Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grief Encounter 3/30/11

Sometimes, you just have to accept that there are people whose sole purpose on Earth is to give other people grief.

Invariably bitter about the lot they have been dealt themselves, their strategy lies in the hope that in making others miserable, they will somehow feel better about themselves.

It never works, and they never learn that it never works; the poison just keeps eating away under the illusion of power.

I’ve had the misfortune to meet quite a few of these people in my time here; in fact, one of the reasons I have not been writing this blog regularly is that some of the individuals in question have made me physically ill. I have met many wonderful people in the two years I have been here, in particular those working in the film and TV industries, which were the reason I came in the first place; but this little pocket of nastiness has left a bad taste in the mouth.

With escalating blood pressure, for which it now seems I will have to go on medication, I went to a bookshop to see if there was anything that might help me deal with the problem in different ways.

There was the Bible of course – be good to them who hate you, love your enemy, turn the other cheek – but I wasn’t quite that far along the forgiveness route at that point.

Then, I happened upon a book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and Most of it is Small Stuff. It explains how most things that keep us awake at night, worrying, don’t really matter, and offers some techniques to help you deal with the difficult people you encounter in life.

One idea is to think of the bad people in your life as babies, long before evil struck them down. So, that’s what I tried to do with my detractors. Bonnets, dummies, toys. I thought of them as young children, innocently playing in the park. I focused on the things beyond their control that turned them into the bullying adults they have become.

This technique was sort of working, until the baby images were quickly dispelled from my mind and replaced by something that made me see right to the heart of my enemies in an instant: the Addams Family.

Forget all those nice little babies; the Addams Family was much closer to the reality. A TV show that was a satirical inversion of the ideal American family, it featured an eccentric, wealthy clan, who delighted in the macabre and were unaware that other people found them bizarre or frightening.

In real life, I had found my own Morticia (well, more like Morticia’s less attractive elder sister - and without the charm): a woman with only occasional wit, and a deathly disposition.

I had also found my Lurch, another member of the group, a man of few words, but regular grunts, sighs, or simply gesticulations. I endured only tenuous connections with the extended posse, with whom Morticia was regularly falling out, although more than one of them sounded as if they could have been a spiritual, emotional and body double for the African Strangler, the Addams' family’s man-eating plant, Cleopatra.

The hypnotist Paul McKenna once tried to help me overcome my fear of clowns by transforming their faces in my head into something more pleasant. I managed to do the transformation work with my Morticia and Lurch, although when you consider that the Addams Family was the surrogate family I replaced them with in my head, it gives an indication of the hell they put me through.

It still astonishes me that you can be incredibly kind towards people, support them through their woes (in Morticia’s case, a lot), and then they treat you poorly, cruelly, unfairly, and often, where finances are concerned, dishonestly.

How do such people sleep at night?

Are they sick, disillusioned, or just plain stupid?

Or just not very nice people?

I come from a culture where I was brought up to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, unless proven otherwise, and I have a long record in being fair and kind, both professionally and personally.

But when I came to LA, people warned me not to be as trusting as I had always been, and it’s true that I have often been disappointed, when what appeared to be one thing on the surface turned out to be the opposite.

I suppose that’s just life: it’s a cliché, but we really do live and learn. The weird thing is, that when I first met the Addams Family, all of my instincts said Run! I thought I should listen to my head rather than my heart, and it’s not the only time I got that wrong in LA.

City of Angels? There are quite a few here. But when you watch them fly too close to the sunny illusion, their wings, like those of Icarus, turn out to be a great deal less substantial.

So, having learned that, I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff and will be returning to writing on a more regular basis.

Some people, at the end of the day, are just liars, thieves and bastards. One day, they may wake up and realise that the rotten lot they have been handed in life is of their own making.

Yes, they were once all somebody’s baby.

It’s just bad luck that in my case, they happened to be Rosemary’s.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Naked Ambition And AADD 3/2/11

Which came first? The Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, or the desire to be a porn star?

It was the question I was left pondering the most, as I watched Sunday night’s Oscars in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

I did not know that my New Best Friend, to whom I had just been introduced, either had AADD, nor was into acting in porn films. She told me of the former herself and, when she left, another member of the group asked me if I was okay with her chosen career.

To be honest, I had no way of knowing if it was true, and nor did I care; she was fabulous company, and the great thing about someone with AADD, I discovered, is that it really takes the heat off your having to contribute too much to the conversation when you’re tired.

It was a relatively quiet Oscar week for me. On Friday night, I bumped into old friends at Soho House and also made some new ones. I stayed in on Saturday, in preparation for the big day, and had a drink in Beverly Hills’s Villa Blanca before moving onto the hotel.

Villa Blanca is owned by Ken and Lisa Vanderpump, the Brits who have become TV celebrities after their appearances in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Both Ken and Lisa (who handled herself with immense grace, dignity, wit and charm throughout the series) can regularly be seen in the rather exquisite white décor of the restaurant, which is now packed. It was pretty full before, but now it’s a TV tourist hot-spot it’s seriously crammed all the time; at mid-day on Sunday, I managed to get the restaurant's only available seat - at the bar.

But back to the Polo Lounge. The main barman, Greg, was presiding over all with his characteristic friendliness, which is extended to everyone, locals or strangers. He has an uncanny knack of remembering an awful lot about his customers, irrespective of how long it has been since their last visit.

I first met him when I arrived for a holiday in LA in November 2008, shortly before moving here in April 2009 (I can still hardly believe I have been here nearly two years). His effusiveness and calm in a crisis (he managed the crowded bar single-handedly for several hours on Sunday) makes the place one of the most pleasurable social venues, especially for women on their own who don’t want to appear like hookers (not something that can be said for all the hotel bars).

The ceremony was showing on a single TV screen, but I still managed to miss most of it, owing to the noise from customers. Nobody, unsurprisingly, was going to shout “Shssssh!” when the shortlist for Sound Mixing was announced, but for the biggies (actor, actress, director and film), there was practically a riot if somebody breathed over the announcement.

There were cheers from a few Brits for Colin Firth, who won for his portrayal of the stammering George VI in The King’s Speech, and although I was not a huge fan of the film, I adore Colin. Not only is he a lovely man and a terrific actor, he got his shirt wet in the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and livened up the review I wrote about it no end.

I wasn’t too bothered about missing any of the big parties when I saw who had attended them. Katie Price was reported as having been all over some Argentinian model at Elton John’s post-awards bash, and anywhere within a mile of that woman is still 1760 yards too close for me.

I almost ventured up to Chateau Marmont, where the Weinstein bash was taking place, but no sooner did the thought enter my head than I fell asleep with jet-lag in the Polo Lounge – not before I had given the porn star some tips, obviously.

So, awards season is at an end and we can get back to talking about what we were wittering about before it all began – Charlie Sheen’s apparent meltdown. It’s now the biggest real life soap opera in LA, out-eclipsing even The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills as THE show to watch.

Charlie also has a porn star as one of his entourage, albeit not the same one as I have. She’s in the papers as much as he is, not only kissing him but fawning over his twin boys, who yesterday were removed from the house.

Where must your career be if you see the ranting, bizarre behaviour of Charlie Sheen as a step up the ladder? You’d have to have a serious case of AADD first to think that, and then to follow through with it.

Which brings me back to my opening question: which comes first, the porn or the AADD?

Who knows. But where Charlie Sheen’s wallet is concerned, neither ever seems very far behind.