variations on risotto we didn't even know existed, and we just could not get through the greeting segment in which the guest filled me in on the details. "Okay, there is no Roberto, no family, no Italy!" yelled Julie. "It's just a seafood risotto."
 
Still no luck. Julie, getting increasingly irate, thought that maybe it was the word "seafood" that was now setting us off. On and on. We just couldn't do it. The final cut went: "Welcome to Paris. What are you cooking?" "Rice dish."

I had to eat raw grains for the final shot.
 
When I lived here, I hated the demanding Americans in restaurants. Nothing was ever good enough, fast enough, cheap enough, clean enough. Now, after nearly five years in Los Angeles, I discover I have become one of them.
 
Ugh, look at all the chewing gum like myriads of tiny, glutinous stars on the sidewalks. How long is it going to take for that waiter to notice I am here? What do you mean, you don't have 18 different kinds of tea? And will you hurry up with that Croque Monsieur! And no, Mr Beggar, I don't have any spare change because I have just been charged a sodding fortune for a bottle of wine I could have bought in Trader Joe's for $4. And what’s this? You’re not even packing up my groceries for me? Now, take me to the airport. Oh, I forgot, Paris taxi drivers don't actually like to drive anywhere.

I am not enamoured with everywhere I have been in the US. I loathed San Francisco and really dislike Miami, not only because everything is so expensive there, but because on every occasion I have been, I get robbed - twice in one day last week (see previous blog). But I have a love of Los Angeles that goes very deep.
 
As a writer and a passionate lover of film and television, there is nowhere else on Earth that lives and breathes the industry like this city. The energy that emanates from every poster screaming about a new series never ceases to thrill me as I walk along Sunset Boulevard (even those two words make my marrow shiver).

Far from being the shallow culture that the outside world believes the city to be (in any case, every city has a shallow side), I see serious people doing serious work. Bright, smart, clever, funny people, at the top of their game. And, unlike Brits, they reach out to help newcomers further their careers in a ruthless industry. It is, without doubt, the most creative environment I have ever encountered.
 
Who knows. The scales may fall from my eyes, the stardust fade. But sitting here in Paris, the city I once swore I would die in (I still might; the weekend's not over yet), I am mentally packing up ready for my return to LA in time for the Oscars.
 
Who will top the Dead People part of the ceremony this year?

Will Philip Seymour Hoffman knock James Gandolfini off the top spot?

I can hardly wait.

Call me shallow.

Call me happy.