July 13, 2006

Hollywood Hustle

"Weeks turn into years, how quck they pass. And all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas."
-- Burt Bacharach, "Do You Know the Way to San Jose"

"You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby...you're gonna DIEEE"
-- Guns 'N Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle"

I have just been on the receiving end of the Hollywood Hustle, and it doesn't feel pretty.

L.A. has a reputation as a town full of hustlers trying to break into show biz, as actors, writers, singers, dancers, and every other imaginable occupation. There are waiters who recite restaurant specials in Shakespearean character. There are gas station attendants with screenplays in their pockets. And as I found out, there are coffee bar baristas with dreams of hitting it big. In my case, it was a woman whom I'll call "Sonya."

Sonya is fortysomething, thin and reasonably attractive, with dark features and a European accent. The first time I met her at her place of business in a beach community near Los Angeles, she was very personable, friendly and helpful, and even gave us a free snack. A day later, when I showed up again, she remembered me and hit me up. After initial pleasantries and order taking, she asked me if I "have any rich friends" in the area. In truth, the answer is yes, but I had to ask her why. She said that she was an actress and wants to get back into acting, and is looking for some influential contacts. She was very persistent, asking me for my phone number and the numbers of my local friends. She said that some of her male customers offer to help her, but they just want to "take her out." She says that business comes first. I guess that means that she goes out with her customers, if they first put out with professional leads. Then she offered me what she must have considered her deal clincher -- a free bag of chocolate-covered expresso beans. When I politely declined for health reasons, she seemed surprised and reminded me that they were "on her."

As I turned to leave, she said she was expecting my lead-laden phone call by the next day. While I admire the persistence and inventiveness that characterizes America and capitalism, it was sad to discover that the stereotypes in the songs are true, and that one cannot even order a cup of coffee in L.A. without being hit with the Hollywood Hustle.


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

same here in Mumbai. bollywood dream. only that people here a little conservative. you know, can't escape indian conservatism.
nice post.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't dis Hollywood; that hustle has been around for a hundred years. I would have taken the beans. Well written.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Thank you. Polio was around for a hundred years too, that doesn't make it a good thing. I'm all for trying to get ahead, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. When the other person clearly feels that he's been played, it's the wrong way and doesn't lend itself to the desired result. Besides, those chocolate-covered espresso beans not only make my heart race, they give me cavities!


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