Monday, February 19, 2007

Personalities I

Los Angeles breeds uniqueness. Undeniably there are many interesting, and sometimes strange, characters inhabiting this city. Here are just a few that I've met or known during my decade here.

Sparky, as I like to call him, was born in the wrong era. A comedy writer and performer, he would have thrived during the days of Vaudeville. Somehow he landed in L.A. with a job in radio, where he continued working for years until two conglomerates finally managed to squeeze all the life out of the medium. He continues to write, currently for an animated children's show, but he has to supplement his income with a full time job. Quick witted, humorous, and yes, old fashioned, I'm certain his talents would have earned him a solid career in an earlier era, where he would have fit right in with the Algonquin Round Table.

Cletus Price was so confident that he would be a monstrously successful actor that he never really tried. Born into a semi-wealthy family, he never had to work for a living. Used to having things handed to him, he moved to Los Angeles and sought out his yes-men (and women) who were willing to smile and nod at anything he said, usually while enjoying a meal that he would buy.

Cletus would often write affirmations in large script and post them throughout his apartment. One sign simply read: 6,000,000, the amount of money he presumably wanted to sell his movie for. After years of not being cast in a blockbuster movie (mostly because he never auditioned for anything), Price finally financed his own film in which he wrote, starred, directed and even co-edited. The film never sold. Because yes-men surrounded him, no one ever told him that he couldn't act. Or write. Or direct. Or edit.

I met Sadie in a pool hall off of Fairfax in Hollywood. Beautiful, artistic, and talented, she had just moved to L.A. from Seattle. She spent the next few years as a struggling actress and writer until finally, an opportunity called her back to her hometown in Iowa. Unfortunately, the rift between her and her boyfriend tore viciously open as they debated moving to the Midwest. It was more than their relationship could take.

Some people find their success only after they leave this town and that is Sadie's story. After running her own business, a bohemian coffee house, she gave it up and headed east, this time to Manhattan. There, she took root and blossomed. Currently, she has her own yoga studio, has been featured in dozens of magazines and articles, and recently signed her first book deal to write The Road Trip Guide to Your Soul. Success for her is only beginning, but already it's been great.

If you come to this town with a time limit, you're not going to succeed. That was the Quitter's first mistake. He moved here with his girlfriend who hated this town (who could blame her) and gave him three years to succeed while she supported him. Three years later, they moved to Northern California so she could take a better job. However, when you deprive a man of his dream, he'll never be happy or satisfied and within a year they broke up. Broke and despondent, he couldn't afford to return to the city of angels, so he moved in with his brother and continued writing.

As the months passed, the Quitter took stock of his life: he was single, in his thirties, with little success and a leech for a writing partner. Shortly before he disappeared, we had many conversations in which he expressed his growing doubts. I sensed his anxiety, but I, along with the other writers he talked to, didn't share his fear.

The Quitter's exile from Hollywoodland was self-imposed; one day he just became unreachable. It is my own theory that he severed his old ties so as not to be reminded of the sting of failure. However, in doing so, he stung his friends with his sudden absence. It's one thing to abandon your dreams; it's another to abandon your friends. The first is tragic, the second unforgivable.

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